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Government Dairy Products, Inc. (11/7/2010)

Posted in Business, and Government

One of the things I remember about grammar school days (1950’s) was how good a slice of white bread smeared with butter tasted in the school lunchroom. I would try it at home, but the result just wasn’t the same.  Only later did I realize that the difference was that the schools served real butter from cows, provided through some government assistance to the dairy industry, while my thrifty mom was buying Margarine, Crisco with yellow dye, which was soaring in popularity following President Truman’s March, 1950, signing of The Margarine Act to eliminate special taxes and restrictions on the butter substitute. You can read some of the background, Keystone Cops style, story here.

So, there has been an appropriate long-term competition between the dairy industry and the margarine folks with lots of inappropriate, market skewing, government involvement, and the story continues.  In today’s NYT, we learn that a government agency, Dairy Management, has been helping Domino’s Pizza boost business by adding more cheese and by paying $12M of taxpayer money for an advertising campaign to tell potential customers about it. And all this while another government funded group, part of the same department, The United States Department of Agriculture, is spending our money to get us to eat less fat which implies less cheese. Read it here for one of those “don’t know whether to laugh or cry” experiences.  In its own defense, the Agriculture Dept. issued this statement:  “When eaten in moderation and with attention to portion size, cheese can fit into a low-fat, healthy diet.” Amazing insight!

I hate to be such a Grinch, but the eat more cheese vs. eat less cheese question aside, I really don’t see any rational basis for government funding of an organization such as Dairy Management and especially of its funding of a $12M marketing campaign for Domino’s Pizza.  Certainly Domino’s is not “too big to fail,” and I’m sure there must be plenty of private marketing consulting firms standing ready to help boost their business, though they would all expect Domino’s to pay for the advice and for any advertising campaigns.  I assume this small federal government expenditure is just the tip of the iceberg, and, unless somebody can point out the errors in my thinking, I am going to consider it good news because it highlights some federal government expenditures that can easily be eliminated with nothing but positive consequences.

In the meantime, we have been buying and eating butter on a regular basis for years and have nevertheless avoided obesity.  And it still tastes good spread on white bread…especially with a little honey added.