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Let Them Eat Twinkies

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It's bad enough that President Obama is nationalizing our health care -- that he's leading the economy to socialist ruin -- and generally seeking vengeance against the white man on behalf of his African ancestors.

But now his bossy wife and her government minions want to tell you what to eat. Just like your mother when she said you couldn't have dessert until you'd finished your peas. Except more sinister. Way more sinister.

This is the latest paranoid fantasy being hatched by my compadres on the right: that, in an effort to fight rising and dangerous levels of obesity amongst Americans, Big Mother is going to come into your homes, snatch that breakfast soda out of your pudgy hands, and force feed you a fresh carrot from the White House garden.

As Rush Limbaugh warned his listeners on Nov. 9:

Anyway, Michelle Obama's on this big obesity kick, right? Gotta eat healthy stuff, gotta eat the garbage that she grows in the garden, nothing but fruits and vegetables...Michelle Obama wants to spend $400 million to combat food deserts. She's all upset that the only food available to poor urban people are convenience stores, the 7-Elevens. What did Biden say, you can't go in one without finding an Indian? Yeah, that's what Joe Bite Me said. So she's complaining about food deserts, and Michelle Obama wants to punish Big Food and Big Retail for not putting quality food stores in poor neighborhoods, right? And that's why there's an obesity epidemic, right?

And Big Mother ain't stopping there. She's going after your children, too. She wants to undermine your parental authority and tell them what to eat: no more greasy pizza slices, deep-fried processed chicken parts, transfat-injected "cake" substances, and high-fructose soft drinks in their school cafeterias.

Sarah Palin recently boasted on her Twitter feed that she would defy a supposed Pennsylvania state cookie ban:

"I'll intro kids 2 beauty of laissez-faire via serving them cookies amidst school cookie ban debate; Nanny state run amok!"

That tweet publicized a Palin speech at Plumstead Christian Academy on Nov. 9:

"I look at Pennsylvania and I think of sweets -- I think of Hershey. Then I think, how dare they ban sweets from school here."

In a surprising departure from her reputation for strictest truth, Palin mischaracterized Pennsylvania's proposed nutrition guidelines. Sweets are not banned from Pennsylvania public schools. The state's department of education will however recommend that schools consolidate in-class birthday parties to one per month -- and that parents sponsoring the parties be asked to ensure that healthier eating options are made available to children.

What's also surprising is that Palin described her cookie giveaway as an introduction to laissez faire. Palin did not charge for her cookies. (To be precise: she did not charge an additional price, above her reputed $75,000 speaking fee.) Handouts are okay, so long as they come from Mama Grizzly.

Interviewed on Laura Ingraham's radio program before Thanksgiving, Palin expanded on her thesis that junk food = freedom:

Take her [Michelle Obama's] anti-obesity thing that she is on. She is on this kick, right. What she is telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat. And I know I'm going to be again criticized for bringing this up, but instead of a government thinking that they need to take over and make decisions for us according to some politician or politician's wife priorities, just leave us alone, get off our back, and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions and then our country gets back on the right track.

Currently, more than 72 million American adults face serious medical consequences because of their weight. Nearly 17% of children aged 2-19 face the same risks because they are clinically obese. Obesity and being overweight are most likely to afflict the poor and racial minorities.

Palin might not have noticed much adolescent obesity during her visit to Plumstead Academy. Plumstead is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the nation's 76th wealthiest county, and is 90% white. Besides, her visit occurred after school hours, at 7:30 in the evening.

But the spiraling obesity rates Palin mocks are increasingly having an impact on health care costs, which in turn affects the way we must approach and debate reforms to the health care system. Those least able to afford health care disproportionately need it in large part because of the unhealthy food they eat -- and that is served to their children in government-run schools. We've arrived at a point where inner-city children can't identify common fresh vegetables and fruits, such as cauliflower, tomatoes, and potatoes.

Perhaps you regard it as an intolerable violation of personal liberty for government to campaign for nutritional awareness? What then do we call the federal agricultural subsidies that have helped to lower the price of super-abundant junk food? Can you explain why it's okay for government to campaign against smoking and in favor of seatbelts? Or do you also oppose those life-saving public safety campaigns? Or is it perhaps that you have decided that everything the Obamas do is so intrinsically wrong that criticism of the Twinkie now makes you un-American?

That last sentence seems to describe Rush Limbaugh's point of view. Rush recently argued to his listeners that Americans should be eating more Twinkies and exercising less.

What have I told you about diet and exercise? Exercise is irrelevant. What matters in losing weight is what you eat, pure and simple, and how much, nothing more than that. And everybody tries to tell me I'm wrong, that I don't know what I'm talking about. And every time a story comes out on this I am validated, and nobody has ever said, "Rush, you know, you were right about this." This is CNN, their Web page: "For 10 weeks, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate one of these sugary cakelets [Twinkies] every three hours, instead of meals. To add variety in his steady stream of Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Haub munched on Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos, too." This is a nutrition professor. "His premise: That in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most -- not the nutritional value of the food."

Never mind that Limbaugh inaccurately describes Haub's study (Haub ate fresh fruit and vegetables along with the sugary cakelets). The headline conclusion Limbaugh draws from Haub's work may well be, and most probably is, correct. A steady reduction in daily calorie intake results in a steady reduction of weight. Cocaine-taking, chain-smoking models also famously keep the pounds off. Perhaps Limbaugh's next monologue could promote a cigarettes-and-cocaine diet?

Here we come to the heart of the destructive craziness of what begs to be called Junk Food Conservatism. Palin, Limbaugh and the others may sincerely believe that "Big Government" is taking advantage of the increase in child and adult diabetes, heart disease and all-manners of obese-related illnesses to trample on our God-given freedom to guzzle soda and eat candy. But in the end, here's the political message they are sending from their own wealthy, option-filled, Subzero-equipped enclaves to this country's poorest and unhealthiest:

Let them eat Twinkies.

This article was cross-posted on FrumForum.