Overheard on CNN.com: Do Americans take enough personal responsibility?
Readers are debating the role of personal responsibility in health and the economy.
June 5th, 2012
04:03 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Do Americans take enough personal responsibility?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

The obesity debate is about people as much as it is about calories or large sodas. LZ Granderson's opinion article about the availability of healthy food garnered a huge response, and brought forth a powerful discussion about the individual and society. We've seen a lot of readers talking about personal responsibility, with some saying we need to foster more of it.

Poor and fat: The real class war

Are poor people spending their money on the wrong things and digging a deeper hole?

tspaquin: "I live in a true mixed-income community. You could draw some easy conclusions by comparing my apartment building with the public housing next door. We both have access to two businesses a block away - a large grocery store selling plenty of healthy food (and the bad stuff too), and a video game store. Guess who are the vast majority patrons at the video game store? The public housing residents. If they have money for video games (which I feel I don't) - then they certainly have enough money to buy potatoes instead of potato chips. This is not about politics so much as it is about personal choices. It is no surprise that there are strong correlations between education, income, and health outcomes. My median income family spends a modest amount on healthy foods that we prepare ourselves - without meat. It's not a choice between expensive lean meat and fatty meat - you don't need meat, you're healthier without it. And it's not about buying more calories for the dollar - healthy food is subsidized by the government and is perfectly affordable. Organics are irrelevant. Yes, there are certain cases of income so low that there is a barrier to buying any food at all - that's why food assistance exists, and its no small sum. LZ is the perfect spokesman for the victimized, government solution oriented liberals of this country."

Or, conversely, is the concept personal responsibility applied selectively?

Brad Potter: "I can understand the liberal view, where government has a role in presenting solutions for problems, I can also understand the libertarian view regarding personal responsibility. So if government shouldn't be providing solutions to problems then the government shouldn't be reimbursing hospitals for those people who don't have insurance and can't pay their bill. To take it a step further then there is no role for government regarding medicare, welfare, foreign aid, defense, prisons, corporate subsidies etc as these are all victim driven problems that government feels it needs to step in to try to solve. They all relate to personal responsibility but to most people who tout personal responsibility, the application of this concept ends with foreign aid, defense, prisons, and corporate subsidies. Miraculously these victim driven problems do require government intervention according to the advocates of personal responsibility whereupon the safety net sponsors come flying out in support of medicare, welfare etc. It's a vicious never ending circle ..."

Long hours and low wages get in the way of healthy meals for this reader:

stella0816: "Raised my two boys alone and one of them did get chubby for a while and so did I. Why? Because I had to make the choice to buy a healthy meal for one night or a cheap pasta meal for 5 nights. And I am a great cook, so please don't reply with low fat recipes. I can write a book on 1001 ways to cook chicken and soup. But boys have to eat, a lot, and when you have $25 to spend on a week of meals, you have to make choices to get by. I see a lot of nasty comments, including one advising everyone to walk 3 miles a day. Get real and stop being so judgemental. Most of us work 9 to 5 with an hours commute each way. We come home exhausted, throw together a meal and crash on the couch. Lucky if the dogs get walked, honestly."

Some said they learned valuable lessons about survival from growing up poor.

M*rk: "Hopefully when all the meanness and name calling ends, a civil dialogue can ensue regarding this topic. Long ago and far away my family was poor and my mom sent me to the store to get that greasy hamburger at 3 pounds for $1. And we ate government issued cheese and peanut butter. But my parents made sure me and all my siblings studied in school and all 5 of us became college graduates. We have successful jobs and eat much better now but have not forgotten those days of canned tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. It was my family's attitude of bettering oneself through education that changed our lives. And luck played some part in the equation as well. But if any poor family doesn't embrace, encourage and make getting an education the top priority, then the kids will never have the chance (and luck) to lead healthier lives."

We've also seen a somewhat different kind of discussion about taking responsibility in the comments about the Wisconsin recall election, which is a microcosm of many broader issues.

Wisconsin's deep political anger isn't going away

Some readers said unions - which are at the heart of the debate - discourage a sense of responsibility for one's career and encourage job exporting.

Dax1975: "Unions had a place and they overplayed their hand. ..."

Willard Phillips: "The system worked just fine for several hundred years and then along comes government by union activists, and yes I mean Obama. We have millionaires because our system allows anyone that has the brains and works hard can get rich. It's called Democracy. Unions operate just the opposite: a union member is guaranteed a job no matter how lazy, stupid, or ignorant he is. It's called socialism."

