Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The President's Real Plan to Improve the Health of Americans

I finally figured it out. President Obama has a plan to improve the health of Americans and it isn't the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare). That was a distraction. The President was never really serious about that, as evidenced by the fact that he let Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the other Democrats in Congress write it for him with little or no help from the White House. He didn't care what it said because that is not his real plan to improve the health of Americans. To understand what his real plan is, you need to understand that that most of the health problems of Americans are related to obesity and physical laziness. You can tell just by watching the President that he is not a fan of obesity and sloth. For one thing, he is skinny. For another, have you ever seen him walk slowly up a flight of stairs? No! He jogs up stairs. Since I am a former resident of Chicago myself, I also recognize that he plays basketball Chicago-style – meaning it is not a foul unless blood is drawn and someone needs stitches. He is one tough dude, and he wants the rest of us to be equally tough. He wants us to eat less and get more exercise.

The main part of President Obama's plan to get us to eat less is to take an idea that began under a previous President's administration and run with it, and that is to require cars to burn ethanol in place of part of the gasoline that they burn. In simple terms, the idea is to make sure that we take crops that would normally be turned into food and burn them in our motor vehicles. We are converting about 40 percent of our corn crop into ethanol for fuel, which is probably healthier than turning it into ethanol for making liquor. Mixing ethanol with gasoline is less tasty than some other things you can mix ethanol with, but cars don't run well on mixed drinks. To make sure that it is American corn that is used to make ethanol for transportation and not something else, the American government does two things. First, it subsidizes growing the corn, using it to make ethanol, and making sure that the ethanol is burned as fuel. Second, it puts a stiff tariff on ethanol imported from Brazil, which is made from cane sugar and is much less expensive to produce. Obviously, the government's policy to encourage the burning of ethanol for fuel has nothing to to with benefits of ethanol, or we would be buying inexpensive ethanol from Brazil rather than paying extra to produce it here. The goal is obviously to reduce the amount of corn in the food supply. Since most corn in the United States is actually grown for animal feed, it affects the price of meat and dairy products even more than food made of corn. This makes it harder for Americans to get fat on a diet of bacon cheeseburgers and Doritos. It also has the unfortunate side effect of making food more expensive in the rest of the world. Since hungry people tend to get grumpy, this may have something to do with the rioting and demonstrations in other countries, but the President's responsibility is to the health of obese Americans and not to the health of starving foreigners.

The President's plan for getting Americans to exercise more is to get us out of our cars and walk or ride bicycles. The best way to do that is to raise the price of gasoline to the point that it is barely affordable for the average American. He had some help in this with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico about a year ago. He used it as an excuse to shut down much of the drilling for oil that was happening in the Gulf of Mexico and to delay the issuing of permits until after many of the deep water drilling rigs were moved to other parts of the world – like off the coast of Brazil. Maybe we can buy some oil from them to make up for the ethanol that they aren't selling us. Unlike most countries, which jump at the chance to tap energy resources, the policy of the United States seems to be to discourage oil companies from drilling where there might actually be oil, like in parts of Alaska that give the appearance of what hell would look like frozen over, and in shale oil deposits states in the middle of the country. One might think that discouraging domestic oil production might increase imports of foreign oil, but President Obama has been working on making less foreign oil available by stirring up a civil war in Libya, a major oil producing country, and using the time-tested Vietnam strategy of fighting just hard enough to make sure the war goes on for years without resolution. I guess he felt he had to do that because of the winding down of the long war in Iraq, another oil-producing country. Maybe if the fighting in Libya dies down, he can stir up enough unrest in Saudi Arabia to mess up their oil production. In any event, so far the President's strategy to get Americans to drive less seems to be working. The price of gasoline is more than double what it was when he became President and is continuing to climb.

The increased cost of food and gasoline will probably help me improve my health. My doctor wants me to lose some weight and says that a diet of bacon cheeseburgers and Doritos would be really bad for my health. I already took my bicycle to the shop to get it tuned up, so I am ready for the cost of gasoline to go up more. I am ready to lose weight and get fit. One thing bothers me, though, and that is how I am going to keep up the exercise when winter comes again. I haven't found any way to use snow tires or chains on my bicycle wheels. I guess I will need to buy snowshoes or cross country skis.