While her husband may have paid lip service to ending the abuse of science for "politics or ideology," first lady Michelle Obama gave herself a super-sized waiver. Two of her showcase social engineering campaigns -- tax preferences for breast-pumping working mothers and expanded nutrition labels -- are based on distorting or dismissing the prevailing public health literature.
Just as the White House costumed Obamacare activists in white lab coats, the fashionable Mrs. O has cloaked her meddling anti-obesity crusade in medical fakery.
Over the past year, the first lady has marshaled a taxpayer-subsidized army of government lawyers, bureaucrats and consultants against the "national security threat" of childhood obesity. She has transformed the East Wing of the White House into Big Nanny's new Central Command headquarters. The biggest threats to Mrs. Obama's 70-point plan for national fitness: parental authority and sound science.
As part of her "Let's Move!" anniversary celebration this week, Mrs. Obama rolled out a new breastfeeding initiative because "kids who are breastfed longer have a lower tendency to be obese." She made her assertion to an invitation-only group of handpicked reporters who were barred from asking questions about her scientific conclusions. It's not healthy to challenge Super Nanny, you see.
After the Internal Revenue Service carefully studied and rejected an advocacy push to treat nursing equipment as a tax-deductible medical expense last fall, the tax agency suddenly reversed itself in time for the first lady's new public relations tour. The surgeon general has also issued a "Call to Action" to pressure private businesses to adopt more nursing-friendly environments to combat childhood obesity, all while denying that government is intruding on personal decisions. "No mother should be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed," Surgeon General Regina Benjamin asserted, while laying an unmistakable guilt trip on moms and moms-to-be.
So, what do studies on breastfeeding and babies' weight actually say? Rebecca Goldin, Ph.D., research director of George Mason University's Statistical Assessment Service, points out that the literature is inconclusive or demonstrates that the health advantages of bosom over bottle are short-lived:
"Indeed, there is little evidence that using formula causes obesity. There is a correlation between formula use and obesity among babies and children ... though this correlation is not consistent in all studies. Some of these studies show a relationship in only some demographics and not others. Others show that the disadvantage of bottle-feeding and/or formula mostly goes away by the time a child is about 4 years old.