Imagine with me, a hypothetical world where a politician was running for the office of President of the United States on the platform that everyone deserved a healthy diet. Not so far-fetched of an idea. Food is definitely a necessity, and in our 21st century America, why shouldn’t everyone be able to have access to healthy food?
We are told that if you already have a healthy diet, you don’t have to worry about anything; nothing will change for you. If you like your neighborhood grocery store, then you can keep shopping at your neighborhood grocery store. Period. The only impact will be that all of us will have access to more food, healthier food and cheaper food. In fact, we are promised that the average family grocery bill will go down. A lot of people would be on board with this person’s argument.
But what if the details of this plan weren’t so straight forward? When this person is elected and Congress passes the “Affordable Healthy Food Act,” we learn that under this new law, not only does everyone deserve healthy food, but to make sure that there is enough demand for specific healthy food, grocery stores and restaurants are going to be required to only sell food that meets certain health standards. Many stores can’t afford to make the changes and go out of business. That might mean your local grocery store or your favorite restaurant doesn’t exist anymore.
Unelected experts decide what constitutes a healthy diet, and all of us are required to purchase food in the amounts and variety that comply with these guidelines. Not only does this mean you will be forced to purchase a certain amount of brussels sprouts when you would rather just buy more kale, but you also are required to purchase nuts—despite the fact that you have a severe peanut allergy.
A lot of government jobs are created to enforce these new mandates, and we are told that this good. But at this point, we aren’t so sure. When you look around at your family and friends, you see a lot of people who were laid off from their jobs because they worked at one of those grocery stores, they worked for a company whose product lines were just cut in half or their business has fallen off because people don’t have as much money to spend.
Many of us work hard to budget our money wisely, especially when we are young and just starting out. Your job doesn’t pay very well, but you know that it is a foot in the door to a good career. So you make it work. You drive an old car, you have roommates, and you eat cheap food. Microwaveable meals a few nights a week isn’t the healthiest, but it sure is nice on your budget. So you run a few extra miles to even it out. You are young, and your body can handle it. It’s the best decision for where you are in your life, and you are proud of yourself for weighing all the options and making the most informed choice.
Except now, under the Affordable Healthy Food Act, those microwavable meals aren’t on the store shelves anymore. Actually, you can’t even find an open grocery store within walking distance anymore (you had to sell your car), despite the fact that you have a minimum required healthy food purchase to make each month. Some people have meal plans through their employer or through their school, but you work for a small company that is barely getting by as it is, and you need to find food on your own. But it’s ok, because the government has set up a website to help you purchase healthy food…
The next time someone argues that the ACA is going to make healthcare better, ask them to imagine this system in the food industry.
Ok, at this point you all get that this fictional setting is a parody of life under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The above scenario sounds ridiculous—like a scene out of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” But it’s not fiction; it’s exactly what is happening to millions of Americans today.
Food is a necessity, and in many ways, a more basic one than health care. So why don’t we hear politicians wanting to implement the same scheme in the food industry? Supporters of the ACA are counting on the confusing nature of health care and the beleaguering nature of health insurance to convince the American people that what is happening is completely normal.
They are wrong. The only world in which this is normal is in a dystopian fiction. The next time someone argues that the ACA is going to make healthcare better, ask them to imagine this system in the food industry. Would they support the Affordable Healthy Food Act?