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THE NEW ONE PERCENT

I am a member of the one percent. Not that one percent, not the richest one percent whose average annual income is $500,000 or more. I am not a billionaire farmer, major food corporation, pharmaceutical company or university hospital who in addition to the investment bankers, consulting firms, and petroleum manufacturers control the world’s wealth. Truth be told, I am a member of the poorest one percent, those who make $2,500 or less. Some years my income has been as low as zero. Not every year, mind you. There have been good years and bad years. But this year, despite writing magazine articles, essays, novels, blog posts, even a couple screenplays, I have made practically no money. My total income of $500 resulted from the sale of a book on nutrition I published two years ago. Lean times, these.

I bring up the whole percentage thing because I intend to become a member of another “percent” group. I hope to join you, the ones with the real power, the power to change a flawed and corrupt system and usher in the true prosperity that is humanity’s goal and purpose.

First, a little bit about that system.

As of March 31, 2014, all U.S. citizens are mandated to have health insurance. Politicians call it a marketplace, ignoring the fact that in a free market a person can choose whether to purchase a product, but having health care is now compulsory.

In order to work, the new health care system (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known also as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or "Obamacare"), depends on a small minority.

Obamacare requires everyone to have minimum coverage, but many already do. Most people already have employer-based insurance, public coverage such as Medicaid, or are privately ensured. Some people are exempt from having coverage, for example if you’re incarcerated or not currently living in the country. And for those age 65 or older, there is Medicare.

But if you are a healthy, single, uninsured male of low-to-moderate income between the ages of 18 and 34, the government needs you. You belong to a group of about 3.5 million individuals, or roughly one percent of the American population. Because you will be unlikely to visit the doctor and incur medical expenses, your premiums ($2,500 per person, per year) will go towards the treatment of people with chronic/existing medical conditions. In fact, if you avoid accidents, remain healthy AND are health-conscious (eat a plant-centered diet, work out, don’t smoke and drink in moderation) you could go well into your 70s, 80s, and beyond without needing any real medical care. Yet by the time you have reached the average American male’s life expectancy of 76, you will have invested over $100,000 into the medical system. And if you choose not to spend your final days in the ICU during the last two years of life, the average person spends 29 days in the hospital, 12 of them in the intensive care unit, at a total cost of nearly $100,000 dollars - you won’t use it. Your premiums will be fed back into the system, to the companies that profit treating the diseases caused by corporations[1] that get rich making us sick, a system that by your conscious choice, by lifestyle habits dating back decades, you have not endorsed or taken part in.

Obamacare relies on insurance premiums from the new one percent to raise $7.5 billion per year.[2] 7.5 billion dollars. The government demands this of you to finance a broken health-care system, then turns around and pays billions of dollars a year in subsidies to keep disease-producing food cheap.

How wasteful is the current medical system? Of the 2.6 trillion dollars we spend annually on health care – one third (800 billion dollars) is wasted on unnecessary care. The health care system is rife with unnecessary procedures, erroneous diagnoses, and medication errors. Trust someone who virtually lived in the hospital for several years, first as a medical student and then as a family medicine physician, the medical system is an uncoordinated and confused mess. Not only are hospitals bastions of waste but pro-industry bias has seeped into scientific journals, where studies are funded by those with vested interests and results confounded to show a benefit for a drug which may not exist.

But you have the power to say no.

If pundits and popular columns are correct, millennials - you - are about to emerge as a force to be reckoned with. You believe in freedom and fairness and will not buy into a system devoid of these qualities. Obamacare is neither fair nor free, and it cannot work without you. Premiums will be affordable for everyone only if enough young, healthy people sign up for coverage. The government is very clear that without millennials to dilute the risk and offset the cost of insuring older and sicker enrollees, health care costs could eventually spiral out of control and the system will collapse.

