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Hunger pains in the US

By Noigroup HQ Science and the world 26 Sep 2013
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I am looking forward to teaching Explain Pain courses in Dallas, Boston and Atlanta in Feb 2014. Before I travel overseas I like to get a feel of the country’s mood – something I find a challenge in the US as sometimes I think it’s made up of at least 6 different countries. I look for issues and policies that may influence pain and stress. I have just become aware of a policy that will influence pain and which I, as an outsider, just don’t comprehend. Last week the Republican dominated House passed a bill depriving nearly 4 million people of food assistance next year. It has been noted that this is almost the same number of people who have kept above the poverty line because of that aid. I also don’t understand why Republican supporters inflict this pain on themselves – in 254 counties where food stamp use doubled in the recent economic troubles, Mitt Romney won 213 of them (Egan, T 2013, 21-22 September International Herald Tribune). Being left out of society, lack of nutrition and stresses of poverty are known negative influences on pain. One in four Americans and Australians have ongoing pain.

I am sure that there are two sides to this story. I would be grateful if our American readers could explain this. Especially as it comes at a time when the US economy is the rise agian – for example I have just read in “The Economist”  that 9 of the world’s 10 biggest companies were American – there were only 3 in the top 10 in 2009. Thanks

– David Butler

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  1. G’day David,
    I don’t profess to understand America but there are a couple of recent books that discuss the underlying philosophies that appear to be influential – The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt and Justice by Michael Sandel.
    Dipping into them might help pass the time on that long flight.

  2. David,

    There are many of us here in America who are just as perplexed about this as you are.


  3. Yo David,

    Don’t try to figure us out. There is a craziness that comes from everyone talking only to those who have the same ideas. There are groups who don’t usually drink tea but use it as part of their names who are not much different from other fanatics who drape themselves in the flag, religion, etc., Generally it is really a cover for fear of change, others, and loss of status. I think that big island down south is demonstrating many of the same tendencies. I think your most election bodes similar tendencies. johnb

  4. Thanks – I think it’s important to try and understand your friends so they stay friends. Sure- there is much change afoot in Australia with a new liberal (republican like) government but I don’t this we have anything like this policy, yet.

    Per year, chronic pain in the US costs more than double the cost of running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think this policy will add significantly to the cost.

    Just seeking understanding. Maybe we are more tribal than we think?


  5. Here in the US we definitely have a problem. The unfortunate reality is that many people are needy in this country and that they do not receive the benefit they need from either political party. The republicans typically get blamed for hurting the poor while the democrats are proclaimed as their champions. In most cases, neither of these things are entirely true.

    Allow me to explain:

    Republicans more often than not will try to help the rich while forgetting about the poor. However, I think many in this party are appalled by the things that have been said and done by the party leaders. Overall, the republican focus is to limit the amount of spending, to alleviate burden on the national debt (which has been out of control for far too long) and to limit tax burden on the public. I think most republicans are not like Mitt Romney (who isn’t concerned with 47% of the country), but rather simply wish to see us do more with less public funding.

    Democrats on the other hand will often try improve social programs (such as food aid), and increase federal spending. While the thought behind these programs are often good, in their effort to please everyone, they often overextend the government, and end up hurting someone. An example of this would be food aid that goes to families below the poverty line, but increases taxes on the families just above the poverty line. The result is more food and more poverty.

    Both of these examples are highlighted by the government shutdown debate raging right now. Republicans wish to dismantle the health care law which will increase access to health care for millions. Democrats have pushed this bill as the solution to all the health care problems. Both parties are wrong. There are millions who need access to health care and will not get it without a reform bill, but the current bill does not address any of the common pitfalls in our system which currently drive the high costs.

    Examples of this include unnecessary medical tests, scans and surgeries for individuals with low back pain, when the literature supports more conservative approaches. Meanwhile democrats can claim to be the heroes of the poor, and the republicans can claim to be the victims, and we still have a major healthcare problem in this country. For more info specific to the health care bill and issues check out the Bitter Pill article that was in TIME magazine earlier this year.

    All in all, our government spends too much money and does too little with it. I hope this provides some clarity for your upcoming trip.

  6. Thanks Patrick,
    That helps – complex isn’t it? It seems that the majority of health practitioners want to practice more evidence based practice except those blinded by vested interest. However government either does not have the guts, capacity or knowledge to do it? Throwing money at health is not necessarily the answer either.


  7. I was just getting some understanding of the issues and now there is a government shutdown!! Does this affect health at all?


    1. Yo David,

      It doesn’t really affect health care unless you are poor. As a matter of fact, the people most directly ( except for government workers who are not getting paid) affected are the poor, as usual. This is just absolute insanity. To think about this and then try to explain this to someone outside or inside the US occupies much too much of my neural bandwidth and emotional energy. It is partisan silliness mixed with an almost pathological hatred of the President.

  8. I like your question. Americans are tearing America apart. It is a profound tragedy. Fear, greed, lack of education, ignorance, arrogance, selfishness, and a few extremely wealthy people, are literally threatening our way of life. We have many middle class and poor people who have lost their jobs, and homes, and are struggling to find healthcare. Everyone is affected, except those who can afford to buy their own cocoon.
    In terms of pain: if emotional, physical, cognitive, and financial pain, and the loss of a feeling of trust and wholeness are processed similarly, then whether or not there is a cumulative effect, I think most Americans are feeling pain. The accumulation of pains seems to be spreading over all of us.
    There is a new movie about Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. It is called Inequality for All. He does an excellent job of explaining our money policies and our economy, which is the cause of much of the pain many Americans feel.
    But, I learned in Explain Pain, pain rarely or never originates where we feel and think it is. It feels and looks like the cause of our pain is the economy. Money is a fertile landscape for acting out pains that may originate elsewhere.

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