The Government is Making Us Fat

The government is making us fat.

A list of things the government invented or subsidizes that increase caloric intake, reduce exercise, reduce incentives to control our weight.

WIC. Women, Infants and Children. Milk and cheese for women and children. Cheese clogs arteries and spreads waistlines.

Amtrak. Rail passenger transit. People who need to bicycle to work instead ride in blissful, effortless comfort.

City buses, trolleys. If you are going less than two miles, and you are overweight, the bus driver should refuse to let you board.

School district bus transportation. Kids would be better off with a two mile walk to school. Hauling all the little porkers around defies common sense.

Building codes require elevators, supposedly to help the occasional handicapped person. The able-bodied ride them – one hundred able-bodied riders for every handicapped rider.

TANF. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Most recipients are not “families”. If they were in two-parent families, most likely they would not be broke enough to qualify. This program reduces hustle, increases lethargy.

Food Stamps. Recipients can buy easy to prepare, high-calorie, low-nutrition foods with this money. The government could require that they have to make, from scratch their own cakes and pies. Recipients would spend more time cooking and less time eating. The rules could disallow sausages, gravy mixes, doughnuts, Swanson pies, Tombstone pizzas, Tater Tots, breaded fish sticks. Only permit spinach, carrots, rice, beans, nuts and fruits. Watch belt sizes shrink. The states where the highest percentage of Food Stamp recipients live are the states with the highest obesity, and thus highest heart disease rates. Children in low-income families are fatter. Here is a related question: Why do they have money for fast food if they are so poor?

School lunch. Serve only tuna fish sandwiches, bananas, carrots and other, slenderizing foods. Why have an elaborate kitchen? Give ’em sack lunches. All that is needed is a sandwich preparation area and maybe a big cooler. Save labor and space, and equipment maintenance costs while, at the same time, thinning the kids. If we, the taxpayers, are buying the food, we should surely pick healthy stuff for the inmates. No chips, no mashed potatoes and gravy, no stuffing, no deep fried foods. Lentils never made anyone fat.

Nursing homes. There should be not one fat person in a government nursing home, or a home that gets tax funds for the foods. We are fighting ourselves; we, the taxpayers pay to make them fat, then pay to cure their fatness-caused maladies through Medicare. We’re feeding them; we can at least feed them health foods.

Medicare and Medicaid. Over 40 percent of Americans are on these two programs. How does Medicare make people fat? (People get fatter when they go on Medicare.) Why are people on Medicaid fat? For one thing, they work much less than the average person, thus they are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Working less burns fewer calories and gives you more time to sit and watch Oprah, while getting fat. Again, why are people on Medicaid fat, fatter than the average? There is no reason to be fit, if someone else, the taxpayer, is going to pay doctor bills regardless of your girth and cholesterol count. A team of researchers calculates that fatness and obesity increases the cost of care by $1,400 per year per person. Does the fat person pay? No, the taxpayer does. Gluttony is consequence-free in America.

Public television. Television watching is a major culprit in inactivity. Every hour the government holds someone under the tantalizing spell of public TV is an hour that person could be exercising, burning 400 calories.

The government is making us fat!

Schweitzer, Putin and Chavez

In the last state legislative session, some of the excess tax collection of $900 million was from oil and gas taxes. (Imagine that: $900 million extra! That amounts to $3,600 extra per family of four in receipts to the state coffers. On top of the billions the state already takes in.) High international oil prices are to be thanked. With that excess, lawmakers were able to give homeowners $400, and spend a lot more than usual. It is a popular time to be a governor. Our governor has managed to make it appear that he is being generous, and running a wonderfully smart administration. Spending money makes one popular, especially easy money like that. It makes one wonder how popular the hapless Judy Martz could have been had her administration occurred when oil was at $100 a barrel.

Schweitzer is not the only elected official using high revenues caused by high oil prices to strengthen his grasp on power. Vladimir Putin in Russia is hugely popular, partly for the same reason. So is Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. This week Putin maneuvered a way to keep his hands on the reins of power for at least four more years, and perhaps several terms after that. This week Chávez tried to gut his country’s constitution and get named President For Life. His plan narrowly failed. That he got close proves how popular you can become with petro-taxes.

The Wall Street Journal puts it this way: The Putins and Chávezes of the world owe their popularity to bread-and-circus tactics: the canny manipulation of the media,…and above all the benefit of having petrodollars to shower on favored constituencies.

For oil producing states like Montana, Russia and Venezuela, it is a fine time to garner favor, buy votes, and strengthen a grip on power. So that’s what Schweitzer, Putin and Chávez do.

Obesity Solutions

Obesity solutions: Personal or Social?

I heard a medical researcher from Boston on an NPR program today advocating “simple, but politically difficult solutions to the obesity crisis that threatens to bankrupt Meidcare and reduce our international competitiveness”. He says personal efforts to curb obesity and social (government) solutions are both needed. Then he started talking about all social-government-school solutions. Regulate every school lunch room in America. Stop subsidies to corn farmers whose products go into high fructose corn syrup. Stop subsidies to soybean producers unless their beans go into tofu. Subsidize that heavily. Force school exercise programs and athletic programs. Regulate the advertising of yummy foods on TV. These are draconian measures, fit for a tyrant. Others propose more zoning laws to require parks, perhaps to require cities to buy gymnasiums, or to pay for gym memberships.

If draconian is ok, here are my solutions. (It is easy to think of ways to force people into things. Forcing others seems to come natural.) Stop picking up kids on school buses within 2 miles of schools. Regulate the sale of XBOX360 to kids and adults. Outlaw TV programs and stations. Outlaw the use of elevators and escalators, mopeds and the Segway mobile cart. Outlaw public transit. Zoning can limit the number of comfort food eating establishments, or at least keep them away from schools by a distance of 2 miles. Make everyone exercise 4 hours a week at the point of a bayonet. Take kids away from their parents. Really take charge of this epidemic! Close convenience stores, the repositories of crackers, hot dogs, ice cream, chips, Twinkies, beer and many more fattening things.

As we can see, if a heavy hand is allowed, there is no end of policy solutions.

But what of the personal responsibility that the researcher said was needed? What about having people pay the costs for their own obesity? What about holding them responsible? He didn’t divulge any ideas. The single step below would probably do more than all the school-based, zoning, TV advertising regulating ideas he can offer. Make Medicare and Medicaid recipients pay $3,000 per year toward their medical care if they are overweight. If they refuse, we, the ones that are paying refuse to treat them. It is completely up to them. They can turn off the tube and the XBOX, get out and walk every day, and eat their own vegetables instead of double crunch french fries. That is the meaning of personal responsibility.