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The Case for MichelleCare

Why Obama should let his wife handle health care reform

It didn't go so well the first time around, when a president assigned his wife to reform health care. But instead of mucking things up with intrusive, expensive health care "reform," President Barack Obama could do a lot worse than putting Michelle in charge of wellness promotion. Michelle Obama understands wellness, choosing to grow fruits and vegetables—not just roses—on the White House lawn.

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." That admonition, the first words of Michael Pollan's enlightening In Defense of Food, could be the bumper sticker promoting MichelleCare. Pollan makes it clear that America's high levels of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes—which trigger the heavy medical care costs of late-life sickness—are the result of the "western diet," with its food-like processed products, much of which is synthesized from cheap corn and soybeans. We are obsessed with "nutritionism," but the sum of the unpronounceable substances on content labels don't equal the benefits of real food, like grains, nuts, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food, Pollan counsels. I haven't done justice to the 200 pages of Pollan's cleverly-written wisdom. Read it yourself. In fact, a free copy to every American who wants it (or DVDs for those averse to books) should be a part of MichelleCare.

The political stand-off certain to develop between cost cutting on the one hand, and expanding coverage to the 47 million uninsured Americans on the other, will make reform a chimera sure to please no one. The resulting legislation is likely to be a grab bag of unfunded government goodies spawning bigger deficits, just as Medicare and Medicaid have done over the past four decades.

To understand why "reform" is more an exercise in political theater than a serious attempt to cut costs and improve care, consider how we got here. It started during World War II, when wage and price controls led to a labor union-government agreement allowing tax exempt employer-paid health care to act as a substitute for pay raises. That tax exemption was the genesis of much of the problem we now face; it divorced decisions about consuming care from consideration of price, making doctor and hospital visits appear free.

The next big step was Medicare and Medicaid, which have grown like fat kids, especially with George W. "LBJ" Bush's free prescription drug benefit, a Karl Rove legacy of big government conservatism.

But the most important development in the politicization of health care came in 1991 in the special election of Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Penn.), an interim appointee after the helicopter crash death of Sen. John Heinz. Two little-known consultants took charge of Wofford's seemingly hopeless challenge.

The fast-talking pair was Paul Begala and James Carville. When they signed on, Wofford was 40 points down—he won by 10. Begala and Carville became the geniuses-du-jour among hired political guns, landing them jobs as gurus to the faltering 1992 Clinton campaign. Their formula: Focus on "the economy, stupid" and create a populist clamor for "health care reform," tapping into resentment of big bad insurance companies, over-charging hospitals, rich doctors, and evil pharmaceutical companies.

This eventually came back to bite the Clintons after the election, leading to the "HillaryCare" that pegged Clinton—a "New Democrat"—as another big spending liberal. That begat Republican control of the House in 1994. The wily Clinton dropped health care and took up another issue from his campaign, welfare reform, signed a House GOP bill, and took credit for it.

Health care reared its head again in 2008, when initial presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton made it her signature issue, forcing competitors—including Obama—to come up with their own "reform" plans. The rest is (contemporary) history. With a disastrous recession and two wars to contend with, Obama still allowed himself to be maneuvered into "reforming" health care.

Like McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform," something called health care reform may pass Congress and get signed into law. But it won't be effective reform, anymore than attacks on free political speech managed to suppress the influence of political money. Whatever gets past the phalanx of insurance and provider lobbyists—not to mention liberal politicians ready to federalize more health care as another free lunch—will bloat the budget like the processed foods that have added tons to the American waistline.

So give Michelle Obama a bigger platform to promote health and wellness-producing meals. That's reform we can live with. And our lives will be longer, healthier, and we'll be billions richer, too.


Executive Director of the Washington Center for Politics & Journalism (WCPJ), Terry Michael writes from his perspective as a "libertarian Democrat." His opinions here and at his personal web site, www.terrymichael.net , are his own, and not those of WCPJ or its board.

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  • ||

    "So give Michelle Obama a bigger platform to promote health and wellness-producing meals. That's reform we can live with."

    I can't live with that. It is none of her business what I eat or don't eat. While it is certainly a lesser evil than socialized medicine, I can see no value in giving another half witted public spirited do-gooder a government funded platform to brow beat us from.

