Smoke, Mirrors, & Celery Sticks

Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama “joined kids from the Washington, DC area to launch the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and introduce the 2010 Council co-chairs and members.” The Council has been revamped by Mrs. Obama to have an emphasis on nutrition and being active. Michelle Obama has been working on this project for a few months, from her publicized “natural” vegetable garden, to her continued advocacy of carrot sticks over French fries. (Meanwhile, her husband continually attempts to project like a “regular guy” by going to Five Guys and Ray’s Hell Burger.)

Michelle Obama’s latest installment to make children healthy has received advocacy from groups like the SEIU. As they say, “[successful,] cost-effective child nutrition programs — school lunch and breakfast, child care and WIC, summer feeding and afterschool snacks and meals — play a critical role in helping children achieve access to quality nutrition.” Naturally, this would require more hours for their workers for programs that “must receive [critical funding] to support and improve them.” Nice how those work out, eh?

Of course, an Obama agenda that somehow benefits thuggish labor unions is typical. A real revolution to the political scene would involve less professional athletes coming to the White House and more cracking down on the Corn Lobby in the US. Michele Walk of The Politicizer offered an explanation for the obesity epidemic in the United States emerging from the 1970’s: “Nixon radically changed the way subsidies work in this country. Instead of using subsidies to support the current market price, Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz decided that subsidies should be on the supply side, encouraging farmers to produce far more corn and wheat than the market demanded – and then the government would buy the excess (usually given away as food aid). Thus consumer prices simultaneously fell through the floor while supply skyrocketed.

To deal with the increased supply, Congress conveniently came out with the highly-politicized Dietary Goals for the United States in 1977, precursor to 1984’s Food Pyramid, which, under pressure from industrial lobbies, started the government’s trend of over-emphasizing grains.

Americans were simultaneously being told to consume more processed grains as they became significantly cheaper. So it is any wonder that the junk/fast food industries – both of which heavily, if not exclusively, rely on processed grains – were the fastest-growing sector in the food industry in the second half of the 20th century, and our calorie intake increased over ten percent in 30 years?

Of course personal responsibility cannot be discounted as a cause – our health ultimately rests in our own hands. And our lifestyles are certainly more sedentary than they were a century ago. But it is undeniable that corn and wheat subsidies – over $13 billion dollars in 2008 alone – have capitalized on our evolutionary preferences for high-fat, high-sugar foods (and our rational budgetary preferences for the cheapest products available). The United States government has effectively incentivized obesity.”

As Michael Pollen explains in “In Defense of Food”, “[we’re] eating a whole lot more, at least 300 more calories a day than we consumed in 1985. What kind of calories? Nearly a quarter of these additional calories come from added sugars (and most of that in the form of high-fructose corn syrup); roughly another quarter from added fat.”

Michelle Obama should be using her Princeton degree to cut subsidies and rectify the cheap policies that promoted this mess. Instead she holds fast to the political theatrics and union appeasement that characterize this administration.

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