Senator Harkin to Wage Pricey War on Fat

Even if you're thin, you'll pay for Tom Harkin's fat fatwa.


You know what they say: The government helps those who won't help themselves—or who will help themselves to seconds.

Exhibit A: U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin's fatwa on fat and individual responsibility, the Healthier Lifestyles and Prevention America Act, also known as the HeLP America Act.

The bill, introduced this week by the long-serving Iowa Democrat, is the latest in a growing line of big-government measures in obesity battle costing American taxpayers—morbidly obese and skinny alike—billions of dollars.

Just how much taxpayer cash the HeLP America Act helps itself to isn't clear. The bill must first be reported to committee before the Congressional Budget Office breaks down the costs. But based on the ambitious scope of the legislation's public health and prevention initiatives, taking aim at obesity and sundry bad personal choices that led to it, HeLP America's fiscal demands could top the budget scales.

Also not clear is how much states would be on the hook for the array of federal government requirements, or how such an ambitious program would be funded in a time of $16 trillion-plus national debt.

Harkin's staff did not reply to Wisconsin Reporter's request for a fiscal breakdown.An updated knockoff of an idled bill Harkin co-sponsored in May 2007 and borrowing from and expanding existing initiatives, the HeLP Act does everything from bolstering the free fruit and vegetable program in schools to awarding grants for community gardens to calling for the installation of bicycle storage areas at federal buildings.

Federal employees better be prepared to take the stairs.

"In General- Each Federal agency shall install point-of-decision prompts encouraging individuals to use stairs wherever practicable at each relevant building and installation," the proposal states.

The bill promotes breastfeeding among working mothers, hikes taxes on tobacco, gives tax breaks to employers for employee fitness club memberships and requires physical activity guidelines for the general public.

There's more labeling mandates to tell consumers that the processed stuff they're eating beyond moderation may not be the best diet plan. The HeLP Act sets forth provisions to reduce the sodium content of processed and restaurant food, and expands coverage of preventive services through Medicaid and theFederal Employees Health Benefits program.

HeLP has some punitive measures, too, going after a usual suspect. The bill imposes an industry-wide penalty on manufacturers of cigarettes for failure to achieve a federal government youth tobacco reduction goal. The fine, should youth tobacco usage fail to be reduced by at least 5 percent "or a level determined significantly sufficient by the Secretary" of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, could be as high as a combined $3 billion.

As one free-market official put it, the HeLP Act is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on steroids.

Saving lives, saving tax dollars?

Harkin, who has championed government health-care initiatives throughout his nearly 30-year U.S. Senate career, said prevention is the key to improving public health and ultimately saving taxpayer money.

"Taking steps to improve access to healthier options, exercise opportunities, food labeling, and tobacco cessation will not only help stave off chronic disease — it will also save consumers and taxpayers money in the long run," Harkin said in a statement. "By making health and wellness a key priority in our schools, workplaces, and communities — and by educating people to make informed choices — the HeLP America Act can open the door for more Americans to live longer and more productive lives free from chronic disease."

Treatment of chronic disease accounts for more than 75 percent of the $2.5 trillion the United States spends on health care annually, Harkin added.

The legislation has the backing of the Center for Science in the Public Interest,the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and the Campaign to End Obesity Action Fund.

"As America's health care costs associated with obesity become increasingly unsustainable, these efforts – aimed at prevention – could not be more timely,"Stephanie Silverman, co-founder of the Campaign to End Obesity Action Fund, said in a statement praising Harkin's bill. She pointed to "research" suggesting that 10 percent of all U.S. medical costs can be attributed to obesity.

Said obesity epidemic may not be as titanic as the Campaign to End Obesity and others assert, according to the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit "devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices." In a recent post, the center points to Gallup's annual Healthways survey, which found obesity and overweight rates slightly increased between 2008 and 2012.

Another study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found obesity among preschoolers has declined slightly, perhaps signaling a breakthrough in the war on weight.

Fat policy fiat

Maybe such studies are proof that myriad government programs — from First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign to fight childhood obesity to the multitudinous provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare — are effectively combatting health problems such as childhood obesity.

