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Issues With Debates On Government Policy


Queen Cassie

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This is a crosspost of something that actually won't appear on my Tumblr until tomorrow, but because of the nature of the blog system here I can post it immediately without it being lost. (Unlike how Tumblr tends to function, with its dashboard feature.)

 

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I was listening on the way home to a debate on the Intelligence Squared segment of NPR last night, where you have Oxford-style debates on political issues. This was the first time I had ever listened to such a debate and I found it absolutely fascinating...as well as enraging.

 

The debate itself was over the question of "Should the government be allowed to intervene in the obesity crisis." The subject, however, is mostly irrelevant to my post apart from how I will take examples from it to show what raised my ire.

 

The side that argued against government intervention had an argument that boiled down to two main points of view:

 

1. The current government policy isn't working, therefore no policy should be enacted and the entire thing scrapped.

 

2. Government is an evil that should be fought against and reduced as much as possible because it is too easy for government to harm civil liberties. (Essentially Republican/Libertarian party line that is usually ignored by Republican politicians when they are elected to office.)

Both of these bother me for different reasons, as both are arguments that can be made against any sort of government intervention or expenditure or spending, and often are. Current education policy isn't working, therefore scrap the Department of Education. Welfare systems are abused therefore they should be eliminated. Etc etc.

 

I take issue with this because it does not make any sense to me. It'd be as if a family were to say "we have an issue with how this grocery store stocks products, therefore we will never shop for food again." If a policy isn't working, what makes sense isn't to junk the entire program running it. What makes sense is to alter that policy to work more efficiently.

For example, in the debate, the side against government intervention made the extremely good point about how current government policy on obesity stigmatizes obesity and, as a result, obese people. As recent studies have shown, this significantly harms any effort to reduce obesity. What actually helps is what is commonly termed "fat acceptance," where people accept themselves and learn to hold a positive body image, and as a result, they actually tend to lose weight far more often than those with a negative body image do.

But instead of using this to argue for a change in the policy, they used it to argue for completely junking the program entirely, which just doesn't make any sense to me at all.

The second issue, that of "government is evil, therefore reduce it entirely" also bothers me for entirely different reasons of ideology as well as pragmatism and practicality. We have so many issues with our government in this country because far too often, regardless of party affiliation, the Representatives, Senators, and other political officials both elected and appointed are too concerned with serving corporate interests and the interests of themselves instead of the common good.

 

For example, at the same time the government is attempting to combat obesity, those in Congress undermine such attempts by serving the interests of food corporations, through such actions as continued increased subsidies for corn farming and promotion in usage in food, as well as through actions such as declaring the tomato sauce in pizza to be a vegetable, on behalf of the food corporations.

 

In addition, at no point did either side actually attempt to look at some of the other underlying causes of obesity that the government could confront, such as urban planning. Right now, most cities in the United States are designed and continue to be designed around vehicles rather than walking. People have to drive everywhere in order to get to anything, and even some of the most walkable cities in the United States are a pale shadow of cities elsewhere in the world. Those most affected by the obesity crisis, such as those at or below the poverty line, have little to no access to fruits, vegetables, and the better food choices available at supermarkets because all of the supermarkets are located in areas where they can't locally access them, and they can't afford the gasoline needed to constantly drive to those places. We also have far too much corporate promotion of "buy more food" because food is consistently sold as a product to make a profit on, instead of being treated as a necessity.

 

Ultimately, my issue with the debate was that it focused far more on party ideology and not on practical, common sense and critical thinking analysis of the issues, and that a large part of what is encouraging the obesity crisis is something that can't be solved, either by the government or by private interests, because far too many interests are focused on things that would promote it instead of combating it. And again, the issue of "government policy in this manner is failing, therefore get rid of the program entirely" is something that must stop if things are to improve in any sense of the word.

 

Sadly, I don't believe any people in power would be willing to listen to my point of view, because it contrasts so heavily with what they desire to do. Regardless of the letter next to their name, D or R, those in power in the federal government currently are far more focused on themselves and what helps them instead of what helps the majority of the American people. But I don't see this as a case of "government itself is evil." I see this as "the people in power need to be replaced with people who actually care." The government as an institution isn't the problem. It's the people in charge.

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