Why Demonizing Obesity Is So Important
As regular readers will know, DrRich thinks President Obama’s healthcare reform is very bad for America, and in particular, that it threatens the Great American Experiment. At the same time, DrRich is fundamentally an optimist, and finds in Obamacare a thin thread by which some good might result. That thread goes like this:
In practice, Obamacare will become a government-run system of covert healthcare rationing. And DrRich is reasonably confident that in the government’s hands the covert rationing will become so amazingly ham-fisted and inept that even us Americans, distracted as we are by Lady GaGa, performance-enhancing drugs in baseball players, and Shark Week, will finally be forced to notice that there’s actually a whole lot of healthcare rationing going on. And once we are all forced to acknowledge the rationing, perhaps we will insist on trying to figure out how to do it as fairly, efficiently, and effectively as possible. In other words, DrRich clings to the hope that the Obamacare might end up being the cataclysm that precipitates a public discussion of healthcare rationing. And a public discussion of healthcare rationing is critical, since continuing to conduct the rationing covertly will destroy us.
It’s a slim thread, to be sure. But, especially in a new era of hope, one must embrace what hope one can.
Accordingly, DrRich feels obligated to do his part in supporting some of the main pillars of Obamacare (as odious as Obamacare itself may be), whenever they come under attack. And one of those pillars is the proposition that obesity is a scourge on our civilization, and for the good of the whole, those who are guilty of it must be reformed or stamped out.
Obesity, we are assured, is a main cause of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, (and even, some insist, cancer), and so is largely responsible for the runaway cost of our healthcare. This simple fact alone allows us to – indeed, demands that we – use every public and private intervention at our disposal to fight this great scourge.
The fact of publicly funded healthcare permits us to say to the obese: “Your unsightly obesity is no longer a matter of your individual choice; rather, it is now placed squarely within the realm of legitimate public concern. Since everyone else has to pay for your heart attacks and knee replacements, all those donuts and double cheeseburgers you insist on shoveling into your mouth are no longer your business. All your protestations to the effect that you can’t help it are revealed by simple math (i.e., calories gained = calories consumed minus calories burned) to be sad prevarications. Indeed that same simple formula reveals the true cause of obesity – gluttony and sloth. Like other heretics of an earlier time, you deserve no sympathy nor special considerations, but only a firm – though ultimately compassionate – hand to push you toward the right path, or alternately, toward the just punishment you have brought upon yourselves.”
So clearly, the obese are now become fair game for whatever manipulations our government can devise to cause them to either lose weight, or pay for their sins. The authorities can begin with simple maneuvers – taxing soft drinks and Twinkies, and whatever other foodstuffs they (in their wisdom) deem to be illegitimate sources of calories – but the sky’s the limit. For instance, under the undeniable proposition that it costs more energy to move a fat person from point A to point B, whatever the mode of transportation, the obese could be subjected to a special carbon tax, based on their BMI. The periodic mandatory “weigh-ins” such a tax would require would serve the useful purpose of public humiliation, an important incentive to weight loss.
Further humiliations could be visited upon the fat by designating special isolated areas in the workplace (ideally, an area fully exposed to the elements) for fat people to consume their calories. This latter strategy, of course, is derived from the same restrictions placed on smokers, and can be legitimized by the same sort of logic. That is, the authorities can invoke the prospect of second-hand obesity to induce fear and loathing of the fat, and cause them to become socially isolated. (The “scientific” conclusion that obesity is contagious, i.e., that those who associate with the obese are more likely to become obese themselves, has been proffered by academics employing the same kind of statistical legerdemain used to blame global warming on fat people. It appears to DrRich that obesity has now become so toxic that any paper submitted to medical journals offering a new reason to despise the fat – no matter how absurd – will be cheerfully accepted by the editors, and published with fanfare. These editors, one can only presume, must also be great supporters of Obamacare.) And finally, it goes without saying that the ultimate censure would be simply to withhold healthcare services for medical problems which can be associated with having allowed oneself to become too fat – a strategy that has already been employed by the British healthcare system, which we are urged by Dr. Berwick to employ as a model.
Demonizing the obese and subjecting them to such restrictions, of course, carries with it implications that go far beyond merely inducing the obese to lose weight or causing them to pay more in taxes. It sets an important precedent that will finally allow our central authorities to restrict, control and tax virtually any human behavior they can claim may lead to an increased risk of healthcare expenditures. Such behaviors may include (in addition to obvious things like smoking and alcohol consumption), one’s choice of occupation, participation in sports, hobbies, hours spent or miles traveled on the highways, etc. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of any choice one makes in daily living that does not, in some manner, impact on one’s likelihood of requiring medical services.
Furthermore, successfully demonizing the obese will establish that our society may, whenever it needs to, discriminate against the lower economic classes – which will prove a useful tool when setting future behavioral standards to reduce healthcare spending. (Obesity, rather than starvation, is the chief nutritional problem of the poor in America. This is the the direct result of plentiful and cheap foods that are often loaded with empty calories. Making such foods more expensive – by imposing punitive taxes on them – will disproportionately affect the poor, who still won’t be able to afford the highly nutritious stuff, especially since the price of that good stuff will go much higher as a result. Rendering it permissible to inflict such pain on the poor, in the name of the greater good, will be an immeasurably important precedent to establish.)
In terms of providing strategies for controlling healthcare costs, it is clear that our response to obesity is key. Fighting obesity is a vital pillar of Obamacare.
Accordingly, DrRich is very sorry to report that this anti-obesity pillar may not be nearly as robust as we might hope. Certain clueless medical researchers – ones who have apparently not received the official memo – have been reporting that obesity might not be quite as bad a thing as we have all been saying. So, in the spirit of advancing Obamacare, DrRich will address in his next post some of this counterproductive new research on obesity, and will show how it can be marginalized.