So the Naples-Marco Island area shows up in a survey as being among the least obese communities in the nation.
Really? Apparently, the people doing the survey don't frequent the same Walmarts I do.
And what's the deal with being listed among the least obese? As compliments go, that's a backhand worthy of Novak Djokovic. It's sort of like showing up on a list of the least ugly.
There are plenty of jokes to be made over the Gallup survey that places Naples among the least obese metropolitan areas of the country.
But look a bit deeper into the survey and its ramifications and there's cause for concern too.
The Gallup report tells us that just three of 190 metropolitan areas meet the Centers for Disease Control goal of having no more than 15 percent of the population fit the definition of obese. Naples, while on the list of least obese, doesn't meet the standard, at 16.5 percent. McAllen, Tex., has the highest rate of obesity in the country at nearly 39 percent.
Couple the CDC goal for obesity rates with the fact that obesity drives up health care costs and the growing government role in paying for health care, and you're led to the conclusion that it's only a matter of time before the government tries to regulate what we eat.
It may sound far fetched, but a decade ago the idea that the government could mandate that private citizens buy a product seemed far fetched too. The topic was touched upon in 2010 when Elena Kagan, then a nominee for the Supreme Court, was questioned by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
Coburn: "If I wanted to sponsor a bill and it said Americans you have to eat three vegetables and three fruits every day and I got it through Congress and that's now the law of the land, got to do it, does that violate the Commerce Clause (of the U.S. Constitution)?"
Kagan: "Sounds like a dumb law. But I think that the question of whether it's a dumb law is different from the question of whether it's constitutional."
She went on to opine that the court shouldn't strike down laws just because it thinks they're senseless and that Congress doesn't have the power under the Commerce Clause to regulate non-economic activities, such as eating.
But, if by demonstrating Americans are obese and that obesity drives up government health care costs, politicians can make the case that a law such as Coburn described is not so dumb and does cover an economic activity, then there's nothing stopping them from enacting it.
A report issued this week by Leadership for Healthy Communities, an effort backed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, goes hand-in-hand with the Gallup survey. It too points out the trend toward obesity, especially in children, and the costs associated with it.
The report includes common-sense steps that can be taken to address the problem. Things like working with retailers, foundations, community groups and public agencies to market healthy food.
It also encourages "policymakers" — that means politicians and/or bureaucrats — to, "Ensure that vending machines in public buildings are only stocked with healthy options." Putting politicians in charge of what is sold in vending machines in public buildings seems a small step down the slippery slope of putting them in charge of what is sold elsewhere.
That would be no joking matter.