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Question of the Week: Should the Government Do Something about Obesity?
Townhall.com ^ | July 7, 2013 | Daniel J. Mitchell

Posted on 07/07/2013 6:10:03 AM PDT by Kaslin

Last year, I showed an image of evolutionary stages that was so accurate that it would earn approval even from many strict creationists.

Here’s a new image of evolutionary stages that sets the stage for today’s discussion. Simply stated, Americans are becoming bigger. In some cases, a lot bigger.

Is this trend toward greater obesity a bad thing? As a reader asks, is it something that requires a government response?

The answer is yes…and no.

Libertarians believe people should be free to make their own decisions so long as they’re not infringing on the rights of others. And that includes the right to eat too much and exercise too little.

But the “yes” part of the answer is that we can think obesity is unfortunate and we can encourage our friends and family members to live healthier lifestyles. And if we’re willing to be pests and to run the risk of being told to mind our own business, we can even encourage strangers to shape up.

The “no” part of the answer refers to whether the government somehow should get involved. I shared a great video from Reason TV several years ago that explained why paternalistic anti-obesity programs don’t work. And just this week, one of my colleagues at the Cato Institute, Michael Tanner, addressed this issue. Here’s some of what he wrote for National Review.

Recently the American Medical Association declared that it will consider obesity a disease. …the AMA’s move is a symptom of a disease that is seriously troubling our society: the abdication of personal responsibility and an invitation to government meddling. …the AMA’s move is actually a way for its members to receive more federal dollars, by getting obesity treatments covered under government health plans. A bipartisan group of congressmen has already seized on the AMA declaration as they push for Medicare coverage of diet drugs. Observers also expect an effort to expand Medicare reimbursement for bariatric surgery, a.k.a. stomach stapling. And there will almost certainly be pressure to mandate coverage for these things by private insurance carriers, under both state laws and the Affordable Care Act. …After the AMA decision, John Morton, treasurer of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, was almost giddy, calling the AMA decision a “tipping point” and adding that “now coverage policy must catch up to that consensus.” Since a typical bariatric surgery costs as much as $40,000, that could be interpreted as a warning for all of us to get out our wallets. In the end, we will be paying more, through either taxes or higher premiums.

And don’t forget that the price of treatments such as surgery almost surely will climb as there’s more “third-party payer,” so our taxes and premiums will climb by a lot more than what it cost to provide these services today.

But that’s only part of the story. Since government is picking up the tab, that gives politicians a green light (at least in their minds) to pass laws and rules designed to control and influence our behavior.

…expanded Medicare and insurance coverage socialize the cost of treating obesity, thereby inviting all manner of government mischief. After all, if being fat is not our fault, the blame must lie with food companies, advertising, or other things that need to be regulated. And if you and I have to pay for the food and exercise choices of others, we should have a say in those choices. Already, Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, has cited the AMA declaration to boost his group’s efforts to ban junk food and tax soft drinks. …The nanny state can now claim medical backing.

Mayor Bloomberg doubtlessly thinks this is a wonderful idea. Maybe he can ban snack food as well as 17 oz. sodas.

Heck, why not have a cop in every house to make sure we consume 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day? Actually, I shouldn’t say that too loud. Given the Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision, there’s apparently no limit to the federal government’s power to control our behavior through the tax code, so I’d hate to give politicians any more crazy ideas.

If you think I’m engaging in a bit of hyperbole, just remember that New York City already has gone after bake sales for peddling sweets.

So what’s the big picture? Mike nails it, explaining that the medicalization of obesity is symptomatic of the effort to undermine individual responsibility.

Much of public policy these days seems designed to eliminate personal responsibility. Take efforts to reduce poverty, for example. How much of poverty is due to poor lifestyle choices? We don’t want to blame the poor, nor should we forget that there are those, especially children, trapped in poverty by circumstances beyond their control. But we also know the keys to getting out of or staying out of poverty: (1) finish school; (2) do not get pregnant outside marriage; and (3) get a job, any job, and stick with it. Unfortunately, much of the welfare state we have constructed is perversely designed in ways that end up encouraging destructive behaviors.

In other words, the welfare state hurts the poor, as Thomas Sowell explained the other day. Though I suppose fairness requires me to admit that there are those who benefit from all the various income-redistribution programs. A vast army of bureaucrats get very comfortable salaries to administer these program, and these poverty pimps, as Walter Williams describes them, enjoy much higher levels of compensation than they could earn in the economy’s productive sector.

But I’m guilty, once again, of digressing. Let’s get to the rest of Mike’s final point.

