Posted by Pattie on 2/15/2010 08:21:00 AM

The Obamas are following the Clintons down the road of Health Care Reform and while I had hopes that it was not true this time and I've been impressed with how much further they have gotten, I'm have a feeling of deja vu all over again. I fear that if the stalled health insurance reform does ever get restarted again, it will end up being exactly what the monied interest in health care want: mandatory purchase of health care without or with few restrictions on profit-making at the expense of our health.

But what really is giving me the willies is last week's "Let's Move" campaign "targeting childhood obesity." Does anyone remember the timing of the "Shape Up America"? There stood Hilary Clinton standing behind C. Everett Koop near the end of 1994 while he announced that what America's health care needed the most was for doctors to tell their patients to lose weight like no doctor before 1994 had ever suggested to a patient that weight loss was a good idea. Wait. 1994! Hilary Clinton! Could it be that this was a smoke screen to take the focus off her and her husband's failure to fight the monied interest and give Americans a universal health care system?

Now we have a stalled health care reform that has been watered down to create the same racket we have with car insurance, except that living is something we have a right to and driving a car is a privilege (remember the Declaration of Independence? LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness). So either way, I smell smoke and I see mirrors -- don't look over here where deals have been made with the profiteers. Let us misdirect your attention to the horrors of fatness. Except this time, we'll add the good old, "do it for the kids" line and that way you don't have to worry about the fact that after 16 years of telling Americans to diet and most Americans trying to diet, we still have fat people. What's worse, we managed to kill a bunch of people from the drugs and surgeries in the name of losing that fat along the way.

My more liberal friends are taking a gentle approach. They see something well-meaning-ed in Michelle Obama's motherhood and are gently asking her to consider alternatives. I'm not so inclined to let her off that easily. There's too much data and too much history and too much context to just assume that she is miguided. This is the same ole, same ole and I think it's time to shout from the roof tops: "The Emperor and (the Emperess, in this case) have NO CLOTHES!"

But I don't want to stop there. I do not like negative politics and I do not want to echo the Nopublicans in their negativity about everything these days. So on the off chance that Michelle Obama is sincere in her desire to make life better for the next generation and the generations to come, let me put 7 practical and feasible alternatives on the table that would be better at improving the lives of our children than putting them on a diet and making them exercise to the point that they forget how much fun it is to just play:



Our food system is superior in many ways, but the ever growing greed in food production is leading to more and more mishaps from contaminated food to preservatives that are bad for us to frankenfood to the lack of basic foods in poorer neighborhoods with less nutritious foods in their place. In fact, I suspect that many of the sins laid on the doorsteps of "obesity" have more to do with safety of our food than it does with how much we are consuming of it. In addition, more and more people are dying from their medications, including children. Reform at the FDA is needed and I haven't heard one word out of the administration regarding this.


Children still grow up in areas where staying at home and watching television helps them live longer than being out in a playground or playing in the streets near where they live because it is dangerous to be in the streets. (Last time I checked, gunshot wounds or being assaulted were not good for your health.) Schools are closing earlier and earlier. In a world where ecommuting and working at home is more possible than ever, we are still insisting that the 9 to 5 work day is optimal and thus we have latchkey kids with no place to go and no safe adults to be near. This is not a matter of playing police. This is a matter of it takes a village to raise a child. Our communities are not child-oriented. They are profit-oriented. If we wanted to create a village where children could move, they would move. Children do not need to be told to play. When they are safe to do so, they move. And by the way, targeting fat kids is going to make this worse, not better. Bullying kids that are different is one of the ways that the streets are unsafe. Blaming fat kids for their health problems is going to fuel those differences and give ammunition to those bullies. In fact, it turns the federal government into one of those bullies.


Deficit spending is putting a burden on the next generation and the ones after that. I'm not just talking about government debt. We had a major meltdown of the "credit industry" 2 years ago and our response was to patch it up and keep it. We have been sold a pack of lies about credit, especially long-term debt. Debt used to be something we entered into until the crops were harvested and then we paid it back with an eye on savings in bumper crop years. Now we are told it is okay to buy our toys on credit. The wake up call is that some day it has to be paid. We hit the snooze button instead of making the hard decisions. That has delayed the collapse of an unsustainable system, not fixed it or bailed it out. All of these things means that it is just going to be a bigger problem for our children. If we really loved our children we'd be re-examining this entire economic system and making some deep and abiding changes in our economy.


Nothing screams "I hate my kids" more than student debt. We put pressure on kids to go to school. We design jobs so that a high school education isn't good enough. Then we make it impossible for them to pay for that schooling without first putting themselves in debt. They leave the starting gate with a burden to carry. This burden makes them wage slaves, pure and simple. Now we are adding to this burden by making it impossible for them to finish the "4-year" degree in 4 years. Overcrowding and cutting back on teaching continues to create a system where students will have to borrow more to finish that degree.


Student debt isn't even the biggest problem in education. With the "No Child Left Behind" legislation we have made schools less about learning and more about test-taking. Our educational system is creating automaton sheeple, not critical thinking citizenry who question systems in order to improve them. If we really wanted life to be better for our kids we'd teach them how to think about their lives and the social systems within which they live so that they could improve things. Nothing belies the fear that adults have of their kids' brains than the way we do education and nothing points out the lie of "doing it for the children" than this fear. If we truly want them to have a better life than we have, then we should prepare them to be reflective thinkers instead of sheeple.


The real tragedy of the "Let's Move" campaign is the extent to which America's children still are suffering from malnutrition, starvation and lack of food security. Children are dying from lack of food and we are emphasizing starving the ones who have food? How crazy is that?!?


It is long past the time for America to provide health care to its citizens. Children growing up under the "for-profit" health care system are not going to be as health as they would be if they were able to see a doctor without fear of breaking the family bank. There are plenty of preventative measures that will ensure they grow up health that have nothing to do with the size of their bodies that need to be available universally. The hodgepodge, committee-fied bills that are being "reconciled" in committee right now are not going to cut it without a public option. As long as health care is a "for-profit" enterprise, money is going to be more important than our children.

Let's be clear about some things:

I voted for Obama. I did not vote in 2000 or 2004 presidential elections because I saw no viable candidates for whom to cast my vote. I liked Obama's message of change and wanted to give him a try. I had hope that he might be different and I think there are some ways that he has been different.

But I am not as pleased as I hoped I would be and this latest campaign weakens my hope even more. This is nothing new. This is business as usual in Washington and all those things he said in his campaign about continuing down the path of business as usual will come true, even if it is cloaked in the language of change.

We pay a price for those things we believe that are not true. Taking public resources and emphasizing weight loss for children is going to have a heavy price tag. We are going to raise a generation who fear their own bodies, who stigmatize fatness and fat people and who will spend their adulthoods sorting out food issues instead of solving more important challenges. In addition, spending these public resources on this means that we take away resources from more important challenges facing us now. We pay now. They pay later.

We do need a change. The "Let's Move" campaign is not change.


FatNSassy said...

According to Alicia Mundy in Dispensing With The Truth, Shape Up America was sponsored by Wyeth to coincide with the release of fen-phen. They preached lifestyle but Pharma knows darn well there is more to it than lifestyle. The hysteria sent many victims to the poisoned pills. When the fen-phen scandal broke, Wyeth stopped funding Shape Up America? Where is it now? Last I saw Koop he was doing some cheesy senior product commerical.

Publishers like CTB/McGraw-Hill benefited from No Child Left Behind because they grade assessment tests. Guess what? McGraw was a friend of the Bushes. If the government is pushing it, 10 to 1 there is a corporate interest behind it waiting to rake in the cash!