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
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”