Archive for the ‘food nazi’ Category

Back in 2010, I joked that the Libertarian Party should give Barack Obama a Man-of-the-Year Award because his failed policies rejuvenated interest in limits of federal power.

Though, in retrospect, perhaps the GOP should have given Obama the Award since Republicans reaped the short-term benefits.

In any event, let’s not get distracted by electoral politics. That’s because we have another tongue-in-cheek award. It’s time for the Libertarian Party to give its Woman-of-the-Year Award to Michelle Obama.

Why? Because the First Lady has single-handedly managed to discredit the federal government’s program to subsidize school lunches.

In short, there are now all sorts of federal regulations and mandates that have simultaneously made the program most costly for schools and resulted in food that is less appealing to students.

In other words, she’s helping to teach the next generation that big government makes your life less pleasant. That’s usually a lesson young people don’t learn until they get their first paycheck.

Let’s look at the results of Ms. Obama’s handiwork.

Citing a report from the Government Accountability Office, the Wall Street Journal opines on how Washington has made the school lunch program become far less appealing.

America’s youth are voting with their forks: …participation has plunged for the second year in a row by 1.4 million children, or 4.5%, as they flee inedible government-designed cuisine. …In the name of better eating habits, the USDA has published 141 memos with mandates reaching down to quotas across “vegetable subgroups” and bans on salt and sandwiches. …this cookbook…runs to some 4,700 pages and counting… GAO auditors toured 14 schools in eight states for an on-site look at how kids and cafeterias are responding, and they report that the regulatory deluge is “overwhelming.”

Though I’m glad to see that some local governments and students are engaging in civil disobedience.

“…two had nevertheless been serving pasta that was not in compliance with the whole grain-rich requirement.” …The auditors found students in two schools who carried contraband salt shakers.

Gasp! Non-compliant pasta and contraband salt?!?

Surely it’s time to sic the IRS on these scofflaws.

Or maybe we should learn a different lesson, which the WSJ succinctly identifies.

This exercise has been an epic waste of food and taxpayer money.

Some statist readers doubtlessly are saying that the higher cost is worthwhile because students (even if they don’t like it) are being forced to eat healthier.

Um…not exactly.

Amazingly, the federal government managed to decrease consumption of fruits and vegetables (FV) even though that’s one of the main goals of the new rules. Here’s an excerpt from a scholarly study.

Since 2012, the USDA’s requirement that children select FVs at lunch as part of the reimbursable school meal has been met with concern and evidence of food waste. We compared elementary schoolchildren’s FV selection, consumption, and waste before (10 school visits, 498 tray observations) and after (11 school visits, 944 tray observations) implementation of this requirement using validated dietary assessment measures. More children selected FVs in higher amounts when FVs were required compared with when they were optional (0.69 cups vs. 0.89 cups, p,0.001); however, consumption decreased slightly (0.51 cups vs. 0.45 cups, p50.01) and waste increased (0.25 cups vs. 0.39 cups, p,0.001) when FVs were required compared with when they were optional.

As reported by the Washington Examiner, even the School Nutrition Association is not exactly happy with the federal government’s nanny-state approach to school lunches.

Schools nationwide are being forced to raid their education budgets to cover the costs of federally-mandated school lunches, rejected by students because they taste bad, according to a group the represents school nutrition professionals. Once a profit center for schools, cafeterias have become a financial black hole… And the deficits are being made up by cafeteria worker firings and budget shifting, according to the School Nutrition Association.

The Washington Examiner story represents an interesting development since it’s a sign of a schism between two interest groups – government workers and nanny staters – that normally are part of the same coalition.

So further kudos to Ms. Obama for causing discord on the left.

Though when push comes to shove, the nanny staters lose.

Here’s a real-world example of how the federal government has botched the program. A Montana school board has decided it makes more sense to reject handouts from Uncle Sam.

Bozeman school board members voted 5-3 to pull the high school out of the National School Lunch Program because federal regulations on calories, fat, sugar, sodium, whole grains and other nutritional elements championed by the first lady were driving students off campus for lunch… School officials realized it was financially advantageous to forgo $117,000 in federal food subsidies tied to the National School Lunch Program to draw students back into the cafeteria, and it seems they were correct. …Across the district, the food service program is $1,441 in the black so far for the 2015-16 school year. The food service budget ended last school year $16,000 in the red… And school food service workers told board members students are now getting high quality food from local sources, rather than pre-packaged meals promoted by the government.

