Hat-tip to Jill: Jeffrey Jones at the Hoover Institute writes a weak, ideologically inconsistent screed against food stamps that rests on the idea that obesity rates are higher among low-income Americans than among high-income Americans. Jill does a pretty good job at dismantling Jones’ main point (as opposed to another, even weaker screed, where Jill completely butchers the critique), so I’ll touch on only one point.
Jones’ article’s main point is that the government shouldn’t distribute food stamps because they increase the rate of obesity. Instead, Jones says, “Every effort should be made to support nutrition education and determine the most effective ways to positively influence the diets of program participants.”
It’s possible that Jones believes that bans on advertising junk food to children, Jamie Oliver-style schemes in school cafeterias, and lawsuits against corporations that knowingly addict people to junk food are good. If he does, he’s an exceptional conservative, and his personal opinion isn’t representative of the American right.
Jill links to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that says the same thing I said a few days ago about corn subsidies, only the article has precise numbers and I don’t. It’s understandable that no politician in the US dares introduce a bill in Congress that abolishes farm subsidies; farmers are so overrepresented in government that it could never pass. Paul Krugman, the de facto leader of the opposition to Bush from 2001 to 2004, complained once about farm aid; on the right, Greg Mankiw quoted Jonah Goldberg against farm aid, but neither is even close in influence to Krugman.
Political organizations that have inconsistent views tend to have a pool of consistent writers who they let advocate their views when they are properly orthodox. Conservatives let the libertarians speak out against government regulations of the economy and then muzzle them on social policy, and then let the paleocons speak out on race and then muzzle them on economic policy and foreign policy.
Fashionable as theories of ideological consistency like Lakoff’s are, politics is much simpler to understand when you assume inconsistency. In the US it’s especially true on the Republican side, not because it’s inherently worse but because the Democrats have no ideas to begin with.
The most annoying thing about the Hoover Institute piece is that Jones lacks even the creativity to write anything useful about obesity. He can’t put forth any solution that someone else has already thought of, because any such solution has likely been thought of by a liberal. Usually paid political hacks are intelligent enough to come up with plausible-sounding plans that don’t require them to admit that the opposition might be right sometimes, but apparently Jones isn’t.