Friday, July 31, 2009

Krugman: Americans, Uneducated or Not Do Not Realize Health Ins Co Need Government to Survive

Krugman: Americans, Uneducated or Not Do Not Realize Health Ins Co Need Government to Survive


Krugman points out http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/31/opinion/31krugman.html that Americans whether uneducated or not unfortunately do not realize that government helps even private insurance system work so it is easy for United Health Group to plant lies into Republican politician hands or in ads with impunity.


Since our current Healthcare system does poorly in actually treating people becoming obese or increasing blood sugar, we can look to a future of huge numbers of diabetes patients bankrupting our medical care system. Regrettably our Healthcare system rewards the number of medical treatments which hugely rewards doctors and hospitals, most of which are corporate owned, and the Health Insurance Industry which is richly rewarded by rejecting living saving treatments.


In our society, Americans have no feel for statistics.


My cousin said several decades ago she knows a couple of people who smoked all their lives and did not get cancer so she does not believe the reports. She has the conservative gene. Everyone does not get cancer, or big breasts from pesticides due to mutations, or dies from eating too much and becoming fat, but we have seen since the Reagan Era of Profits Uber Alles Greed, a mushrooming of overweight and especailly Obese Americans who now exceeds the number of overweight Americans. Coincidentally the number of diabetics also mushroomed! A large number of obese have Metabolic Syndrome which leads to diabetes and subsequent loss of kidneys and limbs for many and death from heart attacks.


Remember Polls are now done on the cheap, so the number of questions used to take a poll is too limited according to a former Gallup Pollster, David W. Moore. His book "The Opinion Makers: An Insider Exposes the Truth Behind the Polls," shows that polls have been used to shape opinion by how they ask questions and what questions they ask. I normally ignore all polls except the Pew Polls People & Press has done a more thorough and fair job conducting polls with no political agenda. They found that telling the people the facts on both sides gave them a better ability to express their real knowledge based opinion.


Professor Mark Crispin Miller, a Communications teacher at NYU, said "A powerful argument that polls do not merely mkisinform us but pose a genuine, if subtle, threat to our democracy."


Crispin Miller also wrote a superb introduction for a re-issue of the 1928 book "Propaganda" by Edward Bernays, The Father of the Public Relations industry which shapes the mind of Americans through advertisements and manufactured "news." Bernays sold us the hearty breakfast, women smoking, and provided the basis for what we consume and think.


In the 1920s he was considered a God because professional school journalists thought that Americans are too stupid to get all the facts and interpret them correctly so they felt that propaganda was the perfect solution. Bernays lived over 100 and died in 1995 while writing still another book. His book helped Germans participate in the Holocaust and distructive wars which Hitler read while in prison and applied it well in the 1930s on.


Democracy Now www.democracynow.org with Amy Goodman has interviewed Wendell Potter formerly a "Communications" executive who used Public Relations (Propaganda) to shape the mind of Americans so that CIGNA could continue their Greedy drive to maximize profits by denying Healthcare, especially if the insured need life-saving expensive treatments and operations. When congress asked three Health Insurance Company CEOs to stop their recision policies, they refused. This provides plenty of reasons not to believe their ads or what they try to convince us is the truth about Healthcare costs and efficiencies.


Jim Kawakami

July 31, 2009

http://jimboguy.blogspot.com (Important Healthcare Blog just published.)


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Public Plan Basics & Health Insurance Companies Use Recision to Reject Life Saving Operations

Public Plan Basics & Health Insurance Companies Use Recision to Reject Life Saving Operations


Health Reform: The Fateful Moment

By Theodore R. Marmor, Jonathan Oberlander

Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis

by Senator Tom Daschle, with Scott S. Greenberger and Jeanne M. Lambrew

Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's, 226 pp., $23.95

When the President Obama Healthcare Plan is explained to voters, the public support increases substantially, but rarely noted by the corporate press/media. Explaining the plan really helps in increasing voter acceptance of change. In order for the health reform to really work all the components mentioned by the President needs to be included. The link below to Tom Daschle's book Critical Care book review by the National Review of Books explains in detail why we need reform.