Let’s now shift gears and look at other ways the federal government screws up when it gets involved with what goes in our stomachs.

For years, bureaucrats in Washington have tried to tell all of us, not just students, what we should eat and drink.

Well, it turns out that they were giving us bum advice. Here are a few excerpts from some analysis in the Washington Post.

U.S. dietary guidelines have long recommended that people steer clear of whole milk… Whole milk sales shrunk. It was banned from school lunch programs. Purchases of low-fat dairy climbed. “Replace whole milk and full-fat milk products with fat-free or low-fat choices,” says the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government’s influential advice book, citing the role of dairy fat in heart disease.

Was this advice helpful?

Not so much. At least if the goal is better health.

…research published in recent years indicates that the opposite might be true: millions might have been better off had they stuck with whole milk. Scientists who tallied diet and health records for several thousand patients over ten years found, for example, that contrary to the government advice, people who consumed more milk fat had lower incidence of heart disease.

By the way, it’s not just whole milk. One of my Cato colleagues, Walter Olson, points out that the government has a long track record of botching recommendations.

Previous advice from Washington about the supposed hazards of eggs and other cholesterol-laden foods, the advantages of replacing butter and other animal fats with trans fats, and the gains to be made from switching from regular to diet soda, have all had to be re-evaluated and sometimes reversed in later years.

So what lessons should we learn?

Let’s turn to David Boaz, another colleague from the Cato Institute. He succinctly explains that government shouldn’t be involved in our diets.

It’s understandable that some scientific studies turn out to be wrong. Science is a process of trial and error, hypothesis and testing. Some studies are bad, some turn out to have missed complicating factors, some just point in the wrong direction. I have no criticism of scientists’ efforts to find evidence about good nutrition and to report what they (think they) have learned. My concern is that we not use government coercion to tip the scales either in research or in actual bans and mandates and Official Science. Let scientists conduct research, let other scientists examine it, let journalists report it, let doctors give us advice. But let’s keep nutrition – and much else – in the realm of persuasion, not force. First, because it’s wrong to use force against peaceful people, and second, because we might be wrong. This last point reflects the humility that is an essential part of the libertarian worldview.

Very well said.

Let’s close with one final example to demonstrate the bad things that happen when the federal government gets involved with food.

Writing for the Foundation for Economic Education, my old buddy Jim Bovard explains how biased bureaucrats are deliberately exaggerating hunger in America.

The Agriculture Department announced this morning that 48 million Americans live in “food insecure” households. Soon you’ll hear we’re suffering an epidemic of hunger. While the federal government is already feeding more than 100 million Americans, we’ll be told that it just isn’t enough. But it isn’t true. “Food insecurity” is a statistic designed to mislead. USDA defines food insecurity as being “uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food.”

But this doesn’t mean anyone is going without food, as Jim notes.

The definition of “food insecure” includes anyone who frets about not being able to purchase food at any point. If someone states that they feared running out of food for a single day (but didn’t run out), that is an indicator of being “food insecure” for the entire year — regardless of whether they ever missed a single meal. If someone wants organic kale but can afford only conventional kale, that is another “food insecure” indicator.

Needless to say, statists predictably use the federal government’s biased stats to push for…you guessed it…more government!

After the 2009 USDA food security report was released, President Obama announced that “hunger rose significantly last year. … My administration is committed to reversing the trend of rising hunger.” …USDA food security reports, by creating the illusion of a national hunger epidemic, have helped propel a vast increase in federal food aid in recent years. …The insecurity = hunger switcheroo is also fueling campaigns to compel schools to give free breakfasts to all kids after school starts each day. …USDA has never attempted to create an accurate gauge to measure actual hunger. Instead, citizens are supposed to be satisfied with federal reports that are little more than a subsidy for political grandstanding.

I know what lesson I hope people learn from the deceit, waste, and foolishness discussed today.

We should end any role for the federal government in food. That means ending all the misguided programs discussed above.

It also means abolishing the food stamp program and letting states decide whether such subsidies are desirable.

