I know Laura (and her daughter) has mentioned this before at her Musings site (she's gone fishing- so I'm trying to do my insignificant part), but I can't help but be irritated at the stupidity of this article from MSNBC about a year long moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in a 32-square-mile area in South Los Angeles.
The reason for the ban? Basically, according to city council, in this "impoverished" area of L.A., there are too many fast food places. "Our communities have an extreme shortage of quality foods," City Councilman Bernard Parks said." Translation: the City Council thinks the poor in L.A. can't find a grocery store and can't cook. I find the whole attitude fairly racist and buying into stereotypes if you ask me. Apparently the City Council, and by extension the Mayor, feel that the residents of South Los Angeles are too stupid to figure out how to feed their family.
The article states:
"Councilwoman Jan Perry, who proposed the measure and represents much of South Los Angeles in her 9th District, says that's no accident. South LA residents lack healthy food options, including grocery stores, fresh produce markets — and full-service restaurants with wait staff and food prepared to order."
Can the economics of the area support more than regular grocery stories and fast food restaurants? How do they know that full service restaurants offer nothing but healthy food? Most places service "kid friendly" meals with hamburgers and fries at regular sit down restaurants- so does that mean the City Council will then proceed to dictate what can be on the menu when this latest hair-brained scheme doesn't work? I don't see fancy sit-downs sprouting all over the place anytime soon, and I don't see the residents patronizing expensive places in such an "impoverished area".
And how does the City Council of L.A. define a fast food restaurant? Are they only targeting national and regional chains? Or will they extend it to local mom and pop hamburger stands? There are plenty of those, hot dog stands and taco trucks all around. Anybody who has seen Diners, Drive-In's and Dives (love that show) has seen big old hamburgers at these Mom and Pop joints that make your head spin. In a good way. So how do you control local places? Do they intend to prevent free enterprise there as well?
According to the article, "If the moratorium is passed, Perry wants to lure restaurateurs and grocery retailers to area....A report by the Community Health Councils found 73 percent of South L.A. restaurants were fast food, compared to 42 percent in West Los Angeles." How do they exactly propose to do that in a heavily taxed state, with increased government controls and restrictions - especially in the food service and grocery industry, and in area that cannot necessarily support them? Is West L.A. more financially able to support other restaurants? The fact is, if a business or chain could be in business, and be economically viable and make profits in the area, there would be more. The whole idea of wanting business to come in, that depend on making a profit, by suppressing another (and similar) type of business - should really send up warning flags to anyone trying to make a living. It is, basically, an anti-capitalist measure, which I'm sure doesn't bother them a bit.
There have been several studies demonstrating that poorer families choose less expensive food items at grocery stores, including less expensive, fattier meats. It doesn't have anything to do with choosing it because they don't have other options- it's because they may think that may be the only option within their budget. There are other ways, other types of protein and meats that have been suggested in these studies, that fit the same budget profile, that allow families to include healthier options in their diet. These studies also suggest that families can by fresh produce etc, at discount chain grocery stores, than smaller or specialty health food stores, which tend to be more expensive. Walmart, anyone? If you can have a Walmart, or such place in the community, which better transportation access (bus stops, etc)- you might see some improvement. It's still a community resources and money issue. In other words, at the base of the problem, it's an economic issue, not always an availability issue. What the City Council should be looking at is ways to address the economics, tax problems and financial problems of the area, and freeing the area to more market activity. Create more opportunity by decreasing the government footprint, as it were.
However- when socialists and others of the same mindset in the past have seen a problem with society, they've tackled it from an angle of government intrusion and take over - which, by the way, is what the Constitution was originally designed to prevent. This is but another attempt, in a succession of many, to try government dictates again to tackle a problem. Case in point- the recent Ethanol fiasco which created so many more problems, including increased food prices!
Since the problem is not only economics, but education in the sense of families learning how do things like cooking healthier, learning creative ways to budget etc., the solution isn't to clamp down on capitalism and free enterprise, which is exactly what the City Council is doing. Make no mistake- they may dress it up as an approach to solving obesity, but at the root of the situation is government intrusion: You are too stupid to live and take care of yourself the way we think you ought to, therefore we are going to tell you what to do, when to do it and how to do it.
And guess what- there are those who would rather the government do it for them. It's way easier! Case in point: (again from the article) "Rebeca Torres, a South Los Angeles mother of four, said she would welcome more dining choices, even if she had to pay a little more. 'They should have better things for children,' she said. 'This fast-food really fattens them up.' " How about stop giving your kids fast food for dinner, lady?
I am not a french fry person. I'd rather have a baked potato or have 'em mashed. But that's just me. It really has nothing to do with health, although it should. The thing is, my family can't afford to eat out at fast food places all the time- and my wife and I both work. We have three growing boys, and our time and budget is just as stretched thin as anyone else's. We've found it's cheaper to shop, cook, prepare, freeze or bake as much as we can- and that means leftovers get eaten. That's just how it is, and I imagine how it is for millions of families across the US. Do we eat as healthy as we should? No, not as much as we can- but we are trying harder. We are trying to be better at what we buy at the store and how to fix it. And if the kids ask for chips or candy- we sometimes say yes, but mostly we say no. It's supposed to be a treat- not a way of life. And if a government body came in and said- "Sorry, we're taking over and telling you what and where to eat"- not only would I be insulted and offended, I'd tell them to stuff it. While the author of the article mentioned only one resident in favor of the ban, aren't you the least bit curious as to why that is? Could it be they found more people oppossed it? So what is the solution? Helping families by tackling economic burdens (especially those created by the government?) or just telling McDonald's "Sorry- you can't come in here" ? Is attacking "Big Fast Food" just like attacking "Big Oil", "Big Business" etc - a convenient straw man that allows the government to obfuscate the problems they are creating or can't solve themselves? How about other ideas- grocery store start-up incentives, tax incentives, etc- or is that just too capitalist for the L.A. City Council?
More here, here, here and here.
What do you think? Please feel free to comment and sound off.
Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.