There were also readers attributing laziness to different people.

futureisflux: "The funny part is that most of the complaining neocons are living off large from their socialist security checks and I am tired of paying for them! why don't they work for a change lazy old geezers. The irony is that they live off my money, but yet wish ill to all of us."

One reader compared the economy to a broken toilet that is accumulating detritus. Can partisans fix it?

Nadbash: "Here's my entirely charming analysis of the whole Democrat vs. Republican debate: Imagine if you will a clogged toilet. The person that clogged it walks out of the bathroom embarrassedly and leaves. The Democrat and Republican both have to defecate and see the clogged toilet. The Democrat's solution is to buy a new clog-proof toilet and hire a plumber from across the country to put it in. Sure it'll cost a lot but we'll get a new toilet that won't clog and that plumber and the toilet manufacturers get paid. The Republican's solution is to simply continue using the toilet until it's too full to sit on, because at that point he'll just use someone else's toilet, probably China's, and let someone else deal with the mess. What we need is for someone to go in there and snake the drain, but nobody's willing to get their hands dirty."

mudpuppysc: "I think you have been spending too much time sitting on the toilet ... besides ... the best toilets are made in Mexico and sold at Lowe's ... and for the average male ... pretty easy to install (make sure you have a new wax ring seal for the commode/sewer connection) ... I take it you are too lazy to do things for yourself ... or have ZERO skills or problem solving abilities ..."

Is there class warfare?

napoleon7: "The GOP vision – Welcome to the new USA. A place where the rich can get richer and the poor can get poorer. A place where the middle-class will soon join the ranks of the poor. It's all happening because the middle class and the poor are lazy. Only the rich work hard and create jobs."

mbsmith: "GOP? The libs thrive on class warfare; it is what keeps them in office.

What's your take? Who can fix the commode? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Economy • Food • Overheard on CNN.com • Wisconsin
soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. As if

    And as if speaking on behalf of one group does not speak AT another group. Take speaking on behalf of potential Americans, for example. No, not illegal Mexicans...human fetus.

    June 5, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Humpty Dumpty

    low and behold, Cnn has a story about...
    Lome, Togo (CNN) - The Economic Community of West African States sent a distress call Tuesday to the international community declaring that more than 6 million people are at risk of hunger in the Sahel region of Africa, including more than a million children exposed to severe malnutrition.

    @ Joey, how many times have Americans donated, yet we see no result of a better more productive society in Africa for instance. Why am I still seeing these kind of headlines. No, I'm not blaming you or any one individual per say.
    That article just begs the question... Why?

    June 5, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

      @ Humpty Dumpty:
      You asked me.
      I'll ask you: did we give them fish, or teach them to fish?
      Give them food, or teach them to grow it?
      The answer is complex, but they haven't learned to fish.

      June 5, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Humpty Dumpty

    Yes, the answer IS much more complex than teaching someone how to fish.
    The short answer is CORRUPTION.
    Gn Joey, it's coming up on my bed time.
    Bona sara... compadre

    June 5, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Humpty Dumpty

    Night Piers Morgan (bleep) ;) lol

    June 5, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. HIDE BEHIND

    As for Africa, we have militaty missions involving direct combat by Special Forces Units out of Italy, unknown nimber of State Department and Sec. of Defence units on Africas' Med. Sea stayes and I'm Amgola alone since 2007 US has spent over 700 million on its military forces, we train, supervise and provide military equipment plus wages for some few thousand do called Combined African forces. pay three msjor military contractors over 350 MILLION a year to train in st last count 23 nations military
    WELL I. Giess they need your support of charity donations.Dig deep and GOD you and this nations kind hearts
    CNN ALL INFO AVAILABLE ON OFFICIAL GOV RELEASE.

    June 5, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Peers Morgan

    Obviously, Africa starves because they don't get paid full pop for natural resources leaveing that continent. If you are a nation with veto power at the UN, you have been rayping Africa for decades. (and probably rayped slaves when Africas people were worth more than oil and diamonds)

    June 6, 2012 at 4:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. Clem Vinson

    The commode analogy is a bit suspect in its over-simplification, but one thing is for sure... Washington is certainly becoming a larger pile of crap by the day.

    June 6, 2012 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  8. jon

    Granderson's statement is that poor people can't afford good food so they become fat eating junk food. If you ever worked in a grocery store you would know that the EBT shoppers eat better than most of the middle class. Ask any cop thats worked for 60 minutes what the average number of EBT cards these people carry around, none of which have the same name on them

    June 7, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
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