I guess we could go down a legal sidetrack and brainstorm about possible rights that could be violated in the government's decisionmaking about which food you can buy on a program like Women, Infants and Children (WIC). I'm really not going to get diverted on the sub-sidetrack over the sex discrimination implied by the name of that program, but I can imagine an Equal Protection violation if the government's list of permissible foods were devised with the intent to make life more difficult for those of a particular race or ethnic group, but it would be a stretch to see the disinclusion of potatoes this way.
Michelle Obama — stressing "sound science" — calls attention to a bill in Congress that would "override science by mandating that white potatoes be included on the list of foods that women can purchase using WIC dollars." Did you know that, currently, enrollees in this feeding program couldn't use the money to buy potatoes? What's wrong with potatoes?
Now, there is nothing wrong with potatoes. The problem is that many women and children already consume enough potatoes....You've already had enough potatoes! That's written in the present tense, so: You are having enough potatoes, right now. But what about future potatoes? Apparently, enrollees are already buying enough of their own potatoes, using their own money. How does Michelle Obama know this about people? She's dedicated to "sound science," but has science established that people in WIC have enough potatoes?
I guess the point is that since people seem to like potatoes, they must be willing to shell out their own scarce money to get potatoes, and whatever they get is enough, since she thinks kids are fat. But "sound science" can't say that all kids are fat! She admits only one in 3 children is fat. She doesn't mention the kids who are skinny, and they can be picky eaters. Potatoes might be something their mom (or dad!) thinks are pretty crucial. But the age-old problem of fattening skinny kids is below the political radar and thus not part of that body of wisdom Michelle Obama calls "sound science."
Her focus is on "many women and children," and I suppose that when the government is spending its own money — the money of the taxpayers — it can decide to focus on the fat and not the skinny... though it does seem odd to have a feeding program and to regard its enrollees as overweight, but that is the situation here. When the government spends money to solve a problem, as long as it's not violating rights, it gets to say what the problem is, and — sound science or not — "The problem is that many women and children already consume enough potatoes..."
... and not enough of the nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables they need. That’s why the Institute of Medicine — the nonpartisan, scientific body that advises on the standards for WIC — has said that potatoes should not be part of the WIC program.Here, we see the popular political idea that sound science is what some set of scientists says. I haven't read the Institute's report, but that sentence doesn't say the Institute said that potatoes aren't nutritious, which would be a scientific claim that could be falsified. That sentence only says the Institute nixed potatoes for the program, which sounds like a naked political judgement.
In opposition to this judgment of scientists, Michelle Obama sets "some members of the House of Representatives" — she refrains from calling them Republicans — who are threatening to let WIC money be used to buy potatoes:
Right now, the House of Representatives is considering a bill to override science by mandating that white potatoes be included on the list of foods that women can purchase using WIC dollars.How would including potatoes on the list "override science"?! For someone preening about adherence to "sound science," how can she assert that potatoes on the list would "override science"? You know, I think I'm speaking scientifically here: You can't override science. Yeah, I know, she means the bill overrides the opinion expressed by the set of scientists whose political judgment Congress is considering overriding with its political judgment on the question of what foods parents can choose to buy with government subsidy.
Our children deserve so much better than this.I agree!
As parents, we always put our children’s interests first... And when we make decisions about our kids’ health, we rely on doctors and experts who can give us accurate information based on sound science. Our leaders in Washington should do the same.I agree, and "Our leaders in Washington" include you, and you haven't bothered to present accurate information based on sound science about the nutritional value of potatoes. You've simply said that an Institute supports your policy choice.
The linked op-ed appears in The New York Times, where the second-most-favorited comment is:
If Mrs. Obama had come out in favor of junk food, the goddamn Republicans would be in favor of fruits and vegetables. They care only about the politics of destruction. They are traitors.Science!