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The term health care is a misnomer, really. The more accurate term is sick care, since the U.S. medical system is geared towards diagnosing and treating diseases rather than preventing their occurrence. And it’s a shame. The Institute of Medicine, a non-governmental, nonprofit agency, reports that “there is strong evidence that behavior and environment are responsible for over 70 percent of avoidable mortality.” And some estimates are that as high as 85 percent of health conditions are directly related to the above-mentioned lifestyle choices, the most important of which is diet. Because junk food consumption visits such a disproportionate amount of hospital visits on the country, it would seem more appropriate that the fast food industry foot the bill for the treatment of the conditions it causes, either through increased taxation similar to what is faced by alcohol and tobacco – or through direct payments, or both.

Right now, it is the other way around. The government pays to keep fast food in business, subsidizing the production of animal products and feed grains, so the market is glutted with cheap, high-calorie, health-destroying fare, then demands that you subsidize the cost of a flawed medical system that wastefully treats the clogged arteries and cancerous tumors resulting from such a diet.

The broken medical system is, like many of the patients it treats, on life support. According to the Institute of Medicine, the health care system currently in place is “disorganized,” “uncoordinated,” “capricious,” and “spotty.” If you add up medical errors, drug interactions and hospital-acquired infections, medicine itself is the third leading cause of death in this country, behind heart disease and cancer. Payment incentives to hospitals and physicians encourage more treatments, while defensive medicine, coupled with the need to comply with patients’ desires, drives costs in the direction of more, more, more. Which is why, come 2020, health care spending is expected to reach 20 percent of the GDP, or over 3 trillion dollars. A figure that is unsustainable, so unsustainable in fact that it threatens to bankrupt a country already on the verge of economic collapse.

In the end most of the 2.6 trillion dollars spent yearly on health care goes towards the common conditions, the diseases of overconsumption and undernutrition. There are too many specialists making hundreds of thousands of dollars annually treating serious diseases that have as their root simple lifestyle choices. The medical system is eminently equipped to deal with emergencies and catastrophes, but these are not the common ailments that glut the system. The country’s unprecedented rates of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes are linked to diets high in fat and cholesterol found in meat and dairy products, and the cost to taxpayers is enormous. By 2030, the annual medical costs for cardiovascular disease alone are projected to triple to $818 billion. The Medicare and Medicaid spending for obesity-related conditions is now over $60 billion per year. Ironically, just two-thirds of this amount, or $40 billion, could end world hunger altogether. But the system reflects the state of our country’s health. The average hospital patient is very complicated, with several diagnoses and a long list of medications. Managing all these conditions, and keeping in mind drug interactions and contraindications, is very difficult. Studies come out with such rapidity that physicians struggle to put the new recommendations in place in a timely fashion, and when they do, another study comes out to contradict the findings of the prior one.

The reality is that the health system can only simplify and improve with the cooperation of the patient. Only when the patient simplifies his life and improves his health will the system that treats him reflect this. Patients need to be healthier, by following a healthier lifestyle, to ease the glut on the system. In short, they need to stop being patients. In fact, the best thing you can do for your health, according to neurosurgeon and founder of holistic medicine, Dr. Norman Shealy, is to avoid medical care that is not essential to life or function. That means staying off drugs, out of the hospital, and away from doctors. Which, if the ACA succeeds, will be highly unlikely. With beefed up ACA plans, people will visit their doctor not necessarily because they should – because they have health issues requiring treatment - but because they can. Which is precisely what pharmaceuticals want the public to do. Like producers of junk food, pharmaceuticals relentlessly market their wares, and it is not uncommon for patients to see ads on TV, then ask their doctor for a prescription, and even if the doc doesn’t see the benefit of the treatment for that particular patient, often the path of least resistance is to simply write the script. If a patient comes in demanding an expensive test like a CT scan or MRI, doctors often acquiesce if only to give patients what they wish and “stay on their good side.” I’ve been there, seen it happen, prescribed some of those drugs and tests myself.

Medicine has always been a business, and the idea of a marketplace - the word used for the website where consumers are directed to shop for insurance - makes it even more so. And in the world of business, it’s the customer (in this case the patient) that is always right.

