The political roots of American obesity

E. Douglas Kihn writes: Remember when Reagan was elected in 1980? He came in just at the beginning of the recession of 1981, when thousands of Americans suddenly found their incomes slashed or eliminated. His administration soon took on the unions, with the aim of breaking them. The first famous victim was PATCO – the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization.

On August 3, 1981, the union declared a strike, seeking better working conditions, better pay and a 32-hour workweek. On August 5, following the PATCO workers’ refusal to return to work, Reagan fired the 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored the order and banned them from federal service for life. PATCO was decertified from its right to represent workers by the Federal Labor Relations Authority on October 22, 1981.

From that time onwards, American unions have taken a savage beating to the point where only 7 percent of private enterprises are unionized today, and public service union employees – teachers, nurses, office workers, firefighters – are fighting everywhere to keep their jobs and unions.

It was during Reagan’s first term that the phrase bean counter came into prominent usage. These were the efficiency experts whose job it was to increase profits for the major corporations, mainly by introducing speedups, job consolidations, forced overtime, the hiring of part-time workers – along with artful and ruthless union-busting.

This was also the beginning of the “War on Iran,” the “War on Drugs,” the war against the people of Nicaragua and El Salvador (all of them Marxists doubtless bent on rampaging through the streets of US cities) and a dangerous escalation of threats against the Soviet Union/Evil Empire.

As social fear and insecurity rise, mental health declines.

Apparently, so does physical health. According to a new study from Rice University and the University Colorado at Boulder in Social Science Quarterly, despite modest gains in lifespan over the past century, the United States still trails many of the world’s countries when it comes to life expectancy, and its poorest citizens live approximately five years less than more affluent people. The United States, which spends far more money on medical care than other advanced industrialized countries, has the sickest residents in every category of unwellness.

The result of all of this hysteria and whip-cracking on the backs of the American workforce is that we feel harried and harassed, with little reward to show for it. Mental health has been worsening for a long time in the United States, and this mental decline has been the culprit behind so many – probably the majority – of physical health problems as well. One of them, as we shall see later, is obesity.

Chinese medicine can help to make sense of most mental and physical problems in the United States and organize them into three main categories: those of chronic tension, excessive interior heat and excess weight. Together, they form a super-syndrome some would call the American Syndrome, since it seems to be a universal phenomenon. [Continue reading…]

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