Thursday, June 14, 2018

Government Nutrition Policy: A Big, Fat Failure


Authored by Jose Nino via The Mises Institute,

In her book The Big Fat SurpriseNina Teicholz controversially contends that United States nutritional guidelines have largely contributed to rising levels of heart disease and obesity in the American populace.

Since the American Heart Association (AHA) linked the consumption of saturated fat with heart disease in 1961,government bureaucrats and policymakers have embarked on a low-fat crusade.

Despite this zealous campaigning in favor of low-fat dieting, obesity is rising at alarming rates and heart disease remains one of the leading causes of mortality in the United States.

Teicholz's text is very relevant these days now that the Trump administration announced its continuation of Obama-era nutritional policy.

These new policies consist of mandatory calorie labeling on restaurant menus and new “Nutrition Facts” on foods products.

While this article won’t spend much time addressing the scientific merits of the low-fat diet’s impact on health, one crucial question remains: Why does the United States government insist on getting involved in dietary affairs?

From Scientific Findings to Official Food Policy

When nutritionist Ancel Keyes popularized the “diet-heart hypothesis” in the 1950s, governments around the world initiated the first steps in crafting low-fat nutritional guidelines. The watershed moment came in 1961 when the American Heart Association became the first influential and national organization to officiallyrecommend that the public cut back on its consumption of saturated fat in order to prevent cardiovascular disease. Moving forward, bureaucracies like the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) have acted as reliable vehicles for the promotion of low-fat guidelines.

The Bureaucratization of Food Policy: A Rent-Seeker’s Delight

With the on-going presence of government agencies like the FDA and USDA regulating the food industry, the temptation for major food companies to gravitate toward politics to solve its problems remains strong.

American food policy has not only created barriers to entry in certain sectors of the food economy and harmedconsumer welfare, but it has also incentivized entrenched business interests to capture regulatory agencies and push for policies that advance their ends.

This dynamic creates a scenario of institutional inertia. First, scientists publish findings supporting the entrenched interest group’s (Big Sugar in this case) agenda. Then, the government rewards producers who comply by granting them sweetheart subsidies and the government’s seal of approval.

Due to the public’s rational ignorance and the organizational advantages that lobbies like Big Sugar enjoy, this type of nutritional policy continues in effect without much organized resistance.

Public Choice theory in its rawest form.

Moreover, since the US became increasingly involved in diet policy in 1961, obesity rates in American men and women have increased substantially. This doesn’t prove a causal relationship, of course, but it does suggest that the government’s involvement has done nothing to keep obesity rates down.

Source: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

The Government Still Doesn’t Listen

The Trump administration’s continuation of low-fat dietary policy is no surprise due to the aforementioned institutional inertia. The program features policies encouraging the reduction of salt intake and new government mandates requiring restaurants to implement calorie labeling.

Despite what many experts say, the science on low-fat dieting and salt intake is far from settled. Contrarian analysis from researchers like Nina Teicholz and James DiNicolantonio argue that low-fat and low-salt consumption may actually have detrimental effects on health.

In the same vein, nutritional labeling does very little to change people’s food choice behavior.

According to Julie Downs, the lead author of a 2016 American Journal of Public Health study, putting “calorie labels on menus really has little or no effect on people’s ordering behaviors at all.” Mandatory calorie labeling represents another regulatory cost that will ultimately be passed on to restaurants and consumers. More established food chains will welcome these measures with open arms, but their smaller rivals will greatly lament them.

Free Markets are the Solution

Even if scientific research demonstrates that current government dietary standards have deleterious health effects, the government should stay away from dietary affairs.

Critics will argue that the government must play a proactive role in policing food choices and keeping the public healthy because the private sector is simply incapable of doing so.

But this contention is laden with government conceit.

A cottage industry of dietary alternatives like the Atkins DietThe South Beach Diet Paleo Diet, and the Keto Diet has emerged in the past decade to address supposed failures in conventional nutritional strategies.

We can debate which of these diet strategies are likely to produce more healthy people, but given the federal government’s record on this matter, it’s hard to argue that the status quo offers better options.

Source: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Incentives matter in these cases. When the government is no longer dictating food policy, civic organizations and business ventures will fill in this nutritional vacuum to provide consumers with the necessary information and resources to make informed choices on nutritional matters.

Crowding out these initiatives through the government’s typical route of subsidizing vested food interests, promoting questionable studies, and erecting massive barriers to entry for potential competitors, hurts society at large.

Donald Trump came to Washington, DC, with the goal of draining the swamp and scrapping many Obama-era policies. However, Trump’s decision to continue Obama’s nutrition policies is a disappointment to say the least.

