Littering With Secondhand Fat
By Norman E. Kjono, February 8, 2005
Wonders never cease. The 8th Wonder of the World is undoubtedly the creative imagination of "Anti-Mentality" activist politicians applied to "justify" hitting "Targets" of the latest special-interest agenda with new taxes. A new world's record for spin, to support the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's anti-obesity campaign, was recently set in Oakland California.
From MSNBC News, February 8, 2006, "Oakland To Tax Fast Food Restaurants For Trash," by the Associated Press:
"OAKLAND, Calif. - Fed up with burger wrappers, french fry containers and paper cups, Oakland is the first city in the nation to force fast-food restaurants, convenience stores and other businesses to help pay for cleaning up street trash. Under a tax approved Tuesday night by the City Council, businesses will be assessed between $230 and $3,815 annually, depending on their size. . . . 'I don't think that's too much to ask so neighbors don't have to keep picking up trash from their doorways,' said Councilwoman Jane Brunner, who proposed the measure. . . . Litter from fast-food restaurants has become a major problem in communities nationwide. Recent surveys show that fast-food packaging makes up about 20 percent of all litter . . . said Rob Wallace, a spokesman for Keep America Beautiful, a Stamford, Conn.-based nonprofit group."
Fast food cheese burgers and fries are a primary target of anti-obesity. We were even blessed by a recent study that claims French fries cause cancer. Last year Detroit proposed a 2 percent tax on fast food outlets to help balance its budget. Such culinary delights are often accompanied by carbonated soft drinks, another target of choice for anti-obesity activists. George Washington University law Prof. John Banzhaf threatened to sue the Seattle School District if it renewed its contract with Coca Cola. The costs of such campaigns are ultimately picked from the pockets of consumers through higher prices and taxpayers when lost revenues need to be replaced by new levies. And, predictably, in this case we're also blessed with sage, wise and august views about "the problem" from yet-another tax-exempt, private nonprofit group, Keep America Beautiful.
The natural reflex for self-serving local politicians is to dream up a pretense to tax "Target" businesses - and therefore charge their customers -- in support of the latest "Whatever-Rolls-In-The Bucks" anti campaign. It's a autonomic response for politicians like Jane Brunner, one that automatically occurs without thinking about it. In a now-not-so-transparent phenomenon political support mysteriously flows to council members who support the current special-interest jihad, new grants roll in for activists who support the latest fad in looting consumers and taxpayers, large franchise chain non-fast-food restaurants enjoy increased sales, and local governments enjoy added tax revenues. It's the slickest merging of state and corporate special-interests since Mussolini in the 1930s.
I've been wondering what the "Secondhand Fat" claims to support anti-obesity would be. Every special-interest agenda needs one. They're used to scare the crap out of and/or to piss off the majority to the point where they flock to the polls in droves to support new taxes and bans required to keep the anti program bucks rolling in. In the case of tobacco the secondhand claims are that anyone within 25 feet of a person who lights up will immediately drop dead on the spot from terminal lung cancer, heart disease, and now breast cancer. The point being that anti programs require a cost/scare element for the public sufficient to motivate them to support the latest campaign. Whether or not the secondhand claims are backed by credible science or legitimate scientific inquiry matters naught: people will apparently believe whatever it takes to justify their personal preferences and intolerances. Unfavorably stereotyping "Target" citizens predictably works for those looking to advance special-interest public policy.
We now know what one of the secondhand claims about fast food is: those low-life fast food consumers are spreading into your neighborhood, wantonly flinging about their toxic French fry containers and causing an epidemic of obesity by leaving soft drink cups laden with sugar on your porch! Call out the Health guards! Ring the bells in alarm! Tax them sleazy suckers! Ban, ban, ban fast food!
Christine Pristine and Charlie Clean - those who are mortified about how bad their hair smells if anyone lights up the next county - immediately respond with a rousing crescendo of "NIMBY! NIMBY! NIMBY!" and rally their friends to log on to the American Cancer Society Web site; all signing up for the new "March To Neighborhood Cleanliness." Smartly locking the gates to their community, the Pristine Clean will celebrate their "success" with raw broccoli appetizers dipped in melted Brie cheese before sitting down to a neighborhood buffet featuring 75 variations on the theme of "Tofu." Buffet varieties include tofu with sprouts, tofu with soy, tofu with flax seed, tofu with sesame and tofu with tofu. No tofu in cream sauce, with pasta, on any kind of bun, or with any drink other than Perrier, please.
Dori Monson, KIRO Radio mouth from "the mean streets of Ballard," will no doubt be out on the streets of Seattle counting the number of french fry containers and soft drink cups that he finds. He could promote Seattle's campaign to clean out the homeless by evicting them from metropolitan Seattle. "After all, everyone knows that the homeless eat more fast food than all the senior executives of Microsoft and Boeing combined," he'll tout. In a previous stunt of similar nature Monson took his cell phone to the streets, to broadcast his count of cigarette butts. Leave it to Dori to make sure Seattle is not left in second place for some kind of first in combating obesity. "We'll see Oakland's fast food customers and raise them 10,000 homeless, to boot!" he'll proclaim.
California will claim bragging rights to being the most "progressive leader" again - just as with anti-tobacco -- by being the first to launch taxes on fast food. Councilwoman Brunner will run for reelection, and win by 129 votes, with her campaign theme about fighting obesity by cleaning out neighborhoods. Before she's done Brunner will do a better job of cleaning up Oakland than hurricane Katrina did to clean up urban New Orleans, according to one member of Congress.
Oakland fast food consumers will grumble at clerks about increased costs. But it will never occur to many of them that they should register to vote and then clean out the current city council. Some may bitch, but ultimately all will pay.
And the beat goes on, the beat goes on.
Those who refuse to learn from the history of anti-tobacco are destined - with certainty - to relive it through anti-obesity.
Suck it up and pay or get out there and begin to look at what is happening in your own cities and towns.
Norman E. Kjono