Rep. Biggs: Increasing Spending, Size of Govt Won't End Formula Crisis
Empty shelves at a Chicago area grocery store show how widespread the baby formula shortage is. Purchases are being limited. (Mariakonosky/Dreamstime.com)
By Rep. Andy Biggs | Tuesday, 31 May 2022 03:07 PM
Recent Baby Formula Legislation Does Not Address Core Issues At Hand
You probably didn’t see the following headlines about congressional action regarding the baby formula crisis:
Congress Fails to Fix Baby Fomula Problem When Voting to Supposedly Fix the Crisis
Democrats and Republicans in Congress Join to Expland The Department of Agriculture While Permitting the Dept. to Corner Market on Baby Formula
Nor did you see a short explanation like this anywhere:
It's unlikely that allowing the Department to get bigger while allowing the Department to effectively buy up all of the formula in the marketplace, will solve the baby formula crisis.
To solve the baby formula shortage Congress should have directed the Biden regime to:
- Facilitate the immediate reopening of the closed Abbott manufacturing facility in Michigan.
- Obtain interim needs from overseas manufacturers.
- And, incentivize domestic production.
Instead, Congress passed two bills that don’t hit the target.
It's as if someone washes his car instead of filling the gas tank and then wonders why his car won’t run.
One bill (HR 7790) allocated $28 million to the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA), most of which will go to hire new bureaucrats for that agency.
While most Republicans voted against the expansion of government, 12 Republicans joined all of the Democrats in voting to pass the bill.
It's hard to see how a bill focusing on increasing "salaries and expenses," will do anything to alleviate the baby formula shortage.
The second bill (HR 7791) allows the agency to expand where it buys formula for participants in the Women’s, Infants, and Children’s (WIC) indigent program.
That sounds pretty good, on the surface, but it fails to hit the target.
The bill modifies Section 17 of the WIC program, which currently requires the department to effectively make all purchases from a single source, allowing purchases from multiple sources.
Only 50% of babies that consume formula are in the socialized WIC program, and the legislation does nothing to incentivize an increase in domestic production of baby formula.
Furthermore, the legislation does not facilitate importation of raw materials to make more formula, or safe foreign product. Thus, the bill does nothing to solve the crisis.
Because the manufacturing output of formula will not increase as a result of these bills, the effect is to allow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to purchase all of the formula available, from whatever source, and give it to the consumers of formula in the WIC program, not all of the consumers in America.
That leaves the balance of users — the 50% of babies not in the WIC program — without new sources of formula.
That bears repeating, nearly half of all formula is distributed to beneficiaries of the Women’s, Infants, and Children’s program. The bill does nothing for the other half of American babies that are dependent on formula.
The crisis was caused by a short-sighted federal bureaucracy failing to appreciate that shutting down one of the largest manufacturers of baby formula would inevitably lead to a shortage of formula.
White House communications have said that they knew of the impending shortage resulting from the closure more than three months ago.
Congress passed the spending and WIC bills, then acted as if its job was done.
In the meantime, we have done what Congress always does when facing a crisis: throw money around and expand the federal bureaucracy.
Neither will solve this crisis.
We need to facilitate importation of formula from safe sources, incentivize increased production through regulatory relief, and allow distribution to all babies and not just those in the WIC program.
Republicans are introducing two bills that will actually facilitate importation of formula from safe foreign manufacturers. Those bills, if Democrats and the president help pass and sign into law, will actually alleviate in no small measure this emergency.
That’s why I support those bills.
Passing bills that only increase the size and spending of the federal government without solving the problem, while trumpeting that the crisis will be solved, is cynical and devious.
Is it any wonder that the public distrusts Congress, the media, and the Biden administration?
U.S. Representative Andy Biggs represents Arizona’s fifth congressional district and serves on the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees. Prior to serving in Congress he was president of the Arizona Senate (2013-2017).