It would make a terrific experiment to do a poll about a proposal by a Texas lawmaker.
Pollsters could ask the question without mentioning whether the proposal comes from a Republican or Democrat.
A little background:
There has been a push by Democrats in recent years to make people stop doing (some) things that are bad for them. They pushed the anti-smoking laws (thankfully, in my view), and have pushed taxes on soft drinks and other junk food. Republicans accuse them of micromanaging people’s lives.
Republicans, for many years, have worked to lower the amount of money spent on social welfare programs. Democrats accuse them of being mean to the poor.
Now we have this idea out of Texas to eliminate junk food such as soda and chips from the list of things one can buy under the Supplemental Nutrition A ssistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program.
It would not cut the amount of money to the recipient but would add junk food to the list of forbidden items, along with tobacco and booze.
So which is it, nanny state meddling or coldhearted conservatism?
My prediction: If pollsters told respondents it was a Republican bill, Republicans would say, “Yes, why should the taxpayers have to pay for junk food? It should be nutritional foods, just like the name of the program implies.”
Democrats would be appalled – “How dare the government tell people what they can buy? They are suffering enough being poor; let them enjoy a soda if they want.”
If the pollsters told respondents it was a Democratic bill, Democrats would like it. “Soda leads to increased rates of diabetes and obesity, and chips have no nutritional value, either. This will incentivize the poor to have healthier eating habits.”
Republicans would say, “Stop trying to control everything! What they really need to do is cut the amounts and save taxpayers money.”
Am I too cynical in thinking that many Americans would not judge the proposal on its merits but rather on whose idea it is?
I doubt it. Not based on what we see, hear, and read daily.
Oh, the lawmaker who proposed the idea is a Republican.
Speaking of government food programs, people are up in arms over an announcement by the schools in Warwick, Rhode Island.
The school system announced it would serve “Sun Butter” (peanut butter substitute) sandwiches to kids whose parents owed lunch tabs.
The sandwiches are free, served instead of hot meals.
Critics are trashing the heartless school system, but what are they supposed to do? They are owed $40,000. Should they just go on losing money? Should some kids get for free what others in similar or worse financial shape have to pay for?
I can understand a kid feeling stigmatized — no one wants that to happen — but if the parents are truly unable to afford even the reduced-cost lunch, they can simply apply for free lunch. That way the school gets reimbursed by the federal government.
I know, it’s a lot of effort; you have to fill out a form.
Secondly, there’s nothing wrong with a sandwich for lunch. Millions of us brought peanut butter sandwiches or baloney sandwiches in a brown sack or a cartoon-inspired lunch box, with no ill effects.
And let’s face it, at most schools the hot lunches are not all that hot, if you know what I mean.
If you think it’s terrible that kids are forced to eat free sandwiches for lunch, blame the parents, not the school.
William P. Warford’s column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.