AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump released a new video as part of his “Agenda47” platform, outlining plans to tackle the “unexplained and alarming growth in the prevalence of chronic illnesses and health problems, especially in children” if he is re-elected president in 2024.
While Democrat and Republican politicians and the mainstream media have almost completely ignored this issue, it is surely one that will resonate with the American people if Trump continues to press it. In taking up the cause, Trump is also channeling another populist conservative icon from a century ago – Teddy Roosevelt – who shared a similar commitment to consumer protection.
“We’ve seen a stunning rise in autism, auto-immune disorders, obesity, infertility, serious allergies, and respiratory challenges,” Trump said in the two-minute clip. “It’s time to ask, ‘What is going on?’”
That seemingly simple yet vitally important question is one that political and cultural elites have ignored for far too long.
In the United States, childhood obesity has tripled since the late 1970s, and kids are more anxious and depressed than ever before. The numbers of Americans diagnosed with asthma and allergies have increased by 43 percent and 30 percent, respectively, since 1999, while the U.S. population has only increased by about 17 percent.
A wide-ranging study published last November also found that average sperm counts worldwide have dropped nearly 52 percent over the past 50 years – a literally existential problem for the human race.
All of this points to an undeniable conclusion that every politician should be talking about: The United States is the wealthiest and most advanced country in human history, and yet its people are becoming more unhealthy with each passing year.
But, as Trump astutely identifies, the people charged with investigating and addressing these alarming trends have glaring conflicts of interest when it comes to the factors that may be adversely affecting Americans’ health: “Too often our public health establishment is too close to Big Pharma, big corporations, and other special interests and does not want to ask the tough questions about what is happening to our children’s health.”
Again, Trump has highlighted a serious problem that the establishment in both parties has ignored for decades – a problem that is directly related to the unchecked growth of the regulatory state and the fact that government agencies have become unaccountable to the American people.
In 2021, for instance, close to 45 percent of the FDA’s funding came directly from companies it was supposed to be regulating in the form of “user fees” that have effectively become bribes for the FDA to approve drugs. An NPR analysis from 2016 found that more than 25 percent of FDA employees who “approved cancer and hematology drugs from 2001 through 2010 left the agency and now work or consult for pharmaceutical companies” – a revolving door that should raise the eyebrows of even the most credulous.
To remedy this, Trump promised to create a presidential commission of “independent minds” charged with investigating the root causes of the rise in chronic illness and then delivering a set of recommendations on how to ensure “every American child has a safe and healthy childhood.”
“This is a conversation that is long overdue, and it is a conversation American families deserve,” Trump concluded.
Trump’s promise to crack down on powerful corporations for endangering public health immediately calls to mind President Theodore Roosevelt’s similar efforts in the early 20th century, in particular his battle with the meat-packing industry.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the public became increasingly aware of horrid conditions inside meat processing plants, especially in Chicago packinghouses. In one particularly disastrous incident, U.S. troops serving in Cuba during the Spanish-American War were provided tins of rotten canned beef filled with harmful chemical preservatives. Many grew ill and several died as a result.
Works like Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle helped elevate the issue further. In 1906, President Roosevelt formed a special commission to investigate the Chicago slaughterhouses, which released a report confirming the horrors Sinclair had written about.
The report led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act later that year. The legislation outlawed false cures for ailments like cancer and tuberculosis which were popular at the time and mandated the accuracy of ingredient labels on foods.
The result was a win-win for consumers and businesses. The country saw a dramatic decline in food-borne illnesses, people were able to purchase higher-quality goods, and companies saw their sales increase as a result of higher consumer confidence.
The health crises facing the country today are similarly daunting to the one that faced Americans in Roosevelt’s time. But as his example shows, a bold and determined leader who isn’t afraid to take on rich and powerful corporate interests can end decades of inaction and create a better future.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @ShaneHarris513.
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