August 8, 2012
Diets are intensely personal choices, but they are also political. Here is the problem with sugar and the American diet: both are wrapped up in exorbitant costs to the nation.
Because Bill Clinton has already taken the seventy five steps as a political champion for healthy lifestyle choices and diet, why not take the last twenty five steps: being the forceful face for a campaign against sugar.
Sugar is as close to playing with one's own life as smoking tobacco. Clinton's enormous appetite for bad food laced with sugars nearly killed him. "I essentially concluded that I had played Russian roulette," Clinton told CNN.
And like tobacco, the medical evidence against sugar is clear: sugar is a poison no matter what its form of delivery; a pack of "free" sugar at a restaurant, a soda drink in fast food store, or candy bar. One is not going to kill you, but ours is far from a nation of rationale choices when it comes to sugar consumption. The average American according to the USDA consumes roughly 47 pounds of cane sugar and 35 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per year.
On Piers Morgan on CNN in early June 2012, Clinton explained that the trillion dollar health care budget could be cut by 200 billion if US citizens ingested less refined sugars alone. That is only part of it, but no one has pressed President Clinton on the other parts.
Sugar poisons people -- through massive impacts to the costs of public health --, and poisons democracy. Sugar's impacts on democracy reach far and wide. The US sugar subsidy is baked into the federal farm bill. No Congress or state legislature has been able to tame the political influence of the industrial sugar complex. Price supports cost consumers over one billion a year. Sugar producers pocket hundreds of millions in profits. These corporations turn around and seed legislatures and Congress with so much money that "regulatory capture" is an immutable fact.
In Florida, alone, Big Sugar poisons the Everglades with massive discharges of phosphorous despite decades of federal litigation. It has made repeated attempts to undermine federal law, deploying lobbyists in numbers that exceed the number of state senators in Tallahassee, the state capitol. Thanks to Big Sugar, inefficient regulations allow tens of billions in property values along Florida's estuaries and coasts to be at severe risk.
Being a forceful advocate for changing America's addiction to sugar represents the last twenty five steps to redemption for Bill Clinton.
While in office, President Clinton presided over an Everglades restoration bill that is -- in its key science and engineering "solutions" -- a workaround of Big Sugar. Instead of fixing the Everglades by requiring sugar to pay for all its pollution -- a requirement that is, by the way, right there in the Florida Constitution -- Bill Clinton and Florida Democrats like former Senator Bob Graham delivered the restoration plan that Big Sugar billionaires wanted.
To this day, when the former president comes to South Florida, he is hosted by the biggest of the Big Sugar plantation owners, golfing companion, Alfie Fanjul.
It would not be a great leap of imagination for Bill Clinton to be the public face of a campaign against excess consumption of sugar. Clearly, he knows the way forward. According to Huffington Post, "The former President's interest in a healthy lifestyle doesn't stop at his personal choices. The Clinton Foundation has teamed up with the American Heart Association to offer 12,000 schools better lunches and promote exercise."
To AARP, Bill Clinton confided, "Heavily processed carbs, you really have to control that …"
Diet is not personal. It is political. And the right choice for Bill Clinton today would be to come out and say it: Sugar poisons people, poisons, the Everglades and poisons democracy. President Clinton, the nation still needs you. The Clinton Foundation is pointed in the right direction. Leading the campaign against sugar would be as impressive as the national effort to curb the horrible costs of smoking tobacco.
President Clinton: This is something you can do.