Third Party & Independents Archives

Two Thirds Of America Is Fat!

One third of America is obese, but they never harm anyone except themselves, so it’s never been anyone’s business as far as social issues go. That’s changed. We now know that this third, that’s 70+ million obese Americans, affect our economic well being directly when they clog our health care system by spending 42% more than normal weight Americans. Obese people are eating America into the poor house.

Are Obese Americans the cause of all of our economic problems? Of course not, dumb home buyers, greedy real estate players, credit default swaps and a pendulum-like two party system had something to do with it too, but if you take a step back you may see a common theme here. The American consumer buys what they can’t afford, the American businessman works unethically to make more money and our leaders focus more on feeding their political coffers and exploiting factionalism to further their careers rather than solving the country’s long term problems … and all of us eat more food than we need for nourishment, some of us to the clear detriment of our health.

Don’t get me wrong, America is the greatest country on Earth and I believe that with all my heart, but there has to be a downside to our success and freedom. Here it is. Let’s look at it. Our narcissism, pride and love of American violence and power can be left for another post, but American gluttony goes deep to the root of our problems and should be explored.

There are several systemic factors that lead to America’s obesity, such as unhealthy food being the cheapest to acquire. Try buying two hundred calories of preserved junk food and then buy two hundred calories of fresh healthy food and compare the price for each. This might let you in on why so many obese Americans come from the ranks of lower income families as well as to how much choice they have in their diet, but my defense ends there (although you should watch the film “Food Inc.” to explore an expansive issue further). Many families purchase relatively healthy food with little money and keep their children from eating too much while maintaining an active healthy lifestyle, so the ‘bad food is cheap’ argument only goes so far.

The assumption that educational and/or income levels correspond to rates of obesity seems inadequate. An extremely informative dual analysis from Daruis Lakdawalla and Carol Graham published by the Wall Street Journal shows why. Obesity simply crosses too many social boundaries for an educational or income based explanation to hold all the water. According to Lakdawalla, Obesity rates from 1976 to 2001 doubled among high school dropouts, but the same rate tripled among college graduates, leaving more than one out of six college graduates obese.

Graham then goes on to show the irregular differences in obesity among socioeconomic and racial groups highlighting that women of all racial groups and socioeconomic levels have a higher incidence of obesity than men who have obesity rates more evenly distributed among these distinctions. At one point, she frustratingly asks why black men are the thinnest group and black women are the most obese. Graham also notes that the problem varies among other countries, showing that rich Russians are more obese than poor Russians, which used to be the case with the United States one hundred years ago.

This brings her argument to focus on social norms and their role in obesity in America. However, both come to the conclusion that rich American’s still generally have the best outcomes for weight maintenance due to their social norms and incentives for success and continued affluence through better health while many lower income families have a bleak outlook on their futures and, therefore, a limited desire to plan for their future health as well. This illuminating article waters down potential tactics for change to incentives versus social norms. Lakdawalla is a clear proponent of utilizing incentives to affect concrete and measurable change while Graham agrees, but is hesitant to dismiss the role that social norms play in this quandary.

So, where does this leave us? We still have a large drain on American medical resources and there is no way to address this problem without infringing, even slightly, on the individual rights of American’s. An incentive based approach, which can be more easily manipulated by policy makers, could involve positive incentives such as employers providing a lower insurance deductable for non-obese non-smokers, but people with difficult genetic weight problems would have a harder time taking advantage of this. More likely are disincentives such as the one proposed by Clarian Health Partners, an Indiana-based hospital chain, which charges employees up to $30 every two weeks unless they meet weight, cholesterol and blood pressure guidelines the company deems healthy.

We can find an example of what it’s like trying to change social norms in the case of Michelle Lombardo, a consultant funded by Kellogg, who had children at a school in Kissimmee, Florida recite a pledge to eat low fat, high fiber foods, drink lots of water and exercise, but the downside came quick when one parent soon complained their child refused to eat any of the food they had because it was unhealthy. Mom couldn’t afford to throw away her food and buy the more expensive stuff just because this Lombardo woman got an idea in her head for somebody else’s children.

As we can see from both incentives and the intentional altering of social norms that this would create a health care system that many will liken to a police state. This is hard to argue with, but let’s try.

Take another example of the effects of American gluttony, airline seats. Airlines are beginning to charge obese individuals for two seats and some think this is wrong, but break that down to brass tacks and we can learn something. When you ship something in the mail, you are charged by weight for simple reasons of practicality involving the weight capacity of transport, but why is this not the case with airline seats? Every airplane can only take a certain amount of weight, but still you’ll see a 120 pound passenger get charged for luggage just over 50 pounds, while a 250 pound passenger is charged nothing because they packed a 45 pound suitcase. The first passenger is bringing about 170+ lbs onboard, but that second passenger is walking onto the plane with almost 300 lbs of weight.

We’re talking survival here, so we shouldn’t feel bad when we damage the obese passenger’s ego by charging them for two seats, because now they’re paying for the weight they brought onto the plane. Look on the bright side, our theoretical obese passenger can bring twice as much luggage and would be entitled to two meals. Think of this country as a big airplane and if we don’t keep ourselves honest about how much everybody weighs, we’re all gonna crash.

Posted by Frederick S. Friedman at August 12, 2009 12:58 AM
Comments
Comment #286117

The problem with all this theorizing is two fold.

We don’t completely understand the mechanism of obesity, meaning the biology behind it.

Second, we don’t fully understand why some people get obese and others don’t.

Is it Air Conditioning? Video games? These things can be correlated with a rise in obesity.

It is HFCS? May be a correlation there.

Is it some psycho-sexual condition? There is some evidence that victims of sexual abuse may become obese. Some feel there may be issues of sexual repression in the form of eating disorders. Perhaps our jack booted ideas of military dominance are causing it.

Your assumption that this is some sort of moral or religious downfall called gluttony is a bit simplistic.

Posted by: gergle at August 12, 2009 2:25 AM
Comment #286125

I mean no religious connotations and I guess that can be assumed by my use of the word gluttony, but, assuming you read further, I use no religious or moral evidence to support my point. The argument simply tries to filter the issue down to what we can do about this negative effect on our society. I don’t see anybody on the hook here, unless you’re saying that American’s don’t eat ridiculous amounts of food and restaurant servings aren’t incredibly wasteful in the US.

There are a million factors that effect each individual’s weight differently, yes. Point made and emphasized. Although the causes are numerous, the solutions are few. What do you think the solution is?

Posted by: Fred at August 12, 2009 3:55 AM
Comment #286129

Fred, I have no problem with education, and dissemenation of information regarding healthy lifestyles, but presuming one can use punitive measures to control some behavior that, as I pointed out, is poorly understood, smacks of witch hunting and facism.

Posted by: gergle at August 12, 2009 9:00 AM
Comment #286153

The War on Drugs as the costliest failure in behavioral engineering by the federal government should dispel any logical mind from thinking government can alter behaviors rooted in desires, passions, or addictions.

Education and information, yes. Behavior modification is best left to rats and those in complete and total control of the rat’s environment.

And do not forget, laws which are unenforceable accomplish nothing but the breeding of contempt for law and government, and we have quite enough of that already in America (see current stories of rise in anti-government militias).

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 12, 2009 12:45 PM
Comment #286156

Fred-

First, great piece. Well thought and enlightening. Don’t we know the primary biological cause of obesity? Isn’t it overeating? I also don’t think punitive measures will work. Why not penalize employees for levels of alchohol in their bloodstream? Finally, don’t compare the war on drugs to the war on obesity. The war on drugs has more to do with the issue of legality. Junk food is legal everywhere. Offering fat people incentives to get thin is the best way to go.

And yes, I know one man’s incentive is another’s punishment. But this is literally an issue that won’t go away without some kind of public and private cooperation.

Posted by: Michael Brett at August 12, 2009 2:01 PM
Comment #286157

Nope, behavior modification is bad.

Education and information is good and I support this, but then how many people will see their kids come home and demand healthier food.
Most people agree that a certain level of sex education is good for kids and teens, but many think it’s completely unnecessary.

Unfortunately, many people will think an alteration of public school curriculum is a light form of behavior modification.

People are just beginning to allow green information and education into their lives and that’s just because everyone just got badly frightened by gas prices and economic circumstances. Still a loud minority fights this.

Fortunately, people are becoming aware of healthy food through the green movement wedging organic produce into their faces, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to education on health and obesity issues.

I’m the quality assurance supervisor at a federally qualified health center and I perform chart audits on several issues ranging from diabetes to hypertension to cancer, but we are just now beginning a study on obesity.
All of our health care providers are eager for this study because the subject frustrates them so much. We are about to get into the issues discussed in this post up to our hips and it won’t be pretty. Doctors do their best not to lose their patience with people, but the frustrating truth is that successful weight loss and management is a potential solution to almost all of their problems, including some of the health issues I mentioned above.

Try and imagine how a doctor might attempt to explain the situation to a morbidly obese patient.
This doctor is trying to save the patient’s life and if he can convince the patient to change their lifestyle successfully, he would’ve not only saved a life, but the doctor would’ve freed up a significant portion of his or her time spent on caring and billing insurance for this morbidly obese patient.

What would your advice be to the doctor? Stop being a Nazi?

Posted by: Fred at August 12, 2009 2:01 PM
Comment #286158

Thanks Michael

Yes, this problem won’t go away and needs to be addressed. I know the subject is sensitive and painful for America, but that’s why it needs to be discussed.

Posted by: Fred at August 12, 2009 2:05 PM
Comment #286159

Fred said: “Unfortunately, many people will think an alteration of public school curriculum is a light form of behavior modification.”

