Liberals: if you think that the solution to all our nation's health care problems, as well as the key to paying for a national health care plan, resides in getting rid of fat people, you are in good company: your president agrees. However, as much as I like Obama, he's just plain wrong about this. If he thinks we can "prevent obesity", he's got another think coming. And even supposing we could do that, if Obama thinks that eliminating fat people would eliminate all of our nation's medical problems and save us a trillion dollars, well, he's got even more thinking to do.
The facts are these: (1) You can't make fat people thin in the long term. (2) Making people thin doesn't necessarily make them healthy anyway -- in fact in many cases it does just the opposite. And (3) a national health care plan is going to be expensive, and rather than pretend like we can eliminate all the costs by forcing or guilting everyone into getting thin, we need to just suck it up and pay for the plan, even if that means raising taxes.
I have noticed a lot of anti-fat rhetoric associated with the health care debate. There's John Mackey's controversial WSJ editorial, and Michael Pollan's response in the New York Times, and Obama repeating his previous claims. And then there's Ashton Kutcher's statement on Bill Maher's show (which Maher of course did not call him out on): "Frankly, I don’t want to pay for the guy who’s getting a triple-bypass because he’s eating fast food all day and deep-fried snickers bars." (I should immediately point out that this quote doesn't single out fat people, just people who eat a non-Ashton Kutcher-approved diet. But I think it's not totally out of line to imagine a fat person as the stereotypical person that he had in mind with this statement.) But I've also seen it coming increasingly from ordinary people -- in debates on Facebook, for example, and in the comments that people make on some of the articles mentioned above.
Here is what I would like to say to everyone who favors universal health care: our message has to be consistent or we are doomed. It is totally hypocritical for a pro-choice liberal to declare that "a woman's body is her own" but then turn around and try to tell others what to eat and how much to exercise and how much body fat they are allowed to have. Universal health care means covering everybody, regardless of whose "fault" it is when they get sick. That is the whole point. If you keep talking about policing the way people live their lives as a way to drive down costs, you are playing right into the Republicans' fear-mongering about how Big Government takes away our freedom. We liberals need to get our thinking straight about this, or this whole health care thing is going nowhere.
P.S. Sorry for the comment moderation; I've been getting spam comments every day on my last post and I don't know how else to block them. I'll try to approve your comments quickly.
P.P.S. I just got wind of a new blog called Fat Habitat that may be of interest. It's about fat and sustainability. There aren't many posts yet (and the last one was pro-Michael Pollan before he made his recent anti-fat remarks, so it will be interesting to see how he's treated in the next post), but this will be one to watch.