When Did the Right Get Pro-Obesity?

December 20th, 2010 at 4:34 pm | 47 Comments |

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While changes to the school lunch program are long overdue, I’ve been critical of the child nutrition bill, in part because it replaces a set of clunky and flawed regulations with a new set of clunky and flawed regulations.

Such criticism seems downright tame compared to the objections raised by some on the right. Passage of the child nutrition bill has evoked a conservative firestorm. A FoxNews segment, as an example, was titled: “Don’t touch my muffins!” There’s a grassroots movement – cleverly titled “My Food. My Choice!” – that’s declared December to be National Bake Sale Month.

And, on the larger issue of obesity, conservative heavyweights Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh have scoffed at White House ideas.

Are conservatives beginning to sound on this issue like… liberals?

RealClearPolitics columnist Cathy Young notes the parallels between the left and the right on the obesity issue.

The irony, too, is that right-wing griping about the food police can converge uncannily with the left-wing “fat acceptance” movement. This movement champions the idea that fat people are an oppressed group and that disapproval of obesity is bigotry…

Strange bedfellows. Some conservatives grouse about the rising influence of the state – but end up dismissing any policy initiative that would address the obesity epidemic. Liberals, unable to criticize people no matter how pathological their behavior, fall into a similar policy inertia.

That’s not quite to suggest that all conservatives are in the nanny-state-dismissal group; nor are all liberals in the fat-acceptance crowd. Still there are strong voices on both sides of the spectrum with – ironically enough – a similar policy prescription, or lack thereof.

But neither position is particularly thoughtful. There is a role for public policy here – both in what government should be doing (more physical education in our schools, for example) and what it shouldn’t be doing (some agribusiness subsidies). Likewise, while important to remember that life events can lead us to bad life choices, a permissive approach to obesity is as absurd as excusing the smoker for his habit because dad didn’t like to play baseball with him.

For the record, Ms. Young’s column closes with a nice observation:

Conservatives have often argued that, in order for a free society to flourish, individual freedom must be coupled with self-restraint. Perhaps some appreciation of this old-fashioned virtue is just what’s needed in the debate over food and fat.

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47 Comments so far ↓

  • Nanotek

    “Liberals, unable to criticize people no matter how pathological their behavior, fall into a similar policy inertia.”

    As a proud liberal, I can say that was a pathologically false and bigoted statement, as my criticism demonstrates. Yes?

    “When Did the Right Get Pro-Obesity?”

    David, seriously? Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, etc. Tell Tom Smith hi.

  • balconesfault

    The right wing in America would become anti-apple pie if Obama became a public advocate for them.

  • Slide

    “When Did the Right Get Pro-Obesity?”

    Silly question, as soon as the Obama administration wanted to do something about obesity. Don’t you yet realize they are just against Obama, not matter what? It’s all rather predictable. Have a cookie.

  • Non-Contributor

    I really think the difference is that the far left gets laughed at by most moderate Democrats whereas the far right gets a pass from moderate Republicans for saying the most outrageous stuff.

  • TerryF98

    “I really think the difference is that the far left gets laughed at by most moderate Democrats whereas the far right gets a pass from moderate Republicans for saying the most outrageous stuff”

    BINGO! you win the prize for post of the day. Congrats.

  • Elvis Elvisberg

    Still there are strong voices on both sides of the spectrum

    On the one side, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. On the other side… um… some student group at some college, or something.

    Because conservatism has abandoned all concern with policy, and has given itself over to a movement based on resentment and identity politics, fringish ideas appear every day from conservative leaders in Congress and the infotainment industry.

    Meanwhile, liberalism is based on the effectiveness of policy proposals. No one cares about fringish folks in the “baseless self-esteem” movement, except conservatives.

  • LauraNo

    I’m a liberal and I’m fully capable of criticizing people. Especially conservative people. :)

  • PracticalGirl

    Can we string together what balconesfault and Non-Con said into one post and put it on top? Together those two statements answer nearly any question that begins with “When did Conservatives get so…”

  • Kurlis

    When did the American Left become pro-child murder?

