In an opinion piece in Roll Call today, Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, with Donna Katen-Bahensky, argues that the federal government needs to amp up its efforts to combat childhood obesity because the epidemic poses a perilous problem to the federal budget. Kind and Katen-Bahensky write:
Today, our nation spends $147 billion each year on obesity-related health care expenses, and this fails to count the billions more in costs to businesses, communities and families. Clearly, if we don’t address this epidemic, health care costs, already the fastest-growing area of federal spending, will continue to skyrocket. A McKinsey report recently projected that U.S. spending on obesity could be as high as $320 billion annually by 2018. …
Addressing the growing obesity epidemic is a challenge we all share. There is an important role for parents, the community and school leaders to play in making healthy living a priority and the easier choice for our kids. Business leaders can commit to making healthy lifestyles more accessible to workers and their families, while medical providers can do more to address obesity in patients.
And the federal government has an important role to play in investing the resources needed in those programs most likely to yield tangible health and economic benefits for our children and our future. As leaders, we owe it to our children to work together to make these commitments real.
Kind and Katen-Bahensky are right on a couple of points. Under Obamacare, obesity-related health care costs will continue to go up and there is an “important role for parents, the community and school leaders to play in making healthy living a priority and the easier choice for our kids.”
But the various medicines they propose to treat obesity’s effect on the budget sound poisonous to freedom. They want to “reshape” the nation’s food policy “to expand opportunities for farmers, promote local foods and make it easier for consumers to have access to healthy produce.” They advocate “additional strategic investments, from programs to promote physical activity in schools to tax incentives for investments in healthy lifestyles to insurance coverage for proven anti-obesity therapies.” Expanded opportunities for farmers, additional strategic investments … Those sure sound like subsidies to me.
May we please take a step back for a moment? How did we arrive at this place, where it’s plausible that a congressional representative would argue that it is the role of the federal government to tell people what to eat and when to exercise? Perhaps the “food wars” seem insignificant amidst the many battles conservatives have to fight, but they’re highly representative of the alternatives progressivism and conservatism prevent.
Presumably, the vast majority of Americans want to end the obesity epidemic and promote healthy lifestyles. Progressives want to do it through federal government, while conservatives want to do it through personal responsibility. Thanks to Obamacare, the federal government now has a legitimate interest to “reshape food policy” and establish preventative exercise programs — but those new policies and programs would leave individuals with a little less autonomy over their own lives. That’s the choice. It’s not a choice between healthy and unhealthy kids, just as it’s not a choice between contraception or no contraception. When it comes to Obamacare, it is always and everywhere a choice between government control and individual freedom.
The better “solution” to the budgetary problems childhood obesity pose is to repeal Obamacare.