Batuhan: Death and taxes

·3 min read

“The Only Two Certainties In Life Are Death And Taxes.” (from a 1789 letter from Benjamin Franklin to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, a prominent French scientist)

Yes indeed, in life there are but two things we can be sure of. That we will at some point depart from this earth, and that while we are in here, we will continue to pay our fair (sometimes unfair) share of taxes. The irony though is that while we attempt to delay the coming of one, we also increase our burden on the other. I refer particularly to healthcare costs to pay for the care of the chronically sick and infirm, which are taken from your taxpayer pesos.

There’s another sad twist into this tale in the fact that what is supposed to sustain and nourish us while we are alive, is in fact the very thing that is both hastening the end of our earthly journeys, as well as increasing the demand for our hard-earned money in the form of additional taxes for healthcare.

“Estimates of the medical cost of adult obesity in the United States (US) range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year. The majority of the spending is generated from treating obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, among others.” (Fast Facts: The Cost of Obesity - STOP Obesity Alliance)

Funny, right. For most of our existence on this planet, our problem has been to get enough to sustain our species and avoid extinction. And yet, just less than one century ago, the problem has been turned on its head. The abundance, and not the lack of food, has become one of our biggest health challenges, and something that may yet be with us for some time to come.

They say that with disasters and challenges comes opportunity, right?

Well, because of the necessity of developing methods and techniques for processing and preserving food to feed hundreds of thousands of fighting men all over the world, the United States perfected the technology of making cheap grub, this time to fill the stomachs of Americans in post-war United States. Processed food was aplenty, and with it came the scourge of food-related metabolic disorders — diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many types of obesity-related cancers.

Of course, the US was not one to keep this success all to itself. Pretty soon, yellow golden arches and red KFC booths started sprouting all over the world, bringing the American food miracle to the rest of humanity. And three quarters of a century hence, the world is beginning to feel the brunt of an epidemic that came from plenty, and not from want.

As the figures above suggest, the food bonanza has been a costly one for America (and by extension, the world). Illnesses that could otherwise have been preventable are now commonplace, cutting short the productive years of many American adults, and also penalizing the rest, who have to pay for their care in the form of higher healthcare taxes.

And as if to confirm what we already know, the tragedy of Covid-19 was exacerbated by the poor health of many Americans, with obesity and its related constellation of illnesses forming the core of “comorbidities” that made those sickened by the virus even sicker, in many cases claiming their lives.

Such is the tragedy that comes from plenty. Hopefully, before the next pandemic rolls around — and by all estimations it is a question of when and not if — we shall have made amends to ensure that while death remains a human constant, the certainty of taxes may not be further burdened by the unhealthy eating habits of our increasingly affluent species.

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