Or maybe American consumers are making healthier choices in a free market that is responding to demand.

Either way, conservative groups such as the Center for Consumer Freedom argue the government shouldn't put its nose in the business of consumer choice, whether it be Bloomberg killing big gulp sodas in New York City or the federal government mandating bike racks for government employees through Harkin's legislation.

"What I most certainly do have a problem with is the federal government using public resources and policy fiat to construct the bike-path-using, salad-eating, quinoa-cookin' society of their crunchiest daydreams because that's how theythink society should look," wrote Erika Johnsen in a Sept. 4, 2012, post in the conservative online news site Hot Air.

"Bureaucratic endeavors to instill top-down virtue almost never fail to fall spectacularly flat, and usually come with a whole mess of unintended consequences and hidden costs, or even end up achieving the opposite of their intended effect," she added.

Such government programs often pick winners and losers, and the would-be winners already are getting behind Harkin's bill.

The Packer, a trade publication covering the fresh produce industry, applauded the Iowa senator for "again showing a passion for providing fresh produce to schoolchildren."

"The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is very effective — it increases children's overall fruit and vegetable consumption, exposes students to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and promotes healthier eating habits,"Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association said in an email to The Packer. "The FFVP is a key prevention strategy for schools; all elementary school students would benefit from expanding the (program.)"

The association gave $77,000 to U.S. House candidates last year, and $22,000 to Senate candidates, according to Open Secrets.org.

This article originally appeared at Watchdog.org

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  1. …the latest in a growing line of big-government measures in obesity battle costing American taxpayers?morbidly obese and skinny alike?billions of dollars.

    The multiplier effect of anti-obesity spending is going to be negated by the increased lifespan of all the fatties who thin up and continue to be burdens on government resources and contribute to Climate Change. What is Harkin thinking?

    1. What is Harkin thinking?

      He’s thinking about how much he likes to boss people around.

    2. “What is Harkin thinking?”

      Is there any evidence that he CAN?

    3. What is Harkin thinking?

      MOAR CORN!

  2. More than 200 Dead in Nightclub Fire in Brazil

    Obviously if it saves one person’s life, we need to ban fire.

    1. or nightclubs

      1. Nonsense! All we need is common-sense legislation banning assault nightclubs, and requiring registration and backgound checks for anyone purchasing matches.

        1. These high-capacity nightclubs are to blame. How many people do you need to gather in order to have a good time anyway?

          1. And finally…we need to ban those video games, TV shows and movies with gratutious nightclubs! Think of the wrong message we are sending to young people.

            1. They tried to ban raves in the UK in the 90s, and they recently tried in California, USA….

              1. Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C….._Act_1994, particularly. Lol @ the definition of Rave Music, which is weird they targeted the Rave Music genre because at this time Acid Breaks and Acid House were played at the majority of raves…..

  3. Senator Harkin can eat shit and fuck off. People’s diet’s are none of his business.

    They’ll start regulating the size of cups and glasses soon.

    1. *diets, too

    2. He’s in government. Therefore, he naturally assumes that everything is his business.

    3. They already do toilets.

  4. “Golddigga”? Methinks that’s wishful thinking on her part.

    1. No, she means she owns a pickaxe and a hole in the ground.

  5. Would he have discouraged Andre the Giant?

    1. That is amazing. Coolest motherfucker ever to live?

    2. I watched Wrestlemania III live on pay-per-view. Match that, motherfuckers!

  6. Excellent article by Matt.

  7. Maybe we should force everybody in the country to watch the M. Night Shyamalan (he wrote the story, anyway) masterpiece Devil.

    Once I saw that, I knew I’d never ride in an elevator again.

    Or if making people watch Shyamalan falls under cruel and unusual punishment, just have them watch the beginning of Speed.

    1. “Devil” WAS one creepy movie. Nice story twist, too,

      1. Well, I was being a typical Internet Shyamalan hater above, but in all honesty Devil was better than I expected. Certainly better than The Happening or (barf) Lady in the Water.

        1. The Anthony Quinn version of The Happening is much better.

        2. Shyamalan has what I call George Lucas Syndrome: his stories usually involve solid enough premises, but he needs a more talented writer and director to actually make it work on screen.