Big government reduces all of us to the status of children. We have no responsibility for anything in our lives; therefore, government must take care of us. All we have to do, like children, is give up the freedom to make our own choices — good or bad.

Amen. A “good choice” isn’t good if it’s the result of coercion. Paternalists sometime have admirable goals, but they err when they want to turn big government into big daddy and big mommy.

P.S. Several readers have noticed that I’m now writing one post a day instead of two and have asked whether this is a permanent change. The answer is yes. With all the other things I’m trying to juggle – researching and writing, dealing with Capitol Hill, talking to the press, giving speeches, etc – this seems like the best way to allocate my time. Particularly now that my posts tend to be a lot longer and more substantive than when I began blogging.

P.P.S. Since we’re on the topic of obesity, it goes without saying that our real problem is bloated government, not bloated people. Which is why I always enjoy cartoons that portray DC as the true home of gluttony. For good examples, see here, here, hereherehere, here, here, here and here.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Editorial; Government
KEYWORDS: benghazi; fakeoutrage; fastandfurious; impeachnow; irs; junkscience; nannybloomberg; obesity
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1 posted on 07/07/2013 6:10:03 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin
A fat bloated government telling us what to eat and what to look like.....sure.
2 posted on 07/07/2013 6:11:22 AM PDT by vetvetdoug
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To: Kaslin; GeronL; wagglebee

IF the government can’t do anything to thwart homosexuality then it has no business attacking the obese.


3 posted on 07/07/2013 6:15:45 AM PDT by a fool in paradise (America 2013 - STUCK ON STUPID)
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To: Kaslin
First of all, TownHall .. it's a silly subject to talk about.

How about;

Should the government be so overloaded with sodomites?

or

Should the government be involved with parties and vacations for government sanctioned welfare recipients .. (yes .. the mulatto obozo family)


But I'll play your silly game, without reading your text and simply answering the question ..

no.

4 posted on 07/07/2013 6:16:16 AM PDT by knarf (I say things that are true ... I have no proof, but they're true.)
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To: Kaslin

Yes. The government should do something about obesity.

Stone all fat people to death and sell Cristie to a circus.


5 posted on 07/07/2013 6:16:52 AM PDT by IbJensen (Liberals are like Slinkies, good for nothing, but you smile as you push them down the stairs.)
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To: Kaslin

Not too worry after eights years of Zero the economy will collapse and obesity will be a non issue.


6 posted on 07/07/2013 6:16:54 AM PDT by Fzob (In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Jefferson)
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To: Kaslin
Should the Government Do Something about Obesity?
What do you think Øbama Care is all about?
Won't be long and the gov't will be "doing something" about every aspect of our lives.
7 posted on 07/07/2013 6:18:06 AM PDT by oh8eleven (RVN '67-'68)
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To: Kaslin

The government has to do less. Stop subsidizing lazy behavior and irresponsible breeding, and get out of the way of job creation.


8 posted on 07/07/2013 6:18:10 AM PDT by keats5 (Not all of us are hypnotized.)
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To: Kaslin

The government should go on a diet.


9 posted on 07/07/2013 6:18:55 AM PDT by Kenton
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To: Kaslin

no, not just no but hell no


10 posted on 07/07/2013 6:19:07 AM PDT by WorkerbeeCitizen (I'll surrender my guns alright - bullets first)
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To: Kaslin
Just see what too much Popeye's fried chicken and too much television can do to a person:


11 posted on 07/07/2013 6:19:11 AM PDT by IbJensen (Liberals are like Slinkies, good for nothing, but you smile as you push them down the stairs.)
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To: Kaslin
H.E.double hockey sticks NO. If you are really interested in how the government has already mucked up nutrition and in fact, ignored scientific evidence to the contrary to achieve their version of nutrition (similar to global warming - ignoring the science), which has exacerbated if not caused the current obesity epidemic, check out this .... and watch the video. It will be well worth your time:

Evidence and the Ethics of Dietary Guidelines

“We must admit that our opponents in this argument have a marked advantage over us. They need only a few words to set forth a half-truth; whereas, in order to show that it is a half-truth, we have to resort to long and arid dissertations.” (Frederic Bastiat)

12 posted on 07/07/2013 6:20:07 AM PDT by MissMagnolia (You see, truth always resides wherever brave men still have ammunition. I pick truth. (John Ransom))
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To: Kaslin

“Should the government do something about obesity?”

Yes, mind its own damned business.


13 posted on 07/07/2013 6:20:33 AM PDT by EEGator
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To: Kaslin
Question of the Week: Should the Government Do Something about Obesity?