Medicare will cost senior much more money in the future because too many procedures are more for profit or doctors and hospitals than improving the health of their patients. Yes, some doctors are very greedy.

In McAllen, Texas where it is very difficult to sue doctors, the cost to Medicare is double the national average even thought the poor senior Latinos don't have the usual large number of heart disease cases because of their diet. In El Paso with the same demographics and people, the cost to Medicare is half that of that of McAllen a short distance away. The doctors in McAllen are in the business of making lots of money, not giving patients the best care. Overtreatment has been shown not to improve results and often results in poor outcomes and even deaths. Many infections occur from catheters. (New Yorker, June 1, 2009)

I hope you will either phone or see your congress person or your senator when they visit your home town. The number one goal of congress and the senators is to get re-elected. So if only angry misinformed people harangue. http://www.votesmart.org .

Jim Kawakami, July 30, 2009, http://jimboguy.blogspot.com

... The strongest case for a public plan that will protect Americans from insurance industry abuses has been made, ironically, by the industry itself. In congressional testimony on June 16, insurance industry executives from WellPoint, UnitedHealth Group, and Assurant refused to end a controversial practice known as "rescission." Under rescission, insurers retroactively cancel—often on the basis of dubious claims that policyholders haven't disclosed their complete health histories—the coverage of those who develop expensive medical conditions. That has left many people with costly medical bills for treatments that had been previously authorized by their insurance.

As Lisa Girion reported in the Los Angeles Times, the three insurers that were included in the June 16 hearing "canceled the coverage of more than 20,000 people, allowing the companies to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims over a five-year period." In doing so they sought to avoid paying for the treatment of "policyholders with breast cancer, lymphoma and more than 1,000 other conditions."[4] Lisa Girion, "Health Insurers Refuse to Limit Rescission Insurance Coverage," Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2009.

There is no stronger indictment of American private insurers or better example of the profit motive's corrosive influence on medicine than rescission. That insurers, even with political pressure for reform, would not forswear this practice in public hearings is stunning. It also illustrates how difficult a task it will be to transform the business practices of an industry that profits from discriminating against sick people. ...

Although there are good reasons to want a public plan that will not engage in such behavior, the risks should also be clear. It is quite possible that such a public plan would attract higher-risk enrollees, driving up its costs and sapping its political support. In theory, this problem could be solved by a federal insurance system that would pay more to insurers who enroll sicker populations. But in practice, effectively carrying out such risk adjustment is difficult.[5] See Paul Starr, "Perils of the Public Plan," The American Prospect, June 29, 2009. For an example of international experience with the problem of risk selection by insurers, see Kieke G.H. Okma, "Recent Changes in Dutch Health Insurance: Individual Mandate or Social Insurance?," in Expanding Access to Health Care, edited by Terry F. Buss and Paul N. Van de Water (M.E. Sharpe, 2009).

A second rationale for establishing a public plan is that it could effectively control its health spending. Like Medicare, a new federal health insurance program for Americans under sixty-five has the capacity—with its purchasing power—to restrain the prices it pays to hospitals, doctors, and other medical providers. Such a public plan, which would not need to make profits, almost surely would have lower administrative costs than private plans—for example, the traditional Medicare program devotes only 2 percent of its expenditures to administration, as compared to 11 percent for private Medicare Advantage plans. The potential for savings is significant. The United States has the most expensive health care in the world largely because we pay higher medical prices and incur higher administrative costs than other nations. (Greater use of some expensive medical technologies is another source of higher spending.)[6] [6]McKinsey Global Institute, "Accounting for the Cost of Health Care in the United States," January 2007; Gerard F. Anderson et al, "It's the Prices, Stupid: Why the United States Is So Different from Other Countries," Health Affairs, Vol. 22, No. 3 (May/June 2003).

