Nanny State

The Thin Man Goes to Washington

Mike Huckabee's leaner-than-thou attitude

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In his inaugural New York Times column, William Kristol suggests Mike Huckabee may be the right Republican presidential candidate to beat "a liberal Democrat" who will "want to increase the scope of the nanny state." This is like counting on Godzilla to save us from King Kong.

Losing more than 100 pounds in less than a year is the former Arkansas governor's main claim to fame, and for Huckabee the personal is political. "Although my weight-loss battle was a very personal one," he wrote in the journal Health Affairs in 2006, "my position as governor allows me to help others to see the importance of making healthy lifestyle changes."

Huckabee created the Healthy Arkansas program, "a comprehensive effort to clearly define specific areas where behavioral changes can lead to healthier citizens." As chairman of the National Governors Association, he led the Healthy America initiative, aimed at creating "a culture of wellness across the nation."

Both efforts relied primarily on information and persuasion, but the rationales Huckabee offered for them suggest sterner measures could be justified. Because of the burden that bad habits such as overeating, inactivity, and smoking impose on taxpayer-funded medical care, he said, a state's fiscal health is tied to its residents' physical health. In any case, he said, "states have both the authority and the duty to enact laws and regulations to advance the public's health."

So what happens when people fail to "see the importance of making healthy lifestyle changes"? The Arkansas Clean Indoor Air Act, which Huckabee brags about championing, provides a clue.

Huckabee says the law, which prohibits smoking in virtually all enclosed spaces that are not private residences, is about "workplace safety." Yet the main health benefit from smoking bans comes from encouraging smokers to quit, not from reducing exposure to secondhand smoke. And lest you think that federalist scruples would prevent Huckabee from pursuing his vision of a smoke-free America as president, he has promised to support a national ban on smoking in "public places."

In his 2005 book Quit Digging Your Grave With a Knife and Fork, Huckabee implies that he does not favor similarly coercive tactics aimed at getting Americans to eat better and exercise more. "We do not need the government to become the 'grease police,'" he writes, "dictating what size cheeseburgers the law will allow or taxing obese people at a different rate than thin people because of the likelihood of additional health care costs associated with obesity."

But given his broad view of the government's authority to "advance the public's health," it's hard to see how Huckabee can rule out such measures, especially since he portrays the "huge epidemic of obesity" as a crisis that threatens the treasury, the economy, and even national security. "We keep talking about the war on terror," he said in an August speech to the Southern Governors' Association. "Who's going to fight it if we don't have enough people who are healthy enough to show up and pick up a backpack?"

Like other obesity alarmists, Huckabee warns that poor eating habits and lack of exercise could make American life spans shorter. A lot shorter: "If we continue with this trend," he told CNN in 2006, "within another generation you'll see kids dropping dead at their desks at the high school."

To avoid that prospect, CNN reported, Huckabee called for "a culture of health," citing four examples "in which concerted public campaigns, aided by government, led to cultural shifts": littering, seat belt use, smoking, and drunk driving. Notably, littering, failing to wear a seat belt, and driving while intoxicated are all illegal, while smoking is headed in that direction, thanks to Huckabee and like-minded politicians.

For those of us who worry that a President Huckabee would be inclined to force his culture of health on America, there's one consolation: If he's right, Grease Police recruits will be so fat that we'll be able to outrun them easily.

© Copyright 2008 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. You know, I was willing to give Kristol the benefit of the doubt, but oh boy…

  2. I’m a fat bureaucrat and I fear Huckee. He’ll probably start with us before he moves on to the rest of nation.

  3. Cue John to tell us how Huckadizzle is better than a Democrat just because he puts an “R” next to his name.

  4. If he’s right, Grease Police recruits will be so fat that we’ll be able to outrun them easily.

    Haha! The image of this in my head is funny 🙂

  5. What about these persistent rumours that his rapid weight loss was due to his having his stomach stapled?

  6. Here’s a tidy historical analogy:

    Warning notices on cigarette packs / Germany occupies the Rhineland.

    Tobacco companies agree to a “voluntary” TV advertising ban / Germany announces the ‘Anschluss’ with Austria.

    The Clean Indoor Air Act / German troops occupy Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland.

    Smoking bans nationwide, including private bars and restaurants / Germany occupies the rest of Czechoslovakia.

    Smoking prohibited in vehicles or homes occupied by children / Germany invades Poland.

