business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB reported last week that the US Senate had passed a bill allowing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco, and I thoroughly endorsed the idea.

One MNB user responded:

As with many other things it boils down to the almighty buck. The government subsidizes tobacco farmers, there’s plenty of money to be made on the products, etc. Now with the new taxation laws they’re counting on the true addicts to cough up (pun intended) money for lots of stuff.

I have battled tobacco addiction for what seems like forever. I will likely end up like your mother did and my older daughter will be feeling the same as you do since she’s been after me to quit for at least 20 years. Many attempts were made without much success. I don’t like being overly dictated to by the government, but there are times when I wish it would just be banned/unavailable (wow, did I just say that?). I realize it’s too late for me now, but it would prevent others from starting. It’s a powerful addiction and I wish I had never started.

I think my mom quit with the help of acupuncture. I hope you keep trying, and I hope you finally beat it. It’s never too late.

On the broad subject of government priorities in the health/nutrition arena, “sin taxes,” and the importance of personal responsibility, MNB user Liz Schlegel wrote:

Recently saw Van Jones, who works with President Obama on green jobs stuff (he is one helluva guy) -- He made the point that to achieve meaningful change, we have to get the policy right, and we have to get the public investment right. A key role of government is to develop policy to reward appropriate behavior - carrots and sticks. Taxes are our stick (think of so-called "sin taxes" on cigarettes and liquor). Policy is about who wins - which industries get tax credits or infrastructure. Just look at rail vs. roads and think about that from a policy perspective, or nuclear vs. solar.

Granted, he was talking about energy and climate change, but I believe the principle is the same. Where are we investing our dollars? Does ADM get tax credits? Is unhealthful food better treated on the policy level? Is it easier to get subsidies to grow genetically modified corn than it is to raise organic cucumbers?

Granted, it can be taken too far but it's a useful lens through which to view health (or any) government interventions. What behavior is being rewarded as virtuous, and what is being made less attractive?

Carrots and sticks drive people - it's how business (and human nature) works.

Another MNB user wrote:

Personal responsibility, application of technology and transparency in information are critical to cost management in health care. Turning the "herd" toward a healthier standard will require time, carrots and sometimes a stick. Given the size (numbers and waistlines) of the Boomers needing larger portions of available health care dollars something has to give, and soon. A 4,000 + calorie a day diet for a growing population strains both the food and medication supplies worldwide. Farm production has peaked, unless new methods and altered strains of grain are developed demand will soon exceed supply, same is true for medication supplies. A growing percentage of medications are now produced overseas by countries that have their own middle class demanding affordable food and medicine for themselves. Competition for all resources will change the landscape in more ways than currently realized but, sales are sales and next quarter is the primary focus in business. The consumer wants quality, quantity, quick access and affordability today, tomorrow is a long way away. How to address these facts is the challenge for all.

Just an old farm kid with some food for thought……

Another MNB user chimed in:

I cringe every time I read things like this blaming the government for the priorities and policies they pursue. The government is made up of the people that we elected. I wish that all of the talking heads would quit blaming the government for the programs and policies that they disagree with If they feel they must point fingers, blame the people who voted, or even better the people that didn’t vote.

The politicians were elected to do the will of the people that elected them. (see democracy) Blaming the government for creating policy is like blaming the guy who cooked your cheeseburger for your high cholesterol.

As far as if we can pay for it... we are the wealthiest nation in the world, it is just a matter of who will pay for it, that’s what it always comes down to. The rich and powerful, the hungry and poor, I’m sure the working middle class will carry the load again.

Another MNB user wrote:

Regarding the government idea about putting more phys ed in schools, bike paths, etc: Not to put too fine a point on it, but isn't this basically reverting to form from 'back in the day' when there was an hour of P.E., and kids brown-bagged a sandwich, fruit, cookie and bought a milk carton, and rode a bike or walked to and from school?

Oh, sorry, that was before activities like dodge ball were outlawed because they taught aggressiveness or risked someone's psyche if they were among the last picked for a team, or before we covered the playgrounds in flubber (or eliminated PE entirely) out of fear of lawsuits should Johnny trip and fall, or before school districts grabbed the money for food/drink contracts that mostly brought in less-healthy foodservice alternatives, or before hyper-competitiveness crowded out running around with friends after school and replaced it with more lessons and studying (and technology replaced actual exercise with virtual combat for the boys and social combat (Facebook, of course) for the girls)?

I've never been accused of supporting inflated government and certainly our economy is waaaay out over its skis, but in this case, if the government can find a way within reason to help kids learn how to run and sweat and fall down and get back up, I'm for it. It would take 50 years for school districts to get there on their own (if ever) and we're spending lots of money on a lot of dopier ideas now anyway.

I wrote about a week ago about Walmart trucks that use as fuel leftover fat from its fryers, and wondered if they smell like French fries as they go down the road.

This prompted MNB user Chelle Blaszczyk, of Natural Ovens Bakery, a Division of Alpha Baking, to write:

We do use reused vegetable oil in some of our semi trucks and I can tell you that yes, you can smell French fries when the truck is moving. And the other interesting thing is that the trucks do better with the healthier oil; the partially hydrogenated oils are not good for the engine or our bodies.

Go figure.

Finally, I made a quick reference last week to a survey that said that Angelina Jolie was the most powerful woman in America, supplanting Oprah Winfrey, who had been atop the list for years.

Which led one MNB user to write:

I thought sure Mrs. Content Guy was #1…

See, if I’d thought of that line, I would have earned serious points. But no, somebody else had to think of it. Nuts!
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