DERRICK Z. JACKSON
Trash food makers fatten GOP coffers
FOR THE PHOTO-OP on Tuesday, the United States became a fat farm.
"We're just too darned fat, ladies and gentlemen, and we're going to do
something about it," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson
He said this as he released new statistics showing that obesity will probably
become our number one preventable killer next year, on its way to killing
500,000 people a year. The next day on the "Today Show," Thompson
vowed that his department "is going to take an all-out, aggressive,
offensive effort" against the epidemic. He went so far as to claim that the
pharaohs of fat were loosening their bonds on the minds of America's youth.
"Kraft food has come out . . . with all healthy foods. Pepsi Cola,
, all of these companies are starting to step up.
has just stopped super-sizing. So we're starting to have an impact."
As we know, photo-ops are shows laden with the political equivalent of
hydrogenated fats, meant to disguise the fact that there is no meat on the
bones. Even as Thompson spoke, the pharaohs were on Capitol Hill, sitting in
glee as the House voted, 276-139, to ban lawsuits against trash-food companies.
The bill's sponsor, Republican Ric Keller of Florida, said, "The food
industry is under attack and in the cross hairs of the same trial lawyers who
went after big tobacco."
Unsaid was that Keller and his fellow Republicans were in the cross hairs of
the food industry. Among Keller's current top five political contributors are
the corporation that runs the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains,
, and Disney (and we all know how healthy the food is at Disney World).
From 1995 to 2002, according to Common Cause, food and grocery companies and
restaurants gave more than $19.3 million in soft money to Republican causes
compared with $5.5 million for Democrats.
Many companies give to both parties, but there is no mistaking their
political loyalties. Coca-Cola and affiliated donors, for instance, gave
$807,000 to Democrats but $1.74 million to Republicans.
gave $255,000 to the Democrats but $1.7 million to Republicans.
gave the Democrats $59,000 but gave the Republicans $208,000.Burger King gave
$20,000 to Democrats but $111,000 to Republicans.
Of the $26 million contributed by restaurant companies and food processors in
the 2000 elections, 71 percent of the money went to Republicans. The National
(with a constellation of trash food in its resume, such as Kraft), Outback,
Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald's, Waffle House, Pizza Hut, Olive Garden, Red
Lobster, Burger King, Cracker Barrel, and
are among the top contributors on lists compiled by the Center for Responsive
Politics that gave 77 percent or more of their money to Republican causes.
You probably never knew that doughnuts were a peculiarly Republican trash
food. But in the current election cycle, Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme have
both given 100 percent of their money to Republicans.
This is more than whether companies should be shielded from lawsuits. In a
vacuum, it is an individual choice to put an apple or a Krispy Kreme in your
mouth. It is about a larger war the fat pharaohs, profiting on easy-to-process
sugars and starches, are waging to rearrange our brains to make us think we need
the Krispy Kreme. The House vote this week on legal shields pales next to the
oncoming cultural war over advertising.
Already, health advocates are calling for bans of trash food ads on
children's TV, the removal of soda and candy machines from schools, and
cigarette-like taxes on trash food. The House vote only fuels the culture war
instead of squelching it. As with cigarettes, the dawning upon us of the health
disaster of trash food and our sedentary lives took a while. Now that it is
here, advertising limitations or bans may be closer and more welcomed than you
Thompson's braggadocio means very little given his paltry ammunition.
Thompson says he wants $440 million for obesity research. Well, the trash food
companies have already done their research, and their investment in brainwashing
makes the government look like it's holding a wilting single stalk of asparagus
in an avalanche of French fries.
In 2002 alone, McDonald's, Burger King,
, Subway, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Applebee's,
, and Domino's Pizza spent a combined $2.2 billion on advertising, according to
Advertising Age. McDonald's alone outspends government efforts to combat
obesity. In 2002, the fried burger company spent $548 million on advertising.
Thompson is right. The nation is too darned fat. Thompson's political allies
are also too fat in the wallet from the companies making us fat. Until that
changes, his decrees is just a hydrogenated photo op. All fat. No meat. And
definitely no fruit or vegetables.
Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.