Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tell Michelle: We've Been Fattening Them Up to Send Them Off to War - Campaign Instead Against the Public-Pauperizing Politics!

1984* has hardly come and gone here in America. In fact, it may well be with us in perpetuity. Being a litterateur I wondered at the time if the Raygun Years weren't almost too exact a match for what Orwell had predicted (remember the TV viewing you on the wall of every home (and everyone wearing the same cheap uniform overalls and reporting to the nameless bosses on their every move)?). After all, the Raygun 80's were the beginning of the end for any type of real reporting of the facts about foreign policy, environmental damage, foodstuff deterioration, educational idiocy introduced as intellectual content, jobs outsourced to cheap-goods producers located overseas without a whimper from the Press, etc., etc., etc. You name it. And now . . . Michelle. The Obama we had hoped wouldn't be used in the ridiculous campaigns against us seems to have been retained by Wal-Mart Foodstuffs. (And I do mean "stuffs.") Suckers.

Of all the important and unaddressed issues she could have involved herself intelligently with - actually making a difference in trying to reverse the insanity our world has been victimized by up to now: education reform, lack of women's issues' importance in this White House, population control, usage of natural resources like water rights, utility of Africa's natural resources by outsiders . . . . (Yes, Lisa, another long one.) This time dealing with the history of why not only are the lower-class (mainly) kids fat, but the rest of us stupid. Pull up a chair. (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Child Obesity in America: "Mommy, Mommy! Why Am I Fat?" Malnutrition comes in a delightful assortment of colorful flavors nowadays. But poverty and obesity are a correlation that Americans find hard to swallow.

"Genetics and family history can predict whether you will become obese but then so can your ZIP code," says Adam Drewnowski, world- renowned leader in innovative research approaches for the prevention and treatment of obesity, and Director of the Nutritional Sciences Program at the University of Washington in Seattle. In December of 2003, Drewnowski said, "If poverty and obesity are truly linked, it will be a major challenge to stay poor and thin." [1]

In a more recent interview regarding her new "Let's Move" campaign to combat childhood obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama argues: "A recent study put the health care cost of obesity-related diseases at $147 billion a year. This epidemic also impacts the nation's security, as obesity is now one of the most common disqualifiers for military service." [2]

It seems morbid that national security is Michelle Obama's primary concern regarding obesity in American children. After all, raising healthy American children to become dead American soldiers doesn't seem like a viable health care objective. But aside from that, poverty is directly correlated with obesity in Americans of all ages. So isn't American poverty an even worse security threat than American obesity?

Through the magic of photography, Ken Burns' productions of "The Civil War" and "The National Parks" comprise an epic pictorial scrap book of American History, spanning more than 150 years from the early 1800s through the 1960s. But in all those pictures of millions of typical Americans, there is no sign of obesity, except occasionally amongst the extremely wealthy. So, comparing those pictures to more recent audience footage from any "Blue Collar Comedy" tour, it's easy to see that American obesity is a relatively new phenomenon, imposed over the past 30-years or so.

Are most Americans fat because they are typically more affluent now than in past generations - or is it because the American food supply has been poisoned with chemical additives that make cheap trash more accessible and flavorful than more expensive and more nutritional food choices?

While American society has become abundantly more affluent over the past quarter century, most of that gain has been concentrated amongst a shrinking upper class minority of people whose incomes are derived primarily from ownership, not from wages. In response, the FDA has prescribed additives like monosodium glutamate and high fructose corn syrup for American workers that are in debt up to their eyeballs because they haven't had the purchasing power to pay for healthy food since the 1960s.

The result is that deep-fried fast foods and chemically-charged, frozen garbage tend to be cheaper, more flavorful and conveniently microwavable than fresh and more nutritional, albeit less exciting, food alternatives. Efforts to improve sales by enhancing cosmetic appeal require even the 'fresh foods' found in the meat and produce departments of most grocery stores to be chemically treated, artificially retarding the discoloration inherent in the natural decomposition that results from the death of any plant or animal. Moreover, genetic modifications tend to compromise nutritional quality for the sake of increased production, distribution and sales of dead plants and animals that comprise the general inventory of every American supermarket.

