Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nanny state? You betcha! -- Nov. 24, 2010 column


Before “don’t touch my junk” became the rallying cry for the anti-big government crowd, there was “don’t touch my junk food.”

A TV spot during the fall midterm campaigns featured a harried Everymom complaining as she wheeled her grocery cart:

“Feeding a family is difficult enough in today’s economy. Now some politicians want the government telling me how I should do it. They want to put new taxes on groceries I buy, like soft drinks, juices, even flavored waters – trying to control what we eat and drink with taxes.”

Then came the kicker: “The government is just getting too involved in our personal lives!” she declared.

The ad by Americans Against Food Taxes, a coalition of food and grocery industry groups, struck a chord with those who believe Americans have a God-given right to buy junk food at the cheapest possible prices, no matter the cost in obesity-related diseases and health care.

Voters in Washington state repealed a tax on soda, candy and bottled water Nov. 2 after the American Beverage Industry reportedly lavished more than $16 million on such ads.

The vote reflected a deep, if misguided, strain of resentment over “the nanny state.” The most recent episode is protests over intrusive pat-downs by the Transportation Security Administration. No matter that those who are howling the loudest about airport security measures also would be the most critical of President Obama if, heaven forbid, an act of terrorism occurred in the skies.

Perhaps no politician mines the vein of Big Brother discontent more effectively than Sarah Palin, who recently poked fun at the “nanny state run amok.”

Palin visited a Christian school in Pennsylvania and brought with her dozens of cookies. What prompted the glory of sugar was a news report that the Pennsylvania State Board of Education had decided to ban cookies at school parties. It hadn’t, but Palin rarely lets facts get in the way of a good media moment.

“I heard that there’s a debate going on in Pennsylvania over whether public schools were going to ban sweets,” she said. “I wanted these kids to bring home the idea to their parents for discussion. `Who should be deciding what I eat? Should it be government or should it be parents?’ It should be parents.”

Palin not only was mocking the Board of Education, she was also mocking Michelle Obama, who champions healthy eating and physical fitness for kids. Palin seems to be positioning herself for a presidential run as the un-Obama. When a grade schooler asked Palin her favorite animal, she shot back, “To eat?”

Palin’s “nanny state run amok” phrase does open the possibility of a good nanny state, one that could hum along helpfully, only occasionally running off track, but Palin doesn’t deal in nuance. “Nanny state run amok” was just another Palinism.

Perhaps those who believe in the power of government to encourage good behavior should claim nanny state as a positive phrase, not a put-down. It need not always be a pejorative, a clash of us (citizens, parents, fast food junkies) versus them (big, bad, meddling government).

That conflict played out even in San Francisco, the first major city to ban toys and other give-away items for children in fast food meals that exceed 600 calories or fail to include vegetables. The city’s board of supervisors overrode a veto by Mayor Gavin Newsom who had said parents, not the state, should decide what kids eat.

When Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell proposed recently to add a new state tax on soft drinks as a step in curbing the state’s obesity problem, critics lambasted – what else? -- the nanny state and food police.

People never like to be told what to do, of course, but paying a higher tax on certain items may be the nudge we need to make healthier decisions. We’ve gotten that nudge from the government about alcohol and cigarettes. After all, the forces urging us to choose fat and sugar are powerful.

Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity reported this month that the fast food industry spent $4.2 billion in 2009 alone on media ads. The average pre-schooler saw 2.8 TV ads for fast food every day last year. Children 6 to 11 saw 3.5 ads, and teens 4.7 ads. Every day last year.

“Young people must consume less of the calorie-dense, nutrition-poor foods served at fast food restaurants,” the center concludes in “Fast Food F.A.C.T.S.”

“Parents and schools can do more to teach children how to make healthy choices,” the report says.

It’s such a mild, sensible idea that even politicians should agree. But don’t hold your breath.

© 2010 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.


  1. This is a joke right ?

    I thought you were celebrating Thanksgiving over there in the states, but apparently it's April Fools' day.

  2. Hello,
    I work for the Department of Homeland Security, We will be stopping by your home tomorrow around lunchtime. Our goal is to guarantee that you do not eat all that junk food that Thanksgiving is famous for. Sorry for the inconvenience that my crew of 75 agents will cause, but we have our orders from Janet and Barack, and they must be followed to the letter.

    Yours truly,
    Sam Smith
    Department of Homeland Security
    Washington, D.C.

  3. I can accept the government insuring we are informed (labeling) and advised (through public service announcements.) I reject manipulation and outright regulation of personal choices.

    Taxation of specific items is manipulation, by the way. Taxation should be carefully acquired revenue, and as little of that as possible.

    Less government, and less intrusive government. Period.

  4. Less freedom, more taxes, more laws. More gov jobs collecting taxes and writing laws. Round and round we go. This can't and won't continue. This greedy criminal government has dug their own grave over the last century and "WE" will see that it's used very soon!

    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from
    time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants."~Thomas Jefferson

  5. Carrie Nation is saving you a seat- in Hell.

  6. The purpose of coercing people to live in some manner deemed to be more healthful, is presumably to extend life. But who'd want to live to a ripe old age in some dystopian nightmare state where one has to get permission from a cadre of snooping bureaucrats, before they may order a pizza, smoke a cigarette (tobacco or marijuana), drink a beer (or soda), etc.? If that's the kind of world we're going to have, checking out with a coronary at age 56 sounds like a pretty sweet deal.

    People like you would (and very likely will) make millions of their fellow Americans yearn for the embrace of sweet death. Anything to get away from hyper-annoying, neo-Puritanical busybodies like you.

  7. One question, are you nuts? If you want the government to control everything you do, move to China and take you nutty notions with you, leave my America FREE to make my own decisions. The more we depend on the government the less we depend on ourselves, lazy at best, dangerous at worst.

