Headlines I Wish I Hadn’t Seen

In the past decade, the annual health care costs of an average U.S. family nearly doubled, from $9,660 to $17,040. This effectively erased the income gains of middle-income families during this time period.

New York’s nanny Mayor strikes again: “I’ll buy your ice cream for $5 a pint, no questions asked.”

Pork in the fiscal cliff bill: “market loss assistance” for asparagus farmers.

Comments (15)

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  1. Andrew O says:

    On the second link, I think the idea of combating obesity is good, but government buying ice cream from citizens? Seems a bit out there. How about we focus on nutrition and wellness education in communities, instead?

  2. Neil Caffrey says:

    Andrew,

    All the info you need about nutrition and wellness is available. It’s understood by probably everyone that there are health problems associated with obesity. The problem is not with education, or access to healthy food, the problem is with people not taking personal responsibility for their own well-being. You don’t need a gym membership or any equipment to be healthy. As for food, most people are too lazy to buy food from the store and cook. Fast food restaurants aren’t more popular in lower socioeconomic areas because they are only cheap. They are popular because they are cheap AND convenient. Eating healthy is not convenient. IMO

  3. Buster says:

    In the past decade, the annual health care costs of an average U.S. family nearly doubled, from $9,660 to $17,040. This effectively erased the income gains of middle-income families during this time period.

    This was not the average cost a U.S. family spent on health care. It was the average cost of health expenditures if spread evenly across households.

    Most households probably spent only a few thousand dollars — if that. Some households (especially households of sick people or Medicare households) spent a ton of money.

    Unless there is a way to segment the market, there is no way we will ever get a handle on health care spending. Nothing will ever change until the average family refuses to subsidize the huge cost when they themselves only spend a fraction. But, families don’t know they aren’t paying bills. They think these exorbitant medical bills are magically being paid for with OPM — Other Peoples’ Money.

  4. Andrew O says:

    Neil,

    I disagree with you about it all being attributed to personal responsibility. Eating healthier in fact does cost more and only now that people are starting to become more educated about healthier eating, demand for healthier foods is growing. Fast food prices are, indeed, a big contributor to people eating at those places. But regardless of convenience, the majority of the people out there have no clue about the principles of nutrition and how to divide their fats, complex carbs, proteins, micro and macro nutrients…I’ve seen people completely change their eating habits after learning more about how to prepare quick and healthy meals, and why. Education is key to change culture in a society, and much of the personal responsibility factors are attributed to culture. Yes, you’ll always have people that won’t take on personal responsibility, but that is not the root of the problem in our society, IMO.

  5. Andrew O says:

    To add, I think a more informed culture, becomes a more responsible culture. I think education is key to most of our societal problems. Just my 2 cents.

  6. Evan Carr says:

    Being a convert to a much healthier lifestyle over the last two years, I can say from experience that eating healthy is not necessarily more expensive. A vegetable-rich diet can be supplemented by minimal grains and meats for less money than eating out at least once a day. It is less convenient but now that it is a habit I wouldn’t think of grabbing a fast-food meal. The difference I feel is marked.

    I think by now, no one can claim complete ignorance of the very basic idea that fast-food is bad for your health. I think that simple fact has permeated our society. Whether or not people choose to educate themselves is another story. It’s just like smoking. People know it is bad but do it anyway despite the wealth of information and free resources out there.

    There are also corporate interests surrounding the food industry that would probably prefer the status quo. Foods enriched with substances like high-fructose corn syrup taste good and are cheap to produce despite being wholly unnatural. Imagine the hit the large fast-food corporations would take if eating unhealthy were suddenly a cultural taboo.

    Tackling obesity will probably require a combination of corporate willingness to offer more healthy alternatives and public education. But in the end, many people will still choose to eat poorly for whatever reason. Obesity is already a shocking reality in America but personally I am sensing that as gyms and health food stores expand more rapidly, slowly Americans are waking up to a healthier lifestyle.

  7. Junior says:

    New York’s nanny Mayor strikes again: “I’ll buy your ice cream for $5 a pint, no questions asked.”

    Geez..”half-eaten, iced-over, and past its sell-by date”? Sounds like a fattening bomb ready to explode.

  8. Stephanie says:

    I wonder if the second link also refers to homemade ice-cream. Those seem to be a healthy choice these days…

  9. Andrew O says:

    Evan, I agree on most things you say, but, you should realize that in order for a person to have healthy balanced diet, the person needs to learn how to shop and what types of nutrients to take. If a person will replace a low-cost diet with cheap veggies and other protein sources, the person should be aware how to balance his/her nutrition intake in order to not suffer from nutritional deficiencies. This process, does take education because our culture does not teach us yet to be accustomed to healthier alternatives.

