13 Democrats join Republicans in voting to classify Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese as junk food (UPDATED)

This will never stand up to Federal scrutiny, but it still sucks…

The Assembly approved, on a bipartisan vote of 68-26, a bill requiring at least two-thirds of the purchases in the state’s FoodShare program to come from a list of state-defined healthy foods, with Republicans arguing that the benefits outweighed the opposition of some business interests and advocates for the needy. The measure now goes to the state Senate.

The vote on AB 110 was bipartisan because 13 Democrats – including Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca and Caucus Chairperson Andy Jorgensen voted with Republicans to dictate to those receiving food assistance what they should and should not be be eating.

As noted by PR Watch, the bill Reps. Barca and Jorgensen cast their votes in favor of would classify sharp Wisconsin cheddar cheese as “junk food,” along with brown eggs, gluten-free bread, soy milk (unless it’s a very specific brand), reduced-fat peanut butter, bagels, English muffins, and white rice, among other foods. While I’m not surprised at the hypocrisy of “small government” Republicans supporting government intrusion when it suits their own political goals, I am disappointed that 13 Democrats helped enable those Republicans.

I understand that AB 110 was a trap laid by Republicans to force Democrats into a difficult vote, but damn….when are Democrats going to stand up and fight, rather than rolling over in the face of a tough vote?

UPDATE May 12, 2013 @ 9:10 p.m.: Here’s the statement I received from Minority Leader Barca’s office on his vote on AB 110:

All our statements and focus right now are on the budget (particularly education and health care) and WEDC…but he is writing a letter to constituents. I’m guessing you understand why these other things have delayed that.


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10 thoughts on “13 Democrats join Republicans in voting to classify Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese as junk food (UPDATED)

  1. I don’t understand why you call it a tough vote. Unlike liberals who want to tell us ALL how to live, Republicans here are just making sure a taxpayer funded benefit is used wisely and as it was intended. So yes, government intrusion is very much appropriate when it involves a government program. (If you don’t want the intrusion and oversight, then ax the program.)

    In my mind food assistance is there for people who have a hard time meeting their basic needs, not for someone who wants their fill of soda, chips, and cookies. Would you be in favor of allowing beer and cigarettes purchases with this money? I would hope you would say of course not.

    Don’t you think Michelle Obama and Michael Bloomberg would support this bill, or are they too busy telling me how I can spend my own money?

    1. FMSN,

      It is the private sector that tells you what you may eat and what you may not eat. If you are genuinely concerned about making substantial choices about what you consume, how you think or how live your life, turn your attention to the private sector rather than Obama and Bloomberg. Ultimately, the more appropriate sector for designating choice is the government. The government most definitely should position itself as the penultimate arbiter – as in predetermining how you spend your money. That it does not, that it is not more involved in citizens’ lives is where the problem lies. Choosing between that which is harmful and that which is not is fallacious, and it is not actual choice. Excessive choice is tyrannical, especially if the choices we are graciously given are relatively meaningless while consequential choices about our lives are denied to us. The essence of human autonomy doesn’t rest with how you spend your money. If anything, in that regard, autonomy is situated with the burthen of subsistence level and even modest existence.

      Of course provisions for the FoodShare program should consist primarily of healthy food choices. Maybe 2/3 isn’t enough. Maybe it should be 100%. If elected representatives are not relying on expert counsel to determine what those choices are, and elected representatives are not ensuring that those choices are accessible to recipients, it is your duty, FMSN, just as it is every constituent’s duty to ensure that they do. But really, it is fairly inconsistent to suggest that FoodShare recipients receive primarily healthy food choices and not receive cigarettes or potato chips while bellyaching about “Liberals” making choices for you. The private sector currently determines how FoodShare operates because it has a stranglehold on the USDA which oversees the program. If you are really concerned about how your tax dollars are spent then turn your attention to where the problem lies – the private sector. If you are genuinely concerned about FoodShare recipients consuming healthy food, it would be hypocritical and perhaps even selectively dictatorial for you not to be concerned for every other citizen’s consumption choices as well.