    Isn’t that an uber-liberal position? After all, the intent is to free the mother from her moral obligation and to free children from their lives.

  • Saladdin

    When did the right get pro-obesity? Easy, when the left came out against it. duh

  • LISGUY

    To directly answer the question, conservatives became “pro-obesity” probably about the time of the tobacco jihad back in the mid to late 90′s. If there is some philosophical incoherence in approaches to obesity, I think it stems from an incoherent view of “sin” taxes. Cigarettes and liquor are taxed obstenbily to encourage people to quit these harmful habits. But on the other hand, when people actually, well, you know, quit these habits, then the hue and cry over the revenue shortfall is immense.

    Now transfer the same dilema over cigarette taxes to concerns over whether or not to have soda pop in vending machines in schools and you have a near total replay of what is going on. Throw in pendandtic hectoring from groups like Center for Science in the Public Interest and I think a lot of people just tune all of the anti-obesity messages after a while.

    There is just isn’t much that government can do in and of itself to reduce obesity rates and the sooner this is realized and the heat and rhetoric dialed back, the sooner we as a country can begin to tackle this problem.

  • Kurlis

    This is another example of the way in which the American Left is no longer liberal. The American Left doesn’t think much about individual liberty. The ideology of the American Left is profoundly illiberal, intolerant and undemocratic.

    These days, only conservatives are liberal. The American Left has forfeit the right to call itself liberal.

  • politicalfan

    Kurlis- Have a nice Christmas!

  • jg bennet

    here is an evolving obesity map from the CDC tracking from 1985 to 2009 and as it evolves it follows the red state blue state trend in politics….

    http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html

    compare to this political map

    http://politicalmaps.org/red-state-vs-blue-state-infographic/

    put the two maps side by side….the proof is indeed in the “PUDDING”

  • medinnus

    The South is is pro-Fried Anything.

    So naturally, the GOP is in favor.

  • Churl

    Obesity will win the war on it, as Poverty, Drugs, and Demon Rum won the wars on them. Government bureaucracy will win with more well compensated employees and more power to meddle in peoples’ lives. Only the citizens lose a bit more control over how they live.

  • abrady

    Since we fat folks die sooner, that works for the conservation agenda of “get sick– die quickly” so we do not drain the medical insurance and hospital systems of time and money.

    As the ultimate business supporters, the GOP can rest easy with the knowledge that many of we fat folk use our freedoms to over-partake of food products thereby, spending important money to support food related industries. However, it is not a cookie or dessert that puts us over the edge– as portrayed by your concerned spokespeople.

    I teach high school age kids and I have to say it has been wonderful since the sugar and caffeine containing snacks and drinks have been removed from campus. The salad bar at lunchtime is well used by students and staff and they still serve pizza, cookies and slushies– they just have monitored nutritional levels.

    So, Sarah, Rush and Co., put your energies towards something more valuable to the average American: like school funding, job creation, truth and honesty in politics.

  • jg bennet

    Gives a whole new meaning to Republican FAT CATS :)

    Here is what I believe to be the root cause of obesity….

    In 1984 Congress passed the Cable Act, which allowed cable companies to use the encryption in order to make people viewing these channels to subscribe to cable.

    The U.S Congress deregulated the cable industry and seized the control to regulate rates away from the local authorities.

    The cable industry saw a phase of extraordinary growth from 1984 – 1992, the cable subscribership rose from 37 million to 57 million. In 1992, the percentage of homes passed by a cable wire rose from 71 percent in 1984 to 97 percent.

  • Kurlis

    Maybe you’re right. Maybe the US Government should carefully regulate and monitor the caloric intake of all Americans. More people would live longer and lead happy, healthy lives. And the People would have the “liberal” intelligentsia to thank for being so insightful and knowing what’s best for them better than they do. After all the wealthy, the powerful and the highly educated have precisely the same concerns as ordinary Americans.