  • ||

    Yes, let's put the woman who got a makework "hospital administrator" job as a political kickback in charge of healtcare reform.

  • ||

    One of the most blatant kickbacks I have ever seen was the odd coincidence of Michelle getting a six-figure raise just about the time her US Senator hubby delivered a seven-figure earmark to her hospital.

    The Chicago Way!

  • Vines & Cattle||

    Was this the woman who planted the White House garden in high heels?

  • Rimfax||

    "Pollan makes it clear that America's high levels of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes-which trigger the heavy medical care costs of late-life sickness-are the result of the "western diet,"...."

    That's a critically-flawed "to be sure" right there. There's been an awful lot of correlation, but not so much causation found. It is only marginally more sound than the argument that the American "culture of excess" is to blame.

    Genetic factors (genetic homogeneity vs. "western" heterogeneity) and autoimmune factors (high "western" vaccination rates and low rates of parasitic worm infections) have not even been close to ruled out as possible explanations.

    I had difficulty taking this seriously, or even amusingly, after that.

  • ||

    "Pollan makes it clear that America's high levels of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes-which trigger the heavy medical care costs of late-life sickness-are the result of the "western diet,"...."


    He is pretty much talking out of his ass at that point. Correlation does not equal causation. Also, I think the genes of some of our population have a hell of a lot to do with our rates of diabetes and heart disease.

  • Rimfax||

    Regarding Michelle Obama's kickback, that ain't shit compared to Cindy McCain's get out jail free card for stealing narcotics.

  • ||

    That's a critically-flawed "to be sure" right there. There's been an awful lot of correlation, but not so much causation found. It is only marginally more sound than the argument that the American "culture of excess" is to blame.



    Also, no mention of sedentary lifestyles...

  • ||

    He is pretty much talking out of his ass at that point. Correlation does not equal causation. Also, I think the genes of some of our population have a hell of a lot to do with our rates of diabetes and heart disease.

    Puuuhhhleeeeese. You dick heads pretend to proffer scientific counterarguments just because you don't want your fat-assery to be blamed on your cheeto-eating habbits.

  • ||

    I mean the "heterogeneity" of the American population is not really much greater than that of, say, the residents of Holland (yes, I mean Holland, not the whole Netherlands -- they have an extremely cosmopolitan population with a lot of interracial couples). Last I checked (a few minutes ago, since I'm here now), they aren't as fat as Americans.

    It's what you eat and do (or don't do), stupid. You can't pseudo-scientifically explain away the fact that your cheeto-munching, sports-watching ass is responsible for...well...your cheeto-munching, sports-watching ass.

  • ||

    > Was this the woman who planted the White House garden in high heels?

    Back off. Helps with the aeration.

  • ||

    Was this the woman who planted the White House garden in high heels?

    How she got it into those tiny shoes I'll never know!

  • ||

    d's right guys. It's time to admit that watching sports made us all fat. What were we thinking?

  • ||

    Grrrr.

  • ||

    Those aren't $6500 tomatoes she's raising, they're only $865 tomatoes, for god's sake.

  • ||

    Michelle Obama understands wellness, cho[o]sing to grow fruits and vegetables-not just roses-on the White House lawn.



    All those pesticides = yet another reason to spurn gummint judgment. Sheesh.

  • ||

    > Was this the woman who planted the White House garden in high heels?

    You wouldn't expect her to dirty her $540 sneeker would you? Sexist bastards! It is hard being the wife of a president.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/29/michelle-obama-wears-silv_n_193138.html

  • ||

    "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

    Ate plants. Lots of them. Still hungry.

  • ||

    another half witted public spirited do-gooder

    I'm no fan of hers, John, but if Mrs. Obama is half-witted, you're one-tenth-witted.

  • ||

    So's yer old man.

  • ||

  • ChrisO||

    Regarding Michelle Obama's kickback, that ain't shit compared to Cindy McCain's get out jail free card for stealing narcotics.

    WTF does that have to do with anything? It doesn't make Michelle's apparent corruption and cronyism right. I don't think you'll find to many ardent McCain fans around here.

  • ||

    You can't hold the Obamas accountable for any corruption as long as they have opponents that are also guilty of something.

    Get with the program.

  • ||

    Regarding Michelle Obama's kickback, that ain't shit compared to Cindy McCain's get out jail free card for stealing narcotics.

