So, on NPR this morning, they had a long story about new USDA standards for student lunches:
Less salt and fat. More whole grains, fruit, veggies and low-fat dairy. This is what kids can expect in the school lunchroom soon, according to new nutrition standards for school meals announced today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and first lady Michelle Obama.
The price tag on the changes? $3.2 billion over the next five years, the agency says. But schools will get some help with those costs from the government — included in the package announced today is an increase of 6 cents per meal in reimbursement funds for schools. This is the first increase in reimbursement funds in 30 years.
Look, this sort of thing does more to promote right-wing, anti-government rhetoric than anything else. Does school lunch menus really need to be controlled from Washington? I’d say no. Sure, mandate educational standards so that local school boards controlled by loons can’t just teach their idiosyncratic beliefs, but come on, let the parents and local boards figure out what to serve in cafetarias. Instead, this sort of thing just feeds into the rhetoric that Washington wants to control everything.
Other examples are low-flow toilets and light-bulbs. If there are negative externalities to the use of those things just tax ‘em. Then people who really want powerful toilets and energy inefficient lights can still have them, while the rest of us respond to market incentives and become greener as a matter of choice rather than mandate. The enforcement costs on that, btw, would be dramatically less, and the surtax on inefficient items would actually increase government revenue.
The problem is that when the government does too much, it ends up delegitimizing those things that it actually ought to be doing. And, in general, I really don’t think liberals are sensitive enough to this dynamic. Pick your fights. Focus on the big issues. Let stuff like school menus remain a local concern. Frankly, better to have school boards spending their time debating chocolate milk rather than mucking around in textbook content.