Looking at the career of one particular bureaucrat/business executive illustrates the benefits of varied experience. It also hints at the drawbacks, from the perspective of the public, of being ruled by people who are comfortable working for two masters whose goals are often at odds: the government and big business. Thousands and thousands of bureaucrats, in their official capacity, have made life pleasant and profitable for businesses, only to be rewarded in later years with speaking fees and sinecures.
The website OpenSecrets.org specializes in describing these “revolving door” careers. We are interested in one of its profile subjects, G. William Hoagland, as an authority on matters relating to nutrition. He began with six years as an economist in the Congressional Budget Office, followed by two years as Special Assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture. He was Majority Staff Director of the Senate Budget Committee for several years; then Staff Director for U.S. Senator Pete V. Domenici; then director of budget and appropriations for the Senate Majority Leader.
In 2007 Hoagland made the transition to the private sector as Vice President of Public Policy for Cigna Corp, which sells health insurance plans to both employers and individuals. In 2012 he became Senior Vice President of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a “think tank” that proposes such sensible ideas as automatic voter registration and expanded mail-in voting.
So, what about kids and food?
Hoagland’s essay, “What’s Happened in the 50 Years Since the White House Food and Nutrition Conference?“, is based on knowledge of many facets of society. He notes that the current administration’s ambition to limit the SNAP program threatens to “increase food insecurity for 3.1 million current SNAP recipients and reduce free lunches for nearly 982,000 school children.”
But what about the big picture? Overall, in the past five decades, have feeding programs administered by the federal government actually had an impact on America’s health?
Some programs with science-based nutrition guidelines, like the school meal programs and WIC, have made modest improvements in the diets and health of their target populations. In fact, from 2010-2016, there was a decline in childhood obesity rates among low-income children enrolled in WIC — one of the only groups to see a decline in obesity in recent years.
Also the government-imposed standards have made school breakfasts and school lunches 40% more nutritious. But still, human nature wins. By and large, people eat what they want to eat, rather than what they should eat; and diet-related conditions like type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and especially obesity, continue to affect the populace.
The government has been criticized for deferring to the wishes of the agriculture industry rather than the needs of SNAP recipients, but Hoagland defends it. He throws a bit of shade on medical schools for neglecting nutritional education.
Although the government has made a good effort, and stark starvation has pretty much been eliminated, he admits that some Americans are still affected by food insecurity, and ends with this quotation:
Even more importantly, we have not been successful in eliminating poor diets, obesity, and preventable chronic disease. Common-sense policies are needed to put the “N” (for Nutrition) back in SNAP and improve diet quality among SNAP participants — and the population at large.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “What’s Happened in the 50 Years Since the White House Food and Nutrition Conference?,” MedPageToday.com, 12/04/19
Source: “Hoagland, G. William,” OpenSecrets.org, undated
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