This must be a trick question. We would ALL be so much better off if these clowns would all crawl back into their clown cars and drive into the ocean.

A week ago I received a letter from HHS saying I had been selected at random to have an interviewer ask me about the state of things in several areas. When the interviewer came I said to write down that I wasn't interested in participating.

She said they just wanted my opinion on several issues.

I said she really didn't want to hear mine.

I had to tell her I wasn't interested, but the day after the Federal Government stops treating American citizens like scum, she was welcome back, and I would talk to her.

We need the government telling ANY of us what is the proper body shape like we need additional holes in our heads.

14 posted on 07/07/2013 6:21:30 AM PDT by stevem
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To: Kaslin
Big government reduces all of us to the status of children.

and children don't support themselves or the "family". Therefore, at some point the system implodes.

15 posted on 07/07/2013 6:22:28 AM PDT by MulberryDraw (That which cannot be paid, won't be paid.)
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To: Kaslin
Abolish food stamps. Stop it with the free breakfasts and lunches in schools. No more subsidized fat-buster surgeries. Want to help people figure out how to eat well? Give them a book to read. Don't let obese people have residency in the US.

I'm not kidding.

16 posted on 07/07/2013 6:24:41 AM PDT by grania
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To: Kaslin

This is why I am taking ISAGENIX products
no soy - which is 75% gmo now, no gmo protein, no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial sweetners


17 posted on 07/07/2013 6:26:08 AM PDT by RaceBannon (Telling the truth about RINOS, PAULTARDS, Liberals and Muslims has become hate speech)
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To: Kaslin

1. The government needs to get the @&$# out of the medical field. This includes their unhealthy food pyramid, insurance, medical research subsidies/grants, and Big Pharma’s a$$. But we at FR already know that.
2. The article mentions nothing about the obesity rates among those receiving my tax dollars for a living. The poorest in our country are the most obese. End welfare, end the obesity epidemic. Notice I used epidemic. Obesity will still occur but not at the rates it is occurring now.


18 posted on 07/07/2013 6:28:43 AM PDT by goodwithagun (My gun has killed fewer people than Ted Kennedy's car.)
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To: vetvetdoug
A fat bloated government telling us what to eat and what to look like.....sure.

Precisely, no one is more morbidly obese than the federal government.

19 posted on 07/07/2013 6:28:48 AM PDT by SampleMan (Feral Humans are the refuse of socialism.)
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To: Kaslin
The government can do is keep out of peoples business..yes people are bigger but the government has fat butts in Washington..Look at Michelle Obama rear now they need to do something about that.After all isn't she suppose to be a figure people look up to..While they are at it make her change her attitude toward whites..
20 posted on 07/07/2013 6:29:58 AM PDT by PLD
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To: RaceBannon

Bump to your post so that I can research this product.

About a year ago, my husband and I decided that our family would go on a real food diet. We ate pretty healthy to begin with, but we were relying on some processed foods using the “it’s not that bad” excuse. We now make our own bread, flour tortillas, cereal, mayonnaise, ketchup, etc. We’ve been able to cut out so much processed food this way. I really believe it’s been a great decision for us. Plus we can avoid soy and corn products, which I really feel are pretty bad for us in the quantities that processed foods contain. Just my 2¢! No scientific background, just an average mommy using her own observations!


21 posted on 07/07/2013 6:34:42 AM PDT by goodwithagun (My gun has killed fewer people than Ted Kennedy's car.)
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To: Kaslin

Rent seeking health care industry...


22 posted on 07/07/2013 6:36:36 AM PDT by 4Liberty (Some on our "Roads & Bridges" head to the beach. Others head to their offices, farms, libraries....)
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To: Kaslin

How about “should the government be interfering so much in the affairs of the citizens?” The answer to that is easy, {expletive} no! We don’t need some nanny, socialist, fascist-wannabe government telling us how to live our lives. Freedom, liberty, remember those concepts?


23 posted on 07/07/2013 6:36:38 AM PDT by ThunderSleeps (Stop obarma now! Stop the hussein - insane agenda!)
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To: Kaslin

After the government goes on a diet and loses about 50% or more of its own fat butt, then they can explain obesity to us.


24 posted on 07/07/2013 6:38:29 AM PDT by Right Wing Assault (Dick Obama is more inexperienced now than he was before he was elected.)
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To: Kaslin

chips, diet soda, female hormones flooding the water supply.


