So says Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup and author of The Coming Jobs War. In an interview at Gallup’s Management Journal, he tags obesity and fruitless late-life interventions as the two chief reasons that Americans spend so much more than other countries on health care (2.5 trillion dollars every year):
[O]besity is at epidemic rates, and so are the problems it causes, like diabetes. Second, we spend enormous amounts of money with no limits or caps on our last six months of life. Seventy percent of the money we spend on healthcare in the U.S. is on things that are preventable.
What does this mean for American competitiveness? Here’s Clifton again:
It is impossible for the U.S. to win the race for new good jobs while the country continues its failed strategies for healthcare. Astronomical healthcare costs end America’s race to re-win the future. The United States has to fix this or it shuts off the energy switch to entrepreneurship and innovation. If this happens, everything else ceases to matter. […]
The problem with healthcare costs is that they’re accelerating: They’ll grow from $2.5 trillion to $4.5 trillion within 10 years because they’re growing at about 6% a year. So if we can’t get that fixed, organizations won’t be lean enough to grow or to do other things they need to do, like export. Healthcare costs have become the biggest problem that companies have — or cities, counties, states, and the federal government. Nobody can afford healthcare. This is the biggest barrier to job creation that America has.
The irony here is that half of the jobs created this past month in America were of the burger-flipping variety!
You think I’m joking? It’s literally true. Here’s part of what Mark Gongloff and Bonnie Kavoussi, at the Huffington Post, had to say on April 6th about the lackluster employment numbers reported for March (120,000 new jobs). Note the disproportionate role of restaurants in employment growth:
The economy has created 1.2 million nonfarm payroll jobs in the past six months — great news.
But nearly 668,000 of those jobs — more than 55 percent — have been created in the retail, temp, “health care and social assistance” and “leisure and hospitality” sectors, notes [economist Joseph] Brusuelas.
These sectors account for only 29 percent of the total labor force, he adds, meaning that they take up a small portion of the economy, but are having an outsize effect on job growth.
That’s likely to continue. The restaurant sector, for example, is expected to hire more than 400,000 people this summer, MSNBC’s Economy Watch blog reported this week: “For all you foodies hoping to land a gig in the glamorous restaurant industry in the months and years ahead, there will be plenty of jobs to be had. The problem is, many of the jobs don’t come with a glamorous paycheck.”
Translation: our very form of employment growth in America is an artifact of people’s bad eating habits, which drives up health care costs and so threatens other sectors of the economy.
Imagine the politics of this. No mainstream politician, to curb unhealthy forms of consumption, would dare propose, say, a food or restaurant tax.
Americans, therefore, will eat their cake, spend what money they have, and simply die when they die, with or without healthcare, and so “decrease the surplus population” (in Scrooge’s infamous words).
That’s what government non-interference, in this instance, means. Are we all O.K. with this? Is this the price of freedom?
It will be interesting to see how this year’s election plays out, because it’s precisely issues of this sort that people will be voting on. More government or less?