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Real problems can’t be solved with such farcical elements

Kenneth D. Gough • Feb 10, 2014 at 8:54 AM

As we all know, the three necessities of life are food, clothing and shelter. However, about 47 million Americans receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (food stamps), the federal government estimates that something north of 600,000 are homeless (advocates, though, say it’s more like 3 million), and unknown millions more depend on charities for clothing and shoes.Clearly, this is a national disgrace. It shocks the conscience and we must address it at the national level. Here is my proposal:Every American must take responsibility for providing himself with food, clothing and shelter; therefore, every family will be required to contract with a food supplier, a clothing supplier and a housing supplier. To ensure that every person receives adequate nutrition, the National Nutrition Board will set guidelines for the contract. This will guarantee that everyone receives exactly what’s needed, and, of course, foods with low nutritional value and/or that may be harmful (junk snacks, sugary soft drinks, red meat, nuts, shellfish, etc.) will be banned or strictly controlled. Food producers will submit highly detailed data on their products to prove they are acceptable. Subsidies will be provided for those unable to afford their contract, with the amount set on a sliding scale based on income, family size and regional cost of living. Grocery stores will be required to carry a wide variety of government-approved products in government-approved portions whether their customers want them or not; after all, it’s necessary to make sure that everyone can find everything they might possibly need. Approved luxury goods can be stocked, but they will only be available to people who have purchased a more expensive food plan. Restaurants will submit their menus to the government for approval, along with their recipes, which must meet strict nutritional guidelines that can’t be changed without re-approval. Of course, it’s likely that fast-food places, especially burger joints, will have to radically change their offerings, but salads are much better for you as long as you don’t pile on the cheese and dressings and eat a reasonably sized helping (also controlled). It’s true that buffet-style restaurants that serve unlimited amounts, and street vendors like hot dog stands that serve a dangerous product, and farmers’ markets that would be impossible to police, will be put out of business, but any law has unintended consequences. Regrettable, but acceptable in light of the great purpose being served.Now, it’s possible that some people would prefer to continue buying their food just as they always have, so if you like your grocer, you can keep your grocer — period. Of course, if your grocer changes his food offerings or violates any other requirement, this no longer applies. And how this works with restaurants, well, we’ll defer to the experts in the new Department of Food Supply and Regulation — three-and-a-half years should be enough to get everything in good order.I’m well aware that such a fundamental transformation of the food supply system is an extremely complicated undertaking. It will be necessary for the government to provide web-based tools to help consumers find a food contract supplier of their choosing. After all, what could go wrong?Of course, any law must be enforced. Many government departments will be expanded to insure that all goes according to plan. In particular, the IRS will need thousands of new agents to track incomes and suppress fraud, and the previously mentioned DFSR, with tens of thousands of employees, will be established. Also, for those people who simply refuse to comply with the law, there will be penalties, or taxes, whichever the Supreme Court decides to call them.Well, that’s the idea. No need going into the laws on clothing and housing. They would be similar in concept and execution.Of course, there will be critics who claim that free markets work quite well for the vast majority of people with no need for government intervention, and that private charity and direct government support take care of the rest; they will claim that no one goes hungry or naked or lives under the stars in this nation for lack of caring. Clearly, these people are heartless racist bigots who just want the poor to starve to death (or die from the obesity that’s epidemic among the poor — I wonder how that can be?) if they don’t die of exposure first. How medieval to prefer the bracing liberty of the marketplace to the gentle tyranny of the expert.After the recent, highly successful implementation of Obamacare, all decent people will agree that it’s time to move on to the next great step in providing for the common welfare ...What’s that? You say Obama-care is a disaster getting worse every day? It is? But my proposal is designed just like Obama ... Oh, I see. Well ... Never mind.Kenneth D. Gough of Elizabethton is president and general manager of Accurate Machine Products Corp. in Johnson City.