Yep, it is unfortunate. There are those in America who do not want their children taught empirical science, as it contradicts faith and belief in their minds. But, they have no standing, as the society has determined that society as a whole is benefitted by at least an introduction to the empirical sciences as part of the nation’s public educational, and mostly private, educational curricula.

That minority can argue that this is an infringement upon their privacy and rights of parenthood, but, legally, they have no standing. Just as the state has established the legal precedent to separate abused children from abusing parents, the abusing parents can argue abridgment of their rights, but, their arguments will fall on the majority of American’s deaf ears.

Health classes in grade school and high school which, provide scientific information, not food industry propaganda and fake research to sell their product, on what constitutes healthy lifestyle in terms of minimizing health risks, combined with peer pressure during those years, will have a positive impact on future generation’s health status in adult years.

But, there will always be those who rebel against the majority, against the rules and standards, and they will remain a segment of society for whom risk taking is a lifestyle. And that is not altogether a bad element to have in a society. In fact, our society was founded by such persons as these, who rebelled against the authority of the King.

Health however, is now a national emergency; and failure to act effectively and swiftly to minimize unhealthy choices, voluntarily through soundly researched information, and halt the health care inflation, will bury this nation in either debt or, civil disorder (some of which has already begun in the TownHall meetings, and evidenced by the rise in anti-government militias being reported this week, as a result of this nation electing an African American president, and Democrats having so much agenda control in government.)

America would do well indeed to heed the prescription of Adam Smith to promote enlightened self-interest based on sound and rational education. Enlightened self-interest requires an awareness of the long term consequences of one’s choices and decisions, and their impact upon others, as well as their selves.

To paraphrase Adam Smith, it does not good to enrich oneself through thievery which, is subsequently attended by imprisonment, bodily harm, or death in retaliation by those stolen from. We would do well to teach such enlightened self-interest thought and decision processes in our schools, at key stages of development based on the research done by Piaget, and those updating and amending his renowned research in human development.

Of course, to ask this much more of our teachers would require much more incentive for teachers to undertake this additional training and education in their own professional development. Which necessarily mandates a national educational standard and national support of the costs of these improvements.

And here again, there is a minority who will oppose vehemently such national standard improvements crying the usurpation of local control of education designed to keep kids dumb enough to reelect politicians who fail to represent their interests.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 12, 2009 2:30 PM
Comment #286160

Education reform will hopefully be the next big thing if we ever get over health care and the economy. Nothing will have a more positive influence on America’s future.

Posted by: Fred at August 12, 2009 2:42 PM
Comment #286161

Fred,

This isn’t rocket science.

We Americans take in more calories than we burn. Children would rather play sporting games on their computers than actually go outside and play the game itself. God forbid they should actually get dirty.

We have become a sedentary society.
I mean, why should we walk when we could drive there?

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 12, 2009 2:56 PM
Comment #286163

Yes, this is the most obvious side of the cause and the best solution. My giving time to food production, pricing, social norms, etc is for thoroughness sake, but ask any doctor or physical trainer.

It’s simply a matter of calories consumed versus calories burned. That’s it. When dieters actually follow this guidance completely, (i.e. count calories and exercise at least 3 X per week plus) they lose weight, no matter what genetic disadvantage they may have.

Posted by: Fred at August 12, 2009 3:54 PM
Comment #286165

Fred, but, it is not such a simple matter at all.

For many, there is a whole genetic history, biochemistry, and psychology underpinning their overweight condition. All combining to create a very complex set of motives, cravings, internal signals, food choice, activity level and at what times of day (bio-rhythms).

Anyone who has been addicted to colas or smoking, will know to some extent at least, of which I speak, here. For those who have a genetic composition, balanced and functional internal signaling apparatus, and appropriate psychology regarding eating and activity, staying slim is a piece of cake :-) But, that does not come close to describing the whole of the American population.

Add in to the mix environmental contaminants in water, foods, air, and mother’s womb, and it gets even more complex. Complexity does not make it impossible to correct obesity in America. But, it does mean that trained physicians, nutritionists, and psychologists will have to interface with a large number of overweight Americans in order to determine their mix of predispositions to obesity and treat those. Hence, the need for universal health coverage, if we are to tackle obesity and overweight health costs in the population.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 12, 2009 4:19 PM
Comment #286166

Rocky, yes, it is as complex as rocket science, probably, moreso. See my comment above to Fred.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 12, 2009 4:20 PM
Comment #286167

Sorry, I have to agree with Rocky. Although I’m sure genetics play some role in the obesity epidemic, as does societal pressure, I don’t believe we need to treat it with a fleet of government paid nutritionists and shrinks.

Make deductibles far cheaper for those who can keep their BMI’s at a decent level. Grant employers tax breaks for keeping a certain percentage of their workforce at the same agreed BMI level.

I don’t know why we treat the fat any different than smokers. I smoke occasionally. I have a family background with addiction. I don’t want the government to give me a therapist.

Walk around the block every day. Maybe twice. You can do that for free. And. Stop. Eating. So. Much.

I don’t believe the government needs to teach people how to live sensibly.

Posted by: Michael Brett at August 12, 2009 5:10 PM
Comment #286168

David,

“For many, there is a whole genetic history, biochemistry, and psychology underpinning their overweight condition.”

I disagree only to the extent that I would substitute “some” for “many” in your statement.

I would submit though that the greater number of folks in this country that are overweight (myself included) are overweight because we are not active enough, and we eat way too much toy food.

Junk food is easy to find, cheap, and way too convenient.

I personally find it hysterical that we ask restaurants to have a “nutritional” contents list available, when anyone that hasn’t been living under a rock for the last few decades knows that fast food is not truly food.
It may look like food, it may taste good, and it will fill you up, but it is not sold for it’s nutritional value.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 12, 2009 5:14 PM
Comment #286169

The fact remains that a balance between caloric intake and activity level can conquer 99% of everyone’s weight problems. Most of the other factors would be laughed at by a majority of the world’s population.

BTW, the rest of the world is laughing at us. There is now economic and scientific evidence that American’s are fat pigs. What would they think of American’s if we all got a therapist to help us get motivated to take a walk. It’s just embarrassing.

Posted by: Fred at August 12, 2009 5:30 PM
Comment #286170

Another point is that some people are still overweight because they have an extreme genetic disadvantage even though they work out and eat right.

Yes, this is true, but the fact remains that these individuals successfully fight obesity and are actually in good health when they follow their doctor’s orders.

Being healthy doesn’t mean looking like a supermodel. It means not having a medical chart more than three inches thick because of a sedentary lifestyle.

Posted by: Fred at August 12, 2009 5:34 PM
Comment #286171

I personally find it hysterical that we ask restaurants to have a “nutritional” contents list available, when anyone that hasn’t been living under a rock for the last few decades knows that fast food is not truly food.

So what? Why would you be against sharing information? Transparency is what drives free markets.

Personally, I don’t find it so intuitive that the salad at McDonald’s has more calories than the Big Mac. And health claims are on everything these days, even Frito’s. In fact, nutritionists now recommend that people generally avoid foods that make health claims. Sad.

Doctors are now diagnosing children with twin diseases never seen together before: obesity and malnutrition. All of this talk about genetics is true, but that’s not how obesity became a national problem. It’s the food and inactivity.

Posted by: Max at August 12, 2009 5:58 PM
Comment #286172

Max,

“So what? Why would you be against sharing information? Transparency is what drives free markets.”

I hate to disillusion you, but dude, we’re talking about McDonald’s, the bastion of nutrition.

If someone needs to consult with the “nutritional values chart” to make a choice at McDonald’s they’re eating at the wrong restaurant.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 12, 2009 6:12 PM
Comment #286173

Max,

I would also mention that the long running joke about McDonald’s is that the box the “Big Mac” comes in has nearly the same nutritional value of the “Big Mac” itself, and probably twice the dietary fiber.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 12, 2009 6:50 PM
Comment #286174

Fred said: “The fact remains that a balance between caloric intake and activity level can conquer 99% of everyone’s weight problems. Most of the other factors would be laughed at by a majority of the world’s population.”

Laugh or not, this is exactly the same thing as saying the balance between winnings and losings for an addicted gambler is just not gambling. And those thin folks in Asia, have their own bad habits and predispositions to contend with, like overpopulating their food and water supplies. It’s just a simple matter of no sex, or safe sex, right?

WRONG! Which brings us to the Culture issue which Rocky addresses. What is freedom in America if not spending on things that make you ‘feel’ good? Culture problem, as contributory to the psychological reasons for obesity as any other I can think of.

The Japanese are fishing themselves out of the protein marketplace through their exports. The Chinese are creating cesspools of humanity piled one atop another in such congestion as to pose the greatest public health risk the world has ever seen, in its biggest urban environments. All these are very complex issues, requiring holistic approaches by the best educated in their fields relevant to myriad causes.

You are right though. It is embarrassing. But, no nation on this earth is without its own set of embarrassments. Let’s deal with ours, and ignore their hypocritical laughter. They are afterall, following America’s path as fast as they possibly can.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 12, 2009 6:51 PM
Comment #286175

Michael Brett said: “Make deductibles far cheaper for those who can keep their BMI’s at a decent level. Grant employers tax breaks for keeping a certain percentage of their workforce at the same agreed BMI level.”

Absurd on its face. Doesn’t even begin to address the problem. Because your comment IGNORES the reality and fact that people live habituated lives, and those habits are built upon a complex of influences internal and external, individual and cultural, nurture and nature. Your comment is akin to that of bootstrap conservatives, who believe everyone need only make a snap decision and change their lives for the better. Such simplistic views continue to completely fail to address problems decades and centuries old. Illegal drug abuse and rampant speeding on our highways are perfect examples.

Every conservative knows speeding wastes fuel, is inherently more dangerous, and more often than not, does not result in getting to one’s destination any sooner. Yet, many a conservative get their fair share of speeding tickets right along with liberals. Are they STUPID ? No. It is complex. They speed for a number of reasons collectively, false assumptions, false predictions, denial mechanisms of the statistics demonstrating speed kills, habitual morning routine which fails afford ample drive time at the speed limit, mental distraction and obsession with other things, emotional disposition and reaction to other rude or law breaking drivers, etc. etc. etc. It is not just a simple matter of observing speed signs and matching one’s speedometer accordingly.

And yes, if America is going to EFFECTIVELY reduce obesity and overweight health conditions, IT WILL take the government in partnership with the private sector to achieve such results. For no other reason than the private sector is making billions encouraging obesity and overweight conditions with some highly sophisticated psychological, marketing and advertising tactics.

Rewarding those WHO ARE NOT OBESE, doesn’t address the causes for those who ARE OBESE. Your proposal is entirely illogical. Even it is premised on the proposition that obese people are obese because no one is giving them tax incentives or other rewards for NOT being obese, the logic is completely flawed. Obese people DO NOT WANT to be obese. Ergo, their own self-image is more motivation to lose weight than $50 or $100 a year in tax incentives. DUH!

Talk to a smoker of a couple decades and get to know how many times they have tried to quit and their recounts of why they began smoking again. Then, and only then, will your comments begin to acquire some insight into how complex and difficult it is for obese people to stop being obese.

Of course they have to take responsibility for their own condition. But, that works only for a small percentage of people who are overweight.

Do you really want the nation’s health and economic prospects to rest on the will power alone of the obese to stop being obese? Do you really believe they have not tried to muster all the will power they can to deal with their problem? If so, insight and first hand experience with such persons is seriously lacking.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 12, 2009 7:03 PM
Comment #286177

Make deductibles cheap enough and the tax breaks juicy enough, and you can bet you’ll see thinner people David.

Listen, we’re on the same page here basically. I just think the last thing anyone in this country wants to pay for are shrinks and nutritionists for fat people. I know I don’t want to pay for it.

And you can say I will pay for it anyway. I don’t care. Giving a fat kid a government nutritionist is no better than giving a poor kid a government computer. It will never have the desired effect.

Posted by: Michael Brett at August 12, 2009 7:16 PM
Comment #286179

Rocky, yes the culture contributes to Americans being overweight. We sell and market conveniences. And we do this selling and marketing with the most expensive and elaborate psychological research on how to influence buying behavior mankind has ever witnessed. Welcome to capitalism and its cornerstone.

I again refer to Adam Smith, author of the seminal work, Wealth of Nations, who, in his prior work upon which Wealth of Nations was predicated, which deals with human psychology and values, entitled, Theory of Moral Sentiments, laid out in great detail that social systems regardless of their economic substructure, will fail, if enlightened self-interest is not the dominant theme perpetuated from teacher to student, parent to child, and institution to member.

Adam Smith was speaking directly to the Congress, Clinton, BushII, the Banks, and wall street traders in hedge funds and credit default swaps, when he makes the point that greed holds no regard for future consequences or losses, which will invariably will exceed the gains of short-sighted greed. And such greed will garner public wrath and disdain when others are made to pay along with the greedy, involuntarily.

We would do well to heed your implication that society has a very large role to play in ameliorating the growing costs of our unhealthy lifestyles, to include our polluting corporations all the way down to the over eater redressing other frustrations in their life. Would your efforts to lose weight not be easier if 10’s of millions of dollars were not spent researching how to subconsciously motivate you to buy what you know you neither need nor want for your own health’s sake?

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 12, 2009 7:30 PM
Comment #286180

Michael said: “Make deductibles cheap enough and the tax breaks juicy enough, and you can bet you’ll see thinner people David. “

No doubt, some will find such inducements sufficient to alter their lifestyle, psychology, dietary choices, and physical activity. Not most who are overweight, however.

No amount of increasing taxes will prevent approximately 20% of our population from smoking. Imprisonment has failed completely to stem recreational drug usage in America, and as inducements go, that is just about the biggest and most powerful inducement government has to throw at behavior modification.

Such inducements are only marginally successful, and effective on only those who truly do not have a problem with weight maintenance in the first place, just an ill chosen pattern of behavior, which is easily altered.

Preliminary research is showing addicted smokers brain chemistry is different than that of smokers who have found it not that difficult to quit smoking, even after 10 years or more. Most smokers I know truly have tried to quit, many times, and will power is not the problem. The anxiety state created with abstinence, which is triggered by a drop in certain chemicals and increases in others approximating fight or flight brain chemistry is what separates these two groups of smokers.

There are similar differences between those who can manage their weight with focus and intent, and those who cannot. One friend of mine quit smoking back in the 1980’s for 4 months. Know how she did it? She barely left her apartment for 4 months, and prevented all her smoking friends from visiting. It worked. Then she got a job as a waitress. Far as I know, she is still smoking today. Perceptual triggers are a key component to psychologically dependent behaviors. We live in a culture that pushes those eating triggers in a barrage inside and outside our places of abode.

Intense focus on a career that consumes 50 to 60 hours or more per week, is a highly effective management tool for unhealthy dependencies, some research shows. How many Americans have such careers? 25, maybe 30%. Like I said, this is complex stuff, requiring the services of professionals to evaluate the obstacles to managing weight, addictions, or psychological dependencies, for most people if they are to successfully beat their unhealthy dependencies.

How many politicians, clergy, and other public officials have ruined their careers over their dependency on extra-marital or casual sexual relations in just the last few years? Do they not have the education, the will power, the smarts, to overcome their unhealthy lifestyle? Apparently not. This is complex stuff. Not a simple matter of will power, at all, in a very large number of cases.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 12, 2009 7:56 PM
Comment #286195

The idea that the price per calories generally less for junkier foods is correct, but the extrapolation that the poor are fat because of it is false.

If indeed you were starving, you would want to get the most calories for your buck and eat junk food. Starvation is not a problem for the fat poor. The obviously can afford more calories than their bodies can process.

It takes a lot of fuel to fill a tub or lard. If you can afford to buy 5000 calories that make you fat, you can afford to buy 2000 calories that will not make you so.

Consider your chart of calories per dollar. First of all, wheat bread is cheap and peanut butter is very cheap. This is a good meal. I know because that is my lunch a couple times a week and has been for more than forty years. So some of the cheap fattening foods idea is just wrong, but let’s take two extremes.

Broccoli costs $1.98 for 200 calories. You get a lot of broccoli for that price. It will fill your stomach. On the other hand, a donut costs only $0.23 for 200 calories. BUT 200 calories of a donut is not even a whole donut. Our hypothetical poor piggy will certainly eat two or three or more to fill his ever expanding stomach and end up spending more to do so that he would have done with broccoli. Broccoli is bulky and filling; donuts, not so much.

Let’s face the truth. The poor are generally worse off in terms of weight, relationships, work history and just about everything else BECAUSE the same traits that lead them to make bad choices in all these realms also leads them to make bad choices that make them poor. Sloth leads to fat and poverty and the arrow of causality runs much more in that direction. In other words, you are not fat because you are poor. You are poor and fat because you habitually make the sorts of decision that lead to both obesity and poverty.

This is the problem with freedom of choice. Some people make bad ones. One inevitable price of freedom is inequality.

We have come to see the poor as victims and so they are in some cases. But we no longer live in that Dickensian world where hard work, intelligence and thrift yield nothing but misery. In our real world, the poor have also let society down to the extent that their behavior has contributed to their penury and is creating costs and problems for others.

I feel sorry for the fat poor person and will extend charity toward him. But it really is Christian charity. I feel non-faith based moral obligation. His poverty is not the result of anything I have done and there is probably nothing I could reasonably do to pull him back onto the virtuous path. In fact, if my charity enables him to stay the course on his road to perdition, I am doing him no favors by my generosity. We may rather ask him to get off his fat ass, get as healthy as nature permits and start helping pull the wagon rather than drag along behind, a burden to the earth.

Posted by: Christine at August 12, 2009 10:59 PM
Comment #286208

God save us from the christian soldiers.

David,

Intense focus on a career that consumes 50 to 60 hours or more per week, is a highly effective management tool for unhealthy dependencies, some research shows.

Please explain further. I’m not at all sure what you are saying here.

Posted by: gergle at August 13, 2009 7:24 AM
Comment #286211

gergle, surgeons, scientists, lawyers, wall street execs, as a group live significantly healthier lifestyles than the unemployed or underemployed, one research demonstrated. I.e., focused career leaves little room for unhealthy naval pondering and anxiety producing introspective self-doubt leading to lethargy, depression, lack of motivation, overeating, etc.

Which in turn implies, that better education and vocational training and fitting would probably be the most effective measure by governments to increase the healthy lifestyles of citizens. Not an exclusive answer by any means, but, would be a big contributor to elevating the health of the American population.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 13, 2009 8:26 AM
Comment #286213

Christine said: “The idea that the price per calories generally less for junkier foods is correct, but the extrapolation that the poor are fat because of it is false.”

One can argue that gravity alone being responsible for the orbits of the planets is also FALSE. False, because while gravity is a major component, so too is angular momentum.

Low cost junk foods IS a part of the explanation for the correlation between income and life style health measures. It is just not the whole cause. The perception that more food is more satisfying when hungry than less food, is a psychological phenomenon that also plays a part, along with a host of other factors.

Lower education levels are associated with lower health measures, and lower income levels. Which negates YOUR proposition that BAD CHOICES are responsible. While they are in part, not all persons with low income, low education level, or lower health measures have made BAD CHOICES.

Culture, social events, economic events, and sometimes just less than average genetic predispositions, all outside an individual’s choices, can and do determine an individual’s station in life with regard, to income, education, and therefore health quality.

