Beware Cap’n Crunch, Hamburglar, and Aunt Jemima. Atticus Finch and Perry Mason, or at least their less scrupulous peers, come for their cut.
“It’s not a matter of casting the food industry as villains,” Paul McDonald, a Chicago lawyer, explained to Politico of his plea to more than a dozen state attorneys general that they sue for obesity-related health-care expenses. “There’s a cost of what they’re doing that they’re not internalizing, and the taxpayers are paying for it. The states don’t have many choices.”
The fatsos surely do: Corndog or carrots? Gumbo or granola? Slurpee or seltzer? Sometimes the fatty, sugary deliciousness makes it as though the choice makes itself. Americans are fat, and it’s not their fault. Just ask them — or Paul McDonald. They want to have their cake and eat it two, three, four pieces over.
Our national gluttony is written on our waists. But it more dangerously influences our government and courtrooms. Attorneys and politicians, like a Mr. Limbkins-sized Oliver, forever cry, “I want some more.”
Our gluttonous federal government, empowered this week by our representatives to put us $18.2 trillion into debt, possesses an unchecked appetite for other people’s money rivaled only by lawyers. The bigger the government, the bigger the appetite for cash and power. The state’s increasing intrusions into the field of medicine makes litigation against the companies that feed us inevitable. Like the greedy gutsers on whose behalf they will soon sue, politicians can’t restrain themselves.
Gluttony comes in all shapes and sizes. When a Reagan-era Republican likened Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill to government — “big, fat, and out of control” — the metaphor struck a chord despite its intemperance toward intemperance. The physiognomies of Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi don’t lend themselves to such comparisons. Nevertheless, one can’t help but remember that a people get the government they deserve.
We’re a big people with a bigger government. Unable to control ourselves at the dinner table, Americans prove incapable of reining in their appetites at the political negotiating table. We succumb to our wants rather than restrain them. Obesity has nearly tripled since 1980, flying upward to now describe more than a third of the population. Over the same period, budget outlays increased from about a half-trillion annually to about $4 trillion and the national debt increased from about $1 trillion to $17 trillion. We seem too weak to tighten our belts, either literally or figuratively.
The impulse to sue the people who make our food is more connected to government gluttony than personal gluttony. Once Obama demanded more complete dominion over health care, Big Brother’s heightened interest in the foods we eat, the exercise we get, the tobacco we smoke, the booze we drink, the risks we take seemed a fait accompli. But obesity, and the ostensible interest of litigious attorneys general in curbing it, derives from the same source: a lack of constraints, limits, stop signs — i.e., gluttony.
In the state’s insatiable hunger for money it doesn’t possess, and in its plan to blame the health problems of Big Mac-addicts on the businesses who provide them their food fix, politicians display a blank-out on accountability, the one force that could cure both the debt and the surplus. Instead of not eating what our bodies don’t need, or spending only the money we have, we impose burdens on Americans not yet born and blame fatness on faceless corporations — remember, they’re not people — and socialize its costs through Obamacare and other redistribution schemes.
What is the government saying to the responsible people, who pay the costs of the food and financial feasts of others? In the words of Weird Al Yankovic, that parodist of all things fat: Just eat it.