There are ways to keep the system balanced rather than to compel individuals of modest income to fund a system that is uncoordinated, inefficient, corrupt, and downright dangerous in the treatment of diseases which the government is funding billion-dollar corporations to cause.

It is time we demand that the big corporations responsible for the decline in America’s health  cover the cost of treating the diseases that their calorie-dense, nutrient-deprived food has caused.

This seems only logical. Instead, the government mandates that you sign up for coverage, arguing that it is unfair that the burden of paying for the uninsured is shared by those who have insurance, as is currently the case. It is true that about $1,000 is built in to annual insurance premiums paid by American families to offset the cost of caring for those without insurance. But in the new system, the burden of paying for the uninsured becomes the burden of paying for preventable lifestyle diseases whose prevalence government subsidies have encouraged. The burden hasn’t been eliminated, just transferred. The government is trying to replace one injustice with an even bigger injustice, asking the healthy as yet uninsured individual to pay 2 ½ times that amount for the medical conditions of the sick insured.

Of course, you can simply give in, complaisantly pay what you are ordered to pay, and then go see the doctor for irrelevant issues because you can, and maybe eat fast food because subconsciously you expect to one day come down with the diet-related diseases that you are paying thousands per year for now.

Or, you can choose to invest in your health today rather than in future disease, and demand that fast food producers and those who consume junk food bear the cost of the sickness ravaging this country. You can demand higher taxes on these corporations and direct payments to fund the cost of health care that is diet-related disease’s consequence, and refuse to pay an additional dime. By merely preventing preventable diseases (and cleaning up so many unnecessary expenditures that dominate a wasteful system) we reduce the cost of health care from the 2.6 trillion that the country currently spends to a couple hundred billion. And through peaceful protest of a flawed and corrupt system it is now in the hands of the new one percent to make this happen.
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Fast food has been called the new tobacco. Like tobacco, high-fat animal products and refined carbohydrates are bad for you. They are crap. And like the cigarette companies, the McDonald’s and KFCs of the world make a fortune selling crap to consumers. But unlike fast food, tobacco is not cheap. Even though a cigarette is easier to produce than a pound of beef (considering the manpower, transportation costs, and all the other steps and factors involved in taking an animal from pasture to plate), a pack of Marlboro smokes easily costs more (over $14 in the state of New York) than a McDonald’s meal. For the price of a NYC pack of cigarettes you could buy over a dozen Sausage Mcmuffins! Why? Because tobacco is heavily taxed, and higher taxes are reflected in the purchase price, which consumers can choose to pay, and – judging from the consistent decline in the prevalence of smokers - increasingly fewer do.

But in the case of fast food, the reverse is true. Not only are burgers and fries not heavily taxed, the government actually gives producers of these pseudo-foods money to go on producing. Not only does the government devote taxpayer dollars to the production of foods loaded with the saturated fat and cholesterol that the government itself cautions the public to avoid, but get this: when production exceeds demand, the government buys up the surplus, as happened recently when the USDA bought $40 million in excess chicken from struggling producers.[3] And this government aid is reflected in the lower purchase price of junk food items, which encourages consumers to load up on these empty calories, which in turn causes the diseases that are to blame for the rising costs of health care.

Take obesity. Obesity is primarily a social disease – the result of aggressive marketing of high-calorie foods and our physically inactive culture – and its prevalence, especially in kids, is increasing. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Currently more than one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. At a time when you are the most active and actively growing, to carry an additional one third of normal body weight as pure fat is unacceptable and a reflection on how twisted the system has become.

What is the real cause of today’s obesity epidemic? Sugar gets a lot of bad press, but the real culprit is much more ubiquitous.

Over the past hundred years, meat eating has nearly doubled. The average person now eats his bodyweight - 200 pounds – in animal food. Cheese intake has risen more than eight-fold, to 34 pounds per person per year today. Collectively, Americans now eat more than one million animals every hour.

Neal Barnard, head of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, writes: “It is easy to blame sodas when we have not come to terms with our collective addiction to the meat and cheese that are making us and our kids fat - or when we lack the courage to confront the industries that sell them.

