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Gary Horton: Government regulation weighs heavy

Posted: June 5, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 5, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Congratulations to the two primary winners for our local 38th Assembly District seat. There’s been mucho local commotion on the Republican side of the ballot this go-around.

Who got second place after the Democrat, Headington, all but certainly won first? (This may just be a first for the SCV.) Today, you get to read all about the intrigue and excitement — but not in this column. That would be a couple of pages to your left, over on the cover sheet.

Meanwhile, at “Full Speed to Port!” we’re talking the pros and cons of government regulation. While initially sounding dull, regulation actually is a pretty hot topic, causing many or most Republicans, especially of the 1-percent ilk, to light up red-faced just thinking of it — while well-intentioned liberals warm their hearts, protecting us from the multitude of harms we’re apparently wont to self-inflict.

But like most things, the truth of the matter lies someplace in the middle between extremes. While most indeed dislike excessive rules and regulations, we also appreciate breathing clean air, drinking pure water, and consuming food and products free from harmful materials.

Reasonable regulation becomes a give-and-take thing where we compromise to get some of what we want while providing others some of what they may need or desire.

But sometimes the arm of regulation reaches too far into our private businesses and lives — or at least seems to.

Just last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a new soft-drink ordinance for the city. Henceforth, the sale of all sugary sodas and soft drinks greater than 16 ounces will be forbidden at restaurants, movie theaters and other entertainment establishments in the city limits.

No mas Big Gulps, super tankers, or other giant vessels filled with 1,200 or more syrupy calories for your consumption compulsion.

What on Earth gives Mayor Mike the right to tell us what we can and cannot put into our bodies? We’ve got every right to bloat, float, and fill ourselves any way we want ... right?

Or, on second thought, could consuming grotesquely excess calories and gaining grotesque weight also infringe on our neighbor’s rights, similar to how smoking does? Do we have a responsibility to others to be personally healthy ourselves?

Bloomberg had reasonable motivation behind his proposed regulatory intrusion into our consumption habits. Over the past 40 years, Americans have increased in body mass and weight at an absolutely unprecedented and unhealthy rate.

Today, some 35 percent of Americans are overweight, some 25 percent are obese and only 40 percent or so are of proper weight for their size.

“So what?” you say? Well, there are consequences to all that fat, and the consequences are growing to threaten the health of the nation, our financial security, and even our international competitiveness.

If these kids aren’t fit enough to serve, will they be fit enough for highly competitive jobs? Likely not. We can be literally eating our way out of employability.

Meanwhile, more and more Americans are developing diabetes. The number has already exploded to 7 percent. By 2025, the number may go as high as 1-in-6 Americans.

Imagine the medical costs — shared by all of us — as a full sixth of Americans suffer kidney problems, transplants, vision and neurological problems. Oh, and amputations, too.

Sure, we have a right to eat and drink what we want. But when we do so to excess, we impose the cost of our choices onto the community at large.

Smoking, excessive drinking and even excess weight — all have negative consequences paid for not just by us, but also by everyone with a stake in our health care and economic system.

Bloomberg indeed stretched with his new regulation — right into our personal tastes and choices. Some see him as a food Nazi. Yet, somehow, we have to take the first step toward saving America from a sometimes-unhealthy food industry and unsafe dietary habits.

Plainly, without regulation, we’ve not been doing it ourselves.

When it’s in our best interest to save us from ourselves, is it OK for a new regulation to give us the push to change? I personally think Bloomberg is headed in the right direction.

But then, my problem’s keeping weight on, not off.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal. 


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