Will America’s Obesity Epidemic Help Make Social Security More Solvent?

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Joanne Butler
Former Staffer, House Ways and Means Committee
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      Joanne Butler

      Joanne Butler is a senior economics fellow at the Caesar Rodney Institute of Delaware. You can email her at joanne-butler@comcast.net.

Seriously, our rising obesity rates translate into more people who are likely to develop diabetes – a chronic condition. Obesity also is a major cause of kidney disease according to the CDC, which also estimates about one in six African Americans has signs of kidney disease – an astonishing figure.

Maybe that’s why Warren Buffett increased his investment in DaVita Healthcare Partners last year: it operates a large chain of kidney dialysis centers. It seems Buffett’s not optimistic about First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts to change America’s eating habits.

I’m not an actuary, but my guess is in the coming decades Americans might live a bit longer. But if they do, it won’t be by much due to our obesity situation. And that extra bit of longevity likely won’t be enough to trigger major overhauls in the Social Security retirement program.

However, the medical costs related to care of the obese will be significant (just ask Warren Buffett), and the related policy implications far surpass concerns over the robustness of Social Security’s retirement trust fund in 2044.

So go ahead and eat a bag of Cheetos, Mr. Biggs. It may help distract you from your worries over Social Security’s future.