Other views: More to milk controversy than meets the eyeThere’s more to the Milk Bill controversy than meets the eye, as the letter on this page by state Rep Patrick Hatlestad, R-Williston, makes clear.
By: Grand Forks Herald, Forum News Service
There’s more to the Milk Bill controversy than meets the eye, as the letter on this page by state Rep Patrick Hatlestad, R-Williston, makes clear.
There’s even more to it than Hatlestad’s letter suggests.
“House Bill 1421, sponsored by Rep. Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, would allocate $500,000 from the state’s general fund ... to assist school districts throughout the state to ensure all kindergarten through third-grade students receive milk or juice during a designated snack break,” Forum News Service reported last week.
Now, here’s the key question: What are the real-world costs and benefits? If North Dakota Democrats are serious about passing this kind of legislation, they’ve got to do a better job of listing and addressing those concerns. As it stands, the impression given out by bill’s supporters is that the Milk Bill offers notable benefits at only modest cost — and, importantly, that all of those costs are financial.
Hatlestad’s letter calls the first claim into question, by noting that almost no one showed up to testify to the bill’s alleged benefits.
Democrats should have anticipated that concern and lined up their witnesses early on. That’s a lesson for next time.
Here’s another: The second claim can be questioned too. Are all of the costs really financial? What if there are costs that can’t be measured in dollars and cents?
These days, saying “people are poor, and they need this service” is not enough. Americans have learned the hard way that many such services not only don’t work as well as promised, but at times even can make the problem worse.
Take the Milk Bill. It seems simple: Young people need milk or juice during their snack break; some families can’t afford it; so, the government should provide.
But if Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society crusade taught us anything, it is that social science almost never is simple, especially when it comes to the core issues of poverty and education.
For example, even programs as seemingly benevolent as school lunches turn out to have unintended consequences. Here’s a passage from a New York Times story in 2011: “A study of more than 1,000 sixth graders in several schools in southeastern Michigan found that those who regularly had the school lunch were 29 percent more likely to be obese than those who brought lunch from home.”
Last year, the school lunch program was reformed. But Herald readers will remember what happened next: Students from coast to coast complained, saying the skimpy new lunches left them hungry. “They’re taking to school lunch boycotts, Twitter campaigns and YouTube parodies that have gone viral to make their point,” Bloomberg News reported.
Then there’s the issue of free or low-cost school food replacing a traditional role of the family. One of the most basic responsibilities of parenthood is to provide food for one’s children. If the government takes on more and more of that role, in seeming defiance of the fact that growing up in a strong and intact family is by far the surest route to escape poverty, are American children really better off?
This is not to say the Milk Bill is a bad idea. This is to say, “It’s complicated.”
And Democrats would see a lot more of their proposals become law if they addressed conservatives’ real-world concerns