In other words, blaming childhood obesity on refined sugars (or for that matter, on lack of exercise) diverts attention from the real cause: too much animal food. And why? Because fast food is so cheap.

Take a stroll around your local supermarket and you will notice something rather interesting. The price of meat is around the same as the price of produce. In some cases, produce costs more! Eggs can be purchased for $1.80 a dozen, while you can’t buy a small box of berries for under $1.99. Chicken breast at $1 per pound for the price of apples? How can this be? Surely it is less costly and time consuming to pick a green out of the ground or a sweet off the tree than it is to raise an animal for slaughter, then kill it, skin it, gut it, chop it up, fry it and serve it. The latter is a multi-step process that involves hordes of (underpaid) workers in multiple locations, not to mention the hardship on the animal, confined as it is to a small space its entire life then shipped over long distances to be beat over the head and sliced in half.

In other words: Given the labor intensiveness and the heavy environmental impact involved in the production of animal products, how on earth can meat be so cheap?

If you've been keeping up with the news, you'll know that our elected officials have been debating the trillion dollar federal Farm Bill, which among other things addresses how much money is given to farmers to grow and raise the food we consume. Why the government and by extension taxpayers should give farmers anything at all aside from the price of their goods doesn't make sense from a market standpoint and is a throwback to a bygone time. If you've ever taken an economics class you know that consumer demand should dictate price and profit should dictate participation. That’s what happens in the case of fruits and vegetables, which receive almost no government aid.

Said by Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas to be as important to our country as national defense (by the way in 2102 alone the U.S. spent $682 billion on defense, highest in the world, and more than the countries with the next 10 highest defense budgets combined[4], but that’s another issue), the Farm Bill is a massive piece of federal legislation that also governs what children are fed in schools and what food assistance programs can distribute to recipients. The bill provides billions of dollars in subsidies, much of which go to huge agribusinesses producing feed crops (corn and soy) which are then fed to animals. By funding these crops, and thereby supporting the production of meat and dairy products, which contribute to our growing rates of obesity and chronic disease, the government is essentially encouraging the development of disease and then mandating you to pay for disease treatment.

Subsidies to grow animal feed saved factory farms (CAFOs) some $35 billion in operating costs between 1997 and 2005. According to the Environmental Working Group, the feds wrote checks for $256 billion in farm subsidies for commodities, crop insurance, and disaster programs, and $39 billion in conservation payments between 1995 and 2012.[5]

Between the years 1995 and 2005, meat, dairy, and grains received an overwhelming majority of government subsidies (86 percent). Fruits and vegetables? Less than one percent.

As it stands, the Farm Bill, with its spendthrift subsidies, is a monstrous example of corporate welfare. The federal government pumps billions of dollars into subsidies for meat, sugar, and other unhealthy products, in essence feeding record levels of obesity, diabetes and other fatal and disabling health problems. What’s more, these dollars go to an increasingly fewer number of farmers. Some three-quarters of the subsidies went to just 10 percent of farms, and many of these “farmers” are stockholders in large corporations who have no contact with the food itself, mega-rich members from the Forbes 400 list, including multi-billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (net worth $15.8 billion) and investment company chieftain Charles Schwab, who is worth $5.1 billion.[6]

According to the Environmental Working Group, "at least 50 billionaires or farm businesses in which they had a financial interest benefited from $11.3 million in traditional farm subsidies between 1995 and 2012." These billionaires belong to a group of 400 U.S. citizens who now have more wealth than 185 million of their fellow Americans combined. And the bill currently being considered contains changes that will likely increase the subsidies these billionaires reap, making the rich insanely richer. With the number of people living in poverty and on foods stamps at an all-time national record, with 75 percent of the U.S. public living from paycheck to paycheck and student debt exploded to over $1 trillion while U.S. millionaire households now possess a staggering $50 trillion in wealth, adding to the wealth of the richest one percent clearly represents an egregious abuse of taxpayer dollars.

