Conventional vs. Unconvential Thinking on Food

Mort Kondracke is at the heart of what we know of as "Washington."  He's a Fox commentator and a former cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq, who admired Bush's "anti-terrorism" policy.

Inside the Beltway thinking at its dullest and most conventional, in other words.

But on the subject of health care this week, Kondracke writes:

If a "war on diabetes" were declared, it ought to begin with a war
on obesity, the epidemic most responsible for rising incidence of Type
2 diabetes among both adults and, increasingly, children.

In 1980, the CDC estimated that 47 percent of U.S. adults were
overweight. In 2006, it was an astounding 66 percent, and 34 percent
were obese – 72 million people.

Insurance companies and employers have developed incentives for
workers to lose weight and become fit such as insurance premium
reductions or paid-for gym memberships, but fighting obesity ought to
be a major focus of health care reform.

It's interesting to see Kondracke endorse the Nixonian concept of a "war against diabetes" during the same health care week that famous food thinker Michael Pollan makes a similar point, but with much greater scope and specificity, in his column in The New York Times on agribusiness vs. health care. 

Pollan writes:

The American way of eating has become the elephant in the room in
the debate over health care. The president has made a few notable
allusions to it, and, by planting her vegetable garden on the South
Lawn, Michelle Obama has tried to focus our attention on it. Just last
month, Mr. Obama talked about putting a farmers’ market in front of the
White House, and building new distribution networks to connect local
farmers to public schools so that student lunches might offer more
fresh produce and fewer Tater Tots. He’s even floated the idea of
taxing soda.

But so far, food system reform has not figured in
the national conversation about health care reform. And so the
government is poised to go on encouraging America’s fast-food diet with
its farm policies even as it takes on added responsibilities for
covering the medical costs of that diet. To put it more bluntly, the
government is putting itself in the uncomfortable position of
subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the
consumption of high-fructose corn syrup.

Why the disconnect?
Probably because reforming the food system is politically even more
difficult than reforming the health care system. At least in the health
care battle, the administration can count some powerful corporate
interests on its side — like the large segment of the Fortune 500 that
has concluded the current system is unsustainable.

Agribusiness and its lobbyists may be friends of Kondracke's. In a column recommending plenty of government spending on health and diabetes, he never mentions food or agribusiness.

But Pollan sees a bigger picture. 

Recently a team of designers from M.I.T. and Columbia was asked by
the foundation of the insurer UnitedHealthcare to develop an innovative
systems approach to tackling childhood obesity in America. Their
conclusion surprised the designers as much as their sponsor: they
determined that promoting the concept of a “foodshed” — a diversified,
regional food economy — could be the key to improving the American diet.

of which suggests that passing a health care reform bill, no matter how
ambitious, is only the first step in solving our health care crisis. To
keep from bankrupting ourselves, we will then have to get to work on
improving our health — which means going to work on the American way of

Prediction: Once this concept dawns on the forces of Washington conventionality, we'll start seeing odes to soda, french fries, and McDonalds from their pals on the right…probably begining with Limbaugh.

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: