D.C.’s autocrats of the breakfast table

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Benjamin Domenech
Research Fellow, Heartland Institute
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      Benjamin Domenech

      Ben Domenech analyzes health policy and edits <a href="http://healthpolicy-news.org">Health Care News</a> for The Heartland Institute, a free market thinktank based in Chicago. He spent several years working and writing on national health care policy, beginning with a political appointment as speechwriter for U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, and continuing as chief speechwriter for U.S. Senator John Cornyn during the Medicare Part D debate on Capitol Hill.

      In addition to his work with Heartland, Ben serves as Editor in Chief of The City, an academic journal of faith, politics, and culture. He previously worked as a book editor for Eagle Publishing, where he edited multiple bestsellers pn politics, history, and sports. A co-founder of Redstate, a prominent conservative activist community site, he continues to write for <a href="http://www.newledger.com">The New Ledger</a>, an internet publication focused on politics, foreign policy, and the marketplace, and hosts a popular weekly podcast on the economy and marketplace issues sponsored by <a href="http://biggovernment.com/author/newledger/">BigGovernment.com</a>.

      Ben has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows, and his columns have been widely published. In 2009 he was chosen as a new media fellow by the Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution. He lives in Virginia. You can follow Ben on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/bdomenech">@bdomenech</a>.

What a great time to be a bureaucrat. Under President Obama’s leadership, they’re everywhere these days—in charge of things and with freedom of access to people’s personal information they never dreamed of having. Health care treatment records? Check. Insurance records? Of course. ATM records for average citizens, without needing a pesky subpoena? You got it.

Thanks to the president and his allies on Capitol Hill, Americans are witnessing a massive expansion of the size and power of government, giving bureaucrats more power than ever before over the way we live and the choices we make. Regulators are in your stock portfolio, your bank, your doctor’s office—soon enough, they’ll be sitting at your kitchen table.

For years, bureaucrats have been advising you to diminish the amount of salt you eat, and calling shame on you for not listening. So the nanny state is taking matters to the next level: Just this year, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pressured companies into voluntary reductions of salt, and New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) introduced a law banning “the use of salt by restaurants in the preparation of food,” with a hefty $1,000 fine.

Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is about to take this meddling to the federal level. The Carolina Journal broke the story that, at the behest of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the FDA plans to lower the recommended daily intake of sodium for individuals and mandate limits on salt levels for all packaged and restaurant foods. Christina DeWitt, a member of the IOM advisory panel, describes the bureaucratic plan as treating the American people like the frog in the boiling water: “to slowly ratchet down the sodium level, so people won’t notice the change.”

The FDA is doing this despite the fact that certain foods require high levels of sodium to be healthy to eat, particularly prepackaged meats. Salt, as the settlers could tell you, wards off contamination and food poisoning. There’s simply no way to keep country hams fresh or cure meats such as bacon without using high amounts of sodium—and that’s just what the ham-handed FDA is going after.

We’re swiftly going to be reduced to dining on imitation bacon. The bureaucrats should fear that Thomas Jefferson himself, who once wrote that he would “rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give,” will rise from the ground to lead his recommended “little rebellion, now and then.”

What makes this bureaucratic overreach even worse is that no one can even agree on whether it will help normal Americans. The FDA is planning a decade-long crackdown requiring massive enforcement, corporate costs, and ruining the taste of perfectly good food to compel Americans to lower their daily salt intake. But even those who support the decision agree it will have very little proven health benefit for the average healthy citizen. Washington is effectively applying the FDA’s dietary recommendations for older Americans and those with high blood pressure to the entire population. Who knows what unforeseen negative consequences that may bring?

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  • logic

    The absurdity never ceases to astound. The all-knowing government knows better than we do. Salt is the new enemy and of course they are looking out for our health.

    Yet, the government’s FDA has approved hundreds if not thousands, of artificial food additives and preservatives, the effects of which are largely unknown. Some are banned elsewhere in the world.

    The government subsidizes corn and soybean production to oversupply levels. It gets pumped into our fattening diets and is fed to the animals (contrary to their natural diet) we eat.

    The government has co-conspired with big agriculture to dominate corn and soybean crops with genetically modified organisms. They run small farmers out of business that don’t comply.

    But, yes, they are very concerned about our health and want to limit our salt intake for our own good.