Category Archives: The Welfare State

Carrying A Few Extra Around The Gut Area? Blame Congress!

Adam Drewnowski, a researcher at the University of Washington, had a question. Why is it that America works opposite of the rest of the world, where the rich are generally thin, and the poor are generally not so. So he decided to take a look:

Drewnowski gave himself a hypothetical dollar to spend, using it to purchase as many calories as he possibly could. He discovered that he could buy the most calories per dollar in the middle aisles of the supermarket, among the towering canyons of processed food and soft drink. (In the typical American supermarket, the fresh foods — dairy, meat, fish and produce — line the perimeter walls, while the imperishable packaged goods dominate the center.) Drewnowski found that a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of cookies or potato chips but only 250 calories of carrots. Looking for something to wash down those chips, he discovered that his dollar bought 875 calories of soda but only 170 calories of orange juice.

It’s been widely remarked that you don’t see a lot of poor people on the Atkins Diet. I had used that for a while, and in the span of a couple of months, dropped from 260 lbs to roughly my ideal weight, the low 220’s. But it’s not cheap. You’re eating decent quantities of fish, meat, fresh vegetables, etc. (Thankfully I’m blessed with genetically low cholesterol, so I never had to worry about that aspect). Think about it… You get a salmon filet and some nice broccoli with cheese sauce, a nice bottle of wine, and you’ll probably spend $5-10 per plate (more, depending on the wine). Feed a couple of people, and you’re out $20 or more. Hell, the last time I bought salmon and asparagus for myself I spent close to $20, because I went to the high-end grocer. You serve tortilla chips and a frozen pizza, with Coke to drink, you can feed the same number of people for $8. And who’s going to get a more healthful meal?

Of course, to some extent these things may never change, as there are certain laws of supply and demand, and corn syrup is cheap. But it’s still quite important to ask why, and whether this is something that’s naturally or artificially occurring. Is corn syrup artificially cheap? They say that high-fructose corn syrup is one of the worst things you can usually put into your body. Sugar is bad, but that corn syrup is horrible. Yet it, and a lot of other nasty multi-syllabic chemicals are found in all those foods in the center aisles of the grocery store. Why is that? Well, look no farther than our imperial federal government, and the corporate welfare state, in the guise of farm bills:

For the answer, you need look no farther than the farm bill. This resolutely unglamorous and head-hurtingly complicated piece of legislation, which comes around roughly every five years and is about to do so again, sets the rules for the American food system — indeed, to a considerable extent, for the world’s food system. Among other things, it determines which crops will be subsidized and which will not, and in the case of the carrot and the Twinkie, the farm bill as currently written offers a lot more support to the cake than to the root. Like most processed foods, the Twinkie is basically a clever arrangement of carbohydrates and fats teased out of corn, soybeans and wheat — three of the five commodity crops that the farm bill supports, to the tune of some $25 billion a year. (Rice and cotton are the others.) For the last several decades — indeed, for about as long as the American waistline has been ballooning — U.S. agricultural policy has been designed in such a way as to promote the overproduction of these five commodities, especially corn and soy.

That’s because the current farm bill helps commodity farmers by cutting them a check based on how many bushels they can grow, rather than, say, by supporting prices and limiting production, as farm bills once did. The result? A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce. A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow.

The author, Michael Pollan, goes on to lament some of the other nasty consequences of the farm bill, such as it creating such low corn prices that we’ve destroyed Mexico’s indigenous corn farming industry, which leads to northward immigration. Not to mention that having them rely on us for corn production has caused the tortilla price increases that I’ve mentioned here, because our new government intervention forces us to use our corn for ethanol, again increasing the price. (Note that I’m not missing the blind spot here. Increased corn prices due to the ethanol mandate will increase corn syrup prices, which will then make the food those poor Americans eat, the stuff that’s high in corn syrup, more expensive).

But go back to the original point. Our farm subsidies are designed such that they make unhealthy food options artificially cheap. Then, we tax sugar imports. Now, sugar isn’t the most healthy thing we can ingest, but it’s much better than corn syrup. But our government’s policies are making the incredibly unhealthy option cheap, artificially inflating the cost of the bad-but-not-horrible imported option, and the non-subsidized healthy options are expensive. It’s so far out of whack that to say it’s nonsensical is doing an injustice to good, honest nonsense.

If you think the government really wants you to be healthier, ask them why they don’t repeal farm subsidies? Maybe you’ll realize that they don’t have your best interests at heart, they’re looking to reward the people who get them elected. Farmers have more lobbying money than the health nuts, so they get their goods and— as usual— poor people get screwed.

Hat Tip: Reason

Welfare For Harems

In England, polygamous husbands can claim extra state benefits for their harem, even though bigamy is illegal:

Polygamous husbands settling in Britain with multiple wives can claim extra benefits for their “harems” even though bigamy is a crime in the UK, it has emerged.

Opposition MPs are demanding an urgent change in the law, claiming that the Government is recognising and rewarding a custom which has no legal status and which is “alien” to this country’s cultural traditions.

