From a historical vantage point, one of the most reliable indicators that some new area of endeavor has been identified by corporate America as fertile ground for monetization is when some mouthpiece representing the Federal government loudly and decisively announces America has “declared war” on something.

The War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, the War on Terror. Such declarations are essentially just a way of using PR spin and impressive language to frighten the public into opening the floodgates of government spending so some new sector of corporate America can line its pockets prolonging some problem, all to feed the profiteers of Wall Street. These “wars” always begin with the creation of special government task forces and think-tanks… yet interestingly enough, they always end with massive amounts of Federal tax dollars pouring into the coffers of private corporate contractors tasked with solving the problem. And as long as the money keeps flowing— perhaps not so surprisingly— the problem inexplicably remains as pervasive as ever, requiring ever-more money to feed a hungry new industry ostensibly dedicated to diminishing it.

One such “war declaration” that really sticks in my craw is the one announced in 1971 when President Nixon declared war “against cancer.” Back then we were told that if the National Cancer Institute was only given enough money—along with full autonomy as an independent institution that answers to virtually zero external authority— that cancer could be cured within a decade.

The National Cancer Institute’s budget is now close to 5 billion dollars a year, every year. And the American Cancer Society is now the world’s largest nonreligious charity, with its own budget of around 800 million dollars annually. But that’s okay, right? Because after all, who DOESN’T hate cancer?

The problem is that once given complete freedom to conquer cancer and an endless supply of ever-increasing funds, the battle against cancer became a business. An extremely PROFITABLE business. Forty years later and the quest to cure cancer has remained fixated on damage control— screening, diagnosis, long and short term treatment, and study of the molecular biology of cancerous disease. But no one seems all that interested in prioritizing the one thing that could make a serious dent in cancer statistics—prevention.

In fact if one pays close attention, it seems obvious that the American Cancer Society isn’t really all that concerned with preventing people from getting the disease— or at least they don’t seem eager to sink too much of their massive budget into the effort. That’s because the main leadership inside the National Cancer Institute is made up of scientists, surgeons, radiologists, oncologists, and professionals whose chief business is the TREATMENT of cancer. They aren’t very interested in preventing it and they refuse to get involved with any regulatory action to prevent people from contracting it, insisting it’s not really “their responsibility.” But the government regulatory agencies who MAKE the preventative regulatory laws depend on the National Cancer Institute for scientific research and recommendations as to the best course of action in fighting the “war on cancer,” even though there seems to be an incredibly strong conflict of interest within the industries involved with cancer treatment. The more people who contract cancer, the more patients there are in need of treatment… ridiculously expensive, long-term treatment. Treatment that always seems to continue in full force— whether successful or not— just as long at the patient’s medical insurance continues to fund it.

So many past presidents of the American Cancer Society were radiologists with close ties (even shared business interests) with the medi-cancer and cancer drug industries— as well as having uncomfortably close relationships with a wide range of other corporate industries— that charity watchdog The Chronicle of Philanthropy has noted on more than one occasion that the American Cancer Society seems more interested in accumulating wealth than saving lives.

Don’t call it “the War on Cancer.” Just call it what it really is: Cancer Incorporated.

Industry always wins. People always lose.