More than 60 different agencies publish more than 3,500 new regulations every year. There are more than 1,000 federal subsidy programs covering everything from mohair to ethanol. When the government involves itself in that many different projects, some of them are bound to contradict each other.
For example, the federal government spends more than $1 billion per year on anti-obesity programs. But the federal government also spent more than $12 million to help Domino’s Pizza tout its new recipe with 40 percent more cheese; this is roughly the opposite of an anti-obesity program.
Dairy Management, the USDA-funded program that gives taxpayers’ dollars to Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and other private firms, is designed to help dairy farmers. By encouraging restaurants to use more cheese in their recipes, the USDA is achieving its goal of giving dairy farmers more business. But it also undermines the competing federal goal of reducing obesity.
Government has a long history of undermining its own goals. One of the more famous examples involves paying farmers to destroy their crops in an effort to raise food prices during the Great Depression. When (frequently unemployed) non-farmers complained about having to pay more for food during those hard times, the federal government then took actions to lower food prices – while keeping in place the policies that raised them in the first place.
The spirit of consistent inconsistency goes beyond the government’s spending habits. Vice President Biden will have a meeting today in the White House about government transparency. It will be closed to the public.