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Government is living off the fat of the land

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Column by Jim Flynn

Many of us wonder why there aren’t any stop buttons for federal spending, deficits, and debt. One reason is that there are thousands of government employees working diligently to preserve and expand federal programs. Coincidentally their efforts ensure tenured employment and opportunities for promotions as more employees are hired to administer their agency’s “essential services.”
In 1996, after considerable political controversy, President Clinton announced “Today we are ending welfare as we know it.” His choice of words was intentionally glib – “as we know it.”
Federal welfare didn’t end. It was transferred to state governments, which receive federal funding grants. For times like our protracted current recession, basic and necessary welfare is in better hands – close to people in temporary need of child care, financial help, and housing assistance.
Relieved of responsibility for welfare as they knew it, the federal government might have breathed a sigh of relief and closed down its assistance windows, but that’s not how things work in Washington.
With 45 members, Agriculture is one of the most popular House committees. Seems like every member of congress whose district has dirt, grass, and a few cows would like to have a seat on the Agriculture Committee. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has become a stealth welfare agency, which administers many social and subsidy programs.
A new-name agriculture program was established by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. It created funding and policy for administration of USDA’s nutrition programs: The National School Lunch Program, the National School Breakfast Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, the Summer Food Services Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
Before the Hunger-Free Kids Act was adopted, our curiosity had been drawn to first lady Michelle Obama’s White House garden, which was planted in 2009 and expanded in 2010, Her “war on obesity” was announced soon after her successful second crop. In a column at the time we wondered whether the garden was a publicity prelude to the obesity campaign.
A recent news report from the New Ulm Minnesota Journal referred to “Michelle Obama’s pet Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act,” as a commendable cause. The report said: For the first time in years the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reworked nutrition rules for school meals – fewer calories, more fruits and vegetables. At the behest of suppliers, pizza and French fries will be considered vegetables. Politics and patronage in Washington are usually accompanied by leverage.
Thus an important new federal initiative emerged from a humble beginning in the White House vegetable garden. In the Federal Register, under Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services, the Obama obesity program is titled: “Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.
With obesity, pizza, and fries in the mix, the Hunger-Free Kids Act is now an essential service which will be belching out food regulations for all reasons and seasons. No distinguishing name has been attached to the new initiative. We suggest the diligent group of nutrition administrators be referred to as The Obesity Bureau.