Government Food Bullies
A new Fox News poll finds that 68 percent of Americans think the government is out of control. Clearly the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) scandals contributed to the poll's findings. Americans have had the content of their prayers monitored by IRS agents and news reporters have had their private and work phone records monitored by DOJ lawyers
Do we need more bureaucratic busybodies snooping around in our personal lives? If the answer is no, then why is Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) pushing legislation that would allow states to determine what poor people should and should not eat?
The senator's amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill would have bureaucrats judging the nutritional value of food. We would be left with a food code that mimicked the tax code's complexity. The amendment requires the Secretary of Agriculture to approve state demonstration projects that limit the purchase of junk food under the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This legislation would give states permission to police what Americans purchase at the grocery store, and allow government officials to determine what is and what is not junk food.
Under the appearance of reforming SNAP, known to most Americans as food stamps, the Senator from Oklahoma wants to monitor what Americans eat and drink. Well, not all Americans (yet), but poor Americans. Should a United States Senator use the power of the state to dictate what our poorest citizens -- or any of our citizens - put in their grocery bags?
"The possibility that SNAP is contributing to some Americans' health issues is absolutely unacceptable." Coburn said in a March statement. This attitude risks nanny-state government at its worst. Using a person's potential health status as a mechanism for government intrusion will leave no American - regardless of income - safe from
the food police deciding what we can eat and what we can feed our families. Such restrictions, like a government stamp of approval for our foods and beverages, will lead to more attempts at regulation to ban or restrict certain food items as we've already seen in New York under mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"A significant portion of low-income Americans struggle with obesity, diabetes, and other health issues that result from an unhealthy diet...." the senator declared earlier this year. However, low income people aren't the only ones suffering from diet-related ailments. Senator Coburn's proposal could be well-intentioned policy run amok, but it could also be just another instance of a politician thinking he knows better. Like all Americans, SNAP recipients drink soda, enjoy candy bars, and have chips with their sandwiches. If the precedent is set that the government, on the basis of public health, has the authority to dictate the food choices of the poor, what is to stop the feds from regulating the dietary choices of all Americans? And, how will the government make such decisions? How much will it cost the American taxpayer for governments - state and federal - to codify and enforce its food standards? What foods will be put on the government's "naughty list" and how will such a "naughty list" impact the free market?
The trouble with the senator's legislation is that it undermines conservative principles at a time when America desperately needs an alternative to Obamaism and government officials trampling on our rights. Conservatives value the individual. We believe that any individual - rich or poor - has the capacity to thrive and make life better. The heart of conservatism is a profound respect for the dignity of every man and woman. Sadly, the senator's legislation targeting poor Americans belies common-sense principles, and it creates a gateway for government intrusion onto our kitchen tables.