That was the headline grabbing conclusion of a 400-plus page report released by the Institute of Medicine (IoM) last month, which also found that two-thirds of adults and one-third of children are already overweight or obese.
Yet the federal government has hardly left America’s collective weight problem “unchecked.” In fact, the federal government has spent years and billions of taxpayer dollars trying to do just what the IoM suggests in its lengthy report—reduce our waistlines. The result of this expensive and decades-long government crusade has been nothing more than billions in wasted tax dollars.
In the mid-1950s, President Eisenhower signaled his concern for the state of Americans’ health when he launched the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports—a taxpayer funded entity maintained by every President since. In 1960, President-elect John F. Kennedy wrote an essay for Sports Illustrated called " The Soft American ," where he warned that our “growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our security.” Kennedy went on to call for several government initiatives to “improv[e] the health and vigor of our citizens” — including policies that would make “the physical fitness of our youth...the direct responsibility of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.”
Today, the federal government spends billions trying to get us all to put our forks down. According to the Congressional Research Service, in 2011, the federal government dedicated over $1.1 billion on anti-obesity programs within eight separate federal agencies. That figure is projected to inch up to $1.2 billion this year. And these estimates don’t even count the state and local government programs as well as private and not-for-profit programs that exist to help people shed pounds.
Yet, despite this multi-agency, decades-long effort, the IoM’s latest report reveals Americans are still getting bigger and are expected to gain more within the next decade. Reasonable people might conclude that we need to change course. They might recognize government simply isn’t effective in helping people lose weight and say it’s time for government to retire from the weight loss industry.
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