Friday, April 8, 2011

Mental and Political Delusion

Photo taken at rally in Concord, 3/31/11
Photo take at rally in Concord, 3/31/11
(A version of the following essay was published yesterday in the Concord Monitor.

Code Blue

A team of doctors is called in for an emergency intervention. The patient is a middle aged female from an affluent family. Except for a long battle with Anorexia Nervosa, she is in excellent health.  However, her condition has recently taken a turn for the worse and without a successful intervention, she will have to be hospitalized. And that would be bad news because the long-term mortality of such patients is over 10%.

Anorexia Nervosa is a baffling disorder that is difficult to comprehend in rational terms. The official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) provides a succinct summary of its most salient characteristics:

The essential features of Anorexia Nervosa are that the individual refuses to maintain a minimally normal body weight, is intensely afraid of gaining weight, and exhibits a significant disturbance in the perception of her size (she perceives herself as grossly fat when, in fact, she is but skin and bones).

Usually weight loss is accomplished primarily through reduction in total food intake but the individual often begins excluding foods they perceive to be high calorie and end up with a very restricted diet consisting of only a few foods.

Worse yet, the individual’s intense fear of gaining weight is not alleviated by losing weight. In fact, concern about weight gain often increases even as actual weight continues to decrease.

Obsessive-compulsive features are often prominent. Most individuals with Anorexia Nervosa are so preoccupied with thoughts about eating that they hoard recipes and food.

Other features sometimes associated with Anorexia nervosa include a strong need to control one’s environment, inflexible thinking, and limited social spontaneity.

The prognosis of the patient in question is poor because, unfortunately, she exhibits acute and severe symptoms in all realms of the disorder.  But you haven’t heard the worst of it yet: this isn’t a simple intervention against a single individual but involves an entire state. The patient I am describing is New Hampshire herself.   All of Her. Or should I say, what is left of her?

Think about it. All one has to do is substitute the word tax for food and the analogy fits perfectly. By restricting her intake of money (taxes) and focusing only on cutting what some say is "fat" in the budget, Miss New Hampshire is starving herself. She is becoming anorexic.

Her very restricted diet consists primarily of property taxes which provides over 60% of her caloric intake (as opposed to 30% in most states) which is clearly insufficient to maintain her health while, at the same time, unfairly burdening working and poor folks.

And even though Miss New Hampshire is one of the richest states in the union with one of the lowest per capita tax rates, she – with classic anorexic delusional fervor – refuses all high caloric foods (like broad-based taxes) which would restore her health while spreading the burden to include the affluent so they could pay their fair share.

Furthermore, even though governor Lynch has already submitted a draconian budget with big-time dieting, Miss New Hampshire, – like the true anorexic she is – rather than being placated, is now even more obsessed about the fear of gaining weight when, in fact, the opposite is true.

Stranger yet, a CAT scan of Miss New Hampshire’s brain reveals a strange anomaly: a majority of her brain has turned red, aggravating her already existing Anorexia Nervosa characteristics of needing to control her environment without listening to input from others, inflexible thinking, and limited social spontaneity.

We are reaching a point of no return.

Miss New Hampshire may need to be hospitalized because she is becoming a danger to herself: if she follows through with her crash diet she will threaten the most vulnerable parts of her body: the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill and children.

At the same time, Her refusal to eat threatens to mutate her DNA, destroying essential qualities we need for future generations to thrive: critical benchmarks like good education for all children, no matter where they live, and a safe and secure workforce with guaranteed rights to participate in decision making at the work place.

Like an Anorexic person crumbling up her grocery list and refusing to go to the store, New Hampshire is slashing the safety net we all need to protect us when things go wrong.

Who would have guessed that Anorexia Nervosa is rapidly becoming the new New Hampshire Advantage: Live free or starve.


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