it's the latest facebook craze. "___________ thinks that no one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. if you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day." i don't blame people for posting this as their status. what compassionate person would want someone to die for lack of finances or go broke paying for health care?
but why stop there? i would assert that there are things that are even more critical than universal access to health care. how about universal access to fresh, nutritious food and clean water? some 36 million americans are food insecure. they experience hunger and involuntary lack of access to food on a regular enough basis that it can lead to malnutrition. in one of the richest nations on earth, this is not just a tragedy; it's immoral. as with most other resources in america, access is generally dictated by financial ability. are we really okay with people starving just because they can't afford food?
moreover, there is clearly a lot of waste in the system; even middle class americans eat at ridiculously expensive restaurants or frivolously spend on unnecessary luxury items like starbuck's coffee or any kind of alcohol. and some -- both rich and poor -- are clearly eating too much and the wrong things, as obesity is spiraling out of control. a staggering 33% of americans are obese, and obesity is still on the rise.
clearly, the public and private measures that we've taken are insufficient to address this most critical of needs. the 'system,' isn't even a system -- it's a patchwork quilt of hundreds of ways people access food, and too many people are falling through the cracks or getting lower quality foods that are far too high in fats, sodium, and sugar. it's time for food distribution and nutrition reform.
i therefore propose that we adopt a national food plan in which all americans, regardless of income, get access to the same exact food, both in type and amount (adjusted for a person's size, of course). everyone would eat from the same national menu, designed by our foremost experts on nutrition (perhaps something along the lines of the well-regarded south beach diet). with all americans adopting the best nutritional practices, we'd no doubt see a decline in obesity and consequently, obesity-related diseases and obesity-related deaths, which now top 300,000 per year. it's a win-win.
for those of you who think a full-on government takeover of food distribution and nutrition sounds too extreme, i am willing to compromise by suggesting that we offer a public option. those who are currently food insecure or who are overweight or who would just prefer to have the public option could go in. those who like their current food access could continue to access food through their usual channels, as long as they meet certain federal guidelines (e.g. the diet practices laid out in any of a number of approved diet programs or limitations on how much dinner or coffee can cost).
some of you are probably wondering about the overall cost of the program, but first of all, aren't we dealing with an issue of right and wrong here, no matter how much it costs? and secondly, i honestly can't see financing being a problem. there is so much waste in the current system; with all of the money we save from avoiding expensive restaurants and luxury food and drink items, everyone could be fed easily.
in fact, i'm guessing that we'd have enough left over to spend on other critical needs, like housing. you do know that an estimated 3.5 million people are homeless every year. the current 'system' is a hopeless mishmash of single family homes, apartments, condominiums, townhouses, houseboats, and who knows what else. access is, once again, dictated largely by financial ability. and think of the waste and inequality in the system -- wealthy people owning multiple homes or remodeling their homes while others are literally dying in the streets or living in shelters. perhaps it's also time for a national housing program -- or at least a widely available public option...