    Mother of four small children killed in tobacco bust gone bad / The Blitz

  7. I don’t like to encourage people to think of overeating in terms of “addiction”, because I think the paradigm that applies the addiction model to everything people do that they like to do is both absurd and dangerous.

    But let’s say for the sake of argument Huckabee was, in fact, “addicted” to food, and overcame that addiction.

    In that case he definitely shouldn’t be President, because ex-addicts are some of the most irrational and insufferable a-holes in the world.

    First, because they tend to proselytize. “I overcame my addiction, and YOU CAN, TOO!” Spare me your concern, please. Pile that tendency on top of someone who was already an evangelical minister, and you basically have the potential for a sort of preachmonster that could go all Cloverfield on us.

    Second, because they tend to define down addiction as part of their psychological quest to minimize their own previous personal failures. To a reformed alcoholic, everyone who drinks is an alcoholic. “I’m not the only loser! The rest of you are losers, too! I went through a period where I couldn’t control my behavior, so that means none of you can control your behavior, either!” Ex-addicts are psychologically invested in models of behavior that trend towards nanny-statism, because it’s hard for many of them to admit to themselves that I don’t need their help, and I don’t need government compulsion, to avoid fucking up like they did.

  8. within another generation you’ll see kids dropping dead at their desks at the high school.

    How can people let him get away with saying shit like this? This alone should disqualify him as anything for being a Huckerbolic asshole.

  9. Or, you know, we could always just stop subsidizing food.

    Now that RP’s done with Iowa, maybe he can make a statement about the nation’s health (as he is a doctor) and indicate that by having universal health care we’re spending money to make a problem and spending money to fix it. It would be simpler just to stop spending the money that creates the problem by eliminating most agricultural subsidies, which go largely to already rich major businesses anyway.

  10. just as a brief threadjack, I think Dr. Paul would have to be a fool not to run third-party in the likley event he doesn’t get the nom.

    Anywho…Episiarch, how do people let lying assholes like SmokeFree Ohio make arguments that 20 minutes of exposure to secondhand smoke is the same as chain-smoking Chesterfields?

    Part of it is confidence; if you sound like you know what you’re talking about, people won’t go back and question you (generally speaking); secondly, it’s emotionalish. Just like the liars lied about second-hand smoke by couching it in “Teh Childrenz!” emotionalism, so Huck does the same.

    See, Huckabolic statements are OK if it’s for the “right reasons” – the first casualty in war is truth.

  11. In that case he definitely shouldn’t be President, because ex-addicts are some of the most irrational and insufferable a-holes in the world.

    My list of the most insufferable, self righteous people WAS “ex-smpkers, Catholic converts and married whores.” I’ve added slimmed down fatties to my list in honor of the Yokel Baptist Preacher.

  12. AR, it’s one thing to tell a smoke-phobic public about the dangers of secondhand smoke, the lies about which they’ve already bought into.

    It’s another thing to say that teenagers will be dropping dead at their desks because they’re fat.

    It’s so unbelievably stupid and outrageous that unless you’re retarded you’d have to go “WHAAAAAA!?!?”

    I realize that stupid hyperbolic statements by politicians and activists are par for the course, but this one really stood out.

  13. Episiarch, just wait. Huckadizzle is a harbinger for the oncoming War on Fat. 10 years later people are going to seize on that statement as “genius and visionary” instead of the downright unscientific stupidity that it is.

    It happens fast, too. Remember what smoking was like in the 80s? The early 90s even? Everywhere…and in less than a generation it’s gone.

    My list of the most insufferable, self righteous people WAS “ex-smokers, Catholic converts and married whores.”

    J sub – it cuts both ways…cue Akira for the atheist version of this.

    Married whores though? Really? I didn’t know that one. Don’t forget to add former alcoholics to the list.

  14. Don’t forget to add former alcoholics to the list.

    And don’t forget your Mac users and converts.

    *ducks*

  15. Any “converts” of any kind are driven to prove their authenticity and quickly become insufferable. Ever talk to a newly minted libertarian?

  16. Damn it, I try to be as non-sufferable as I can but when one has overcome all the obstacles in life, one is always held to a higher standard. My wife says I should apologize for being such an asshole but it comes so easy….

  17. “We do not need the government to become the ‘grease police,'” he writes, “dictating what size cheeseburgers the law will allow or taxing obese people at a different rate than thin people because of the likelihood of additional health care costs associated with obesity.”

    “If we continue with this trend,” he told CNN in 2006, “within another generation you’ll see kids dropping dead at their desks at the high school.”