    2. OT Does Shyamalan rhyme with chameleon?

  8. “Treatment of chronic disease accounts for more than 75 percent of the $2.5 trillion the United States spends on health care annually, Harkin added.”

    I always hear this argument, and it’s fucking stupid every time. Let’s say fatties get a chronic disease at 45 and die at 55. If there were fewer fatties, then the people who would have been fat would instead get a chronic disease at 75 and die at 85. You’ve still spent 10 years worth of health care costs combating chronic disease, so you’ve saved no money. If fewer people were fat, it would have no positive impact on health care costs because we’d pay those costs when the person is older, regardless of how fat they are.

    This is like when they claimed that if we stopped people from smoking it would save us on healthcare. Far fewer people smoke now, yet healthcare is more expensive than it was when we had all the smokers. Honestly, how hard is this to understand?

    1. People who die at 55 ain’t gonna get Alzheimer’s.

      1. Um…I forgot what I was going to say.

        Carry on.

    2. And just whose idea was it to make treatment of chronic disease the government’s business? And do you happen to remember that some of us said a looooong time back that the more health care the government paid for the more it would butt into out private lives?

      Given the raw statistics on sexually active homosexuals and STDs, any Gay Man who isn’t spooked by this isn’t thinking.

      1. Gay STDs are one of the politically correct diseases. As is breast cancer.

        1. Yes, but how long will that last. The Left rules by whim, present expediency, and (I sometimes think) phase of the moon. How long can Gay men COUNT on being politically correct?

          Until they ask for something the Political Class don’t want to give them?

    3. No kidding. You mean sick people are the ones who get most of the treatment? Whoa, that’s really fuckin’ shocking!!

  9. Said obesity epidemic may not be as titanic as the Campaign to End Obesity and others assert

    “Epidemic” needs to be in sneer quotes.

  10. Sodium and cigarettes have fuck and all to do with obesity, and yet they’re sneaking that shit in as well? Color me surprised.

    And, how does one “promote” breastfeeding? Is it just nagging or do we need to pay for FREE breastpumps now too?

    1. Technically, doesn’t smoking tend to make people thinner?

      1. Technically, smoking makes people tend to lose weight overall, but add weight in the least attractive spot imaginable, around the internal organs in the midriff, which also happens to be the most dangerous place, healthwise, to store fat.

        1. Pssst…I think he means “Teh kanserz”

          1. Yeah, cancer causes weight loss, but cigarettes also tend to suppress appetite, IINM, in cancer-free smokers.

            1. YANM. I can attest to that, as a cancer-free former smoker.

    2. When all you have is a nipple, the whole world starts to look like a mouth.

    3. And, how does one “promote” breastfeeding?

      Take off your shirt and let the guys suckle at your breast, Dagny. Do it before the government shoots your dog for not increasing the breastfeeding rate.

      I suppose this is why there are no female libertarians.


      1. The bitter milk of Warty is all that sustains us.

        1. “God, you’re gay! You don’t think violence solves anything? What kinda monster are you?”

        2. Warty is a she????

          I’d bet it would only be cops forcing the women to let them suckle the women’s breasts. Procedures were followed, nothing else happened, and so on.

          1. We suckle at his manly teat. His milk tastes like 9-volt batteries and rose thorns.

          2. Warty can be neither male nor female.

        3. I think Warty is the answer to all our obesity problems. Think about it: sprinting in a futile attempt at escape has your HIIT covered. To say nothing of being low carb and high protein.

          1. Think about it

            Thinking about Warty also makes you lose your appetite.

      2. I’m beginning to think YOU are why there are no female libertarians.

    4. We already are paying for free breast pumps. Which, unsurprisingly, is mostly encouraging people who would have breast fed anyway to get a nicer one, or an extra just because it’s not costing anything.

  11. costing American taxpayers?morbidly obese and skinny alike?billions of dollars

    Hey, I have an idea! If the government wasn’t involved in this at all, it would cost the taxpayers – obese and skinny alike – NOTHING!

    That’s a good idea, isn’t it?

