Guy W. Farmer: Here come the food police
I thought about how the federal government spends my tax dollars as I sent more than 20 percent of my taxable income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. As one of the 53 percent of Americans who pay federal income taxes, I feel entitled to comment on how the Feds spend my money.
My friend and fellow Foreign Service retiree Fred LaSor wrote a provocative tax column for the Appeal last Sunday, pointing out many federal employees fail to pay their taxes on time. He quoted a Los Angeles Times report revealing federal bureaucrats — including White House and congressional employees — owe more than $1 billion worth of back taxes, which is shocking. And Fred cited another study showing “Americans will spend more on taxes in 2016 than they will on food, clothing and housing combined.” So how is faraway Washington spending our tax dollars?
Of course, the Feds spend billions of tax dollars on defense and national security, which is a primary responsibility of the federal government, but they also spend our money on dubious programs that seem to go way beyond those envisioned by the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. One small but illustrative example is the millions of dollars spent by the U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) on one of First Lady Michelle Obama’s pet projects, the National School Lunch Program.
“Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1784. He was writing about a Nanny Government that tells us how to live our lives and what to eat. More recently, the Orange County (Calif.) Register opined that “student distaste for school lunches has risen to new heights since the food standards imposed by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 began being implemented.”
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), 1.4 million students have stopped participating in the school lunch program since the 2010-11 school year, a 4.5 percent drop in participation. New rules have “raised school districts’ food and labor costs, forcing many of them to cut cafeteria staff,” the GAO report added. Just another example of good intentions gone awry.
“The nutrition standards have even prompted students to develop black markets for salt, pepper and sugar,” the Register reported, quoting one disgruntled student as follows: “The First Lady (and her daughters) can have a personal chef, but I can’t have two packets of ketchup.”
The neoconservative Weekly Standard jumped into the Food Police discussion with an article by Abby Schachter, author of a relevant book, “No Child Left Alone: Getting the Government Out of Parenting,” which will be published in August. The USDA program “issues mandates and then punishes schools that don’t meet the bureaucrats’ standards,” Ms. Schachter wrote. “The problem with the mandates isn’t that the schools have trouble making the meals, but the fact that kids don’t like them very much.” Forty percent of students in a suburban Pittsburgh school district signed a petition to opt out of the school lunch program, she noted.
Meanwhile, the strife-torn but politically correct Washoe County (Reno) School District is shoving unpalatable food down children’s throats, and I hope Carson City doesn’t follow suit. What about academic excellence? Bottom line: Let’s leave parenting to the parents and keep federal food police out of our schools.
USDA is spending millions of taxpayer dollars on multiple programs in our state, including PR/tourism seminars for rural Nevadans. I willingly pay my taxes but frankly, I wish they’d leave us alone.
Like fellow columnist Fred LaSor, Guy W. Farmer has been a federal taxpayer for many years.