Sunday, June 05, 2011

Ketchup Is a Vegetable. Remember Reagan?

Way back in 1981, the Reagan administration wanted ketchup and pickles to be counted as servings of healthy vegetables in hot school lunches, not as condiments. The reason was not bad culinary appreciation but money: Schools could have cut out a helping of real vegetables in subsidized meals for low-income children and saved money for the government. The proposal remained just a proposal, mostly because nutritionists pointed out that it was a stupid proposal, costing more in the long-run in medical expenses than it saved in the short-run.

But Republicans have not stopped trying to save money in similar ways. An example:
On Tuesday, the GOP majority on the House Appropriations Committee approved a 2012 spending plan that directs the Agriculture Department to ditch the first new nutritional standards in 15 years proposed for school breakfasts and lunches. The lawmakers say meals containing more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy will cost an additional $7 billion over five years — money they say the country can ill afford in difficult economic times.
Hunter at Daily Kos has collected a bunch of these proposals together.

The proposed $830 million cuts of the WIC program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, struck me as especially short-sighted, because the program is very effective, and cruel, because it serves a vulnerable group with few alternatives. Besides, it improves the health of at-risk pregnant women. To decrease that support while preaching an anti-abortion ideology is hypocritical.

But there are other ways that those cuts would stink:
The deal struck last December to extend the tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush gave the average millionaire a tax break of $139,199 for 2011, according to the Tax Policy Center, or nearly $2,700 per week. Given that about 321,000 households reported incomes of more than $1 million in the most recent year for which there are data from the Internal Revenue Service, that means the Bush tax cuts provide millionaires with about $860 million in tax breaks every week—more than enough to stave off the $833 million in proposed cuts to WIC.