    1. That’s crazy talk.

  12. We don’t really give a shit if you’re fat and die, we give a shit that you cost us money!

    How can anyone not see the libtards as the hateful people they really are? How does anyone see them as caring about People?

    1. It’s the classic argument we saw during the health care debate:

      We need to offer free rides to people so nobody is left without!
      Hey! What’s with all these free-riders? We need to do something about this!

  13. You gotta loev these bought and paid for politicians! LOL!


  14. Why is John’s SO pictured on this article?

    1. Go fuck yourself Longtorso.

    2. I think it’s Michelle Obama without her girdle.

    3. WEll, that was original.

      1. WEII? Weaning-to-estrus interval?

  15. http://www.thegatewaypundit.co…..r-scandal/

    ABC has Senator Menendez on for an entire segment this morning and forget to ask him about the fact that the FBI is investigating him for hiring underage hookers. Can you imagine the grilling a Republican would take under such circumstances?

    1. Hey now! Watch that line of thinking or Shreeky will show up of being in the tank for TEAM RED again.

      1. Watch that line of thinking or Shreeky will show up of being in the tank for TEAM RED again.

        Watch that line of thinking or Shreeky will show up and accuse us of being in the tank for TEAM RED again.

        I’m going to go get more coffee now.

  16. Harkin’s first step is to turn off the elevators and the subway for the Capitol, right?

    1. They will do that right after the drug warriors agree to mandatory drug testing for Hill staff.

  17. Let the sinners die


    That said, public health officials shouldn’t shy away from tough anti-obesity efforts, said Callahan, the bioethicist. Callahan caused a public stir this week with a paper that called for a more aggressive public health campaign that tries to shame and stigmatize overeaters the way past public health campaigns have shamed and stigmatized smokers.

    National obesity rates are essentially static, and public health campaigns that gently try to educate people about the benefits of exercise and healthy eating just aren’t working, Callahan argued. We need to get obese people to change their behavior. If they are angry or hurt by it, so be it, he said.

    How Christian of Mr. Callahan.

    1. That’s awesome.

      “Fat chicks are repulsive. Why can’t they try to look more like Kate Beckinsale? What, don’t call me a sexist fratboy; I’m performing a public health service by saying this stuff!”

    2. Your freedom is likely to be someone else’s harm,” said Daniel Callahan, senior research scholar at a bioethics think-tank, the Hastings Center.


      1. You should have also bolded “bioethics think-tank”.

        Amusing how the new explicitly designated priesthood of “bioethics” is against personal freedom. What a surprise.

        1. In pre-med I almost flunked bioethics because I wrote a paper that argued against the philosophy prof’s position. So much for her ethics.

          1. Ha! What did you expect? You deliberately gave the *wrong* answer.

      2. Has there ever been a bioethicist that wasn’t a giant douchenozzle?

    3. How Christian of Mr. Callahan.

      Would it be more Christian of him to let the fatties wallow in gluttony and sloth without comment?

      1. Comment and call for coercive action are not the same.

  18. Promotion of school and community food gardens, expanding the definition of schools to preschools and daycare. Jeesus, it’s like the damned Cultural Revolution and Khmer Rogue.

    No carve out for Iowa pork producers?

    1. If we send the students out to work in the fields every summer, our youth obesity problem will be solved.

      Amazing how they advocate for shit like “community food gardens” with no sense whatsoever of how creepy it sounds.

  19. The bill imposes an industry-wide penalty on manufacturers of cigarettes for failure to achieve a federal government youth tobacco reduction goal.

    Am I the only one who thinks that if anyone should be punished for such a failure, it should be the government?

    1. The only reason why kids smoke is because of Joe Camel and the evil corporations telling them to do it.

      The reality is that the people behind this crap just want money. The last thing they want is for people to actually stop smoking.

      1. If you just get rid of the packaging everyone will stop smoking, it’s worked so effectively here in australia, noone buys smokes in australia, what’s so cool about buying a pack that has no packaging on it, it’s not like people smoke because they like tobacco or anything like that….

  20. Exhibit A: U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin’s fatwa on fat and individual responsibility, the Healthier Lifestyles and Prevention America Act, also known as the HeLP America Act.