That advantage explains why the insurance industry is trying to kill a public plan.[7] Insurers argue that they would face an "un-level playing field" in competing against any public program, since the federal government would inevitably favor its own plan. Yet Medicare's experience with such competition suggests that there is nothing inevitable about that alleged bias. The government now pays private insurers who enroll Medicare patients significantly more than it costs to treat them, enabling private plans both to offer better benefits than the traditional Medicare program and to make a profit.[8]

[7]The physician and former governor Howard Dean, in his new book, Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform (Chelsea Green, 2009), similarly argues that "if the Medicare-like public option could use its efficiency to deliver high-quality, cost-effective care, it would attract more enrollees. After all, this is the crux of why conservatives and the private insurance industry so vigorously object to a public plan. Their real concern is sacrificing profits to competition." ... http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22931

[8]The Obama administration has proposed cutting these excessive payments to private insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans.

The insurance industry is, in fact, not interested in anything like a "level playing field." Buffeted by the erosion of employer-sponsored insurance, the industry now welcomes the prospect of health reform that extends private insurance to the uninsured. But insurance firms do not want to lose new or existing customers (and profits) to a public competitor. New York Senator Chuck Schumer had proposed rules that circumscribe a public plan in order to ensure fair competition with private insurance. Schumer's public plan would not be administered by the same officials who run the planned new insurance exchange; it would be financed only from beneficiary premiums and co-payments; and it would make a concession to the medical industry by paying higher rates to hospitals and doctors than Medicare currently does. Those stipulations have predictably not softened the insurance industry's opposition. The American Medical Association, fearing the impact on physician incomes, also opposes both a strong public option and one such as Schumer's.[9] ...

[9]The irony is that, on the one hand, conservatives oppose the public plan because it will be so inexpensive it will drive out private insurance, while on the other hand, these same critics decry the inefficiency and unaffordability of government programs. For an example, see Karl Rove, "How to Stop Socialized Health Care," TheWall Street Journal, June 11, 2009.

[10]See Arnold Relman, "The Health Reform We Need and Are Not Getting," The New York Review, July 2, 2009.

[11]See Joseph White, Competing Solutions: American Health Care Proposals and International Experience (Brookings Institution, 1995).

[12]For a fuller discussion of the limited cost-control potential of prevention, electronic medical records, and other delivery system reforms, see Theodore Marmor, Jonathan Oberlander, and Joseph White, "The Obama Administration's Options for Health Care Cost Control: Hope vs Reality," Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 150, No. 7 (April 2009).

[13]For a fuller elaboration of the axiom about medical spending and its political implications, see Robert G, Evans, Strained Mercy: The Economics of Canadian Health Care (Butterworths, 1984) and Theodore R. Marmor, Political Analysis and American Medical Care (Cambridge University Press, 1983).

[14]See Jonathan Oberlander, "Picking the Right Poison: Options for Funding Health Care Reform,"New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 360, No. 20 (May 2009).

[15]President Obama and congressional leaders are committed to adopting health reform legislation that adheres to pay-as-you-go budgeting rules. That means such legislation must be fully paid for with tax increases and/or spending cuts to remain "budget neutral."

[16]Under the Byrd rule, legislative provisions can be challenged, and ultimately removed from a reconciliation bill, by senators on the grounds that they are that are extraneous to federal spending or revenue decisions. The Senate parliamentarian ultimately determines whether legislative provisions are extraneous. See Rebecca Adams, "The Risks of Using Reconciliation for Health Care Legislation,"Congressional Quarterly, April 2009.

