First Lady Releases Child Obesity Recommendations

…largely blames mothers for child’s obesity.

cue shock and surprise

Link to the AP article

Some particular gems (note throughout these that the child omgbesity is referred to, without challenge, as “the problem”):

Mrs. Obama has said she wants to help solve the problem in a generation so babies born today will come of age at a healthy weight. The report says that could happen if childhood obesity rates dropped to 5 percent by 2030.

Read: Non-experts who don’t apparently know anything about statistics, genetics, and the science of size can now control billions of dollars and influence countless lives as long as they’re somehow connected to an influential politician (this is not new, of course, but it can’t be reiterated too many times in my opinion).

Or: Welcome to the moral panic. Check your deviant status—and your children—at the door.

Or: The report says that one can solve the problem in a generation if rates drop to very low in a generation—i.e., one can solve the problem if one solves the problem—i.e., the utter BS non-speak tautologies presented as some kind of ‘revelation’ in order to push an agenda fueled by bias and the politics of crisotunity rather than facts and reasonable outcomes.

The report says a woman’s weight before she becomes pregnant and her weight gain during pregnancy are two of the most important factors that determine, before a child is born, whether he or she will become obese. [bold mine]

Read: Fat women have a higher likelihood of giving birth to fat children. Before driving in the Duh! Truck, realize that they’re not implying here that fat is genetic. In fact there isn’t the single, slightest nod paid to the overwhelming (77%) role genetics plays in the determination of weight. The report is written on the assumption that weight—for a mother before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and then the weight of the child—are completely controllable. Of course, instead of just assuming fat children would become thin children with the ‘proper’ diet, it attempts to correlate some hoo-doo about the physiology of fat mothers and future fat children. If this seems convoluted to you, then you’re on the right track. Instead of talking about genetics or talking about what fuels significant weight gain in pregnancy (someone more expert correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that large pregnancy weight gains in general are most strongly correlated with a concurrent cessation of a calorie-restricted diet), they couch everything in dubious ‘risk factor’ and correlative language.

(As an aside, if anyone has a copy of this actual report, I’d like to read it. I have a feeling it’s just a data dredge survey of some kind)

Something also very interesting to note, for those who have a nose for these public policy scienterrific press releases: the selective use of numbers. Note that the statistical correlations between fat moms (before pregnancy), weight gain (during pregnancy) are just reported as existent, while the correlation between breast-fed and reduction of obesity likelihood is stated outright (apparently 22%, but remember this is an odds ratio, so what that really means is that if the average bottle-fed child has a 15% chance of becoming obese, if they are breast fed then this goes down by 22% of 15% — that is, by 3%. So if the average bottle-fed child has a 15% chance of becoming obese, the average breast-fed child apparently has a 12% chance. The numbers are a bit less scary, no? That’s why they’re reported as odds ratios instead of real probabilities — to inflate their significance).

Predictions: American Health Care and Fat People

Now that the ‘reform’ of Healthcare, i.e., delivering 1/6th of the American economy into the hands of government, has passed the House and been signed by the President, I want to make a prediction or two. These predictions are nothing new for this blog, and if you’re interested in my more general thoughts of the connections between various kinds of heathcare systems and the obesity epipanic, please read:

  1. Case-building: Making Fatties the Deviants
  2. When Other People Pay for It, They Can Claim the Right to Control It
  3. Government Healthcare is Bad for Fat People
  4. Universal Healthcare and Fat
  5. Libertarians and Obesity, Take Two
  6. Eliminate Fat People?
  7. When Your Body is No Longer Yours
  8. Why Universal Healthcare Should Be Opposed By Fat Activists
  9. Universal Healthcare is Not Automatically Fat Friendly

But I’m not here to yet again debate the merits (or demerits, in my view) of a universal system. We didn’t get a universal system with Sunday night’s signing: we got more of a Delayed Trojan Horse, which lays the groundwork for the system to be pushed in the direction of going single-payer, during Democrat-controlled Congresses and Administrations. But I’m not going to explain that right now, either, though there are scads of lovely posts on it on WSJ, Econ blogs, Cato, Mises, etc.

That being said, comments are closed.

So here my predictions on how we’re going to start seeing this new law change the cultural conversation about fat people.

