Republicans Avoid Confronting School Lunch Debacle

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In an America where the country’s “conservative” leaders have backed down from fights on Obamacare and illegal immigration, the debate over Michelle Obama’s school lunch program is comparatively unimportant. Yet it should not go without notice that Republicans managed to find no room at all in the $1 trillion CRomnibus bill for a waiver that would provide schools with some relief from the ridiculous meal standards.

Far-left liberals in Congress have been nearly as outspoken against the spending bill as conservatives, but one has to wonder why they’re so upset. Beyond providing “populists” like Elizabeth Warren with a moment in the spotlight, the bill provides almost nothing for conservatives who had hoped for some big victories at the end of the year. While the results of the midterm elections won’t shape Congress until the new year, many voters thought Republicans would have a little more power going into this budget negotiation.

If they did, it was hardly evident. Not only did they hand Obama almost all the funding he needs to see his immigration reform through to completion, but they also threw a bone to his wife as well. School officials have been lobbying for some economic relief from the standards imposed by the new meal regulations, standards the School Nutrition Association insists have increased food costs, contributed to more food waste, and decreased lunch participation across the board. Republicans have gone public with their concerns on the issue, but these concerns did not translate into meaningful legislation.

Even though Republicans didn’t fight hard to include a broad waiver in the bill, the mainstream media is promoting what changes they did make as a strike against Democrats. “Spending bill eases school nutrition rules,” was USA Today’s headline. They reported on the two minor small-government victories in the bill: relaxed standards on whole grains and no increases on the current sodium caps. But to even call these “partial victories” is overstating the case. It’s a compromised bill from top to bottom, but it feels like Republicans made most of the big compromises.

Washington as America’s Parents

Beyond all the overspending, this is another example of the federal government trying to take the place of the American parent. There’s no question that we face a national childhood (and adult) obesity crisis, but the solution to that crisis is not to be found in mandatory school lunch regulations. Michelle Obama’s entire push for healthy lunch mandates has been driven by shaky science, labor money, and that old faithful Democrat standby: the desire to increase the federal government’s influence over America.

Republicans had a chance to stand up to big government once again in 2014, and once again they let the opportunity pass them by. I used to dismiss the argument that there was no discernible difference between the nation’s two political parties. With every passing year, however, that argument becomes harder to ignore.