The environment a child grows up in, and the values that environment reflects as important to the child, play ENORMOUS influential roles on how individuals develop and what priorities they attend to in their lives, at the demographic statistical level of correlation. It cannot be denied nor refuted logically or objectively, since their are 6 decades of replicative reliable and valid research demonstrating this correlation.

And spare us all the red herring of the anecdotal Sonja Sotomayor stories. Anecdotal evidence neither trumps nor negates valid statistical population studies, stemming form the old adage, there is an exception to every rule. But, by definition, the exception is NOT the rule.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 13, 2009 8:42 AM
Comment #286215

Fred,
Could it be 30-40 years of advertising fast food and no need to cook?

And though it may take Americans another generation or two in order to realize they no longer live on the farm. Seeing that growing your own fruits and vegetable for free, I do expect the Canneries of Yesteryear taking one hard hit. Especially as more and more citizens discover the joy of growing your own food. For I have yet to find a Doctor that can tell me exactly what is good for my body.

So please Educate Away; however, seeing that no diet has been found to work for everyone, which ones should Government and Society choice. No, the answer exists somewhere ahead of us and why I can’t tell you exactly where that is. I do have enough Faith in the Children of the 21st Century to a healthier lifestyle than their parents.

Since, if you was to take in consideration of the Real America Lifestyle is there any question that they can’t live a healthier lifestyle? For what type of Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner is suitable for a Healthy Productive Citizen of the 21st Century may be an Unanswerable Question. Yet, I do believe that Beer for Breakfast doesn’t make the list.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at August 13, 2009 9:06 AM
Comment #286220

There are examples in our society that have worked in terms of reducing (not eliminating) harmful items. Obviously prohibtion was a failure.

On the other side of the coin I would argue that societies battle with tobacco has shown some success. Smoking rates have decreased dramatically over the decades. This has reduced the cost of treating lung cancer.

I would agree with David that the war on drugs has been a failure as well.

Which is worse diabetes or lung cancer? To the individual I would rather have diabetes. However from a society (money) point of view it might depend on the rates. How much does it cost the rest of us to treat a diabetic verses a person with lung cancer?

If we can shift our thinking on pollution to include CO2, then we can also shift our thinking to include sugar and certain fats as substances that should be controled and regulated. (not eliminated).

We certainly can eliminate advertizing for companies that promote certain foods that increase obesity. And we certainly can tax the ingredients that increase these risks.

I favor looking at these taxes because they can have the double effect of increasing health and raising revenue the way taxes on cigarettes have done.

Many would argue that these taxes are regressive. If provent that can be corrected with the rest of the tax code.

In this day and age when we need to “bend the curve” treating sugar and certain fats like tobacco by taxation and other regulation is an option that should be openly debated. It has worked with tobacco in that tobacco use has declined over the decades, and can work with other harmful items as well.

Posted by: Craig Holmes at August 13, 2009 12:02 PM
Comment #286225

Craig,

Smoking declined 20% by 2006 after the Tobacco Co. suits took place in 1998. That was a significant decline, 1 in 5 smokers, but ‘dramatic’ is overstating the case. And that drop was almost exclusively due to public education and information. Taxes didn’t increase substantially, (except in Ca.) before 2005.

In 2008, the decline in teen smoking appears to have halted, plateauing.

Americans still smoke 1631 cigarettes per capita a year. And that data comes from commercial finished cigarette sales figures. It doesn’t include the large number of smokers who have quit buying packaged cigarettes, now taxed to 4 and $5 per pack, in favor of roll your own alternatives, as well as snuff, chewing, and pipe tobacco.

One site on the internet discusses the loophole in the federal tax on bulk cigarette tobacco, directing smokers to what is called “smooth” cut pipe tobacco which is nearly identical to cigarette tobacco. Pipe tobacco was exempt from the huge increase in federal taxes.

For 2005, The National Association of Attorneys General, relying on Treasury Department data, reported that 378 billion cigarettes were sold in the United States, or about 1,300 cigarettes for every man, woman, and child in America.

So, the evidence appears to be saying that public education and information has been more effective in reducing smoking in America than taxation has been. If taxation was a solution, alcohol sales wouldn’t exist, and illegal drugs would be legal with high taxes. Taxation will reduce consumption of a product, but, only to a plateau when applied to addictive substances. The history of alcohol sales in America is ample evidence of that where up to 75% of the cost of alcohol pricing is taxation.

Interestingly, our government no longer wants statistics on how many cigarettes are being produced or sold in America, apparently, as I can find no official data anywhere, since that 2006 report.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 13, 2009 12:53 PM
Comment #286235

Craig,

My father was diabetic, and I assure you not all diabetics are as lucky as Mary Tyler Moore. Most suffer severe consequences (i.e. blindness, amputations, neuropathy(pain), and inability to drive due to blackouts), and shortened lives. It isn’t as simple as following a strict diet and regular injections.

Certainly lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema aren’t a walk in the park, either.

Posted by: gergle at August 13, 2009 4:21 PM
Comment #286247

Why not make high fructose corn syrup illegal?

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-fructose-corn-syrup/AN01588

Posted by: ohrealy at August 13, 2009 6:22 PM
Comment #286250

BTW Frederick, excellent topic and timely.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 13, 2009 7:23 PM
Comment #286251

I can’t believe the tone of people on this thread. Yes, let’s punish fat people, they don’t suffer enough already. Did the thought ever occur to you that the average American works more hours than those in the rest of the world?

As a culture, we work alot, and most do it in a chair behind a desk these days. Many have hour long commutes (more sitting) which whittle their free time down to 3 hours a day, each evening, where they get to enjoy some dinner, try not to be too depressed about their finances and maybe watch an hour of TV before they go to bed and do it all over again tomorrow. Combine the stress that creates with all the other factors mentioned here and you’ve got a losing battle for the average American waistline.

Those of you minimalizing the solution to the problem and demonizing those who are heavy should be ashamed of yourselves. I hope you reach a point in your life when your metabolism plunges and you blow up like a beached whale so you can sweat on a 70 degree day, wipe your forehead with a fast food napkin while you snarf down a cheeseburger and reflect on the ketchup soaked pickle snaking down the front of the shirt covering your big belly, which is merely a metaphor for the vitriol spewing from your lips here today. Consider this a hex on you. Post your fat pictures somewhere in another 10 years so we can all have a good laugh.

Posted by: Tyler at August 13, 2009 9:00 PM
Comment #286252

Good post Tyler.
This from “Californians for Population Stabilization”: “President Obama has restated his intention to provide an amnesty for illegal aliens. Speaking in Mexico, Obama said he wants to give “an opportunity for those who are already in the United States to be able to achieve a pathway to citizenship so they don’t have to live in the shadows.” Did he cop those words from Bush? I can recall when Obama was running as a Presidential candidate. He as much as left his liberal leanings and the left wing of the Democratic Party and began to behave and sound like a populist. But, now I’m not sure we are seeing the change many had hoped. He is following the Bush/Clinton/Bush/Regan policy on illegal immigration. He is following the Bush/Clinton/Bush policy on NAFTA and the AFTA’s. Wants to grow the Security and Prosperity Program put in place by Bush/Clinton. He seems to be following on with the Bush administration policy on the Iraq and Afghan wars. Does ‘yes we can’ still carry the enthusiasm it once had? It seems that between Eric Holder and Chuck Schumer the Democrats have managed to quell the FBI’s case against ACORN. You recall that the ACORN group was being investigated in about 12 states for election fraud and other charges. Well, at least we aren’t counting chad holes 10 months after the election. And, the ACORN group is being given a second chance to redeem themselves. They have been called into action to control the scene at some of the town hall meetings. It’s hard to find groups with such diverse skills. And, while the health care debate rolls on people are looking for scarce information. They want to know such things as how much profit each of the big meds and insurance companies make year over year, how much corruption is there amongst the profit, and in Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security. How does government interference play into the cost of healthcare, and they aren’t getting that kind of information. Legislators are out there explaining healthcare reform when there are five different versions being worked on. Obama should stick with selling cars I do believe.
It’s become laser clear that the Corpocracy thought they could shove this thing through because the ‘people wanted healthcare reform’. Laser clear after these last few days, if they try to ram this one through, which they have the votes to do, this administration will operate in lame duck mode for the conclusion. Indeed, the administration may come apart. This is one strike against the O’s. And, should they take a shot at amnesty, well, you ain’t seen nuthin yet! Strike two fer shure.
I guess you can detect the enthusiasm in my keystrokes. People actually standing up to the Corpocracy! So many of us thought it would take a near depression or similar to bring people off their couch. It gives new life to the cause of revolution and reform. Perhaps I’m being over-euphoric but it’s a feel good moment for sure. Tonight I see a smile on TJ’s face.

Otherwise, we have the Corpocracy we desereve!

Posted by: Roy Ellis at August 13, 2009 9:15 PM
Comment #286253

Tyler:

Americans used to work 60 hours a week. And most men worked until they were over 70 years old. We have more leisure time than any Americans in history.

The more affluent people are,the more hours they work per week, and the less they weigh and the longer their longevity.

Posted by: Craig Holmes at August 13, 2009 9:19 PM
Comment #286254

Tyler, but what constitutes a solution for high costs which America can no longer afford of such lifestyles and culture? What can be done as a nation to save our economy from the ravages of spiraling health care inflation, and pandemic lack of physical and psychological health resulting from our culture.

You berate those who are attempting to wrestle with the problem, yet, I hear not a scintilla of prospective solution in your commentary. Defending fat people, 2/3 of Americans apparently, without addressing their condition or the costs their condition presents to our nation’s future, is a rather empty gesture, don’t you think?

