On behalf of everyone who's ever put Doritos on their sandwich for extra crunch or drunken copious amounts of beer out of a lawn ornament while tailgating, I'd like to say, "I'm sorry." With no chance of repeal or reform of Obamacare anytime soon, our personal health and finances are more closely intertwined than ever. Many of us are simply not up for this massive responsibility.
You can't see me right now—unless you're the NSA and you're looking through my laptop cam—but I'm overweight. The federal government claims $147 billion in annual medical spending is attributable to obesity. To give you an idea of how much money that is, the gross domestic product of Bangladesh is $140 billion, meaning that America is detrimentally fatter than the people of Bangladesh (pop. 154 million) are productive.
I'm part of the problem. While I'm eating breakfast I think about lunch. I consume foods that should come with warning labels. I strongly believe that running is something you should only do from explosions. No one has ever looked at my body, stroked their chin and said, "I have an Italian sculptor I'd like you to meet."
Under the Affordable Care Act, my weight seems unfair to the super-healthy. People who shop at Whole Foods and buy free-range meatballs and have mixed feelings about fair trade gluten help pay for my healthcare, and that's not right. They're the heroes. With their high incomes and long lifespans they'll be supporting guys like me who can remember the most hot wings they've eaten in one sitting (48!) for the rest of their lives.
There will come a point when these good healthy people who did everything right will want to take a zip-line vacation in Costa Rica, and they won't be able afford it, and that's on me and everyone else in this Shakey's Pizza where I'm writing these words.
Then there's the guilt. I now have the fate of a nation hanging on my every decision. Do I need another slice of pizza? I don't know. Do I? How will it affect everyone else on my plan? Is another fried chicken leg worth potentially leaving our grandchildren with insurmountable debt? Yes, it is, but now I dip it into my mashed potatoes with great sadness. The guilt makes me sad. The sad makes me eat. Chalk up another unintended consequence of major legislation.
As a younger man I didn't think my lack of qualms about wearing elastic-waistband shorts in public would affect all of America. If I'd have known ahead of time I would have taken up jogging or learned what Pilates was.
Yes, I can hear some of you now. "You can still change. We all can live healthier. I have a kale smoothie recipe I can text you."
Can we really live healthier, though?
The First Lady spoke about failing to feed her own children healthy food, saying, "If a Princeton- and Harvard-educated professional woman doesn't know how to adequately feed her kids, then what are other parents going through who don't have access to the information I have?"
Like most Americans, I didn't go to Princeton or Harvard. I went to a state university where the cafeteria's vegetable option was tater-tots. I'm not confident I will ever be qualified to adequately feed myself anything that can't be dipped in ranch.
I'm not alone.
To get a snapshot on how the rest of my fellow Americans are living, I reached out to the Hot Dog and Sausage Council, which is an actual thing that exists and whose president is Janet "The Queen of Wien" Riley. Yes, that is her actual nickname. A council spokesman said that Americans consume an estimated 20 billion hot dogs a year, which averages out to about 70 hot dogs per American.
This is not a knock against hot dogs. I am firmly pro hot dog and always have been. They're among my favorite tubed meets. Consumed in moderation, hot dogs are a tasty source of protein and a trusty way to get your damn kids to eat something.
The key word is moderation.
Let's say you eat 10 hot dogs per year, and let's say your partner eats about 10 and the other adults in your community are in the 10-20 hot dog range. Plus there are probably some folks in your life who do not eat hot dogs—vegetarians and health nuts and other people who hate America. If everyone you know is in the 0-20 range, then in order to hit that 70-per-person average some Americans are consuming hundreds if not thousands of hot dogs per year.
The longer it's on the books, the clearer it becomes that Obamacare is better suited for one of those Nordic countries where hot blonde people ski joyfully to work, not for a nation whose citizens partake in bizarre Se7en-style hot dog eating rituals.
The midterm congressional elections are coming up this fall, which means the politicians and talking heads and our fellow citizens soon will debate the merits and faults of Obamacare again. We will hear plenty of complaints from people who say it's not at all fair that we're stuck with Obamacare. Possibly more hazardous to its long-term prospects, though, is that Obamacare is stuck with us.