The vitriol swirling around Michelle Obama's support of the IRS' reclassification of breast pumps as a deductible medical expense makes me ill. Conservative commentary from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and others who accuse the first lady of creating a "nanny state" and catering to special interests — specifically African-American women, who are statistically less likely than white women to breast-feed — may have been appropriate in an antebellum debate hall but has no place in a 21st-century discussion of how to better serve the needs of American families.
The breast-pump proviso benefits mothers and children at virtually no cost to the state, and syncs with the first lady's campaign to end obesity in America. Likening this modest intervention to government social engineering appears to be part of a larger strategy employed by the rabid right to tweak the simmering paranoia lurking in the neural pathways of millions of predominantly white, middle-class Americans: namely, that Uncle Sam wants to reach into their plantations — I mean pockets — and eliminate their economic and political dominance.
Americans who respond to this manipulative call to end "big government" may sense, but not know why, that if the North (or the federal government) prevails, life as they know it will end; the South (or those who profit from the restriction of the rights and dignity of others) will not rise again. If this sounds far-fetched, take a gander at the emerging field of neuromarketing, a developing "science" employed in the last election by the GOP to market their product to their consumers, who, like the rest of us, are hardwired to respond to certain prompts without understanding why.
It is very difficult to countermand successful propaganda with rational thinking. And so, in response to those equating breast pumps with socialism, I can only suggest, in the spirit of Jonathan Swift's satirical proposal to eat poor Irish children, that we remove police stations and public schools from these folks' communities, and restrict their access to drinking water in their homes.
Let's place a moratorium on repaving their streets. Let's deny them the right to vote. How about an airline without federal aviation oversight created just for them? If they don't want government in their lives, well, then, by golly, let's find a nice company that can skillfully and artfully extricate it completely and permanently.
The resulting anarchy would be a much more effective response than asking these heartless naysayers to take a look at how we got into this obesity mess in the first place. It was the government, of course — incentivized, if you will, by powerful lobbies that allowed harmful ingredients like corn syrup and other foodlike substances to be injected into our daily diets by the ton. Why don't Bachmann and her team have a name for that?
Rebecca Walker is a regular contributor to The Root.