I disagree with the perspective of many who have commented here, but, I respect their willingness to publicly ponder and debate the problem and potential solutions from their vantage point. This is what democracies do in preparation for dealing with their nation’s problems. It constitutes an information exchange which generally elevates the public’s appreciation of the dimensions of the problem, and better prepares them for accepting forthcoming solutions, if such solutions are forthcoming (which in this case appears dubious, but, that is fodder for another debate.)

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 13, 2009 9:23 PM
Comment #286256

David

We agree that “Lower education levels are associated with lower health measures, and lower income levels.” And what do people with lower education levels do not as well? Understand and make good choices.

You are right that there is a whole ecology at work concerning wealth and poverty. But clearly most people are not poor because of random chance and just as clearly the poor have the capacity to become less wretched by a change in the choices they make.

All the things you mention from genetic endowment to cultural background contribute to the capacity to make good and bad choices, but we keep on coming back to choices as the key link.

That is what makes the problem of poverty so intractable. If it was a mere physical or economic condition, we could just change it. In fact, much of the successful intervention by government and charity is when just those conditions ARE the problem. The New Deal helped pull people out of poverty because there were a large number of honest poor who just needed better conditions to prosper. The Great Society largely failed because it tried to directly “help” the poor, and by the 1970s the problems of the poor were more related to choices and behaviors than to conditions.

The Sotomayer example is a good one of individual achievement. It is not an anomaly. She certainly did not do it w/o government support, but government support is certainly not sufficient to explain her success. But we can point to much larger group gains as dirt poor and oppressed immigrants rise from poverty to prominence in one generation.

In our great country, MOST poverty is behavior based. You have a valid point to ask how that behavior is shaped, but choice is the link of maximum leverage. Change that and you can change conditions. Leave it alone and you are just pouring resources down a rat hole and doing neither the poor nor anybody else any lasting good.

Posted by: Christine at August 13, 2009 9:40 PM
Comment #286260

David you said,

“So, the evidence appears to be saying that public education and information has been more effective in reducing smoking in America than taxation has been. If taxation was a solution, alcohol sales wouldn’t exist, and illegal drugs would be legal with high taxes. Taxation will reduce consumption of a product, but, only to a plateau when applied to addictive substances. The history of alcohol sales in America is ample evidence of that where up to 75% of the cost of alcohol pricing is taxation. “

A couple of points:

1) Taxes on cigarettes started increasing in the early 90’s in many states (I know because I started smoking then, and the cost per pack went up almost everywhere I went, and I travelled a fair bit at least East of the Mississippi). I remember the conversation among smokers ranging from “if it gets much more, I’m going to have to quit,” to the more realistic, “I’d probably pay whatever it takes.”

The success of taxes and public education though was to reduce the number of new smokers. By making it more expensive and more difficult for teens to get butts, fewer started. Since most start when they are teens, fewer overall new smokers started.

2) Obviously, public information and education is not having any measurable affect on the obesity problem. The information has come in almost direct correlation with the obesity rates.

While I understand your arguments against using incentives, I don’t see another viable alternative. This is a public health problem and needs public health solutions. We can’t afford as a nation to treat this problem in the same way that we do substance abuse with individual treatment. There simply aren’t enough resources to provide over half of America with private nutritional and physical training.

Certainly for the morbidly obese, a paralell to substance abuse treatment is warranted. But for the remaining 40 to 50% of us that are on the scales somewhere from pudgy to fat (I’m somewhere in the middle of that according to my Wii Fit; that I’ve ignored too much lately), we have to find solutions that are more generic.

I think we need to look at options that both punish obesity (through taxes) and other measures that encourage healthier lifestyles. We need both a carrot and a stick. For the carrot side, one thing that the govenment could do is provide funding to the local levels for recreational facilities and parks. These are the areas that local governements are forced to cut when revenues get soft. The federal government should also return revenues to enhance physical education and sports programs in schools which are cutting these in record numbers right now to save money. These programs would encourage kids to learn healthier lifestyles and give them avenues to pursue them later in life. These programs could be funded by increased taxes on fast food which would be disincented because it is now more expensive.

Posted by: Rob at August 13, 2009 10:24 PM
Comment #286264

Rob,

“I think we need to look at options that both punish obesity (through taxes) and other measures that encourage healthier lifestyles.”

As it has been said before not all obese people are obese way through choice.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity#Causes

If you read through the link you will see that this isn’t just a problem in America. In reality obesity is actually a world wide problem.

There are those of us that don’t burn more calories than we intake, however, there are those of us as well that have no physical control over their obesity.
Just how do you justify punishing people for problems not of their own making?

Rocky


Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 13, 2009 11:11 PM
Comment #286266

Christine said: “You are right that there is a whole ecology at work concerning wealth and poverty. But clearly most people are not poor because of random chance”

Really? If you had been born in Rwanda instead of the U.S., would it have made a difference in your life? And isn’t where you are born a chance event, built upon chance events dating back to the beginning of the earth, or, if you prefer the religious take, to the temperament of God on the day he designed it?

Children don’t have a say in most of the environmental conditions which shape their adulthood and open or close doors in our society while they are still young. Hell, even one’s date of birth is a chance event and at what stage of civilization’s existence one is born into is a highly determinating chance event.

Not poor because of chance? That is an inherent blind spot in the minds of conservatives who take entirely for granted their position and opportunities attending the circumstances of their family, place and time of birth, race, genetics, and limiting defects or absence thereof.

Of course, I am arguing from an empirical position, as opposed to a fundamentalist religious position that posits that all things that happen are predetermined by God’s will. The latter have neither evidence nor room for rational discussion about anything whatsoever.

What we continue to come back to, is not extant choices, but, perceived choices. We are not all born with nor gifted with the ability to perceive the myriad choices before us as we develop and age. Even the most gifted in this area, are limited in their ability perceive all the choices before them, and assign probable outcomes to those with any accuracy.

A beaten and abused child will not perceive choices before it because their fear will masque those choices. Conversely, a child who is raised without limits on want and desire fulfillment, will be blind to many consequences of the choices they make, since their desire to avoid the consequences of their choices will have also been fulfilled in their development. (Bernie Madoff might be a good example). And these two polar examples assume the absence of psychological or organic brain disorders.

As I said elsewhere, the anecdotal exception does not make the rule. Sotomayor is by definition, the exception to the rule. There are only 9 Justices, and 330 million people. The reality dictates not everyone who wishes to become a S.C. Justice, will, and choice has nothing to do with that filtering process. Reality has everything to do with that filtering process. The reality which dictates choice alone is insufficient to achieving any goal.

Chance, and myriad other factors play into whether one’s choices will ever be realized, or not. 9/11 eliminated the potential of over 3000 Americans ever realizing their choices, and that fact, I assure you, was not of their choosing. Chance is an enormous player in whether people achieve their choices, and more fundamentally, whether they will ever even perceive the choices, potential before them.

I know how hard this reality is for many people to accept. But, what chance did an African American born in Alabama in 1830 ever have of becoming president of the United States? Their will power and choice had nothing to do with either their potential to become president, nor even the absence of the recognition of that potential. It was determined for them, before they were even born.

The same paradigm applies to genetics, environmental conditioning, experience, and the perception of that experience, in the development of each and every person.

A person born to a particular tribe in Borneo in the early part of the last century, who moves to the U.S. at the age of 12, could never become an agronomist, nor even a sales clerk in the yard and garden section of Home Depot. Why? Because they cannot see the color green psychologically. There is no word in their language for Green. The color does not exist for them. To them what we see as green, is just another shade of brown. They have many words for their spectrum of brown imbued with definitional relations and experience with their environment in Borneo.

Its a rather extreme example, but, makes the point very clear, that perception of choices is an entirely different thing from extant choices which may exist, but, are never perceived.

The problem with judging other’s choices is, that the act is premised on others being us. The judgment always boils down to, if I were them, I would not make the choice they did, therefore their choice was wrongly made. But, you are not them, and they are not you. And the difference in part, is perceived choices, shaped by genetics, environment, handicaps and abilities, and the unique reflections and perceptions of their own experiences.

Once one grasps this essential truth about human nature, one cannot hold oneself up as the standard by which others are to be judged. Hence, that famous Christian wisdom, judge not, lest ye be judged, by someone more capable than oneself.

So, no, your statement is incorrect. People are largely poor because of random chance. Whether one is born into the Brahman class or not in India, is pure chance. Whether one has the psychological, mental, and emotional temperament as well as environmental conditioning to avoid remaining poor most or all of their life, can very much be a matter of chance. Of course, choices, moral and objective and biased, all play a part as well in our financial outcomes. But, the argument there is sufficient resources to ensure that every American choosing to become rich can and will, is patently false, from a purely economic standpoint. The marketplace allocates those resources in a manner as to insure the majority of any society shall never attain the wealth of the wealthiest, regardless of economic system is operative. That is a fundamental law of economics which history proves without exception.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 13, 2009 11:48 PM
Comment #286267

Rocky,

I appreciate that there are those that are obese not because of their own actions. Perhaps I should have taken a more exact phrase. What I meant is that we should tax the purchase of products that lead to or contribute to obesity. If we focus the taxes on these things, then it doesn’t matter what the cause is. If we tax fast food and soda pop, it won’t matter what the cause is. For whatever the reason that a person is obese, fast food and soda pop are not ways to either allay or avoid the problem.

Posted by: Rob at August 13, 2009 11:55 PM
Comment #286269

David:

I hate to agree with you but Gladwell’s book “outliers” makes the same point. We are a product of luck (timing as well pedigree), as well as hard work of course.

Outliers tend to be the ones who take full advantage of incredible luck. (Bill Gates for instance).

In our particular thread looking at Health care costs and our American diet with little exercise, along with our need for debt, maybe we are near a “tipping point” (another Gladwell book). Maybe the medical bubble is about to burst.

