In politics, the crisis game works like this: pet issues are turned into national concerns, which then become the object of study for social scientists. The media then substantiate the concerns by publishing the opinions of social scientists, and thus elevate the issue to the level of a crisis. Once concerns become crises, there are demands that something be done. These demands are quickly followed by legislative action that invariably leads to higher taxes, increased government regulation, a loss of liberty, and if the past is any indication, a remarkable increase in whatever was originally identified as a problem. Repeat the cycle.
First lady Michelle Obama has made childhood obesity her pet project. The media is full of reports on the dangers of childhood obesity, and the federal government is in full crisis mode.
There really is no secret to obesity. Obesity is the result of a poor diet and lack of exercise. The people most responsible for the diet and exercise habits of children are the children’s parents. Why should this concern the federal government? The answer is that obesity is a leading driver of healthcare costs. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the direct costs of obesity is $147 billion annually or 10% of medical costs. Those costs are expected to more than double over the next decade. As the federal government begins to pick up the tab for more and more of those costs they will also begin to demand a greater influence in what we eat and how much we exercise. Certainly, the fiscal health of the nation demands that government do something.
There is a bill currently making its way through the House of Representatives, ironically entitled, “The Healthy Choices Act,” which would establish regulations and fund programs aimed at reducing obesity rates by such means as putting nutritional labels on the front of food products, subsidizing businesses that provide fresh fruits and vegetables, and collecting Body Mass Index, (BMI), measurements of patients, and counseling those that are overweight or obese.
Body Mass Index, or BMI, is a 200 year-old scientific relic that is used to determine a person’s body fat. The BMI is calculated by taking a measurement of a person’s weight in pounds and height in inches, multiplying that number by the person’s height in inches, and then multiplying that number by 703. Any number over 24 is considered overweight.