John McCain

Uncle Sam Wants You to Eat More Beef


Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal program under which cattle ranchers are required to pay for generic beef-boosting ads. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said the "Beef: It's What's for Dinner" ads amount to "government speech" and therefore do not raise First Amendment concerns. That conclusion was contrary to the logic of a 2001 decision in which a majority of the Court (including Scalia) ruled that generic mushroom ads funded by a similar levy on producers amounted to "compelled speech" and therefore violated their First Amendment rights.

The three justices who dissented from yesterday's decision noted that the government is trying to have it both ways, since the beef ads do not indicate that they are sponsored by the government, saying only that they are "funded by America's Beef Producers." "If government relies on the government-speech doctrine to compel specific groups to fund speech with targeted taxes," wrote Justice David Souter, "it must make itself politically accountable by indicating that the content actually is a government message, not just the statement of one self-interested group the government is currently willing to invest with power."

As much as I'd like to withdraw my financial support for, say, the government's anti-drug ads, I can see the problems with a general rule that says taxpayers cannot be forced to subsidize speech with which they disagree. Are my First Amendment rights violated every time John McCain opens his mouth, since I help to pay his salary? But the mandatory commodity ads do seem different, partly because they are presented as messages from the producers themselves rather than the government. Hence the dissidents (who object to the ads because–get this–they seek to differentiate their products from their competitors') are being forced not only to pay for the speech but to endorse it.

NEXT: 14 Senators Who Averted Nuclear Filibustering

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. A friend of mine was in a band whose best know song was titled “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner, Bitch!”

    They once performed for a crowd of vegans, who loved them, right up until they played “BIWFD,B!” as their encore. They finished the song, grabbed their stuff, and ran.

  2. Jacob,

    You’re far too easy on the justices. The court has effectively OK’d the practice of the government taking the side of one type of business (the cattle industry agribusiness giants) against others, like smaller organic beef growers, bison farms, etc.

    Be afraid.
    An old article by Brian Maffly that did a fine job of presenting some of the issues involved..

  3. Funny, I want me to eat more beef, too. At last we agree.

  4. joe,
    That’s the funniest thing you’ve ever posted.


  5. What Warren said (both counts)

    Of course there is the obvious question, which is why the government is cajoling us to eat beef. I like Sam Elliot as well as the next day, but he can get another job.

  6. TWC-

    What sort of wine do you recommend for pot roast? I don’t drink wine, but I do cook with it. What would be good for cooking a pot roast in?

  7. A key issue, which I think only Justice Ginsburg raised, is whether the Beef Board’s advertising can be the government’s official “government speech” even if it contradicts the government’s mainstream consensus message on healthy eating.

  8. I almost ate beef brisket for lunch today….but then I ate turkey instead. Just to spite Uncle Sam.

  9. Sunday night I had an inch-thick 15-ounce Delmonico steak for dinner. I seasoned it generously with Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, celery salt, minced garlic, regular black pepper, and cracked pepper. I seared it (I think I ruined an old skillet in the process) and then broiled it with a little butter to help brown it. It kicked butt and it was delicious. To keep my heart and colon from grinding to a complete halt, I had some cooked fresh carrots on the side and a Granny Smith apple for dessert. God, it was good. I’ve been waiting for days for an excuse to share this news with someone. It was the most enjoyable thing a man can that involves a cow. And it was good.

  10. It was the most enjoyable thing a man can DO that involves a cow.

  11. I mean, it was a bullet-train to Yum-Yum Town.

  12. It was the most enjoyable thing a man can DO that involves a cow.

    Not if you’re Alan Colmes.

    That does sound good. Actually, the only real reason I didn’t eat the beef brisket today was the same reason you ate carrots and an apple with your meal, Stevo. Heart and colon. Yeah, I kinda need those.

  13. That does sound good. ****

    **** Stevo’s meal, not the Alan Colmes thingie.

  14. Shit! I mean Neal Horsley.

    Ha, ha….Horsely.

  15. Stevo:

    Since you’re an StL native, and obviously enjoy steak, I need your opinion on something:

    Dierdorf & Hart’s, or Mike Shannon’s?