Posted by: Craig Holmes at August 14, 2009 12:10 AM
Comment #286270

Rob,

“If we tax fast food and soda pop, it won’t matter what the cause is.”

Fast food and soda are not in themselves the problem. Taken in moderation just as with anything else they are merely a decadent pleasure.

For those that don’t have genetic or other issues, the problem isn’t just fast food and sodas, it’s also knowing when to push yourself away from the table, and knowing when to turn off the TV, get off the couch and go outside.

Shall we also tax TVs and couches?

As the link I provided pointed out, this is a worldwide problem, and IMHO a lifestyle problem for the vast majority of us.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at August 14, 2009 1:08 AM
Comment #286271

Rob said: “This is a public health problem and needs public health solutions.”

Since when did punitive measures become health solutions. Health solutions require medical expertise, not imprisonment, garnishing wages, or taxing addictions which increase revenues but DO NOT eliminate addiction. You talk the talk, Rob of public health solutions, but, you then proffer punitive measures as if the Soviet Union was so successful in controlling the behavior of their people.

Do not not forget the resentment factor. I smoked for years after taxes went up in defiance of the taxes. I simply moved to generic cigarettes, keeping my cost the same. Screw ‘em if they think they can punitively manipulate my behavior and choices. When the taxes went up again, I rolled my own. Easy enough with a machine that costs $26.

And millions did and are enacting similar defiance by moving to snuff, chewing tobacco, or exploiting the federal loophole for pipe tobaccos.

Taxation only alters behavior to a certain point and only for those who wanted to, and could, alter their behavior before the taxation gave them the slight additional incentive to modify behavior they already were predisposed to modifying, anyway.

Adding taxes without affecting accessibility can only be marginally effective. Morphine is not readily found in our society. Taxes would have utterly failed in modifying morphine addicts behavior. Strict control of access was required to effect that public health problem back at the turn of the last century.

That is what will be required to reduce obesity caused by accessibility. But, since obesity has many causes, not just accessibility, removing high sugar, carbohydrate, and fat foods from the public marketplace would fail almost entirely to address obesity in America. One can get fat on healthy foods as well if an obsessive-compulsive eating disorder is the cause of obesity, for example.

Like I said, it is a complex issue, binary solutions are doomed to fail due to failure to address the host causes. America is only just behind China in cigarette consumption. Taxation is a binary solution. It has failed. The number of teen smokers has plateaued and will not amend to additional taxation, which will only be met with circumvention. Black market cigarette sales are already increasing. Another downside to taxation - a lesson of Prohibition that has apparently been forgotten by many in government.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 14, 2009 6:43 AM
Comment #286272

Craig said: “In our particular thread looking at Health care costs and our American diet with little exercise, along with our need for debt, maybe we are near a “tipping point” (another Gladwell book). Maybe the medical bubble is about to burst.”

I believe we are past the tipping point. My reasoning is simple enough. We are facing complex issues requiring complex holistic solutions, like health care reform, and our population is not capable of accepting complex holistic solutions. Our people are only capable of factionalization and sports contestant and sports fan models and mindsets, centered around templates of “lets you and him fight”. As a population we are riveted by such templates which are everywhere in our marketing, advertising, and entertainment industries, not to mention work places and schools.

This is one of the fundamental reasons China is overtaking the U.S. as the dominant economic power in the world. There social structure is not built on ‘let’s you and him fight’ out solutions and compromises. They take their goals from the people and enact solutions from within a vastly smaller power structure, which will move the nation toward those goals. Those who don’t like the solutions are ignored at best, imprisoned or disappeared at worst. The people are not allowed to stand in the way of what the people need.

It is a spine tingling and threatening form of command structure China has from an American perspective, but, the evidence of its effectiveness is overwhelming since the end of Mao’s regime, which did not formulate their objectives on the needs of the people.

Our Republic was supposed to carry with it this power to establish the needs of the people and nation based on the people and nation, and then enact solutions regardless of whether large or small factions of the population protested or not. There is no greater example of this than the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960’s.

That is what was called statesmanship. But, the people today have lost their ability to fire incumbents who are not statesman and women, and hence, their representatives have lost their sense of obligation toward the best interests of the people and nation, linking their political fate instead to the power of party, money, lobbyists, and special interests to reelect them, regardless of the disapproval factor of the people, which no longer manifests itself in an anti-incumbent vote. Hence, we have far too few statesman and women in federal government anymore, and have lost our ability to deliver what the people and nation require, complex, holistic solutions.

In many ways, the American people act like they want the simplistic approach of GW Bush back again. All this complexity and multivariate addressing of complicated issues is scaring the hell out of the American people. And who can blame them? Our politicians have utterly and completely failed to instill trust, beginning with the Contract With America broken, through the Clinton scandals, failures to prevent 9/11, go after our enemies choosing instead to commit our military to oil revenues, failure to respond appropriately to Katrina, failure to regulate Wall St. and the mortgage and real estate markets, and the banking sectors, and the massive failure to manage our fiscal responsibilities, which now culminate in extremely difficult and enormously costly remedies to avoid an unwinding of our entire economic infrastructure.

Add to this now, the highly complex and enormous threat of health care inflation, and we find ourselves in an hour of greatest need for statesman and women as well as pregnant with fear and distrust. Abraham Lincoln or George Washington could step forward today under other names, and we would not trust them or their complex holistic and costly solutions. Yes, I would call this quite a pickle. :-)

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 14, 2009 7:19 AM
Comment #286283
Tyler, but what constitutes a solution for high costs which America can no longer afford of such lifestyles and culture? What can be done as a nation to save our economy from the ravages of spiraling health care inflation, and pandemic lack of physical and psychological health resulting from our culture.

You berate those who are attempting to wrestle with the problem, yet, I hear not a scintilla of prospective solution in your commentary. Defending fat people, 2/3 of Americans apparently, without addressing their condition or the costs their condition presents to our nation’s future, is a rather empty gesture, don’t you think?

Not at all. I gave it all it deserved. This is an over-inflated and sensationalized “problem”. There are as many articles out there saying X linked with obesity as there are saying no link with obesity and X found. Yes, some obese people have health issues. All do not. Lots of non-obese people have health problems too. There’s no clear linkage to warrant the full scale demonization it’s getting these days.

Like anything else, the reason people want this demonized comes down to 1 thing…. money.

The diet industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Does it work? You tell me.

There’s huge money in pharmaceuticals for slimming people down.

The exercise industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Does it work? Again, you tell me.

Do you think Chuck Norris cares if that gadget he peddles in the infomercial makes you slim? Of course not. He cares that you get out your credit card.

By perpetuating the idea that this is an “epidemic” of outrageous proportions, we keep making fat people feel bad, and keep the money flowing. The more we can keep the fatties spending money and failing and lowering thier self-esteem, the more the cycle feeds itself, and the richer the ones at the top get.

By predicating the first shot across the bow that fat = bad and thin = good…. this articles’ tires have blown out before the rubber even hits the road.

My grandmother comes to mind. Southern woman, cooked everything in lard and bacon fat, kept a “grease can” on the center of the stove. Certainly morbidly obese by BMI standards. Lived a happy life, had a cold every now and then, a broken hip when she got older, died at 88. Cost to the system - nominal.

A previous coworker also comes to mind. The guy was in his 50’s. Was a bodybuilder in his 20’s and 30’s. In superb shape, 7% body fat or something stupid. Interestingly, ALSO morbidly obese according to BMI. He had high cholesterol and had 5 bypass surgeries before his 50th birthday. cost to the system - enormous, and counting.

Being fat doesn’t make you unhealthy, it doesn’t make you healthy either. The same goes for being in shape. Life and biology has no guarantees for any one of us.

BMI is a terrible way to assess people. The idea of charging people or legislating anything based on such antiquated science is absurd. You be the judge…. how healthy are these people? http://www.flickr.com/photos/77367764@N00/sets/72157602199008819/

(You’re not alone if you can’t tell just from their BMI)

I disagree with the perspective of many who have commented here, but, I respect their willingness to publicly ponder and debate the problem and potential solutions from their vantage point. This is what democracies do in preparation for dealing with their nation’s problems. It constitutes an information exchange which generally elevates the public’s appreciation of the dimensions of the problem, and better prepares them for accepting forthcoming solutions, if such solutions are forthcoming (which in this case appears dubious, but, that is fodder for another debate.)

Ponder away. What bothers me the most about this line of thinking is the nosing into people’s lives. The people who peddle this kind of “down with the fatties” BS are the same ones who picked on the smokers. Now they are bored with the smokers cuz there aren’t enough left to matter. So fat is the new scape goat in their campaign to pick on people for not living like they do. Who’s next? Coffee drinkers? Meat eaters? People who like country music?

Live and let live, I say. Educate people how to live healthy and leave it at that.

Posted by: Tyler at August 14, 2009 11:54 AM
Comment #286284

David:

Bubbles are caused by many things. A belief largely held that the current path is going to continue, and money to fund it among them.

When you post a thread that says that 50% of our spending on health care is waste, that is quite a bubble! In “theory” we could lay off 50% of our medical staff and not hurt our health at all.

It is easy for me to find where the extra money has come from. Just take a look at productivity gains of American workers, and how their wages are stagnant. Corporations basically used productivity gains to pay for higher health care costs.

The same is true on the government side. Look at defense spending as a percentage of gdp and interest costs as a % of GDP. As interest rates dropped and defense spending declined there was no “need” to look at health care costs.

Why economize when there is money to pay for the increase? Well, those days are gone. Now of course Obama has suggested we have money from part of the Bush’s tax cuts to pay for another leg up on health care spending. He may be right about that. But what is next?

