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An appetite for power.

ITEM: The Los Angeles Times for July 16 reported: "Federal officials ... announced a new policy on obesity that could make weight-loss treatments eligible for Medicare coverage. 'Obesity is a critical public health problem in our country that causes millions of Americans to suffer unnecessary health problems and to die prematurely; Tommy G. Thompson, secretary of Health and Human Services, said...."

Obesity also has triggered legislation, said the paper; "such as the Healthy Lifestyles Act and the Obesity Prevention Act ... designed to reduce the problem.... According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly two-thirds of Americans are classified as overweight ... or obese...."

BETWEEN THE LINES: While obesity is certainly a problem for some individuals, it's hardly a "public" health crisis, except to those who won't be satisfied until Washington runs everything. By widening its designations, however, the government can create an epidemic. Indeed, in 1998, with a figurative stroke of a pen, 38 million additional overweight Americans were created when that definition was changed.

Using Body Mass Index (BMI) figures (a proportion of height and weight, from the Center for Consumer Freedom), look at some of the fit professional athletes and celebrities whose bodies are defined as overweight and obese. Among the officially "overweight" are Michael Jordan (BMI, 25); Denzel Washington (27); Will Smith (27); Cal Ripken (27); Tom Brady (27); and Brad Pitt (28). Fitting the "obese" definition are Sammy Sosa (30); Tom Cruise (31); Arnold Schwarzenneger (33); and Sylvester Stallone (34).

When a new crisis suddenly appears, it usually pays to ask, cui bono? Among the beneficiaries of this supposed epidemic (also funding some suspect research) are the pharmaceutical industry and the $40-billion-a-year weight-loss industry. Trial lawyers can be hired to gun down certain foods and restaurants.

In particular, Uncle Sam would get even bigger for his britches. Medicare is already running $274 billion a year. With a new "illness," says Citizens Against Government Waste, "we can expect Medicare costs to be even more obese and out of control...."

Those Americans who choose to exercise and eat properly, predicts Radley Balko of the Cato Institute, "will soon be subsidizing those who don't, with diet programs ..., health club memberships, and experimental procedures such as gastro-by-pass surgery." Expect private insurance, often with government pressure, to cover more such treatments and raise premiums accordingly.

Bureaucrats no doubt will soon be chewing our food properly for us.
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Title Annotation:Between The Lines
Author:Hoar, William P.
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 23, 2004
Previous Article:Behind the smoke screen.
Next Article:Welcome back, McCotter.

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