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Two Political Goals to Advance the Vegan Position
by
William Harris, M.D.

In a nutshell: the vegans have all the arguments, but the animal-source food biz has all the money. And it's our money.  Here are two political goals which would redress this problem.

Goal #1.
Eliminate USDA subsidies and allow food
production to accurately reflect market demand.

Pamela Rice at Viva Veggie has tracked the spoor of Dan Glickman, secretary of the USDA, in 1998:  Glickman bought $30 million of beef, $30 million of pork, $8 million of lamb, $18 million of poultry, and $10 million of salmon using our tax moneys. This was in addition to the $141 million of beef purchased by the USDA for the 1997-98 school lunch program. There's also an $11 million program to give dairy producers in selected counties a financial incentive to "use options to manage their price risks."

Here are Glickman's rationalizations:

  • "This bonus buy supports the beef industry by bolstering producer prices.   The beef roasts purchased today will be used for distribution in the National School Lunch Program and other food assistance programs."
  • "Dairy farmers are facing tough times these days."
  • "The lamb industry has been under pressure ... these additional lamb purchases will help offset the surplus supply of lamb which is depressing prices to producers."
  • "... to help improve prices for cattle producers and the livestock industry. "
  • "Our purchase of salmon not only assists fisherman facing low prices but also recipients of our food assistance programs."
  • "...maintain prices and improve nutrition in the school lunch program."

Decoded: Cave in to political pressure from the animal food biz, which has always faced "tough times" and has never been satisfied with its "depressing prices", and dump the surplus on the kids and the poor people.

Total giveaways: $248 million of our tax moneys to shore up the production of foods that can't make it on the free market.  The USDA gives new meaning to the term "pork". As of June 5, 1998 Glickman's predecessor, Mike Espe, was facing Federal charges that Tyson Foods lobbyists gave him $12,000 worth of gifts to influence U.S. Agriculture Department regulations.

From 1986 to 1994 USDA "Deficiency Payments" averaged $7 billion per year. By the provisions of the 1996 Farm Bill they are now called "Production flexibility contract payments" and they will average $5.2 billion/year to the year 2002. (1)   Most of the money will go to feed grain production or to crops with byproducts that can be transformed into feed grain, so the animal food biz is here getting additional but de facto government freebies.

Where did the idea originate that food production must be underwritten by the government?  One certainty in life is that people must eat and will eat, and that farmers will grow the foods that people want to eat and are willing to pay for.   Decisions on what to eat are normally made on the basis of taste, habit, nutritional value, and cost, but then our government steps in and distorts the market by making animal foods look cheap.

Goal #2.
Eliminate tax deductions for health-sensitive advertising.

Tobacco is used here as a good example, but whenever it's mentioned just substitute the words meat, eggs, poultry, and dairy because the same arguments apply.

The U.S. tobacco industry does about $5 billion/year in tobacco advertising (2.) and since its corporate tax rate is about 33%, the deduction saves the industry roughly .33x$5 billion or $1.65 billion/year.  The lost revenue is made up by the taxpayers.   State-by-state advertising bills for tobacco are not known, but it is also a state tax-deductible expense.

corporat.gif (11318 bytes)From IRS Form 1120, the math appears to be the following:

S=savings to tobacco industry from advertising tax deductions
T=tax rate
I=corporate income
A=advertising costs

then:

S=T x I-T x (I-A) = T x I-T x I+T x A =T x A If T=33% and A= $5 billion, then S=33%x$5 billion=$1.65 billion

And how d'ye like payin' the wee lads to tell lies to the kiddies?

"Well, why carp over another government giveaway," I hear you ask. It's because the animal food biz plows the profit margins it gets from USDA handouts into tax-deductible advertising and nutritional misinformation that ties up the media and the educational system and freezes the veg*n position out. See how far you'll get on ad-dependent TV when your arguments are bordered by puffs for MacDonalds and Burger King.

Try veg*n lecturing at a university where the nutrition department is taking money from the National Dairy Council.  Many writers, a few vegetarian, have condemned the USDA price support system (3.). To my knowledge, no one has considered the implications of advertising tax deductions. Eliminating both would save money and is intuitive and logical: liars should not be paid to teach.

Refs
(1) Economic Research Service, USDA
1996 Farm Act Increases Market Orientation
AIB-726

(2.)Bartecchi CE, MacKenzie TD, and Schrier RW.
The Global Tobacco Epidemic
Scientific American
May 1995 p50

(3.) Bovard, James.The Farm Fiasco. How federal agriculture policy
squanders billions of dollars a year, sacrifices the poor to the rich, and
gives congressmen and bureaucrats vast arbitrary powers over American
citizens. Institute for Contemporary Studies. San Francisco, 1989. ISBN
1-55815-001-3