Under capitalism, this is called 'economic efficiency'. But all those preservatives are also high on the glycemic index and spike insulin levels that tell our brains to store fat, prompting the FDA to approve an endless variety of diet pills and weight loss programs to combat American obesity. This in turn, only exacerbates the problem of American obesity and facilitates a multi-billion dollar weight loss industry, forcing most Americans into a spiral of financial debt, psychological depression and spiritual bankruptcy. [8] [9]

According to Richard C. Cook, veteran Project Manager for the U.S. Treasury Department and Policy Analyst for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

"Cheap, mass-produced foods are largely based on grains and beef raised by massive agribusiness firms, so that the atrocious American diet is inextricably linked with capitalist enterprise controlled by Wall Street. A key ingredient is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), suspected of being a major cause of diabetes and heart disease, as well as obesity. Much of the HFCS is extracted from corn grown from genetically-modified seed which has been rammed down the throats of American farmers, again by the massive agribusiness firms such as Monsanto.

"American farming at present is completely incapable of supplying nutritious foods on a scale that would make a difference. In order to furnish natural and healthy foods to poorer markets would require a revolution in American farming where small family farms using heirloom seeds and natural farming methods would once again become prosperous. Unfortunately, this sector has been destroyed by agribusiness and by the federal government policies, not to mention bank lending practices, that favor it. We also have a massive food chemical industry, closely aligned with the pharmaceutical industry, that thrives on doctoring unhealthy and non-nutritious food, with the aid of the Food and Drug Administration which approves their chemical formulas.

"In other words, a big part of the U.S. economy, again under the control of Wall Street, gets rich off making kids obese and unhealthy to the point where we no longer have the capability of producing anything else on a large scale. If Michelle Obama wants to take on all this she has a pretty big job ahead of her." [3]

It's easy to find academic research on the Internet to support all these conclusions, and much of the information suggests that race is a key determinant in both poverty and obesity. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made similar observations 40 years ago, and a mountain of recent data supports his conclusions today. So why hasn't the wife of our nation's first Black President made the obvious connection between poverty and obesity?

Some of the best thinking on the matter of childhood obesity in the United States . . . suggests that lower income families are at the highest risk for malnutrition since foods with low nutritional value relative to calorie content are often the most economical choices available. [4]

In a more detailed analysis, Professor Adam Drewnowski suggests that "many health disparities in the United States are linked to inequalities in education and income:

"A reduction in diet costs in linear programming models leads to high-fat, energy-dense diets that are similar in composition to those consumed by low-income groups. Such diets are more affordable than are prudent diets based on lean meats, fish, fresh vegetables, and fruit. The association between poverty and obesity may be mediated, in part, by the low cost of energy-dense foods and may be reinforced by the high palatability of sugar and fat. This economic framework provides an explanation for the observed links between socioeconomic variables and obesity when taste, dietary energy density, and diet costs are used as intervening variables. More and more Americans are becoming overweight and obese while consuming more added sugars and fats and spending a lower percentage of their disposable income on food." [1]

But instead of responding appropriately to more than 40-years of existing research conclusions by attacking poverty directly, Michelle Obama insists upon reinventing the wheel. Her revised goals include ending what she refers to as "food deserts" with a $400 million a year "Healthy Food Financing Initiative," which will bring grocery stores to low-income neighborhoods and "help places like convenience stores carry healthier food options." [2]

However, increasing the availability of healthier foods does not improve access unless American consumers have the purchasing power necessary to make healthier choices. Basic economics suggests that effective demand is not merely needs or desires; it is needs and desires backed with purchasing power. Moreover, pushing more grocery stores (i.e. Wal-Marts) into poor neighborhoods historically forces millions more people out of their homes in the name of economic development and eminent domain. From this perspective, "Let's Move" seems a most appropriate title for Mrs. Obama's new campaign.

