BACK IN 1932, J. Wellington Wimpy of Popeye fame made the now famous offer “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday, for a hamburger today.” Wimpy was slightly ahead of his time.

If Mr. Wimpy was to make that offer today, it might be “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday, for a super-sized bacon cheeseburger, large order of fries and an extra-large soda.”

It says two things about current Americans. One, we have an unhealthy diet loaded with fat, sugar, salt, calories and preservatives. Two, we can’t pay our bills until some later time.

Our appetite for food and credit is insatiable. They are available everywhere. It makes you wonder why so many people are food insecure.

We can’t control our temptation for food because it is readily available and we like to celebrate every special occasion with a feast of delicious goodies. We discard more food than billions of people have available.

Many Americans are engaged in the battle of the bulge and they are losing. We have so many tasty options morning, noon and night. We wash all that delicious food down with drinks packed with sugar.

As a result we have enormous, expensive health issues. As a country, we have a high rate of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other life-altering problems. We are blessed to have such an array of foods to choose from, but we make unhealthy choices.

Second, our economy is addicted to easy credit. Make no mistake about it, a reasonable dependence on credit is an acceptable thing, but a majority of people are allowing themselves to be engulfed in debt and are suffocated by spending credit.

Maybe that’s why we are having such a hard time dealing with the problem as a nation? We see massive debt on the national, state and local levels.

It affects individuals, businesses and governments. It is hard to say how much debt is too much debt, but we know we are approaching the tipping point. We don’t want to face the consequences, so we just kick the can down the road.

As with most addictions, it is very hard to change our bad habits. What if I borrow too much money and can’t pay it back? We love to eat and we like to have good things now, so what if I put on an extra 20 or 50 pounds?

If I develop health problems, my doctor will give me drugs to deal with them. If my joints or organs fail, I can have surgery to replace them. If I can’t pay my credit card bills, I’ll just file bankruptcy. No one wants to take personal responsibility. That’s a scary thought.



* * *

WHAT’S THE answer to paying for pricey new gene therapies? We’re dealing with a difficult ethical dilemma and advocacy groups say there are no perfect solutions. When it comes to finding a COVID-19 vaccine, many officials say it should be made available to everyone at no charge.

But what about the Novartis AG lifesaving treatment aimed at babies called Zolgensma® which is a one-shot cure for a deadly inherited disease whose victims cannot control their muscles? It is approved for sale in the United States at a price of $2.1 million. It is the world’s most expensive drug.

Novartis would like to offer a limited number of treatments to spinal muscular atrophy patients outside the United States via a lottery, but officials cannot agree on the rules for this “compassionate use” program. Novartis feels it could offer about 100 free doses a year.

In Europe alone, about 1,600 children are thought to have the most severe form of spinal muscular atrophy, known as Type 1. Gene therapies require specialized manufacturing. Zolgensma is one of the first in a new wave of so-called gene therapies that promise to cure certain inherited diseases in a single treatment.

A rival treatment called Spinraza® requires a lifelong commitment costing $750,000 for the first year and then, $375,000 for each year thereafter. Researchers are finding new gene therapies all the time, but they also come with staggering costs.