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Someone Is Saying Something Wrong on the Internet (Special McMegan Edition)

8/5/09 10:31 PM

Grasping Reality with Both Hands The Semi-Daily Journal of Economist Brad DeLong: A Fair, Balanced, Reality-Based, and More than Two-Handed Look at the World J. Bradford DeLong, Department of Economics, U.C. Berkeley #3880, Berkeley, CA 94720-3880; 925 708 0467; delong@econ.berkeley.edu.

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Someone Is Saying Something Wrong on the Internet (Special McMegan Edition) Congratulations to the bride-to-be, and the groom-to-be, and to their currently-unconceived issue-to-be (if any). But... McMegan:

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Someone Is Saying Something Wrong on the Internet (Special McMegan Edition)

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Why I Oppose National Health Care: Look at the uptick in stories on obesity in the context of health care reform. Fat people are a problem! They're killing themselves, and our budget! We must stop them! And what if people won't do it voluntarily? Because let's face it, so far, they won't. Making information, or fresh vegetables, available, hasn't worked-every intervention you can imagine on the voluntary front, and several involuntary ones, has already been tried either in supermarkets or public schools. Americans are getting fat because they're eating fattening foods, and not exercising. How far are we willing to go beyond calorie labelling on menus to get people to slim down? These aren't just a way to save on health care; they're a way to extend and expand the cultural hegemony of wealthy white elites. No, seriously. Living a fit, active life is correlated with being healthier. But then, as an economist recently pointed out to me, so is being religious, being married, and living in a small town; how come we don't have any programs to promote these "healthy lifestyles"?... And she quotes Paul Campos: America's Moral Panic Over Obesity - Megan McArdle: There is literally not a shred of evidence that turning fat people into thin people improves their health. And the reason there's no evidence is that there's no way to do it... Four comments: (1) Both Paul Campos and Megan McArdle appear to have missed the point by several quadrants. We have managed to turn thin people into fat people--a great many Americans today who are fat would be thin if they had lived forty years earlier in the America-that-was a generation ago. Surely if we can do this, we can undo it? (2) Both Paul Campos and Megan McArdle appear to have missed the point by several quadrants. Changing sedentary, highcholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar fat people into more active, low-cholesteral, normal blood pressure, normal blood sugar fat people certainly does improve their health. The governor of California is incompetent at budgeting, but these words of his are well worth listening to: This exercise is extremely effective for your lats[issimi dorsi] and your upper back. Stand with your feet on either side of an open door and grasp the doorknobs with both hands. Slowly sink away from the door so that your back jackknifes and your arms extend fully and lock. Now pull yourself back up to the starting position. Let your arms, not your legs, complete the motion. I will count out thirty repetitions. Beginners should do 10, intermediates 20, and advanced the full amount. LET'S DO IT! 1... 2... 3... 4, AND STRETCH YOUR BACK!... 5... 6... 7, DON'T USE YOUR LEGS!... 8... 9... 10... 11... 12... 13... 14... 15... 16, JUST USE YOUR ARMS!... 17... 18... 19... 20... 1... 2... 3, CONCENTRATE ON YOUR BACK!!... 4... 5... 6... 7, THREE MORE!... 8... 9, AND NOT LAST ONE!... 30... WE'RE DOING FIVE MORE!!... 31, 32... HA! HA!... 33, 34, 35. Next we have in our program a wonderful leg exercise, the lunges. This exercise develops the front part of your thighs... (3) And we do have a great many programs and cultural norms to promote these alternative healthy lifestyles. As maureendowdsfriendwhoneverwantsanycredit@gmail.com emails: Um, we do have public policies and programs that... subsidize or incentivize religion (nonprofit status of religious orgs, tax deductions for charitable contributions, various exemptions and civil rights protections for religious folk, release policies for religious instruction, etc.); being married (various legal benefits/protections connected to marriage, tax benefits for some people, and of course the government has actually spent money on programs explicitly promoting marriage!), and living in small towns (the U.S. Postal service, overinvestment in roads). In contrast, we have lots and lots of policies that incentivize or subsidize unhealthy food choices and not exercise and the measly policy efforts to encourage healthy eating and exercise don't hold a candle to those... (4) The argument that "Obamacare is bad because it will oppress fat people" is... ummm... opportunistic. As maureendowdsotherfriendwhoneverwantsanycredit@gmail.com emails We should just be clear that the embrace of this argument is 100 percent opportunistic. If the current political conversation were heading in a different direction, she'd be posting about how health reform will never save money and http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2009/07/someone-is-saying-something-wrong-on-the-internet-special-mcmegan-edition.html

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Someone Is Saying Something Wrong on the Internet (Special McMegan Edition)

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conversation were heading in a different direction, she'd be posting about how health reform will never save money and the real issue is that Americans are too fat. People may recall this argument from such events as "every time liberals point out that life expectancy is higher in Europe notwithstanding our allegedly better health care system." RECOMMENDED (5.0) by 8 people like you [How? ] You might like:

Endnotes (@this site) HEALTH CARE AND RATIONING: Megan McArdle informs Kevin Drum‌. (@Instapundit.com (v.2)) 2 more recommended posts  Brad DeLong on July 30, 2009 at 10:49 AM in Economics, Economics: Health, Philosophy: Moral, Political Economy | Permalink TrackBack TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00e551f0800388340115724a551b970b Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Someone Is Saying Something Wrong on the Internet (Special McMegan Edition):