    At least St. Louis can do steak right, because the rest of their culinary inventions are terrible (gooey butter cake, St Louis-style pizza, slingers, etc)

  16. Steven —

    I’ve been to Dierdorf & Hart’s twice in my life, and it was great both times. I’ve never been to Mike Shannon’s, alas.

    Morton’s in Clayton is great, but pretty expensive, at least as much as D&H’s.

    Tucker’s Place (in Soulard or South County; haven’t been to the one in West County) is a bit more like a family-style place, not as uppity as the above-mentioned places, but still a damn fine place for steak.

    But if you besmirch the gooey butter cake, sir, I shall have to meet you on a field of honor. A well-done gooey butter cake is wonderful. So is toasted ravioli. I’m going to let you slide, so to speak, on the St. Louis-style pizza and slingers, as they are an acquired taste, like White Castle hamburgers, and many of the foreign-born cannot handle them. A well-prepared pork steak is also amazing.

    I’m hungry now.

    smacky: Yeah, I thought “Neal Horsley” was kind of an ironic name too.

  17. “Beef, it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.”

  18. Alabama, home of the World’s Heaviest Constitution, requires similar coerced fees from ranchers. I remember voting on an amendement calling for that a couple of years ago. I voted no.

  19. “Pork- The (some are more equal than)others white meat.”

  20. Listen, Darkly, I will meet you in the parking lot of Ted Drewes’ on Chippewa and we will have this out. And get concretes afterwards. I mean, there is nothing redeeming about gooey butter cake, or the abomination that is provel cheese. I concede your post on toasted ravioli, though.

    Also, there’s a steakhouse on the top floor of the building next to the Chase Park Plaza, but I forget its name. At any rate, Morton’s is definitely way out of my price range.

  21. Al’s always used to be my favorite St. Louis steakhouse, but I haven’t been there in years.

  22. So is it Stevo Steakly now?

    (…Or Stevo Beefly?)


  23. psst….hey Stevo, I think that smacky’s talking about your meat.

  24. “Meat me in St. Louie, Louie …”

    Steven Crane — The only reason I’ve been to Morton’s is that I’ve got a client who likes to come into town every year or two and go there for steaks and martinis, and my employer pays for it. I think we drop around $50 – $100 per person when we go there.

    I’ve been to Dierdorf & Hart’s once for a friend’s going-away party (and we were gently chided that they don’t normally admit people wearing jeans in the evening — oops!) and once because my brother won a free dinner there in some contest. Tucker’s Place is more my speed.

    Once I get access to a personal e-mail account that I can post here, we’ll have to get together with SixSigma sometime. Plus I think Mo once said he might be driving by St. Louis when he changes jobs. (Not sure about timing.)

    Note to self: This weekend, must schedule some time to have an erotic fantasy about smacky that involves meat.

  25. Once I get access to a personal e-mail account that I can post here ***

    *** All other personal accounts currently swamped with Libertarian Porn subscription newsletters.


    ** Hopefully that isn’t the actual reason Steakly can’t use those email accounts, especially since there are a few H&R chicks who were planning to corner that particular market someday. (won’t name any names, but the process of elimination is working against me on this one.)… Jennifer .

  26. No, no, I mean I just want to be able to fill in a real e-mail address, probably a Hotmail account, in the “Email Address” box of the “Post a comment” form. Right now I usually have to go online while at work (during lunch, evenings or “non-smoking smoking breaks) and the firewall doesn’t allow access to Hotmail, Yahoo mail, etc. etc. etc.

    My home computer died a while back; I have a new one waiting to be unpacked and set up that I never seem to get around to. That’s what I mean.

    I look forward to visiting the Jennifer/smacky chatroom someday.

    STEVO: Can we do a roleplay where you bring me a steak while dressed in that wrought-iron bikini thing that Prinecess Leia wore in Return of the Jedi? And slathered in steak sauce?

    SMACKY: Is the sauce on me or the steak?

    STEVO: Haven’t decided yet. How about both?

    SMACKY: If you have a paid site membership, I can. It’s $50 a month.

    STEVO: $50! I can get an actual uppity steak dinner at Dierdorf & Hart’s for that!

    SMACKY: But there’s no smacky in a wrought-iron bikini at Dierdorf & Hart’s.

    STEVO: True. Here’s my credit card number …

  27. Ooh. “Smacky Premium”. I’d subscribe, even if it does sound a bit like cat food.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.