Former White House staffer v. Michelle Obama on anti-obesity guidelines

A former White House staffer is at the helm of a coalition’s efforts to combat federal efforts to create new voluntary nutritional guidelines for foods marketed to children, according to the Washington Post.

The coalition declined to release its budget for the campaign, which is being managed by Anita Dunn of the firm SKDKnickerbocker. Dunn served as White House communications director under President Obama in 2009 and is married to Robert F. Bauer, the former White House counsel.

Her work on behalf of foodmakers is surprising to some because first lady Michelle Obama has made childhood obesity her signature issue. In a speech last year to food manufacturers and retailers, the first lady urged them to curb the marketing of unhealthy foods. …

Dunn dismissed the criticism.

“Without resorting to personal attacks, everybody should be able to work together towards a common goal here,” she said. “At the end of the day, combating childhood obesity is not a question of what gets advertised but a matter of more exercise, healthier eating habits and working together.”

Precisely. The First Lady — and the four agencies tapped by Congress to create the new guidelines (the Federal Trade Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the Agriculture Department) — might like to pin the blame for the nation’s shocking rates of childhood obesity (one in three kids!) on the food and beverage industry and the $2 billion the industry spends annually to market its products to kids but, until parents and guardians (and, at a certain age, the children themselves) take responsibility for what kids eat, weight problems will persist.

In the Washington Post article, one proponent of the new guidelines said, “We allow companies into our homes to manipulate children to want food that will make them sick.” But that’s the catch: We allow. If parents don’t want their kids to see that Happy Meal commercial, they can mute the TV or turn the channel or, better yet, turn off the TV entirely and go play with their kids outside.

In the meantime, one economic analysis suggested the government’s guidelines would kill 75,000 jobs annually, which, to me, makes opposition to their proposal a no-brainer at a time of 9.2 percent unemployment.