Facing the Dietary Realities of the State
On the back of the Rhode Island section of today’s paper is a Timothy Barmann piece on Governor Carcieri’s efforts to “encourage healthy lifestyles”:
The majority of Rhode Islanders could stand to shed a few pounds, and Governor Carcieri wants to help.
Yesterday, the governor launched what he’s calling Healthy Weight in 2008, a campaign designed to educate residents about eating properly and encourage them to exercise. …
In Rhode Island, 38 percent of adults are overweight and another 18 percent are considered obese. That means that 56 percent of Rhode Island adults weigh more than they should. …
Treating these illnesses is expensive, and taxpayers pick up about half the cost of treatments directly attributed to obesity, according to the governor, citing a report by the National Governors Association. In Rhode Island, the costs for medical expenses covered by Medicaid and Medicare for obesity-related illnesses cost each taxpayer $185, the governor said.
Doesn’t anybody want to argue that the governor just isn’t facing the dietary realities of the state? That he’s got an anachronistic vision of housewives who have the time to prepare healthy home-cooked meals for their families? I ask because, at the tail end of Steve Peoples’s front page story on Carcieri’s state-house press conference, such objections arise to the governor’s intention to “encourage two-parent families, a move that would likely reduce dependency on welfare benefits and other social programs”:
Linda [Of No Relation to the Anchor Rising Guy] Katz, policy director for the Poverty Institute at Rhode Island College, said the governor’s perspective is skewed.
“He’s got a very ’50s model of what a family looks like with mom home cooking the meals while dad goes off to the job. Then you don’t have to pay for childcare, mom’s home raising the kids,” she said. “I think his vision doesn’t meet the economic realities of the state.”
Personally, I think it sails over Ms. Katz’s head that the distance between Carcieri’s vision for the state and its realities is precisely the point. A healthier society — in both dietary and familial concerns — would make for a healthier Rhode Island. That, after all, is why the governor believes it is necessary to encourage the behavior and change the culture of the state in that respect.
It’s possible that Mr. Peoples misses this point, as well, given his second paragraph:
The plan would begin diverting hundreds of seniors and disabled Rhode Islanders on Medicaid away from expensive institutional care as soon as July, pushing them to depend on visiting nurses, assisted-living situations, or even their families.
Not their families! What sort of evil society would encourage (let alone insist on) families’ taking care of their members, even during difficult years of decline? We really need a social worker in the governor’s chair, not a businessman — cold-hearted bunch that businessmen are.
I notice that Mr. Peoples (in conjunction with multiple reporters on the political beat) takes a moment to explain that the Family Independence Program (that is, cash payments to the poor) is “commonly known as welfare.” Perhaps I’m not the only one complaining about Projo reporters’ overuse of Poverty Institute legerdemain. At any rate, a review of the various definitions under “welfare” on m-w.com suggests that most usages of the word involve the whole collection of “services for the assistance of disadvantaged groups.” That’s why folks commonly refer to a “welfare system” or a “welfare state.”
I’m guilty of a bit of style over justice. As Tim points out in the comments, Peoples’s piece is a to-the-letter example of activist media. The front-page headline exclamation of “Medicaire Cuts”and the skewed text under it (which I tried to convey above) are a sucker punch aimed at the governor and those he represents. One must dig into the paper to learn that advocates for the elderly actually support the change. (Of course, Peoples does his best to corrupt even that bit of honesty with practical complaints unleavened with the governor’s response).
Don’t think for a moment that some of the Projo’s staff aren’t fully active members of the behind the scenes coalition to sink Rhode Island for profit and ideological pride.