A modest proposal for childhood obesity
Every First Lady is obliged to tackle some trendy and media-inflated crisis. For Hillary Clinton it was healthcare. Laurah Bush focused on literacy. Michelle Obama wants to end the dread childhood obesity “epidemic”. Perhaps because the federal government has shown such skill in combating similar issues – such as our nation’s failing public schools – Mrs. Obama believes that it is the best institution to tackle our expanding waistlines. That the federal government cannot tighten its own belt is beside the point.
Despite the fact that Mrs. Obama took personal responsibility for her own children’s near-miss with childhood obesity, the First Lady believes that the vast majority of Americans could use the beneficent hand of the state to drag their own children back from the brink. To do this she proposes that the federal government does what it does best: spend lots and lots of money. And to do that, President Obama has proposed that the government form a task force to see which spending project will sound the most appealing to voters.
A few of the ideas floated include:
- Working with the the American Academy of Pediatrics to encourage its 60,000 members to check the severely out-dated Body Mass Index at each child’s visit, and give out “kid-friendly prescriptions” for healthy, active lifestyles. Kids will fill this prescription by convincing their parents that “outside” is dangerous and that what the family really needs to stay healthy is a Wii.
- $400 million in tax credits drawn from the current budget surplus will go to grocery stores to form state-sponsored monopolies in “food deserts” – areas of the country where there is no easy access to grocery stores. This is deemed much more efficient than scaling back zoning laws and allowing Wal*Mart to set up shop in said “food deserts” because Wal*Mart’s prices are simply much too low and of course because people who write these laws really don’t like shopping there.
- A new foundation will be created “made up of existing foundations and groups to monitor the campaign”. Think of it as a super-foundation (or a super-healthy-foundation). Perhaps we should form a second committee first, however, just in case the first committee isn’t quite up to the task.
- $10 billion over 10 years for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, which would basically reward the most well-connected health food industry lobbyists around the country to provide healthy, free and reduced-priced school meals for kids. Because again, allowing private companies to run school cafeterias would be far, far too efficient.
- Another $25 million would go to schools in the cleverest legislators’ districts to help renovate school kitchens and replace deep fryers with free range community gardens.
Now, you might be wondering how these steps will end childhood obesity in a mere twenty years as Mrs. Obama has ambitiously stated as her plan’s goal – a time frame which also conveniently sits outside her tenure as First Lady. You might also wonder how healthier school food will trim down our children if they continue to eat bags of potato chips at home while lounging for hours in front of the television. Perhaps the lady doth protest too much, given the shaky evidence that there is any such childhood obesity “epidemic” to begin with.
More importantly, you might be asking yourself how a highly centralized solution which consists mainly of throwing money at a problem could possibly succeed where parents, schools, and previous administrations have all failed.
What you don’t realize is that this is only one front in the larger War on Obesity. Calling it a war is, after all, the only way to really do battle with all these pudgy, sedentary children. Michelle Obama can play general, and we can all play soldier. Chips and cheeseburgers and trans fats can be the enemy combatants.
How can we do our part to help Michelle Obama and Uncle Sam?
Well I have a modest proposal for the First Lady which is entirely unique to the war on obesity. It involves placing “caps” on the amount of calories food manufacturers are allowed to put in their food products. It also sets up a system of “calorie credits” which can be bought and then traded by both food manufacturers or guilty midnight-snackers on the
free market Federal Calorie Exchange. Let’s call it, for lack of a better phrase, “cap and trade”.
This would allow producers of healthy food to sell their calorie credits to candy peddlers and fast food chains. Eventually the high-calorie producers would find that their products were too cost-prohibitive to manufacture, and consumers would turn to cheaper and healthier food like the affordable stuff they sell at Whole Foods. Surely this would never lead to food in general growing much more expensive, and would have no averse effects on the working poor whatsoever. And if it did, we could always set up a public food option.
Sure, congress will wheel and deal and make certain that the food manufacturers in their districts won’t be hit with low caps, or that they’ll start out with enough calorie credits to basically render the program inert, but that’s not the point. Savvy businesses and their representatives will skirt the rules, find loopholes, and turn the program into a slush fund for special interests. But this misses the larger issue.
This is war, people, and we need to do something quick. For the children.