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A move that is a few fries short of a Happy Meal

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POSTED April 29, 2010 2:13 a.m.
The government has a responsibility to keep kids safe.

Those nine words were used in an Associated Press story to paraphrase how Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager justified his support – as well as that of his colleagues – to fight childhood obesity by outlawing toys and freebies that restaurants give away as part of high calorie kids’ meals.

The rationale is that it is the toy – and not the greasy fries, chicken nuggets or burger – that is “programming” kids to nag their parents into submission to buy Happy Meals.

 If that was the real reason then why didn’t Santa Clara go a step further and require the same restaurants to offer tofu burgers and carrot sticks as Happy Meals complete with a toy to get kids to eat right? The objective of the supervisors is to manipulate buying behavior by telling businesses whether they can have a toy with a meal on the menu. Why not go all the way and make it a law that they have to offer tofu burger Kids Meals with whatever political correct toy elected leaders decree is proper?

Yeager has a point about trying to manipulate parents via kids by waving toys in their face. But the real culprit isn’t the toy. It is the foods and drinks that are high in fat and sugar.

Santa Clara County’s pending ban won’t cripple China’s cheap toy industry – McDonald’s et al spent $360 million on such toys in 2006 according to the Federal Trade Commission. It will, though, be another pin into the voodoo doll targeting free will in favor of replacing it with government officials who view life as an opportunity for them to play cattle and sheep herders using the people they represent as the livestock.

 And what if the problem clearly isn’t about cheap toys to get a kid hooked on meals that are being blamed – right or wrong – on turning children into prime candidates for obesity and clogged arteries, but the fact sugar-laced, high-fat processed food is a lot less expensive for struggling parents to buy than fresh fruit and vegetables as well as yogurt and such?

The only way to bring the price of fresh produce down is make sure there is plenty of cheap irrigation water. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to adopt a resolution embracing the building of more dams to provide cheaper water year-round to meet farming needs or require all landscaping to be drought resistant?

If you can bring down the price of fresh food by producing it in much larger quantities you’d be taking the cost out of the equation when parents make decisions on what to buy their kids to eat.

It sounds a tad odd to tie plentiful water to produce significantly more fresh food to flood the market and drive down prices into a decision by parents to buy a cheap high fat and high sugar Happy Meal. It’s no more so, though, than making cheap toys the culprit for creating overweight kids. There is a cause and effect for everything we do. Decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. It’s not just the toys driving a Happy Meal purchase decision. There are a lot of other factors including convenience, cost, and – horror, of horrors, parental choice and tastes.

But it’s such a noble aim, isn’t it, to make the world safe for kids?

Then the money question should be why create a new law that has to be enforced by bureaucrats when doing so takes away from limited government resources already in place to protect kids from everything from crime to illiteracy?

The entire argument that toys in Happy Meal translates into young Sumo wrestlers is much ado about nothing as it is just piling on to the stack of laws that never will be realistically enforced due to manpower and other issues.

The entire premise that cheap plastic toys are a significant cause of childhood obesity shows that many politicians are a few fries short of a Happy Meal.
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