And it means shutting down the entire Department of Agriculture.

Like all sensible libertarians, I don’t like the idea of having the federal government in my wallet or my bedroom. Perhaps we also need to say we don’t want Washington in our stomachs either.

Read Full Post »

The title of this post sounds like the beginning of a strange joke, but it’s actually because we’re covering three issues today.

Our first topic is corporate taxation. More specifically, we’re looking at a nation that seems to be learning that it’s foolish the have a punitive corporate tax system.

By way of background, the United States used to have the second-highest corporate tax rate in the developed world.

But then the Japanese came to their senses and reduced their tax rate on companies, leaving America with the dubious honor of having the world’s highest rate.

So did the United States respond with a tax cut in order to improve competitiveness? Nope, our rate is still high and the United States arguably now has the world’s worst tax system for businesses.

But the Japanese learned if a step in the right direction is good, then another step in the right direction must be even better.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Japan will be lowering its corporate tax rate again.

Japan’s ruling party on Tuesday cleared the way for a corporate tax cut to take effect next year… Reducing the corporate tax rate, currently about 35%, is a long-standing demand of large corporations. They say they bear an unfair share of the burden and have an incentive to move plants overseas to where taxes are lower. …Business leaders want the rate to fall below 30% within the next few years and eventually to 25%… The Japan Business Federation, known as Keidanren, says tax cuts could partly pay for themselves by spurring investment. Japan’s current corporate tax rate is higher than most European and Asian countries, although it is lower than the U.S. level of roughly 40%.

If only American politicians could be equally sensible.

The Japanese (at least some of them) even understand that a lower corporate rate will generate revenue feedback because of the Laffer Curve.

I’ve tried to make the same point to American policymakers, but that’s like teaching budget calculus to kids from the fiscal policy short bus.

Let’s switch gears to our second topic and look at what one veteran wrote about handouts from Uncle Sam.

Here are excerpts from his column in the Washington Post.

Though I spent more than five years on active duty during the 1970s as an Army infantry officer and an additional 23 years in the Reserves, I never fired a weapon other than in training, and I spent no time in a combat zone. …nearly half of the 4.5 million active-duty service members and reservists over the past decade were never deployed overseas. Among those who were, many never experienced combat. …support jobs aren’t particularly hazardous. Police officers, firefighters and construction workers face more danger than Army public affairs specialists, Air Force mechanics, Marine Corps legal assistants, Navy finance clerks or headquarters staff officers.

So what’s the point? Well, this former soldier thinks that benefits are too generous.

And yet, the benefits flow lavishly. …Even though I spent 80 percent of my time in uniform as a reservist, I received an annual pension in 2013 of $24,990, to which I contributed no money while serving. …My family and I have access to U.S. military bases worldwide, where we can use the fitness facilities at no charge and take advantage of the tax-free prices at the commissaries and post exchanges. The most generous benefit of all is Tricare. This year I paid just $550 for family medical insurance. In the civilian sector, the average family contribution for health care in 2013 was $4,565… Simply put, I’m getting more than I gave. Tricare for military retirees and their families is so underpriced that it’s more of a gift than a benefit. …budget deficits are tilting America toward financial malaise. Our elected representatives will have to summon the courage to confront the costs of benefits and entitlements and make hard choices. Some “no” votes when it comes to our service members and, in particular, military retirees will be necessary.

The entire column is informative and thoughtful. My only quibble is that it would be more accurate to say “an expanding burden of government is tilting America toward financial malaise.”

But I shouldn’t nitpick, even though I think it’s important to focus on the underlying problem of spending rather than the symptom of red ink.

Simply stated, it’s refreshing to read someone who writes that his group should get fewer taxpayer-financed goodies. And I like the idea of reserving generous benefits for those who put their lives at risk, or actually got injured.

Last but not least, I periodically share stories that highlight challenging public policy issues, even for principled libertarians.

You can check out some of my prior examples of “you be the judge” by clicking here.

Today, we have another installment.

The New York Times has reported that a mom and dad in the United Kingdom were arrested because their kid was too fat.