  8. Gradual encroachment on the personal freedoms of Americans has been going on for some time now. A little at a time, free people just say, "Oh, well," and carry on with their lives. When will people wake up and say, "What the Hell do you think you are doing?"

  9. The message is very simple: GET GOVERNMENT OUT OF OUR BUSINESS. Government wasn't meant to tell us what to do as if we were stupid. Impeach Obama. Fire Harry Reid, Throw Pelosi to the curb (which we already did), and give us back out LIBERTIES. Shut the hell up.

  10. Since the creation of the United States, many thousands of Americans, too many to count, have died fighting for the rights and privileges that you enjoy today. But you already know that because you hear about it every Veterans Day. You don't care. Living life regulated and controlled by those who think they know better than you is nothing more than living like a pet dog. The only freedom a pet has is where it will go poo. And don't think that you will get to choose the color of your collar. The Gov has one picked out for you.

  11. This is tripe! The government, regarless of which set of thieves (R) or (D) need to keep the hell out of food choices or any choices for that matter.

  12. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is what you seem to be saying. Let’s use the tools we have right? What you are presenting here would be the equivalent of cracking an egg with a chainsaw. How about we use a tool more suitable to the outcome we strive for. It’s much easier to teach then to control. This country was great and healthy in our past. Instead of trying to control the problem by force, try looking into OUR history for the cure. What you will find looking back is the slow decay of the moral fabric of our nation. We now teach no absolute truth so we don’t offend anybody. Shame on each and every one of us for letting this Nation fall so far from the founding principles that made it great. We need to get back to the 3 basic religious principals our founders espoused “There is a creator, He reveals to us how we should live, We will answer to him when we die.” As Tomas Jefferson said “Religion purifies the water at the fountainhead” Most of the problems we see today stem from greed. Fast food companies want to sell more at a higher profit, so put in additives that are unhealthy that make the food taste better. Outlawing these won’t help either. Correct the underlying moral issues and the effects disappear.

  13. Apparantly you never let the facts get in the way of a blog post. Just like every other member of the left who cares not for the truth, only how it can be twisted, misinterpreted, falsified and misapplied.

    You claim: "What prompted the glory of sugar was a news report that the Pennsylvania State Board of Education had decided to ban cookies at school parties." Yet, in the very next paragraph your quote from Palin proves you a liar:

    “I heard that there’s a debate going on in Pennsylvania over whether public schools were going to ban sweets,” she said. “ `Who should be deciding what I eat? Should it be government or should it be parents?’ It should be I wanted these kids to bring home the idea to their parents for discussion.parents.”

    "...heard there was a debate..."??? Sounds to me like she knew it was just at the point of being a debate, not that a decision had been made. "I wanted these kids to bring home the idea to their parents for discussion." Sounds reasonable to intelligent people, though not to NannyStaters. After all, the schools are constantly telling parents how they want "parent involvement". The problem being that schools tend to hide what they are doing from parents, then object when "parent involvement" happens to block their NannyState objectives.

  14. Wow this blog is such a load I had to go change my boots from wading through it. The Government, ANY government, can't mandate out idiocy and poor choices, no matter the intent. If people want to do something stupid they will find a way. You must not be a Darwinian or else you would let people do what they want. The Stronger will survive to pass on the genes to carry on the species and all the fat ignorant masses will go the way of the Neanderthal oh wait they think we ate him too now.

  15. Good report of what is going on today. Not that I agree with everything you report on, but we do need both sides of every argument to decide on which side we shall go with.

  16. What is going on here? Ms. Mercer writes a thoughtful column suggesting that government has a role in regulating our more or less destructive behaviors and she is attacked for her ideas and even for being alive. Let's cool it. We can disagree without being disagreeable. As Xetsa says, in the previous comment, we do need both sides of every agrument. Bravo, Ms. Mercer, for getting tbe discussion started.

  17. Marsha Mercer is right. Government plays an important part in shaping how we live together in this society. No one wants a "nanny state" where government injects itself into decisions best left to the individual, such as what to eat for supper. However, we all want government to protect us from dangers beyond our inividual control, such as dangerous or ineffective drugs or contaminated food. Reasonable people can disagree on the efficacy of a double cheeseburger at McDonalds, so each of us can decide for ourself to eat one or not.

    Once again, Ms. Mercer gives us a well thought-out treatment of an interesting and timely topic. We enjoy and learn from her columns each week and suggest others will, as well.

  18. We have a most interesting "dust-up" in the reaction to Ms. Mercer's column this week. Who knows what caused it. Perhaps, her mention of Ms. Palin. In any event, while some of the reader's comments are outrageous, others make a substantial contribution to the free exchange of viewpoints and ideas. As my mother used to say, nothing good happens after midnight. This is confirmed by the comments posted by readers between midnight and early morning on Thanksgiving Day. I suggest you check the comments posting times to see if I am right.

    All in all, I find the column and the reaction fascinating.

  19. I've often thought that we needed a monarchy in the good, old US of A. We could replace our unhealthy obsession with the pop-tart celebrity of the day with a healthy obsession with the cavorting of our royals, as do our brethren in Merrie Olde England. With a constitutional monarchy or even a benevolent dictatorship we could eliminate, via royal fiat, all of the unhealthy habits of the king's or queen's subjects.

    Thinks about it. One would no longer have to bear the burden of personal accountability and responsibility for his own decisions; they would be made for him by someone wiser and much more capable of deciding what was in his best interests. No more of those pasky decisions about what to eat, whether or not to exercise, what school to send your children, what to read and most of all, what to think about our central government masters to whom we have so willingly ceded control over our affairs.