“As long as my insurance and tax dollars continue to pay for there [sic] diabetes, and heart disease, I’ll continue to feel justified in telling every overweight person I see that they need to lose weight. Shame is powerful and there [sic] fat is costing me real money”
So I read when I broke the cardinal rule of being fat on the internet and read the comments. (This is an updated repost of a blog that I did a couple of years ago.)
First of all, when someone brings this up I typically demand to see their list of things that their tax dollars pay for broken down into things that they want to pay for and things that they don’t, and the interventions in which they are participating for each of the things they don’t want to pay for. Nobody has ever produced such a list – I think that’s because this really doesn’t have anything to do with their tax dollars, it’s simply a convenient way to couch their size bigotry.
This argument is based on shaky claims that fat people are unhealthy and going to cost more money than thin people in healthcare. I’m going to look at this two ways. First the reality, and then as if those assumptions were true:
Independent research has shown that the cost claims about fat people’s healthcare are seriously overblown (thanks to a world where people can say almost anything about fat people and it will be believed.) The truth is, you cannot tell how healthy a person is by looking at them, you can only tell what size they are. There is no such thing as a healthy weight. Health is complicated, multidimensional, and not entirely within our control. People make all kinds of choices that don’t prioritize their health, they are allowed to make those choices, and you can’t tell based on their size.
Also, research from Columbia has shown that shame and stigma can have negative affects on our health, so it’s possible that if their tax dollars are paying for fat people’s healthcare, they may actually paying for the results of their fat shaming and bigotry. (We’ll never know the effects that shaming has on fat people until we stop shaming fat people.)
Fat people are targeted because we are easily identifiable by sight, and it’s never a good idea to take a group of people who can be identified by sight and suggest that they should be eradicated to make things cheaper for everyone else. Not to mention that nobody making this argument can show a single method of weight loss that has been shown to work for more than a tiny fraction of people over the long term.
But let’s pretend that the assumption is true. In that case: I’m fat, so I’m unhealthy and may cost more money. But…
Fat people pay taxes too, and our taxes go to pay for the war on obesity – we are actually funding a war waged against us by our government for the purpose of our eradication.
I’ve never even smoked a cigarette. And yet my tax dollars go to all the people who get health problems related to smoking.
I don’t drink. I’ve never even been drunk. And yet my tax dollars pay for cirrhosis, drunk driving accidents and alcohol poising.
I’ve never done drugs. And yet my tax dollars pay for people whose lives and bodies fall apart due to drug abuse.
I look both ways before I cross the street. And yet I have to pay for people who get run over after failing to do so.
I don’t mountain climb, but my tax dollars pay for the healthcare costs of people whose attempts to do so are unsuccessful.
And well they should be, because that’s how civilized societies behave. I would rather my tax dollars pay for antibiotics to cure bronchitis than pay for an ER visit and hospitalization for pneumonia. And I’d rather my tax dollars pay for and ER visit and hospitalization for pneumonia than pay for a public funeral because someone didn’t have access to healthcare. I think that a society where everyone has access to healthcare is better from every possible angle and so I’m interested in removing barriers to healthcare, not justifying them with an argument about my tax dollars.
Even if health was entirely within our control, I’d rather my tax dollars go to the healthcare of people who make different choices than I do than live in a world where there is someone who gets to tell us all how we should live and I think that the people making the “fat people and my tax dollars” argument would agree. I’ve also noticed that people who want to police my “health” (and by health I actually mean body size which is not the same thing) are never that excited to have other people police their health. Should vegans only have to pay for the healthcare of other vegans if they believe that’s the healthiest lifestyle? Should Christian Scientists taxes not have to pay for any healthcare at all? Should people without cars not have to pay taxes for the road, should people without kids not have to pay taxes for schools? Since I think that people who make this argument are bullies should I not have to pay for their healthcare since I don’t like bullies?
Marathoners drop dead of heart attacks. People who do everything “right” (right here having the meaning of “what health concern trolls say we should do”) die of diseases to which they were genetically predisposed. Other people live their lives in ways with which we disagree, we live our lives in ways with which other people disagree, and all this “won’t somebody think of my tax dollars” hand wringing is nothing but thinly veiled fat bigotry.
Even if they could prove that being fat makes me unhealthy (which they can’t). And even if they had a method that was scientifically proven to lead to successful long term weight loss (which they don’t). And even if there was proof that losing weight would make me healthier (which there isn’t). And even if they were going to go around yelling at smokers, drinkers, jay walkers, and thin people who climb mountains (which they aren’t) this slope is still too slippery. And that doesn’t take into account the reality that their premise is completely flawed, their assumptions are faulty, and their method of shaming people is utterly ineffective since they can’t make us hate ourselves healthy or thin.
So I think it would be dandy if they would just shut up.
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