So we have a health care bubble that is double what it should be that has been inflated due to cost savings elsewhere that now are gone.

Add to this the age wave being here, (Or a at least 3 yrs into the future with oldest boomers 3 years away from medicare), and now increases in health costs hurt.

Once someone has to change their lifestyle to pay for increases in healthcare, (As many seniors are having to do), and that group gets to a critical mass, all of a sudden Amerians want to look into the books. (As at the town hall meetings).

I think it is good. If we are paying double the needed cost of a service, that bubble can really deflate.

When politicians stand up and say “we pay twice as much for medical care as we need to and my plan is to get the money there with out harming your health”, bingo, a new majority could be formed. That is where the reform needs to take place. Deflating the bubble.

We are already paying for universal health coverage without any tax increases, we are just wasting the money with inefficiency.

Posted by: Craig Holmes at August 14, 2009 12:09 PM
Comment #286287

Tyler, thank you for your thoughtful and considered response. You swayed me, effectively to your side of the argument.

Truth in advertising is a far more pervasive and destructive component of our current society than is our overweight condition. And you point to that fact very persuasively.

Thanks,
My education on the matter has expanded.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 14, 2009 12:35 PM
Comment #286290

Craig wrote: “When you post a thread that says that 50% of our spending on health care is waste, that is quite a bubble! In “theory” we could lay off 50% of our medical staff and not hurt our health at all.”

That is illogical and false. Your statement presumes the waste is in the treatment of patients, and not the administration of billing practices (true) or lack of coordination and information sharing between medical delivery personnel, resulting in duplicative testing and procedures (true).

It is also illogical due to the fact that even if eliminating some of the waste would reduce the need for medical staff under our current system, adding health care availability to 46 million currently uninsured would result in increased demand for those same medical personnel.

Craig said: “It is easy for me to find where the extra money has come from. Just take a look at productivity gains of American workers, and how their wages are stagnant. Corporations basically used productivity gains to pay for higher health care costs.”

True enough. And with protracted reductions in consumer demand and a new found respect by the American public for saving instead of spending, such gains in productivity are not going to continue to increase as they have before. Productivity gains are linked to increasing production. When production is cut back, synergistic and economy of scale productivity gains are lost to some extent.

I am in agreement with the rest of your comments, except for “We are already paying for universal health coverage without any tax increases, we are just wasting the money with inefficiency.”

This statement implies that we only need to cut waste to pay for universal health care coverage. However, cutting the waste, at least 450 billion per year of it, will require an investment in new medical Information Technology infrastructure, software, secure database centers, and training. We are going to have spend more money before we can reap the compound savings that new spending will produce.

Several years of investment in the new infrastructure costing in the neighborhood of 10 billion per year, in order to achieve 450 billion a year in savings for decades to come, is a pretty damned wise investment, if you ask me. The 10 billion a year over several years is an unsubstantiated guess at the investment cost. The relationship however, remains sound.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 14, 2009 1:03 PM
Comment #286293

Tyler,

I know the BMI is a weird measurement, but don’t let your grandmother or the body builder examples fool you.

As a quality assurance supervisor for a three health clinic system, I go over thousands of medical charts each year and let me tell you that the connection is real. Almost every time a big thick chart means somebody is obese. Once in a while the big charts are for 90+ year old people, but the rest are all obese people destroying their bodies to the frustration of their doctors.

Ignoring the connection between obesity and health is dangerous. I previously mentioned this was none of our business until the health care cost became apparent.

This is real, obesity is bad for you. If you live a full life with no health problems while being morbidly obese the whole time, you are the exception, not the rule. Same goes for fifty year smokers that never get cancer. So what! That’s just another miracle exception.

You can come up with many examples, but you can’t come up with national statistics because there is a direct connection between obesity and several health problems.

The only thing I believe is constitutional is education on the subject, but the point of the article was to stop ignoring what is actually a problem for this country.

You may see this as an attack on fat people, but this is an attempt to save lives and in turn the resources that could be used to save other lives.

Dismiss this as another bogey man witch hunt if you want, but that’s just a defensive knee jerk reaction to an attempt to help. It’s not like we want to deport the fatties and make them wear identification and torture them until they comply. We’re just asking them to take care of themselves instead of leaving it up to everyone else around them to clean up a messy end of life medical train wreck.

Posted by: Fred at August 14, 2009 2:58 PM
Comment #286298

David,

You said, “Since when did punitive measures become health solutions. Health solutions require medical expertise, not imprisonment, garnishing wages, or taxing addictions which increase revenues but DO NOT eliminate addiction. You talk the talk, Rob of public health solutions, but, you then proffer punitive measures as if the Soviet Union was so successful in controlling the behavior of their people.”

You asked when did public health solutions involve taxes. The answer is as soon as our primary public health problems were no longer about infectious disease management and were about the compounding problems of individual choices. We have used punitive measures quite successfully to reduce the following public health problems of drunk driving and smoking. I know that you dispute the efficacy of taxes on smoking but the data says differently: http://contexts.org/graphicsociology/2009/04/08/cigarette-tax-smoking-rates/ was within the first three links I found in a simple google search.

That said, I realize that taxes will not cause every American to stop smoking nor will it make every obese person stop eating. That’s actually not even the point. The point is to reduce the overall percentage of American’s engaging in unhealthy acts or in the case of the food arguments reduce the number of times that it occurs. These taxes are inteded to both decrease activity and increase revenue to account for the external prices of the activity not measured in the cost of production for the goods being purchased.

It will take more than merely disincenting this behavior. It will take all that you talk about, but we make our first steps in public health care initiatives by picking the low fruit. Taxes provide the vehicle to get to this low-hanging fruit.

You obviously only read half of what I wrote if this is what you walked away with. I think that I also offered positive solutions as well that would lead to healthier lifestyles. Things like adding funding for physical education, parks, and recreational centers to incent children to being their lives with healthier habits and to allow others to continue or revamp their lives to healthier habits without added costs.

Posted by: Rob at August 14, 2009 7:26 PM
Comment #286299

From “Tyler”:
Lots of non-obese people have health problems too.
Not from the accumulation of excess fat and fluids in their bodies.

The diet industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Does it work?
Yes, it mostly does. People are better off using artificial sweeteners and this isn’t the Oprah show.

The exercise industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Does it work?
Yes, it does. Evidently, in the small circle of people that you know, you’ve either never met anyone who benefitted from exercise or don’t want to admit it.

Do you think Chuck Norris cares if that gadget he peddles in the infomercial makes you slim? Of course not. He cares that you get out your credit card.
I’m not aware that Chuck Norris peddles anything. When I watch the programs recorded in my DVR, I fast forward over the commercials. When I watch live TV, I mute the commercials. Why are you watching informercials, anyway?

Now they are bored with the smokers cuz there aren’t enough left to matter
This is a lie, besides being a stupid statement.

So fat is the new scape goat in their campaign to pick on people for not living like they do… then insert straw men arguments. D.A.N, please insert picture of crying baby.


You swayed me, effectively to your side of the argument. Truth in advertising is a far more pervasive and destructive component of our current society than is our overweight condition. And you point to that fact very persuasively. Thanks, My education on the matter has expanded.
Posted by: David R. Remer at August 14, 2009 12:35 PM

And there you have the problem with the forum. Silly emotional arguments persuading people who should know better.

Posted by: ohrealy at August 14, 2009 7:32 PM
Comment #286305

You may see this as an attack on fat people, but this is an attempt to save lives and in turn the resources that could be used to save other lives.

I think a lot of heavy people are going to see it as an attack. It’s a very trying and extremely personal struggle for a lot of people. I think it’s a harder addiction to conquer than smoking or heroin or alcohol. When you quit the latter items, you quit, you stop. You keep it from being around you and you eventually learn to cope. You can’t STOP eating. Anyone who’s struggled with a drug addiction will vouch that one puff or one hit is all you need to fall off the wagon. Imagine how that works for someone with an eating disorder?

I expect the olive branch you’re offering isn’t going to be well received. Don’t believe me? Go pick 10 random obese people on the street and introduce yourself and offer to help them lose weight. Between the ones who take it as a personal attack and the ones who are happy as is and want to be left alone, I’d suggest wearing protective gear before you go out on your quest. Let me know how it works out.

The diet industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Does it work?
Yes, it mostly does. People are better off using artificial sweeteners and this isn’t the Oprah show.

If it works then why isn’t everyone skinny and all the companies that run diet plans out of business due to lack of demand? Do you really think people don’t try? I know many people who have done Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, etc. They go from one plan to the next, maybe they lose a little and feel good for a bit, but the underlying issue isn’t being addressed because they eventually always end up putting the pounds back on and are back on the cycle. What are the underlying issues? If we knew that we’d probably already have the problem solved on a large scale.

The exercise industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Does it work?
Yes, it does. Evidently, in the small circle of people that you know, you’ve either never met anyone who benefitted from exercise or don’t want to admit it.

Of course I know people who have benefited from exercise. But the large majority of people who fit the category of obese don’t. Maybe temporarily, but very seldom for the long haul. Again, there’s a lot of money to be made in the revolving door from one plan to the next.

The bottom line is, we don’t have strong enough evidence to automatically assume every fat person is unhealthy, and every skinny person is healthy. The point of this article is a proclamation that fat people should be targeted as the next group of evil doers in society. I still think it’s an extremely unfair stance to take considering the degree of variance, the lack of conclusive support, the 19th century science by which we determine who falls where, and all of the other stigmas and hurdles heavy people face in American society today.

And there are a lot of people who are quite happy being big. How very un-American (yet QUITE predictable in today’s times) for you, the media and the government to try to set the standard by which their personal happiness is measured.

