Department of Wellness

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Not to be outdone by George W. Bush when it comes to expanding the welfare state, John Kerry announced on Wednesday that "I intend to have not just a Department of Health and Human Services, but a Department of Wellness." Slate's Chris Suellentrop blames the idea on Kerry's wacky wife, while The Washington Times suggests that the secretary of wellness would be "a guardian of nanny-state liberalism," poking his nose into our personal habits and urging us to stop smoking, eat less, exercise more, cut down on saturated fat, and so on–like the surgeon general, but without the silly uniform.

[Thanks to Jeff Schaler for the links.]

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  1. I have to wonder how many of these “Kerry libertarians” and ABBers are gonna wake up on Jan 21st, 2005 and collectively scream “Oh, shit!” at the top of their lungs.

    Granted, it’s not like Kerry would get anything done if a Republican stronghold on Congress exists (i.e, “Gridlock”), but these policy proposals are beginning to sound like a joke.

    Wait, did I say “beginning”?

    I’ll take the oft-described “wingnut” Badnarik over Kerry any day of the week; I feel dirty even considering the idea of voting for someone so pliable in his positions that he’s liable to create the “Department of ‘Wellness'” just to sound like he’s “with it” or “in touch with the needs of America”.

    I call, in the infamous words of Penn & Teller, “Bullshit!”

  2. I did a google search. I found a reference to this as proposed by THK from last year. I also found that several universities or like have such depts.

    If you want an idea of what it would be like, get a hold of the current Kaiser Permanente radio commercial in which a breathy-voiced matron says: “We believe in brocolli. We believe in physical therapy, mental therapy, cranial flushing therapy, even music therapy. We believe in [etc. etc.]” After about 3 seconds I want to shoot my radio. But, it goes on for 60 seconds, revealing at the end who the ad is from.

    From a political standpoint, announcing this proposal was an extremely stupid move. I wonder what THK said or did to get him to propose it? I have trouble believing he’d agree to propose it without her urging.

  3. And maybe he can make Jimmy Carter the head of the
    Presidential Task Force on Killer Wabbits.

  4. How many people think that the GOP Congress would actually…..oh, wait, a minute.

    lol — thoreau, the best reason i can find to vote for kerry is “cynical” divided government. second best is the lack of “moral clarity” (read: the scythe of intolerance) — i desire nothign more in a president than an effeminate, intellectualizing, dawdling waffler, and i wish kerry were more of one.

  5. Where is our man from the left to explain this one? Perhaps the back-pedal is that Caring John only intends to add “wellness” to the mission of HHS, rather than establish a new department.

  6. If the debate is about why to vote for who…

    A divided government may pass less legislation, but there is so much more to the state than the current session of Congress. At stake are likely two Supremes, an AG and all the Cabinet heads, plus lower judges and bureaucrats who will affect our lives about matters of law and government already established.

    Which would you rather see prosecuted: pornographers or bigots? Would you prefer your Transportation Secretary to promote easier commerce or environmental protection? How would you prefer Federal oil leases made (separate from ANWR issues)? Do you prefer the Constitution as written, or as interpreted for modern context?

    Vote accordingly.

  7. Do you prefer the Constitution as written, or as interpreted for modern context?

    or altogether ignored, which is what you’ll get regardless of who wins…

  8. I prefer a government that spends less money, first and foremost. And the best way to bring that about is a divided gov’t.

    We can debate whether it’s best to have a Dem in the White House and the GOP in control of Congress or vice-versa. Either option, however, is preferable to unified control of the federal gov’t. And I really can’t imagine a scenario where Bush wins but the Dems take control of both the House and Senate.

    One might ask whether a Democrat-controlled Senate is enough without a Dem-controlled House. Judging from the situation in 2001, I’d say no.

  9. “I prefer a government that spends less money, first and foremost. And the best way to bring that about is a divided gov’t.”

    I doubt that.

    The biggest category of govt spending is and will continue to be in the “entitlement” category that is considered “nondiscretionary” spending. It goes up and up automatically unless Congress passes legislation to specifically cut it – something that’s unlikely to happen with divided govt any more than with a unified one.

  10. Gilbert-

    Perhaps. But let’s keep in mind that the prescription drug bill was signed in 2003, when the GOP had unified control of the House, Senate, and Presidency.

    I don’t know that a divided gov’t will cut entitlement spending, but I doubt that it will create ADDITIONAL entitlements.

  11. thoreau: I expect you wouldn’t take this gamble, but,

    A government full of righty functionaries might be less inclined to increase non-budget regulatory costs, so the economy could better pay for the spending of a unified government. Restated, lefty functionaries will increase non-budget costs even if a divided government can’t increase spending as quickly, leading to a bigger net drain on the economy.

    I guess we can measure leviathan either by its grocery bill or by the size of its rulebook. If only both would shrink…

  12. I would imagine there are people who actually support a Department of Wellness. I wouldn’t want any of them working with children, but it appears they actually exist. People seem to be taking the War on Fat seriously.

    Now if I chartered a private boat to Iraq and began shooting up terrorists I would be labeled a criminal, because you simply don’t go and wage a war independently. The War on Fat could move in a similar direction, with government directing weight loss. Taking ones physical appearance into ones own hands would be as criminal as waging private war.

    Might make a good sci-fi movie.

    In all seriousness: We should ban policy propoposals that make you wonder if you are in fact reading satire.

