Land of the Fat: U.S. at Tipping Point?

2012 May 18
by Turk Studzel

The Seattle Intelligencer reports:

“A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that obesity rates in the United States will reach up to 42 percent of the population by the year 2030. More than 10 percent will be classified as “morbidly obese,” which is 100 pounds plus over a healthy weight range. If these predictions come true, health care costs in the U.S. will increase by well over half a trillion dollars….Currently, over 60 percent of Americans have weight problems and over 30 percent are diagnosed as obese. Even more worrisome are the growing rates among young people. Over 20 percent of children and adolescents are obese today.”

1.  Tipping the Scales Towards Collapse

The study was released last week at a Washington D.C. conference titled “Weight of the Nation,” also sponsored by the CDC and timed to coincide with HBO’s miniseries by the same title, airing this week. No doubt, Michelle Obama’s Childhood Obesity Taskforce has played a role here—as has the Pentagon, recently forced to modify its boot-camp training regimen to accommodate recruits too fat to do pushups. Indeed, military planners have been worried about America’s girth for some time; in 2010 a group of retired generals, admirals, and other high-ranking Pentagon officials released their own report titled “Too Fat to Fight,” which raised the alarm of tubbiness as a threat to national security:

Mission: Readiness, an organization of retired senior military leaders, is warning Congress that at least nine million 17- to 24-year-olds in the United States are too fat to serve in the military. That is 27 percent of all young adults. Obesity rates among children and young adults have increased so dramatically that they threaten not only the overall health of America but also the future strength of our military. The group is calling on Congress to take immediate steps to remove junk food and any remaining high-calorie beverages from our schools, noting that these products are major contributors to childhood obesity.

The report went on to bemoan the dire consequences for military recruitment:

A quarter of young Americans are currently not graduating from high school on time. Another 10 percent of Americans cannot join the military because of their criminal records….When weight problems are combined with educational deficits, criminal records, and other disqualifiers such as asthma or drug abuse, 75 percent of Americans 17 to 24 years old are unable to join the military for one or more reasons.

Overweight, ignorant, criminal, and drug-addled: American youth have learned well the lessons of consumer capitalism. In a land that has consecrated mindless entertainment, instant gratification, sociopathic greed, and pharmaceutical salvation (a la Brave New World)—and perversely harnessed these to a savage Social Darwinism—what kind of children would one expect to raise? This is the “obesogenic” environment that researchers at the CDC’s “Weight of the Nation” conference blame for the steady increase in America’s girth—what we might call “feedlot democracy,” where the populace are no longer “citizens” but “consumers.”

But this dysfunctional ethos of consumerism, useful at first to the corporate-militarist class, is reaching a tipping point—you can only undermine people’s minds, health, and community networks so much before the breakdown begins to threaten the sources of elite wealth and power.

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