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Who’s To Blame If You’re Fat?
by Allan Bormel
16 December 2003Peter Jennings

"How to Get Fat Without Really Trying" was one of the most irresponsible, bubble-headed, illogical pieces of junk-science docutrash to pollute the television airwaves in quite some time. 

On Monday December 8, 2003 ABC News aired a one-hour special, hosted by Peter Jennings, titled “Who’s to Blame? Obesity in America: How to Get Fat Without Really Trying.” This was without a doubt the most irresponsible, bubble-headed, illogical piece of junk-science docutrash to pollute the television airwaves in quite some time.

The argument unfolded like this: Nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight and almost one in three is obese, but it may not be your fault. You, poor overweight person, are in fact a victim – sound familiar yet – of powerful unseen forces that you cannot possibly control. The government, you see, has a subsidy program that encourages farmers to grow certain foods, like corn. Much of that corn is used as animal feed, encouraging ranchers to raise more cattle, ergo more artery-clogging beef. Additional corn is used to make sweeteners for soft drinks. Very, very bad. Fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, are mostly not subsidized, thereby discouraging their growth. The net result is that American farmers produce too much food, and the wrong foods at that.

It gets better. Now that food processors have too much food on their hands, they must hire advertising agencies to con the American public into excessive buying, so as to not be stuck with surplus product. They insinuated that food sellers purposely trick consumers into buying more food than they need in order to maximize profits.

Their primary on-camera expert was Michael Jacobson, founder of The Center for Science in the Public Interest. Sounds like a legitimate watchdog agency looking out for the public, doesn’t it? Don’t be fooled. The CSPI is a radical organization that fancies itself the food police. They are in favor of new taxes on snack foods, doubling taxes on beer, government-mandated warning labels on high calorie menu items, and taxpayer-funded nutrition counseling for food-stamp recipients. Mr. Jacobson is quoted as saying, “CSPI is proud about finding something wrong with practically everything.” He has compared the food industry to the tobacco industry. Let’s see, one sustains life and the other kills us – what could they possibly have in common? Nothing, except they are both legal products the liberal elites wish to control.

Now we get to the crux of it, the hidden socialist agenda. They (ABC News, the CSPI and their ilk) hate business, especially big business; they hate capitalism, and they hate free choice. If you, dear reader, think perhaps this is exaggeration I call your attention to ABC News’ solution. They suggest that the food subsidy system be changed to encourage only “healthy foods.” Food processors, packagers and advertisers should be marketing only “healthy foods” and if they don’t toe the line lawsuits are strongly encouraged. Legislate and litigate.

The liberal left likes to paint themselves as paragons of freedom and democracy. In truth what they favor is oligarchy. They are comfortable with a small group of Harvard-educated elites telling the rest of us how to live. Jacobson has said, “people can’t be trusted to make wise and healthful decisions on their own.” If you want to survive on broccoli and tofu – fine with me. If I want to gorge on pizza and cheeseburgers – what business is it of yours? In a free society you would pay your health-care costs out of your pocket, and I out of mine. The socialist model of cost sharing inevitably leads to behavior control. In a world where the government pays for everything, they assume the right to control everything.

The ABC News report failed to mention that US agriculture exports close to $60 billion a year in food products to over 100 countries. Ask the countries we feed if we should cut back production. The report also glossed over the fact that each year hundreds of new low-fat and low-carb meal varieties are introduced. They were troubled that many consumers make bad food choices. They failed to mention that many others make smart choices. It’s called freedom.

Michael Mudd, a senior vice president at Kraft, the nation’s largest food processor, says Kraft has ordered a wholesale review of all their products and marketing because it knows obesity is an epidemic. Is Kraft’s motivation altruism -- or fear of food-police-orchestrated lawsuits? It looks like Kraft has learned to play the game.

Allan Bormel is a retired businessman and a freelance writer.

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