“Farm programs that benefit billionaires are indefensible and irresponsible," writes Alex Rindler, an EWG policy associate. "Our broken policies propped up the richest few at the expense of taxpayers and struggling families – that’s a backwards vision that no one should be proud of.”

Then, after spending your tax dollars to make the rich richer, by paying for the production of meat and refined grains, the government as the USDA tells you to limit or avoid these foods and focus on fruits and vegetables, whose production the government supports only negligibly.

These conflicts between what our government recommends people eat and what foods are boosted by taxpayer dollars in the form of agricultural subsidies have been the focus of a large outcry on the part of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, but the public is largely unaware, and the members of government seem hardly to care. Most taxpayers have no idea that they subsidize unhealthy foods, but the disturbing truth needs to be made known, as PCRM president Neal Barnard wrote to the chairs of the House and Senate agricultural committees in Congress.

“Factory farms pose a serious public health hazard, so why are they subsidized by public money?” Dr. Barnard has written. “These facilities pump out high-fat, high-cholesterol meat products and often pollute waterways—yet they also receive generous subsidies under the Farm Bill. We want Congress to stop rewarding facilities that endanger public health.”

But the critical reforms suggested by medical experts have been roundly ignored.

The House and Senate continue to conference the $955 billion Farm Bill, which expired in September. If the bill is not renewed soon, the government will likely reapply the outdated 2008 bill, which allows direct payments to billionaire farmers, and would cost taxpayers $23.6 billion more than the proposed reform.

The reality is that the longer Big Ag can hold off on paying for upgrades and changes to the system, the longer it can continue to make money at the public’s expense. And why not? The forces that be profit considerably by maintaining things as they are. Factory farms now produce most of the animal protein in our diets, and in dollar amount it appears cheap. But what is the real price we pay for mass production of flesh foods? Antibiotic-resistant bacteria because of the overuse of antibiotics; air quality problems; the contamination of waterways with concentrated animal waste; and animal welfare problems, mainly as a result of the extremely close quarters in which the animals are housed.

A 2006 UN report showed that global emissions from all livestock operations account for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, even more than cars, trucks, and planes. It takes three units of fossil-fuel energy to produce one unit of food energy on average among all agricultural products. But for industrial meat, the ratio can be over thirty-five to one. The modern intensive confinement production systems is stressful for food animals, and that stress increases both the shedding of pathogenic bacteria and the level of stress hormones that make their way into the food.

The CAFO model is economical, supporters argue, but that is only because important costs are not reflected in either the production system or its products, but are instead paid for by the public in other ways. Such externalities include declining property values, the public health costs of pollution, the cost of fighting resistant infections, and the cost of cleanup of spills and other environmental disasters.

And perhaps most importantly, the cost of diet-related diseases suffered by an increasing number of Americans.

Though they are not included in the cost of producing or buying the meat, poultry, eggs, and milk that the modern industrial animal agriculture provides, all of these costs are picked up by you - regardless of whether you choose to consume these foods. You can no longer afford to remain blissfully unaware of the cost involved at so many different levels of that ice cream or frozen yogurt, the diner omelet, protein shake, chicken breast sandwich, bacon breakfast, etc. etc. Just because it comes in socially acceptable pretty packages doesn’t mean you should accept it. There are dire consequences of violating mother nature’s laws which we are now beginning to suffer in the form of epidemics such as swine flu, mad cow, MRSA, not to mention hormone imbalance, arsenic poisoning, cancer, asthma, global warming, and dead zones. All of which are linked to industrial animal production.

And if it takes the prospect of saving a little on the cost of health care to initiate the change the world has been waiting for, then the health care reform has served a much larger purpose than it ever set out to achieve. In other words, because the government needs you to support a system that will collapse without your funding, you can by taking a stance make possible sweeping changes which, long overdue, would be impossible to achieve otherwise.

Through increased taxation rather than subsidization, the additional funds obtained could be used to treat the conditions fast food causes, and if junk food establishments choose to charge more for their meals, as would likely happen if taxes were higher, consumers could either opt out of buying junk or choose to participate in the cost required to treat the conditions that inevitably ensue.