Trump can still make things right by re-examining these guidelines and bringing in dissenting points of views into these discussions.

At the end of the day, the healthiest nutritional policy the United States can pursue is one of government restraint.

*  *  *

Jose Nino is a Venezuelan-American political activist based in Fort Collins, Colorado.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The 'Real' America: 21.5% Unemployment, 10% Inflation, And Negative Economic Growth


Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog,

Every time the mainstream media touts some “wonderful new economic numbers” I just want to cringe.  Yes, it is true that the economic numbers have gotten slightly better since Donald Trump entered the White House, but the rosy economic picture that the mainstream media is constantly painting for all of us is completely absurd. 

As you are about to see, if honest numbers were being used all of our major economic numbers would be absolutely terrible.  Of course we can hope for a major economic turnaround for America under Donald Trump, but we certainly are not there yet.  Economist John Williams of has been tracking what our key economic numbers would look like if honest numbers were being used for many years, and he has gained a sterling reputation for being accurate.  And according to him, it looks like the U.S. economy has been in a recession and/or depression for a very long time.

Let’s start by talking about unemployment. 

We are being told that the unemployment rate in the United States is currently “3.8 percent”, which would be the lowest that it has been “in nearly 50 years”.

To support this claim, the mainstream media endlessly runs articles declaring how wonderful everything is.  For example, the following is from a recent New York Times article entitled “We Ran Out of Words to Describe How Good the Jobs Numbers Are”

The real question in analyzing the May jobs numbers released Friday is whether there are enough synonyms for “good” in an online thesaurus to describe them adequately.

So, for example, “splendid” and “excellent” fit the bill. Those are the kinds of terms that are appropriate when the United States economy adds 223,000 jobs in a month, despite being nine years into an expansion, and when the unemployment rate falls to 3.8 percent, a new 18-year low.

Doesn’t that sound great?

It would be great, if the numbers that they were using were honest.

The truth, of course, is that the percentage of the population that is employed has barely budged since the depths of the last recession.  According to John Williams, if honest numbers were being used the unemployment rate would actually be 21.5 percent today.

So what is the reason for the gaping disparity?

As I have explained repeatedly, the government has simply been moving people from the “officially unemployed” category to the “not in the labor force” category for many, many years.

If we use the government’s own numbers, there are nearly 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.  That is higher than it was at any point during the last recession.

We are being conned.  I have a friend down in south Idaho that is a highly trained software engineer that has been out of work for two years.

If the unemployment rate is really “3.8 percent”, why can’t he find a decent job?

By the way, if you live in the Boise area and you know of an opening for a quality software engineer, please let me know and I will get the information to him.

Next, let’s talk about inflation.

According to Williams, the way inflation has been calculated in this country has been repeatedly changed over the decades

Williams argues that U.S. statistical agencies overestimate GDP data by underestimating the inflation deflator they use in the calculation.

Manipulating the inflation rate, Williams argues in Public Comment on Inflation Measurement , also enables the US government to pay out pensioners less than they were promised, by fudging cost of living adjustments.

This manipulation has ironically taken place quite openly over decades, as successive Republican and Democratic administrations made “improvements” in the way they calculated the data.

If inflation was still calculated the way that it was in 1990, the inflation rate would be 6 percent today instead of about 3 percent.

And if inflation was still calculated the way that it was in 1980, the inflation rate would be about 10 percent today.

Doesn’t that “feel” more accurate to you?  We have all seen how prices for housing, food and health care have soared in recent years.  After examining what has happened in your own life, do you believe that the official inflation rates of “2 percent” and “3 percent” that we have been given in recent years are anywhere near accurate?

Because inflation is massively understated, that has a tremendous effect on our GDP numbers as well.

If accurate inflation numbers were being used, we would still be in a recession right now.

In fact, John Williams insists that we would still be in a recession that started back in 2004.

And without a doubt, a whole host of other more independent indicators point in that direction too.  The following comes from an excellent piece by Peter Diekmeyer

Williams’ findings, while controversial, corroborate a variety of other data points. Median wage gains have been stagnant for decades. The U.S. labour force participation rate remains at multi-decade lows. Even our own light-hearted Big Mac deflator suggests that the U.S. economy is in a depression.

Another clue is to evaluate the U.S. economy just as economists would a third world nation whose data they don’t trust. They do this by resorting to figures that are hard to fudge.

There, too, by a variety of measures—ranging from petroleum consumption to consumer goods production to the Cass Freight Index—the U.S. economy appears to have not grown much, if at all, since the turn of the millennium.