    Perhaps freedom of choice is overrated, except as it applies to abortions, I suppose. Because while American women shall make every decision concerning their reproductive rights, her caloric intake is a matter of state and should be regulated for the benefit of the commune.

    Maybe fascism won’t be that bad.

  • Elvis Elvisberg

    “Maybe fascism won’t be that bad.”

    Ooh! Move over, “wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross”! There’s a new Palin ’12 slogan in town!

  • lessadoabouteverything

    Churl. have you ever heard of Japan? Far less obesity than America, far more government involvement in diet, exercise, health care, etc. and they live longer and spend half as much as we do on health care. Oh wait, anything outside of the US does not exist and hence can not be learned from ever.

    Kurliss, feel free to die a fat diabetic decades early, and spare yourself the fascism of good health and cheaper and more efficient health care. I would volunteer to carry your coffin but I think it will necessitate a forklife to get you off the ground.

    and stop with the bullshit conflation, there are many pro life Democrats, they just are not dicks about it (that is they support pre natal care, support services for women in difficult situations so that they do not feel the need to be afraid of pregnancy, you would just outlaw abortion and then execute women who have abortions and call it pro life)

  • Kurlis

    The sad truth is that the American Left is liberal no longer. That political movement has changed greatly over the years. It abandoned the foundational liberal principle of individual freedom long ago in favor of an uncompromising elevation of equality as the highest and best good. Today, the voice of freedom within the American Left, has become a faint, distant echo of its former self. One can hear no longer the yearning for freedom within the American Left. It is dead.

    How has the American Left compensated? Its dogma has become the basis for a new religion. God is the US Government. This new religion is the vessel that contains all of the American Left’s hopes for a greater world utopia; significantly poorer, but equal at the very least. The American People, finally stripped of their arms and their political power in favor of an oligarchy of government experts and representatives from supra national organizations, will be denied the ability to resist.

    Rejoice! The UN will finally govern the US. Won’t that be fun? The American Left has such wonderful dreams for humanity. The American People should thank them.

  • jmp

    I’ve wondered what it would do for the obesity rate in the US if Americans generally felt it was silly to get in a car to go anywhere that’s less than a half mile away? (It might even put a dent in fuel consumption.)

    Of course, people argue that they can’t safely walk places because communities don’t build sidewalks or have crosswalks at a lot of intersections. Towns, in turn, argue that they don’t build sidewalks because not enough people would use them to justify the cost of upkeep. Then, because of overblown fears of abductions and pedophiles driven by a ratings-hungry media, even when there are sidewalks, kids are discouraged from walking to school.

    No, government can’t dictate behavior, but there are some things government can and should do here. Conservatives argued fiercely in recent years to restrict indecent content on TV, because parents can’t always restrict what their children watch as closely as they should. The same argument goes for restricting the food served in schools to items that are consistent with the wishes of parents who only want their children eating healthy food, because parents cannot supervise their children when in school.

    It is well within a reasonable role for government to play to ask government to provide sidewalks for the most widely traveled paths to and from schools. Once the sidewalks are there, parents should take some of the time and effort they put into playing chauffeur for their kids and use it to set up a safety patrol if they’re really worried about the safety of kids walking to and from school. Moreover, if people start widely using sidewalks, the argument that they’re wasteful will go away.

    Furthermore, if conservatives really believe in figuring out real world ways to reduce medical costs down the road, reducing the obesity rate should be at the top of the list. Either obese people will drive up the cost of health insurance, or in the absence of a mandate, they’ll do without insurance then get their costs covered by the rest of us when they show up at the emergency room with untreated effects of their obesity. (If you believe in TANSTAAFL, as most conservatives claim to, it’s hard to pretend that someone showing up at an emergency room with neither insurance nor means to pay isn’t costing the rest of us when we pay for our care.)

  • Shotgun314159

    LISGUY // Dec 20, 2010 at 6:04 pm
    There is just isn’t much that government can do in and of itself to reduce obesity rates and the sooner this is realized and the heat and rhetoric dialed back, the sooner we as a country can begin to tackle this problem.