[17]On the Obama administration's theory of legislating reform—"pass a bill, take what you can get, and fix it later"—see Michael Tomasky's discussion in "The Unencumbered Man," The New York Review, July 2, 2009. In late June, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, a White House reporter for The New York Times, wrote in a front-page article that the President "has invested so much capital in a health care bill that not to have legislation would be politically disastrous for him." See "Obama Steers Health Debate Out of Capital," The New York Times, June 30, 2009.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Healthcare Propaganda by United Health Group and Health Insurance Companies

Re: Healthcare Companies and Republicans Putting Out Lies About Obama's Healthcare Reform


Hi Elaine,


Thanks for alerting me to this lying propaganda probably put out by United Health Group under an alias as they did with the blurb every Republican was reading about a study that said there will be no cost savings! The Health Insurance companies are spending a million dollars each day and pouring money into Congress. Why would they do that if they thought Healthcare would not be less costly under President Obama's Plan!


President Obama said this fear mongering put out by (Republicans) some people is wrong. He said that it encourages people to have a Living Will which expresses what each individual wants to do. United Health Group who paid a $400 million fine for fraud in overcharging those on Insurance, especially those on Medicare, has been spending huge amounts of money to kill the healthcare bill.


At the AARP town meeting, a woman called up saying that I don't want government Healthcare and leave my Medicare alone!


Of course Fred Thompson who is one of the most conservative Republicans is reflected in his Law & Order show which always shows criminals getting off with crooked defense lawyers.


Of course close to zero number of people will look at page 425 including myself.


United Health Group also has put in by far the most money to politicians including the chairman, Baucus, Mt-D, who got 24% of all his corporate contributions from Healthcare companies. He is also quite conservative because of the state he comes from.


Former governor Howard Dean has discussed Healthcare for about 30 minutes. He showed a Daily Show, interview with one of the most conservative Republicans, Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNfamHulC6Y . Kristol said the Veterans Administration has better healthcare than regular healthcare but they deserve it. You have to watch the video to fully appreciate how funny it is and the audience went nuts with laughter.


Jon Stewart pointed out that it is a government program. Kristol stuttered a lot during the interview! The Veterans Hospital gives the most value for the dollar and is even costs less than the Mayo Clinic which is one of lowest cost providers. There are a number of low cost, high quality clinics in our country, but the corporate media has been kept a secret.


(Medicare has only a 3 percent administrative cost while Corporate healthcare has up to a 30 percent "administrative costs" with a substantial portion going to denying healthcare making CEOs billionaires! The main problem with Medicare is that specialists are gaming the system and doing things that don't help, but harms many patients because each procedure has risks. The Dartmouth Study read by Hillary Clinton showed after looking at the records of millions of Medicare patients that comparable patients did not benefit and many times harmed by this excess treatments. We are tied at #37 in Healthcare with Costa Rica. Even very poor Cuba is better than us! Jim)


Actually the Veterans Administration Hospital is cheaper than Mayo Clinic with a similar model of healthcare with great computer records and having doctors on salaries who make less but love working their because they are free to be the best doctor they can. At the Mayo Clinic and Veterans hospital, the doctors spend all the time necessary. In one example which is typical, the primary care doctor called in various specialists during the visit to determine what was wrong with the patient and how to treat him. It took about an hour.


After the Reagan and Bush years the Veterans hospital was a basket case. So the Clintons completely changed how medicine is practiced and in spite of the huge damage that the 8 years with Bush did by underfunding and restrictions, it is still a marvelous institution.


This morning Dylan Ratigan interviewed a Oklahoma House Republican Boren who tried to tell us lies which normally goes unchallenged, but Ratigan got him to say that we have a lot of healthcare companies which are a significant part of our economy. At the end Boren was speechless! http://dylan.msnbc.com . 9-11 AM PT and 6-8 AM ET on MSNBC.


Governor Howard Dean played a great host substituting for Olbermann at 5-6 PM PT or 8-9 PM ET. His interview well worth watching because he gives us more great information on healthcare than I have seen on television. http://www.olbermannwatch.com/archives/2009/03/john_dean_says.php I highly recommend watching the whole segment which comes first. He will be on Wednesday too! Relays of the show every two hours here so if you miss the 5 PM show, you can watch it at 7 PM PT on MSNBC. I think on the East Coast it is on at 8 PM and 10 PM and even later. Rachel Maddow is on at 6 PM PT and 8 PM PT. I always watch her show.


