The following is the second installment of a two part piece. The first is entitled â€œThe Stench of Impropriety: Tom Harkin, Al Franken, Herbalife International, and The F.R.E.E.D Actâ€, and can be viewed below.
In part one of this piece, I introduced you to the relationship between Tom Harkin and his largest campaign contributor, Herbalife International. A partnership that demonstrates the perils of an incestuous system of politics and money, and ultimately played a part in Harkinâ€™s introduction of the F.R.E.E.D. Act in the U.S. Senate. As bad as that looks, what the bill actually proposes to do is just as bad.
The act itself is only impressive in that it manages to hit the Liberal trifectaâ€”it is completely devoid of any traditionally rational Constitutional basis, it increases and empowers an unelected bureaucracy to spend our money, and is a blatant attempt to further grow the entitlement base (which we canâ€™t afford as it is now).
As the name suggests the stated mission of the bill is â€œto enhance and further research into the prevention and treatment of eating disorders, and for other purposesâ€. The bill opens with an assortment of claims and statistics meant to spur the reader into supporting its â€œheroicâ€ intentions. Included here is that, â€œestimates, based on current research, indicate that at least 5,000,000 people in the U.S suffer from eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and eating disorders not otherwise specifiedâ€ and â€œanecdotal evidence suggests that as many as 11,000,000 people in the U.S, including 1,000,000 males, may also suffer from these disordersâ€.
Naturally, the way this legislation would solve this problem is to create more agencies, throw an undisclosed amount of money around, and as mentioned above, amend and expand the Social Security Act of 1935 to ensure that we as taxpayers pay as much as possible in curing our fellow citizensâ€™ ills.
The additional bureaucracy it proposes creating would exist inside The Department of Health and Human Services and be namedâ€”I kid you notâ€”â€œThe Interagency Eating Disorder Councilâ€, and be funded from 2012 through 2016. To run this Council and to award grants (i.e. our tax dollars) would be the Director of The National Institute of Health, Francis S. Collins. His job would be to hand out money, as he saw fit, to various non-profits, colleges, State or local health departments, and community based organizations.
The bill states that the grant money is to be awarded for, among other things, the following reasons: to conduct a study regarding the economic costs of eating disorders that would â€œexamine years of productive life lost, missed days of work, reduced work productivity, costs of mental health treatment, costs to family, and costs to society as a result of eating disordersâ€. In addition, money would also be required to go to â€œpromoting positive body image development, positive self-esteem development, life skills that take into account cultural and developmental issues and the role of family, school, communities and the connection between emotional and physical health, and the prevention of bullying based on body size, shape, and weight.â€
In short it is an embodiment of the kind of financially irresponsible, Constitution-shredding, emotionally-driven, nanny-state legislation that modern day American liberals have become synonymous with.
When it comes to co-sponsor Sen. Franken, though Herbalife did throw him $250, my sense is that he is in it for the pure ideological benefit of expanding the entitlement baseâ€¦otherwise known as Section 938 of the F.R.E.E.D Act.
Section 938 is entitled â€œGrants to Support Patient Advocacyâ€, and would essentially require an unspecified amount of our tax dollars to be spent â€œdiagnosingâ€ people with eating disorders and enrolling them in Federal programs. In the bills words, the funds would be spent to â€œprovide education and outreach in community settings regarding eating disorders and associated health problems, especially among low-income, minority, and medically underserved populationsâ€, (Sect. 938(c)(1)); â€œproviding education and outreach regarding enrollment in health insurance, including enrollment in Medicare, Medicaid, and the Childrenâ€™s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)â€, (Sect. 938(c)(6)); and for, â€œIdentifying, referring, and enrolling underserved populations in the appropriate Health Care agencies and community based programs and organizations in order to increase access to high quality health care servicesâ€, (Sect. 938(c)(6)).
It has long been believed by liberals that the surest way to get to a single payer health care system is to get enough people dependent on the government for this service that the private insurance sector can no longer exist. My view is that Sen. Franken (and probably Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Harkin) wrote this part of the bill to hasten this process by further adding to the 16 million people that Obamacare is already slated to dump into Medicaid in the coming years.
Indeed this bill has a little something for everyone. The citizens among us deemed to have an eating disorder would get free medical attention, Herbalife International would be eligible to bill the Federal government for weight loss and eating disorder â€œtreatmentsâ€, Al Franken could successfully move us one step closer to socialized medicine, and Harkin, well he has already gained $137,916 in campaign contributions (no matter the ultimate fate of the bill).
Those left among us who still respect the Constitution and its clear vision of the role of Federal government know that somewhere along the way we have failed it. Every single element of this bill, from the spirit inÂ which it was offered, the language it contains, and the system it arose from is the epitome of this failure. I would argue that not only does this bill need to be stopped, but the institutionalized system of political donations from private companies needs to be abolished. Until such reform comes there will be no reprieve to the endless wave of disastrous special interest legislation that this bill represents.
It is we the American people that need to be F.R.E.E.D.
Harkin and Herbalife
Every reasonable American with a pulse knows that much of what goes on in the undercurrents of Washington D.C is disturbing. It is not often, however, that one proposed piece of legislation encapsulates nearly everything that is wrong in our Federal Government, unfortunately that is exactly the case with Senate file 481.
