No-Integrity Government: The U.S.D.A.’s Two-Faced Cheese Policy

A question: How can Americans trust a government that preaches at them to eat healthily, avoid fat and lose weight, all while promoting the consumption of a food that is infamous for its saturated fat content?

Dairy Management, a cheese and dairy promoting entity under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, works with American companies to help them promote products, like Domino’s pizza, which are slathered in cheese and thus help raise the profits of U.S. dairy farmers. At the same time, the U.S.D.A. is spearheading an anti-obesity drive that cautions against eating high-calorie foods…like cheese. The New York Times has published a thorough report that tells of confidential agreements under the Bush and Obama Administration in which the U.S.D.A. pledged to push cheese consumption on the public. They must have worked, too, because cheese consumption is rising as fast as the number of potential contestants for “The Biggest Loser.” Americans now eat an average of 33 pounds of cheese a year, triple the 1970 rate. Cheese has become the public’s largest source of saturated fat; an ounce of many cheeses contains as much saturated fat as a glass of whole milk.

There is no way to read the Times story without concluding that the government is engaged in a multi-level con game in which only appearances and political pandering matter. To curry favor with the dairy industry, U.S.D.A. supports shameless disinformation campaigns to increase cheese sales, such as the infamous one urging dairy consumption as a weight-loss strategy. To appease health advocates and nanny state fans, the same agency became Michelle Obama’s messenger, singing the praises of low-fat and non-fat cheese products. The Secretary of Agriculture oversees both efforts. This is low-honesty, pro-conflict of interest, non-integrity government.

It is also inevitable, as long as a federal government that is supposed to care for the economy and the public’s health and keep itself in power by getting financial support from business and approval from citizens keeps expanding its activities into all areas of the national life, inculding mutually exclusive ones. Do not think for a second that this is the only such conflict lurking beneath the surface of Byzantine complexities of government agencies and bureaucrats.

If you wonder why those nutty Tea Party enthusiasts don’t trust the government, you need look no further than the U.S.D.A.’s two-faced stance on cheese. Or the Obama family’s, for that matter: while Michelle hectors us about eating less fat, her husband’s appointee and Cabinet member, who reports directly to the President,  supervises a well-funded effort to make sure we buy and eat more. This is a classic ethical dilemma. Does a responsible government 1) choose health over the economy, harming the dairy industry and the families that depend on it so that America will reduce its cholesterol levels? Does it 2) allow the public to gorge itself and choke its arteries in the interest of keeping the farm lobby happy and a major U.S. industry healthy? Or does it  3) do neither, letting the dairy farmers sell their own products while allowing the public to take responsibility for its own diet?

There are legitimate arguments for any of the three courses. The only clearly unethical course, because it is deceptive, cynical, venal, conflicted, irresponsible and certifiably stupid, is to simultaneously promote cheese consumption and discourage it, using the same agency to do both.

And that’s the course our government is taking! Is it rational to trust a government that does things like this, all while keeping its institutional fingers crossed that nobody discovers the embarrassing truth?

The answer should be obvious.

7 thoughts on “No-Integrity Government: The U.S.D.A.’s Two-Faced Cheese Policy

  1. Imagine a USA that doesn’t spend money on fighting itself. How much of the US deficit could be slashed out of existence if these types of counter-productive measures weren’t funded on either side?

  2. Great point. Not to mention preventing fiascos like the 9-11 intelligence mess, when the CIA, NSA and FBI were protecting turf rather than the country. At some point a system that never stops growing will become so inefficient that it strangles itself and cannot be depended upon. Why is this self-evident fact, provable by history, science, and math, ridiculed as radical and archaic? Prune government on a regular basis like you prune trees, and let it grow back healthier. Eliminate departments, agencies in the departments; pare back positions, budgets, programs. Prioritize

  3. Jack,

    Thought you might want to know that I am seeing ads on some of your posts.
    On this post there is an ad for restaurant coupons in Minneapolis.
    I only mention this because I thought you were going to pay to eliminate the ads by google feature. If I am remembering that previous post incorrectly ignore this comment.

    • Thanks, Jacob. As too often is the case, I got distracted and hadn’t finished the process of killing those ads. Spurred by your post, I just put the $30 extortion fee on my credit card, and that should soon mean that the ads stop. Please let me know if they don’t.

      I apologize for the annoyance and inconvenience, as well as the delay.

  4. Pingback: Cindy McCain Shows Us What the Absence of Integrity Looks Like « Ethics Alarms

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