Stomach aches, sore throats, and hacking coughs are standard excuses for calling in sick, but a recent report released by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts hints that employees’ obesity may soon make the list.Using data from only a handful of companies in Texas, the study claims that obese employees cost state businesses billions, mostly in the form of health care bills, decreased productivity, and absenteeism. As a means of addressing the issue, the report concludes: “Ultimately, of course, only the individual can be held accountable for the lifestyle choices he or she makes.”But take this lip-service statement with a grain of salt (before sodium becomes a controlled substance).The main author of the paper, Susan Combs, hardly has a track record of championing personal responsibility. As a former Texas agricultural commissioner, her policy initiatives like state-wide school cupcake bans and french fry fines gave credence to her self-proclaimed nickname of “food czarina.”The nutrition-based mission of the agriculture department offered her free rein to conduct her obesity witch hunt. But despite a recent change in job title — from Ag Commissioner to Comptroller — her new department’s report is proof that her single-minded focus on the state’s waistlines has not changed.Representing a hodgepodge of unrelated statistics, the study is a political concoction, which would never pass the scrutiny of the scientific community. The authors consecutively build the economic cost of obesity by adding separate calculations from unrelated studies.Not only are their methods unscrupulous, they are also inaccurate. The same approach employed by the study could be used to claim that two of the L.A. Lakers’ starting five players must be short, by applying statistics from a study which found that 40 percent of men in California were less than 6 feet tall.
Calling In Fat