While nationally, all eyes are on the government takeover of the health care industry, a proposal to ban the use of salt in restaurant cooking has New York’s chefs and restaurateurs up in arms.

Banning a food staple like salt, one of the oldest and most ubiquitous seasonings, may sound like an absurd idea, it is not an isolated idea pushed by a health-obsessed state legislator. Lawmakers and health activists have long been looking for ways to influence consumer choices and to curb our intake of foods, drinks and other substances they deem harmful -- be it through regulatory regimes or through the tax code. For the longest time, the target these health activists loved to hate the most (and, quite frankly the low-hanging fruit) was tobacco, but more recently they have also pushed other “life-style tax hikes” or regulations and have zoomed in on trans-fats, sodium, snack foods and soda.

They have found an ally in the White House in President Obama, who is going much further than joining his wife in advocating healthy food choices from the White House garden. The president’s idea of taxing soda and sugar-sweetened beverages as part of the health care overhaul quickly fizzled, however this hasn’t stopped the advancement of the nanny staters’ agenda.

One of government’s more recent and lesser known social engineering tools is a grant program under the trillion dollar spending and debt package passed by Congress and the president under the guise of “economic stimulus” in 2009.

So far, two rounds of related grants have been announced - a first round of $120 million went to states and territories in early February, and a second round of $372 million has just been awarded to 44 local communities last week. So what are you getting out of it?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) administer a program called “Communities Putting Prevention To Work" (CPPW). The program gives out “stimulus” grants to states and local communities which have outlined how they plan to engage in a handful of “evidence-based” prevention strategies dubbed MAPPS, short for “Media, Access, Point of purchase/promotion, Price, and Social support and services.” In all honesty, however, “MAPPS” might as well mean “Make the American People Pay for our Schemes.”

While descriptions for some of the latest projects funded under the program sound almost laughable -- what exactly do you think they mean when they talk about “increasing point-of-decision health prompts at stairwells and elevators in public venues”? -- it becomes abundantly clear that this is a concerted effort to advance government control over our consumption decisions when reviewing the CDC’s guideline document for grantees.

Strategies listed range from outright product bans, over zoning, to media and advertising restrictions for “unhealthy” foods and drinks and tobacco products. And when Delaware receives more than $1 million to “educate leaders and decision-makers about the benefits of increasing the price on other tobacco products,” Oregon receives $3 million to “support a policy proposal to increase tobacco price,” your “stimulus” dollars are likely going towards hiring lobbyists to promote tax increases (which by the way would seem to violate one of CDC’s own lobbying restrictions).

The code words for pushing for tax increases in the grantee guidelines are “evidence-based pricing strategies to discourage tobacco use” and “changing relative prices of healthy vs. unhealthy items.” Of course that only becomes clear after reviewing the references used in CDC’s supporting documentation, but then again, why would they want to advertise that they’re planning to spend our money to raise our taxes to expand control over our personal lives?

What is the “stimulus” package really stimulating? We know it’s not job creation, because after all, weren’t we promised that the unemployment rate would not go above 8 percent if the bill passed?

I’ll leave the answer up to you. In the meantime, let me welcome you to the Nanny States of America.

Sandra Fabry is executive director of the Center for Fiscal Accountability, an affiliate of Americans for Tax Reform.

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