New Hope 360 Blog

Do we really have to subsidize junk food?

Why is it that some of our societal problems persist or even get worse, despite various high-profile programs aimed at handling them?

Money is the all-purpose tool of government. Surely the answer lies therein. 

When it's feeding time in Washington, there are a lot of mouths lined up at the trough. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. Elected representatives want to keep their constituents happy, and that means cash in one form or another. Party platforms require cash in order to fulfill their visions and promises. Special interests employ dedicated teams of lawyers and lobbyists to secure their part of the federal fodder. Daily life in D.C. is pretty much a giant tug-of-war attempting to channel some of Uncle Sam’s greenbacks in one direction or another.

The game has become so vast that if there’s a federally-funded program to dig holes, you can be sure of finding another operation somewhere in the bureaucratic labyrinth that appropriates tax dollars tofill holes. Are we working against ourselves or simply making sure everybody gets at least some pie?

Here’s a less abstract example. There’s a lot of attention focused on healthcare and even the First Lady has a well-publicized program to address the youth obesity crisis. Great! Let’s get this country lean and healthy!

But while nutritionists and researchers advise cutting down on junk food in order to end the childhood obesity epidemic, federal agricultural policy is busily making the problem worse. According to a recent study by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, between 1995 and 2010 about $16.9 billion in tax dollars subsidized four common unhealthy food additives: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soy oils (which are frequently processed into hydrogenated vegetable oils).

Clearly, we need to shift from a cheap food, expensive healthcare model to quality-based farming and a healthier diet (preventive medicine at its best). If we’re all on the same page about this, don’t you think our tax dollars should incentivize moving in that direction rather than continuing to subsidize junk food ingredients?

The good news is that the buying public has more clout than all the lobbyists in the Capitol. The world is changing, and big-industry-controlled Washington continues to operate as if we were still a mass-market nation of network TVviewing conformists. Those days are vanishing at a rapid pace. Just ask any network TV exec or ad agency honcho.

Today’s consumers can research, publish and connect at the stroke of a key. That’s freedom, that’s choice and that’s power. If we want to stop funding the perpetuation of our own problems and rein in the runaway bureaucracy, we can vote with our forks and speak with our wallets.

It’s our health and our money, after all.

Ken Whitman is the president of Natural Vitality and publisher of Organic Connections.

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