I thought Mike Huckabee was a bad Republican because (among other things) his anti-obesity crusade involved sending report cards home telling parents their kids are fat. But every time you think the Republicans can’t get any worse, they do. A few miles southeast of Little Rock, Rep. W.T. Mayhall Jr. has introduced a bill in the Mississippi legislature to bar restaurants from serving food to obese people. This is what it says:
Any food establishment to which this section applies shall not be allowed to serve food to any person who is obese, based on criteria prescribed by the State Department of Health after consultation with the Mississippi Council on Obesity Prevention and Management.
As a writer for the New Republic – no doubt a Yankee – noted, this law would surely devastate the Mississippi restaurant business. Mayhall’s bill isn’t likely to pass but it had two co-sponsors, another Republican and a Democrat. And, you know, it did occur to me: there are laws prohibiting bars from serving alcohol to the drunk, so why not prohibit restaurants from serving food to the fat?
The difference in the two laws is clear and fundamental. Drunks might endanger the rest of us on the roads. Fat people are only endangering themselves. How much I drink may be a matter of public concern, if I’m using roads that other people drive on. How much I eat is nobody’s business but my own.
Americans used to understand distinctions like that. Barry Goldwater, the man who turned Mississippi into a Republican state, warned, “A government big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take away all you have.”
And that’s what we see here. Mayhall cites the costs that obese people impose on the taxpayers through the Medicaid system. Barry would understand: you create a government health care system, and sooner or later the government is not only going to ration care, it’s going to try to regulate people’s lives to hold down costs. Barry just wouldn’t have predicted that it would be the Republicans who would try to interpose the government between a man and his fried chicken.