Subsidizing Heart Disease

Last year when Domino’s pizza was experiencing falling sales, the New York Times reports that help arrived from an organization named Dairy Management. Dairy Management helped Domino’s develop a new line of a pizza with 40% more cheese. Dairy Management then designed and spent $12 million on a campaign to advertise the new line of pizzas. Sales soared as a result.

Was this a case of astute Domino’s management hiring an innovative consulting firm? Not so much. Dairy Management is a taxpayer funded arm of the United States Department of Agriculture. In other words, you paid for part of Domino’s advertising campaign. The other part of Dairy Management’s budget comes from a legally mandated fee from the dairy industry.

One slice of the newly promoted Domino’s pizza has 430 calories and 12 g of saturated fat. That is no concern of government supported shills at Dairy Management. In a trade publication last year, Dairy Management’s chief executive Thomas Gallagher wrote, “If every pizza included one more ounce of cheese, we would sell an additional 250 million pounds of cheese annually.” For his fine work in promoting heart disease and obesity, Gallagher was paid $633,475 in 2008.

According to the New York Times, among their other activities, “Dairy Management spent millions of dollars on research to support a national advertising campaign promoting the notion that people could lose weight by consuming more dairy products.”  Of course, no such benefits were found.  Dr. Neal Barnard has said, “If you want to look at why people are fat today, it’s pretty hard to identify a contributor more significant than this meteoric rise in cheese consumption.”

And why does dairy need to be promoted? The government subsidizes the dairy industry to the tune of over $1 billion a year. The subsidization results in excessive production. The excessive production then must be dumped on gullible consumers who are influenced by dairy management paid advertising campaigns such as the ubiquitous “Got Milk” campaign.

Sometimes a little example goes a long way to showing why our economic situation is seemingly intractable. Suppose a newly elected senator or congressman would introduce a bill to eliminate dairy subsidies or to stop funding Dairy Management. It is guaranteed that almost every single congressman and senator from a farm-belt state—Republican or Democrat, advocate of reduced government spending or not—would line up to oppose the bill.

Piecemeal reform cannot work when special interest groups lobby full-time for their share of your money. You can’t possibly be informed about all of the groups who are stealing and trying to steal from you.

There is only way one way out under such circumstances. Reforms would have to be comprehensive enough that many subsidies were eliminated simultaneous; then the average American would have a real incentive to be informed and hold their elected representatives to task. In other words, the bill would eliminate so many subsidies that government spending and taxes would be dramatically reduced. Until Americans are ready for such a bill, the deficit will grow while dishonest politicians, bought and paid for by industry, will shed crocodile tears about how much they care about you.

Yes, politicians care so much about you that they are willing to advocate for increased obesity, increased heart disease, and increased healthcare costs for Americans, in exchange for campaign contributions from the dairy industry.

If you had a chance to have a conversation with your congressman or senator about Dairy Management they might plead ignorance, or they might tell you why they think the subsidy is a good idea, or they might present the face of innocence: “Yes I know, but those farm-belt congressman keep opposing any reform. If it was up to me, I would end the subsidy.”

Their innocence is nonsense. There is a quid pro quo that goes on in Congress: You don’t oppose my special-interest legislation; I won’t oppose yours. That is why dairy subsidies, useless weapons systems, corn subsidies, ethanol subsidies, nuclear power subsidies, mass transportation system subsidies, and you name it subsidies are rarely scaled back. You can count on one hand the principled men and woman in Congress who consistently stand against these wasteful and harmful subsidies.

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One Response to Subsidizing Heart Disease

  1. James D. says:

    Its staggering what we find politicians (and their cronies in Big Business) willing to do with someone else’s money…I trust my elected officials to do one thing and one thing only…look out for themselves.

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