Some years ago, my fellow comedian Tim Slagle and I produced short comedy bits for a libertarian talk show. In one bit, the health-care police arrested a man for sneaking coconut oil into a movie theater to put on his popcorn. (I’ve embedded it at the end of the post.)
The trouble with using comic exaggeration to make fun of nanny-state busybodies is that reality keeps catching up. What starts as parody ends up sounding like a straight news report some years later.
Just look at what the nanny-staters have been up to lately. First, a councilman in New York City proposes banning toys from Happy Meals that don’t meet his definition of “healthy.” Some commenters on the blog suggested I find a picture of that councilman. So I did:
This is the guy who considers himself qualified to stand between me and McDonald’s so I don’t let a cheap toy lure me into buying meals he doesn’t think my kids should eat. And he’s doing this (as Jacob Sullum would say) apparently without embarrassment.
Amazing. The councilman should get together with Kelly Brownell and form a two-man comedy team called Morbidly Obese Men Who Know What You Should Eat. I’ll volunteer to be their opening act. I bet the back-stage spread before shows would be terrific.
Note to nanny-state busybodies everywhere: if you’re tempted to legislate other people’s food choices and you happen to look like a character from a bad Eddie Murphy movie, it might be wise to just keep your mouth shut. Yes, I mean that in more than one way.
On the heels of The Nutty Professor vs. Ronald McDonald in New York, today we learned that a public school in Chicago is banning lunches brought from home. (This story produced an all-time record for the number of emails I received from blog readers.) I’m sure you can guess the reason: the school is just trying to make sure the little tykes are eating nutritious meals, doncha know:
Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices. “Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school,” Carmona said. “It’s about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It’s milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception.”
Well, Ms. Carmona, it’s really generous of you to allow parents to decide what their kids will eat if there’s a medical issue involved. But for everyone else, here’s how it works out:
1. Your child is required by law to attend school.
2. Your child is not allowed to bring lunch from home.
3. Five days per week, nine months out of the year, the government will decide what your kid will eat for one-third of his meals. If the government wants to stuff your kid with gluten, lectins, vegetable oils and fructose, that’s how it’s going to be – unless your kid is willing to skip lunch entirely.
What amazes me – and frankly scares me, too – are the people who don’t have a problem with this policy.
Parent Miguel Medina said he thinks the “no home lunch policy” is a good one. “The school food is very healthy,” he said, “and when they bring the food from home, there is no control over the food.”
Slamming. Head. On. Desk.
Mr. Medina, if you think the school food is “very healthy,” here’s what you do: tell your kids to eat the school food. Then you’re making a choice as a parent … cool concept, eh? In fact, it’s such a cool concept, perhaps we should extend it to other parents as well – including those who would rather pack a lunch for their kids, whether you approve of that lunch or not.
The pervasiveness of the “I think it’s a good idea, so let’s impose it on everyone” attitude in some cities these days just blows my mind. It’s as if hardly anyone has ever heard the lovely phrase “It’s a free country.” (Perhaps because in so many ways, it’s not anymore.)
In its never-ending quest to impose its dietary preferences on schoolkids, the USDA placed even greater restrictions this year on saturated fat, salt, and other nutrients that actually make a meal worth eating. Here’s the result:
At Little Village, most students must take the meals served in the cafeteria or go hungry or both. During a recent visit to the school, dozens of students took the lunch but threw most of it in the garbage uneaten. Though CPS has improved the nutritional quality of its meals this year, it also has seen a drop-off in meal participation among students, many of whom say the food tastes bad.
I can’t quite figure out if the reporter actually sees the connection between “improved the nutritional quality” and “drop-off in meal participation.” No matter, though. The school is going to impose participation, so problem solved. Nutty Professor vs. Ronald McDonald in New York, followed by a remake of The Shawshank Redemption in Chicago.
“Excuse me, are you Red?”
“Who wants to know?”
“Well, I heard you’re the guy who can get things for people.”
“Maybe. What are you lookin’ to get?”
“The red ones … Red.”
“I don’t got any red ones. I can get you uppers, downers, coke, smack or weed. Take your pick.”
“No, not those red ones. Red spicy ones. You know, the corn chips.”
“Corn chips? Look, newbie, I can get you all the drugs you want, but I’m not a magician, okay? The principal catches you with a salty snack, we all wind up in the hole.”
Last year, when my daughter’s preschool informed us (reluctantly) that we had to pack a government-approved lunch on the day state inspectors were visiting, we decided to go ahead and put those oh-so-important grain products in her lunchbox. The alternative was to stick a four-year-old in the middle of a fight she didn’t start. But if the local elementary school even thinks about requiring my daughters to eat their awful cafeteria lunches, I will raise holy hell.
Fortunately, given the culture in this part of Tennessee, I’d probably have plenty of other parents joining me. Some of them might even be packing … and I’m not talking about a lunch.
The Slagle-Naughton Report bit from long ago: