The other day my friend, Bob, visited his family physician. It didn’t turn out like he had hoped. This is Bob’s story as best as I can remember.
The nurse, with clipboard in hand, entered the waiting room and called out, in an increasingly louder voice, Bob’s name.
Bob got up, the nurse stopped calling, and he followed her down a hallway. They stopped at a scale. Bob stepped on. The nurse recorded his weight and asked Bob for his height. Bob answered – but fudged an inch on the taller side.
The nurse led my friend into a room. It was impossible not to notice the examining table in the middle of everything and that is where Bob took a seat.
With her laptop placed on the counter, the nurse started typing. After she took Bob’s blood pressure and temperature, she introduced herself, “I’m Marie. What brings you to the office today?”
Embarrassed and nervous Bob looked down. “I’m hugely overweight.”
“That’s enough, isn’t it?”
Marie smiled and, on her way out, said the obligatory, “The doctor will be in shortly.”
At least thirty minutes passed.
The doctor walked in with Marie’s clipboard and greeted his patient, “Hi, I’m Sam. What brings you to the office today, Bob?”
Concerned that the doctor had not read the nurse’s report, Bob made a point to emphasize the conversation, “As I told Marie, I’m overweight.”
The doctor was visibly shaken by Bob’s response, “That’s bad news. Oh, that’s bad news.” The doctor sunk his head into his hands.
Touched by Sam’s concern, Bob softened his tone, “Thank you. Is it really that bad?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Can’t you just put me on a diet and an exercise program and …”
The doctor lifted his head and interrupted. “It’s not that simple. The federal government has a new program. It’s called No Chubbies Left Behind or NCLB [pronounced nickel – bee].
“A few years back,” the doctor began, “the feds set a deadline. It’s coming up in six months. When it arrives, none of my patients can be overweight.”
Still a bit confused, Bob muttered, “Huh?”
“It’s simple,” Sam continued. “If there’s fat on the books, then the federal government is going to trim my operations.”
“I’m still missing something,” Bob interjected.
“Fat means fired. One patient, one ounce … and my entire staff gets canned.”
“How will that benefit me?” asked Bob.
“If it doesn’t help me, then what’s the point?” Bob asked.
“In order for this to make sense,” Sam said, “you’re going to have to slip into the mind of ‘government think.’ Granted, I’m not a politician, but this is how I believe it works: The government sees a problem or it starts with a cute name for which they search out a problem to attach the name. I really don’t know which comes first. It doesn’t matter. In this case, the feds wanted to weigh in on fat … it’s perfect … it’s a big problem and a catchy label was available.”
Sam continued, “With government think, it’s necessary that legislation is full of good intentions, but its goals are impossible to reach …”
Bob had to stop the doctor’s line of reasoning. “Wait a minute. That makes no sense. Why create goals that can never be reached?”
Sam replied, “It creates a permanent party platform. For example, a politician can cry out forever, ‘Elect me! I’m against fat!'”
Bob was still confused and asked, “But how is it your fault that I overeat and don’t exercise?”
The doctor answered, “Bob, it’s not my fault, but that’s not government think. The government can’t blame itself for anything. It has to be the only perfect thing out there. So, with every piece of legislation there must be an enemy. For NCLB, it’s doctors.”
“What if someone wants to beef up for the NFL?”
“Bob … government think.”
“What if I come from a big-boned family?”
“Government think, Bob, government think.”
Bob tried one more time, “Try this: I lose half the weight I need to lose. I feel better than I have in years, but I miss the fed’s deadline? That has to count for something?”
“Nope,” the doctor answered. “Progress counts for nothing. Politicians need failure. Your tummy is their ticket to get re-elected. Remember, it’s about a permanent party platform.”
Bob gave up. “I think I’m sick.”
Sam smiled, “Now that I can address. The feds don’t have a program for that … yet.”