Last week, President Obama signed an executive order aimed at childhood obesity and placed his wife, Michelle, in charge of the effort. Apparently bored with giving first lady-type speeches, and digging up turnips and spinach in the White House garden, Mrs. Obama will head up a national campaign tabbed “Let’s Move.”
To be clear, fat kids are nothing to be celebrated. Obesity among children is connected to all sorts of aliments, including heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, asthma, and diabetes. There is little disagreement about this.
But beyond encouraging healthy behavior, what is the government’s role in decisions that rightly belong to families? I argue there is none.
In announcing the White House initiative, the first lady described how she dealt with her own children’s supposed weight issues, which included making sure her daughters ate more vegetables, drank more water and milk, and viewed less television. So, by her own admission, the solution for her family’s issues was more parental responsibility for her children’s food choices. What her approach didn’t include was the involvement of the government.
But that’s exactly what Mrs. Obama is suggesting for the rest of us, since she seems to think the unwashed masses are unable to do what she did — step up, accept parental responsibility, and make the right decisions for our families.
At her press conference, the first lady lectured us about the importance of her “Let’s Move” initiative, saying:
It’s going to require us working together … not just the administration, but Congress, governors, mayors, parents, teachers. Anyone who has access to children in their lives is going to have to work together. And one of the things that’s also very clear is that this problem won’t be solved by any single federal solution. This is going to require national action.
One of the things the first lady said she wants to do is “empower” parents to make better food choices. But what tha’ hell does that mean? Short of the notion of a “food police” — who might snatch French fries and cans of Coke from youthful hands — why should the government insert themselves into choices, good or bad, that Americans make about the foods they consume?
Most children are smart enough to make decent decisions — especially when helped along by the attention of at least one devoted parent. Truth be told, most adults are capable of making decisions about their personal lives. Liberals, however, see things otherwise.
In 2006, the New York City Board of Health (all liberals) — banned Trans fats in restaurant cooking – from the corner pizzeria to high-end bakeries. And yes, that’s why the doughnuts and fries in the Big Apple are bland and tasteless these days!
Two years later, the nearly uniformly liberal Los Angeles City Council went into action, putting a one-year moratorium on new fast food restaurants in South L.A., an area with a predominantly poor black and brown population.
The L.A. fast-food ban was supposedly aimed at addressing health issues associated with fast food and poor folks. But while this is something outside of the role of government, it was also an example of the bigotry of low-expectations which inferred that poor black and brown residents of South L.A. were too stupid to know what was healthy and what was not. The government, however, always knows what good for you!
However, appropriate or not, government involvement in child obesity has never proven to be effective. According to a 2009 congressional report, child-nutrition programs cost taxpayers in excess of $19 billion in 2007. How much more will the Obama administration’s “Let’s Move” program add to the taxpayers’ tab? The first lady didn’t bother to tell us about the cost.
One definition of the Nanny State is excessive state action to protect people from the consequences of their actions by restricting citizen options.
It’s a good thing to have Michelle Obama suggest more parental involvement in the lives of their children and to suggest that parents can avoid health problems for their kids by making better food choices.
But, the first lady’s own personal testimony about her children makes it clear that inserting the federal government into decisions that rightly belong to “the people” isn’t the answer. It’s just another government brick in the road to the Nanny State.