Jim Kawakami

July 29, 2009


Hi Jim,



Just rec'd this from a friend - any truth to it? I'd welcome your opinion!!


Elaine


Page 425 of Health Care Bill - Listen to this interview Fred Thompson's Radio

Show interviewing Betsy McCaughey (pronounced Mc Coy). Or look it up on

www.fredthompsonshow.com, under interviews.


On page 425 it says in black and white that EVERYONE on Social Security, (will

include all Senior Citizens and SSI people) will go to MANDATORY counseling

every 5 years to learn and to choose from ways to end your suffering (and your

life). Health care will be denied based on age. 500 Billion will be cut from

Seniors healthcare. The only way for that to happen is to drastically cut

health care, the oldest and the sickest will be cut first. Paying for your

own care will not be an option.


Now, CALL YOUR PEOPLE IN WASHINGTON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Tell them to read page

425 if they don't read anything else. Surely some of them have parents.


"ON PAGE 425 OF OBAMA'S HEALTH CARE BILL, the Federal Government will require

EVERYONE who is on Social Security to undergo a counseling session every 5

years with the objective being that they will explain to them just how to end

their own life earlier. Yes...They are going to push SUICIDE to cut medicare

spending!"



Monday, July 13, 2009

Financial Crisis Affects Beliefs Supporting Capitalism

John Gray’s New York Review of Books review of “Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth,” by Margaret Atwood first broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in the Massey of her five first chapters in November 2008. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22556


In our Capitalistic System, Money has long been both a source of increasing wealth and controlling government. Keep in mind that novelists and poets have long been the source of truth cloaked in fiction, while non-fiction depends a lot on who has power to produce, and select what we see and read, something we all should keep in mind while we watch television news and read corporate newspapers and listen to radio. Follows are some of the contents of his review.


Jim Kawakami

July 13, 2009



... The dislocation that is being produced by the financial crisis affects political and moral beliefs that have supported capitalism in the past. Market economies are not underpinned chiefly by economic theories. They rely for their legitimacy and continued functioning on ideas about right and wrong, fairness in society, and orderliness in the world. In the boom years many of these ideas were discarded as erroneous or redundant. Now that the boom has been followed by bust it may be useful to reexamine ideas about debt, and consider how they may fare as governments use all the instruments at their disposal to avert a slide into depression.

One of the many impressive features of Margaret Atwood's new book is its almost eerie timeliness. Consisting of five chapters that were broadcast in November 2008 by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as the Massey Lectures, a series intended to provide a radio venue for the exploration of important issues, Payback appeared in print last October. The book must have been written some months earlier, but there is no sign that it was composed in haste. Atwood examines the role of ideas of debt in religion, literature, and society; she discusses the nature of sin, the structure of plot in fiction, the practice of revenge, and the ecological payback that occurs when human beings take from the planet more than they return. A celebrated novelist, poet, and critic, Atwood has combined rigorous analysis, wide-ranging erudition, and a beguilingly playful imagination to produce the most probing and thought-stirring commentary on the financial crisis to date.

Atwood's project is to show how human thought has been deeply shaped by notions of debt. It will be objected that she is merely spinning out an extended metaphor suggesting analogies between debt and noneconomic phenomena that are only vaguely analogous. In fact she is advancing the contrary and more interesting claim that economic activities involving borrowing and lending are metaphorical extensions of an underlying human sense of indebtedness. Beliefs about debt are not shadows cast by processes of market exchange. They are presupposed throughout much of human activity. Economic life invokes a sense of order in human affairs, widely dispersed throughout society. ...