  10. Jordan says:

    +1 Buster, stuff like this just contributes to the same information asymmetry which causes inflation in the first place.

  11. Neil Caffrey says:

    Andrew

    I guess the problem I have is that FURTHER educating people on something like healthy eating choices seems like a waste of resources. Is it important that people have an idea of what “healthy” foods are? Yes. Does society (i.e. schools, kids tv programming, ect) currently do that? In my opinion, yes.

    Let me give an example-
    I’m subscribed to several different men’s health magazines. Inside these magazines there are typically new diets, workouts and lifestyle tips. One interesting aspect of these magazines is that they comment on new studies conducted by various research groups.

    I think it is fair to say that through these periodicals, I have invested my time to much more info than the average American on healthy lifestyle choices. Although I receive and read these magazines, I’m often left with contradictory advice. One month a certain magazine will be advising me to add more avocados to my diet. The next month, a different magazine will come out with a study that “proves” avocados are unhealthy for whatever reason. Everyone has a theory.

    My point is that sometimes you just have to go out and see what works for you. Having an ice cream a couple times a week is not going to be the end all be all. But running back to the kitchen for 4 more bowls might have an effect. Same with fast food. Eating a Whopper isnt going to make you fat. Knowing how to balance the carbs of a whopper throughout the day isn’t going to make you skinny. But having the self discipline to prepare even the most basic meals (meat,vegetable,fruit,water) at home will help both your health and your wallet.

  12. bart says:

    There must be a long line moving from the supermarket to the ice cream turn-in location.

  13. Evan Carr says:

    Neil,

    “I think it is fair to say that through these periodicals, I have invested my time to much more info than the average American on healthy lifestyle choices. Although I receive and read these magazines, I’m often left with contradictory advice. One month a certain magazine will be advising me to add more avocados to my diet. The next month, a different magazine will come out with a study that “proves” avocados are unhealthy for whatever reason. Everyone has a theory”

    Your statement is right on the money. Science over much of the issues is murky. We can barely keep with a consistent food pyramid. Nice observation.

  14. Andrew O says:

    Neil,

    There is a problem with your argument, in my opinion. The notion that reading a health magazine as the basis for health education as the answer to a societal health dilema is irresponsible. Of course there will be contradictory information on a maganize and even in dietary breakthroughs. However, you are basically reading to get editorial tips, not sound research as part of your educational approach. The basics of nutrition is sound in principle and science, much like the basics of physics. Teaching people in schools how nutrition works and what foods provide components of these nutrients is a far more responsible approach to changing culture. Knowing the elements and basic distinctionsn between calories, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates is important, but also learning what foods comprise of what and learning what your body and lifestyle requires are all responsible factors to know and should be taught. I’m afraid that reading a Men’s Health magazine is simply not enough, nor the correct remedy to ameliorating a deeply unhealthy culture in our society. It’s a cultural problem in my opinion, and I think the best way to shift a cultural paradigm is through education first–the rest will ensue. Many schools and community programs are already adopting this principle and the demand for healthier foods is starting to already grow, so I’m not sure this is a wasteful resource.

  15. Andrew O says:

    Evan,
    The problem is people think that nutrition ought to be a direct science in which people ought to know exactly what exact “diet” to follow. Everyone has a different genetic makeup and body composition (ie blood type)–there is not an “exact” universal diet. Having minored in nutrition when I was in college, I know from experience that the basics of nutrition will not change and that is what everyone should be educated on–not dietary paradyms. Correlating nutrition education to a dietary dictation is what our culture incorrectly assumes. An apple will never change its chemical elements, nor will an onion. The fact that a balanced diet among the essential macro and micro nutritents is suggested and has remained constant for decades is true and that won’t and hasn’t changed. The food pyramid is not a source nor means to follow diligently follow a diet–all the more reason to empower communities through proper education on this science. A person has a basic understanding of the principles of nutrition will be able to gather what exactly works best for his/her diet in a more responsible and healthy fashion. Such a person, for example, will be able to know why processed foods aren’t nutritionally sound foods and how to responsibly assemble a balanced diet. You don’t need the government to show you a diagram on how to eat a nutritionally balanced meal, but you should learn the basic science behind food to help you assemble a balanced and healthy diet.