Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

What Compassionate Conservatism Means


Compassionate conservatism has many faces and most of them have frowns except when they are shown on television during the debates. They frown at everything from the environment to the poor. It is worth remembering their faces since to the unbiased they suggest what George Bush likes to call flip flopping. The only thing he doesn’t like is that they describe him.

During the 2000 campaign Mr. Bush proclaimed the environment one of his very best friends. He promised to fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the main federal land-acquisition program, to the statutory maximum of $900 million a year. Once in office Mr. Bush had lots of other things on what passes for his mind, and instead of asking for $900 million a year he asked for only $300 million, leaving the program considerably short of the promised goal.

As a candidate Mr. Bush promised that within five years he would eliminate the $5 billion maintenance backlog that confronted the National Park Service. Today the cost of deferred maintenance is estimated to be between $4.1 billion and $6.8 billion. Mr. Bush has not ignored the National Park Service. Instead of eliminating the backlog he has asked the National Park Service to create an inventory of the condition of roads, buildings etc. in the system. Once that inventory has been completed it will be possible for everyone to see what state his broken promise has left us in.

During each of the last three years Mr. Bush has said he wants to end certain programs that provide money to states to help provide money for those without health insurance. In an apparent flip-flop, in 2004 Tommy Thompson, secretary of health and human services announced that the department was awarding $11.7 million in grants to help 30 states set up programs to provide coverage to those people. If Mr. Bush is elected, he,ll have a chance to flip-flop and eliminate the program in future years.

According to a recent report in the New York Times, Mr. Bush wants to reduce the value of subsidized-housing vouchers received by participants in the section 8 housing program for the poor. Michael Liu, assistant secretary for public and Indian affairs and Cathy M. MacFarlane, assistant secretary for public affairs explain that the drop is occasioned by data from the 2000 census and a new way of determining the rents. Housing secretary Alphonso Jackson has a simpler explanation. He says the Section 8 program was growing too fast and taking money away from other programs. He also thinks that it disadvantages the working poor. In a piece written for the New York Times he explained that most of the vouchers “go to families making less than 30 percent of a given area’s median income. This has had the unintended consequence of shutting the door on men and women who are working hard and raise their income above a quota level, but remain too poor to afford a home.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that a full time minimum wage worker earns $10,700 a year, whereas 30 percent of the median income for a family of four nationally is $17, 250. Someone who works forty hours a week 52 weeks a year for the minimum wage will not reach the poverty line and those are the people for whom the compassionate conservatives want to raise the rent.

Mr. Jackson does not think the lack of affordable housing is a big problem. In a speech at the National Press Club lunch on June 17, he said “Rental housing is affordable and plentiful.” He,d apparently not read the State of the Nation’s Housing report issued a week earlier by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University which found, among other things, that almost two million households live in units described as severely inadequate. HUD”s own Worst Case Housing Needs says 5.07 million families have worst case housing needs meaning they are very low income, face severe cost or quality problems in their homes and don’t receive housing assistance. Had those statistics been seen by Mr. Jackson, they,d not have troubled him. In his first appearance before the House Financial Services Committee as Secretary he said: “being poor is a state of mind.” Realizing that poverty is a state of mind makes it hard to get upset about the fact that those with a bad state of mind don’t have nice places to live. They don’t need housing-they need attitude adjustments. Thanks to compassionate conservatism, if Mr. Bush is elected that’s what they’ll get.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a Boulder, Colorado lawyer. His column appears weekly in the Daily Camera. He can be reached at:




More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future