    So which is it? Kids who drop dead in high school aren’t going to cost hardly anything in health care.

    When are reporters going to challenge the bogus “health care cost” argument? The really expensive folks are the super healthy who live to 105, spending half their life on Medicare and the last decade or so in long term care paid for with Medicaid.

  18. you’ll see kids dropping dead at their desks at the high school.

    Episiarch,
    It only has to happen once and it proves that he is right. If anything, that statement is a clever bit of strategy as it probably has happened already somewhere.

  19. J sub – it cuts both ways…cue Akira for the atheist version of this.

    There’s some truth there. I have a gut feeling that the most strident atheists used to be “True Believers”.

  20. “within another generation you’ll see kids dropping dead at their desks at the high school.”

    Mandatory seat belts will keep them in their desks, sitting upright

  21. because ex-addicts are some of the most irrational and insufferable a-holes in the world.

    I had almost forgot that I am an irrational and insufferable asshole because I stopped drinking and doing drugs all those years ago. Thanks for the reminder Fluffy.

  22. I have to say that, it’s hard not being righteous as a former-something.

    I’m a former fatty myself and it’s difficult to watch people complain about their weight.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have no tendencies towards forcing people do to anything. People who are fat, have no interest to change that, and accept the consequences (emotionally and physically) receive no scorn from me.

    It’s the people who wallow in their fatness, proclaim that they have a real desire to change but always look for shortcuts, and statements like “you don’t know what it’s like, you’re thin,” that really get me going.

    But still. No desire to use government to “fix” them.

  23. Don’t forget crooked campaigners who vanquish the first amendment to make amends.

  24. I had almost forgot that I am an irrational and insufferable asshole because I stopped drinking and doing drugs all those years ago. Thanks for the reminder Fluffy.

    mk – large propenent of insufferable assholes are former addicts. Not all former addicts are insufferable assholes.

    Some A are B, but not all B are A.

  25. And don’t forget your Mac users and converts.

    Oh ye gods, quoted for truth.

    Does anyone remember when GG became a “Straussian” and that was all he could talk about in every post?

    I bet I was like that when I was first a “Randian”. Man.

  26. Some of us are insufferable assholes even before we quit something.

  27. When are reporters going to challenge the bogus “health care cost” argument? The really expensive folks are the super healthy who live to 105, spending half their life on Medicare and the last decade or so in long term care paid for with Medicaid.

    I’ve never seen the study that compares TOTAL health care costs between smokers and non-smokers. Just did a google though, and this from todays New York Times came up.
    I love coincidences.

  28. After seeing the Huckabee’s family xmas card pic I think he needs to start his fat crusade at his own home.

    They ALL want to tell us what to do in some form or fashion. I only want them to do one thing, go the hell away.

  29. “There’s some truth there. I have a gut feeling that the most strident atheists used to be “True Believers”.”

    I have found you can divide atheists into two camps. The first says “I don’t believe but I understand why some people do and that in doing so they derrive a lot of confort and meaning even though what they believe in is false.” The second says “I dont’ believe in God and the belief in God and religion in general is the root of all evil in the world and anyone who does believe is a dangerous fool.” I have found almost invarably that the second types were either raised in or were once involved in very strict and devout branches of religion. Some people just can’t keep it between the ditches and veer from one side to the other.

    The same is true of ex-fatties and addicts. Listen to an AA alum explain to you how you are an alcholic and in denial because you have gotten drunk a couple of times in the last month.

  30. I’ve never seen the study that compares TOTAL health care costs between smokers and non-smokers.

    Back in the AG tobacco class action days, the cigarette companies did actuarial studies showing that smokers were less of a burden on the public fisc than non-smokers. That must be the Rand study in the NYT link above. They die early, lessening their SocSec take, and they die quick, reducing their Medicare take. They decided not to make a big deal of this, preferring instead to cut their deal with States.

  31. John, your analysis is great. I’m in the second category – full-blown evangelical, charismatic, speaking in tongues and all that crap becomes oh-so-strident atheist. I lay awake at night worrying about the Coming Theocracy. Fortunately (I think) my wife is a believer (but not part of that described above), so when I start to wear my unbelief on my sleeve, she shoots me “your not getting any” dirty looks. Shuts me right up.

  32. Why should anyone listen to anybody that works at that lying, liberal, New York Times anyway. 😉

  33. …she shoots me “your not getting any” dirty looks.