Posted by: Tyler at August 14, 2009 8:32 PM
Comment #286312

David

You are making an epistemological argument and in that you are correct. But it doesn’t make a lot of difference for us today in America.

My argument is practical. If you want to reduce the sting of poverty, what do you do? If you treat people as objects w/o the power of choice, you will not mitigate the problem. Many of the direct and ostensibly logical attempts to alleviate poverty (such as concentrating the poor in massive public housing complexes and tying welfare benefits to destructive lifestyles) attempted in the 1970s actually exacerbated poverty because people reacted as people do with choices.

You are correct that some people come into society with severe disadvantages in cognitive ability, background and culturally based habits. But where is the point of leverage? Do you just accept that they are just that way or do you try to do something about it. I suggest that you have to get at the behaviors associated with poverty (which, BTW, are also associated with problems such as crime, drug use and illegitimacy).

Sometimes it is no gift to be generous if it allows recipients to avoid choices that may improve their lives. Many of my happiest and most successful moments resulted from being faced with hard choices and making the right ones. Had some benevolent force “saved” me the pain, I would have been much worse off and may have become a burden to society rather than a productive member.

Posted by: Christine at August 14, 2009 9:17 PM
Comment #286313

Tyler, in the 1960s there were almost no obese people. Almost every kid ate candy every day, although sodas were not consumed as much. My older brother and I drank a gallon of milk every day. In the grade school that I attended, you could count the number of “fat” kids on one hand.(They would be considered slightly chubby by current standards.) One of these was a childhood friend of mine mentioned in these forums before, who was slightly chubby until the summer after freshman year in high school, when he went to work and lost the fat, and hasn’t regained any to this day, now a law professor in Malibu.

In the 1960s, we stopped getting the good sugar from Cuba, and started experimenting with concotions like high fructose corn syrup. By the 1990s, there were obese children everywhere. Recently, I saw a well-educated individual laughing at the attempts of a large woman to fit into a seat for two on the bus. I felt sorry for her, and have not thought very highly of him ever since.

On your other arguments, like I said, this isn’t the Oprah show, no one said skinny people are all healthy, and please don’t use the word addiction to describe bad habits and poor lifestyle choices. In between this post and the last one, I went up and down a flight of stairs several times, ran around the house playing with the cat for a while, went outside and watered the plants on the south and west sides of the house, and talked to a neighbor whose children were running around outside. What did you do in that time?

Posted by: ohrealy at August 14, 2009 10:08 PM
Comment #286328

Rob, then by your logic, we should tax the internet in order to reduce the sedentary time citizens spend at their keyboard or other input device. Then we can move on to imposing progressive taxes on transportation based on mpg and greenhouse gas emissions. Then we can tax gun sales, knife sales. Given the rise of anti-government militia, we can then tax fatique clothing, survival gear, paint guns, and all manner of survivalist schools and education courses. Let’s see, then we should progressively install value added taxes on sugars, fats, and carbohydrates. Followed by progressive taxation on housing based on square footage since bigger structures consume more energy contributing to greenhouse gases and dependency on foreign home heating oil.

And the list can go on and on with your social engineering paradigm, ever increasing the alienation of the public from their government and fomenting ever higher levels of distrust paving the way to civil conflict and insurrection.

Rob, social engineering taxation is not the paradigm to follow. It carries unintended consequences far beyond those targeted for the tax. We are all in this together, and we should all pay our fair share to pay for solutions to our nation’s problems without being discriminated against by our government on the basis of our exercise of freedom and choice in our private lives. It is a very dangerous paradigm you proffer, the more so if it is successful in increasing government revenues as that would motivate Congress to extend such paradigms far and wide in the population and across time.

I simply have to reject the long term consequences of your social engineering taxation ideas, in light of the trillion dollars wasted on the drug war, and the anti-government sentiment that now threatens our nation’s ability to resolve the challenges before it.

And no, alcohol remains involved in nearly half of all serious accidents on our roads each year. And the consequential cost of failing to tax away DUI’s is enormous in insurance rates, property damage, medical treatments, lost time at work, first responder government services, and lives lost.

Treating those who drink and drive medically and psychologically will have better results in preventing DUI’s than simply taxing alcohol sales.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 15, 2009 12:06 AM
Comment #286330

Hey, I’m all for rehab and counseling centers for ADDICTS of all kinds. Let everyone have access to drug and addiction counseling, but let’s treat obesity for what it is, a problem.
Like I’ve already said in other comments here, if you are over weight and struggling to stay in some kind of shape and/or eat healthy food, then you are already part of the solution. You don’t have to look like a super model to be healthy.
We are talking about morbidly obese people that don’t enjoy the mental or physical quality of life they could.

The people I do meet that have gone from literally killing themselves to having a happy active lifestyle; one where they still haven’t lost all the weight they want and may never do so, but they can walk up that hill by their house without getting out of breath anymore. They act like they won some publishers clearing house check or something. They’re all so happy and want to desperately share it with their friends for a reason. Once on the other side of the hump, they shout for joy and wonder what the hell was holding them back.

The human body is meant to take the resources it receives from food and go out and do stuff with that energy. When we do this, we get endorphins and an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction.

Addictive behavior is all relative and can be used to illustrate the best and worst of us. Some people have the habit of walking their dog a half hour a day, others bike, or do gardening. The best any body should need is a little education about how you are killing yourself ahead of your time, a helping hand from someone who has made this journey who will stay with you throughout it and if necessary addiction counseling.
But that is for MORBIDLY OBESE people, everyone else should get outside and go for a walk

Posted by: Fred at August 15, 2009 5:28 AM
Comment #286345

Fred said a mouthful with: “The best any body should need is a little education about how you are killing yourself ahead of your time,…”

Couldn’t agree more, Fred. Let’s put health and physical education back into all our elementary, junior, and high schools, as well as colleges and universities.

While we are at it, let’s also establish health education seminars parents, on a voluntary basis. Wherever citizens can obtain a low cost commitment by 25 parents or more, let’s convene for them a health care seminar focusing on parental and children’s health and physical conditioning issues and options. Small investment up front, with the promise of high dividend returns for decades thereafter.

Let’s use the Americorps or other Volunteer organizations to conduct these seminars, using nursing and medical students with sufficient education to conduct these, in exchange for partial subsidy of their remaining education costs to graduation, or similar such arrangements to insure the government cost investment remains very low.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 15, 2009 6:55 PM
Comment #286349

Those who advocate free market rights see nothing wrong with corporations creating and selling an unlimited number of products which contain ingredients which are harmful to our health. So much so, that it makes it difficult to get something to drink at a convenience store that does not contain harmful ingredients. Yet, they want to blame individuals, and penalize those who are the victims of the lopsided marketing that goes on in this country.
Their fear is that the government may get involved in our lives in order to save us. so they say let that same free market that victimized us charge us more because we suffer from the effects of their products. Just as long as the government is not permitted to step in, anything goes.
In other countries, many of the same products that line our shelves are not even available, because of their harmful effects. Their govts take steps to help their people.
We have to start at early ages, training people to eat correctly. We also have to start limiting what is available to the public in terms of harmful products. Education and consumer protection is the answer here. Not penalizing the victims.

Posted by: Seatech1 at August 15, 2009 7:58 PM
Comment #286350

I agree with you David, social engineering isn’t the way to address things and get positive results. Unfortunately, it seems to be the American way. We have a long history of attempting to control how people live as a means to solve our perceived problems.

I still think this is blown way out of proportion. Some interesting reading on the myths of obesity:
http://www.obesitymyths.com/

It’s very disturbing how much of what the media peddles on the matter is based on junk science.

Posted by: Tyler at August 15, 2009 8:05 PM
Comment #286355

Thanks for the link Tyler. Lifestyle change is the biggest factor, I couldn’t agree more. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, if and when two thirds of the nation can at least live active lifestyles and decrease their health risks significantly and it would be a different country.

We wouldn’t stop selling pant sizes over 32-34, but we could get there despite bad food marketing/production if we just experienced more of life somewhere else besides through a TV or computer screen.

Posted by: Fred at August 15, 2009 9:45 PM
Comment #286368

Fred, the dilemma is that our economy is built around the marketing of human energy and time saving conveniences. One cannot live an active lifestyle if one is brainwashed into believing physical exertion is best left to machines and technology.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 16, 2009 1:45 PM
Comment #286375

This is true, but there are many in society that go against this flow. Many among them are people I know for example who range from forest firefighters, UPS employees, students, doctors, one medical director of my clinic who works about 60-70 hours a week, hair dressers and the unemployed, but all of these people constantly push themselves to find time to go camping, hiking, biking, snowboarding or something else to get away from the convenience modern of life and exert ourselves.
We actually feel bad if we don’t get out and do something like this. Literally, They feel physically worse and depressed when stuck indoors or kept to levels of no significant activity.

All of us partake in the use of modern labor saving technology as well such as washing machines, dryers, ovens, computers, ride lawnmowers and delivery food.

This happens when these people were similarly “brainwashed” into believing they should change their lifestyle if they want to have a better chance at playing with their grandchildren for longer

Posted by: Fred at August 16, 2009 2:58 PM
Comment #286421

From the Mayo clinic article previously linked:

“…recent research — some of which is supported by the beverage industry
— suggests that high-fructose corn syrup isn’t intrinsically less healthy than other sweeteners, nor is it the root cause of obesity.”

Where does this obesitymyths website come from http://www.consumerfreedom.com/about.cfm quote: “Do you have a bias?
Yes! We believe that only you know what’s best for you. When activists try to force you to live according to their vision of society, we don’t take it lying down.” ,and what is their agenda? You have to contact offices of the states http://www.consumerfreedom.com/donations.cfm that require that information to find out who’s behind them.

Posted by: ohrealy at August 17, 2009 1:01 PM
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