CBS Features Drastic City Plan to Slim Down Residents

If a city's populace is fat it must be the restaurants' fault, right? 

That's the premise of a proposed South Los Angeles city ordinance that got the spotlight treatment on CBS Evening News on November 7.  These poor people in South LA can't help themselves, it seems, so the city is considering a moratorium on building fast food restaurants.

The report, by Bill Whitaker, featured an area of South LA where there is “fast food on almost every corner.”  A local doctor said her patients are getting bigger, and opined:  “Fast food is abundant in this community. And a high percentage of fast food venues makes healthy living very difficult.” 

Whitaker ticked off the list of all the things working against the community, “low incomes, few parks for exercise and the rare grocery store.”

Whitaker didn't bother to explain why there is only one grocery store in the area.  He didn't report that most of the fast food restaurants now carry healthy menu items.  He never mentioned the “D” word – diet.  Or the fact that people can exercise responsibility for their health by making better choices.

No, the vast majority of the story advanced the liberal mantra of government solutions – with a little “classism” and “elitism” thrown in too. 

A Hispanic woman on the street said, “Nothing but fast food, you walk down the street, see KFC, Popeye's chicken, you don't see nothing but a liquor store or doughnut shop. We want supermarkets where we have vegetables and everything around us. You know what I mean? We're not just a whole bunch of greasy-eating drunk people.”

City Councilwoman Jan Perry: “It's classist. It's elitist. … If all you ever show people is fast food, then they may believe that that's all they're entitled to have.”

Whitaker did mention that “critics call the moratorium government meddling” and included a sound bite from a spokesman for the Ayn Rand Institute, who said, “I don't think the government should ever be in the position of a parent, in effect, in telling people 'you're eating too many hamburgers, stop doing that, eat more vegetables.'”

And Whitaker did mention that the doctor featured in the piece had worked hard to get a farmer's market in the area.  Only trouble is not many folks are shopping there.

Perry, the city councilwoman, lamented the fact that the people in the community have few choices.  In fact they have many.   And while the local obesity rates may be boosted by the fast food smorgasbord, in the end the local obesity rates are really about a failure to exercise personal responsibility for individual health.  No government moratorium can solve that problem.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.