    That sounds strangely familiar. Yet women often complain they lack power. Go figure,

  34. I don’t watch much news on TV, so I had never heard Huckabee speak before last night’s concession speech. Holy shit, he really is a TV preacher in the Swaggart/Bakker mold. Is a sizable percentage of America really prepared to vote for *that*??? Despair, despair…

  35. The really expensive folks are the super healthy who live to 105, spending half their life on Medicare and the last decade or so in long term care paid for with Medicaid.

    ’tis quite true. There is actually a subset of law practice dedicated to liquidating assets (to your family and charity) so that middle-middle and middle-upper class folks can qualify for Medicaire to pay for the enormous costs of LT care/nursing home care.

  36. Huckabee had his chance to slay the beast while he was in Iowa. The killer High Fruitcose Corn Syrup has run amok in our society making people fat because of its sweet, sweet goodness that people just can’t resist and it was not even mentioned in any of his speeches.

  37. No amount of government nanny state-ism is going to get obese people to turn off the TV, cut their intake of junk food and insane Cheesecake Factory food portions and exercise enough to shed the 100’s of pounds they’ve accumulated over the years.

    What it’s likely going to take is a publicized population ‘dieoff’ in large numbers. Of course it’s already happening albeit slowly, which is why the media does little to report on it. Look at the rising number of teenagers with “type 2” diabetes as well as the number of elementary school kids too! (i.e. Type 2 is diet related diabetes – totally based on poor choices vs. hereditary). It’s sickening. Feeding kids too much is just as much of a form of child abuse as is starving a kid.

    Thus ‘kids’ are beginning to experience such life threatening health conditions as heart attacks, strokes, gangrene, amputations etc. due to being too fat!

    Pretty soon insurance companies will refuse to insure fat employees (because they will otherwise bankrupt the insurance industry). Did you know that health insurance companies are now paying for invasive stomach stapling surgeries? They reason that covering a near 6 figure surgery cost will save them a ton of money in the long run that would otherwise result in a substantial amount of obesity related medical services (especially if the person dies during the surgery). Fact.

    Transportation companies are starting to charge fat customers more. Hopefully the clothing manufacturers will too so those of use who are not fat can stop subsidizing those who are. Since when did a XXXXXL shirt become a normal acceptable part of life?

    With enough inconvenience some fat people will eventually do something about their health. Good for them. If others choose to die a slow death instead, then so be it. It’s their choice.

  38. “””No amount of government nanny state-ism is going to get obese people to turn off the TV, cut their intake of junk food and insane Cheesecake Factory food portions and exercise enough to shed the 100’s of pounds they’ve accumulated over the years.””””

    Never underestimate the power of the nanny. If they can ban your use of legal substances, they can ban your use of legal substances!!! No junk food for you, else you pay fine and/or go to jail, which you can avoid by entering the government mandated health bootcamp.

  39. The Nanny will make sure you have plenty of court mandated programs to help you with _______ abuse.

  40. Huckabee the Thin Man? Have you seen him lately? The buffet circuit is catching up to him.

  41. The killer High Fruitcose Corn Syrup has run amok in our society making people fat because of its sweet, sweet goodness that people just can’t resist and it was not even mentioned in any of his speeches.

    Actually, we can resist it. It can’t hold a candle to real sugar, but that costs too much because

    (A) Corn is subsidized, because Iowa votes first

    and

    (B) Imported sugar faces steep tariffs.

  42. Uhm, Jake…you seem a bit upset that you thin folks are “subsidizing” the fat folks, then say it’s fine and their choice to lose weight or not. I’m getting mixed signals here.

  43. And, purely anecdotally, my thin friends spend a lot of time “burdening” the medical system with all their sports-related injuries, so here at mid-life, you thin folks owe ME a lot of money.

  44. As I’ve said before on this website, I detest Huckabee’s interventionist populism. While I think that dropping weight (preferably by exercise rather than starvation) is a good idea, it is for individuals, not elected officials, appointed bureaucrats, or “society”, to decide. The way to keep this from hurting taxpayers is simple: Don’t subsidize people’s healthcare. When the government spreads the costs of personal decisions from decision-makers to taxpayers, it creates an externality. Better to remove the root cause than to use the same root cause to try to combat the effect.

  45. I just had a funny thought: Cartman as the grease police. Think about it. “Respect my authorita, fatass”.

  46. just had a funny thought: Cartman as the grease police. Think about it. “Respect my authorita, fatass”.

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