  • In the short term: “You mean, I have to pay for YOUR fat ass, now? This sucks. I hate fatties, but I hate government more. Damned health insurance bill.” — oh, hai evidence, relying on the new Donna Simpson Straw Fatty Model, no less.
  • In the medium term: Increase of employer/government weight-loss ‘health’ initiatives; pouring money into weight-reduction schemes (esp. in public schools) sanctioned at a higher rate, getting more general public support; general stigmatization of ‘fatties’ for being fat, but a sense of compassion. Open derision of fat people as costing ‘more’ health dollars, as premiums skyrocket even higher, choice becomes less, it’s harder to find a good doctor, waiting times for appts increase, and so forth. Talk will begin to filter down that the regulatory boards should consider charging fat people more for health insurance, or not allowing them access to certain procedures because fatties who undergo those procedures ‘cost more’ than thinnies.
  • In the long term: When the anti-obese people ‘health’ initiatives don’t work to make fat people permanently thin, more drastic measures will be taken, all at high cost (which will gain the ire of taxpayers), with the ‘reasoning’ that some high cost, drastic measure like surgery is ‘necessary’ to ‘save lives and save more, chronic health expenditures down the road.’ We might have single payer by this time, which would compound the issue. Costs aren’t going to go down, so what you’ll see instead is rather than the government take responsibility for the fact that they’re going to destroy the system and explode costs with inefficiency and regulatory schemes, they’ll point the finger at some kind of scapegoat — you guessed it, the fatty. (cough, NHS, cough) Fatties will be banned from undergoing lots of ‘elective’ procedures (like fertility treatments, knee replacements, etc) unless they lose weight. There will be no competition, no recourse: the fatty will have no ability to go to another doctor or institution and perhaps be able to get it there, since the regulatory measures anti-competitively are ‘blanket’ measures (in order to ensure healthcare ‘equality,’ you know. Less for everyone, but especially those we deem to cost more by nature of their existence!). Government-controlled research institutions will, like the Big Pharma-backed institutions of yore, churn out anti-fat ‘research’ which is carefully structured in order to support their inevitable open discrimination against fat people. And so forth, however far down this slope you feel like sliding.

On Saturday I felt like much more of a human being than I do today, in America. Now, I feel a target on my back, because my government has decided that the way to cover the 10-15 million uninsured that have fallen through the cracks of the system (the 30 million number counts those who purposefully don’t buy insurance, as well as those who qualify for assistance but aren’t utilizing it) is to redistribute a massive chunk of wealth and regulate 1/6th of the economy, all the while ignoring smaller, more market-friendly steps that could have immediately increased access and lowered costs.

Thanks for giving the obesity epipanic in America a government club. Can’t wait for this to all pan out, surely in the fatties’ favor, if other countries with government medicine are any indication.

Case-building: Making Fatties the Deviants

In every good moral panic one needs a deviant group on which to blame the ills of the current moral (financial, political) crisis. Since moral panics seek to fix some broken part of society, it makes sense that a group of people is singled out to symbolize the ills associated with the crisis.

Since the late nineties (around the time of the last BMI revision in 1998), the number of news stories about the so-called “obesity epidemic” increased exponentially, reaching a fever pitch in 2004. Check out the timeline chart on the top of the Google News results for “obesity epidemic”:

Frequency of "obesity epidemic" in news stories from 1990 - 2009, via Google

(I can’t find the chart, but I think this somewhat parallels, oddly, the average BMI increase in that same time period, which topped off in 2004 or 2005)

A recent example of the creation of a deviant group to take the brunt of the latest healthism/healthcare panic is the assertion that cases of diabetes are going to keep rising, with a concomitant soaring of costs. (h/t Andy Jo)

Blaming rising healthcare costs on us fatties is one way of covering one’s ass when one isn’t willing to institute any meaningful healthcare reform, just new entitlements.

This is case-building: so that when people are pissed off that healthcare costs haven’t dropped under a new system of entitlements, they direct that anger at some deviant group, rather than where it belongs — at the philosophy of entitlement with its false utopian vision, and the proponents of that vision.

I’ve said it before, and will say it again. When you make your body the financial business of your neighbor, get ready for your neighbor claiming the right to have say over your body. In other words, making healthcare a public financial burden makes your body public business, and thus erodes the most fundamental right of living in a free society.

