It's no wonder that our health-care system is the costliest in the world -- even though it's by no means the most effective.
A big reason is that the system is rigged to protect the status quo. President Obama campaigned on the idea that healthful living can bring down the cost of health care, but it seems his own administration is blocking his vision.
I refer to the monumentally stupid case the Food and Drug Administration brought against General Mills' Cheerios cereal, in which it basically said only drugs can cure what ails you. Never mind diet, never mind exercise.
The FDA not only regulates drug products, it apparently feels it has to protect their share. So it wouldn't surprise me if the drug firms that market cholesterol and heart pills prodded the FDA to take action because Cheerios was muscling into their territory.
Here's what the FDA's letter said: "Based on claims made on your product's label we have determined that your Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat cereal is promoted to conditions that cause it to be a drug because the product is intended for use in the prevention, mitigation and treatment of disease."
And, as we all know, only drugs can prevent disease.
This archaic thinking is at odds with research showing that a healthful lifestyle is the best way to prevent disease. A study published in the September 2004 issue of Lancet, which tracked 30,000 men and women on six continents, found that lifestyle changes could prevent at least 90% of all heart disease.
"That bears repeating," stated four experts on alternative medicine in The Wall Street Journal. "The disease that accounts for more premature deaths and costs Americans more than any other illness is almost completely preventable simply by changing diet and lifestyle. And the same lifestyle changes that can prevent or even reverse heart disease also help or reverse many other chronic diseases as well."
Mr. Obama won the election based on his promise of meaningful change, yet his own regulatory agencies are stuck in the Dark Ages. And we'll continue to spend billions and billions of dollars on drugs that promise more than they deliver, which are based on often shoddy research and have unknown side effects that could be worse than what they're supposed to cure.
I fear that this resistance to change has infiltrated our whole society. Everywhere you look you see a relentless rallying around the status quo. What's happened, slowly over the years, is that we've developed the mentality of a Third World country where nothing works and nothing much can be done about it, so ingrained are the forces that surround us.
I was at the airport when this sad state of affairs occurred to me. My plane was delayed because of a pressurization problem. The gate agent, in announcing a second delay for testing, was moved to say, "Why they didn't do the test in the first place I'll never know."
And that's when it dawned on me: The reason for our incompetence, and for everything else wrong in our country, is that we have deteriorated to the mentality -- if not the status -- of a Third World country, where inertia and lockstep thinking rule the day.
Ben Stein wrote a piece in The New York Times "looking back" on the current economic crises as they might be viewed from 2089. Here's his doomsday scenario: By 2014, when the federal government's debt reached $25 trillion, only the Federal Reserve remained a buyer of our debt. "Foreign holders sold as quickly as they could. The dollar collapsed, and the [Chinese] yuan replaced it as global reserve currency. The resulting hyperinflation and the accompanying collapse of the republic are now known to every school child."