    CRAPOLA

    Tax it.
    The GOV Taxes the shiet out of my smokes and my booze.

    Just double the tax on High Fructose Corn Syrup.
    Or a Fast Food Tax.

    Hell I can think of a dozen good taxes that would
    “curb” the problem of obesity.

    All you would have to do is make it “Expensive” to be fat.
    TAX THEM ALL.

  • TerryF98

    Hopefully this will be a process of selection just as Darwin predicted. The Obese will die sooner, have less children and have poorer genes.

    As Conservatives do not believe in Evolution, they will take no heed of this. Sounds like a win/win for the thinking people of the world.

    So have at it fat Republicans, stuff your faces and all turn into Chris Christie.

  • Non-Contributor

    Kurlis,

    I’ll say it. You forgot to take your meds today and it shows.

  • Brad Smith

    As I understand the bottom line of Ms. Young’s final comment, it is that the solution to obesity is self-restraint.

    Assuredly there may be room for public policy that removes subsidies – there always is. But conservatives are opposing overbearing government, not favoring obesity. The comments Mr. Gratzer objects to are opposing bans on Happy Meals, threatened bans on transfats, and the like. Conservative opposition is entirely appropriate, and the headline to this post is no more useful than one asking “When did the right get pro-nanny state?”

  • shecky

    “When Did the Right Get Pro-Obesity?”

    Have you ever driven through flyover country? The right knows which side it’s bread is buttered.

  • larry

    the guy in the yellow t-shirt is slim and fit in my wal-mart. i was today run-down by a go-cart bearing a 450 pound female of uncertain age who envleped the cart like a tent with her bulk. goodbye America, hello east east Asia.

  • jerseychix

    My word, the GOP is now throwing around “choice” the mind boggles.

    And for crying out loud it isn’t the bake sales that are making the kids fat. It is the calorie laden simulated food substances that the family ingests for breakfast lunch and dinner that are making us fat. I’m sorry, but I can’t see a “lunchable” as real food. Pop tarts, breakfast cereal, or meatloaf from Stouffers either. But hey! They are cheap cheap cheap. Cause we subsidize the production of the ingredients.

    And while I fully support a soda tax, it seems like we are subsidizing the industry at one end, and taxing it at the other.

    Why not just get rid of the agriculture subsidy and make the big Agro businesses stand on their own two feet? If there’s a small family farm that gets hit, that can’t possibly grow something else to sell to the local school district or university, then send a USDA inspector out to give them a check. Stop penalizing the production of diverse vegetable crops. Start a buy local program for schools with the money. And when a buy local doesn’t come through, then we can ship in lettuce from CA. There are LOCAL MARKET solutions to obesity. Why not try them?

  • sinz54

    jmp: It is well within a reasonable role for government to play to ask government to provide sidewalks for the most widely traveled paths to and from schools Have you ever lived in the suburbs, exurbs, or rural areas of the Northeast or Rust Belt?

    You’ve got a zillion private homes constructed on back country roads. It would cost a fortune to put a sidewalk on every back country road in America. It’s not even clear you could do it without a zillion easements, since the frontage of those roads often belongs to the homeowners. Not to mention the astronomical cost of keeping all those new sidewalks free of snow in the winter. We’re not talking about cities, but rural areas now.

    What you’re suggesting might work for California or New Mexico. But here in MA where I live? Sidewalks on every back country road? Give me a break!

  • sinz54

    jg bennet: here is an evolving obesity map from the CDC tracking from 1985 to 2009 and as it evolves it follows the red state blue state trend in politics….
    Your observation is biased by the large number of fat black people in the South, who like all black people vote strongly Dem.

    Southern African Americans are among the fattest people in America. It’s all that soul food and fried food that’s traditional with them.

  • sinz54

    As I’ve said before, this controversy over obesity (along with the controversy over smoking bans) illustrates how too many of today’s conservatives have trouble distinguishing themselves from libertarians.