According to Michelle's new "Let's Move" Web site, "grants will also help bring farmers markets and fresh foods into underserved communities, boosting both family health and local economies". On the surface, this seems like a great idea. But as long as this program is reliant upon government funding, it is inherently unstable and does not empower local economies in the long run. [5]

A more effective approach would be for the US government to legislate in favor of cooperative enterprise and cooperative financing to facilitate the self-sufficiency of local cooperative markets. The role of an effective government is simply to govern and protect its citizens, not to provide funding for sustenance and commerce through taxation and borrowing.

Of course, government funding would make a lot more sense if it were provided from the economic surplus already generated by the nation's productivity. Emergency programs, implemented in previous times of economic crisis, could have formed the basis for a stable American economy. This was the case when President Lincoln issued the Greenbacks during the civil war - and when colonial paper currencies allowed an emerging American society to monetize the value of the goods and services its inhabitants were able to produce - and again when President Herbert Hoover created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), which moved to recapitalize failing non-Federal Reserve state banks in rural areas and small towns. Hoover's efforts are not remembered as the most popular in US history. But much to his credit, RFC loan programs had a major impact over the next twenty years, providing low interest loans to the railroad industry, farmers, exporters, state and local governments, and wartime industries. [6].

But this is not the way government funding is provided today. Instead, the US government - even when it is led by a Black President - rewards the corruption of the extremely wealthy with billion dollar bailouts and punishes the working people of this nation with rising food costs, unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, homelessness, crime and starvation, along with a failed health care system. . . . David Kendall is an independent writer based in the state of Washington.

Please read the rest here. And for your children's sake (if not your own), take action! Write some letters. Determine to have your voice heard at a meeting promoting this Michelle Fluff Campaign (and don't accept anyone's minimization of your concerns)! Just DO IT! Suzan

* It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features. Winston made for the stairs. It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.

Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig-iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely. He moved over to the window: a smallish, frail figure, the meagreness of his body merely emphasized by the blue overalls which were the uniform of the party.



Teeluck said...

Suzan, that last part on Big Brother is quite interesting, where is it from?

Jack Jodell said...

Thanks for this revealing and thought-provoking piece. It's funny how the right, who originally embraced 1984 as an example of the evils and dangers of the leftist social-welfare state, have all but institutionalized those same evils through the practices of their corporations.

I knew there was a reason beyond mere genetics and age that I am no longer the stringbean I was well into the 1970s, and in comparison am far closer today to a beachball than to yesterday's stringbean. As I gaze at the ingredients on nearly every food product around, I see corn, corn starch, and/or corn syrup. What have these bastards done to our food and to us? There are presavatives galore, and it's impossible to find ground beef or steak with anywhere near the flavor it once had. EVERYTHING has additives and corn derivatives, and that is why we are becoming the fattest people in the world!

Again, it is those damned corporations whose lust for maximum profit, and the seriously flawed capitalistic system which spawns and nurtures them, who are completely to blame. Infuriating!

Beach Bum said...

...or is it because the American food supply has been poisoned with chemical additives that make cheap trash more accessible and flavorful than more expensive and more nutritional food choices?

I agree but from my perspective it also a willing choice on the part of people believing their lives are so hectic that they have no other choice but to hit the Burger Clown drive through between picking one kid up from soccer and taking the other to ballet.

I think it is also in large part laziness and having too much money. Not to take a long winded stroll down memory lane but during my childhood if I had ONE soda a week I was doing good. My grandparents had an old milk bottle in the refrigerator filled with water and if us kids got hot and thirsty while playing we were suppose to get it, not the soda and granddad had a way of enforcing that rule and we obeyed.

Now I freely admit that I have to chase my son and daughter away from the sodas AFTER they have opened one.

Long story short we have fallen into a trap and it will take an awaking of the people, not any government program to get us out. Like your post said:

But as long as this program is reliant upon government funding, it is inherently unstable and does not empower local economies in the long run.

TomCat said...

50 years ago I use to eat raw meat on occasion. I would not dream of doing that today, because the quality of our food supply was so degraded.

Off topic, Suzan, I stopped by to do your taxes, but you weren't here. Too late now. My calculator is shelved for the year. ;-)