Since First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled her ‘Let’s Move!‘ program to fight obesity, conservatives have portrayed the effort as a government assault of personal freedoms and liberties. After the administration released a report on obesity in May, Matt Drudge ran a headline saying, “White House seeks controls on food marketing” and on his Fox News show, Sean Hannity asked: “Does every American family need a dietitian appointed by the government to tell them that this food is going to make you fat and this food is not?”
Yesterday, Glenn Beck joined the act, criticizing Michelle Obama for encouraging restaurants to “offer healthier versions of the foods that we all love.” He also joked that fat people should die:
BECK: When I heard this I thought, get your damn hands off my fries, lady. If I want to be a fat fat fatty and shovel French Fries all day long, that is my choice. But oh oh, not so fast anymore. Because now we have the new fact, whether you like it or not, we have government health care now…You know those fat people sitting on their couches? And I mean really fat. I don’t mean like me. I mean the people who’s skin grows into the couch…I say let them die. I say punish the person who’s been brining them the milk shakes that allowed them to eat and not get up off the couch. Am I too harsh?
Beck was being facetious, but obesity is, in fact, a killer. It “is estimated to cause 112,000 deaths per year in the United States, and one third of all children born in the year 2000 are expected to develop diabetes during their lifetime.” Each year, obese adults incur “an estimated $1,429 more in medical expenses than their normal-weight peers,” and overall, the nation spent up to $147 billion on obesity-related costs in 2008.” A recent CBO analysis concluded that obesity related illnesses contribute significantly to national health care spending.
Far from forbidding certain foods or banning French Fries, the administration seeks to tackle the obesity epidemic through a mix of private and public incentives. It seeks to encourage the government to work with the private sector to create a healthy start on life for children, empower parents with the ability to make healthier food choices, upgrade the nutritional quality of school lunches, eliminate so-called “food deserts” in urban and rural America, and motivate children to become more physically active in their schools and communities. The recent health care law is also far from dictatory. It improves nutrition labeling in fast food restaurants by requiring all chain restaurants “to provide clear labeling of the calorie counts by March 2011,” promotes breastfeeding, gives grants to community based obesity intervention programs and promotes primary care and coordination efforts that emphasize prevention.
Former Governor Mike Huckabee, who himself has struggled with obesity, has warned conservatives against mischaracterizing the administration’s efforts. During a discussion in February about Obama’s campaign to fight childhood obesity, Huckabee explained that the initiative is not a “nanny-state solution” or a “leftist position” and warned that conservatives would engage in reactionary attacks against the program. Speaking of Obama, he concluded, “She does not believe that it is a government solution and that government should dictate what size cheeseburger you eat.” (H/T: MMFA)