The name of this bill is the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders, or the F.R.E.E.D Act. It is sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), co-sponsored by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and was introduced in the Senate on March 3, 2011. If you have ever wondered what Tom Harkin and Al Franken have been up to lately you are about to find out not just the what, but more appallingly the why.
Before examining the wide ranging particulars of the bill, let us first take a look at a very suspicious factor in its originâ€” a company called Herbalife International.
Without getting too far into the maze of legislative language (though you are welcome to do just that by following the links), what this bill does is continue the re-write of The Social Security Act of 1935 that The Patient Protection And Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) began in 2010.
Specifically the F.R.E.E.D Act does the following:
â€¢ Redefines what our tax dollars can pay for by amending Sect.1905 of the Social Security Act (SSA) to add coverage forâ€”screening, counseling, and non-prescription drugs used in the treatment of eating disorders.
â€¢ Amends Sect. 1927(d)(2)(A) of the SSA by removing the restriction that specifically excludes payment forâ€”â€œagents when used for anorexia, weight loss, or weight gainâ€.
â€¢ Though it was passed only last year, amends Obamacare to include coverage for eating disorders treatment.
The effective implication of this, among other things, is that it would authorize Medicare and Medicaid pay-outs for over-the-counter drugs used in the â€œtreatmentâ€ of eating disorders. For a private company which sells such products this change in the law would represent nothing less than the Holy Grailâ€”government purchased sales.
In what would be a remarkable coincidence, Tom Harkinâ€™s biggest political contributor over the last 22 years is a company called Herbalife International. Not an agro products company, an insurance provider, or a labor union as you may suspect, Herbalife International is in fact a global nutrition and supplement company that specializes in â€œhealthyâ€ weight loss.
Herbalife International earns the distinction of becomingÂ Harkin’s biggest single donor by having given him a total of $137,916.00 since 1989. Between the years 2005-2010 they gave Harkin $55,606.00, a display of generosity which came after already having donated over $40,000.00 to him in the 2004 campaign cycle alone.
Some investigating shows that not only does Herbalife International have a wide range of products directly or indirectly tied to weight gain, weight loss, and eating disorders, but that the issue is oneÂ of aÂ deeply personal nature for the company. Herbalife was founded in 1980 by a man named Mark Hughes, now deceased, whose inspiration for starting the company was his belief that his mother died of an eating disorder and an â€œunhealthy approach to weight lossâ€.
While there is no way of knowing what they have in the future pipeline, the products they currently offer that directly relate to eating disorders include Zinc and Thiamine B1 supplements. The medical link lies in the fact that a person suffering from an eating disorder, by nature, has deficiencies of these compounds in their system, which supplements can effectively correct.
Illustrating the connection between nutritional supplements and eating disorder treatment is a report released by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London entitled â€œGuidelines for the nutritional management of anorexia nervosaâ€. One of many similar studies, it recommends that in planning the diet for a patient with anorexia, particular attention should be given to â€œthe need for long-term, well balanced vitamin and mineral supplementationâ€. It goes on to say that â€œA significant proportion of patients with anorexia nervosa are deficient in thiamine, and the increase in carbohydrate metabolism that occurs during re-feeding may exhaust inadequate thiamine reserves. The use of prophylactic thiamine supplements in oral form is recommended for in-patients and those undergoing rapid weight gainâ€.
In addition to the already defined role that supplements have in treating eating disorders with Zinc and Thiamine, there are ongoing studies looking at whether the lack of these in the body may actually cause the onset of eating disorders, opening the possibility that in the future such supplements may also be used in preventative care.
By all appearances what we have here is a major global company giving a U.S Senator over $90,000.00 in a seven year period and then being the beneficiary of a sweeping piece of legislation, sponsored by said Senator, which authorizes our government to pay for the companyâ€™s products.
It would be a mistake to conclude this is a simple case of a company giving a legislator money to be their puppet; in fact Tom Harkin has been one of Capital Hillâ€™s loudest advocates for alternative medicine and prevention for 20 years now. In 1992 he was primarily responsible for the Office of Alternative Medicine coming into existence, and in early 2009 said the following:
On several occasions, I have laid down a public marker, saying that if we pass a bill that greatly extends health insurance coverage but does nothing to create a dramatically stronger prevention and public health infrastructure and agenda, then we will have failed the American people.
Clearly he feels Obamacare has â€œfailed the American peopleâ€ and is proposing this bill to make it even more inclusive and expansive, which is certainly his prerogative.
Whether or not he has a genuine conviction on this issue, and frankly I believe he does, is beside the point. What is at issue here is that his largest political donor stands to make gigantic amounts of money should legislation that he proposed be signed into law.
Though we have allowed and accepted the institutional development of these types of relationships and practices, we as the American public have a right to know about them when they occur.
Note: Tom Harkinâ€™s Washington D.C office was contacted for comment and clarification regarding this story.Â So far they have provided neither, as soon as they do this story will be updated.
This is only one of many disturbing elements of this legislation.Â Here isÂ part two entitled: â€œThe Stench of Impropriety: Your Tax Dollars, Your Body Image, and The Government (Part 2 of 2)”, where many other provisions of this bill are examined, including Al Franken’s involvement.