Continuing the deregulatory frenzy launched by Reagan, the regrettable W. legacy includes the veritable dismantling the very concept of consumer protection from government, even to the point of profoundly harming the health of the nation’s children.
Countless millions of Americans lost their retirement savings, their homes, their jobs and the ability to send their children to college as an unregulated orgy of greed brought the world financial system to the verge of a total meltdown.
The national debt spiraled out of control to feed an insatiable appetites of the government contractors running amok in wake of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The pattern of negligence and disregard instituted in the W. years led to a contamination of the Gulf of Mexico that could spawn catastrophes even up the eastern seaboard of the U.S.
Credit card and other institutions of unbridled usury stripped Americans bare with outrageous interest rate charges.
Sub-prime mortgage lenders offered deals too good to be true with no money down, interest-only home loans that were guaranteed to blow up in the faces of millions.
Health insurance companies had no one telling them they couldn’t deny coverage at will.
The fast-food industry and purveyors of sweets have flooded the land with fats and sugars that have contributed to an epidemic of obesity among the nation’s young.
Propagators of the last 30 years of the most egregious excesses in the pursuit of the almighty profit felt no guilt through it all, propped up by ideological justifications of Ayn Rand and other soulless types who suggest that anything less that a total commitment to self-interest and selfishness only harms the natural order of things.
The Obama administration and the Democrats now in control of Congress can’t keep up with the need to reintroduce serious government oversight and regulation in defense of the average American citizen.
This is the context for First Lady Michelle Obama’s monumental effort to tackle the issue of childhood obesity.
The W. culture encouraged the introduction of fast foods into public schools, on grounds they would save money and help the private sector. Kids mealed on pizzas, fries, candies, cakes and soda pop, instead of anything like the sensible, diet-balanced foods even I was compelled to chose among as a child in the school cafeteria.
Who’s to stand in the way of every conceivable lure in America’s competitive consumer economy that might bring the impressionable young through one set of doors instead of another? In the W. culture, no one!
“Super-sizing” became such a lure. Sugary drinks another. You think it is scandalous for cigarette manufacturers to target ad campaigns to the young, hoping to hook more customers for life?
What about food manufacturers? The epidemic of obesity in America is especially acute among the young, but no one is immune. Plenty of industry forces and their allies, of course, argue that the sins are those of the individuals who lay out the money for unhealthy food, or who allow their own children to consume them.
But the obvious reality is that marketing works, and if that marketing is aimed at inducing the public into unhealthy behavior, then it is flat out immoral and there should be laws against it.
In the world of Ayn Rand’s mind-set, everyone is responsible for all their actions. But in the real world, human beings are not generally empowered with the means and will to always act in their own enlightened self-interest. If they were, then there would be no Madison Avenue to entice them to act otherwise.
So, in this, matters pertaining to the imperfect human condition, we empower our leaders, our government, our lawmakers with the means to act on the public’s behalf, to provide the guidelines, the regulations and the constraints to minimize the damage that unscrupulous profiteers can cause.
Observers are complaining that the media is not picking up on the First Lady’s anti-obesity campaign, and that is hardly surprising, given that the major media’s fast food and other advertisers are undoubtedly pressuring them. But Michelle is not easily deterred, and in her, America’s little ones have a sorely-needed champion.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org