Mississippi’s Fat If Not Happy

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

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.