This is merely the tip of the iceberg, folks. The government takeover of healthcare hasn’t even passed in the Senate, yet, and there’s already talk of reigning in costs by discriminating against particular groups of people, in this case a popular deviant group of the Healthistic moral: fat people. Do you think it’s going to stop at higher taxes for fat people, if that isn’t bad enough? I predict it will not: forced interventions, children being taken away from their parents, fat people being practically barred from some kinds of  employment, and the ultimate loss of the freedom to pursue happiness in the confines of liberty will be the end result of this government takeover of healthcare. And it will start with fatties, but it won’t end with us, because we are not the source of all healthcare-related ills.

Stay tuned. It’s going to be one helluva ride.

When Other People Pay For It, They Can Claim the Right to Control It

I’ve said this several times before, but it bears repeating: when other people can make a reasonable argument that they are paying for the choices you make about your body (even if those choices are only perceived choices), then they can claim the right to have a say in your choices.

Take the furor over the Stupak amendment to the recently passed House healthcare bill. I was walking through Harvard Square last afternoon on my way to my weekly voice lesson, and there were congregated at the mouth of the stairs to the station a group of protesters, who desired to get the Stupak language stricken from the (potentially) reconciled House and Senate bill.

I didn’t stop; I’m rather used to Harvard Square protesters. Let’s just say they’re not a particularly rare occurrence.

But I couldn’t help shaking my head and thinking, as I descended the stairs into the station, how those pro-choice, body-freedom people on the left are finally discovering that the greatest threat to their personal choices and freedoms isn’t some corporation or private entity, but widespread government control.

I’ve long heard fauxgressives waxing philosophical about how greater government control at the federal level would loose certain states from fascist, body-controlling regimes. They claim that those who don’t want to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortions in some way are the extreme fringe social conservatives, who I agree are fairly nuts. But this goes way deeper than that. The abortion debate has never really been about fending off nutty social conservatives, in my opinion. And it’s not just about abortion as a choice; it’s a symbol for the much greater question of government control vs. body autonomy.

That question is at the center of the debate on government’s role in healthcare.

The Stupak amendment clearly illustrates that with few votes to pass it, late at night on a Saturday when most people aren’t watching C-SPAN (though I was, dammit), a large swath of your freedom can be subverted. And though the Stupak amendment didn’t go as far as banning abortion outright, it did quite plainly single out a behavior that was unpopular and discriminate against it.

In the free market, if there’s demand, there’s availability. In a controlled market, there’s a hell of a lot more white noise between demand and supply. It’s not enough that you and your neighborhood wants it, your representative has to want it, too. And then he’s got to be powerful enough that he can band up with other reps, who need to be part of a majority in the country. And that’s assuming that your reps are listening to you at all, and you’re not a lonely city in a gerrymandered district that is locked into political representation with which you fundamentally disagree.

In a free market, if you buy a boat and never use it, and you have a mariner neighbor who would love a boat but can’t afford one for whatever reason, that neighbor can’t blame you for his lack of a boat. However, in a system controlled by the government, there’s a single pie. If you take a bigger piece, you’re necessarily taking from somebody. So your mariner neighbor could claim that you did, in fact, diminish his ability to buy a boat. He might then be in favor of a law which only allows boats to be sold to mariners, since that would be his only recourse. In a free market, next season you might find out that they replaced expensive parts with less expensive parts, and turned out a model of boat that was more affordable, because they realized there was an untapped market for cheaper boats. Everyone wins.

In a free market, if I ruin my health due to various behaviors, my neighbor has no stake in it. If I get an abortion, it doesn’t affect my neighbor at all. If I eat ten steak-and-donut sandwiches a day and suck down more opium than oxygen, it doesn’t make a single bit of financial difference to my neighbor.*

The point of all of this is, those of you who really believe that giving government greater control over healthcare is going to give you more freedom over your body and health choices can take the Stupak amendment as a warning shot. And if you think they’re not going to come for the fatties next or soon, you’re dreaming. As soon as costs rise (and the projected healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP will rise if the current bills on the table pass), and people are getting taxed at higher rates, fined for not having acceptable coverage, or even thrown in prison with up to a fine of $250,000 for not having acceptable coverage, they’re going to clamor that costs can be forced down by regulating the behavior of those with perceived preventable conditions.

