Obese Stroke Survivor John Fetterman Thinks He Knows What's Best for Your Health

Why the rich Harvard grad in cargo shorts wants to punish poor people

Pennsylvania lieutenant governor John Fetterman (D.) / Getty Images
June 1, 2022

John Fetterman, the overweight 52-year-old man who suffered a stroke just days before winning the Democratic nomination for Senate in Pennsylvania, thinks politicians ought to punish poor people who don't make healthy choices.

The massive Democrat, whom some doctors believe is at risk of "sudden cardiac death" following his mysterious stroke, supports punitive soda taxes like the one enacted by the Philadelphia city council in 2016. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), the self-avowed socialist, denounced the tax as a "regressive" policy that would harm "low income and working people." Fetterman disagreed, explaining in an op-ed for Philadelphia magazine that the tax was not "regressive" if it increased the cost of soda so much that poor people could no longer afford it.

Fetterman argued that anyone who opposed the soda tax "doesn't understand poverty." The results of a Drexel University study published in 2020 suggest that Fetterman, the Harvard-educated son of a wealthy insurance magnate, might not have the best understanding of the issue. The study found "no major overall impact of the tax on general population-level consumption of sugar-sweetened or diet beverages."

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City and perhaps the most prominent advocate for punishing poor people for their so-called unhealthy choices, spent about $1.6 million backing the campaign to tax soda sales in Philadelphia. The Democratic-controlled state legislature in Vermont recently approved a plan to study the economic impact of a soda tax.

White progressives love Fetterman because they identify with his wealthy upbringing and fancy college degrees. They also love the fact that he looks like a strip club bouncer, wears cargo shorts, and sends campaign emails with subject lines such as, "I wanted to send yinz a quick note." So authentic! The Washington Post described him as "a walking folk hero, half Pete Seeger, half Metallica. The kind of anti-politician a Democratic wizard might conjure to grab the dispossessed Americans who tipped the 2016 election to President Trump."

Pennsylvania's black voters, meanwhile, were less enthusiastic about the prospect of nominating Fetterman, who in 2013 detained an innocent black jogger near his home by pointing a shotgun at him. The Democrat has refused to apologize for the racially charged incident.