    Libertarians insist on the unalienable right to live any way they want, even a way that is free of ethical responsibility or patriotism. Their attitude is let the free market decide just about everything.

    But we traditional conservatives believe that freedom comes with responsibility, as Mr. Gratzer said. We are also nationalists who want the best for our own nation. And this epidemic of obesity is hurting America; it drives up health care costs and it renders too many young people unfit for military service.

    Historically, it’s been right-wing parties, not left-wing parties, in nations around the world that have emphasized physical fitness and physical health. These right-wing parties recognized that a strong people was vital to a strong country.

    We modern conservatives need to place ourselves in that tradition (as we’ve always emphasized tradition), and forget this Ayn Rand foolishness. William F. Buckley threw Ayn Rand out of the conservative movement 50 years ago. He also threw out the John Birch Society and other radicals. As soon as Buckley passed away, it seems, these extremists started making their way back into respectable conservatism.

    That needs to be reversed.

  • TerryF98

    Sinz,

    Can you have a chat with your friends in the white supremacist movement and ask them to not be so silly about Thor.

    A US white supremacist group has called for a boycott of the Kenneth Branagh-directed superhero movie Thor on the grounds that a black actor has been cast in the role of a Norse god.

    The Council of Conservative Citizens is upset that London-born Idris Elba, star of The Wire and BBC detective series Luther as well as a number of Hollywood films, is to play deity Heimdall in the Marvel Studios feature. The group, which opposes inter-racial marriage and gay rights, has set up a website, boycott-thor.com to set out its opposition to what it sees as an example of leftwing social engineering.

    “It [is] well known that Marvel is a company that advocates for leftwing ideologies and causes,” the site reads. “Marvel frontman Stan ‘Lee’ Lieber boasts of being a major financier of leftwing political candidates. Marvel has viciously attacked the Tea Party movement, conservatives and European heritage.

    “Now they have taken it one further, casting a black man as a Norse deity in their new movie Thor. Marvel has now inserted social engineering into European mythology.”…

  • Houndentenor

    I’ll tell you what happened. We now have a political “system” where many on the right are automatically against anything a Democrat proposes (and vice versa). Michelle Obama just wants children to eat more vegetables. How can anyone object to that. Sarah Palin mocks the 1st Lady by eating ice cream? When did MO say people shouldn’t eat ice cream? It’s stupid.

  • Kurlis

    “Kurliss, feel free to die a fat diabetic decades early, and spare yourself the fascism of good health and cheaper and more efficient health care. I would volunteer to carry your coffin but I think it will necessitate a forklife to get you off the ground.”

    Human beings need religion. Secular humanists, for whom religion is something to be avoided, invent something else to take its place. A religion of Big Central Government as God. Mysticism is channeled into environmentalism, eschewing the scientific method with a religious faith in global warming as the apocalypse.

    According to the American Leftist narrative, unless Big Central Government drastically re-orders society, climate change will cause an apocalypse . The horror.

    Now comes along a new focus on human consumption and the need to regulate it. The equivalent of dietary laws evident in Judaism and Islam.

    I think I really would rather die than accept the new religion of the fascist paternal nanny state and adult day care from cradle to grave.

    All Praise the Government God.

  • TerryF98

    “I think I really would rather die than accept the new religion of the fascist paternal nanny state and adult day care from cradle to grave.”

    Be the rest of rational society’s guest.

    Have a nice Death

  • TJ Parker

    With God all things are possible. Camels walk through needle eyes and rich men enter Heaven and the GOP’s leading spokesmodel leads them with a wink and a jiggle and sympathy for her bastard daughter’s over-sized tush. Oh brave new world that has such conservatives in it!

  • narcissa

    While I agree with getting America eating better (and try to improve my own habits), and am horrified by this pro-bad food side of the right, I don’t think you can call obesity pathological as a rule, nor compare it to smoking.