Sociologists have observed how capitalism developed using ideas borrowed from religion, with Max Weber and others observing how the belief that wealth creation is virtuous invoked Protestant ideas about an elect, divinely privileged section of humanity. As Atwood astutely comments, the conceptual traffic is not just one-way. If economic life trades on religious belief, religion has in turn been shaped by market practices. Religious beliefs about sin and redemption draw on patterns of thinking that partly derive from the practices of borrowing and lending.

Concepts of debt figure centrally in Western religion, while the notion that debt is something to be avoided, or incurred with caution, has long been important in Western capitalism. Without institutions facilitating borrowing, capitalism would not have developed to the degree that it has; but the belief that debt could be dangerous was until recently also an important part of capitalism. It is only lately, Atwood notes, that debt has been celebrated as positively benign, "a thing we've come to feel is indispensable to our collective buoyancy." From being a necessary tool in productive enterprise, debt came to be viewed as an instrument of wealth creation. Using cheap credit, hedge funds and investment banks were able to multiply their profits, while society at large—including some in its poorest groups—came to see taking on large amounts of debt as a way of building up capital. Now that this structure of debt is unwinding, older ideas may be on their way back: "We seem to be entering a period in which debt has passed through its most recent harmless and fashionable period, and is reverting to being sinful." ...

Policies of this sort resemble the proposals advanced in the 1930s by John Maynard Keynes to deal with the Great Depression. Keynes argued that whereas paying off debt in hard times may be reasonable for individuals, it may be irrational for governments, further depressing the economy and increasing the burden of borrowing. Whether Keynes, an extremely subtle and many-sided thinker, would approve of the policies that are being applied today cannot be known. What is clear is that these policies render traditional attitudes toward debt and saving by individuals imprudent. Their goal is to encourage people to borrow more and spend more, and so return the economy to the debt-financed consumption of recent years. Underlying this objective is another—to avoid the danger of debt deflation, the lethal combination of falling asset prices with high borrowing that helped bring about the Great Depression.

Critics often argue that these policies risk sparking inflation at some point in the future. In fact they can hardly be expected to work unless they have this result. Inflation is a sure-fire way of lightening the debt burden, and much of the debt that was contracted in the boom years can probably be paid off only in devalued dollars. But this involves a transfer of wealth from savers to borrowers: those who have borrowed unwisely will benefit, while those who have saved prudently will see their wealth dwindle in value. "Keynesian" policies can succeed only insofar as they have this effect; their impact will be reduced to the extent that people revert to traditional practices of thrift and saving.

From one point of view this is an illustration of a familiar divergence between general welfare and distributive justice. A measure of unfairness is often the price of achieving important objectives. European countries such as the UK that have systems of socialized medicine routinely use cost-benefit analysis to ration scarce and expensive medical resources—MRI scans, for example—a procedure that can involve denying these resources to some who might wish to have them, but that is commonly accepted as justified. The difficulty in the present case is that the unfairness is likely to be far-reaching and intensely felt.

Large sections of the population could find their wealth—already depleted by the decline of the housing and stock markets—shrinking further as the value of money is reduced, while much of the baby boom generation may discover that the comfortable retirement they expected has become an unrealizable dream. In present circumstances there may be no alternative to current policies. But a necessary condition of their effectiveness is a disappointment in reasonable expectations that could be socially disruptive. ... http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22556

Obesity Cause: Combination of FAT, SUGAR, & SALT Increases Pleasure Hormone Dopamine Levels

Obesity Cause: Combination of FAT, SUGAR, & SALT Increases Pleasure Hormone Dopamine Levels

The New Yorker reviews different books on why Americans are FAT. I started reading former FDA head David Kessler “The End of Overeating” (Rodale; $25.95), David A. Kessler who started the anti-smoking campaign which succeeded more than anyone could have predicted. Because he had a weight yo-yo problem, he went about it as a scientist/medical doctor to find out why he had an insatiable need for fatty, sugary, and salty foods, especially in combination.

