Wednesday, December 5, 2007

National Grocery Reform

Richard Ralston of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine has written this satirical OpEd on health care reform:
National Grocery Reform
By Richard E. Ralston
November 9, 2007

One of the great scandals of our age is the fact that America spends more on food than any other nation. Many political leaders are now calling for urgent reform to bring spending on food under control. Even worse, while the result of this uncontrolled spending includes the fact that many Americans are overweight, some Americans do not have enough to eat.

Leading liberal candidates now point to what they see as the heart of the problem: corporate "greed" in the form of grocery stores and restaurants operating on a for-profit basis. They promise to replace all private grocery stores with a national system of government commissaries, which will allegedly operate far more efficiently without the administrative overhead required to make a profit. As it will take some time to organize the national network of commissaries, initially groceries will be available only at offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles and U.S. Postal Service. These offices apparently have a proven track record of operational efficiency and excellent customer service, and will be a model for the development of a government commissary system.

Liberals would achieve further efficiencies, so they claim, by prohibiting all advertising of food and food products. This wasteful expense to provide consumers with unnecessary information has proven to be just a way for food stores and manufacturers to inflate prices and fatten business profits. Consumers will find shopping to be much easier if personal preference is eliminated in favor of whatever foods government makes available.

To achieve savings by eliminating the profits of food manufacturers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will assume ownership of all of these firms, purchase all crops from farmers (until such time as agriculture can be reorganized into government operations) and manufacture an appropriate amount of food.

In spite of the efficiencies and cost reductions that government management will achieve, there is some concern that food might not be affordable for everyone. And food is surely a “right,” as it is necessary for human survival. Therefore all groceries made available in government commissaries will be free of charge. This will be financed by an increase of 15 percent in income taxes, except for those making over $80,000 a year, whose taxes will be increased by 75 percent. Because the supply of food is not unlimited, a fixed amount of ration coupons will be distributed to insure that each consumer can obtain an equal amount of food.

All private restaurants will be closed because of the need to equalize availability of food, and limited cafeterias will be operated in the government commissaries. Liberal political candidates point to the excellent example of school lunch programs as a model, and the proven results demonstrated by several generations of well-nourished, trim and fit students.

So far, conservative leaders are at a loss after hearing these proposals. Some of the more courageous conservatives are responding with proposals for Mandatory Food Purchasing. All citizens, including those who go to bed hungry every night, will be required to purchase membership in new Food Management Organizations. Private grocery stores and restaurants would still be permitted but under strict price controls to insure that all consumers can afford their FMO memberships. To further control costs, the purchase of certain cuts of meat and imported gourmet foods could require the FMO’s advance approval.

Across the political spectrum, there is a developing consensus that the only appropriate response to the fact that some consumers cannot afford groceries is to impose a single, regimented, government-controlled food system on all citizens. Advocates point to public education as an example of how forcing all but the children of the most wealthy citizens into the gray, sterile desert of a poorly performing public education system is the only way to insure that poor children receive any education at all.

Rumor has it that the clincher for those proposing socialized grocery plans was stated recently by one of the presidential candidates: "The ideal thing about these proposals is that if we can somehow get this to work for groceries, we can apply it to health care."

Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.