    Look! A dinosaur!

  • ||

    Screw Wellness.

    Its my damn body and I will put into it whatever I want.

  • ||

    Terry Michael sux.

  • ||

    LOL. It's better than putting her in charge of sucking dick.

  • ||

    The inner gay guy in me was hoping we might get an elegant first lady to at least make our first not white president look good. I was wrong. The woman walks like a fucking mule and has the grace of an epileptic retard. Which is hard to figure out because she is in great shape and should have command over her body. I'm guessing she either doesn't care or doesn't know how.

    Not that I want elitist assclowns in the White House, but it's kind of nice to be proud of how your dignitaries look and act while at highbrow functions.

    (trite, useless, off point comment, but the picture brought it out in me)

  • ||

    hmm's aesthetic standards are racially blinkered.

  • ||

    I didn't even mention how she looked, I mentioned how she moved and interacted.

    Le failtastic

    Would have been more fun if you called me a racist.

  • ||

    I can't believe this article is in reason.

  • ||

    Folks, the article is tongue-in-cheek.

  • ||

    wingnutx | July 29, 2009, 5:42pm | #
    Michelle's garden turned out to be contaminated with lead


    Your link goes back to the article above, which says no such thing. It's too bad if it's true; it'd be kind of nice to have a first lady who likes to grow vegetables.

  • Jim Treacher||

    She'll get right on that whole health care deal just as soon as she kills Sarah Connor.

  • Mike Laursen||

    I remember some breathless article right after Obama's coronation about how he would turn the White House kitchen organic. Of course, the previous tenants had already done that.

  • ||

    I didn't even mention how she looked, I mentioned how she moved and interacted.

    You mentioned how her moving looked, which is an aesthetic judgment, as any dance critic knows.

    Would have been more fun if you called me a racist.

    I did.

    But all in fun, as my handle meant to indicate.

  • William Furr||

    Thanks Terry, very interesting article. I found Pollan's book to be very informative and thought-provoking when I read it. It's simply amazing how much our food culture and system has changed in the last 50 years, compared to the thousands of years of agricultural history before that.

  • Terry Michael||

    Thanks to:
    PapayaSF and William Furr

    My piece WAS mostly tongue-in-cheek (except for the libertarian commentary about the mis-guidedness of so-called health care "reform.") And it WAS meant to focus on the lessons we can learn from Michael Pollan's writing about food.

    I don't usually comment on comments about my own writing, but it truly amazes me how often commenters on Hit & Run don't seem to read the pieces about which they rant--and how the threads can go off in directions even wilder (i.e., Michelle Obama's appearance!) than even Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs and the birthers are capable.

  • ChrisO||

    She'll get right on that whole health care deal just as soon as she kills Sarah Connor.

    Too late. It appears that Fox TV already did that.

    As for H$R, part of the fun is that the threads take on a life of their own.

    I stand guilty of NRTFA until now...sorry. As for Michael Pollan's take on food, he has a point. However, it's also worth noting we have become a nation of fatasses who eat all kinds of artificial crap...but most of us will still live longer than our grandparents and great-grandparents did.

    Living healthy is better than not living healthy. But a lot of "living healthy" doctrine has a hair-shirt, puritanical quality that I abhore. Go ahead and enjoy the additional two months in the rest home after a life of eating a balanced diet and abstaining from the fun stuff. I'm going to keep enjoying my steak and beer as long as the Assholes In Charge allow...and probably even after they don't.

  • ||

    To the health care paternalists that aren't looking at this site anyway:

    If I want a sugary soda after going for a 10 mile run, would some one please explain to me why I should pay a few additional cents in tax ? (This situation is not entirely hypothetical, BTW.)

  • ||

    Because she used to have a no-work job at a hospital as Vice President of Community Affairs?

  • ||

    Isnt this the same moron who wrote the Libertarian Case for Obama? Yeah, he should probably explain why he was so fucking wrong on that before he writes other stupid things. In fact, dont explain. I dont trust your explanations. Just apologize. Im talking to you, Terry. As penance, why dont you write the Totalitarian Case for Obama? Thats something I would read.

  • abercrombie milano||

    My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I'm sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won't get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there's more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I'm not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It's just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight...the Bible's books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on...the Bible's books were written by people with very different mindsets

  • nike shox||

    is good

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