Once you define a problem, then you convene groups to find a solution. The source of Bloomberg’s insanity was a report by the New York City Obesity Task Force, which claimed, among other things, that obesity disproportionately affected minorities and that it was an environmental disease. Among a wide range of initiatives, it called for a cap on the size of sodas that can be sold in restaurants. But that’s small potatoes compared to its Active Design Guidelines, which involve restructuring the landscape of the city in a way that will force people to engage in more physical activity. Boiled down that means forcing every building to be designed in a way that will compel people to use staircases.
It’s not just about the power, it’s also about the numbers. If you start thinking of people in a city as consumers, then it’s easy to see that Bloomberg is only doing what corporations do all the time, looking for a way to cut costs. Government health care means that everyone is a government customer, buying a product that can’t be paid for, and that requires constant cost-cutting efforts.
The product is cradle-to-grave health care. The costs are astronomical. The experts keep attending conferences discussing how to cut those costs. They’re no different in that from corporate experts called in to discuss how to reduce the cost of manufacturing a bottle of soda, a pair of jeans or a microchip.
The experts can’t tell the company that the bottleneck is the system, that the company needs to fire most of its vice-presidents and half its managers, reduce advertising, stop hiring experts to consult on everything and streamline its operations. They certainly can’t tell it that the product it is manufacturing is no longer relevant to consumers or that its methods are so outdated that it has no future in the marketplace. Instead, they identify a conceptual bottleneck in consumer culture or corporate culture, a buzzword-oriented problem that the company needs to tackle as its number one priority.
This is where the government is. The current bottleneck is obesity. Get rid of the fat people and government health care will work fine. After the fat people, it will be the old people. The last of the smokers. After that, a bid to keep people with genetic diseases from reproducing. There’s no end to this sort of thing because the system is inherently broken and is trying to fix itself by fixing the people. And that won’t work.
The obesity epidemic is a convoluted way of saying that the problem with government health care is the people. But that’s not the problem. Obesity may not be healthy, but if we ban sodas and force everyone to exercise in the yard before work, the numbers still won’t balance. Because the real problem with government health care is government.
When offering a product or service, the most elementary thing to do is calculate the cost of making the product and the price that people are willing to pay for that product. If you can’t bring the two together, then you don’t have a product. You have a disaster waiting to happen.
Government health care adds an army of middlemen between health care producers and consumers, on top of the army it already implemented with HMO’s and earlier regulators. Then it tries to balance the books in terms of costs, while only recognizing the costs created by health care consumers, while ignoring the costs of the system. It’s a classic case of the problem trying to treat the problem. Every new gimmick only adds to the bloat. The war against obesity will end up devouring whatever health care savings are gained from reducing obesity. Because the problem isn’t the obesity of consumers, it’s the porcine system that can’t stop gorging, while demanding that the citizenry purge.
It’s easy to blame individual obesity rather than collectivist obesity, and so we are treated to the obscene spectacle of a system that can’t stop wasting billions and trillions of dollars, checking everyone’s soda cup size, because down the road they may lose weight and that may lower the cost of covering their health care.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in grant money are changing hands, from private foundations to obesity researchers, from national to local governments, from local governments to consultants and from health insurance companies to obesity alliances. Offices are renovated, executives are installed, papers are authored, charts are drawn up, presentations are given, conferences are convened, policy is made, and people’s lives are made miserable by this army of public-private overlords obsessed with their ounces.