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Selling Selling


New Orleans. -- I went to the McDonald's Museum in Des Plaines, Illinois, and admired the life-size plaster statues of early McDonald's employees dispensing the first dollops of what soon became a mighty river of burgers. I admired the early plastic fries, the primitive milk-shake machines and the not-yet merged neon arches. McDonald's was a triumph of private enterprise that seduced America and now parts of the world without any seeming help from the government.

And why should the government help a successful business that does better than the government? Well, that's what I thought, until I read in the morning paper that McDonald's got $465,000 from the Agriculture Department last year for ads, paper-tray liners and counter displays promoting Chicken McNuggets around the world. Campbell Soup Co. got $450,000 to push V-8 juice in Japan, Argentina, Korea and Taiwan. Burger King, M&M; Mars, Hershey Foods, Del Monte, Welch's, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Nabisco and Quaker Oats also got a bundle. Sunkist Growers got $10 million to promote citrus, Gallo got $5 million to push vino and Pillsbury got nearly $3 million to sell cookies to the heathen.

What's going on here -- at a time when cities like Detroit are dying on the vine, when the State of Michigan cuts one-third of its Welfare recipients off the rolls, when food-stamp allocations issued by the very same Agriculture Department are being reduced for families who can barely afford an orange or a Big Mac?

Wouldn't the Agriculture Department be better off subsidizing Americans to buy burgers, oranges and oatmeal? The government is giving away our money to companies that already take a big chunk of it, including food taxes. Does McDonald's, which made $20 billion dollars last year really need our welfare money? This is a case of multiple robbery by double-taxation. Welfare for the rich and waste. You don't see McDonald's, Gallo, Pillsbury and Sunkist giving anything away, do you?

Andrei Codrescu edits "Exquisite Corpse," a journal of books & ideas in Louisiana.

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