What is required is your peaceful protest of a system that is ruining the environment, bankrupting the economy, and robbing the nation of its health.

The time for action is now, and the action that is required is to do nothing at all.

Don’t pay for health insurance you don’t want and finance a system that doesn’t work until the government addresses the real culprit in the nation’s, economy’s and environment’s woes and stops subsidizing processed foods, and through heavier taxation holds the big corporations responsible for the diseases they cause.

By voting with collective action, or in this case inaction, by refusing to fund a health system spun out of control while the government continues to fund business interests responsible for the health care debacle, refusing to the tune of 7 billion per year, changes will follow.
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Over 50 years ago, in her timeless masterpiece “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand wrote (parentheses mine):

“The specific reason behind the plan is profit, always is. The working of an intricate mechanism, operated  by pull, threat, measure, blackmail (or in the present case, mandated coverage) – a mechanism like an irrational adding machine run amuck and throwing up any chance sum at the whim of any moment – was devised a long time ago (the Industrial Revolution?) and this is only a recent instance. They (the corporations), the men who run them, and who profit by them (first in making the population sick and then in making them well), are only chance riders, not the builders, of the infernal machine that is destroying the world. Riders on a machine without a driver, trembling hitchhikers who knew that their vehicle was about to crash into its final abyss, and it is not love or fear that makes them cling to their course and press on toward their end, it is something else, some one nameless element which they knew and evaded knowing, something which was neither thought nor hope, something identified only as a certain look in their faces, a furtive look saying: I can get away with it.

“Why? Why do they think they can?”

In a free market, supply tends to match demand, and until the demand for meat and eggs and dairy falls to zero, supply will still exist, at the cost of the environment, health, and the future.

In a perfect world, if we all stopped eating fast food, all the McDonald’s and Burger Kings and KFC’s and processed food manufacturers would go out of business. We wouldn’t even need the government to stop subsidizing them. It might take time, for those empires could operate at a loss for a while, but eventually, voting plants and saying no to junk would win. But fast food is now recognized as the American (and increasingly, the globe’s) cuisine. However, some countries are immune to the influence of advertising and relentless marketing of a food that is at odds with their lifestyle. Consider the case of Bolivia. Recently it was reported that McDonald’s is closing all restaurants in Bolivia, because the nation has rejected fast food. Bolivians don’t find it worth their health or money to patronize the junk food giant. They are accustomed to locally grown minimally processed whole foods (vegetables, legumes, complex carbohydrates) and don’t trust food prepared in such little time, and are in fact turned off by the quick and easy, mass production method of fast food. Nevertheless, fast food remained in Bolivia for over a decade, despite losses every year! Any small business operating in the red for that long would have folded and left the area in less than half that time, but such are the deep pockets of the corporate giants. In contrast to many other cultures who consume fast food on a weekly basis, natives of this South American country seek quality over cheap calories and “restructured meat technology” often used by fast food joints. An example of restructured meat technology, McRibs contain a mixture of tripe, heart, and stomach bound in a factory to pork trimmings. Many fast food items are really just molded blobs of restructured meat passed off as real food. The McRibs came about as a result of a chicken shortage and due to global popularity remained on the menu as profits rolled in. Not so in Boliva, where McDonald’s is officially history.

The Bolivian rejection of McDonald’s is an example for the rest of the world to follow.[7]

But will we?

In America we have become so accustomed to processed food divorced from its source and hardly requiring teeth to chew that the idea of eating fresh fruits and vegetables is viewed as novel or strange.

It is not enough for the chosen few, the new one percent, to boycott junk food. Some are already doing this. We must boycott the entire system (government, major corporations including both fast food and pharmaceuticals) that supports and profits from the production of these foods and the treatment of diseases caused by their consumption until federal assistance of these harmful substances ends.

It has been said that when you look at the actual cost of protein in the supermarket, and then factor in the corporate welfare system, and the damage to the environment, and the sickness that results, then if you consider the inferior (non-nutritious) product we are getting as a result, we have the most expensive food in the world. If you removed the corporate welfare system (government subsidies), factory farms and fast food purveyors would fall like dominoes.

