Basic economics and the school cafeteria.

Click here to listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM & FM, Friday, Dec. 23, 2011.

Last weekend, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about school lunches in the Los Angeles Unified School District. It seems that first lady Michelle Obama’s much-ballyhooed introduction of “trailblazing healthful school lunches” has been an unmitigated disaster.

In response to the first lady’s campaign against childhood obesity, and with the heavy hand of federal funding driving local decision-making, the Los Angeles school district has done away with the food that you and I ate in the school cafeteria. Gone are the selections that Ms. Obama believes are making our kids fat. In place of those bad choices stand healthy, low-fat and highly nutritious items that will end the scourge of childhood obesity and diabetes.

Isn’t that great?

Well hard as it is to believe, vegetable curry, lentil and brown rice cutlets and black-eyed pea salads aren’t big hits with the kiddos.

According to the LA Times story, school district officials say that more than 21,000 untouched school lunches are being discarded every day. Meanwhile a thriving black market in corn dogs and chicken nuggets has popped up in schools all over the district.

This black market has led some campus principals to prohibit students from bringing sack lunches to school. This leads, of course, to the enterprising kid that sets up a contraband food operation out his backpack or locker. Why not? Kids sell drugs on campus. Doritos, Twinkies and KFC Popcorn Chicken will sell in higher volume, probably at comparable margins and if caught, there’s no risk of going to juvie jail.

There’s no doubt that kids are getting fat and need to eat better and exercise more. But this story also makes clear that there is no doubt that top-down, big-government federal programs, no matter how well-intentioned, seldom work.

Some delusional bureaucrat somewhere in some office in Washington actually believed, and made others believe, that school kids will mindlessly eat whatever food is offered because some faceless someone, somewhere says it’s good for them.

Anybody with kids knows better.

My parents couldn’t make me eat asparagus and they were right there at the dinner table and had proven on countless occasions that they were perfectly willing to bust me on the tail.

Aside from a few outliers, school kids are not going to eat lentil and brown rice cutlets, no matter their low-fat, high-nutrition virtues. You know it. I know it.

Such is the problem with virtually all federal programs. They are concocted in the parallel universe of Washington, D.C. a universe in which it is virtually impossible for the occupants thereof to understand that millions and millions of discreet decisions made by millions and millions of free individuals will reduce lofty theory to hard reality in a matter of seconds.

If kids are to eat healthier, it will start at home and eventually work its way into school cafeterias or it won’t happen at all.

Similarly, if the economy is to ever improve, it won’t be because of some jobs bill or some federal boondoggle that is euphemistically called “investment.” The improvement will start in some garage or auto repair shop or small manufacturing plant when a free individual decides to stick a neck out, invest some money and hire some workers because that individual believes there’s a buck to be made.

The school cafeteria and the U.S. economy are both part of the real world – the world in which people know that school kids are never going to eat black-eyed pea salad.

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Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of ATW Media, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The TEAM FM in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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5 Responses

  1. Rick Armstrong says:

    Once again, common sense was thrown right out the window as those that count on the mindless masses following their lead like zombies, failed again. The current batch of social reforming idiots KNOW what is best for all of us. Soooooooooooooo, they figure that the masses will flock to their great ideas without so much as a second thought and they will finally win. They are so caught up in their own self-rightous thinking that they cannot fathom that people don’t want what they feel is right. The Worst Lady is such a self loving idiot that she can not handle anyone not following her every lead. It is time to take this socialist fool and her husband out of our White House and kick them to the curb like so much garbage.

  2. Linda E. Montrose says:

    My Granny always used to say that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Case in point here. I work with a young woman who has a child in school who has told me of all the waste that goes on. Apples and oranges go untouched but end up in the garbage. Packaged foods that go untouched yet go into the garbage. Does anyone have any idea how many HOMELESS people this WASTE would feed? It doesn’t do a bit of good to write your congressman about this WASTE! They have more important matters on their minds, like how to get re-elected! OR how to devise ways of taking away more of our freedoms. Man what a heavy burden to bear! So much heavier than figuring out how to save a few meals from the school garbage to feed the homeless!!!

  3. L Miles says:

    “Some delusional bureaucrat somewhere in some office in Washington actually believed, and made others believe, that …FILL IN THE BLANK… because some faceless someone, somewhere says it’s good for them.” Truth strikes, again!

    The arrogance of the Washington elite knows no bounds because they think we citizens need THEM to protect us from our own stupidity. These elite suffer from a NOT INVENTED HERE disorder that automatically discounts any intelligence in the smelly masses. It is the same disorder that has always infected tyrants that take their power too seriously and thereby justify despicable treatment of other human beings. Their GOOD INTENTIONS are their way of escaping ACCOUNTABILITY when disaster occurs and someone suffers. As Marx would say, “The end justifies the means.” To HELL with morality!

    When did “good intentions” replace the obligation and duty to foster “freedom of choice”, that is, being free to fail, free to learn, free to succeed? When did we elect a city of babysitter bureaucrats?

  4. L Miles says:

    I would like to clarify my comment about the “good intentions” of the leftists. Their “good intentions” are fakery and are an easy way to “appear” to care about the unfortunate, stupid masses and at the same time get accolades from the lapdog press and maintain their facade of caring about the “little” guy.

    Repeated failures of their bureaucratic lofty theories are either the sign of insanity (delusions of grandeur and an inability to learn) or more likely, a deliberate attempt to destroy the free enterprise system with Marxism.

  5. C M Solomon says:


    There is another story behind your story of first lady Michelle Obama’s much-ballyhooed introduction of “trailblazing healthful school lunches”.

    She and her husband have personally led an extravagant, non-business, vacation lifestyle at the taxpayers’ expense to the tune of $10 million this year, alone. This is while enjoying the most lavish meals, booze, hotels and estates at some of the most expensive vacation spots in the world. Their hypocrisy is breathtaking.

    Spreading the wealth and stimulating the economy with deficit spending has taken on a new meaning as the Royal Couple seem to be doing this, single-handedly. Shared Prosperity as practiced by these guardians of our nation’s health has set a new standard of wasteful Keynesian economics. I think even Karl Marx would be embarrassed.

    Wait! I forgot! I’ll bet Moochelle Obama is supplying the lavish restaurants she is frequenting with healthy, nutritious food from the White House organic vegetable garden that she has harvested in order to set an example. Didn’t the Obamas say that they hoped that the White House organic vegetable garden will cause healthy lifestyles to blossom?

    Thanks for your provocative topics on “You Tell Me” and the opportunity to share our opinions.

    Happy New Year!

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