By: Rep. Aaron Schock
Living with the realities of sequestration and budget-tightening has meant that most federal agencies have to do more with less. Many are paring initiatives down or cutting them entirely to save precious resources for programs that truly make a difference. Yet one government agency is using hundreds of millions of dollars to attack American job creators and Americans' freedom of choice.
Following the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more commonly known as the stimulus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was allocated taxpayer dollars to award grants for wellness efforts -- on its face, a worthy effort. However, these taxpayer funds are being used to run ads attacking and singling out legal American products and industries; attacks that will slow job growth and cost our communities jobs. When the stimulus well runs dry, this practice could continue through various streams of funding identified in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Already, the CDC has awarded $650 million of grants to states and communities through a program called the Prevention and Public Health Fund. In many cases, the grant recipients have used these federal dollars to run advertisements against "sugary products" or other food and beverages that they believe have an adverse impact on the health of American citizens, regardless of the quantity consumed. We are talking about hundreds of millions of tax dollars that are being used to discourage the consumption of lawfully marketed American-made products.
Using taxpayer dollars to attack the beverage and food industry might seem like a good idea to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but it's this exact type of harmful government spending that we can ill afford and serves no purpose in the overall wellness debate -- other than to be critical of domestic companies that employ thousands of hardworking Americans.
When a company like Hostess -- which employed hundreds of employees in my congressional district -- dedicates millions of dollars to market its products, it shouldn't have to worry about the company's tax dollars being used against it to dissuade the public from buying its products. In fact, the brand damage that occurs from these government-funded attack ads results in businesses having to dedicate even more resources toward marketing -- money that could otherwise be used to give pay raises to their employees or reinvest and grow their business.
In fact, the American Beverage Association has voluntarily taken on initiatives to help combat childhood obesity by removing full-calorie beverages from all schools and replacing them with lower-calorie options. This has led to an 88 percent reduction in beverage calories being shipped to schools. A better approach than telling Americans not to eat Twinkies at a time when the federal government is running trillion-dollar deficits would be to continue to educate American citizens about the importance of a balanced diet and the value of moderation.
I believe the CDC -- which does great work on early detection and prevention of, and treatment for breast and cervical cancer, as well as work on immunizations, flu vaccines and a host of worthy efforts -- simply should change its priority from singling out one product and attacking American job creators to focusing its efforts on a more comprehensive approach to combating obesity.
As a result, I have introduced the Stopping Taxpayer Outlays for Propaganda Act, the STOP Act, which will ban taxpayer dollars from funding such ads so the public can focus on meaningful steps to address obesity and promoting a healthy lifestyle. This includes prohibiting the use of federal money for print, radio and television or any other media advertisement, campaign or form of publicity against the use of a food or beverage that is lawfully marketed under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
I fully support and try to live a healthy life, myself, by making smart choices about what I eat and drink and by working out regularly. These are the types of behavior we should be promoting -- not using our precious tax dollars to attack job creators in a time of sustained levels of high unemployment.
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.)