Healthcare reform isn’t a fantasy; there are real reforms that can be made which would make buying plans cheaper, give greater access, and yes, even help cover those who have slipped through the cracks, without shackling citizens to some bureaucracy with the threat of imprisonment if they don’t comply (though there’s certainly a larger Constitutional question in all that). But what’s being put forward by Reid and Pelosi isn’t healthcare reform. It’s a giant grab for power and a threat to your freedom to choose.

REFERENCES**

My Body, Their Choice – Reason.com

House Bill Increases Healthcare Costs – Politico.com

Listing the New Taxes in the Senate Healthcare Bill – Wall Street Journal

Mandatory Insurance is Unconstitutional – Wall Street Journal

Stupak Amendment Threatens the Rights of Every American – The Huffington Post

Rationing’s First Step – Investor’s Business Daily

* Those who assume the insurance system we have now is a free market system are way off the mark, so arguments about the current state of insurance risk-pooling are irrelevant. Additionally, the argument that the uninsured rack up hospital costs for the rest of us ignores that emergency rooms are required to treat those who can’t pay, which is government, not market, intervention.

** Please do not poison the well.

Government Healthcare is Bad for Fat People

Why?

Read the links on this page.

While employers can currently establish plans that incentivize weight loss, it’s not illegal and/or will not cause your taxes to go up to decide not to participate in such programs. Additionally, there is some measure of direct voting by employees — complaining about the plan, leaving the business to work elsewhere, not participating in the plan — that is much closer to the decisionmaker in the process and could ostensibly much more quickly repeal a plan decision than waiting for a large enough group of people to be voted in who commit to weeding out problems in legislation, which can take at its quickest years, and at its slowest, never (as the problems become too deeply institutionalized).

If the government forces everyone to buy private or public plans, then encourages (through subsidies to private plans, or directly in public plans) plans that create initiatives or penalties based on weight, then there is no escape. Even if it’s just verbal encouragement, it gives employers the sense that they can discriminate against unpopular groups and lower their own costs without the possibility of losing an employee that is a member of an unpopular group, since even if that employee was to leave, chances are the same discriminatory initiatives would be in place wherever else they’d choose to seek employment.

The choice to participate in health care should not be forced. Choice is sometimes the last check one has on a virtually universal discriminatory and unethical system with deeply rooted institutional bias. The ability to choose to opt out of healthcare, to have the choice not to participate, is essential. Those who want to argue about public costs are only doing so in the context of the current healthcare framework under which we suffer: though the nature of insurance re: pooling risks does mean that some will pay in and never take out as much as they pay in, while others will take out more than they pay in, it doesn’t mean that anyone’s health is technically anyone else’s business. That’s just the nature of insurance.

This would not be the case if health decisions and health behaviors and being a member of an unpopular health class literally become public business. By definition. One would have to completely trust the government not to fall in with popular Healthist sentiments that have a tendency to put a good deal of the blame for unaffordability and poor public health on fat people. In my humble opinion, placing such immense trust in a fickle, by nature ever-changing, populist, and power-hungry entity is foolish.

Those who are interested in freedom from institutionalized discrimination should always be concerned when choices are taken away, rather than offered up. The way to fight discrimination is to open doors, not close them. Many pro-fat activists are in favor of universal healthcare because they believe it will force insurers to cover those who are currently not covered, or allow the government to provide a plan that will cover them (they currently already have this power, by the way). But this is an example of closing doors, not opening them. Fatphobia is still out there, and it runs rampant in government — and is no less present in Progressive political circles than any other circle. If fat people can be used as scapegoats to save money in what is sure to be a very expensive system (TNSTAAFL*), that is what is going to happen.

And that is already what is happening, as the healthcare bills currently being proposed are overrunning their cost goals, even taking into consideration that every gimmicky scheme to shift money around has been called upon in order to make the bills look less expensive than they already are (frontloading payins, backloading payouts, political promises of savings that won’t be kept, etc). Since the government doesn’t have to worry about doing anything scientifically sound if their electorate cares more about money than science, they’ll pick groups to discriminate against (or promote discrimination against) re: insurance in the order that these groups are medically unpopular. Fat people and smokers are, without a doubt, the top of that list.