If the government stops bailing out large corporate farms, they will fold, and with them, fast food will follow. Without subsidies, the free market will finish them off.

Holding the wrongful accountable makes sense, but instead the government seems intent on rewarding the culprits and demanding retribution from the innocent. This is the age of contradiction. Only in today’s world could the government try to reform health care while still allowing the marketing of fast food and high-calories snacks to children, marketing which continues to become ever more sophisticated, and to allow animal products in schools.[8] Nothing less than drastic measures can stem the tide of childhood obesity when advertisements for fast food and vending machines containing high-calorie snacks saturate children’s environments.

You may argue that the fast food industry has no responsibility to oversee the public’s diet, only to provide a product the public is willing to buy. But, if it weren’t for government subsidies hamburgers would cost closer to $200 than the $2.00 burger you can get at your local joint. If the real cost were reflected in the purchase price, there would be far fewer takers.

While Congress debates how to cure America's massive debt problem, and the Farm Bill languishes on the debate room floor, you as a member of the new one percent can demand key changes which according to experts would save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and improve the overall health of Americans while unburdening the costly health care system.

The astounding rate of childhood obesity will only worsen unless drastic measures are introduced to cut consumption of animal products, without which the drain on America's health care resources will only increase.

As it stands, the U.S. Department of Agriculture uses school meal programs and other food assistance programs as a dumping ground for surplus animal products. When cheese prices fall, the USDA buys up millions of pounds of leftovers. When beef prices fall, it buys up beef. School menus then feature cheeseburgers, cheese pizza, and Salisbury steak. These purchases are designed to boost agribusiness income, which they do, while setting kids up for health problems down the road.

If the USDA based commodity purchases on health value, this would reduce expenditures by about $14 billion over the next decade and save on medical care costs while improving our children’s health.

We must end large subsidies for agribusiness to produce GMO corn and soy products, in exchange for subsidizing "specialty crops" (the Farm Bill’s term for fruits, nuts, and vegetables). As it currently stands, commodity crops (corn, soy, cotton, rice and wheat) receive $33 billion, while specialty crops receive only $4 billion.

Implementing these and other changes, which I specify in my book, adds up to a savings of $333 billion over the next decade, or 33 billion per year, a huge sum. So huge in fact, that just one year of savings at this rate is almost sufficient to end world hunger!

As we stop promoting unhealthful foods, health will increase, and medical expenses will fall. Today, meat consumption costs the medical system up to $130 billion every year. By trimming the fat off the nation’s waistline, we would easily trim off a huge chunk of unnecessary medical care.

If the government is serious about the nation’s health, it should devote taxpayer dollars to providing much-needed support for small-scale and organic farming, as well as initiatives that make healthy local food more accessible to Americans.

As it now stands, food producers profit by making you sick, and hospitals by putting you back together. It seems reasonable that if you don’t participate in the cause of disease – if you veto fast food – you should not be held responsible to cover the costs of caring for those who frequently partake. But the health care reform makes no consideration for your individual health-conscious choice, and fails to recognize the link between the disease-producing foods the government funds on the one hand, and the severely flawed medical system they are asking you to fund on the other.

But you have the power to see to it that they do.

The Occupy Wall Street movement was a dress rehearsal for aware, economically-disadvantaged citizens. Though we are on a disastrous course and the hour is getting late, with your influence politicians can be made to change course drastically and quickly move to a more just and stable system.

The writer and activist David DeGraw, who coined the term “the 99 percent,” said it best: “As long as we allow short-sighted and greed-addicted forces to dominate our political, legal and media systems, we will continue our descent into the abyss… We can no longer afford to sit back and wait for politicians to fix these problems… It is now time for awake and aware individuals to step up, find common ground and lead their communities to a sustainable future.”

