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Kids Need a Pop, Not a Pop Tax
© Jack Cashill
As Brent Baker reports on his blog, the network news shows seem to be as suddenly keen on taxing soda pop as are America’s ever vigilant health police.
What triggered the networks’ enthusiasm is a recent study which found that very fat people cost the health care system on average $1,400 a year per person more than their trim brethren.
On Monday, both ABC and CBS, likely prompted by the White House, did stories unsubtly advocating a pop tax to cover the additional cost.
“Health officials seem to like the idea of a federal soda tax,” chirped Sharyn Alfonsi on ABC News, “supporters say it could cut health care costs and America's ever- expanding bottom line, all at once.”
However, unlike many other media hysterias—global warming comes to mind--the obesity problem is real. According to a recent, authoritative study done by the obesity clinic at Children's Hospital Boston, 16 percent of American children weighed in as obese, two-thirds of those being extremely obese, and another 32 percent were overweight.
The Boston doctors worried that the already overburdened healthcare system would groan under the weight of this “childhood epidemic” for years to come. Historically, about 80 percent of kids who waddle into adolescence obese will remain so for the rest of their lives.
The doctors, however, make one critical error. “Epidemic” implies that obesity is a disease and that the disease is contagious. Obesity, as I have seen up close, is neither.
Ten years ago, after about twenty or so years of wandering in my own personal desert—one with, I must confess, ample watering holes--I started going to church again.
The church in question is a traditional Catholic Church. For a variety of reasons, I sit in back and watch everyone come and go.
Thus, I have no excuse for taking ten years to notice what I recently noticed. A family hurried in late, a mother and father and about eight kids.
Although the parents are both a bit chunky—the mom, given the odds, pregnant—all eight or so kids were nicely trim.
Wondering if this were an anomaly, I watched all the kids as they exited, about 200 in total divided among 40 or so families.
Based on the Boston statistics, which track closely with past studies, one would expect that of the 200 kids at my church roughly 30 of them would have been obese and 20 of those extremely obese.
In fact, there were no—as in zero--obese kids among the 200. Based on the Boston statistics, roughly 60 more of the kids would have been overweight but not obese. Among the 200, I counted no more than three slightly plump kids.
After Mass, I quizzed some of the moms on the phenomenon. None had ever really noticed it. None worked to keep their children trim.
What they told me is that they cooked the family dinners each night and prepared breakfast in the morning. They encouraged, no, they pushed the kids outside to play.
The kids watched little TV, played few computer games, ate little junk food or sweets, and took a mom-prepared lunch with them to school each day—that is, if they were not home schooled.
In short, these kids grew up like most of the readers of WND did, back before obesity was an epidemic or a disease, and you were still allowed to make fun of fat kids, which in itself discouraged obesity at the street level.
One other thing I noticed about the kids at my church--and this I noticed years ago--has to do with ADD or ADHD or any other of those behavioral disorders said to bedevil our offspring.
According to a recent and rigorous study by the Mayo Clinic, some 7.5 percent of all children are afflicted with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Talk to a public school teacher, and he will tell you that the percentage of the dysfunctionally squirmy is much higher. Special programming for these kids adds considerable cost to public education and slows the learning process for everyone.
Based on statistics, at least 15 kids in our church should have ADHD. Yet, from what I can see, there are none.
Every kid over two in that church can keep her or, more impressively, his yap shut through 90-plus minutes of utterly incomprehensible Latin.
One week I counted 42 altar boys on the altar, half of them under 10, all of whom were able to kneel or sit in respectful silence in full view of the congregation for the entire Mass.
These boys have one thing in common: a father who has taken them to church every Sunday, sat beside them, and attended to them as often as needed until they could sit up straight and pay attention on their own. This process, as I have seen, takes years.
The value of families like this goes well beyond controlling fat and ADHD. The functional family of whatever faith is the single greatest bulwark against socialism.
Self-sufficient as they are, these families make few demands on the government and expect the government to make few demands on them.
If all young Americans behaved as these kids did, drug cartels would take their business elsewhere. Like Alcatraz, prisons could become museums. Pimps and pornographers would just about close up shop, so would divorce lawyers.
Street gangs could shift from larceny and other louche behavior to lawn care and cut the need for illegal immigration along with the grass.
When these kids got older, they could take out home loans and actually pay them.
Payouts for welfare, housing, food stamps, and Medicaid would shrivel. Taxes would fall, and still there would be additional revenue—as there once was--for infrastructure, schools, universities, and, yes, even new green technologies.
And finally, God willing, we could all be left to drink the soda pop of our choice in peace.
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