Turns out when you make food affordable, you increase the costs of health care. Addison Del Mastro connects the dots.
First, Americans suffer from high rates of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity:
Among its wealthy, industrialized peers, the United States is close to having the highest diabetes rate in the world, and the same is true for obesity. Deaths from heart disease are similarly high.
Due in no small part to this massive disease burden, U.S. life expectancy lags behind virtually the entire Western and East Asian world, and is surpassed by Cuba and Slovenia, among other less-developed countries.
Life magazine wrote in 1955 that Americans were “as well fed as any people in the world. Each generation is taller, bigger and healthier than the preceding one—and each has a longer life expectancy.” . . .
Approximately one-third of total U.S. health-care spending is on diseases related to excess sugar consumption alone. The simple fact is that a very large percentage—maybe even a majority—of U.S. health-care spending is on entirely preventable diseases.
Second, why? Because government subsidizes agricultural produce that goes into the snacks that Americans love to eat when imitating potatoes relaxing:
However, our food system is dominated by a relatively small handful of large, well-connected, and well-protected industrial agricultural firms and food manufacturers. Call it the agricultural-industrial complex.
The most obvious nexus between industrial agriculture and complicit government regulators is the farm-subsidy system, which neither helps small farmers nor promotes the production of nutritious food. Its primary effect is to subsidize industrially produced corn and soy, as well as sugar, which in turn become the major ingredients or fillers for a vast cornucopia of highly processed and refined foods manufactured by the likes of Kraft, Nestle, and PepsiCo. This operates as an indirect subsidy for junk-food manufacturers, whose hundreds of brands and product lines fill shelf after shelf in the supermarket.
Third, bad diets lead to rising health costs and the challenge of insuring people who suffer the effects of bad diets:
Our health-care problem is often symbolized by the number 17: the percentage of GDP that we spend on it, a figure higher than almost any country in the world. Three different numbers should take its place: America’s rank in the global charts for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
So which mole should we whack?