25 posted on 07/07/2013 6:40:58 AM PDT by Mercat
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To: Kaslin

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness except when such pursuit involves an unhealthy diet and lifestyle that could lead to anything other than a slim, fit, metrosexual body —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed for the first century of so until the gullible governed can be hoodwinked or coerced into accepting a bloated, tyrannical nanny-state, -


26 posted on 07/07/2013 6:47:29 AM PDT by dagogo redux (A whiff of primitive spirits in the air, harbingers of an impending descent into the feral.)
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To: Kaslin

Government should do “something” if you want people to get fatter.


27 posted on 07/07/2013 6:49:05 AM PDT by DManA
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To: Kaslin

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


28 posted on 07/07/2013 6:49:41 AM PDT by bandleader
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To: IbJensen

I’m sure she says “It’s because I have a glandular problem.” ....yea, the gland located between her nose and her chin is hyperactive!


29 posted on 07/07/2013 6:51:31 AM PDT by RouxStir (No peein' allowed in the gene pool.)
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To: IbJensen

Hear, Hear! All-ah snackbar!


30 posted on 07/07/2013 6:53:21 AM PDT by Irenic (The pencil sharpener and Elmer's glue is put away-- we've lost the red wheel barrow)
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To: Kaslin

What is there to debate?

There are a lot of obese people out there who choose to be obese.

I think its a bad choice and it bothers the heck out of me and maybe even grosses me out when I see some obese people.

But I need to get over that because I wasn’t put on this planet to be angry with other people and lashing out at them by wanting to use the power of government.

I have my own issues to take care of.

I need to mind my own business and the government needs to stay out of everybody’s business.

I think obese people need to change but its not my job to control them or hurt them. They are already hurting because they choose food as a pain reliever like others choose to use alcohol, drugs, prescription drugs, gambling, credit cards, pornography and the list goes on.

The obese have issues to deal with and they have to deal with the issues themselves.


31 posted on 07/07/2013 6:54:08 AM PDT by Nextrush (A BALANCED BUDGET NOW AND PRESIDENT SARAH PALIN ARE AT THE TOP OF MY LIST)
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To: Kaslin

No. But since they’ve taken over health care (or will have soon), they will.


32 posted on 07/07/2013 6:54:34 AM PDT by mykroar (China and Russia are playing chess while Obamas's playing 52 card pick-up.)
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To: Kaslin

“Should the Government Do Something about Obesity?”

Absolutely!

First assemble a “Gang of Fourteen” Senators and Representatives, headed by Gerald Nadler. Have them write a 1,835 page piece of legislation called “Healthier Obesity Reduction: Students, Educators, Seniors Heading Into Tomorrow” (acronym available upon request), more commonly to be referred to as the “Comprehensive Obesity Bill”. Pass said bill in the dead of the night after every legislator has had a chance to add a pet project into it, and be sure to slip in a few new surveillance features to make sure nobody’s sneaking a Big Mac into their bedroom at night.

Allocate $457 billion that we don’t have (but can either print or borrow from the Chinese) to implement the program.

Hire 27,000 new IRS agents to enforce the bill, and force every business with more than 3 employees to establish workplace obesity reduction guidelines, with monthly reporting (we’ll keep the forms down to 17 pages) to insure timely compliance.

Ask Michelle Obama to provide menu suggestions, and then require every school, hospital, church supper and the like to enforce them with the threat of withdrawal of federal funds and/or tax exempt status if that requirement is not followed.

And that’s just the start!


33 posted on 07/07/2013 6:56:11 AM PDT by Stosh
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To: bandleader
Correct

See Michael Tanner's column in today's Townhall.com

Obesity Is Not a Disease


34 posted on 07/07/2013 6:56:46 AM PDT by Kaslin (He needed the ignorant to reelect him, and he got them. Now we all have to pay the consequenses)
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To: Kaslin
I know one way to save fuel costs on AF 1.
35 posted on 07/07/2013 6:57:28 AM PDT by KeyLargo
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To: knarf

Sorry, but these are two completely different subjects


36 posted on 07/07/2013 6:58:20 AM PDT by Kaslin (He needed the ignorant to reelect him, and he got them. Now we all have to pay the consequenses)
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To: grania
Abolish food stamps. Stop it with the free breakfasts and lunches in schools. No more subsidized fat-buster surgeries. Want to help people figure out how to eat well? Give them a book to read. Don't let obese people have residency in the US.

Thank you. That was my first thought when I read the article. It infuriates me to see these trashy looking obese people at my supermarket at the start of the month filling their cart with crap I won't buy or eat myself, even though I have to pay for theirs. Nothing healthy in the cart. No fruits nor vegetables. Mostly sugared soft drinks, cake, frozen pizza. And no, orange soda is not a fruit, Cheez Doodles are not a dairy product nor a good source of calcium. The government is giving them our money to buy them crap so they can get fat.

