Why are folks folks on government food assistance suffering from obesity? Excerpt:
Americans are getting fatter. The share of adults who are “overweight” or “obese” rose from 56 percent in the late 1980s to 70 percent today. The Centers for Disease Control says that obesity is linked to a wide range of serious health problems. The agency calls obesity an “epidemic,” and the federal government has launched many initiatives to tackle it.
Indeed, the government takes obesity so seriously that it funds a $78 billion program for people to buy any type of food they want at 250,000 retail stores nationwide. The program subsidizes 46 million people to buy items such as “soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream.”
Wait a minute. I’m confused—how will that help reduce obesity?
The program used to be called “food stamps,” but the government changed the name to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This “nutrition” program aims for people to “make healthy choices within a limited budget.” So it is bizarre that it subsidizes items like soft drinks and candy.
So, the question becomes “why does it subsidize items like soft drinks and candy?” If one suggests restricting the SNAP program to prohibit this, the frequently encountered retort is that “we can’t tell people what they can and can’t eat.” Well, my reply is this: “When they are spending my money, I damn well can.”
Being on public assistance should not be overly comfortable; it should be a trifle embarrassing. Why? Because incentives matter. The incentives should be to drive people off of these programs, not to enable them as a lifestyle. We must incentivize productivity, not sloth. I would be in favor of a food-assistance program limited to certain products – bulk rice, bulk beans, powdered milk, ground turkey and beef. No candy, no soft drinks, no prepared foods. I occasionally pick up a “take and bake” pizza from our local Papa Murphy’s, and they have a large, prominent sign: “EBT cards accepted here.” This is ridiculous. It needs to stop.
The linked article concludes: Some policymakers and health experts favor prohibiting food stamps to buy junk food. One advantage would be to reduce demand for the program, and thus reduce taxpayer costs. If policymakers decided that food stamps could only be used for items such as fresh fruits and vegetables, fewer people would use the program, which would be a good thing.
However, a better way to reform the food stamp program would be to end federal involvement altogether, and to transfer the program to state governments. Each state could then decide what level of benefits to provide, as well as decide if taxpayers should be subsidizing “soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream.”
Perhaps that second paragraph is even better. Get the Imperial government out of the system entirely. Let each state determine its own programs, and let each state be a laboratory for how to best administer these kinds of programs.
You know – Federalism. A founding principle of our Republic. Imagine that.