The parents of an 11-year-old boy were arrested in Britain on suspicion of neglect and child cruelty after authorities grew alarmed about the child’s weight. The boy, who like his parents was not identified, weighed 210 pounds. …In a statement, the police said that “obesity and neglect of children” were sensitive issues, but that its child abuse investigation unit worked with health care and social service agencies to ensure a “proportionate and necessary” response. The police said in the statement that “intervention at this level is very rare and will only occur where other attempts to protect the child have been unsuccessful.”

So was this a proper example of state intervention?

My instinct is to say no. After all, even bad parents presumably care about their kids. And they’ll almost certainly do a better job of taking care of them than a government bureaucracy.

But there are limits. Even strict libertarians, for instance, will accept government intervention if parents are sadistically beating a child.

And if bad parents were giving multiple shots of whiskey to 7-year olds every single night, that also would justify intervention in the minds of almost everybody.

On the other hand, would any of us want the state to intervene simply because parents don’t do a good job overseeing homework? Or because they let their kids play outside without supervision (a real issue in the United States, I’m embarrassed to admit)?

The answer hopefully is no.

But how do we decide when we have parents who are over-feeding a kid?

My take, for what it’s worth, is that the size of kids is not a legitimate function of government. My heart might want there to be intervention, but my head tells me that bureaucrats can’t be trusted to exercise this power prudently.

P.S. I guess “bye bye burger boy” in the United Kingdom didn’t work very well.

P.P.S. But the U.K. government does fund foreign sex travel, and that has to burn some calories.

Read Full Post »

Back in 2009, I wrote about various schemes to impose taxes on unhealthy food. At the time, I was primarily concerned about the risks of giving politicians a new source of revenue that would be used to increase the burden of government spending.

The folks at Reason TV look at the issue from a different angle and explain how government anti-obesity efforts won’t achieve their supposed goals.

One of the frustrating aspects of this debate is that failure will be used to justify even more intervention (aka, Mitchell’s Law). Politicians in New York City have already banned bake sales, for instance, yet that didn’t stop Mayor Bloomberg from unleashing a nutty new plan to prohibit large sodas.

And as explained in the video, the statists will respond to the failure of current anti-obesity efforts by arguing they need even more power to control and tax. And when those new efforts fail, they’ll argue for additional authority. Lather, rinse, repeat.

P.S. I assume this cartoon was designed to show why a value-added tax is a bad idea, but it’s very appropriate for this topic as well.

P.P.S. This issue helps explain the dangers of government-subsidized healthcare. Politicians make taxpayers pick up the tab for other people’s medical expenses and then claim that they should have the power to regulate private behavior in order to reduce costs.

Read Full Post »

Mayor Bloomberg is a wretched human being. He’s an ultra-rich limousine liberal who wants to impose his views on ordinary people.

I’ve previously written about his statist efforts to ban bake sales, and I’ve noted with mixed feelings his proposal to tell food stamp recipients what they’re allowed to buy.

Now he wants to criminalize large sodas. Holman Jenkins writes about this silly idea in the Wall Street Journal.

Mike Bloomberg’s move to regulate the size of sodas sold in his city illustrates why it’s a good thing he is a mayor of New York and not the czar of all the Russias. American big cities tend to be one-party states to begin with, but at least their totalitarian impulses end up being merely cute because they’re so easy to evade. Under the Bloomberg plan, any cup or bottle of sugary drink larger than 16 ounces at a public venue would be verboten, beginning early next year. You’ll still be able to buy as much Coke as you want in a supermarket. Go home and pour yourself a bucketful. As Mr. Bloomberg himself was the first to note, you’ll also still be free to buy two medium drinks in place of today’s Big Gulp at ballgames, theaters, delis and other venues where the ban would be in effect.

But Mr. Jenkins doesn’t just mock Bloomberg for being a food nanny. He also makes an important point about public policy.

Here is the ultimate justification for the Bloomberg soft-drink ban, not to mention his smoking ban, his transfat ban, and his unsuccessful efforts to enact a soda tax and prohibit buying high-calorie drinks with food stamps: The taxpayer is picking up the bill. Call it the growing chattelization of the beneficiary class under government health-care programs. Bloombergism is a secular trend. Los Angeles has sought to ban new fast-food shops in neighborhoods disproportionately populated by Medicaid recipients, Utah to increase Medicaid copays for smokers, Arizona to impose a special tax on Medicaid recipients who smoke or are overweight. …So perhaps the famous “broccoli” hypothetical during the Supreme Court ObamaCare debate was not so fanciful after all. It flows naturally from the state’s fiscal responsibility for your health that it will try to regulate your behavior, even mandating vegetable consumption.

