America’s campaign against obesity is mostly off course


Hardly a day goes by without an infomercial, news announcement, documentary, etc., drawing public attention to the "obesity epidemic" that has spread across the country, particularly in children. The daily news is filled with images of grossly overweight citizens. But, is this all the fault of an overindulgent citizenry?  Of course not!  

Let's first take a look at some of the studies and campaigns searching for an answer to this national dilemma. Some stress the fault lies with a decline in cigarette smoking; others opine about a lack of exercise and healthy eating. All of these well-intentioned studies, etc., are missing the main point.  

What is missing in these studies and campaigns is the iron-clad link between poverty and obesity. The nation's poorest states are the most obese states. For example, Mississippi has the country's highest poverty rate and the largest number of overweight residents. Just about one-third of that state's citizens are corpulent. Mississippi consistently ranks last in median household income and first of the 50 states in the poverty column.

Historically, the South (with its right to work laws, low level of labor unionization and history of Jim Crow) has led the nation in the twin dubious distinctions of poverty and obesity. Poverty and obesity are coupled together like the proverbial "horse and carriage." Lower incomes breed higher rates of obesity because poor people consume a higher proportion of fatty food because it's cheaper. Poverty fosters obesity, which breeds life-threatening ills, hence, a nation of poorer people, such as America is today, is a much bigger nation (no pun intended).

Alabama is number two in U.S. obesity and eighth in poverty; West Virginia is number three in corpulence and fifth in indigence; Louisiana is fourth in obesity and second in penury: Kentucky is fifth in bulk and ninth in poverty.  

This brings the issue to the country's sharpened politics of poverty, which was jumpstarted by the Republicans and continued, although on a lesser scale, by the Democrats. The tax cuts enacted by George W. Bush and his "Marie Antoinettesque" Republican Party of the wealthy went a long way toward further enriching the already "filthy rich" and further impoverishing the nation's  poor  and working  class. Nationally, 50 million Americans don't know where their next meal is coming from. This is an abominable outrage and a national disgrace!

Considering the harmful impact of Republican policies on the income and waistlines of the South, in particular, it is ironic, indeed amazing, that the Southern states voted twice for George W. Bush for president. Bush's tax cuts did much to cut the economic legs from under the poor, and the middle and working classes of the region.  

Moreover, the Census Bureau reported that earnings dropped precipitously in 2005( this was pre-recession) for those working full-time jobs. Median income fell 1.8% for men and 1.3% for women. This capped almost 30 years of wage decline; 30 years of capitalism's  intensified class warfare against poor and working people.  

To further illustrate this fact, in data collected by the Organization for Economic Opportunity and Development, composed of 31 comparable nations, the United States has a higher income inequality index than 27 other countries, with only Chile, Mexico and Turkey (all developing nations) having a larger income gap between rich and poor.

For instance, it has been reported in The New York Times that the 400 wealthiest Americans have a greater combined net worth than the bottom 150 million Americans (the total U.S. population is about 300 million) and the top 1 percent of Americans posses more wealth than the entire bottom 90 percent.

The rich are getting rich and the poorer are getting poorer. This is capitalism at its best, further impoverishing the masses.  

In the meantime, it is well understood that voices will be raised in the campaigns against the specter of obesity relentlessly stalking the nation, but unless the obesity question is connected to poverty, jobs and income inequality it is just so much political theater and fantasy talk.

Further, it is to a certain extent, insulting and condescending, all the banter, about teaching families to eat healthy, as just about everyone knows what constitutes healthy eating. The problems are lack of jobs, money, affordable healthy food and the high prices of healthy, nutritious food.

Photo via Moon Stars and Paper blog. CC

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  • Hi
    A bit of proofreading might be in order, but, all in all, well said and thought. The entire planet is factioned and bordered... which makes folk competitive and anti-Team Earth. Bordering sets up US vs THEM competing/wars. If you look at the TEAM-ness of the members of the USA military, you see a properly operating commune. Everyone (on team military) gets a good meal, a good bed, a good roof, basic healthcare, and this is because the military knows... that to damage one member of TEAM... damages the entire team. Militry members tend to take care of one another too, and cooperation is the theme, not competition. this is because the team did not faction. It keeps a common goal... to try its best to make sure each member of the team... is ready to do whatever the entire team needs to accomplish. Its a commune... and a few of us folks know that communes/community is the wisest systemic method of operating a logical society. Sure, the military has some strict rules about damaging team resources, but, they are wise rules... and its quite easy for all members of that team to see why those rules are needed and logical.

    I guess one could probably come to the conclusion that competition is NOT healthy and never was. Cooperation is healthy, but NOT cooperation with a competitive system such as capitalism. Economies are really the base problem (money, ownership, price tags). They are devices of competing. If one thinks about it for a second, one realizes that it is the blockading of quality survival supplies... by devices called price tags... that actually CAUSES poverty.

    Anyhoo, again, a fine piece, author... full of good info and correct thinkings. Thanks and best wishes!

    Larry "Wingnut" Wendlandt
    MaStars - Mothers Against Stuff That Ain't Right
    (anti-capitalism-ists) (anti-economy usage)
    Bessemer MI USA

    Posted by Larry J Wendlandt, 08/11/2012 10:02am (4 years ago)

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