The Lake Column

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Memo to the USDA and Texas: YOU WERE DUMB.

It was like some horrible SAT question gone wrong:

Reagan : Ketchup :: Bush : French Fries

It really was funny the way Dubya chose to take up the "Reagan legacy", by basically taking Reagan's evil ideas and then ratcheting up the stupidity to the breaking point. Reagan cut taxes so that there'd be no money for leftist social programs; Bush did the same, but threw in a $200 billion war on top. Reagan surrounded himself with crooks and politicians on the take, Bush surrounded himself with crooks and politicians on the take from the crooked and corrupt companies they "used to" work for. Reagan slowly deteriorated into a drooling vegetable, Bush came roaring out of the gate with the mental capacity of an underfed zucchini.

Which, in a borderline-masterful segue, brings us to the regular kind of vegetables. Reagan tried to get ketchup classified as a vegetable for nutritional purposes in school lunches, and failed. Bush's USDA, two decades later, got ketchup's symbiotic partner, the batter-dipped, deep-fried French Fry, classified as a "fresh vegetable". And in an unlikely triumph of Bush administration subtlety, managed to do it THREE YEARS AGO, and nobody noticed for a year.

It only came out a year later because someone stood to lose some money off of it. Specifically, Fleming Companies, who made batter-dipped french fries, and went bankrupt. The serpentine bankruptcy laws treat companies differently if they sell fresh fruits and vegetables, you see. They owed more money if french fries are fresh, so they took the USDA to court over it. This is apparently what Republicans mean by allowing market forces to self-regulate. As soon as the mass warping of the fabric of reality and the meanings of words impacts someone financially, they will then work to correct things so that "fresh vegetable" and "batter-dipped, deep-fried, frozen hunk of starch" are no longer synonyms.

Except that they sued in Texas. And in Texas, food comes in two classifications: Hacked From The Still Warm Quivering Flesh Of A Cow And / Or Steer, and Fresh Vegetable. So the Texas judge had no problems going along with the french-fry industry's argument that chopping up a potato, dipping the pieces in batter, frying them in oil, and then freezing the result is no different than waxing a cucumber. Yee. Haw.

Representatives from the USDA, dimly aware of an epic public relations clusterfuck, were quick to reassure the American public that the ruling did not apply to nutrition, only to laws involving commerce. That's comforting. They only behaved in a completey insane way in order to pander to huge food-processing conglomerates! They didn't expect anyone to actually BELIEVE that a batter-dipped french fry is a fresh veggie, they just wanted to call it one so that their corporate friends could use the loophole to get more money!

In a related story that was not real but instead invented to set up the standard comedy premise of having taken the already ludicrous real-life example and extended it to other products, tortilla chips were considered "corn on the cob" for purposes of interstate commerce, the Wonder corporation received subsidies for all the "wheat" it "grows", and employees had their designation changed to "children" for tax purposes, allowing your company to claim you as a dependent. But don't worry. When it came to school lunches, tortilla chips, Wonder bread, and human employees retained their scientifically determined nutritional value. At long last, somebody thought of the children.