    During the Psuedo Administration, I’m gonna create a Department of Justified Arson, to burn down uneeded departments. It’s budget will be 20$ worth of gasoline and a book of matches stolen from the pizzeria.

  13. Haven’t we been under a string of pseudo-administrations…

    But seriously, if you chartered a boat and invaded Iraq, who would make you a criminal? Currently, yes, the US, and the UN, and most of the world. But you likely would not be a criminal in Libertopia, as you haven’t coerced its citizens. Tell the UN that you’ll withdraw in exchange for some aid, submit to inspections, and plot your next exploitation of the system.

  14. Pseudo said:
    “During the Psuedo Administration, I’m gonna create a Department of Justified Arson, to burn down uneeded departments. It’s budget will be 20$ worth of gasoline and a book of matches stolen from the pizzeria.”

    Jewish lightning?

    You know there’s precedent: The files of the war department under the Washington administration were victims twice of Jewish lightning.

  15. Cletus Nelson proposed a Ministry of Love.
    How about a Congress of congress?
    I’m trying to help you get this to pass muster.

  16. Jewish lightning?

    What the hell does this mean? I’m unfamiliar with the term. I just want to see the Department of Wellness as a smoking ruin. Scorched irony.

  17. “How about a Congress of congress?”

    nice.

  18. Pseudo,
    What were you? Born yesterday?
    Have you studied the principles of insurance?

  19. Okay I get it.

    Sorry. My mom always says I need to practice my racial slurs more.

  20. I can see it now! The secret to “wellness”:
    CONDIMENTS.

  21. now, don’t go about bad-mouthing Kerry’s plans, y’all – or, Teresa will call you an idiot!

  22. I, for one, welcome our new wellness overloards!

  23. Why not a silly uniform? A jogging suit with epaulettes seems like the obvious choice.

  24. The fact that one could consider a Department Of Wellness as something other than a comedy bit strongly suggests one who is intellectually unfit to be POTUS. Way to go John, you actually found a way to be a bigger doofus than Dubya!

  25. As someone who is voting for Kerry (a vote for Kerry is a vote against Bush) even I had to slap my head at the mention of the Dept. of Wellness… I mean, sure, fine, whatever… if you want that sort of thing, that’s cool… but couldn’t you at least wait till you’re in office before pushing this idea that is going to be seen as whacky by some and wasteful by others?

  26. I’m amazed that Kerry is still gaffing about his policy proposals when Bush has an objectively terrible record he could be attacking. Christ, he’s blowing it.

  27. I think the man is trying to lose.

  28. But Bush is still worse…

  29. Will-
    A vote for Kerry is a vote for Kerry. Your fooling yourself. This is the kind of nonsense that supports our one party system.

  30. To soften the bad news of Bush’s re-election, we will have the good news that Kerry lost.

  31. Thought experiment:

    Imagine first that a President John Kerry proposes a Dept. of Wellness. How many people here think the GOP Congress would actually approve it?

    Now imagine that George Bush wants to spend countless billions on free drugs for elderly swing voters. How many people think that the GOP Congress would actually…..oh, wait, a minute.

    Never mind.

  32. Now all we need is a “Ministry of Love” ala Orwell…

  33. Take a look at the number of flabby bodies in virtually any gathering of people in the country and the idea begins to make sense. Still, creation of a new agency will be ridiculed in the press as an indication of the return/continuation of big government.

  34. I’m holding out for a department of niceness.

    We could have a manners czar. And someone to make sure that kids wear their pants up and wash behind their ears. Oh, and someone to punish movie-talkers.

  35. News of the department of wellness makes me want to puke. Sadly I’m still going to vote for Kerry.

  36. This just in: The Kerry campaign has announced its plans for a “Department of Very Wellness.” The move seems to come in an effort to blunt the President’s recently announced plans for a …. wait, I’m getting another message …. Bush is assembling a press conference in the Rose Garden to announce a newly created “Department of Very Very Wellness” …. wait, someone named “Badnarik” has just handed me a handwritten note calling for a “Department of Nothing Whatsoever” … oh dear I’m getting somthing else …

  37. thoreau,

    I think that your point at 12:17 PM is strong, but for divided government that causes gridlock and restrains spending we’re going to need a GOP congress and a President Kerry. A Dem congress will only be too happy to spend even more, regardless of who’s president.

  38. Rick-

    The order of the messages seems to have been changed during the maintenance. In any case, I agree that from the standpoint of spending and legislation a Dem President and GOP Congress is the ideal arrangement. However, some people here would argue that we need to consider judicial and executive appointments as well, in which case a GOP President and Dem Congress might have some merit.

    The biggest problem I see with that arrangement is that the Dem Congress will be a poor check on spending by ANY President regardless of his party. I suppose you could divide the Congress then, with a Dem Senate checking executive and judicial nominees but not spending, and hope that a GOP House will do its duty on spending. Sadly, we had a Dem Senate and GOP House for 18 months or so in 2001-2002, and look how little good that did.

    In recent experience, the only type of divided gov’t that seems to work (or not work, depending on how how look at it…) is a GOP Congress and Dem President.

    “Fortunately”, I live in gerrymandered district in a state where the Presidential and Senate races aren’t competitive, so my vote doesn’t matter. I can afford to vote LP. If I had the opportunity to vote in a contested federal election I honestly don’t know if I could bring myself to vote for Kerry, but if I did I would have to compensate by voting GOP in the House and Senate races.

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