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May 11, 2015

SUPER SIZED:  A new USDA study finds 40% of food stamp recipients are obese.  Another 28% are overweight.  The same basic data holds for children as well as adults.  Republican efforts to block food stamps from being used to buy junk food have all failed.  A 2007 USDA report concluded that trying to restrict food stamp recipients to “healthy” food choices would not work, for various lame-to-semi-lame reasons.

A list of eligible food stamp purchases can be found here.  

So how can American taxpayers stop the train wreck of obesity for this population?  Obamacare has tons of grant money to improve “wellness” in poor communities.  None of it has worked. Why not government subsidized gym memberships, too, because #incomeinequality!

I’d rather pay for gym membership than Ho-Hos, it’s true. But given that we cannot seem to stop subsidizing bad food choices, it would be great to offset those bad choices with increased exercise.  But how?  Clearly, the answer isn’t a gym membership subsidy.  In Canada, they have had a Children’s Fitness Tax Credit (CFTC) since 2007, to promote physical activity and reduce obesity. A recent study concluded, “The estimated costs of the tax-based programs in Canada are substantial; therefore, it is important to consider whether those public funds are better spent on other strategies that could instead provide direct public funding to improve recreational facilities and active transportation networks or to enhance physical activity programs in schools.”

Ya think?  Tax credits, subsidizing gym membership and other government “solutions” will never work.  The only thing that government should spend any money on is P.E./sports in school, and some parks to provide space for sporting venues.  You need to get kids to like exercise, which requires making it part of their daily habit and providing lots of school sports to play. Sadly, kids don’t really have P.E. in schools anymore— yet another failure of modern education.  There is an important mind-body connection, and when the latter is out-of-shape, the former will be as well.

One of the reasons P.E. has been jettisoned is because No Child Left Behind–what I think is better labeled as No Child Gets Ahead–mandates so much time for test preparation that schools have had to cut back on “non-instructional” items such as P.E.   NCLB has been a dismal failure.  It was instituted by Republicans during the George W. Bush Administration, but it’s obsessive emphasis on standardized testing has meant that teachers teach only to “the test,” and have time for nothing more. Under NCLB, poorly performing students don’t “get ahead,” and gifted students are “left behind.”

It would be great to repeal NCLB entirely, as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has recently supported.  Republicans need to admit failure here as well.  But until we can muster the courage to do so, I say we at least bring back one hour of P.E. per day, and make them actually exercise!