A twelve-year-old getting liposuction is the most revolting documentary sequence I have seen in quite some time.
The scene was from a movie called Killer at Large: Why Obesity is America’s Biggest Threat. I thought the film did a credible job of “uncovering” the truth that hides in plain sight on every street in every city in America. Good facts and figures, even if they did miss a couple of obvious connections that are vitally important to the debate.
Check out the trailer after the break.
What struck me most about this movie was how the filmmakers gave us a pass for faulty DNA and too much stress as triggering our massive over-consumption of food, but failed to make the leap to the actual cost of all those fat people getting sick or to explain the mechanisms that allow them to feed their “hardwired evolutionary urges” in the first place. We are to the point now where two-thirds of the country is overweight or obese. Let’s chew on that one again. Two-thirds of the citizens of the United States of America are either overweight or obese.
That shit doesn’t just happen by accident. This high-calorie reality was created, through means both public and private.
A favorite film of mine on the subject of why this country is getting so fricking fat is King Corn. In this brilliant documentary, the filmmakers take the audience through a typical growing season in the American Midwest. We learn all about the nutritionally-bankrupt corn they grow instead of the variety of fruits and vegetables that used to thrive there. We witness the destruction of the family farm as the engine of rural economic development. We learned who is responsible for the epidemic of corn-fed zombies roaming our malls looking for their next value-sized 1,400 calorie meal. A former Secretary of Agriculture named Earl Butts was the culprit. Apparently he thought it was too much work growing up on a farm and wanted to make things easier on farm folk.
The irony is almost absurd.
The reason this leads me to the conclusion that corn and corn subsidies are the single biggest cause of increased health care costs is actually pretty simple. Overweight and obese people are sicker than skinny people, all other data points being equal. The diseases they get are chronic and many take a long time to kill them with the possible exception of cancer. There is also that general feeling of being sick when you eat too much. If I felt that way all the time, you can bet your plus-sized ass (I am only guessing, but I have a 2/3 chance of being right) I would be at the doctor all the time looking for a cure.
I know this sounds kind of harsh and it is meant to. We can spend a trillion dollars over the next ten years fixing health care and it will never be enough if we don’t fix our fat problem. That means taking commodity corn off the government subsidy list. It also means shifting those dollars toward subsidizing real family farms growing crops that are actually nutritious and need no more processing than a pair of teeth, saliva and stomach acid. We take hemp off the banned substances list in order to use it to reinvigorate our soil and take away the need for petroleum-based fertilizers. We figure out ways to create a close-looped system that can feed us without enormous inputs or hazardous outputs.
That means kill the factory pig and cow farms, too, and agree to spend 20% more for our meat as long as it is locally and ethically produced.
I recently went the emergency room thinking I was having a heart attack after having worked out a little too hard. It was a weird combination of sore pectorals combined with sore trapezoids. Anyway, the nurse hooked me up to an EKG within fifteen minutes of arriving and let me know I wasn’t having a heart attack and sat me in the waiting room to speak to a doctor.
For six hours.
This is one reason I don’t use the medical system in addition to feeling pretty good from a health perspective. I left without seeing a doctor, but that is another blog post. The main thing I was cognizant of the entire time we were waiting was the enormous amount of enormous people waiting to be seen, There are even double-wide chairs for some. I would say 80% of the people waiting with us would be overweight or obese. That may not have been why they were there, but it is pretty good anecdotal evidence of the problem.
This is just a rough sketch of what I think makes an enormous bottom-line impact on health care costs. If we ignore the America diet and the growing size of our collective bellies, no amount of health care reform will be enough. No public plan could raise sufficient funds through taxes or premiums to cover a nation of 320 million weebles on the edge of falling down. Not going to happen. No matter how many insurance companies will kill or how many rules we create or whatever medical IT system emerges.