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: brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu




Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving