[Paleopsych] Gary North: Chips, Dips, And Red Ink
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Sun Jan 23 18:29:54 UTC 2005
Chips, Dips, And Red Ink
Gary North's REALITY CHECK
Issue 401 December 2, 2004
The unfunded liability of Medicare and Social Security
is in the range of $45 trillion. By 2008, it will be over
$51 trillion. (See Table 1 at the bottom of this
testimony: http://snipurl.com/b0ls.) Most of this
shortfall -- 86% -- is Medicare-related. Congress is doing
nothing to deal with this looming crisis. The Bush
Administration pushed through a huge prescription benefit
law, which will speed up the fiscal erosion process.
Meanwhile, as a people, we are eating our way to
The holiday season is the time to consider this
problem. Call it a pre-emptive attack against January's
"Frontline" recently re-ran a show that it first
broadcast on PBS in April, 2004: "Diet Wars."
(http://snipurl.com/b0nb) It surveyed the various popular
weight-loss diets, which are in conflict: Atkins, Pritikin,
South Beach, Weight Watchers, the U.S. government's food
group pyramid, and a few others. They all have one thing
in common: most fat people do not stick with them.
According to one of the physicians interviewed, a Pritikin
man, between 80% and 95% of people who lose weight gain it
back in five years. So, Pareto's 20-80 law rules in
weight-loss, too. The statistical range of those who keep
the weight off is between 20% and 20% of 20% (4%).
The narrator of the show was also the central figure.
He had been a child actor on "Leave It to Beaver." He was
putting on weight. His wife had been nagging him to change
his eating habits for years. At the time the taping began,
he was age 55, 5-11, and 210 pounds. A physician told him
he was borderline obese. Well, he was not waist-line
obese. You would not have noticed him in a crowd. There
was only a trace of belly on him.
This leads me to a preliminary conclusion:
nutritionists are making it up as they go along. They
don't know. When I was a child, physicians had no training
in nutrition. They ignored the subject. When I was in my
twenties, they were dead set against the health food
industry. They were insistent that the Shute brothers,
the two Canadian physicians/nutritionists, were all wrong
about vitamin E vs. heart disease. Today they recommend E,
but none of them seems to remember the Shutes and the war
against them. (http://snipurl.com/b0nk) In short,
physicians get caught up in fads, just like millions of
other Americans do. Fads come and go.
One of the experts interviewed insisted that there is
an epidemic of obesity among Americans. (This phrase has
become a rhetorical epidemic.) She said that increased
weight "is associated with" -- note: she did not say
"causes" -- heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. She
warned that this epidemic will overwhelm the health care
delivery system. I have no doubt that she is correct. The
American health-care system is increasingly funded by, and
regulated by, the U.S. government. It is slowly turning
into something resembling the Post Office.
What is going to overwhelm the system is extended old
age. Americans -- victims of a pandemic -- are living far
longer than ever before. Degenerative diseases rather than
pneumonia are killing us. Unlike pneumonia, which would
come without warning and kill an old person within a few
days, degenerative diseases cost a fortune to treat over
long periods of time. The government has promised to pick
up the tab. That means you and I will write the checks.
Anyway, you will. At my age, I'm planning to be the
middleman between you, the government, and my physician.
Years ago, the late Redd Foxx made a sagacious
observation: "I feel sorry for all those health food
people. Someday, they will be lying in a hospital bed,
dying of nothing." His point was on target: something is
going to kill us. It's not that we willingly "give up the
ghost." Something kills us: a fall, a disease, an auto
accident, re-runs of "That 70s Show."
This raises three statistically inevitable political
questions: (1) Will the onslaught against all of us by
microbes, known and unknown, bankrupt the government? (2)
Will it instead produce a political transformation that
saves the government's budget by requiring oldsters to die
at home in their beds at their families' expense? (3)
First one, then the other?
Government is reactionary. It changes only when
change is forced on it, either by voters or special-
interest groups. So, for as long as the post-64 voting
bloc gets out the vote in statistically significant
numbers, Congress is not going to change Medicare. But, at
some point, in a fiscal crisis, the other voting blocs will
unite, show up at the polls, and send Granny home to her
bed to die. It will take a very severe fiscal crisis to
produce this transformation. I may not live to see it. I
hope I do.
We are eating our way to national bankruptcy. Those
who eat, drink, and are merry, for tomorrow Medicare picks
up the tab, are going to be sorely tried.
MURDER ON AISLE 6
The medical refrain today is this: "America is
suffering from an epidemic of obesity." The experts don't
want to put the blame where the blame is: the enormous
productivity of capitalism. Americans have a lot of money,
and food is cheap. The restraining factor of economic
scarcity, which kept most people slim from the dawn of the
human race, is being rolled back. We can afford to eat
what we like, and what we like is not good for a lot of us.
If you want a symbol of this, think of Wal-Mart's
masked smiley face. He is rolling back prices. But that
round face is a tip-off. This guy is fat. Why, that's not
Don Diego behind the mask. It's Sergeant Garcia!
The biggest profit in groceries is in the packaged,
processed foods. Here's the rule: "If it's in a brightly
colored package, it's going to make you fat." In the
supermarket, stick with the food that is uncovered --
fruits, vegetables -- or packaged in undistinguished
plastic or cardboard: meats, dairy products, eggs.
Stay away from the aisles with food types listed on
overhead signs. These aisles will kill you.
Will the State protect us? Hardly. The public
schools make a bundle of money from the sale of soft
drinks. They refuse to remove the soda pop dispensers.
The government's number-one agency in our lives,
kindergarten through graduate school, has put cash flow
above service to the people. Somehow, I am not surprised.
The problem is, the foods that are best for us are
bland, common, and very price competitive -- low profit
margins per sale. The tasty foods are fattening. So it
has always been. But in eras gone by, people were not
productive enough and therefore rich enough, to indulge
their tastes. Henry VIII was, but that was because he was
Today, we eat like kings. We are beginning to look
like them, too.
In 1981, I heard a speech by John Noble. Noble had
been visiting his family in Germany in December, 1941, when
Hitler declared war on the United States, so Noble was
unable to return to the United States. He was in Dresden
in 1945 during the horrendous allied firebombing. In that
year, the Soviets sent him to Siberia. Talk about being in
the wrong place at the wrong time!
He said the Russians fed the inmates mostly bread and
water, but the bread was Russian black bread. The inmates
were put to work in the mines. He said that when he was
released in 1955, he was in the best health of his life.
He was slim. He was in shape. The cheap, unprocessed
bread had sustained him. So had the work in the mines. He
complained in 1981 about putting on weight.
That's what the free market does to people. It lets
them eat what they want.
One of the experts interviewed on "Frontline" said
that nothing is going to change in the fast food industry
until the government forces companies to serve food that is
good for us.
What we need, obviously, is black bread and daily
exercise. There are those who would support such
If you want one memorable image of what has happened
to us, think back three decades, if you are old enough.
There was a TV commercial for Lays potato chips. Burt
Lahr, once the cowardly lion, was dressed in a devil's
suit. He held a bag of Lays potato chips in one hand and a
single chip in the other. He uttered the classic line:
"Betcha can't eat just one!"
He has won the bet. Millions of Americans have lost
HOW SWEET IT ISN'T
The Atkins people tell you to cut back on carbs. The
Pritikin people tell you to cut back on fats. The Weight
Watchers people tell you to cut back on calories. But
there is universal agreement on one thing: cut back on
Dr. Arthur Robinson is famous for his home school
curriculum and his opposition to the Kyoto Treaty on carbon
dioxide emissions. Three decades ago, he was Linus
Pauling's senior researcher and fund-raiser. He is a
gifted direct-mail marketer. He ran a small display ad in
"The Wall Street Journal" with a great headline: "We're
bearish on sugar and bullish on Vitamin C."
He is a fanatic about sugar. He never fed his
children refined sugar. All of them are grown. They all
avoid it today. All of them are slender. All of them are
healthy. So is he. He let them eat unprocessed grains.
He developed a multi-grain bread recipe for maximum
nutrition and minimum cost. The family runs a sheep ranch,
along with running a biological research center and a
publishing mini-empire: CD-ROM curriculum, "Access to
Energy" newsletter, and G. A. Henty's books for boys. The
Robinsons are not vegetarians. But they are absolute
abstainers when it comes to anything with processed sugar.
In 1948, I was a sickly child. I suffered from
chronic bronchitis. My mother took me to a clinic run by
the first prominent nutritionist physician, Francis
Pottenger. He put me on a diet that he had developed. His
diet fattened up scrawny people, and it slimmed down fat
people. It was heavy on beef, unprocessed grains, and
vegetables. Processed cereals were out; wheat cereal
cooked overnight was in. The diet also included certified
raw whole milk with cream on the top: fat city! But
Pottenger was death on sugar.
He got me to shake hands on a deal. I agreed not to
eat sweets, except for one scoop of ice cream per week. He
was no fool. He knew that no kid was likely to go cold
turkey on all sweets. No mother could police a child that
closely. So, he left me an out: that lonely scoop of ice
cream. He got me to promise to keep to the schedule: self-
discipline. I kept my end of the bargain. I would not eat
cake at birthday parties. I would eat one scoop of ice
He also put me on an exercise program. My parents
bought me barbells and a back-yard jungle gym. I had to do
chin-ups every other day and lift barbells on the other
It was an Atkins-type diet: lots of red meat, dairy
fat allowed. It allowed carbs, but they had to be natural
grains -- no processed flour. I did get a little
unpackaged brown raw sugar for my cereal. I know my mother
did keep raw sugar around. But no white sugar for me.
In 18 months, I got well. The coughing went away. I
gained weight. Basically, I have never been seriously sick
again, except for a gall bladder flare-up in 2001. I have
never again had a weight problem, thin or fat.
My diet at ages 6 and 7 set my eating habits for a
lifetime: little sugar, very few processed grains, and meat
-- mainly beef and chicken. I eat two eggs a day. I have
not been good about eating vegetables, although I've begun
to change that. As for exercise, I'm a bona fide couch
potato. It's not good for me, I'm sure. I'm going to
start an exercise program. Real Soon Now.
FATS GOLDBERG'S SOLUTION
Larry "Fats" Goldberg wrote a diet book, "Controlled
Cheating" in 1985. Alzheimer's killed him at age 69 in
2003. Weight didn't.
He was 160 pounds. For 5 feet 6, that's not too bad.
But it was half his weight at the time when he finally
decided he was going to die if he didn't change his eating
He had tried diets. They had failed. He just could
not bring himself to give up the foods he loved. But then
he got a flash of insight. He would not give them up. He
would postpone them. So, he went on a crash diet. After
three weeks, he went off the diet for one day. He ate
whatever he wanted. Then, the next day, he went back on
He continued this pattern for the rest of his life.
One day a week, he would eat anything he liked. He would
gain five pounds. Then he would quit.
Twice a year, he left New York City, where he ran
Goldberg's Pizzeria, to go home: Kansas City, Kansas.
There, for one glorious week, he would eat. And eat. And
eat. He would gain up to 17 pounds. Then he would fly
back to New York. New York was not fat city for Fats.
He was made famous by humorist Calvin Trillin's book,
"American Fried." The book was about great places to eat,
all over America. Trillin had known Fats from his youth.
He described one day of Fats' week off. Here is a
selection from "American Fried."
" 'Just what did you eat on a big day in Kansas
City the week you gained seventeen pounds?' I
asked. I was prepared to make a list.
'Well, for breakfast I'd have two eggs, six
biscuits with butter and jelly, half a quart of
milk, six link sausage, six strips of bacon, and
a couple of homemade cinnamon rolls,' Fats said.
'Then I'd hit MacLean's Bakery. They have a kind
of fried cinnamon roll I love. Maybe I'd have
two or three of them. Then, on the way downtown
to have lunch with somebody, I might stop at
Kresge's and have two chili dogs and a couple of
root beers. . . . Then I'd go to lunch.'"
And so on. For a week.
At the end of his section on Goldberg, and what he ate
for six days a week -- boiled skinned chicken -- Trillin
ended with Goldberg's overall assessment of his diet.
Goldberg spoke of the pain, the terrible pain. "I can't
emphasize this enough."
That, of course, is the famous bottom line. For the
person addicted to anything, there is great pain in giving
it up. This is why 80% to 95% of everyone who loses weight
gains it back.
Goldberg controlled his pain with controlled cheating.
He had to allow himself some of the things he loved.
Otherwise, he would eat himself to death. This option is
not open to alcoholics. But alcoholics can live without
drinking. No one can live without eating.
WHO'S FAT? WHO ISN'T?
We are told that Americans are gaining weight. But
which Americans? When it's Americans in general, then
there is pressure on Congress to pass laws to save
Americans from themselves.
People are different. To imagine that the same diet
works equally well with all overweight people is naive.
The biochemist and nutritionist Roger Williams discovered
pantothenic acid. His bibliography, much of it on vitamins
and nutrition, stretched from 1919 to 1987.
(snipurl.com/b0qc) He wrote a book, "Biochemical
Individuality." It's a warning against universal dietary
Nutritional science needs data from cooperating
control groups in order to survey long-term trends in
weight, health, and life expectancy. These groups should
be (separate categories) racial, economic, and cultural.
Are there racial groups that resist the trend? Asians
seem to. Is this genetic? Is it cultural? It surely
isn't money. They have plenty of money. Are they getting
fatter at the same percentage rate as the general
population? Are some Asian groups significantly different
Chinese food in restaurants is heavy on oil and fat.
Does this support Pritikin or Atkins? Are American Chinese
gaining more weight than American Japanese, who eat sushi
and octopus? What about on campus? Does college dorm food
fatten up Asians the way it fattens up the rest of us?
College dorms are ideal dietary laboratories. There
is no marginal cost of food. Everyone pays a flat fee.
It's all you can eat, no extra charge, day after day, for a
year or two. Does this affect different groups
It seems to me that genetics could be involved.
Williams thought so. But more important is future-
orientation. As children, we establish eating habits.
Children are notoriously present-oriented. They discount
the future. This is the outlook of the addict. It is
difficult to break our eating habits. I was fortunate that
I got sick young, my mother found Pottenger, and I decided
Another segregating factor, usually ignored, is
confessional. If I had a research grant of millions of
dollars to spend on a dietary study, I would target
religious groups. I would see if there is a connection
between confession and shape.
I would begin with Orthodox Jews. Judaism uses diet
and circumcision to screen access to membership, and this
works. ("You're going to do WHAT?") You must be future-
oriented to join. Jews don't eat pork but do eat beef:
Atkins types. Are Orthodox Jews more or less fat than the
general public? What about heart disease?
Then I would survey Seventh Day Adventists, who tend
to be vegetarians but who eat grains; Mormons, who don't
consume alcohol; and Baptists, who say they don't consume
alcohol. I would survey white Baptists and black Baptists.
Black Baptists have weight problems. One of the
people interviewed on "Frontline" said that black churches
had come to him to develop a weight-loss program involving
diet and exercise. Obesity is a major problem in black
churches. As for white Baptists, I don't know. Are they
the norm -- gaining weight along with the general
population? Is the genetic difference a distinguishing
feature, assuming that Baptist confessions are similar?
Someone ought to find out.
I would study the Reformed Episcopal Church, the one
Protestant denomination that has had racial equality since
1873, but whose congregations are not racially mixed. By
equality, I mean governmentally: black bishops are equal in
authority in church councils to white bishops, and the
numbers are similar. Catholics are also mixed racially,
but there are too many cultural and racial groups who are
American Catholics, and too many recent immigrant groups.
The REC would be an ideal test: same confession, same
liturgy, different income, different races. What about
I am a Presbyterian. Presbyterians have money, behind
Jews and Episcopalians. We can afford to eat as much as we
like. This has been true for generations. We are highly
educated -- probably the most formally educated of all
Protestant groups. It's built into our form of government:
an educated clergy is required by church law. There are
very few overweight people in theologically conservative
Presbyterian denominations. (I have no experience inside
When I say Presbyterian, I include Dutch Reformed, who
don't call themselves Presbyterians. Both groups are
Calvinistic and bureaucratically hierarchical. The rural
Dutch are dairymen, and they are famous for their pastries.
Three decades ago, I lived in a semi-rural Dutch community,
and I don't recall that the men were overweight. The women
tended toward plumpness, but they were rarely fat. (The
teenage girls tended toward Kim Novak fatness, which
repulsed none of the boys.) Yet, in terms of their
favorite foods, the Dutch should have been fat.
You can't solve a problem if you don't ask the right
questions. If we get a legislated solution, we will get
worse problems, plus we will still be fat.
NO SWEAT, MORE POTATOES
If we were Israelites in David's day, walking to and
from Jerusalem three times a year, we could afford some
extra weight. Fat is desirable, says the Old Testament.
It's a sign of God's blessing. Priests ate meat all the
time. It was their portion of the sacrifices. The priests
were Atkins people, not Pritikin people. But they were
physically active, all day long. They were not couch
potatoes. We are.
In the second half of the twentieth century, most
Americans overcame this curse:
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,
till thou return unto the ground; for out of it
wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust
shalt thou return (Genesis 3:19).
McCormick invented the reaper. Then Edison and
Westinghouse delivered electricity. Then Carrier invented
air conditioning. So, we no longer sweat to eat our bread.
We sit. We make deals. We worry. We eat. Our stomachs,
not our sweat glands, are today the battleground in which
the curse wrecks havoc. Lesson: we will one day be lying
in bed, dying of something.
We are losing the battle of the bulge. We hate to say
no, and we can afford not to. We no longer stink.
Instead, we bulge. A century ago, they could smell us
coming. Now, they can see us coming before we turn the
There is a solution to the weight problem:
When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider
diligently what is before thee: And put a knife
to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite
The free market has given us low-cost lunches, but we
prefer "dainties" -- refined sugar and refined flour. We
have not put a knife to our throats. Whose fault is that?
There are well-organized political pressure groups
that plan to have the U.S. government put a knife to our
throats for our own good. The debate rages as to who
should control the menu. But when all the rhetoric is
stripped away, it's the same old menu: a Stalin sandwich --
black bread -- and water. Then it's off to the mines.
It's the holiday season. Some of you had better not
participate in a feast. If you were following Fats
Goldberg's plan, and if you had been on schedule for the
past six months, you could make December 25 to January 1
your week in Kansas City. But you're not a Goldberg
disciple. So, the feast is your enemy.
My family will celebrate Christmas as we have for two
decades: at a Chinese restaurant, just like in "A Christmas
Story." For my personal response to the menu-Stalinists, I
shall use my rice to soak up any excess garlic sauce. But,
in honor of Dr. Pottenger, it will be brown rice.
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