- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 5, 2010


It’s no wonder California’s government is bankrupt. Too many of the state’s politicians are obsessed with micromanaging everybody’s lives. Take Santa Clara County, where the Board of Supervisors voted last week to ban the McDonald’s Happy Meal. Officials insist this American classic has contributed to the so-called obesity epidemic afflicting our youth.

Dining experiences that appeal to children are a hit with parents, a fact that irks the busybodies in Santa Clara. Their new ordinance bans restaurants from offering any “toy, game, trading card, admission ticket or other consumer product” in combination with a high-calorie meal. Failure to obey will result in fines that can top out at $1,000 per incident. Board President Ken Yeager says this tough measure “helps parents make the choices they want for their children without toys and other freebies luring them toward food that fails to meet basic nutritional standards.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, there are 945,000 eating establishments in America. Despite all these alternatives, joyless bureaucrats aren’t happy that the public’s choices fail to match their utopian vision. Through coercive power, the county seeks to discourage businesses from offering the types of food and drink people want. Among the items incurring the wrath of the latter-day prohibitionists are beverages containing caffeine, diet colas and even whole milk.

The ordinance doesn’t limit itself to interfering with children’s food. The ban applies equally to establishments that might offer coupons for digital music downloads or other incentives in combination with a politically incorrect grown-up meal. The restrictions are so broad that they kick in whenever any single food item contains more than 200 calories or a combination meal contains 485 calories. The dietary police leave no nutrition fad behind, applying quotas on “excessive” salt, fat, trans fat, saturated fat and sugar. That pretty much leaves most people with the option of a dry salad, a piece of bread and a cup of water.

The county argues that public health costs associated with obesity compel it to take charge of restaurant menus and marketing campaigns, but the facts don’t live up to the scare-mongering. There is no health crisis. A newborn today is expected to live, on average, 78 years - eight years longer than those born in the 1960s. Government dictates won’t make people any healthier than anti-poverty programs have made people any less poor.

Instead of taking toys away from children, Santa Clara should focus on the deepening fiscal problems its Board of Supervisors is passing on to future generations.

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