Comments You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post. Can anyone say, with a straight face, that intellectual dishonesty from McArdle is at all surprising? She truly disgusts me. Posted by: AJ | July 30, 2009 at 10:51 AM I couldn't care less about McArdle. But I generally like "Lawyers, Guns and Money" and it bothers me that Campos' BS is seriously undermining that blog's credibility. Posted by: bullfighter | July 30, 2009 at 11:56 AM It's interesting, I've battled with obesity my whole life. I've dieted, exercised, and such and kept having issues. Statistically, the odds of successfully keeping lost weight off isn't all that good, studies showing a significant number of dieters rebound within three years. Medically, there have been some positive results with surgeries but - surprise - health insurers typically don't want to cover those as they're "experimental". I think it's fun to say all fat people have only their own chunky selves to blame, but there's a whole food infrastructure out there that makes it possible. I doubt half of the US population just woke up one day two decades ago and decided to get fat just for fun. Posted by: Mike Montgomery | July 30, 2009 at 12:49 PM Meanwhile the lovely, slender McMegan smokes like a chimney. -- Fat Guy Posted by: Miracle Max | July 30, 2009 at 12:59 PM Expecting coherence from McMegan (or any other libertarian) is like expecting vegetarianism from a great white shark. Posted by: DrDick | July 30, 2009 at 01:33 PM From my health care insurer/provider - Group Health Cooperative: "Health Plan Perks Your health plan comes with a host of healthy services at no extra cost, from fitness club discounts to weight management programs." Posted by: Phil | July 30, 2009 at 02:05 PM

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Someone Is Saying Something Wrong on the Internet (Special McMegan Edition)

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Although I cannot explain the mechanism, I am sure our current obesity epidemic must be the product of our current economy because the rise in obesity is so much greater among the poor. Look at photos of the rioters in '67, or at photos taken during the blackout in NYC in 1976: they look poor, but frankly, they look great. Everyone running around burning trash cans, looting stores, etc. is slender. Seriously. Now look at pictures of poor Americans -- they all look like the Michelin Man by comparison. Posted by: Diana | July 30, 2009 at 02:46 PM One can imagine McMegan arguing against the obvious benefits of farming because the farmer might get sunburned. Posted by: jimbo | July 30, 2009 at 03:34 PM The goofy thing about obesity is that though it's easy enough to find anecdotal examples where reducing it helps (I know of three people who were facing or well into type 2 diabetes, who beat it with weight reduction), but if you look at the nation-level statistics (e.g., at nationmaster.com) there's no glaring correlation between obesity levels and longevity (complicating this, when I looked, obesity was doctor-report in the English-speaking countries, self-report in most of the rest of the world). So, seriously, WTF is going on with these numbers? Posted by: dr2chase | July 30, 2009 at 04:40 PM "We have managed to turn thin people into fat people--a great many Americans today who are fat would be thin if they had lived forty years earlier in the America" Erm.... Do you mean "We have redefined the definition of 'overweight' and 'obese' so that a great many Americans today fall into those categories when forty years earlier they wouldn't have?" Or maybe "We have improved the treatment of obesity-correlated diseases such as diabetes over the last forty years such that a great many more fat Americans are still alive?" Or maybe even "Statistically, a great number of Americans who in the past would have been at a defined-as-normal-today 24 BMI are now at a defined-as-overweight-today 26 BMI?" Because all of those observations would be a lot more accurate than the normal interpretation of your statement. "Both Paul Campos and Megan McArdle appear to have missed the point by several quadrants. Changing sedentary, high-cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar fat people into more active, low-cholesteral, normal blood pressure, normal blood sugar fat people certainly does improve their health." I don't know about Megan McArdle, but I think you're being unfair to Paul Campos there. I mean, in the article you link to, he says, "It's good to encourage physical activity, but NOT if the purpose of encouraging it is to try to make people thinner." Which I think corresponds exactly with what you're saying. Posted by: akp | July 30, 2009 at 05:25 PM "Surely if we can do this, we can undo it?" Brad, really? Do you really believe this? Have you ever tried losing weight? If you did, how easy was it? Hard, no? Posted by: ardyan | July 30, 2009 at 05:28 PM Hasn't NHANES hit this blog yet? There may be a serious problem with obesity, but the current BMI isn't a good predictor of mortality. (I'll cite Flegal, based on her cruft at the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/hestats/excess_deaths/excess_deaths.htm) The severe obesity we see in a lot of poor people may be related to their relative lack of access to health care. The general lack of primary, as opposed to emergency, care means that cheaply manageable problems become expensively manageable problems. Blood pressure meds, statins and even insulin are relatively cheap, especially when compared with the costs of heart surgery, amputations and kidney failure. Of course, one needs regular check ups and monitoring to catch incipient problems and control them. As our former president said, "you can always go to the emergency room", but one emergency room trip costs a whole lot more than a GP visit or two and a pile of meds. Republicans and their apologists are just nasty people. You can try all sorts of other theories, but if you want to predict what they will say or do, just assume that they are nasty, and you'll be right on the money.

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Posted by: Kaleberg | July 30, 2009 at 07:24 PM - Have you ever tried losing weight? If you did, how easy was it? Hard, no? Damn sure it is, but this still adds to the mystery. What were we doing 30, 40, or 50 years ago? We were not systemically starved. More exercise? Sure, but (only an anecdote) when I tried that, the weight moved only 5%, even though all the other biochemical markers swung to the good side (exercise = 50 miles/week on a heavy bicycle, about 3 years now). The people I know who lost weight for health reasons did it with big combinations of exercise and diet, and they were severely motivated. Posted by: dr2chase | July 31, 2009 at 04:58 AM

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Someone Is Saying Something Wrong on the Internet (Special McMegan Edition)  

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