Bush, the Compassionate Exerciser?

by Walt Brasch

George W. Bush, the self-proclaimed compassionate conservative who doesn’t want government intruding into private lives, has just mixed government into private lives. In creating a new initiative, spun out as "Healthier Us," he told us heart disease is costing Americans about $183 billion a year but by diet and exercise we can reduce not only heart disease but also cancer deaths by one-third. Surreptitiously invoking memories of Sept. 11, he slips past us that "a healthier America is a stronger America." Bush wants us not only to be "physically active every day," but to "develop good eating habits [and] take advantage of preventative screenings." He emphasizes he doesn’t want Americans to smoke, do drugs, or drink excessively, all of which he once did to excess.

Had the President just made the suggestions to the American people, the people could accept or reject them. Most of what is said and done in Washington, D.C., doesn’t affect too many people, anyway. But, Bush also "urged the folks at work inside the White House to exercise on a daily basis." He said that "as an employer, I insist they take time off, out of their daily grind, to get some exercise." Being the compassionate conservative he is, he said the appointed staff–more than 5,000 persons–"can do it anytime of the day, so long as they get it done." His insistence probably also affects his cabinet secretaries and their deputies and, for all we know, just about any federal employee in any 8-by-10 office anywhere in the country.

After all, aPresident/employer’s "suggestions" aren’t really just "suggestions." His directive probably doesn’t apply to Vice-President Cheney whose working day is spent hiding from terrorists while trying to remember what he did with Halliburton, Enron, and the energy lobby.

The President’s thoughts about preventative treatment and routine medical screenings may be well-intentioned. But most insurance companies won’t pay for them, preferring to pay $50,000 after an illness rather than $2,000 to prevent the problem. It’s just "cost-effective."

It’s doubtful Bush will intrude upon any industry’s "rights" to continue to make obscene profits. Nor is it probable he is concerned that 44.6 million people, 16.8 percent of all Americans according to the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, don’t have medical insurance, mostly because they can’t afford it. He definitely didn’t say anything about the one-third of all Hispanics and one-fifth of all Blacks who don’t have medical insurance. And, he never once noted that when Hillary Clinton led a campaign to improve health care and insurance coverage in America, the Republicans punctured it with more holes than the vacuous comments made before Congressional committees by the oil and energy lobby.

The President also didn’t say anything about the 730,000 Americans who were laid off in the first four months of 2002, nor the 2.5 million Americans laid off in the first year of his term, most of the layoffs resulting in higher compensation for the executives and increased corporate shareholder income. The President didn’t mention that the unemployment rate is now 5.8 percent–8.4 million Americans–up from 6 million in October 2000, the month before the election, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most of the unemployed, just trying to survive, no longer have insurance or the means to follow a healthy lifestyle, just as they and large segments of the elderly and minority populations no longer can afford the medications and health care they need.

Poverty also wasn’t mentioned, but it directly affects the health and welfare of Americans. There are currently 31.1 million Americans living in poverty, up from its lowest point in October 2000, according to the BLS. Persons without adequate income and shelter can’t afford adequate medical care, nor do most have the will to begin and continue an exercise program.

George W. Bush, exhorting his White House staff to exercise more because he found people who exercise are "better able to communicate and happier on their job," exercises about 90 minutes a day, often with a three-mile run.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be unreasonable to ask the President–and all of his appointees–to spend the same amount of time?-any time of the day they want to do it–to exercise their minds. With a little bit of mind-stretching, the President’s Compassionate Conservative Corps might figure out how to help all Americans get adequate medical coverage, while reducing poverty, unemployment, and mass layoffs. There shouldn’t be too many people who object to that kind of governmental interference.

Walt Brasch is former newspaper reporter and editor, and author of 14 books. He is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University. His latest book is "The Joy of Sax: America During the Bill Clinton Era." You may write Brasch at wbrasch@planetx.bloomu.edu

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?