Well, just when you thought county government had much more serious issues to consider, the Board of Lucas County Commissioners voted unanimously to name a 'weight loss czar' or - as many are calling it - a 'fat czar.'
This is the brilliant, bold, fresh new idea of Commissioner Ben Konop - to encourage Lucas County residents to lose a total of 1 million pounds as part of the "looking fine in 2009" campaign.
Yes, Konop believes that if every resident would lose a little bit more than two pounds, we could reach his goal. And his goal is so much more important than any of our goals, that he had to start a program to be sure to meet it.
So here's my question: now that the commissioners have told us we need to lose weight, are you somehow more encouraged or committed to doing so? Now that three elected officials have announced the plan, are you ready to jump on board?
Konop says that no public funds will be spent in this effort, but that's not exactly true. Staff time has already been expended to issue press releases and help with the announcement. Someone is going to have to contact, meet with and organize the 'private sector' involvement - and that's likely to also include county staff time. If the goal is to keep track of how much weight is lost, someone will have to maintain a list and track the pounds - again, probably a staff person. So county funds will be expended in this program.
Konop, however, says that "if this saves one person's life, it's a worthwhile program -if it extends one person's life, if it allows one person not to get an adult form of diabetes." The only thing missing was 'for the children,' but given time, I'm sure that excuse will be thrown in as well.
Using tortured logic, Konop justifies this as a the proper role of government by saying that government often covers the costs of bad health decisions through various medical programs it funds. When faced with the fact that government has decided to cover health costs, the natural extension proposed by liberals (and some who call themselves conservative) is for government to then dictate to you how to live.
It's funny, in a sad sort of way, that the solution is for government to expand rather than contract. Another option for government to consider is to stop funding such medical coverage. It is the equal, but opposite solution to the problem. If people don't take care of themselves and then incur expense for their health issues, government could stop making it easy from them to ignore their own health by no longer funding treatment of medical conditions that are, in many ways, self-inflicted.
But that would shrink the size of government and then elected officials would have nothing to feel good about. And that's more important to them - which is why Konop justifies such an illogical program by saying that if it saves one life, government should do it. The ends justifies the means to them, regardless of the liberty it destroys.
Furthermore, by government assuming such a role, it negates the consequences of individual decisions. Why should people take care of themselves if they have nothing to fear if they don't do so? The contradictions abound. Government tells you to lose weight, stop smoking, get more exercise, etc. so you are healthier, but then rewards you by taking care of your medical costs when you don't do so. The next logical step in this illogical reality would be for government to mandate, rather than suggest, what you should do. It is the incremental erosion of your individual liberty.
Is it true that most of us would be healthier if we lost a couple of pounds? Absolutely. Would we be better off if we got more exercise? Definitely. Should we all make an effort to pay more attention to our own well-being? Sure.
Now that government has created a 'program' and named a 'czar', are we all somehow more inclined to change our behaviors? Doubtful. Should government spend its time doing these sound-good, feel-good programs when other issues that are within the purview of government remain unaddressed? No.
We hear the cries all the time: government has no role in the bedroom; keep your decisions out of my womb. Maybe we need one along the lines of 'keep government off my dessert plate.'
So what are we to do? Do we ignore the program because it is so ridiculous, has no bearing on us or our activities and 'isn't worth the fight'? Or do we protest the inappropriate role the commissioners have assumed and prevent one more step down that slippery slope?
The decision is yours, but as my goal for 2009 is to encourage greater participation in our local government, here is the contact information for the commissioners. Maybe you can tell them that if this really won't cost any money, that means no staff time for the effort:
Tina Skeldon Wozniak: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pete Gerken: email@example.com
Ben Konop: firstname.lastname@example.org