Paul Krugman: Pizza explains American politics -- seriously

That slice of pepperoni is more partisan than you may think

Published March 6, 2015 1:45PM (EST)

Paul Krugman                                                                                                                                                                       (Reuters/Anton Golubev)
Paul Krugman (Reuters/Anton Golubev)

Why is pizza so Republican?

In case you weren't aware of pizza's partisan proclivities, Bloomberg reports that big pizza companies give a staggering amount of their political contributions to Republicans. That major corporations are supporting Republicans may seem like a classic dog-bites-man story. After all, aren't Republicans the party of big business? Well, yes, but many industries hedge their political bets, contributing heavily to both Democrats and Republicans. (This is about more than playing it safe; it also says a great deal about the corporate-friendliness of the "new" Democratic Party. But we digress.) What's notable about the pizza companies' contributions is how tilted they are toward the GOP. Little Caesar's, one of the least Republican companies, still gives 73 percent of its contributions to the party's candidates and committees, while Pizza Hut sends 99 percent of its contributions to Republicans.

What gives? In his New York Times column today, economist Paul Krugman tackles the question, and argues that pizza illustrates much about the current state of American politics.

Not surprisingly, pizza companies favor the Republicans because the GOP has crusaded against even modest government efforts to reform the food industry. As Krugman notes, the fight isn't over whether Papa John's should be allowed to stack even more pepperoni onto that pie; instead, Republicans have allied with the food industry to oppose encouraging companies to offer healthier options and to fight labeling requirements. (The GOP may be the party of the free market, but it's not so keen on free and informed choice within it.)

Given that obesity and conditions like heart disease entail large social costs, there's more at stake in these fights than an individual's waistline. But don't count on Republicans to be moved by such concerns; Krugman concludes reflexive ideology and an aversion to empiricism blind the party:

At one level, there is a clear correlation between lifestyles and partisan orientation: heavier states tend to vote Republican, and the G.O.P. lean is especially pronounced in what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call the “diabetes belt” of counties, mostly in the South, that suffer most from that particular health problem. Not coincidentally, officials from that region have led the pushback against efforts to make school lunches healthier.

At a still deeper level, health experts may say that we need to change how we eat, pointing to scientific evidence, but the Republican base doesn’t much like experts, science, or evidence. Debates about nutrition policy bring out a kind of venomous anger — much of it now directed at Michelle Obama, who has been championing school lunch reforms — that is all too familiar if you’ve been following the debate over climate change.

Pizza partisanship, then, sounds like a joke, but it isn’t. It is, instead, a case study in the toxic mix of big money, blind ideology, and popular prejudices that is making America ever less governable.

By Luke Brinker

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Democrats Food Nutrition Labels Paul Krugman Pizza Pizza Hut Republicans The New York Times