Universal or forced coverage is not good for fat people. What you gain in terms of being technically covered you will lose in the inevitable discrimination, higher costs, public shaming, fat hate and the wider spread of fat hate and focus on fat people as a “problem,” and so on.

Besides, I (and many others) know how to really lower costs, so that even groups that insurers put in a higher rate category would be able to afford insurance. But to lower costs would require less regulation, less control, more choices for individuals to buy care…in other words, a free market injection in a hopelessly overregulated industry. I’m certain that the cost of a plan for a “fit” family of four in Massachusetts currently would be the maximum of what you’d see for a non-“fit” family of four in a freer market.

The answer to the problem of fat people not being covered (or covered affordably) does not lie in handing over our fates to politicians and bureaucrats who are the ultimate barometer of public whims and misinformation.

If you have any questions, here is a bit of reading.

Do not give the public the ability to vote on your private health matters: No Fat People in Concentration Camps

Socialized medicine leads to more discrimination, higher costs, and fewer choices: Universal Healthcare and Fat

We should be free to do what we want, as long as that liberty doesn’t infringe on the liberty of others: Libertarians and Obesity, Take Two

A chain of back-of-the-envelope logic whereby involved government in healthcare in our current climate leads to dire consequences for fat people: Eliminate Fat People

Involving government in healthcare in our fatphobic environment can lead, and has led, to the breaking up of families. Additionally, it could lead to the state-sponsored eradication of fat children, by any means necessary: The Tide of Hate Rises

You should never give someone else the ability to make choices about your body: When Your Body is No Longer Yours

The state is not an objective third party with no profit motive, and will not operate as such in the distribution of health care: Why Universal Healthcare Should Be Opposed by Fat Activists

Junk science and fat unpopularity = the legislation of thinness: Universal Healthcare is Not Automatically Fat-Friendly

The Food Police are coming: “Lock-in” the Fatty Fat Fats

*There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Quick Hit: Mika Brzezinski Thinks Americans too Fat, Answer – Higher Taxes

Here’s a quick hit (h/t NewsBusters.org):

Food Fight: MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski Advocates Tax on Meat, Soft Drinks, and People Who Consume Them

SCARBOROUGH: Now when we say ‘sugar,’ do you mean coke, cocaine, or is that code for sugar with Paterson, or is it actual sugar?

BRZEZINSKI: [ignoring Joe, continuing to read] “In view of our obesity epidemic and the extra burden it places on our health care system – not to mention the problems it causes on a crowded New York subway when your neighbor can’t fit into a single seat – it is a reasonable proposal.” He goes on now to talk about red meat.  And you all need to think about this.

[snip]

BRZEZINSKI: No, people who want us not to just be an obese, sick country.  I’m going to read one more, Peter Singer again, Professor says –

That’s right, you disgusting fat pigs that are causing all the traffic problems (cuz, yanno, overcrowding isn’t due to bad scheduling or antiquated trains and lines…it’s due to your FAT!) should be taxed in order to shift the health care costs you will definitely, beyond-a-doubt based-on-scienterrific-studies incur at MY skinny-assed expense! (btw, not that Peter Singer doesn’t have very particular political views, no, he’s a very objective source on this).

More headbashing gold:

SCARBOROUGH: Don’t get mad. I can stay up for actually 20 hours consistently, but the thing is I haven’t had a great diet my whole life. Okay, I’ve probably eaten more Big Macs than most human beings alive, and I’m serious about it. But at the same time, I lead an active lifestyle. My blood pressure is 120 over 80. My cholesterol is fine. They’ve done one of those scans. I have no plaque. I want to live that way. That’s up to me.

BRZEZINSKI: I’m glad for you. This isn’t about you.

SCARBOROUGH: That’s up to Americans.

BRZEZINSKI: Look at America.

SCARBOROUGH: That’s the problem, Mika. It’s not about you. You want to project your values on everybody else. We don’t want to live like you. We think you have serious issues with how you treat your children. I want my children to eat a Big Mac. I want my children to have pizza. Now, afterwards, I’m going to take them outside, and I’m going to run them, and they’re going to be healthy.

