February 29 2012
Could Food Mandates Be Next for ObamaCare?
Carrie L. Lukas
Liberals seem to laugh off claims that the massive expansion of government power advanced in ObamaCare could ever be abused. They think it's swell to force people to buy government-approved health insurance and to mandate that insurance packages must include liberal must-haves, like the now much-ballyhooed “free” reproductive services. They like these things! What enlightened person could object to such obvious, for-our-own-good decrees from our benevolent masters in Washington?
Yet Americans who are a little more skeptical of government power should recognize that the slippy slope argument isn't just a Dystopian fairytale. Once government can start telling us what to buy for our own good and for the good of the Republic generally, why couldn't it force us to do others things... like exercise and take vitamins?
As Jonathan Tobin warned in Commentary:
Some may scoff at this possibility, but the Obamacare precedent and the power the president’s signature program will give the government may change everything in the future. Bittman’s argument that the costs of health care will make such government micro-managing of our lives inevitable may prove prophetic if Obamacare is not repealed next year.
Julie has written at length about governments' often impotent attempts to force Americans to eat healthier by regulating ingredients, mandating nutritional information, limiting marketing and advertising techniques, and snooping in kids lunch boxes. Yet this could just be the beginning.
Here's the new thinking under ObamaCare: If I'm paying your health care bills, why shouldn't I be able to require that you try to stay healthy, say by getting some minimum amount of exercise? All you have to do is show up at any one of the government-approved gyms that Congress will fund, punch in your code, and take a nice brisk walk for a half-an-hour three times a week. Is that really too much to ask?
Do not worry! There will be exemptions of course!
Those who are found at their yearly mandatory physical to have the government, gold-stamped BMI are excused from the exercise requirement. Unless, maybe, they fail their test for nicotine-exposure, in which case it's back to the gym they go or they'll face a government fine. The truly disabled, of course, will be excused, and as we've seen with the SSA's own grossly obese disability program, “disabled” can mean many things to many people, depending on your political connections and willingness to pay unscrupulous lawyers.
Does this sound far fetched? Does it really? Maybe. Maybe for now at least, but to me it doesn't seem too far a leap to imagine how we could quickly head in this direction.
Is this really what Americans want? I'm always interested to read about how government's efforts at forcing good behavior backfire—how certain ingredient restriction end up encouraging the use of something else that's far worse, etc.
But frankly, I don't care if these efforts work or not. This is a fundamental issue of basic human freedom. I'd rather Americans remain free, even if that means that some are also fat.