Friday, September 20, 2013

House Republicans Propose Bold Cuts to Prevent Obesity and Government Shutdown

SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Obesity rates have more than doubled in U.S. adults and children since the 1970s, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. And while recent estimates suggest the overall figures have plateaued or even declined, Americans are still too fat; two-thirds of U.S. adults are considered overweight or obese by established health standards, having a body mass index of 25 or higher. But a bold majority of House Republicans sought to end this disturbing trend Friday by proposing radical reforms to dietary subsidies and health care. In the process, the budgetary proposal would simultaneously prevent a partial government shutdown, which neither party purports to want. "We're literally killing all the birds with one stone," Speaker John Boehner announced with pride.

Of greater concern in the fitness debate are the studies illustrating alarming trends across racial and ethnic groups. National data show that obesity rates among African American and Hispanic people are anywhere from 60 to over 80 percent higher than their Caucasian counterparts.

"Obesity continues to be a significant health concern," Marge Blomquat of the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a telephone interview. Weighing in at a biscuit shy of 300 pounds, Blomquat can no longer travel outside her bedroom for in-person press briefings.

She added that "around 17 percent of young people aged two to 19 are considered obese. But that's an improvement."

Blomquat's studies show that the government under President George W. Bush took aggressive action to remedy the situation, with the benefits being realized only now. According to reports by the nation's governors, as many as 27 states witnessed substantial decreases in food consumption and weight gain, especially in children, single mothers and African Americans.

It's estimated that more than 40 percent of all food produced in America is not eaten. That amounts to more than 29 million tons of food waste each year, or enough to fill the Rose Bowl every three days. Nationwide, food scraps make up 17 percent of what we send to landfills.

"With access to so much surplus food," said Blomquat, "it's no wonder we all became a little sturdier and roomier than past generations. But the Bush administration made substantial progress toward fixing this problem. President Obama, on the other hand, wants to push policies that will make things worse. Why does he hate Americans? Why does he want us to die?"

When asked if the problem stemmed from too much available food or poor dietary choices, Blomquat insisted that portion control was, and continues to be, the biggest problem facing U.S. consumers.

"Look at celebrities, how thin they are," she observed. "They're no different than the rest of us, which means they've failed at diet and exercise, too. When we interviewed the thinnest actors and models in the country, we discovered that the secret to their weight loss success was consistent and irrefutable; they relied on drugs like Adderall and cocaine, laxatives, chain smoking, coffee, steroids and self-imposed eating disorders. All things that will curb the need to eat beyond proper portions. Diets and fitness regimes just don't work."

Blomquat's solution? Return to the Bush-era practices of regulating the availability of food.

"We can't get smug and abandon this progress because obesity rates seem to be falling," she urged.

Findings from the United States Department of Agriculture seem to back up Blomquat’s claims. In November 2009, the USDA reported that a record 49.1 million Americans, one-sixth of the population, lacked dependable access to surplus food. Also in that year, Feeding America, a national food assistance organization, released details of an economic impact survey of its 63,000 member food charities that also concluded millions of Americans had lost access to tons of excess food.

During the 1990s, the number of Americans with too much to eat had catapulted to the highest level since the government began keeping track. But significant changes made to the nation’s economy under Bush put a halt to American overeating. During his presidency, nearly 50 million people -- including one in four children -- struggled to get food.

"These imposed limitations proved instrumental in combating the nation's obesity epidemic," Blomquat boasted. "But the good times soured when Barack Obama took office. And still he's vowing to get food back to the people. I just don't understand it.”

President Obama's plan included increasing food stamp benefits and freeing up to $85 million through an appropriations bill to experiment with feeding more children during the summer, when subsidized school breakfasts and lunches are unavailable.

"It's distressing," Blomquat lamented. "Especially after all we accomplished between 2001 and 2009."

But on Thursday, Republicans offered worried advocates like Blomquat the first sign of hope in years, pledging to revive the successful food limitation programs that were clearly effective in promoting widespread weight loss.

In a 217-210 vote, the House approved a GOP-backed plan to cut food stamps by $39 billion over the next 10 years. The bill slashes nearly twice as much from food stamps as the initial proposal presented in June. As a result, analysts expect to shave off $4.5 billion in spending. Over three million recipients will lose their existing benefits while another 850,000 will see cuts to their programs.

"This is mission critical," Blomquat explained. "As government statistics show, the vast majority of obese individuals belong to minority populations, particularly African American and Hispanic groups. Coincidentally, these people also have the highest reported dependence on food stamps, while making up the greatest percentage of the unemployed."

By cutting the food stamp program, Blomquat sees several benefits. The government can tackle the national crisis of poor nutrition, portion control and inactivity, which will eliminate the perceived need for costly government imposed health care programs.

"Food stamps, from what I've seen, mostly buy these people cookies and sugary drinks and packaged meals that are high in salt and carbohydrates -- not fruits or healthy proteins or leafy green vegetables," she noted.

Researchers at Ohio State validated Blomquat's assertions, finding reliance on food stamps creating unintended consequences that negatively affected the health of recipients. Users of food stamps in the study demonstrated a Body Mass Index 1.15 points higher than non-users. More disturbing, the longer the recipients received food stamps, the higher their BMI rose.

"By cutting out food stamps, we prevent welfare recipients from purchasing unhealthy food items," Blomquat said. "This also gives the government an opportunity to help get these people back to work, where they won't need federal assistance."

Even better, she exclaimed, is that a return to the workforce leads to a more active lifestyle for these former "slackers, whose laziness was enabled by a socialist White House." A healthier population means fewer visits to the doctor, allowing the government to scale back its exorbitant reform initiatives under the Affordable Care Act, which have ruined the country economically.

Blomquat's position echoes House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's attacks on the Obama administration for irresponsible spending on health care reforms, which have imperiled the nation's fiscal solvency. Citing a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that warned about the unsustainable debt being incurred by the United States, Ryan revealed that "government spending, especially on health care, is driving our debt. And Obamacare will not solve the problem. The law was a costly mistake."

The House of Representatives agreed and answered Ryan's call during Friday's vote.

"The American people don't want the government shut down, and they don't want Obamacare," Speaker Boehner said as Republicans moved to gut the bloated and unnecessary Obamacare program by a 230-189 margin.

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