As members of the new one percent, you can either pay $2500 a year in overpriced health insurance, continue in habits that will lead to health conditions years down the road requiring tens of thousands of dollars you’ve invested to treat; or adopt the healthy lifestyle that will render future medical payments virtually nonexistent…

And

demand that the government receive this funding from the people who will need the treatment, through the corporations they have paid money to in exchange for the food that leads to sickness, early death, health complications, and exorbitant medical expenses.

In the words of Buckminster Fuller, “make the world work for 100 percent of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

If you believe that the misappropriation of funds must end, if you have the courage to act on your convictions by doing nothing at all, then join us now. And if anyone asks why you refuse to pay for insurance tell them, “I am a member of the new one percent. We are the ones with the real power.”

With time, that will be all the explanation you need.




[1] Ten corporations control almost everything you buy. These include: Nestle, Kraft, Pepsico, General Mills, Kellogg’s and Mars. And most of the food they sell is junk.
[2] 1 percent of a population of 300,000,000 is 3,000,000 individuals each paying an average premium of $2,500 per year.
[3]http://money.cnn.com/2011/08/16/news/economy/chicken_prices/
[4] http://pgpf.org/Chart-Archive/0053_defense-comparison
[5] http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/cafos-uncovered.pdf
[6] http://www.ewg.org/research/forbes-400-subsidy-recipients-1995-2012
[7] http://www.getholistichealth.com/38160/mcdonalds-closing-all-restaurants-in-bolivia-as-nation-rejects-fast-food/
[8] http://www.pcrm.org/good-medicine/2008/summer/expelled-processed-meats-cause-cancer-so-why-do

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This is not a commentary on the latest fitness fad. Because if it were, the little I'd have to say on the subject would be largely derogatory. I simply cannot see see how crouching in a stuffy, dark, cramped room surrounded by sweat-drenched strangers while expending a lot of energy and going nowhere deserves to be called fun, though aficionados tell me it is (fun). I tell these aficionados that if no pain no gain is your thing, discomfort can be had for a lot cheaper than $50 an hour. Try plucking your nose hairs. What we don't do for the sake of beauty. This endurance heir to the Stairmaster and elliptical is all hype. There's a name for the type who likes to run (or otherwise move) in place. It's called a hamster. 

This reminds me of a joke my father likes to tell, about what living with a woman turns a guy into. You go from a wolf to a sheep to a hamster. After nearly 40 years of married life, my dad has added cockroach to the zoological lineage. Which I'm sure …

EVERYTHING'S INTENTIONAL

There is no such thing as screw-ups.

Case in point. My excellent friend Deej comes over to help me beautify the garden. He immediately dives in, crouching down on his knees and weed whacking with his bare hands. Before I can say yay or nay, he proceeds to remove a huge clump of daisy greens from the oblong patch of Earth adjacent to the driveway. The area instantly looks bare. Like the back of Woody Allen's head. Smoothing out the soil and shaking his head Deej mutters to himself "I fucked it up!" over and over again. We try everything. Planting succulents in the daisy's place. Covering it with rocks. But still the area looks barren. And every time you water it the water trickles down onto the sidewalk in the absence of roots to hold it in place. It's getting dark so we go back inside. The next day I return to the spot with a clear perspective and remove all the other daisies, leaving only rose bushes and the succulents that DJ planted, and depositing 10 bags of m…

GRAY MATTERS

I was watching the TV show Naked and Afraid last night as I sometimes do. The show teams together two strangers, a man and a woman, who attempt to survive on their own for a period of 21 days in some remote and isolated region. Some of the locales featured include the Australian Outback, the Amazonian rainforest and the African Savanna. The man may have a military background, or be an adventurist or deep sea fisherman. Sometimes he's an ordinary dude who lives with mom. The woman is a park ranger or extreme fitness enthusiast or "just a mom" herself. Sometimes the couple quarrel, sometimes one or both "tap out" (quit) in a fit of anger or illness. It is satisfying to see them actually make it through the challenge and reach their extraction point. The victors are usually exhausted, emaciated, begrimed and bare ass naked. 

Even more satisfying, at least for me, is the occasional ass shot, snuck in at strategic intervals to boost viewership, of course. It's co…