So, a couple of days ago it was really cold outside. In the single digits, I mean really cold. I was lying on my couch around 10:15 P.M. watching the local news. It was one of those days where you could hear the wind hollowing outside and being wrapped in a warm blanket was simply comforting. After a commercial, Kelly Eckerman, a local news anchor, came on-screen with a new story. President Obama would sign a bill requiring more strict requirements about the food served in America’s public schools. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which the President signed yesterday prevents so-called “government reimbursement money” from paying for food outside the public schools lunches.
To be more specific, public schools provide breakfast and lunches, at a low price (sometimes free) to their students. The federal government then reimburses school districts for a portion of that expense. This new law prevents that money from being used to support “a la carte items.” That would be the food you may remember being served at lines in the lunch room that didn’t include the “school lunch.” Let’s look at my own life for some perspective.
In 1994, at the tender age of 12, my 6th grade classmates and I went on a field trip. This particular trip was to Santa Fe Trail Junior High School, which we would be attending the next school year. As I recall, we went for a short presentation of what life was like leaving recess for the grueling task of a more professional student life. In other words, the life where you don’t get to go out and play kickball. The life we were to endure for the rest of compulsory public education. However, we also saw what lunch was like for budding, young teenagers. Those of us with older siblings (like myself) had already told our classmates of the wonderous pizza and french fry utopia that awaited. Everyday was a new adventure into the fast food paradise we had all dreamed of. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really that cheap. In fact, with the amount of money my parents gave me for lunch in a week, I could have gotten that pizza and french fry dream three times a week . Like any bright, intrepid, young child, I came up with a new plan. I discovered the “a la carte” line. In this mesmerizing nirvana of snack cakes, I lived and ate. Through the 9th grade Hostess Chocolate Donettes, were my lunch. By high school, I had gained the understanding that the doughnut diet wasn’t right, but the onslaught of soda and junk food was constant.
I mention all of this to illustrate the fact that consumption was ingrained in me. As I have grown older, I have gained a much better appreciation of not only good tasting food, but also nutrious food. I don’t eat at McDonald’s anymore. I would but they have destroyed the McNuggett. The real truth is that I have gained an appreciation for eating mostly nutrious food. I’m not going to stand on a pedestal and say I live a life of pure nutrition (let’s face it I’m a sucker for barbecue) but I do try. This new bill only tries to support the idea that if schools are going to provide food to children, we should also be providing the message that healthy eating is important.
For five hundred words I’ve been ranting about this because when Kelly Eckerman read this story on Sunday it included a clip of Sarah Palin talking about how she opposed it. My first thought was, “How can you be against schools giving kids healthier food?” Then I thought, “Is she just against. . . WHAT THE HELL?”
The truth is that Sarah Palin is just using a simplistic attack on anyone who could possibly be against her. Her tactics are simple. The particular merits of a piece of legislation are not important. The only thing she cares about is how can she say it is wrong. If she can say “government regulation” or “Obama is forcing,” whatever, she will. Shew knows that the issue of government being to involved in our lives strikes a chord with many Americans. So when President Obama restricts the kinds of food in public schools, she can say that “government is regulating what our kids can eat.” She just wants to make sure that you think the government is intruding on your life. It isn’t. Government is only restricting the food provided to your children on their money. Or to be more accurate, your money. It is tax dollars that pay for this after all. This bill isn’t regulating what we allow our kids to eat, it’s regulating what the government gives them to eat. If parents want to send their kids to school with Hershey’s Bars and butter, fine. The school, however, might only provide a piece of chicken and a salad.
The simple fact is that government action is not always wrong. I’m tired of the argument that government is evil. Sarah Palin doesn’t care about any of that though. What she cares about is making “big, scary, government” the bad guy. To paraprhase President Andrew Shepard in The American President, ” she is interested in two things and two things only. Making you and afraid of it and telling who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen is how you win elections.”
I’m not totally sold that Palin’s objective is to win an election. At least for herself, but I do optimistically believe that her “Just Say No to Government” approach to any policy won’t work. If she chooses to believe that government is always wrong, it won’t be surprising. But, she will increasingly find herself on the fringe of politics; which is the most generous place that she belongs.