    You don’t have to smoke. No, you don’t have to eat a bucket of chicken either, but most obese people are not eating by the bucket. They are eating a little more calories than they need, every day. Since losing weight is much harder than gaining it, there is a culmative effect, which also causes insulin resistance which increases craving which increases weight which well you get the cycle.

    We know how to not be a smoker. Don’t smoke. Aids to nicotine addiction are expensive but available, and the answer is clear.

    A fat person could improve their diet dramatically and never lose the weight they already gained. Eating healthy and losing weight are not the same thing.

    No doubt 30 people will suddenly offer their “obvious” or “simple” or “easy” way to lose weight. We’ll hear a raft of success stories with the little moral, if I can do it so can you fat slob…

    …but it takes a lot of experimentation to find out the diet that works for each individual, something most physicians and nutritionists are not willing to do (if they even know. Have you seen a hospital meal?)

    It isn’t calories in, calories out for many people. Women lose weight less easily and people have quite different set points and metabolism. The French, the Massai, clearly lean towards tall and slim, the polynesians quite the opposite. Diet isn’t the entire explanation. The state of the womb, the state of nutrition as a baby, all these effect weight. Indeed, sometimes, dieting itself can cause yo-yo effect that increases overall weight.

    That’s what the call not to demonize fat people is about, understanding the differences in bodies, and not automatically attributing moral failure to people based on surface knowledge. Do some fat people eat crazy amounts of food and take no responsibility for their actions? The presence and words of Rush alone shows that to be true (smile). But many, many skinny people are living dangerously, and irresponsibly unhealthy lives. Heroine addicted models, coke-addicted wall streeters, bulimics and well, smokers.

    So yes, stop making judgments about situations you know nothing about, but do create an atmosphere and that makes it more likely people will adopt healthy eating habits. Even if they never lose the weight, they will be healthier.

  • baw1064

    That’s one way to grow the Republican base! ;)

  • jjv

    I do not think the Right is pro-obeisity. They just choose big bellies over big government; Carbohydrates over Calorie Commisars.

  • jerseychix

    jjv-

    and then expect the rest of us to pay for it. Big bellies and carbohydrates have a cost.

  • pnwguy

    Having spend a few weeks in Europe this summer, the first thing that really slams you when you get back to the US is obesity. We almost never saw obese people in Europe – cities or countryside. People eat sensible meal portions, and EVERYONE walks in daily life.

    But on the other hand, when you think about things evolutionarily, most every animal on the planet spends most of their daily effort in search of calories. We are biologically wired to intake all we can, having evolved with food scarcity and competition for meals. This is likely only the first or second human generation that has widespread abundance of food at prices that take a small percentage of incomes. It probably shouldn’t surprise us that we as a culture need to make adjustments in our thinking, to overcome our biological bias.

    I’ll put in a plug for watching Food, Inc., for those who didn’t see the 2009 documentary.

  • xiamenb2c04

    this onlineshop is very nice energy4balance.com

  • TJ Parker

    “That’s what the call not to demonize fat people is about, understanding the differences in bodies, and not automatically attributing moral failure to people based on surface knowledge.”

    Nevertheless, there *is* a difference between fat and morbidly obese.

  • Slide

    Houndentenor // Dec 21, 2010 at 10:01 am

    I’ll tell you what happened. We now have a political “system” where many on the right are automatically against anything a Democrat proposes (and vice versa).

    I hate false equivalencies. Can you show me examples where Democratic party is automatically against anything that a Republican proposes? Not saying it hasn’t happened by there is absolutely no comparison in my estimation between the parties in this regard.

  • Rob_654

    The Far Right become pro-obesity when they saw it was something that they could bash the President and First Lady on – and because there are so many fat \ obese voters that they want to try and score points for votes – its easier to do that than offer up policies and solutions. Of course the Far Right won’t want to discuss the horrendous health care costs associated with obesity – AND that since they won’t touch Medicare – how much they support our tax dollars going to pay for obese older voters insulin and medication for diabetes…