Political Animal


March 12, 2013 4:54 PM Mississippi’s Fat If Not Happy

By Ed Kilgore

Mississippi under its current Republican management is very attached to the old Moonlight and Magnolias approach to economic development, whereby southern states proudly advertise their poverty and supine attitude towards “job creators” in a way that makes “investors” feel all warm and cuddly inside. Mississippi, of course, has been trying this approach off and on for well over a century, without becoming anything like an economic dynamo. But it helps the state is under the steady hand of people like Gov. Phil Bryant, who thinks Medicaid is a terrible indignity to impose on the poor even if getting rid of it doesn’t thrill employers.

Now Mississippi Republicans are going the extra mile to show their devotion to keeping citizens fat if not happy, per this report from Jeffrey Hess at NPR.org:

On Monday, a state judge in Manhattan struck down New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s rule capping soda sizes. And lawmakers in Mississippi are taking the backlash against government regulation on food marketing one step further.

A bill now on the governor’s desk would bar counties and towns from enacting rules that require calorie counts to be posted, that cap portion sizes, or that keep toys out of kids’ meals. “The Anti-Bloomberg Bill” garnered wide bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature in a state where one in three adults is obese, the highest rate in the nation.

The bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican. It was the subject of intense lobbying by groups including the restaurant association, the small business and beverage group, and the chicken farmers’ lobby.

Yeah, it’s clearly both a “liberty” and an “economic development” issue to make sure Mississippians don’t know that blue plate special or double bacon-cheeseburger with fries has close to a couple thousand calories, or maybe more if they wash it down with a bottomless 32-ounce glass of sweet tea or Co-Cola.

Don’t get me wrong. I love greasy and fattening southern food with a deep and abiding passion. The very thought of a fried tomato sandwich with pimiento cheese and bacon can bring me nearly to tears of joy. Knowing what damage that meal is doing to me is annoying, but hardly the sort of thing for which our forebears threw off British rule. And if I’m a high-school drop-out who’s unemployed or earning minimum wage in a chicken processing plant in Mississippi, knowing my governor wants to liberate me from getting Medicaid, I might want to keep a running count on how many years my dietary habits are talking off my life or active years, particularly since a comfortable retirement isn’t looking too promising.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Robert Paehlke on March 12, 2013 5:06 PM:

    I am suddenly inspired to get up from the computer and go exercise for a half hour or so.

  • boatboy_srq on March 12, 2013 5:19 PM:

    The very thought of a fried tomato sandwich with pimiento cheese and bacon can bring me nearly to tears of joy. I got introduced to the Hot Brown not so long ago, so I can understand this.

    FYI this story made NPR's Morning Edition today. Interesting tidbit: a good bit of the resistance to this piece of sh- er, legislation - is on local governance grounds. Seems folks in smalltown Mississippi aren't all that thrilled at the state house making decisions for them.

    And my earlier comments on Sistah Sarah and her misguided ilk stand: it's curious how the Xtians and Teahadists go for the most toxic solution to any problem.

  • ceilidth on March 12, 2013 5:24 PM:

    You might think the government actually wants its darker citizens to die young. But on the other hand, the girth of a lot of white folks in Mississippi makes me think that the folks in power prefer to pretend that their deep fried goodies are calorie free. Kind of how things don't have calories when you are standing there eating with the fridge door open.

  • Peter C on March 12, 2013 5:32 PM:

    Well, I've always thought that the big-gulp-ban in NYC was stupid public policy. I'm ok with public service announcements warning about sugary drinks or nutrition awareness education in schools. But making it illegal feels wrong to me.

    I don't have a problem with requiring calorie counts (although they seem tricky to actually measure accurately). That is giving a consumer information.

    But the ban on sugary drinks just feels like treating citizens like toddlers. There are too many other things that I think government should be doing; government shouldn't be spending its political capital on this.

    Personally, I'll be glad when Bloomberg leaves the mayoralty.

  • MuddyLee on March 12, 2013 5:36 PM:

    Mississippi and South Carolina are similar in many ways, but at least SC has one border with the ocean which means it's not completely surrounded by former Confederate states. But there does seem to be a widespread belief that IGNORANCE IS BLISS. If low wages and lack of regulation are so important to doing business, then why don't we have full employment in SC and MS? Could it be that out of state businesses are actually looking for a literate, healthy work force too?

  • martin on March 12, 2013 5:56 PM:

    Republican management is very attached to the old Moonlight and Magnolias approach to economic development

    Or as we call it, The Cheapest Whore on the Block.

  • Th on March 12, 2013 6:18 PM:

    I wonder what impact, if any, this law is intended to have on the Obamacare requirement for chain restaurants to post calorie counts.

  • mellowjohn on March 12, 2013 7:11 PM:

    as the gulf of mexico is salt water, mississippi has a border with the ocean as well, albeit a short one.

  • Anonymous on March 12, 2013 7:18 PM:

    Figuring out calorie (and salt a and protein etc.) per serving is not a big deal for a chain restaurant that sells many thousands of the same thing nationwide. Just like the Nutrition Information on the can of soup or whatever you buy at the supermarket. It would be tricky for a local restaurant to do in any meaningful way. That's why these regulations always apply only to the chains.

    The Bloomberg ban on 32 ounce sugared drink servings isn't the best way to accomplish what he wants, although better than nothing. A small tax on sugared soft drinks didn't pass the state. Lobbied away by Coke etc. I think. The publicity is maybe as effective as the ban. It is NOT a "ban on sugary drinks".

    The Missippi ban is one of the more ignorant laws I've ever heard of. Reminds me of the South Carolina solution to coastal flooding of forbidding anyone to discuss it or make any related predictions based on science.

  • Crissa on March 12, 2013 9:45 PM:

    The judge striking down the soda-size ban seemed specious ruling, honestly.

    Exactly what position is he taking? That municipalities don't have the right to impose such rules? What about when and where alcohol is sold? Whether fois gras is sold? Or the size imposition on other consumer products?

    This new law is equally stupid; but at least the state has that right. Although I don't think it should generally get involved in local laws.

  • smartalek on March 13, 2013 12:58 AM:

    To those of you snarking on the rationality and/or likely efficacy of the Bloomberg big-gulp ban, please read this Surowiecki piece (not behind their pay wall); it might shed useful light:


    I share a certain sympathy with libertarian ideals.
    And I'd rather live a life of double-bacon cheeseburgers (mmmmm!) and die happy, than live another five or even ten years as a miserable vegan.
    But reality being what it is, their policy prescriptions are almost always horribly wrong.
    Don't know if this rises to that level -- but Surowiecki makes clear why this ban makes some sense, and might actually work. Certainly worth the experiment.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on March 13, 2013 9:58 AM:

    Good article, smartalek! And for my rare visits to fast food joints, the folks behind the counter always give me the stink eye when I order the sandwich, maybe a small order of fries, and NO SODA (or worse, a cup--not bottle--of water without ice).

    Maybe it would make more sense for tap water to be made the default beverage rather than to ban large sugar drinks outright. We could attempt to knock out two birds with one stone: sugary drinks and maybe even plastic bottle waste. But I'm thinking that the US is too enthralled to the soda industry and their designer waters to even attempt this. Junk food products are already cheaper than healthful whole foods.

  • david1234 on March 13, 2013 10:14 AM:

    Things like the sugary drinks ban is a perfect example of what causes people to hate government. Its negative effects are huge. Requiring calorie counts to be posted is something that will tend to make people like government, because they will get information vendors want to hide from them. That would have been a much better way to go.