    Hmm, let me see if I can come up with a more apt but equally cute acronym for a government healthcare program. We’ll call it:

    the Forgetting Unnecessary Consumption and Kinetic Undertaking Training to Help America be Tougher Stronger With a Healthy Year Act.

  21. OT

    Anyone see Meet the Press today?

    The fucking left, the party of peace and our lord and savior Barack Obama (did you know he won the Nobel Peace Prize?), beating the war drums.

    N Africa
    N Korea…

    Hillary…we can’t afford not to continue to provide leadership throughout the world…


    Peak Retard?

    1. North Korea is Japan, South Korea and China’s problem. I have really hit my wits end with that fucking retarded place. If that demented fucking midget finally blows a gasket and destroys Seoul, it will hurt China and Japan a lot more than it will hurt us. China has been covering that sorry boil on that ass of civilization for too long. Let them deal with it because I am tired of caring.

    2. I’m foreseeing a realignment on the war issue. Imagine Obama sends us to war unilaterally in North Africa and Iran without Congressional authorization first.

      Republicans go apeshit and become the anti-war party not on moral grounds but on purely Constitutional grounds

      1. I don’t want to see us go to war at all. But if we did and it was some bullshit war Obama got us into, it would be fucking priceless to watch anti-war liberals have to suck it up and side with Obama because “you could never side with the evil Rethuglicans”.

        1. It would essentially boil down to Obama is cooler than Bush. No really, if he did something like that the only excuse they could have is that Obama is cool about it, not a trigger happy cowboy like Booosh.

          It boils down to Obama is genius and we’re all too stupid to understand how his mind thinks and so we shouldn’t question his decision making.

          1. I used to think they would turn on Obama like they did Johnson. But I don’t think so. They are too far gone. They would march to a world war if he told them to.

            1. Even when Clinton was president, there were a lot more protests about his various bombings in Iraq, Sudan, etc. that we see now with Obama doing it all times 100.

      2. Except that military contractors/manufacturers give to both parties and both parties will, and have used the military to repay those campaign contributions.

    3. Perhaps they read something about how war is the health of the state.

    4. HOLD ON, I’ve got the perfect way to combine belligerent foreign policy, an utter disregard for civil liberties and an unnecessary expansion of government to fight obesity… bring back the draft. Now that you’ve got 18 yr olds heading to boot camp against their will, you can violate their rights, send them off to kill some brown people and make them lose weight at the same time….

      1. Ohh yeah and solve unemployment at the same time…

        1. We should only draft poor people though. If you draft rich people the stimulus multiplier is lower because they had another job. That means that the money they get from the army might not provide as much multiplier as their previous position. However, if we only draft the poor then they will likely spend all of the money they get from the military, thus providing needed stimulus to our economy while simultaneously breeding pro-nation sentiment among the lowest rungs of society.

          There is no flaw to this plan.

      2. Don’t forget to include women in the draft as well, now that they can fight in combat units.

    5. Why waste my time watching Meet the Press?

      I was watching a reair of Djokovic beating the crap out of Andy Murray.

    6. We have an obligation to spread democracy abroad, didn’t you know that???



    2. The drill srgtI is soft compared to Warty.

          1. Thank you

      1. Drill Instructor.

        Marines don’t have drill sergeants. You learn that fast in boot camp.

        1. And they only exist in boot camp.

    3. Enjoy it, they’re paying for it.

  22. “In General- Each Federal agency shall install point-of-decision prompts encouraging individuals to use stairs wherever practicable at each relevant building and installation,” the proposal states.

    Yeah, because putting an FN sign next to the elevator saying “Please take the stairs” is totally going to change everyone’s behavior.


