It's time to nationalize grocery stores
By Richard E. Ralston
One of the great scandals of our age is the fact that America spends more on food than any other nation. Many political leaders are now calling for urgent reform to bring spending on food under control. While food spending is rapidly increasing and many Americans are overweight, some do not have enough to eat.
In spite of this high spending, the United Nations reports that, according to surveys they sent to government officials around the world, the quality of U.S. food is ranked very low. Results from officials in France report that their food is the best in the world. Although that needs to be taken with a grain of Dijon, it might be true. More insulting is the higher ranking that British experts give their food.
Leaders in Congress now point to what they see as the heart of the problem: corporate greed in the form of grocery stores and restaurants operating on a for-profit basis. They promise to replace all private grocery stores with a national system of government commissaries, which will allegedly operate far more efficiently without the administrative overhead required to make a profit. As it will take some time to organize the national network of commissaries, initially groceries will be available only at offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles and U.S. Postal Service. These offices have a proven track record of operational efficiency and excellent customer service, and will be a model for the development of a government commissary system.
Congress and the Administration say they will achieve further efficiencies by prohibiting all advertising of food and food products. Consumers will find shopping to be much easier if personal preference is eliminated in favor of whatever foods government makes available.
To better control costs, the government will invest billions in new electronic food purchasing records. Everything you eat will be reported to the government, which will analyze the data to eliminate wasteful or unhealthy eating. All new food must be approved by a new Comparative Calorie and Taste Administration, which will eliminate most of the unnecessary brands of potato chips. And as anyone who shops in grocery stores knows, we have far too many brands of beer.
Food is surely a right, as it is necessary for human survival. Therefore all groceries available in government commissaries will be free of charge. This will be financed by an increase of 15 percent in income taxes, except for those making over $80,000 a year, whose taxes will be increased by 75 percent. Because the supply of food is not unlimited, a fixed amount of ration coupons will be distributed to insure that each consumer can obtain an equal amount of food.
All private restaurants will be closed, and limited cafeterias will be operated as government commissaries. Congressional liberals point to school lunch programs as a model and the proven results demonstrated by several generations of well-nourished, trim and fit students. Of course, we veterans also remember all of that great Army chow.
So far, conservative leaders are at a loss after hearing these proposals. Some of the more courageous conservatives are responding with proposals for Mandatory Food Purchasing. All citizens, including those who go to bed hungry every night, will be required to purchase membership in new Food Management Organizations. To further control costs, the purchase of certain cuts of meat and imported gourmet foods could require the FMO's advance approval.
Across the political spectrum, there is a developing consensus that the only appropriate response to the fact that some consumers cannot afford groceries is to impose a single, regimented, government-controlled food system on all citizens. All agree that this is sure to provide the same consistently high standards as public education.
Rumor has it that the clincher for those proposing grocery nationalization was stated recently by the White House: "The great thing about these proposals is that if we can somehow get this to work for groceries, we can apply the same idea to health care."
Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine, Newport Beach, California. Copyright © 2009 Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. All rights reserved.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!