Food: The Poor Are Hardest Hit
by Mac Johnson [writer,
in: The war on hunger is over -- and Haagen-Dazs has won.
pretty much the conclusion of researchers who met in Australia
this month to discuss the growing worldwide epidemic of obesity.
Among the findings reported at the meeting was the somewhat
ambivalent news that the obese now outnumber the undernourished
on our planet by – ahem -- a rather hefty margin.
million humans are currently undernourished to some degree,
a whopping 1 billion are significantly overnourished.
Johnson is a freelance writer and biologist in Cambridge,
Mass. Mr. Johnson holds a Doctorate in Molecular and
Cellular Biology from Baylor College of Medicine. He
is a frequent opinion contributor to Human
Events Online. His website can be found at macjohnson.com [go
to Johnson index]
This news would be disturbing enough if it were just obnoxious
middle-class Americans who were waddling around the globe, deservedly
moribund with excess flabbage. But the news is even more disturbing
when one learns that, once more, the poor are being hardest hit
by this health crisis. Yes, the poor are now so oppressed that
they suffer from diseases of affluence.
are the days when the poor could count on society to provide
a properly restricted diet and plenty of
healthy outdoor activities, such as ditch digging, rock lifting,
and pharaoh-carrying. Now poverty is a nightmare of Ding-Dongs™ and
Ho-Hos™ washed down by bubbly sugar water and endured in
air-conditioned ambience on a large padded recliner marooned
in front of a flickering image of “Girls Gone Wild!” on
a huge color TV.
One could question the validity of any definition of poverty
that included hundreds of millions so afflicted with purchasing
power and leisure time that they can balloon up to prodigious
proportions, but why stop a good poverty related crusade just
when its about to reach critical mass, so to speak.
Indeed, the correlation between obesity and social class is
well established and quite predictive. Once upon a time, chunky
was so much of a status symbol that the world dreamed of rotund
Rubenesque beauties letting a little flab flap enticingly in
blurry visions of carefree corn-fed frolic. But today fat is
more likely to be a low status symbol than badge of wealth and
Thus, “plump” is
now a legitimate post-Marxist, New Deal style, means-tested
social cause on the increase. Especially
when one considers that women and minorities have been hardest
hit. Clearly, government action is called for here.
recommendations of at least one medical researcher at the conference
I must remind you that medical researchers
are easily the smartest people on Earth -- was that government
begin using the nimble, unbiased and easily understood tax code
to force people to eat and drink what government accurately determines
is best for them, meaning “us,” meaning “you.”
"For instance, if we charge money for every calorie of
soft drink and fruit drink that was consumed, people would consume
less of it,” commented professor Barry Popkin. He continued, "If
we subsidize fruit and vegetable production, people would consume
more of it and we would have a healthier diet."
Unless, of course, someone decides to turn that cheap subsidized
fruit into naughty fruit drink, and given the uncontrolled proliferation
of juicers in our Wild West cowboy society, that seems a certainty
to me. We would need to restrict refined sugar sales to licensed
food technicians as well, so no more little packets of white
powder on your table at the House of Pies, which again, might
play games with wholesome fruit in a callous quest for profit.
Benjamin Senauer agreed that high food prices are a good idea,
that the Japanese are slimmer than most peoples
and that "the average Japanese household spends almost a
quarter of its income on food compared to under 14% in the U.S." So
if we could just confiscate 11% more of Americans’ incomes,
we might all be happier and healthier.
upon was the fact that Japanese-Americans are both slimmer
than the American population as a whole.
So maybe it’s not just the ability to buy food that determines
how much we eat, but perhaps behavior is somehow involved. And
again, it should be pointed out that the poor are, on average,
fatter than the rich.
though, because the same paternalistic attitude that brought
food, now offers to bring us expensive food.
Of course, “expensive” is a relative term, so perhaps
food prices will need to be adjusted for income in the future.
Surely there must be some way to link those little price tag
scanners at the supermarket to the Internal Revenue Service databanks. “How
much are these chocolate-covered ‘toaster cobblers’?” a
customer might ask. To which the clerk would need to reply, “I
dunno, did you bring your W-2, tubby?”
Yeah. That’s a world I want to live in. On the other hand,
I could stand to drop a few pounds and dieting might be easier
if Cadbury Eggs rivaled their Faberge cousins in price. And just
think of the political possibilities: the tobacco tax and alcohol
tax could soon be supplemented with a nougat tax. And some future
President can bite his lip and report at the State of the Union
address, “This year 20,000,000 Americans will go to bed
hungry. It’s true that America has made much progress on
this issue, but much remains to be done. Under my leadership
we can get that number up to 25,000,000 hungry, thanks to my
plan to tax pudding as a ‘destructive device.’”
all social problems, obesity can be solved not just through
but also through better public transportation.
Professor Senauer also observed that, "Japanese cities are
based on efficient public transport and walking. The average
American commutes to work, drives to the supermarket and does
as little walking as possible."
if public transportation is so “efficient,” then
why is it so much exercise? Sounds to me like we have a deadly “efficient” transportation
system and the poor Japanese are running themselves ragged --
so many contradictions in such short quotations.
But for those that wish to use government as a sort of compulsory
Jenny Craig, then might I suggest that we start with those folks
that have already asked the government to provide their meals.
Perhaps there should be a weigh-in before we charge up those
food stamp cards every month.
should be accompanied by lean-testings in the application: “OK, Ms. Potato, your income is certainly
low enough to qualify for public assistance, and you have wisely
accumulated no savings, but it says here on this scale that you
have saved up an 8-month food supply in your ass.” “I’m
sorry, you’ll need to get a job. Try a wedge of lemon and
a lot of water. Gandhi could do that for weeks and he wasn’t
nearly so adipose-affluent as you. NEXT!”
And for all
those who campaigned for a higher minimum wage, I say to you:
could you do that to our poor overnourished
poor? Do you know how much nougat an extra $0.50 an hour buys?
I’m a low-wage humanitarian. You make people less healthy. CRO
First appeared at Human Events Online
2006 Mac Johnson