    1. Oh, hell, that at least won’t actually do any HARM.

      1. Except for to the people who have to pay to put up the government mandated signs.

  23. alt-text “John would fuck her”

  24. If the government wants to be skinny, stop subsidizing the healthcare of fat people. So long as the government continues to pick up the tab for bad decisions, they should expect people to continue to make said bad decisions. Allow health insurance companies an inability to deny anyone based on a preexisting condition, but allow them to charge fucking more for the fatties. That is only fair. And all told put more personal responsibility on people, is it any wonder people don’t seem to care as they waddle along when we have so many aspects of our culture telling us fat is okay, all bodies are beautiful, it isn’t our fault (nary for anything). Then, if people want to eat themselves into an early grave, that is their business, I just don’t want to be paying for it. Why are a disproportionate number of poor people fat? It isn’t because healthy food is expensive, poor people in asia and africa sure aren’t fat and they have even less. Last I checked rice & beans are dirt cheap, and processed fast foods are expensive. Could it be perhaps because medicaid doesn’t penalize the behavior?

    1. You make some excellent points, Mr. Locke. As you point out, a disproportionate share of poor people are fat. Now poor people increase costs of more things than medicare: welfare, for example. Crime and other expensive social pathologies are also more common among the poor than the rest of us.

      Not treating fat people would improve society by removing proportionately more poor people (and their added burdens on the taxpayer) than those better off.

      All in all, a good thing.

      1. For the record, this was intended to be ironic, in the manner of Swift’s “Modest Proposal”.

        Yes, yes, you knew Swift, you worked with Swift and I am no Swift.

    2. “If the government wants to be skinny, stop subsidizing the healthcare of fat people.”


      1. I can assure you that will happen sooner than you think.

  25. “Treatment of chronic disease accounts for more than 75 percent of the $2.5 trillion the United States spends on health care annually, Harkin added.”

    This legislation won’t solve that though. If we really want to solve that, ban sugar, get rid of most processed food, and mandtory PT at 6:00 AM

    Oh that doesn’t sound so good does it

    1. ” If we really want to solve that, ban sugar”

      Ha! Ban sugar? The government has been subsidizing the worst type of sugar.

      The government has largely created the obesity and diabetes epidemic by subsidizing the processing of corn into high fructose corn syrup, and likely no one has done more for those subsidies than our good Senator from *Iowa*.


  26. All his health tips are good….so why doesn’t he make a video and spend the rest of his days promoting it?
    Oh, that’s right, no power! No control!

  27. Obviously the solution is to tax excess body fat directly. It would improve the health of the population while raising revenue. Anyone who can afford to pay extra for food and clothing should pay their fair share. This may very well be in PPACA, anyway. We’ll see.

    1. Report to mandatory liposuction immediately. Don’t forget to take a bar of soap with you on your way out.


  29. Liberals can’t help it. They have to intrude on your life and tell you what you can and can’t do. For your own good, of course.

  30. I’m glad this moldy old fuck is finally going to be gone. It’s like Iowa is incapable of turning incumbents out of office. The only time it has happened in the last thirty years is when redistricting pitted incumbents against each other (or a governor as terrible as Chet Culver was). Harkin only beat the incumbent in 1984 with a last-minute smear campaign that the anti-GOP press was only too willing to help propagate.

  31. did we not see this coming? did we not understand the aca was the justification to tell us what to eat, how much we should exercise? There was an article the other day in my local newspaper The Star Ledger. The article was about America being unhealthy. To remedy this, said the article, we should ban guns and get over our ‘anxiety about the nanny state’ and let them help us.
    we’re fucked. this country is fucked. And if we don’t move soon to destroy the Federal Government, I’m moving to Iceland.

    1. And if we don’t move soon to destroy the Federal Government, I’m moving to Iceland.

      You mean the nation that responded to its insolvency by electing socialists all the way down?

      Even as stupid as America has become, we haven’t yet reached the level of retard that is Scandinavia.

  32. I ain’t sayin’ she a gold digga, but…

  33. America’s collective posterior is too big – http://akespains.blogspot.com/…..booty.html

  34. So, lets process this… first, subsidize farmers who produce sugar, sugar beets, wheat, and corn so that it’s cheap as shit to stuff into processed foods. Second, provide inaccurate and harmful diet advice per the Dept. of HHS. Mandate that diet in state and federal institutions. Then post little signs instructing us on walking up stairs.

  35. What is Harkin’s thinking? Peoples diet is none of their business.We just need a common sense legislation banning assault night clubs as these high capacity night clubs are to blame.What kind of message are we sending to our younger generation.

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