This chart by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine show how the U.S. government subsidizes an unhealthy diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidizes corn more than anything else, but the PCRM counts subsidies for the portion of the corn crop used for animal feed as a subsidy for dairy and meat.
Obesity is a big health problem in the United States. Medical experts say obesity is the main reason why life expectancy is falling in certain U.S. counties, and, if it continues to worsen, may lower overall U.S. life expectancy.
One of the reasons why obesity is getting worse—not the only one, of course—is that federal subsidies make unhealthy processed foods cheaper than healthy unprocessed foods such as fruit and vegetables. That is one of the reasons—not the only one, of course—why obesity so much more common among the poor than the affluent.
Michael Pollan, in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, described a molecular analysis of a McDonald’s restaurant meal, which revealed almost every item was partly a form of corn, including the corn-fed beef and chicken and the soft drinks and condiments with high-fructose corn syrup. The corn content was follows: Soda (100 percent corn), milk shake (78 percent), salad dressing (65 percent), chicken nuggets (56 percent), cheeseburger (52 percent) and French fries (23 percent).
Michelle Obama deserves credit for calling attention to the problem of childhood obesity. President Barack Obama would deserve greater credit if he could break with the practice of past Presidents, both Republican and Democratic, and take a stand against corn subsidies.
Opposition to corn subsidies is an issue on which principled liberals and principled conservatives should agree. The fact that their agreement does not change things shows how American politics is based on serving vested interests rather than conflicts of political principle.
Click on EWG Farm Subsidy Database 1995-2010 for the Environmental Working Group’s list of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s top crop subsidy programs.
Click on Farm Bill 2008: Who Benefits? for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s analysis of subsidies for different kinds of food production.
Click on Agricultural and Health Policies in Conflict for the PCRM’s analysis of the impact of crop subsidies on public health.
Click on How Agricultural Subsidies Are Making Us Sick for Elizabeth Kucinich’s analysis of the impact of crop subsidies on public health.
Click on the american grain for analysis by “Russell” on the Obsidian Wings web log.
Click on What Are Farm Subsidy Payments? for the Environmental Working Group’s explanation of the various Department of Agriculture crop subsidy programs.
Click on Crop Insurance Primer for more background from the EWG on crop subsidy programs.