**This was originally published on Porcupine Musings.**
This past Thursday regulators overseeing the US school lunch program graciously decided to “permanently” ease restrictions added to the
school lunch program only 4 years ago. The changes initiated in 2010 were a part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was crafted with the laudable goal of solving childhood obesity. Fat and salt were cut, fruits and vegetables increased, portion sizes and overall calories reduced. Clearly this singular approach from a singular agency imposed upon an entire nation was destined to succeed because if history has taught us anything, it is that humans always solve a problem upon the first attempt and that monopolistic one-size-fits-all solutions are an ideal mechanism for societal improvement.
But our wise overlords were thwarted in their attempts at showing us peons how to feed our kids. Rebellious local school systems bristled at the new rules; they were vociferous in their objections but ultimately powerless to ignore the rules. Failure to obey would have resulted in a loss of all of their school lunch funding. Federalization of our local school systems via monetary assistance has transformed these systems into the dependent servants of the federal state we see today. Federalization was meant to help, but just as a young bird who is “helped” in its hatching process will be weaker, so too have the school systems grown weak and dependent. Once one accepts the help of the state it is all too easy to become dependent upon it. Once dependency weakens you, it is difficult to find the strength to object to the hand that feeds you. The lion tamer subdues his charge not with the stick but with the carrot of dependency (notice how quickly the lion is fed after each trick). Fortunately our overlords at the U.S. Department of Agriculture deigned to listen to the peasants and in their sole discretion (which could change at any moment) have decided to let a little slack upon the reigns… for now.
However what is interesting here is not so much this federalized flailing over the school lunch program but rather the fact that the federal government can’t even implement this one simple program (feed children a healthy diet) without controversy. Yet we are supposed to accept credulously that this same federal government can manage something an order of magnitude more complicated (healthcare) and all will be fine. Move along, nothing to see here.
The failure of these new school lunch mandates is a visceral metaphor for the failure of Obamacare. The pattern is the same. Both Obamacare and the HHFKA are predicated upon a naive understanding of a problem which results in misdiagnosis and an ineffective solution. The putative goal of the changes to the school lunch program was to “cure” childhood obesity. Because, you know, if kids are known for anything it is for their love of the school lunch! Clearly overeating at schools is the proximate cause for childhood obesity. Likewise those foisting Obamacare upon this country labor under the delusion that health care costs are high not because of decades of government interference in the health care market, but rather because the uninsured are unfairly driving costs up by not paying premiums and then getting “free” care at emergency rooms (which I must point out, this latter scenario has been shown to add only 2% to total health care spending in this country (as reported by the left leaning Urban Institute in a 2008 study)).
When the top down approach of these mandates is foisted upon an unwilling public how do those in charge respond when the serfs don’t take too kindly to it? The same in both cases: a temporary and discretionary choice to ignore the law (at least while it is politically expedient to do so). With such actions we slide invariably toward a country run by the rule of men, not the rule of law, where it is the individual in charge that decides upon whim how we may live our lives. If the law is bad then repeal it, but these half-hearted “temporary” suspensions of enforcement are the acts of a cowardly and tyrannical government.