New Headache for Public Employees: Menu Control

Leading a healthy lifestyle used to mean following a simple regimen of eating healthy, exercising regularly, and following your doctor’s orders. But today’s government bureaucrats want to punish anyone who fails to practice what the Nanny State preaches.

New York City easily leads the nation in fining, sin-taxing, and frightening citizens into modifying their lifestyles and behaviors to match a government prescription. Already, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has managed to demonize just about anything that contains calories, fat, salt, and sugar—while not always following his own advice.

Now that Hizzoner’s administration has sufficiently scolded private citizens with its “do or die” marketing pitch, the Daily News reports that a new memo from NYC’s Health Department shows the agency wants to make its own employees eat as they’re told. A new policy will ban beverages deemed too-caloric from work-related meals, along with French fries and other fried foods. There are specific regulations for cookies, muffins, and bagels. (It’s worth wondering whether lunching at a hot dog stand will soon result in an automatic suspension.)

Unlike Bloomberg’s city government, Arizona lawmakers seem to be suffering from a major identity crisis. One moment they’re defending consumer freedom, and they next they’re trying to punish ordinary people for making “unhealthy” choices.

In March the Arizona House gave preliminary approval to a law that would prohibit cities and counties from banning kids’ meal toys and other marketing incentives offered by fast-food restaurants. But now Governor Jan Brewer is trying to muster support for a $50 fine on overweight state Medicaid recipients who don’t follow a doctor-supervised weight loss regimen. Since Brewer says her fat-fine will help plug a projected $1.1 billion budget shortfall, she’s probably not rooting for weight-loss success stories.

Public health officials commonly argue that government-mandated food intrusions will reduce obesity and save taxpayers money the cost of treating obesity-related conditions. But the supposed “cost”of obesity to society is no justification for tightening regulations on individuals. It’s actually a good argument for decreasing the government's role in the health care system.

Here’s a better solution: Let people eat what they want and get their own insurance on the open market. It’s your food. It’s your choice. It’s your freedom. (Or at least, it should be.)

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