Published on May 13th, 2012 | by Todd Smekens0
Big Money Over Health
When we choose our representatives that go to Washington, we expect them to carry out the difficult decisions of negotiating policies that benefit “we the people”. While protecting and creating jobs are important to our economy, nobody can argue that our growth at a global level is imposing forces to change those systems that do not work. What we’re discovering is those systems that served us during the industrial age are systematically failing us today.
Take your pick – educational, political, financial, transportation, energy and food, etc.
We have asked before, and will continue to ask this question, because apparently many are still missing the point. The question is, “Can you be a leader and a politician?”
Leaders have to make difficult decisions despite of their favorability, while politicians have to keep up political capital, or their voter base. Sometimes making tough decisions will have a short term cost, but making a positive impact on citizens will prove to be the right thing to do.
There are many issues facing our country, and the poor health of our adults and youth must near the top. Our aging boomer population will stress our financial system as we try to pay for end of life healthcare costs. Statistics show that if we don’t do something now, it will bankrupt the nation.
President Obama demonstrated leadership when he presented healthcare reform, and now the republican party is spending taxpayer money challenging healthcare reform. Negative ads are funded by conservative think tanks and foundations set up by billionaires who want to continue making excessive profits off the poor health of our nation and rising healthcare costs. Big Food, Pharma, and Insurance stand to gain. Hospital chains have been built in every small community to serve the boomers geographical needs, but the financial burden will be spread to existing workers who make less in salaries, and will need to pay more into the medicare system.
While the boomer population will stress our financial resources, we are also seeing another epidemic at the opposite end of the spectrum – our youth. Over one-third of our youth are obese and will develop early diseases never heard of in our teen population. Heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are already impacting our teenage population.
More and more studies reveal that our food supply and marketing to kids and their parents is the primary culprit. In response, what have our politicians done to address these important issues? Well, Congress voted to define pizza as a vegetable so they didn’t have to overhaul the nutritional value of school lunches. This is a failure in leadership.
In fact, according to a recent report by Reuters titled “SPECIAL REPORT: How Washington went soft on childhood obesity“, they discuss how widespread failures in leadership has contributed to our health crisis, “Over the past two years, each of the 24 states and five cities that considered “soda taxes” to discourage consumption of sugary drinks has seen the efforts dropped or defeated.”
The study goes on to state, “At every level of government, the food and beverage industries won fight after fight during the last decade. They have never lost a significant political battle in the United States despite mounting scientific evidence of the role of unhealthy food and children’s marketing in obesity.”
How could this be?
With all the overwhelming statistics and declining health indices, we can’t get Washington to offer leadership to turn around the trends, and have shown no signs of reversing. “We haven’t reversed the epidemic,” Dr. William H. Dietz, director of the division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity at the CDC, said in an interview. “This may be the first generation of children that has a lower life span than their parents.”
So, why is Washington failing to give leadership and allowing the $1.5 trillion food and beverage industry to continue its assault on Americans health?
Reuters report states, “The groups have spent more than $175 million lobbying since President Barack Obama took office in 2009 — more than double the $83 million spent in the previous three years, during the Bush Administration. The totals do not include broader lobbying efforts by the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and media and advertising interests that also opposed the federal plan.”
To show their political muscle, “PepsiCo Inc, Coca-Cola Co, bottlers and the American Beverage Association spent more than $40 million lobbying in 2009 when Congress was considering a soda tax.”
In conclusion, it seems very clear that our elected leaders cannot take leadership stands when money and political capital are at stake – it weakens their knees and spines. The have folded time and time again, failing the American people, and more importantly, our youth.
In case you’re wondering, the Reuters analysis shows, “The food and beverage groups strongly favors Republicans over Democrats, both before and after the 2010 election. On average over the last six years, they gave GOP political committees $2 for every $1 donated to Democrats.”