Thursday, 18 November 2010

NYT had it right, Daily Yonder wrong

The Daily Yonder thinks the earlier New York Times article about checkoff promotions is mistaken. Here is my comment on the Daily Yonder site:
This post understates the federal government role in the checkoff promotions, such as the Dominoes cheese pizza campaign.

The federal government established the dairy checkoff program, the Secretary of Agriculture appoints the board members from a slate of candidates proposed by the industry, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service must approve every promotion campaign in writing, and the federal government uses its power of taxation to enforce the collection of the funds that sponsor these campaigns. If a cheese producer fails to pay, the U.S. Department of Justice takes them to court.

Your post says, "Industry Group Uses Its Own Funds To Promote Its Products." That is incorrect. A minority of producers -- especially those who produce a distinctive product and benefit little from general commodity advertising -- object to these checkoff assessments. It is not they themselves who decided to pay, and it is not an "industry group" making them pay, it is the federal government making them pay.

When dissident producers took the checkoff programs to court, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the checkoff programs, only because the federal government attorney convinced the justices that these programs are from top to bottom federal government programs, and their every message has official status as "government speech."

Other products sponsored by these checkoff campaigns: McDonald's McRib, Quiznos Steakhouse Beef Dip sandwich, Wendy's Bacon Cheesburger, and Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Three Cheese Pizza. The checkoff programs encourage us to eat more beef, more pork, and more cheese all at the same time.

This blog post is full of misdirection -- saying the checkoff programs are not using "your tax money." This is like telling me that the government is not using "my tax money" for the war in Iraq or welfare checks or whatever you object to -- sure, the government is collecting the tax that funds those activities but they can reassure you that your particular tax payment was not the actual dollars used. Who cares which tax dollars were used for which purpose? If the federal government collected the tax, and the purpose is bad, we have a right to object.

Congress should either: (a) stop having the federal government enforce the checkoff assessments, or (b) expect that the checkoff messages serve our public health goals at a time when health care costs are threatening to bankrupt the government.

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