Friday, May 11, 2012

Obesity in the US: Another capitalist crisis

The cure to this is not a mystery
The US has a problem with obesity a recent report from the Institute of Medicine claims.  The problem is so severe in the United States that the US Coast Guard has had to revise upward the "assumed average weight of a passenger to 185 pounds from 140", the Wall Street Journal reports.  The airlines have had to do the same as Americans get heavier and heavier. I was back in Britain last year and obesity is a problem there also.  But anyone that travels outside the US cannot help but notice the difference on their return; there are a lot of extremely obese people here. 

According to the report, two thirds of Americans are overweight and the numbers of "severely obese"
are growing.  The American Journal of Preventive Medicine estimates that 42% of Americans will be obese by 2030.

Obesity among young children is also on the rise as are the diseases and health problems that accompany it.  The Institute of Medicine's report recommends one hour of physical activity a day in schools and increased taxation on sugary beverages.. If the food manufacturers don't voluntarily improve nutritional standards for the food it markets to under 18 year olds, the government should mandate them, the Institute's report states.  With the attacks on education one hour a day devoted to physical exercise is ruled out.

The solutions to this problem are not complex.  Exercise, a healthy diet etc.  Knowing what to do is not the problem. Overcoming the opposition of the food manufacturers is the problem.  The solutions to the problem have been advocated for years "yet opposition to recommendations has prevented many from being put in to place..." the Journal states.  The food manufacturers have spent millions lobbying (bribing) the politicians in Congress to block any legislation that cuts in to their profits despite the tragic health consequences and huge medical costs associated with their products.  The lobbying efforts have been 100% successful.

This blatant power of the corporations and their politicians in the two Wall Street parties is what leaves so many Americans extremely cynical about politics in general.  When Congress blocked attempts to get pizza out of the schools because it contained some ingredients "considered" vegetables, workers are not fooled by this; we know it's about profits.  As far as food manufacturers voluntarily adopting standards that benefit the consumer, hell will freeze over before that happens.  The huge cost to the taxpayer due to health problems associated with capitalist food production run in to the billions of dollars.  This doesn't offend another section of the capitalist class, the health insurers. The US has one of the worst health care systems of the advanced capitalist economies and the most expensive, presently around 18% of GDP.

According to a new study by the Commonwealth Fund, "The United States spends more on health care than 12 other industrialized countries yet does not provide "notably superior" care...".  These costs are due to health care being a business in the US as food production is, and the main goal of a business is to make profit, the use of the product, or the health of the consumer that needs it is incidental.

In the CF study, all the other countries but the US provide universal health care cheaper.  Why on earth would we have a middle man, an insurer between a crucial social service and our access to it? This adds massive administration costs and creates big profits for investors---the same with hospitals and other institutions that are corporations.

The CF study points out that all capitalist countries are struggling with costs which doesn't surprise us as public services are cut or eliminated entirely in order to pay for the capitalist crisis but, the study adds,  "The level of health care spending in the U.S., however, stands apart. If the U.S. were to spend the same share of its GDP on health care as the Netherlands—the country spending the next-largest share of GDP—the savings would have been $750 billion in 2009."The crux of the matter is that food production or the health of the population, will never be adequate as long as it is for profit, as long as these productive forces are privately owned by the 1%, by the likes of Warren Buffet.  The costs are staggering.  I just read a short piece about a cholesterol drug that has lost its patent, the end of a blockbuster's billion dollar reign as generics appear on the market and prices decline. This is barbaric when you think about it; it certainly is not civilization.

Capitalist globalization and the rapacious struggle and ensuing competition for profits is not efficient in the sense that it provides for the members of society a safe and secure existence, just the opposite; everlasting insecurity and fear is the norm. The only real solution is the liberating of the dominant forces of social production from the hands of the 1% and the rational planning of society's needs.  No degree of regulation will solve this problem as the food manufacturers are not actually concerned with the production of food but profits and the accumulation of capital.  When a political alternative independent of the two Wall Street parties and based on workers, our organizations and communities arises it will be a step in the right direction as the political  dictatorship that the 1% has over our political, therefore economic life through its two parties will be weakened

The economist and philosopher Karl Marx said it most clearly when he wrote:

“A schoolmaster is a productive laborer when, in addition to belaboring the heads of his scholars, he works like a horse to enrich the school proprietor. That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of in a sausage factory, does not alter the relation.”

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