The media is reporting on a new study that finds long-term benefits to kids of breastfeeding.
Yet if health experts agree on the advantages of breastfeeding, why does the federal government subsidize mothers to use formula through the $7 billion Women, Infants, and Children program?
The WIC program is run by the Department of Agriculture, which summarized the subsidies as follows (page 1):
...infants participating in WIC consume about 54 percent of all formula sold in the United States. In most states, WIC participants use food vouchers or food checks to purchase their infant formula, free of charge, at participating retail grocery stores.
It's true that in addition to handing out free formula, WIC administrators counsel women on the advantages of breastfeeding. But the counseling apparently isn't working if WIC infants consume more than half of all formula. I am told that breastfeeding isn't easy, so if you give moms a free alternative, many of them take it.
This is one of many examples we see of the government's right hand working against its left. The Army Corps of Engineers destroys wetlands, while other federal agencies protect them. Milk and sugar programs push up food prices, while other programs subsidize food costs. Politicians complain about energy companies gouging consumers, yet federal ethanol policies push up energy costs.
The winners in each case are the political class -- high-paid government administrators, members of Congress, and the groups hooked on federal subsidies. The losers are the rest of us -- average taxpayers and consumers.
For more on federal food subsidies, see here.