I'll say one thing about Senator Harkin–he never gives up.
For the sixth time, Harkin has introduced legislation to combat obesity in children and adults across America.
Hmmm….has he heard obesity rates are down? Is he simply unaware that the government's already been doing quite a lot in this area? Perhaps Mr. Harkin isn't familiar with our First Lady and her Let's Move campaign? Perhaps it went unnoticed that in 2010, Congress passed a massive school lunch bill (that has resulted in hungrier kids!). Who knows; I guess he's been focusing on other things and managed to lose track of the myriad new federal, state and local anti-obesity programs and regulations that have been initiated over the past few years.
So, what exactly is in Harkin's bill?
Kaiser Health News' Daily reports that the legislation will require several Cabinet departments and federal agencies to coordinate efforts to combat chronic disease and encourage healthier lifestyles in schools, businesses and communities. Really? We need "sweeping legislation" to make federal agencies work together? I remember the good ole days when it was the job of Congress to ensure agencies worked together. It was called OVERSIGHT and it was an effective way to make sure cabinet members and their minions were talking to each other and reducing overlap and duplication in federal programs.
In another useless provision, the bill requires HHS to issue and update physical activity guidelines for all ages every 10 years. Right, I'm glad Senator Harkin thinks this should be the provision of the federal government because physicians and individual physical education teachers (who are trained in this area and more than likely keep up with the latest medical guidance) don't already perform this function every single day.
Moving on, the bill would also provide tax credits to businesses that offer comprehensive workplace wellness programs. Fine. Great. Make a Republican smile by throwing in a tax credit but here's a better idea: why not lower the tax rate for all Americans so that they can have more money to join a gym! How's that for a wellness program?
Lastly, and most importantly, the bill mandate that the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the USDA to release recommendations for standards in food marketing to children. We've seen this before. Someone please tell Senator Harkin that regulating food marketing was tried two years ago (I wrote extensively on this subject), and there were quite a few first amendment problems with this regulation, not to mention property rights concerns and other constitutional and legal issues.
More importantly, parents should be appalled that Senator Harkin thinks they need help regulating what their kids see on television. As for me, I don't need some bureaucrat's help. I have my own little regulator at my fingertips. It's called a remote control. I use mine. More parents should use theirs and the government should butt out!
Harkin announced he won't seek reelection in 2014. I think that's good news. He's clearly out of ideas.