With the debate now raging over health care reform, mostly around the current inadequate-to-our-real-needs-but-still-super-expensive legislation that is being considered by our dysfunctional Congress, I thought I would offer a quick aside that has yet to make it into the dialogue in any meaningful fashion but seems an obvious part of any common sense solution – lower health care costs by lowering health care demand.
I am talking about killing King Corn.
I typically don’t find the need to share much about the sort of challenges I faced growing up. Among them was pretty harsh physical abuse by a step father from ages five to nine. The ordeal was ended by the fierce will of the mom who raised me and her triumph over the abuse she suffered as a child that led us there in the first place.
With that experience in mind, I can’t help but look at the above picture and wonder why this isn’t child abuse. Reportedly, these kids suffer the same issues that other abused children do. Low self-esteem, issues with authority, difficulty making friends. In addition to the obvious medical issues these children will face for their entire lives, the emotional baggage they pick up along the way will make it impossible to make the changes that will literally save their life. There also is the matter of addiction to food that takes a 200 pound teen to a 500 pound young adult, hardly surprising given the prevalence of addiction among abused children.
At what point is it our responsibility as a nation to look at the policies we support and the affect it has on our society?
This one really is a no-brainer, too. King Corn and the above movie (as well as Food Inc. and others) blows the lid off the entire insane situation and the drastic damage it is doing to our country. It goes all the way back to the misguided and shortsighted actions of a single man with the power to destroy a way of life via idiotic policy decisions.
The cost is way more than just paying corn farmers to subsidize large food manufacturers to make toxic products that kill us so slowly all anyone can taste is the sweet. It extends into the food supply beyond GIGANTIC SODAS and 50% percent more “free” candy (that nonetheless costs four times what a normal sized candy bar used to cost) and goes right into our primary protein production mechanisms. Our cows and pigs are fatter and less nutritious than they were forty years ago, with a whopping 20% savings on meat in the bargain. That’s almost enough to keep up with inflation!
What does this have to do with health care? The public health trends with regards to obesity are clear, not to mention dramatic and devastating, and not a single member of that illustrious body of legislators we can’t seem to get rid of is talking about it. Especially not in a way that would likely lead to massive public support if the solution was properly presented. They certainly don’t appear to be looking at how our existing systems can be modified to deliver better returns without spending a single additional dollar. Maybe those racist centrists are talking about cost containment, but no one who really matters seems to care about lowering long-term costs if they can score political victory.
A real solution is actually quite simple: Stop corn subsidies. Start organic subsidies.
Limit the size of companies that are eligible for subsidies based on the average size of the typical family farm in a given region. Give added incentives to farmers who locate within 100 miles of a major metro area. Modify rural planning codes to reflect the need for locally-grown vegetables. This will have an immediate impact on how our food is produced and what we ultimately put in our bodies. It would also add well-paying, labor intensive jobs to the surrounding areas, even if it does kill a couple of large agribusiness conglomerates that are poisoning our food supply in the process. Lots of empty tract houses, too, that could be turned back into farmland or inhabited by the hearty folks who work the fields.
Changing what we eat would almost immediately lead to lower overall health care costs – both short and long term – as well as a dramatic increase in the quality of life for all Americans. That whole Pursuit of Happiness thing is a lot easier when you aren’t lugging around an extra hundred pounds and can enjoy good food without killing yourself.