Every four years at their national conventions, the Republican and Democratic parties fire up the meat grinder and come up with an official manifesto known as the party platform, unofficially known as sausage -- take it or leave it. These are promptly tossed into the disposal immediately after the primetime convention telecasts. I seem to recall something about Jerusalem and abortion in cases of rape.... legitimate rape. Something like that.
While political cognoscenti obsess over Nate Silver's remarkable calculus at FiveThirtyEight, here's a tastebud path to The Truth, not just about Mitt and Barack -- superdads, stud husbands and heroes -- but the two political parties for which they stand. Forget debates, PAC ads and voter guides; just sample the two party platters. We need only look what their wives are serving up.
Cookies and carrots.
Ann Romney bakes cookies; fattening comfort food. Michelle Obama wants you to farm your own carrots; a nod to her healthy do-it-yourselfness. Okay, America, which do you find more appetizing: guiltless abundance and an expanding waistline, or keeping it lean with hardworking austerity?
Off the top, that's an easy one. Who doesn't want cookies? Wait -- instant philosophical confusion, and that's too much work. The actual presidency of cookies took place in the Clinton budget surplus years. The presidency of Ensure sold as Krispy Kreme was George W. Bush. That long, lean string bean Barack Obama put us all, kicking and screaming, onto a cleansing fast in 2008 and now the fatties hate him for it. Let's face it: Voters are addicted.
From the May 2010 issue of The Atlantic:
In his book, The End of Overeating, former FDA commissioner David Kessler charges food companies with deliberately manipulating the chemical composition of their products to make them addictive to people with vulnerable brain chemistries -- i.e., children. Kessler participated in subsequent research that found similarities in how rat's brains experienced withdrawal symptoms similar to drug withdrawal then, after being fed by a high fat, high sugar mix, they were suddenly put on a diet. The food industry dismissed Kessler's claims by ignoring them, and one of their top lobbyists admitted that the strategy was deliberate: to respond would call attention to the claims and force the good companies into a tit-for-tat debate about neuroscience. Kessler believes that many food companies ought to be publicly shamed for constructing and marketing addictive, unhealthy food to kids.
Of course, we know what happened. Lobbyists for the culprits, from soda to fast food to movie butter manufacturers, continue to vigilantly argue for the right of Americans to freely increase the obese population every year -- ironically, with a commensurate increase in the well-documented ensuing health problems. Translation: A feedback vortex which keeps Big Food happy and writing PAC checks, while increasing pressure on America's health care system, in particular Medicare and Medicaid.
Wait -- don't Romney-Ryan want to cut funding for Medicare and Medicaid, with the knife and fork poised for Social Security as well?
Under that plan, Americans who don't end up in emergency rooms for basic medical care won't be going to movies and eating subsidized junk. They'll be subsisting on greasy pet food. How many elderly Americans have the wherewithal, for example, to try to decipher, apply for and manage the unfamiliar minefield of the brand-new bureaucracy which will be required for a "privatized" health care voucher system -- assuming they get past the initial panic? I have trouble reconciling that scenario with the heart-wrenching experience of my parents and their generation, not to mention many members of my own, who need plastic pill dispensers marked with days of the week just to keep their medications straight.
Wait -- aren't Republicans constantly harping about killing at least three cabinet-level departments and their bureaucracies? I'm not clear where those employees and their industries will go, but the "12 million new jobs" must be earmarked for the new Department of Vouchers. Okay, I think I just may have discovered the basis for that Romney-Ryan deal, though there are lots of cookies in there for somebody and pet food (or carrot seeds and a trowel) for somebody else.
Let's be fair. The Romney-Ryan slogan today, per their campaign website, is "We Need a Real Recovery." Obama-Biden continues to stick with "Forward." Forward is just a word with sleek connotations. And Romney is right -- we need a real recovery. As in Weight Watchers.
But if Romney wins on November 6, bring me the flag and I'll pledge allegiance. Sit me down in the Barcalounger, hand me the remote and bring me a big platter of cookies. I'll worry about sugar shock later.
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