The Wall Street Journal has an editorial inexplicably siding with Michelle Obama against Sarah Palin on the issue of Mrs. Obama's campaign against childhood obesity.
The Journal: "Adults do have an obligation to teach children how to live, and that includes adults who are role models by dint of their national prominence. JFK asked kids to do chinups for the Presidential Fitness Award..."
Bathing the President's Council on Physical Fitness retrospectively in the aura of JFK is nice, but the fact is that the program, according to its own history, began not under JFK, but rather, like so many other ill-conceived big government programs, under the guidance of Richard Nixon, who was the founding chairman. Childhood obesity reportedly has soared since the program was created, so it's not exactly clear that it's such a great example for Ms. Obama to follow.
The Journal goes on: "A National Bureau of Economic Research study released in October puts the annual cost of treating obesity and related preventable chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and orthopedic issues at $168 billion, or 16.5% of all U.S. spending on medical care. Nearly one out of three children are overweight or obese. Many of these costs are transferred to taxpayers via Medicare, other entitlements and soon ObamaCare."
What about the government's share of the costs of motorcycle accidents? Ski accidents? Bicycle accidents? Before you know it, government health care programs become the rationale for the government to issue advice or take more coercive measures on all kinds of behavior. This is a reason to be skeptical of government health care programs, not a reason to endorse Mrs. Obama's initiative.
The Journal editorial goes on to call Mrs. Obama's campaign "unusual for this White House in emphasizing personal responsibility." The Journal editorial adds, "The first lady has also so far eschewed the coercion of the public health lobby, like junk food regulation and taxes and advertising restrictions."
The Journal editorial writers must have been on vacation back on February 19, when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner took a break from his job-creation efforts to fetch up with the first lady and the federal secretary of agriculture at a Philadelphia grocery store. Said Mr. Geithner:
Treasury is devoting $250 million towards New Markets Tax Credits which provide a powerful incentive for private investors to take a chance on projects - like a new healthier grocery store - in distressed communities that have potential.
That incentive is a tax credit, valued at 39 percent of the investment's total cost and claimed over a seven-year period. And through this innovative partnership with the private sector, local developers are able to create new jobs and services for residents in their community.
In addition, we are providing $25 million in Treasury grants to certified community development financial institutions that have already been successful in increasing healthier food options in distressed areas and that, with our support, will be able to do even more.
This morning, the First Lady, Secretary Vilsack and I toured the Fresh Grocer Supermarket.
Thanks to New Markets Tax Credits and one of those Treasury grants made possible by the Recovery Act, Fresh Grocer was able to open a few months ago and now provides affordable, fresh food - including produce from local farmers - to the North Philadelphia community.
The Journal says Mrs. Obama has eschewed coercion. But there's nothing optional or non-coercive about the $275 million in tax dollars that are being taken by government force from taxpayers and used to subsidize new firms. I've been meaning to get to Philadelphia to check out this supermarket and, more importantly, ask other stores in the neighborhood how they feel about having their tax dollars taken to subsidize a new competitor that Mrs. Obama and the Treasury secretary like because it offers produce from local farmers. But for those of us out in the real economy trying to start businesses without the benefit of Treasury grants or 39% tax credits — well, let's just say that from here it looks like Sarah Palin understands what Michelle Obama and Timothy Geithner are up to a whole lot better than do the editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal.