The Child Nutrition Act was designed to curb unhealthy eating and obesity. While a noble endeavor, it is neither within the federal government's constitutional purview or prerogative, nor does it provide a solution to the perceived problem. It simply creates a different set of problems.
Utah schools already face a daunting dilemma with funding. Our taxpayer-to-student ratio and vast federal ownership of Utah land significantly impact the amount of funds available to our education system. And while the former is a cultural phenomenon unlikely to change (although a federal mandate dictating the amount of children one can have doesn't seem too far off), the latter is one that can and should be remedied.
But instead of selling off federal lands to both pay down exploding debt and enable Utah to better fund its schools, Congress has opted to further exacerbate Utah's funding issues.
As one who stocked school vending machines through college, I know firsthand that vending machines are a source of revenue for schools. But Congress has not only stifled schools' ability to generate much-needed funds, it created an additional expense via fines for non-compliance. And in this case, the fine will be paid from funds that would have gone to the Davis High debate program--ironically, an institution that is probably better equipped to tackle our nation's problem than the current collection of clowns.
This legislation would be something closer to palatable if it achieved its stated goal of producing healthier kids. But it doesn't. I doubt Congress will ever figure this out, but legislating healthy choices doesn't end consumption, it only alters the market. Prohibition didn't keep people from drinking; it created a black market and changed who people purchased from. And the same thing is taking place with students. They aren't eating healthier. Students are eating off campus. They are stocking their lockers with candy and pop. Kids' waistlines aren't shrinking as a result of this legislation. School accountants are the only ones being forced to tighten their proverbial belts.
It's hardly hyperbole to suggest that this type of governance lead to the creation of these United States--a far away government imposing its arbitrary and onerous rule on its citizenry. But even King George knew better than to try and dictate citizens' diets; he just reached into people's wallets. And this legislation does both.
The distinction, some would say, is that we live in a Democracy and it is our responsibility to hold our representatives accountable. But this argument only works in theory.
I am only able to vote for or against three of the 535 members of Congress--and all of them voted "nay" on this legislation. The only member of Utah's federal delegation voting for it was, surprise surprise, Jim Matheson. To suggest I, or even Utah's collective citizenry outside Matheson's district, could alter this outrageous legislation is naive. We have no choice but to live with the federal government's we-know-better-than-you mentality.
And if the bureaucrats enforcing legislation want job security (and protecting their jobs is what Bureaucrats do best) they will crack down on schools in states where the congressional delegation already opposes the legislation--in other words, they won't risk losing votes. It also provides cover those who did vote for the bill. Because, after all, a Congressman from Boston doesn't have to worry about his votes' ramifications on Utah's schoolchildren or residents; he is not accountable to them. And the bureaucrats can continue to fund their jobs through fines without fear of instigating change.
The only purpose this legislation serves, therefore, is underscoring the importance of local control. Local governing bodies have to live amongst those they govern, and face the outrage of constituents when the hand of government becomes too heavy. In contrast, members of Congress can hide out in Washington or in states unaffected from their actions. It's a case of out of sight, out of mind.
With local governments the people are empowered. With the federal government in charge the people are more likely powerless.
But why empower citizens if Congress knows best?
After all, it's better to be fat-free than just plain old free.