Or, to summarize, the view of politicians is that the government can tell you how to live because it is paying for your healthcare. This is Mitchell’s Law on steroids! One bad government policy leading to another awful government policy.

And it’s not just Mayor Bloomberg pushing these policies. Other politicians have similar proposals, though it’s quite likely that their main motive is to collect more tax revenue since they are focused on how to tax various “bad” foods.

But let’s try not to be overly depressed. Here’s an amusing cartoon on the topic.

I’m glad that people are mocking Mayor Bloomberg and the rest of the Food Nazis. And it’s good to see that the soft drink industry is fighting back, as seen by this Super Bowl commercial.

Maybe some day we’ll get to the point where people have to smuggle food past government agents. This may sound absurd, but it’s already happening in Norway.

Read Full Post »

I’ve written several times about the foolish War on Drugs, which has been about as misguided and ineffective as the government’s War on Poverty.

So when I saw a news report about a couple of Swedes getting busted for smuggling 200-plus kilos of contraband into Norway, and then another story about a Russian getting caught trying to sneak 90 kilos of an illicit substance into the country, I wondered whether these were reports about cocaine or marijuana. Or perhaps heroin or crystal meth.

Hardly. Norway’s law enforcement community was protecting people from the horrible scourge of illegal butter.

Sounds absurd, but there’s been an increase in the demand for butter and high import taxes have created a huge incentive for black market butter sales. Here’s a video on this latest example of government stupidity.

I guess the moral of the story is that if you outlaw butter, only outlaws will have butter. Or perhaps butter is the gateway drug leading to whole milk consumption, red meat, salt, and other dietary sins. Surely Mayor Bloomberg will want to investigate.

By the way, the United States is not immune from foolish policies that line the pockets of criminals. Here’s a video from the Mackinac Center revealing how punitive tobacco taxes facilitate organized crime.

Read Full Post »

I don’t know if this commercial was broadcast nationally, but I saw it in northern Virginia. A very smart, anti-politician message.

The worst commercial (this is a no-brainer) was from Chrysler. Not because the advertising was bad, but because the company is mooching from the taxpayers.

Read Full Post »

I can’t believe I missed this stary from last October. The food Nazis in New York City have banned bake sales. This cripples fundraising for student groups, but that presumably is a small price to pay so that politicians get an opportunity for a few hollow sound bites about childhood obesity. Of course, if the politicians really want to do something about overweight kids, they could arrest the parents and destroy all televisions sets, video games, and computers in private homes. But maybe I shouldn’t give them any ideas. The New York Times has the odious details:

There shall be no cupcakes. No chocolate cake and no carrot cake. According to New York City’s latest regulations, not even zucchini bread makes the cut. …the Education Department has effectively banned most bake sales, the lucrative if not quite healthy fund-raising tool for generations of teams and clubs. The change is part of a new wellness policy that also limits what can be sold in vending machines and student-run stores, which use profits to help finance activities like pep rallies and proms. …Unsurprisingly, the rationale is getting a cool reception among students. At Fiorello H. La Guardia High School on the Upper West Side, students are used to having bake sales several times a month. Now, Yardain Amron, a sophomore basketball player, laments that his team will not be able to raise money for a new scoreboard. Another La Guardia student, Eli Salamon-Abrams, 14, said that when the soccer team held a bake sale in May, his blueberry muffins sold out in 15 minutes. He said of the ban: “I think it’s kind of pointless. I mean, why can’t we have bake sales?” The new policy also requires that vending machines, which generate millions of dollars for school sports, be supplied with snacks such as reduced-fat Baked Doritos and low-sugar granola bars. A new vending machine contract is expected to be approved on Wednesday by the Panel for Educational Policy, the school oversight board. Student stores will be able to sell only approved snacks bought from the new vendor, rather than obtain the food themselves, as they once did. …Department officials are suggesting that teams use walk-a-thons and similar activities as a way of raising money and doing something active.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,899 other followers

%d bloggers like this: