November 27, 2009

What is the Most Unhealthy Food in America?

Are you wondering what's the most high-calorie, high-fat chain restaurant appetizer in the United States? Meet the Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch Dressing! Even if you split this so-called "starter" with three of your best friends, you'll have devoured an entire meal's worth of calories before your main course even arrives. If you munch the whole thing yourself, you get 2,900 calories, 182 grams of fat and 240 carbs. If you follow your cheese fries with a steak, sides, and a dessert, you could easily break the 3,500 calorie barrier. Incidentally, Food and Drug Administration nutrition information is based on a 2,000 calories per day diet, which is already more than some people need.

So what can you do if you suddenly find yourself seated at an Outback Steakhouse table? Try to start your meal with a protein-based dish that's not deep-fried. A high-protein starter can diminish hunger without putting you into calorie overload. At Outback, that translates into either the Seared Ahi or the Shrimp on the Barbie.

November 10, 2009

U.S. Health Care Overhaul Underway

"Being a woman is no longer a preexisting condition." --Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House

The United States House of Representatives passed a sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system. The vote for the Democratic plan, 220 to 215, had the support of one Republican, while 39 Democrats joined most Republicans in opposition. This is the furthest any such legislation has reached.

Health insurance is currently the only industry in the United States that is exempt from the nation's anti-trust laws. That means that health insurance companies can legally engage in price-fixing, resulting in a lack of competition, and higher prices for customers. With health care costs sky-high, health insurance is a necessity rather than a luxury for Americans, making health insurance a very lucrative business, and one that does not act in the best interests of citizens.

The House Democrats' plan would mandate that most employers provide affordable health insurance to their workers and would lower costs. It also requires people who are not insured through their employers to buy coverage, and it expands government programs to help them pay for that coverage. A public alternative to private health insurance is still being deliberated. Perhaps most importantly, the bill prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to people based on pre-existing conditions, and includes other insurance industry regulations and reforms to protect the interests of citizens.

November 6, 2009

GDP May Not Guarantee Prosperity

The 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index has identified Finland as the "world's most prosperous nation." Finland's average per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is the equivalent of US$36,900. That's only the 16th highest GDP in the world. So, if 15 countries currently have a higher GDP but don't measure up in terms of individual prosperity and quality of life, what is Finland doing right? Well, the nation scores significantly higher in public health services, good government, and personal freedom, demonstrating that these factors may outweigh income as drivers of prosperity.

The 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index is currently the world's only global assessment of wealth and well-being. The Index finds that the most prosperous nations in the world are not necessarily those that have only a high GDP, but are those that also have happy, healthy, and free citizens. Now in its third year, the Index builds on the previous versions with expanded data and refined analysis and assesses 104 nations covering 90 percent of the world’s population.

The top 10 countries are: 1)  Finland  2) Switzerland  3) Sweden 4) Denmark  5) Norway  6) Australia 7) Canada  8) Netherlands  9) United States  10) New Zealand

The bottom 10 countries are: 95) Kenya  96) Algeria  97) Tanzania  98) Nigeria  99) Pakistan  100) Cameroon  101) Central African Republic  101) Yemen   103) Sudan  104) Zimbabwe 

The Legatum Institute is an independent research, policy, and advocacy organization that promotes political, economic and individual liberty in the developing and transitioning world.

November 4, 2009

For Profit Higher Education: Profits and Problems

Allegations are mounting against the largest for-profit post-secondary school of them all: The University of Phoenix. For-profit schools get much of their revenue from federal student aid, designed to rise with tuition. The higher the tuition costs, the higher the federal student aid awards, and the higher the profits for the school. They also face accusations of building enrollments through high-pressure tactics that leave students buried deep in student loan debt.

While most businesses are trying to dig themselves out of a recession, the for-profit higher education industry is doing very well for itself. Enrollment is up 20%, profits are up, and there are big problems. The biggest for-profit schools get most of their revenue from federal student aid, and particularly from student loans. They keep the billions of dollars their customers borrow to pay tuition. The University of Phoenix is the biggest for-profit school, and possibly the best known. Now, some questionable practices are becoming known. A few years ago, U. of Phoenix paid the U.S. federal government $10 million over accusations about its high-pressure recruiting tactics.