37 posted on 07/07/2013 6:59:29 AM PDT by NJRighty ("It's sick out there and getting sicker" - Bob Grant)
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To: MissMagnolia

I think that the gov’t pushing people to eat more carbs and less fat and protein has caused some of the problem. Everyone is different, and I know I do much better on a high protein diet. I have seen some people literally have no fat in their diet and I tell them that their brain needs some fat to function.


38 posted on 07/07/2013 7:00:17 AM PDT by Rusty0604
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To: Kaslin

NO!


39 posted on 07/07/2013 7:01:31 AM PDT by servantboy777
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To: Kaslin

This is going to end with concentration camps, fat camps, and when that fails to reeducate the morbidly obese, they will build gas chambers. A society that has so easily accepted abortion shouldn’t have a problem with getting rid of fat, ugly people.


40 posted on 07/07/2013 7:02:37 AM PDT by pallis
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To: Kaslin
Based on just casual observation in Walmart and grocery stores ending the Food Stamp program or requiring employment in physically demanding jobs for any and all recipients would go a long way toward reducing the number of two legged hippos blotting the scenery.

If that's not palatable, then I'd suggest setting weight or BFI requirements for health coverage of all members of AFSCME and other government workers' unions. Or maybe pass a law that purple t-shirts may not be manufactured in sizes larger than standard "L" (or should I add "Grande"?).

Final option: Spring and Autumn hunting seasons in major urban sectors. Minimum 300 pound weight requirement, no bag limit.

41 posted on 07/07/2013 7:03:21 AM PDT by katana (Just my opinions)
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To: Kaslin

Just what this country needs.....a “foodie” government. There is not much worse than a “friend” or family member chiding you with “you’re not going to eat that, are you?” in a condescending voice.

What I choose to eat or not eat is nobody’s damn business. I already had a mother.....


42 posted on 07/07/2013 7:03:36 AM PDT by Donkey Odious ( Adapt, improvise, and overcome - now a motto for us all.)
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To: stevem
"This must be a trick question. We would ALL be so much better off if these clowns would all crawl back into their clown cars and drive into the ocean."
43 posted on 07/07/2013 7:08:01 AM PDT by KeyLargo
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To: Kaslin

The government should do something about its obese budget!


44 posted on 07/07/2013 7:09:51 AM PDT by meyer (When people fear the government, you have Tyranny)
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To: Kaslin
One simple answer is to restrict food stamps to the purchase of healthy low fat foods. From my experience in grocery stores the vast majority of items purchased with food stamps are high fat, high calorie junk food.
45 posted on 07/07/2013 7:09:59 AM PDT by The Great RJ
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To: Kaslin
Sure. Why not.

Presenting the Obama regime "Fatty Gestapo"


46 posted on 07/07/2013 7:12:01 AM PDT by Caipirabob (Communists... Socialists... Democrats...Traitors... Who can tell the difference?)
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To: NJRighty
What's interesting is something I've observed in my adventures in substituting. The kids are ALL given free breakfast and lunch in some schools. To varying percentages, depending on the school, there are kids that throw a lot of the junkiest foods away and bring something healthy from home. Some bring junk from home to further stuff their faces. But there are some who know they shouldn't be stuffing their faces with manufactured junk.

I remember the original food stamps back in the late 1960s. They were for just enough food to keep one from starving, and they could not be used on junk food.

47 posted on 07/07/2013 7:13:40 AM PDT by grania
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To: Fzob
Not too worry after eights years of Zero the economy will collapse and obesity will be a non issue.

Just for the us tax peasants drones....

Obesity will still be an issue centered around DC...where our overlords rule...

48 posted on 07/07/2013 7:15:37 AM PDT by Popman
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To: Kaslin

Quit subsidizing sugar prices.

Less government involvement solves most problems.


49 posted on 07/07/2013 7:22:55 AM PDT by G Larry (Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Psalms 109:8)
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To: Kaslin

I lot of the obesity problem of Americans has been caused by the government, at the behest of industry, often by using theory instead of real science.

Americans have long been “food faddists”, willing to experiment with all sorts of metabolic and dietary theories. The food industry has the motivation to reduce costs and improve market share. And government is the drunken pilot over it all.

For a very long time the science was disputed, and it still is, passionately, without any real resolution.


50 posted on 07/07/2013 7:28:07 AM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy (Best WoT news at rantburg.com)
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