Conservative Spotlight: Center for Consumer Freedom

Liberals used to criticize capitalism for its negative qualities. Now they criticize it for its positive qualities as well. Liberal “public interest” groups and the usual vicious packs of trial lawyers have targeted food companies and restaurants for making food too plentiful, inexpensive, and tasty. “That’s really what they say,” said Rick Berman, executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, which does battle against pagan animal worshippers such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), trial lawyers whose name is legion, and various health fascists, among whom is Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson–earlier this month, Thompson decided to reclassify obesity as an illness. “When he arrived in Washington, an overweight Thompson vowed to lose a few pounds, saying, ‘I had to start looking the part,'” reported the center on its website July 20. “He noted that weight loss isn’t a complex issue: ‘It’s not rocket science. It’s less calorie intake and more exercise and you’re going to improve your health.’ So what did Thompson do? He clipped on a pedometer, walked more, and started doing sit-ups and push-ups. The result: he lost 15 pounds–without costly government payouts or lawsuits from greedy trial lawyers.”

Asked if he thought obesity was a moral failing, Berman said, “I don’t want to go that far because it sounds kind of pious, but it’s a decision.”

Since grasping politicians, totalitarian regulators, and the omnipresent voracious trial lawyers finished with the tobacco industry, many observers thought that alcohol might be next. But now, it looks like the food industry will be the target of the next major government-sponsored decimation. “Yes,” agreed Berman, “except that alcohol has been on the front burner for a long time. Then this food stuff just leapfrogged over it.”

Berman said that the anti-obesity do-gooders and animal rights “wackos” have a confluence of interests. “The animal rights people who don’t want you to eat meat and the anti-obesity people who don’t want you to eat anything are going after food companies,” he said.

If the neo-Puritan anti-food jihadists succeed, the results will be the same for food–except perhaps for government-approved “healthy” foods such as tofu and lettuce–as it was for tobacco: Higher prices and less accessibility for politically incorrect foods such as meats of all types, high-fat foods of all types including dairy products, desserts of all types, sodas, etc. And this despite the recent extraordinary success of low-carbohydrate diets such as Atkins, which prompts people to lose weight by eating lots of meat and cheese.

When it comes to the lawsuits being filed against large food companies in various states of the Union, said Berman, “It’s like with terrorists. You can be right 99 times, but they have to win only once.” Rapacious trial lawyers are trying to win titanic judgments against food producers under state “advertising fraud” statutes, said Berman–and there is no solution Congress can provide to head off this danger. “They try to claim that people ate food after being falsely induced to eat it or weren’t warned that the food could make them fat,” said Berman, who considers these types of suits greater risks than the straightforward suing-for-damages-because-McDonald’s-made-me-stuff-myself type of lawsuits.

“The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies, and consumers working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices,” says the center. “Unlike the anti-consumer activists we monitor and keep in check, we stand up for common sense and personal choice.”

Berman said that the conflict over whether regulators and the courts will decide what Americans eat or whether each American does will be waged over public opinion. “It’s a public opinion fight,” he said. So far, the campaign to shift blame and responsibility from individuals to corporations–and thus power from individuals to the government–has not succeeded. “Popular opinion isn’t with the blame-others crowd setting Medicare policy and encouraging lawsuits,” says the Center for Consumer Freedom. “One recent poll revealed that 83% of Americans think ‘it is the responsibility of individuals to get obesity under control.’ The same survey found that 68% of Americans believe ‘lack of exercise’ is the main cause of obesity, compared to ‘eating too much’ at 32%.” Berman warned that activists have achieved “incredible” penetration in schools, where they seek to pervert the young into their way of thinking.

He said that most experts believe that our sedentary lifestyle is more to blame than diet for America’s expanding waistline. But, Berman said, “The bureaucrats at the top of this thing realize they can’t make people exercise but they can control food prices.”