Last week this blog was devoted to discussing Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s first act in office – a declaration of “cupcake amnesty” – as well as his plan to bring deep fat fryers and sodas back to our public schools.
As I explained here and in a Houston Chronicle op-ed on Friday, since 2005 Texas state law has explicitly allowed parents and grandparents to bring to school any food they wish, including cupcakes, on a child’s birthday. So when Mr. Miller chose as his first act in office to “pardon” cupcakes for no apparent reason, I initially gave him the benefit of the doubt by stating, “I can’t tell whether Mr. Miller and his advisors are being intentionally deceptive or are just plain ignorant.”
Now I have no choice but to settle on the former explanation.
Even after a lead story in the Texas Tribune and op-ed in the state’s second largest newspaper both called out Mr. Miller on his misrepresentations of Texas law, he still went on Fox & Friends on Sunday to crow about his bogus granting of “cupcake amnesty.” You can watch the interview, which is about three minutes long, below:
Here are just some of the grossly inaccurate statements made by Mr. Miller in the clip, none of which were caught — or even questioned — by the Fox interviewer, Tucker Carlson:
MILLER: “One of the first acts I did when I got into office was to repeal every mandate of from the Texas Department of Agriculture to our local school districts.”
The Texas School Nutrition Policy (TSNP) was repealed last April — eight months before Mr. Miller assumed office. And it was repealed not to let Texas districts do whatever they wanted, but to harmonize our state law with far stricter federal regulations that were about to go into effect. (But I guess that’s not the sort of thing a conservative politician wants to reveal on Fox News.)
CARLSON asks if the prior Texas policy had “in effect, been telling parents what they could feed to their own children” and MILLER responds, “Well, that’s correct. And we just don’t do that in Texas. We believe in local control, individual responsibility and freedom from burdensome government regulations.”
Nothing in the TSNP in any way restricted what parents could feed their own children, whether the food was provided in a home-packed lunch, a snack brought from home for a child’s consumption at school, or as birthday treats sent in by a parent or grandparent. Carlson’s statement and Miller’s affirmation of it are 100% false.
MILLER: “The federal childhood nutritional program is a huge failure. . . . School districts all over the United States are dropping out of the program.”
False. According to the USDA, “very few schools (only 0.15% of schools nationwide) reported dropping out of the programs due to struggles over providing kids healthy food.”
MILLER, after being shown Texas childhood obesity statistics, says “These [Texas] rules were put in ten years ago, in 2004, and those figures haven’t gotten any better. So government hasn’t worked but individual responsibility, local control is what works. So we’re getting out of the school mandate business.” CARLSON: “So, just to be clear, for ten years cupcakes have been banned and those numbers are still the same? MILLER: “Yeah, that’s correct. Didn’t work.”
As noted, cupcakes haven’t been banned in Texas for ten years, they’ve been expressly allowed in Texas for the last ten years. So this entire exchange between Miller and Carlson is nonsensical.
But let’s generously assume Miller is speaking here of the TSNP and not of some nonexistent “cupcake ban.” While Texas’s childhood obesity rate does remain stubbornly high, what would it look like today if the TSNP hadn’t been in place for the last decade to curb the worst junk food on school campuses? If Commissioner Miller actually does return deep fat fryers and sodas to Texas public schools, we’ll all find out soon enough.
* * *
Reasonable people can disagree about the proper role of government in feeding children, but Miller isn’t looking for intellectually honest debate. Instead, he’s playing fast and loose with the facts — and our children’s health — to establish himself in the media as a freedom-loving, regulation-hating Texan. Now that he’s had his three minutes of fame on Fox News, we can only hope he’ll move on.
But if Miller is truly serious about rolling back school nutrition in this state, he needs to understand a thing or two about messing with Texas moms:
(For the non-Texans among my readership, my carrot battle flag is a play on this.)
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