Officials said yesterday a review was now under way into whether the state should continue to pay out income support, jobseeker’s allowance and housing and council tax benefits to ‘extra’ spouses.

Islamic law allows a man to take up to four wives, providing he can provide for them fairly and equally. But British law only ever recognises one spouse, while bigamy is punishable by up to seven years in jail.

However, if a husband and his wives arrive and settle in Britain having wed in a country where polygamy is legal, then the UK benefits system recognises his extra wives as dependents and pays them accordingly.

Now, personally, I don’t care if a man has one wife, twenty wives, or no wives. As long as it’s a consensual relationship, it’s none of my business. There is, though, a certain level of absurdity in the idea that a polygamist can claim extra benefits for his additional wives even when the practice itself is illegal.

People Who Enjoy Paying Taxes?!

Really? Really?! I mean really, are you kidding me?

I just paid my taxes, and I have to say, I always take pride when I do so. I don’t like having less money to spend, of course, and the complexity of the process is really upsetting. But I am proud to pay for democracy, and I feel when I do send money to the DC Treasurer and the US Treasury that that is what I am doing. The right-wing likes to pretend as if taxes are a burden instead of the price of democracy. And I suppose, if you hate democracy, as the right-wing does, then taxes are the price for paying for something you really don’t want. Personally, I find banking fees, high cable and internet charges, health care costs, and credit card hidden charges much more abrasive than taxes, because with those I’m just being ripped off to pay for someone’s summer home.

You like it that much, huh? Want to pay mine? If you love democracy that much, you should certainly give it extra voluntary contributions, to offset those of us who don’t love democracy.

Yep… You heard me. I don’t love democracy. Democracy is a horrible form of government. Democracy has its place, but unless you restrain its scope, you’re looking for trouble. Of course, I don’t expect Mr. Stoller to understand that. After all, he’s interested in socialism, not liberty. And if you’re interested in socialism, democracy is a wonderful tool to chain those above you on the economic ladder into the machine. Democracy is an incredibly effective tool of authoritarians, and socialism cannot exist without authoritarianism.

But I’m not interested in socialism, I’m interested in liberty. I like democracy when compared to, say, monarchy or oligarchy, as a method to decide who will control a tightly constitutionally-limited government. But the key isn’t democracy, the key is limited government. Because when government grows, liberty shrinks. I don’t ask much from government, only to leave me the hell alone. And when they’re taking 50% of my income, that’s not leaving me alone.

But I have another question for Mr. Stoller… Are you getting your money’s worth?

I am proud to pay taxes because I take pride in America, and paying some tiny burden to keep our society running is an extremely small price to pay for being able to call myself an American citizen. The old expression ‘you get what you pay for’ is apt for all sorts of situations.

Now, if you’re paying a “tiny burden”, you’re poor and probably getting a pretty good deal. Government is probably giving you a good deal of “stuff” in order for your “tiny” burden. But, as we pointed out here, many of us aren’t getting what we pay for. After all, my burden isn’t “tiny”. I’m getting screwed, and you’re telling me to lie back with a smile and enjoy it. The only way I could be getting what I pay for from “our” government is if I were a masochist, but I’m not one to willingly pay for pain.

When the penalty for not paying is a stint in a jail cell, government doesn’t have to give you services commensurate with your contribution. They don’t have to give you what you pay for. Because if you don’t pay, they put the screws to you. It’s called extortion and theft, and the only reason I still pay taxes is because I’d rather be a slave for 50% of my time than in a cage for 100%.

Hat Tip: QandO

Is The Fight Against Big Government Doomed ?

It certainly seems like it might be when you read stuff like this:

Slightly over half of all Americans – 52.6 percent – now receive significant income from government programs, according to an analysis by Gary Shilling, an economist in Springfield, N.J. That’s up from 49.4 percent in 2000 and far above the 28.3 percent of Americans in 1950. If the trend continues, the percentage could rise within ten years to pass 55 percent, where it stood in 1980 on the eve of President’s Reagan’s move to scale back the size of government.

That two-decade shrink-the-government trend now appears over, if for no other reason than demographics. The aging baby-boomer generation is poised to receive big payments from Social Security and government healthcare programs.

“New Deal programs persist,” despite the Reagan revolution and its aftermath, says James Galbraith, an economist at the University of Texas in Austin. “They persist because they are largely successful and highly popular.”

Mr. Shilling’s analysis found that about 1 in 5 Americans hold a government job or a job reliant on federal spending. A similar number receive Social Security or a government pension. About 19 million others get food stamps, 2 million get subsidized housing, and 5 million get education grants. For all these categories, Mr. Shilling counted dependents as well as the direct recipients of government income.

Thanks to these New Deal programs and the programs that followed during Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the Welfare State has a permanent constituency supporting made up of the people who receive the benefits and the workers who administer the program. Logically, neither group is going to vote against a candidate that seeks to maintain the status quo or expand it, or for one who wishes to shrink the government.

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