Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. — C.S. Lewis
America is finally catching on. For nearly two years, I’ve chronicled food profiteer-turned-food cop Michelle Obama’s obese and obscene power grab masquerading as a public health crusade. She quickly leveraged her hubby’s U.S. Senate victory to snag a lucrative seat on the corporate Board of Directors of TreeHouse Foods, Inc. despite having zero experience in the industry, publicly begrudged other Americans’ choices in how they earn their money — and then parlayed her East Wing power to push Obamacare, threaten food advertisers’ speech and serve the SEIU’s legislative agenda (full story on this in Culture of Corruption). Mrs. O even played the childhood obesity card to try and win the Chicago crony-lympics bid.
My column today dissects how the Obama corruptocrats are misusing science to mask their grand social engineering aims. To mark the one-year anniversary of her “Let’s Move!” drive, Mrs. O is harnessing every major health bureaucracy in the federal government along with the FDA, USDA, FTC and FCC to expand the East Wing’s reach into the personal health choices of American families. Most disturbing this week: Bending the IRS code to confer preferential tax treatment on breast-pumping working mothers over stay-at-home nursing moms who don’t use pumps and other moms who for whatever reason have freely opted not to breast-feed their babies. Like me, economist mom Diane Lim Rogers breast-fed her kids, but sees the slippery-slope peril in politicizing the process for deciding what constitutes a deductible medical expense:
I happen to agree with breast-feeding advocates that breast feeding is a good practice…I happen to have breast fed all of my own (four) babies (not all at once of course), and I am one of those working moms who needed a good breast pump to use when I returned to work and decided it was worth paying a lot of money for this good “investment.”…But a breast pump is not a health-related expense, as it’s not necessary in order to treat a medical condition or ailment. It’s a work-related expense that happens to promote or be consistent with a healthy activity. For the vast majority of women without severe obstacles to breast feeding the natural way (direct from the source!), breast pumps are not necessary in order to breast feed one’s baby unless and until mom goes back to the office and can’t have baby with her.
…If breast pumps were to be given tax-preferred treatment as a health-care expense just because it’s a piece of equipment that makes it easier to engage in a healthy activity, I’d say it would be hard to draw the line. That would be equivalent to not just allowing the cost of (health-enhancing) yoga classes to be deductible as a health-related expense from taxable income, but allowing the cost of one’s yoga mat, props, and maybe even cute yoga clothes to receive tax exemption, too.
Oh, and watch out, world: The First Lady Food Cop is going global.
The First Lady of Junk Science
by Michelle Malkin
While her husband may have paid lip service to ending the abuse of science for “politics or ideology,” first lady Michelle Obama gave herself a super-sized waiver. Two of her showcase social engineering campaigns — tax preferences for breast-pumping working mothers and expanded nutrition labels — are based on distorting or dismissing the prevailing public health literature.
Just as the White House costumed Obamacare activists in white lab coats, the fashionable Mrs. O has cloaked her meddling anti-obesity crusade in medical fakery.
Over the past year, the first lady has marshaled a taxpayer-subsidized army of government lawyers, bureaucrats and consultants against the “national security threat” of childhood obesity. She has transformed the East Wing of the White House into Big Nanny’s new Central Command headquarters. The biggest threats to Mrs. Obama’s 70-point plan for national fitness: parental authority and sound science.
As part of her “Let’s Move!” anniversary celebration this week, Mrs. Obama rolled out a new breastfeeding initiative because “kids who are breastfed longer have a lower tendency to be obese.” She made her assertion to an invitation-only group of handpicked reporters who were barred from asking questions about her scientific conclusions. It’s not healthy to challenge Super Nanny, you see.
After the Internal Revenue Service carefully studied and rejected an advocacy push to treat nursing equipment as a tax-deductible medical expense last fall, the tax agency suddenly reversed itself in time for the first lady’s new public relations tour. The surgeon general has also issued a “Call to Action” to pressure private businesses to adopt more nursing-friendly environments to combat childhood obesity, all while denying that government is intruding on personal decisions. “No mother should be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed,” Surgeon General Regina Benjamin asserted, while laying an unmistakable guilt trip on moms and moms-to-be.
So, what do studies on breastfeeding and babies’ weight actually say? Rebecca Goldin, Ph.D., research director of George Mason University’s Statistical Assessment Service, points out that the literature is inconclusive or demonstrates that the health advantages of bosom over bottle are short-lived:
“Indeed, there is little evidence that using formula causes obesity. There is a correlation between formula use and obesity among babies and children … though this correlation is not consistent in all studies. Some of these studies show a relationship in only some demographics and not others. Others show that the disadvantage of bottle-feeding and/or formula mostly goes away by the time a child is about 4 years old.
“The result is that we cannot discover whether breastfeeding is correlated with obesity because infant formula or bottle feeding leads to subsequent overeating or disposition to being overweight, or whether those parents who breastfeed are also more likely to offer their children green beans instead of French fries. Despite weak evidence, there is a lingering conviction that formula causes obesity among pediatricians and the press; if anything, the study about infants should make us reflect more carefully on this conclusion.”
Alas, such nuance from Mrs. Obama and her unquestioning media water-carriers is scarcer than tofu at Taco Bell.
Don’t get me wrong. As a proud mom who breastfed both of her babies, I’ve been and will always be a vocal defender of women who have devoted the time, dedication and selflessness it takes. But there are myriad individual reasons beyond Mrs. O’s expansive goal of battling the collective scourge of childhood obesity — intimate bonding and health benefits for the mom, not just the baby, for example — that lead women to nurse.
And we don’t need Big Brother or Big Mother to lead the Charge of the Big Bosom to persuade us of the personal benefits. Many private hospitals and companies have already adopted nursing-friendly environments. If it’s as good for their bottom lines as it is for babies’ bottoms, they don’t need a government mandate to do the right thing.
But as I’ve noted many times over the past year, Mrs. O’s real interest isn’t in nurturing nursing moms or slimming down kids’ waistlines. It’s in boosting government and public union payrolls, along with beefing up FCC and FTC regulators’ duties.
Take another East Wing pet project: leaning on private businesses to print expanded front-package nutrition labels warning consumers about salt, fat and sugar. The first lady’s anti-fat brigade assumes as an article of faith that her top-down designer food labels will encourage healthier eating habits. It’s a “no-brainer,” Mrs. Obama insists.
However, the latest study on this very subject — funded by no less than the left-wing Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — confirms other recent research contradicting the East Wing push. A team led by Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School’s Eric Finkelstein, published in the peer-reviewed American Journal for Preventive Medicine, found that mandatory menu-labeling in Seattle restaurants did not affect consumers’ calorie consumption. “Given the results of prior studies, we had expected the results to be small,” the researchers reported, “but we were surprised that we could not detect even the slightest hint of changes in purchasing behavior as a result of the legislation.”
Will the first lady and her food cops be chastened by the science that undermines their spin? Fat chance.