They’ve Left Their Smarts In San Francisco

Perhaps all the government do-gooders around the country should get together and figure out how to just outlaw McDonald’s completely.  Just get it over with, once and for all.

Because if there were no McDonald’s, ya see, there would be no obesity epidemic.  As everyone knows, all fat people in America were seduced by Happy Meals during childhood and now consume virtually all their meals at McDonald’s.  Take away those evil golden arches, and the fat people will finally base their diets on whole grains, lean meats, fruits and vegetables.  No more obesity.

At least that scenario seems to fit the belief system of city officials in San Francisco, who are considering yet another brilliant government solution to the obesity epidemic:

A proposed city ordinance would require the giant hamburger chain to either stop putting little toys for kids in those Happy Meal boxes, or otherwise make them healthier by adding fruit and vegetable portions and limiting calories.

Supervisor Eric Mar said in proposing the law that he was trying to protect the health of his constituents.

Well, gee whiz, if Supervisor Mar is trying to protect people, that should be all the justification he needs to strip a business of the right to freely sell products that other people freely choose to buy.  If you’re a government official, good intentions are all that count.  We can’t go around expecting governments to provide something like proof that their attempts at social engineering will actually produce benefits.

On second thought, scratch that.  I don’t care if they do provide proof.  I don’t care if Supervisor Mar can produce a hundred well-designed studies concluding that ordering McDonald’s to change its menu would lead to better public health.  That’s not the point.  I’m 99 % certain we could cure obesity in America by tossing all the fat people into prison camps and feeding them nothing but lean meats and green vegetables.  Despite the health benefits, I’d still be against the program.

McDonald’s vice president for nutrition and menu strategy, Karen Wells, said that “denying a toy to a child” would undermine the authority of parents to decide what their children should eat and would also be “difficult…to execute at our restaurants.”

“It’s different from what we’re doing today and different from what we’ve done for 25 years, successfully,” said Wells.

Responded Supervisor Sophie Maxwell in an exasperated voice, “Just because it’s different does not make it necessarily difficult. I mean, McDonald’s is an amazing institution. It’s been around for many years … because it’s able to change and to adapt to new circumstances and new things that people are eating so I think I have a lot more confidence in McDonald’s, I guess, than you do.”

Ohhh, snap!  Your confidence in McDonald’s ability to adapt to creeping fascism is truly inspiring, Comrade Maxwell.  But once again, you’re missing the point.  It’s not up to you to decide what’s good for my kids.  It’s also not up to you decide what would or would not be difficult for McDonald’s to implement.  Believe it or not, the people who run a business usually understand how it works better than civil servants do — even if the very idea causes you speak in an exasperated voice.

I realize being ignorant of how business works was probably a pre-requisite for your position, but perhaps you’re still capable of grasping this concept:  McDonald’s can’t sell anything that people don’t want.  That’s why the McLean burger was a colossal flop.  The McCarrots and the McBroccoli won’t fare any better.

The proposed Happy Meal deal is just the latest in a string of San Francisco ordinances aimed at regulating public health.

Which is why I will never visit the place again. I might accidentally provide these bozos with some tax revenue.

“Local politicians, especially liberal and progressive ones, tend to focus on individual lifestyle issues because they are consistent with liberal or progressive goals, yet do not require large scale government effort and resource mobilization,” said Jason McDaniel, a political science professor at San Francisco State University.

Allow me to put that in normal-person English:  “When we vote to replace the authority of parents with the authority of the state, we like to call that an ‘individual lifestyle issue’ because it sounds like we support the rights of individuals even as we’re taking them way.  And when we say a program ‘doesn’t require large-scale government resource mobilization,’ it means we basically just order McDonald’s to cover the cost of implementing our ideas.  And the beauty of it is, if the program doesn’t actually accomplish anything, the taxpayers don’t get upset because we wasted McDonald’s money, not theirs.  That’s considered very progressive.”

Cynthia Goody, McDonald’s nutrition director, said there was no evidence that childhood obesity would be reduced by requiring a fruit or vegetable with all meals as well as a cap on calories, sodium and fats.

In response, a supervisor asked what mix of foods would lower childhood obesity. Goody said she would need to conduct more research to provide an answer.

Now there’s an interesting exchange …

“Tell us exactly what mix of foods we can order McDonald’s to serve that will solve the nationwide problem of childhood obesity.”

“Uh … uh … can I get back to you on that?”

“Well, okay, if you must.  But in that case, I also want you to tell us what mix of foods we can order you to serve that will improve academic scores in the nation’s public schools.”

San Francisco has a long history of bold public health stances and the latest string of laws is nothing new, according to Alex Clemens, founder of Barbary Coast Consulting, a local political communications firm.

Here’s how you know a reporter likes a new, intrusive goverment program:  he or she will describe it as “bold” or “historic.”  If the reporter doesn’t like a new form of government intrustion, the adjective will be “unprecedented.”