In the end, all that any of us really need to do is to just open our eyes and look at what is happening all around us.  We are on pace for the worst year for retail store closings in American history, and this “retail apocalypse” is hitting rural areas harder than anywhere else

This city’s Target store is gone.

So is Kmart, MC Sports, JCPenney, Vanity and soon Herberger’s, a department store.

“The mall is pretty sad,” says Amanda Cain, a teacher and mother. “Once Herberger’s closes, we’ll have no anchors.”

About two-thirds of Ottumwa’s Quincy Place Mall will be empty with Herberger’s loss.

Of course it isn’t just the U.S. economy that is troubled either.

We are living in the terminal phase of the greatest debt bubble in global history, many nations around the globe are already experiencing a very deep economic downturn, and our planet is literally in the process of dying.

So please don’t believe the hype.

Yes, we definitely hope that things will get better, but the truth is that things have not been “good” for the U.S. economy for a very, very long time.


Career State Department Officer Rages: 5 Media Myths Of Trump-Kim Summit


In the midst of Tuesday's historic Trump-Kim summit and accompanying myriad pundits giving their hot takes on mainstream news networks, 24-year State Department veteran and geopolitics expert Peter Van Buren began an epic rant on twitter with the following: "If you're keeping score at home, every pundit and MSM head who claimed the summit would never happen, or Trump would blow up, is now 100% and forever wrong. Still watching CNN????"

Van Buren is best known as a whistleblower who was ousted from a successful career as a foreign service officer after he chronicled the astronomical amount of US government waste, fraud, criminality and abuse in post-Saddam Iraq based on his experience leading two reconstruction teams for the State Department. 

His 2011 book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, which precipitated a lengthy legal battle with the US government as he stood accused of leaking allegedly sensitive and classified information in the book, initially earned him the ire of beltway bureaucrats, mainstream pundits, fanatical neocons, and liberal interventionists alike. But he was proven right

Career State Department officer and U.S. Envoy to Iraq Peter Van Buren. Image source: We Meant Well

During and after the Trump-Kim meeting Van Buren live tweeted in reaction to the cable news shows repeatedly slamming the whole event as a charade merely meant to score domestic propaganda victories for both leaders.

Here are 5 media myths which persisted throughout the day's wall-to-wall mainstream coverage based on career State Department expert Peter Van Buren's analysis...

* * *

Myth #1: Trump "betrayed" US ally South Korea

The idea that Trump "betrayed" South Korea is limited to the American MSM. Here's the president of South Korea's own positive statement about SIngapore:

— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) June 12, 2018

No, the South Korean's were not "betrayed" or "abandoned" as Vox , MSNBC, and many others claim — the reality is opposite: the peace efforts are being led by the South Koreans, as President Moon Jae-in's own unambiguous words indicate, saying he was very happy with the meeting. 

"I offer my heartfelt congratulations and welcome the success of the historic North Korea-United States summit," Moon's statement begins.

The fact remains that 81% of South Koreans supported the summit, and 88% supported the prior Kim-Moon summit. Moon also has an 86% approval rating. 70% of Americans support the meeting.

The pundits now claiming "betrayal" of South Korea have no clue what they're talking about.

Myth #2: Trump "empowered" and "legitimized" Kim

Keep in mind it was the earlier failures in Korea by the former government officials on TV today criticising the #TrumpKimSummit who made the summit necessary. They're the last people anyone should be listening to at this point.

— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) June 12, 2018

Most government pundits still making the rounds on the cable news shows are either former Obama-era officials or raving necons: as Van Buren points out they were part of the problem to begin with, creating a constant haze of impressions that Washington and Pyongyang must of necessity be on a permanent war footing.

As Van Buren writes in his new Reuters op-ed piece"Trump did not empower Kim. Meeting with one’s enemies is not a concession. Diplomacy is not a magic legitimacy powder the United States can choose to sprinkle on a world leader. The summit acknowledges the like-it-or-not reality of seven decades of Kim-family rule over a country armed with nuclear weapons."

US foreign policy elites have invented a whole slew of meaningless phrases to justify a state of permanent militarism & aggression in the world, then trained people to recite them. That US should avoid negotiating with Bad Guys because it gives them "legitimacy" in a good example

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 12, 2018

Van Buren outlines the failures of those who previously revolted at the State Department due to a claimed "void" at the center of the Trump White House's Korea policy and diplomacy:

Only a few months ago State Department North Korean expert Joseph Yun's retirement triggered a round of dire claims of "a void at [the] head of Trump's Korea diplomacy". Similar predictions were made over the lack of an American ambassador in Seoul. The State Department was decimated. ("The Trump administration has lost the capacity to negotiate with other countries," wrote one journalist.) The Council on Foreign Relations assessed the chances of war on the peninsula at 50 percent.

