Memphis Has A Light-Rail Plan

5 May 2004

The following piece on obesity was published as Craig Cantoni’s weekly point-counterpoint by the Arizona Republic on April 28. (Note to light-rail opponents: he took a shot at light rail.)

I’d Rather Have Skinny Government and Fat People
by Craig J. Cantoni

Contrary to what shift-the-blame lawyers and liberals say, Americans are not fat because of fast-food, bad genes or evil Republicans. They are fat because they eat too much

Eating unhealthy food is not a new American phenomenon. Old grocery ads show that the most popular foods in the early twentieth century were lard, bacon, salt pork, whole milk, sugar, eggs and butter. Genes haven’t changed in the intervening years, but waistlines of jeans have. That’s because most Americans used to do manual labor instead of sitting on their behinds. Also, kids used to walk to school, where, unlike today, there was not a school lunch program that served free food to chubby kids.

Before logging was mechanized, lumberjacks consumed over 5,000 calories a day and did not gain weight. With mechanization, lumberjacks would be the size of Ted Kennedy if they consumed that many calories.

To me, it’s great news that thanks to the market economy, families spend only 15 percent of income on food today, versus 43 percent 100 years ago. It’s also great news that life expectancy has increased by 30 years, real incomes have increased 500 percent and flush toilets have increased from 10 percent of homes to almost 100 percent.

The bad news is that the government has grown into a huge oinker. The ravenous federal government now consumes nearly 20 percent of Gross Domestic Product, versus three percent in 1900. Corpulent state and local governments devour almost as much GDP as their fat federal cousin. And because of socialism, costs have skyrocketed in K-12 education and health care.

In 1900, entitlements were nearly zero. They now comprise two-thirds of the federal budget, which costs each household an astonishing $20,000 per year. Locally, $2.3 billion in pork will be spent on a light-rail system that won’t reduce traffic or pollution but will fatten the pockets of fat-cat contractors.

Lawyers and liberals believe that the government has a right to tell us what to eat, because society pays for the health care of most Americans. Of course, society wouldn’t be paying if it were not for the socialist pyramid scheme of Medicare.

Since lawyers and liberals want fatter government and poorer and skinnier people, they should move to N. Korea. But if they don’t want to starve, they better take some Big Macs with them.

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Mr. Cantoni is an author, public speaker and consultant. He can be reached at

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