To the Editor:
People, including politicians, respond to incentives. Politicians are not incentivized to solve problems, they are incentivized to highlight problems, pretend to take action, while simultaneously accumulating interested parties that will vote for them and/or donate to their campaign to further their special interests.
As an example, let’s take a look at moves by the Trump and Biden administrations to deal with the insanely high cost of insulin – $98.70 per vial in the U.S. compared to Japan at $14.40, Germany at $11.00 and Australia at $6.94. Are our presidents riding to the rescue of the downtrodden? Perhaps we should ask why we are dealing with this problem?
We know obesity is the trigger for Type II Diabetes and that sugar is a driver of obesity. A shocking Twitter thread by Calley Means, a former consultant to Coke, details how Coke and Pepsi lobbied, during 2010-2011, to keep their drinks eligible for purchase under the SNAP (food stamp) program, despite obvious health concerns. The operation included payments to the NAACP and the Hispanic Federation to enlist them to call out restricting sugary drinks to SNAP recipients as, “racist,” a charge that no politician can withstand.
The beverage industry was able to beat back attempts at soda taxes and state health commissioners trying to restrict SNAP eligibility. Not surprisingly obesity has increased 18% from 35.7% to 42.4% (pre-pandemic). Severe obesity has grown nearly 50% from 6.3% to 9.2%.
A 2011 study by the USDA shows that sugary beverages are the #2 expenditure in the grocery store by SNAP recipients compared to #5 for non-SNAP shoppers. The number of households receiving SNAP benefits nearly tripling from 7.3 million in 2000 to 18.8 million in 2019. The cost of this program quadrupled over this period from $ 17 billion to $79 billion. In addition, 254,350 locations accept SNAP payments – this is quite a voting bloc.
After politicians of all stripes collected donations and lobbying benefits from soda and pharmaceutical companies for years, both Trump and Biden sought not only to reduce financial burdens on those in need, but also to buy votes from people suffering from diabetes, by capping the price of insulin.
Has the problem been solved – No! Politicians will go on collecting money from the soda and pharma lobbies and votes from the afflicted until the citizenship rises up and demands change.