He found that when these combinations of food ingredients are consumed, they activate dopamine production which gives us pleasure. That combined with psychologically researched advertisement reinforces these tendencies. I found this to be true so I don't eat fatty, sugary, and salty foods. Like anyone I am not perfect, but since I realize this, I often throw out uneaten food I bought when I cannot resist eating more.

Jim Kawakami
Uly 13, 2009


Obesity Cause: Combination of FAT, SUGAR, & SALT Increases Pleasure Hormone Dopamine Levels http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2009/07/20/090720crbo_books_kolbert?currentPage=all

... The evolutionary account of obesity is a powerful one—indeed, almost too powerful. If, as Power and Schulkin contend, humans are genetically programmed to put on weight whenever they encounter plenty, it would seem that by this point virtually everyone in America should be fat. Meanwhile, several million years of hominid evolution can’t explain why it is just in the past few decades that waistlines have expanded.
Eric Finkelstein is a health economist at a research institute in North Carolina. In “The Fattening of America” (Wiley; $26.95), written with Laurie Zuckerman, he argues that Americans started to put on pounds in the eighties because it made financial sense for them to do so. Relative to other goods and services, food has got cheaper in the past few decades, and fattening foods, in particular, have become a bargain. Between 1983 and 2005, the real cost of fats and oils declined by sixteen per cent. During the same period, the real cost of soft drinks dropped by more than twenty per cent.
“For most people, an ice cold Coca-Cola used to be a treat reserved for special occasions,” Finkelstein observes. Today, soft drinks account for about seven per cent of all the calories ingested in the United States, making them “the number one food consumed in the American diet.” If, instead of sweetened beverages, the average American drank water, Finkelstein calculates, he or she would weigh fifteen pounds less.
The correlation between cost and consumption is pretty compelling; as Finkelstein notes, there’s no more basic tenet of economics than that price matters. But, like evolution, economics alone doesn’t seem adequate to the obesity problem. If it’s cheap to consume too many calories’ worth of ice cream or Coca-Cola, it’s even cheaper to consume fewer.
In “The End of Overeating” (Rodale; $25.95), David A. Kessler, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, takes a somewhat darker view of the situation. It’s not that sweet and oily foods have become less expensive; it’s that they’ve been reengineered while we weren’t looking. Kessler spends a lot of time meeting with (often anonymous) consultants who describe how they are trying to fashion products that offer what’s become known in the food industry as “eatertainment.” Fat, sugar, and salt turn out to be the crucial elements in this quest: different “eatertaining” items mix these ingredients in different but invariably highly caloric combinations. A food scientist for Frito-Lay relates how the company is seeking to create “a lot of fun in your mouth” with products like Nacho Cheese Doritos, which meld “three different cheese notes” with lots of salt and oil. Another product-development expert talks about how she is trying to “unlock the code of craveability,” and a third about the effort to “cram as much hedonics as you can in one dish.”
Kessler invents his own term—“conditioned hypereating”—to describe how people respond to these laboratory-designed concoctions. Foods like Cinnabons and Starbucks’ Strawberries & Cr√®me Frappuccinos are, he maintains, like drugs: “Conditioned hypereating works the same way as other ‘stimulus response’ disorders in which reward is involved, such as compulsive gambling and substance abuse.” For Kessler, the analogy is not merely rhetorical: research on rats, he maintains, proves that the animals’ brains react to sweet, fatty foods the same way that addicts’ respond to cocaine. A reformed overeater himself—“I have owned suits in every size,” he writes—Kessler advises his readers to eschew dieting in favor of a program that he calls Food Rehab. The principles of Food Rehab owe a lot to those of drug rehab, except that it is not, as Kessler acknowledges, advisable to swear off eating altogether. “The substitute for rewarding food is often other rewarding food,” he writes, though what could compensate for the loss of Nacho Cheese Doritos he never really explains. ... http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2009/07/20/090720crbo_books_kolbert?currentPage=all