Last week, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman accused republicans of caring about freedom more than nanny state nutrition initiatives. The nerve!

His column begins with the familiar charge that republicans have all been bought by the Kochs Monsanto Big Pharma the energy sector pizza companies.

Well, that’s a new one.

Krugman writes:

Republicans are the party of Big Energy and Big Food: they dominate contributions from extractive industries and agribusiness. And they are, in particular, the party of Big Pizza.

No, really. A recent Bloomberg report noted that major pizza companies have become intensely, aggressively partisan. Pizza Hut gives a remarkable 99 percent of its money to Republicans. Other industry players serve Democrats a somewhat larger slice of the pie (sorry, couldn’t help myself), but, over all, the politics of pizza these days resemble those of, say, coal or tobacco. And pizza partisanship tells you a lot about what is happening to American politics as a whole.

No one should be surprised that Krugman’s got it out for the pizza lobby for having the nerve for backing candidates that value personal choice and personal responsibility. Krugman admits it’s a persuasive argument but says “it doesn’t hold up too well once you look at what’s actually at stake in the pizza disputes.” Krugman claims “…the fights involve things like labeling requirements — giving consumers the information to make informed choices — and the nutritional content of school lunches, that is, food decisions that aren’t made by responsible adults but are instead made on behalf of children.”

Krugman is conflating two very different things. First, let’s look at those labeling requirements and why pizza shops are worried about them. People know how pizza places work—there’s a menu but normally, people order what they want on their pizzas. They customize their pizzas, which means it’s impossible to track the calories. But, if the federal government says every single restaurant needs to post calorie information, customization is out, forcing customers to order what’s on the menu (only those items that the restaurants have been sent out to labs for analysis so that the calorie and fat content can be listed on the menu).

Yet, Krugman claims “nobody is proposing a ban on pizza, or indeed any limitation on what informed adults should be allowed to eat.” Except that if these sorts of labeling initiatives apply to pizza shops, people’s choices will indeed be limited to what the government says is okay–because customized pizzas won’t be available anymore.

The good news is that the FDA's menu labeling rule—issued late last year—said that pizza shops only have to label slices, not the whole pies, which means they only have to list the calories on those pizzas that they sell by the slice. That leaves customized, made-the-way-you-like-it pizzas exempt from the labeling requirements. This is good news for pizza shops and consumers (read my longer piece on menu labels to understand why these labels do nothing to sway people’s eating habits).

So, since these labeling requirements will indeed have deleterious affects on the pizza industry, here’s a question for Krugman: are pizza shops allowed to lobby on behalf of their right to customize pizzas? Are they allowed to contribute to those policymakers who value a businessman’s right to run his business the way he sees fit?

Krugman next brings up school lunches, simply so that he can take a swipe at republicans for hating kids and opposing healthy school lunches. But what Krugman doesn’t understand is that private pizza companies (like the ones he accuses of buying republicans) have exactly zero to do with school lunches. Why? Because the school lunch program is controlled by the federal government—not private industry–and the feds don’t source the pizzas served at school lunch from these pizza shops. Rather, pizza sold in schools largely comes from USDA commodities shipments. That is, the pizza is made, frozen and shipped to school cafeterias from the USDA. These schools aren’t serving Dominos or Papa John’s or some other private pizza restaurant’s food; they’re serving USDA pizza.

And of course, Krugman completely misses the reason that republicans are opposing Michelle Obama’s school lunch reforms. It isn’t because these new meals offer healthy options, it’s because the food tastes terrible and the kids aren’t eating it! Krugman could just as easily have said “republicans care about starving kids.” Or how's this for a reason: $4 million worth of food is wasted EVERY SINGLE DAY due to kids not eating what's offered at the school cafeteria. How's this for a column title, Krugman: "Republicans worry about massive food waste" or "Republicans worry about wasted tax dollars." Either one would work.

But of course, it’s easier for Krugman to criticize republicans and trot out the familiar "they hate kids" and wax poetic about how great big government is at limiting what people can eat so that they only make healthy choices. Krugman, acting like a nutritionist, states:

Beyond that, anyone who has struggled with weight issues — which means, surely, the majority of American adults — knows that this is a domain where the easy rhetoric of “free to choose” rings hollow. Even if you know very well that you will soon regret that extra slice, it’s extremely hard to act on that knowledge. Nutrition, where increased choice can be a bad thing, because it all too often leads to bad choices despite the best of intentions, is one of those areas — like smoking — where there’s a lot to be said for a nanny state.

So, because we’re all animals who have no control over our urges to overeat, Krugman’s solution is to get the government to simply take food away from us. Yet, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that limiting people's high-calorie food options does nothing to reduce their overall calorie intake or help them lose weight.

Therefore, the far better approach would be to expand consumer choices instead of limiting them.  Luckily for millions of dieters, that’s precisely what’s happening as the food industry continues to develop lower-calorie, healthier food. Krugman would never mention this, but within five years, the food industry has removed 6.4 trillion calories from marketplace. The food industry didn't do this in response to government regulations, mandates or bans on certain ingredients; its due to the fact that the industry responded to the demands of their customers, who want greater choices in the marketplace.

And it’s also due to these industries believing in those things that Krugman can’t stand: freedom and personal responsibility.