Letters to the Editor

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OBESITY: Taxpayers subsidize poor dietary choices

Letter by Steve Breaux, Seattle on July 8, 2011 at 11:49 am with 6 Comments »
July 8, 2011 12:52 pm

Regarding the story on our national obesity epidemic (TNT, 7-7), it should be noted that a contributing factor is the degree to which our tax dollars subsidize poor dietary choices.

Over the last 15 years, $246 billion in taxpayer subsidies have helped to artificially reduce the price of unhealthy food. According to an analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture records, the top 10 percent of agricultural subsidy recipients received 74 percent of those payments, and the subsidies have disproportionately supported a handful of commodity crops led by corn and soy.

These subsidies have driven down the cost of commodity crops, including corn and soybeans, making processed foods cheap to produce and market, and making animal feedlots cheaper to maintain.

Overproduced corn is cheaply converted into sugars, leading to an explosion of various forms of corn syrup, and soy adds cheap, unhealthy fats to processed foods. Over the past 20 years, real costs for soda, sweets, fats and oils have declined, while prices for fruits and vegetables – grown with relatively little government support – have increased nearly 40 percent.

What can be done?

We’re urging Congress to establish caps on the amount of direct payments and limit the income eligibility for such payments. Taxpayers should not subsidize already profitable enterprises and certainly should not provide direct payments to landowners who no longer use the land for farming.

(Breaux is an advocate with the Washington Public Interest Research Group.)

Leave a comment Comments → 6
  1. Roncella says:

    Steve, The Federal Government went after the Smokers. They taxed and taxed smoking until a pack of cigarettes cost about 7.00 a pack.

    They took this money and used it for more social programing, all in the name of helping people live longer etc.

    Now you see folks who do still smoke standing outside of their work place or Airport or Government buildings etc. in the rain and cold having a smoke.

    Should ObamaCare actually take hold in the Country how long do you think it would take for the Government to order folks in for check-ups especially about their weight and order them to lose weight and eat only certain foods etc or pay more for their health care coverage.

    We are giving up our freedoms one by one to the Government.

    I believe it was Thomas Jefferson who said, ” A Government who can give you what you want will be powerful enough to take what you have”. The words are not exact but the thought is there.

  2. PumainTacoma says:

    The WIC program is the better model of any public food program for the poor. WIC coupons specifiy exactly what the mother should have for their child, 100% fortifide juice, milk. NO cash exchanges. Food stamp program has been abused for years. People use to buy steaks only to sell them to taverns to get cash and buy drugs. The junk people eat is just that junk. Yet these same people have iphones, new cars and expect the rest of society to pay for their unhealthy ways.

    I’d be more for helping infants and the elderly (who need it) versus anyone who is employable. If your aren’t working, and getting food stamps, then let’s put you to work to do. The roads need cleaning, the parks need work and a little work might go along way to get people to have pride again in the four letter word (WORK).

  3. A321196 says:

    Steve, I’m happy you used the term contributing factor. Just staying on the food selection issue, “Have to shop for healthy food lately?” There’s another insane conversation going on at a different letter to the editor concerning this issue-cutting food stamps. What food items can a family afford to buy? Are you in favor of providing price supports to force down the consumer prices for fruits and veggies, decent cuts of meat and poultry, fish (check out the Tacoma Boy prices). In season fish is still untouchable. Maybe the consumers need to be given packets of seeds, fish hooks and bait, and forage in the forests. I get sick and tired of the expose on television concerning food stamp abuse. Yeah, it sells papers and media time to show selling food stamp swipe cards to buy drugs. Get real people. I’d like to see you all get buy on the cash welfare grants, medicaid and food stamps.

  4. A321196 says:

    Roncella, How about those private employers who already infringe on your rights to use drugs, smoke tobacco products, consumer alcohol, get fat and sloppy, charge more for health insurance to those having vices. I know, I know your going to say fatso can always quit and indulge in unhealthy behavior- free enterprise, yadda, yadda, yadda.

  5. Roncella says:

    A321196, Your right about those employers and insurance companies who are charging more and setting their standard to their employees.

    However once the Federal Government gets its paws on everything we eat and how much we eat and what we should weigh and so on, our World will never be the same again, trust me on this.

  6. itwasntmethistime says:

    A321196 — You could not be more wrong about how much it costs to eat real food. Even though the price of beef, fruits, and vegetables have gone up, it is still a lot cheaper to eat healthy food than processed food. I know this because we do it. Our food budget is lower than what a family of 4 can get in food stamps, and we have no need for food banks or to have our children fed lunch at the park in the summer.

    I just grabbed lunch at Fred Meyer. I got an orange, a peach, and a huge bagel for $1.67. I could get a Whopper Junior for that at Burger King, but it has a lot more fat and calories and I would still be hungry.

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