The editor’s opinion from Marketplace, Northeast Wisconsin’s business magazine. (Obligatory disclaimer: Most hyperlinks go to outside sites, and we’re not responsible for their content. And like fresh watermelon, peaches, pineapple, grapefruit, tomatoes and sweet corn, hyperlinks can go bad after a while.)

May 12, 2008


An example of Florida’s tax dollars at work:

A county health department employee has accused director Jason Newsom of being a danger to doughnuts.

In an e-mail complaint sent to the media and Florida Surgeon General Ana Viamonte Ros, the anonymous staff member wrote that Newsom is so “obsessed” with nutrition that he has alienated much of his staff by constantly harping on unhealthy foods.

Among the litany of complaints: He recently banned junk food from staff meetings and the department’s vending machine, routinely throws out doughnuts he finds in the employee lounge, and even reprimanded an employee who brought doughnuts to work.

The story reports that Newsom focused on smoking and unhealthy food, and since smoking is decreasing, he’s focusing on his secondary target. (Others have noted that America’s weight gain rate has been increasing as its smoking rate has been decreasing.)

If this were a private workplace belonging to Newsom, it would be a simple issue — if you don’t like the rules, leave. This, however, is a government workplace, which means Newsom is using Floridians’ tax money to be his office’s Culinary Censor. I certainly would not want to work for a boss who has so little confidence in my judgment that he would say something like this: “You can eat whatever you want as an individual, but you cannot promote unhealthy food to your co-workers. That creates a decision that all your co-workers would rather not have to make.”

There is no such thing as “unhealthy food.” There are unhealthy amounts of food, and there are unhealthy eating habits (habit: something you do more than once in a while), but an occasional doughnut will not kill you. I would suggest that having someone with as much time on his hands as Newsom to play the office nutritional nanny is a good example of too much government in Florida.

So what does this have to do with Bill Clinton? (Glad you asked!) One of the pop psychology attempts to explain Clinton’s White House philandering suggested that, instead of being a character flaw of Bill’s, it was Hillary’s fault, in that, upon their arrival in Washington, Hillary decided to play diet cop, eliminating his favorite snacks and hiring a cook who would cook “healthy food.” The analysis suggested that Bill, not satisfied with what he was eating, decided to, shall we say, seek satisfaction in other areas.

The most unfortunate part of the story (and it’s not clear if Newsom or the reporter is responsible for this reference): “He acknowledged he has taken steps against junk food at the health department, but he dismissed the complaint Thursday by saying he believes he is like Richard Nixon, supported by the silent majority.” I seem to remember Nixon’s political career ending badly …

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