“San Francisco has a reputation – and it’s well deserved – of being a very progressive city … With that comes naturally, hand in hand, a reliance on government to encourage thoughtful change – that’s just tradition,” said Clemens, whose firm helped fight the fee on liquor distributors and wholesalers.

A reliance on government to encourage thoughtful change … I have to say, that is the nicest euphemism I’ve ever heard for “A few of us have some totally unproven ideas we want you to implement at your own expense, which of course you will do, or we’ll send in the guys with guns to give you some serious encouragement.”

“In San Francisco you do have an authentic conversation between the progressives and the moderates about how much social engineering is enough and how much is too much.”

Well, that’s just fabulous … when governments step in and take away my freedom to buy a toy for my girls at McDonald’s, I feel a lot better if I know someone engaged in an authentic conversation first.  I believe there’s a clause in the Bill of Rights that reads something like, “Governments may abridge any of these rights as long as they have good intentions and first engage in an authentic conversation.”

I started writing this post in the afternoon.  In the early evening, we drove my wife to the airport. (Her high-school reunion is this weekend.)  The girls wanted to stop at McDonald’s for dinner on the way, so we did.  They both got Happy Meals — with a toy.  As usual, they didn’t finish the meals.  Sara took two bites of her sandwich, then removed the bun and scraped away the ketchup and onions.  She ate the meat and the cheese, less than half an order of fries, and that’s it.

Government busy-bodies can mess with Happy Meals all they want; it’s not going to change how my girls eat day-to-day.  Same goes for the fat kids.


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60 thoughts on “They’ve Left Their Smarts In San Francisco

  1. Bullinachinashop

    Strange that they would pick on Mcdonald’s for giving a toy, but not at A&W for giving candy with that meal. I guess it must be healthy candy, made with corn syrup. Or maybe McDonald’s just has bigger pockets to sue from? Am I unsure, or sarcastic? 😉

    When the health police start going after “progressive” companies like Ben & Jerry’s for selling sugar mixed with fat, then I’ll believe this isn’t mostly about disliking McDonald’s.

    Reply
  2. Dave Fish

    Actually your favorite consumer protection group (CSPI) “requested” that Ben & Jerry’s drop “All Natural” from its labels:

    http://www.fastcasual.com/article/176914/Ben-Jerry-s-complies-with-CSPI-request

    Funny how they requested Ben & Jerry’s to do that but I think they’ve always “demanded” McDonald’s, Chinese restaurants, movie theaters, etc. comply with their edicts.

    As for the Santa Monica council, perhaps they need to see this video (language warning):

    Now I don’t agree with everything he says in the second half of his rant, but the analogy in the first half is spot on!

    Reply
  3. Dave Fish

    Actually your favorite consumer protection group (CSPI) “requested” that Ben & Jerry’s drop “All Natural” from its labels:

    http://www.fastcasual.com/article/176914/Ben-Jerry-s-complies-with-CSPI-request

    Funny how they requested Ben & Jerry’s to do that but I think they’ve always “demanded” McDonald’s, Chinese restaurants, movie theaters, etc. comply with their edicts.

    As for the Santa Monica council, perhaps they need to see this video (language warning):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaklEq36_dk

    Now I don’t agree with everything he says in the second half of his rant, but the analogy in the first half is spot on!

    Reply
  4. Jo

    We don’t get this sort of anti-MacDonalds here in the UK. Sure anti-fast food but as far as I am aware MacD is not singled out. Sounds like this is about more than food.

    Keep up the good work.

    It’s partly about taking down a large, successful corporation.

    Reply
  5. Jo

    We don’t get this sort of anti-MacDonalds here in the UK. Sure anti-fast food but as far as I am aware MacD is not singled out. Sounds like this is about more than food.

    Keep up the good work.

    It’s partly about taking down a large, successful corporation.

    Reply
  6. Brian Mallard

    Do you think it would be too much trouble for one of these elected idiots (with apologies to real idiots) to read a book (Good Calories, Bad Calories) or watch a movie (FatHead) to try and expand their pea sized world view? I am so sick of well intentioned nanny statists trying to run my life when they come at every problem with the solution that government intervention is the only answer. How about individual responsibility, consequences be damned? Geez.

    When you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail. They’re politicians, so every problem looks like something that laws can solve.

    Reply
  7. Brian Mallard

    Do you think it would be too much trouble for one of these elected idiots (with apologies to real idiots) to read a book (Good Calories, Bad Calories) or watch a movie (FatHead) to try and expand their pea sized world view? I am so sick of well intentioned nanny statists trying to run my life when they come at every problem with the solution that government intervention is the only answer. How about individual responsibility, consequences be damned? Geez.

    When you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail. They’re politicians, so every problem looks like something that laws can solve.

    Reply
  8. Katy

    My, such astounding logic! My grandson went from being a normal-weight child to an overweight one when his parents separated and his father fed him primarily pizza. He is now an adult and is still overweight. I guess we should now ban pizza deliveries to households run by single men. With children. And toys had nothing to do with it.

    I got fat on breakfast cereals — most of which probably had an American Heart Association seal of approval on the box.

    Reply

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