Meowser takes exception to a recent comment by Barack Obama's claim during a recent Democratic debate that that "[i]f we could go back to the obesity rates of 1980 we could save the
Medicare system a trillion dollars."
In this election season, Meowser has some questions about how far this crop of Democrats is willing to go to control obesity:
[W]e have an election coming up next year, and strictly from a fat perspective, I worry about who is going to replace [Bush]. When I found out Barack Obama (much like Hillary Clinton, who has made similar remarks in the past) wanted to disappear me
solely because of my weight in order to save the government money, I
had to ask: Just how far are they willing to go to make that a reality?
I find this rhetoric offensive. The United States government really is disappearing untold numbers of people, and not because they're fat. (Cf. Stephen Grey's Ghost Plane, an outstanding book that I plan to review soon.)
But I still think I have a right to know just how
much agency they are willing to remove from people—and especially
fatasses like myself—in the name of "health care cost containment."
You'd think the Democrats would be all about personal agency and
individual freedom. They damn well ought to be. But I'm afraid that
when it comes to nosing around in people's body autonomy, they're just
as guilty as the people they want to replace; they just want to nose
around in a different part of our bodies, that's all.
Here are some questions I'd love to see asked during Presidential debates (and not just of Democrats):
you believe in reducing the number of fat people by any means
necessary? What if people really make an effort to exercise and 'eat
right' but are still 'obese'? Do you favor requiring them to have
bariatric surgery, or putting them in weight-reduction prisons, or
having a police state in which people get their homes broken into and
their pantries cleaned out and forced at gunpoint to work out until
they drop, or being barred from all restaurants and grocery stores and
all public places until they slim down? How far are you willing to go?"
Who said anything about stripping people of agency, let alone disappearing anyone?
If politicians are making hateful or false statements about fat people, they deserve to be called out on their prejudice. However, Meowser hasn't offered any evidence that Obama or Clinton is doing any such thing. She's railing at Obama for an empirical claim about the relationship between health care costs and obesity, and assailing Clinton because she voted for nutrition grants and exercise promotion.
These candidates haven't said anything about people who are already fat needing to diet, much less to disappear. Clinton's bill was aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles across the board. We don't know what Obama has in mind, but we shouldn't assume that he's calling on anyone to diet. He was talking about reducing obesity rates to what we saw in the 1980s through prevention. That could mean preventing obesity through healthy school lunches, phys ed, and grants for bike paths.
As far as health policy is concerned, it would be a mistake to fixate on obesity itself as the primary threat. The rapidly increasing prevalence of obesity is just one very visible symptom of much more widespread public health problems, including poor nutrition and insufficient excercise.
Experts disagree about the extent to which excess body fat itself causes health problems
However, there's no doubt that high calorie, low nutrient diets will eventually cause weight gain in a large percentage of the population. We know that poor nutrition and inactivity are harmful, even to those who don't gain weight. What isn't showing up on your abs may very well be collecting in your arteries.
So, the increasing prevalence of obesity is genuinely worrisome, if only because it appears to be linked to deteriorating diets and declining activity levels on a societal level. Weight isn't a good indicator of individual health. However, it is troubling to see entire populations getting heavier, at younger ages.
Clearly, the answer isn't to identify people who weigh "too much" and harangue them to lose weight. If individual bootstrapping worked, the burgeoning diet and fitness industries would have already addressed the problem one consumer at a time.
We often talk about obesity as if fat people have a problem and everyone else is A-OK. That's a dangerous form of self-delusion. We're ignoring the ways in which our entire society has become less healthy since the 1980s. As a society we're driving more and sleeping less. We're awash in high fructose corn syrup because we subsidize too many Iowa corn farmers. Schools are shortening recess and cutting out PE while adding vending machines to generate badly-needed revenue.
Politicians should be encouraged to talk about public health issues. Their health policies should be judged on their merits. If Obama and Clinton are scheming to deprive fat people of their agency, let's see the evidence.
[NB: I don't want to hear any hateful comments about weight or body shape. Take that bullshit somewhere else.]