Jacob Grier, staff writer
Monday, May 3, 2004
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Breaking new ground in the effort to fight the nation’s battle of the belt, Congress met late Friday night to pass the Uniting and Strengthening America by Limiting and Obstructing Wicked Fatty Arsenals of Terrorism (USA LOWFAT) Act of 2004. The Act grants the government sweeping new powers to combat obesity, an effort the law’s supporters say is just as pressing as the War on Terror.
“As we look to the future and where childhood obesity will be in twenty years, it is every bit as threatening to us as is the terrorist threat we face today. It is the threat from within,” said U. S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona. “[It is] a threat that is every bit as real to America as the weapons of mass destruction.”
The most notable aspect of the USA LOWFAT Act is a heavy tax on all fatty and sugary foods. Other features include banning advertisements for unhealthy foods that appeal to children, making it illegal to sell soft drinks in public schools, and creating a color-coded Homeland Obesity Advisory System. “Every vending machine is a cache of chemical and biological weapons, every fast food restaurant a terrorist cell, every kids’ cereal icon an Osama bin Laden of sugary fundamentalism,” said Carmona, introducing the new measures.
“One of our greatest challenges is the needed cultural transformation from a treatment-oriented society to a prevention-oriented society. With this law we take a pre-emptive strike in the new War on Fat,” Carmona said in a prepared statement.
The most intrusive section of USA LOWFAT is the creation of specially-designated “fat accessible” parking spaces. Like the handicapped spaces that currently exist, these fat accessible parking spots will be required at all commercial facilities. Unlike handicapped spaces, however, fat accessible spaces will be located as far from a building’s entrance as possible so that the nation’s obese will be forced to walk. “We’ve got plenty of science to tell us what we need to do,” Carmona said. “Get moving!”
To ensure compliance, state agencies will be required to measure the height and weight of people applying for or renewing their drivers’ licenses. Those who are deemed to be more than twenty percent above their healthy body mass will be assigned a license plate bearing the new obese driver icon. Cars with the icon found parked outside of designated fat accessible spaces will be subject to a fine of up to $500.
While civil libertarians object to this state intrusion into people’s personal lives, health activists defend the parking regulation. “We can promote bicycling and walking until we are blue in the face,” says Andy Clarke, executive director of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, “but unless the government takes the position they prefer people to walk and bike then we won't make the political decisions necessary.”
Not everyone is happy with this new development of the “nanny state.” Dr. Clark Maxwell, an economist at George Mason University, says, “This is America. People should be free to eat as they choose, without having the government's hands all over their food. Instead, the administration is digging into this issue like a linebacker at an all-you-can eat buffet.”
Dr. Michael F. Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), disagrees. He claims that forceful intervention is necessary and rejects voluntary approaches to reducing the obesity level. Before the LOWFAT Act had passed, Jacobson said, “Our government’s response to the war on obesity, a condition that contributes to up to several hundred thousand deaths a year, is the equivalent of sending Cub Scouts armed with popguns to fight foreign wars. Can you imagine Defense Secretary Rumsfeld saying that the way to fight terrorism is to give awards to the nicest members of the Taliban?”
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan also defended the comparison of food and terrorism, noting “fatty foods have been responsible for multiple assassination attempts on Vice President Cheney in the past two years alone.”
Critics of the “War on Fat” are already asking if this marks the end of Americans' sense of responsibility for their own lives. Supporters, such as CSPI Director of Nutrition Policy Mary Wootan, hope that it does. “We have got to move beyond personal responsibility,” she said.
Caesar Barber, who recently sued McDonald’s for his weight problems, agrees that only the government can save everyday people like himself from the deceptive food industry. “They said ‘100% beef.’ I thought that meant it was good for you,” he explained.
(c) 2004 Jacob Grier.
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