BRZEZINSKI: So just run it off, and the calories will burn, and there won’t be plaque building up in their heart.

Yes, Mika. You obviously have a greater understanding of the science behind this than the average American you want to order around. :: cough ::

BRZEZINSKI: It’s not about you eating one, Willie.  It’s about America eating way too much and all the things they shouldn’t be eating and America being completely obese. And us pretending –

SCARBOROUGH: America, meet your new nanny, Mika Brzezinski.

BRZEZINSKI: – because it’s not P.C. to say you’re fat.  Fat and unhealthy.

SERWER: Tofu, bean curd, that’s where we end up.  That’s okay.

SCARBOROUGH: In Mika’s world, we end up eating tofu and bean curd.

BRZEZINSKI: No, in my world, we actually talk about what we’re putting in our bodies.

Yes. As if no one talks about what we eat ad nauseum now. No. There aren’t thousands of diet plans, food plans, nutritionists, dieticians, medical researchers, and lobbies that talk about food as a moral, financial, and health issue every fucking day. Nope. You’re right. Doesn’t exist. We need to talk about it MORE!

And the last, but not least, of the bigoted statements made by this ignoramus:

SCARBOROUGH: We know that you are trying to foist a nanny state on the rest of us.

BRZEZINSKI: All I want you to pay a little more so I don’t have to pay for your big butts, okay?

That’s fine. Though don’t look to my pocketbook the next time you tear an ACL working off that naughty, naughty pizza.
EDIT: I just wanted to note that the comments are pretty fat-positive, though this isn’t a blog that necessarily aligns itself with FA. It just typically holds the belief that your body is your business.

Rush Limbaugh Spreads ‘Fat is Genetic’ Message

On Rush Limbaugh’s radio show today, he quoted at length from the Newsweek article that obesity is genetic, as heritable as height. Millions of people listen to this show every day.

I know many of my readers here don’t agree with Rush’s politics, but spreading the message that fat has been shown to be as heritable as height, and is not under a person’s control in the long run, is extremely important. Rush was responding to Michael Pollan, who argued in the New York Times on September 9 that Obama should go after Big Food first before going after Big Insurance, because — you guessed it — fat people are the reason why health costs are going up, and they’re going to keep going up unless you go after Big Food (i.e., eradicate fat people).

(as a note, many Sanity Points are required to read the article — it contains the usual myths about the costs of fat people. It also, aggravatingly, euphemizes the ‘obesity epidemic’ with phrases like ‘a result of the Western diet’ — because, yanno, there aren’t any people who eat a non-Western diet that are fat!, and ‘fast-food diet’ — because, yanno, all us fatties do is chow on McWhatevers. Additionally, it assumes all diabetics are diabetic because of what they eat and how they exercise)

Rush has been notably up and down on the issue of fat in a personal sense — a fat man himself, he has regularly undergone diets and then regained the weight (he’s on a diet right now in fact). However, he’s been fairly consistent with his message that it’s no one else’s business but your own what goes into your mouth, and certainly isn’t something that should be regulated by some Nanny-state. He’s also been the brunt of much fat-stigmatization (his opponents regularly take cheap shots at his weight before they go on to explain why they disagree with this-or-that message, or even use his weight as a symbol for what they perceive as his moral failings), and has said surprisingly refreshing things about fat:

The Left’s New Villain: Fat People where he takes some delightful shots at MeMeMeMe Roth:

Did you catch what this Roth b-i-itch said at the beginning of the bite?  You’re supposed to be working out every day?  You’re supposed to be working out. You’re supposed to eat fruits and vegetables, you’re supposed to be.  And MeMe Roth, who nobody has ever heard of, is now the sole authority on what you ought to be doing.  I tried to warn people.  This is the SUV all over again.

“People who regularly exercise….are the ones getting regularly injured. …. you’re the ones putting stress on the healthcare system.” link is to audio, not text

Of course, his track record isn’t perfect. But he’s regularly saying a lot more fat-positive things, especially in the context of body autonomy, than the vast majority of media with his kind of audience. And that’s important, regardless of how you view his politics.

Here’s to you, Rush, and I hope that your journey becomes personally fat accepting with time, though I thank you for a few sane points about “the obese” in a chaos of illogic, hate, and blame!