"They're the last people anyone should be listening to at this point" as it was their "earlier failures" in diplomacy that "made the summit necessary," Van Buren concludes.

Myth #3: The summit marks a "propaganda victory" for North Korea

So anyone please tell me what a "propaganda coup" for Kim entails. Is he running for something? Will his salary increase, get more TV bookings? Party with Beyonce? World leaders who hate him will say, golly, what a nice guy? EXACTLY what does "propaganda coup" mean?

— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) June 11, 2018

Media commentators throughout the day were outraged to see the American and North Korean flags displayed on equal footing.

Van Buren responds by pointing out what is obvious and common protocol for all such historic summits, even the potentially contentious ones, including Obama's trip to Havana to mend US-Cuban relations in 2016:

How freaking stupid are you? Flags are displayed as a symbol of diplomacy, and the side-by-side style is used everywhere in every setting, including during the Cold War (and Obama in Cuba!) So just STFU.

— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) June 12, 2018

FWIW, I think the North Korean flag is a piece of vile filth that stands for the dynastic rule of a racist cult that subjugates, tortures and enslaves it's own people. Ideally it would spontaneously combust when it even touches our flag. But nfw should it stand equal to ours.

— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) June 12, 2018

The Cuban and American flags together: President Obama and President of Cuba Raúl Castro at their joint press conference in Havana, Cuba, March 21, 2016. Image source: Flickr

Finally, he notes that the US MSM has finally found a new friend: the North Korean propaganda machine.

The MSM has finally found a friend: North Korea's propaganda. MSM outlets are now repeating any NK claims of success as "proof" of Trump's failure. When you're left to RT and Like the NK press you've run out of friends in America. #TrumpKimSummit

— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) June 13, 2018

Myth #4: Trump "gave away the store" with "too many concessions"

Concessions? Kim's ongoing moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing, the return of American prisoners, the closing of a ballistic missile test site, and the shutting down of nuclear test facility without opening a new one.

— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) June 12, 2018

Reminder major US military exercises in Korea have been suspended/postponed before, as far back as Team Spirit in 1990s and recently as January for the Olympics. Can be restarted anytime. Not much of a "concession." Meanwhile, the actual deterrent remains offshore, planes & subs

— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) June 12, 2018

The ink was barely dry on the Trump-Kim signed agreement when Bloomberg ran this headline: "Trump Gives Away the Store in Singapore".

Nope, says Van Buren. He responds: "What didn’t happen in Singapore is also important. Trump did not give away 'the store.' In fact, there is no store Trump could have given away. The United States agreed to suspend military exercises which have been strategically canceled in the past, and which can be restarted anytime. The real deterrent is off-peninsula anyway: B-2s flying from Missouri, and missile-armed subs forever hidden under the Pacific."

Myth #5: The agreement will fail for lack of details and its vagueness

The more Trump talks about the deal, the worse it sounds. U.S. stops exercises, pledges to remove troops, no new sanctions, all in exchange for vague promises of denuclearization. #trumpkim

— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) June 12, 2018

Stopping exercises, removing troops, and no more sanctions? The horror! The horror!

— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) June 12, 2018

Van Buren writes: "It is easy to announce a morning-after defeat for Trump: to criticize the agreement as vague and lacking in specific commitments regarding denuclearization. But those critics ignore Kim's moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing, the return of American prisoners, the closing of a ballistic missile test site, and the shutting down of a major nuclear test facility without opening a new one."

And he points out just how close the world was to major war a mere months ago: "It is easy to forget that a few months ago North Korea was still testing nuclear devices to spark fears of a dark war. Calling the Singapore summit a failure in light of more detailed agreements and different efforts from the past ignores the reality that all of those past agreements failed."

And finally, Van Buren says there's reason to be cautiously optimistic after Tuesday's summit:

Success on the Korean peninsula, as in the Cold War, will be measured by the continued sense that war is increasingly unlikely.

...The summit created the platform. The key to what happens next is how Trump, Moon and Kim work to resolve that issue.

#BREAKING Kim accepts Trump's invitation to visit US, says KCNA

— AFP news agency (@AFP) June 12, 2018

We wholeheartedly agree: this week has brought many reasons to be hopeful for the future of US-North Korean relations.