Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Politics of Nutrition

Here it is, my first official correction.  On May 28th in my post titled “I Aimed For The Public's Heart, And. . .Hit It In The Stomach” in reference to the nutritional standards legislation and the science that supports it, I stated that “I am frustrated with the science here because it makes for, at best, mediocre politics.”

According to the poll announced here by the Horizon Foundation, apparently it makes for pretty good politics.  OK that’s not really a correction but whatever I stand by my statement.  Both of them.

A lot of people disregard polls, usually saying something like “you can get a majority of people to agree to anything if you frame the question right.”  Mildly good point, imaginary curmudgeon.  Additional skepticism could be raised because the Horizon Foundation commissioned the poll here.  Well, these are concerns easily assuaged as the actual text of the questions asked can be found here.  These are the three questions relevant to this exercise:

Assess three specific components of the legislation, indicating whether you feel it is a “good idea or a bad idea.”

1)        This law would require all vending machines on County property like parks, libraries, and recreation centers to provide at least 75% healthier food and drink options. 25% of the offerings would be less healthy, like regular soda, chips, and candy bars.

2)        This law would require the County to offer or sell only healthier food and drinks to children during programs when their parents are not present.

3)        This law would exempt special events like the 4th of July and Wine in the Woods from its requirements, and would also exempt non-profits like booster clubs who want to sell food and drink on County property.

The results were resounding with 68% thinking components one and two were good ideas and 78% thinking component three was a good idea.  So, it turns out that this is only, at best, mediocre politics if you put forth straw man arguments based on preconceived notions of what this legislation does rather than the reality of what it does.  I worked this sentence over and over before I ended up here and I am not totally happy with it.  However, I think to make it clearer I would have to list and debunk the most egregious of the straw man arguments.  After deliberating I decided that was a bad idea because every time one repeats an argument, even if to debunk it, the argument gains a hold in people’s minds.  (Think weapons of mass destruction or was Obama born in America?)  So, I decided the only thing you would read in this post is what the bill ACTUALLY does.

Here is my biggest annoyance.  Setting up straw men like that, playing political games, scare tactics, and obfuscating the facts just to further an agenda.  In my book there is a phrase to describe this type of “policy making”.  Washington style politics.

1 comment:

  1. It would be better if people actually talked about the bill as actually drafted. Many of Executive Kittleman's veto objections are contrary to fact. Fact: existing County vending machine policy and contracts have healthy option requirements. Fact: does not affect employee free choice. On the other hand, the bill has many drafting flaws and unintended consequences. Read more at