      1. PJ, this is FMSN we’re talking about here. Why would he actually worry about well formed and reasoned arguments when scapegoating and name calling work perfectly well?

        1. I have 100% confidence in FMSN’s ability and willingness to cogitate reasonably.

  2. This bill was amended to use the WIC food list because creating a “REAL” list of healthy foods was TOO expensive. Rep Kaufert decided to use the WIC program’s food list because it is a Federal program with defined foods and he didn’t care if the WIC food list is NOT appropriate for the general population. First clue that this program isn’t appropriate for everyone is the name: WIC translates to Women, Infants and Children. The WIC program was created in the 1970’s to help pregnant or nursing women, infants and children under 5 years old get supplemental food with specific nutrients that are often missing in low income diets. Pregnant or breastfeeding women, infants and children under 5 years may already be getting FoodShare benefits as their “main” source of food, but WIC benefits insure they get an extra amount of specific nutritious food.

    The WIC supplemental food list so limited that Kaufert had to add as “approved foods” beef, chicken, pork, fish or potatoes in the amendment. Kaufert made NO limitations on the kind or value of the beef, chicken, fish or pork that can be purchased with FoodShare. People can still buy steaks or lobster using FoodShare

    What’s the problem? 66% of a recipient’s FoodShare purchase must be WIC foods plus meat and potatoes, but WIC food list is so limited it doesn’t allow a lot of foods including:
    NO canned soup, canned beans with meat (like chili) or frozen entrees.
    NO cooking oils, butter or margarine.
    NO spices , herbs, mayonnaise, mustard or salad dressings.
    NO dried fruit or dried nuts.
    NO old fashioned oatmeal or grains (besides quick oatmeal)
    NO flour, yeast, baking soda or powder.
    NO sugar, honey, maple syrup,
    NO noodles, white or wild rice.
    NO white bread, bagels, english muffins or crackers.
    NO bread, biscuit or cake mixes
    NO salt and pepper
    IT is a long list of food that to buy with 33% of one’s FoodShare money.

    How does this WIC list work with a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner?
    WIC allows NO canned cranberry sauce, canned stock, stuffing mix, French Fried Onions, canned mushroom soup, no butter or margarine, pepper, salt, spices or herbs, no buns, no flour or corn starch (gravy)

    Aother problem with this bill is that not everyone can cook from scratch. If a FoodShare recipient has mobility problems, is elderly, disabled, ill or homeless, then they can only buy “ready to heat” foods with 1/3 of their FoodShare money because WIC doesn’t allow canned soups, frozen entrees, beans with meat (cans of chili) or frozen vegetables with pasta or meat. What good is giving someone FoodShare benefits if they can’t use 66% of their FoodShare money to buy the kind of food they can easily eat?

    This bill was supposed to be FoodShare “reform” , but really it is all about shaming FoodShare recipients. It will slow down lines in grocery stores, make food selection more confusing for FoodShare users, make it harder for FoodShare users to use all of their benefits and basically make it hard for some FoodShare users to eat at all.

    I understand why the Republicans voted for this bill since shaming the poor is right up their alley, but I don’t get why any Democrats voted for the bill. I understand some Democrats have swing districts, but if they aren’t going to stand up for the elderly, disabled and homeless then why are they in office? Really! If they voted for this bill because they are worried about getting re-elected, then they got got a surprise coming. I believe they lost even MORE votes by supporting this bill.

    1. Agreed, Caretaker. Democrats have dug an unnecessary hole for themselves. Another inscrutable moment.

      Thank you for the input. Excellent info. You’ve answered a number of my questions and clarified the matter a great deal.

  3. How nice of Barca to give Republicans cover for this idiotic piece of legislation — gutless, clueless or both? Is Barca planning a run for Governor and afraid he will be accused of being soft of the poor? WTF?

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