Well, geez, I hope you can live with yourself, being responsible, as you are, for helping make America a nation of fatties.
I haven't watched ABC News since the days of Howard K. Smith, Frank Reynolds, and Harry Reasoner, and it's been years since I've seen anything by their anchorman Peter Jennings. I accidentally stumbled across a promo for his Dec. 8 special, “How to Get Fat Without Really Trying,” which had references to evil farm subsidies, so I tuned in for the hour-long program.
Two-thirds of the people in the U.S. are overweight, the intro noted, accompanied by shots of grossly obese people waddling around, bellies jiggling. “The food industry is at fault,” Jennings proclaimed, for encouraging everyone to eat junk food. Government policies, he said, encourage overeating, “from the beginning of the food chain to the end,” and “the processed food industry and government know full well what is happening, and are making a bad situation even worse.”
After a couple of cursory acknowledgments that Americans spend less of their disposable income for food than any country on the globe because farmers are so efficient and that the U.S. agricultural system is the envy of the world, Jennings went on to declare, with the help of a couple of interviewees, that there is a connection between farm subsidies and obesity.
Tom Stenzel, United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association: “We don't look at how agricultural policy can help improve public health. It's strictly about subsidies… How do you undo government policy that has not been focused on health and nutrition, but… on subsidizing farmers?”
Michael Jacobson, Center for Science and the Public Interest: “Congress and the administration are handing out these subsidies without knowing what is the ultimate impact on the American public.”
Jennings got in a couple of licks against corn (“the most heavily subsidized crop”), used primarily for animal feed (“beef cattle were never intended to eat corn, so they have to be given all sorts of antibiotics”).
But the pièce de résistance was this: “If you want to see more directly how farm subsidies can lead to obesity, there's no better place than your local theater.” Popcorn is subsidized, he said (“the bag it comes in costs more than the corn”), the oil it's cooked in is subsidized, there's subsidized high fructose corn syrup in the sodas and pretzels and even hotdogs.
Oh, but wait until you hear about those awful soybeans. “Most of the soy people eat is not in the healthy form, soy protein, but in the form of oil… and margarine,” he said. “Soybean oil is the largest source of added fat in Americans' diets.”
Highly processed, sugary, fatty foods are being aggressively marketed ($34 billion yearly, including ads on ABC-TV) by giant corporations, the program's concluding segment noted. Particularly heavy-handed is the marketing of these products to children, setting them up for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes.
We're a junk food nation, no doubt about it. We eat too much, exercise too little. And that's the crux of the problem — personal choice — not government farm programs.