Sunday, July 24, 2011

A SAD Story

Food writer Mark Bittman has a reasoned, fact-based and intelligent proposal for fighting obesity and diabetes in today's New York Times. He excoriates Big Food for peddling junk to Americans, especially children, dubbing American eating habits they created though marketing and government subsidies of corn and soybeans SAD, the "Standard American Diet."

Because Bittman's proposal is reasoned, fact based and intelligent, it has little to no chance of success.

Bittman's conclusion, which he backs up with copious data, is that soda and processed food are responsible for much if not most of the obesity epidemic. These trends in turn are inflating medical costs that are at the heart of the budget deficit and many of our economic problems, he points out.

His solution: Tax these food items to discourage consumption and use the proceeds to encourage better eating habits and subsidize the production of healthier foods. Sure the processed food industry and the Tea Partyers will scream, but the federal government exists to assure the common good. Reason and common sense will prevail, he writes.

If only it were so. We have a government and a political system so dysfunctional that one political party is about to purposely crash our economy to destroy its political opponents. The GOP has adopted an ideology as rigid and unrealistic as communism, the fantasy in the face of overwhelming countervailing evidence that markets solve all problems, budget reductions create jobs and tax cuts increase tax receipts.

The GOP's descent into un-reason and fairy tale reminds me of the late Soviet Union. Like the Soviets, the GOP is increasingly trapped by a failed ideology. Faced with failure, many Republicans, like the rotting Soviet hierarchy of the early 1980s, insist the solution is more of the same.

I give Bittman credit for trying. But until this fever of un-reason breaks his common sense ideas will go nowhere, and America will keep getting fatter and sicker.

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