While changes to the school lunch program are long overdue, medicine I’ve been critical of the child nutrition bill, medicine 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, ambulance 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.