rant two: bill maher talks healthcare (insert ominous music here)

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Sunday, August 9th, 2009

rant two: bill maher talks healthcare (insert ominous music here)

as i’ve discussed before (where you can read rant 1), i’m a HUGE proponent for massive healthcare reform. truth be told, as opposed to my generally centrist political viewpoints, i’m actually on the far left side of things in that i’m an avid supporter of full-on universal healthcare. for various reasons, i wish more than even the current bill is trying to do was being done to overhaul the system.

i’m very passionate about this issue and what i see right now is very heartbreaking in some ways. i see the fight starting to slip away because of—much like the incredible smear campaign against obama during the election season—a very coordinated and prolific campaign of misinformation, outright lies and fear-mongering by those who are opposed to reform. the saddest thing is just the downright ignorance i see. i don’t mean ignorance in an insulting way. i mean it in its truest sense: a lack of information. what’s most disconcerting, though, is that what i see is that many people aren’t actually seeking out the true information. they’d rather wallow in their presuppositions and blinder-driven hatred toward president obama and those on the other side of the debate.

in the midst of my growing frustration over the last couple weeks, i came across some video that was shot at the town hall meeting that was hosted by congressmen vic snyder and mike ross. quite frankly, the footage really set me off (thus prompting a late-night gripe sessions phone call to a friend who’s on congressman snyder’s staff). i wanted to call and see if the meeting was as bad as the video shows and i got a mixed answer. on one hand, he said that it was truly sad to see the people yell lies and misinformation out loud toward the congressmen in accusatory ways. on the other hand, though, he did say that the videos, conveniently, don’t show the thoughtful questions and dialogue that occurred as the meeting progressed. he assured me that he was encouraged to see the lights come on in people as the congressmen answered questions.

either way, the footage is really sad and, as much as i’m an optimist who sees the best in people, i started to get really down about the absurdity and anger and ignorance coming from people. in the midst of this, a friend sent me a link to a story featured on the huffington post that captured some of my thoughts.

ok, so, this is a classic case of the necessity of a personal preface. 🙂 much like michael moore, when people hear the name bill maher, they usually cringe and then turn off their ears. so, just hang with me. whereas a lot of the way bill maher communicates can be very personally off-putting and whereas i disagree with a lot of his viewpoints, he does often advocate some “wow-everybody’s-thinking-that-but-i-definitely-wasn’t-gonna-say-it” kinds of ideas. this piece is one of those. 🙂 no doubt, much like bill o’reilly or rush limbaugh, maher plays a character that is meant to rile people up (and increase ratings). BUT, much like those guys (every once and while), they say some things that offer bits of truth if you can dig them out from underneath the crap.

so, here goes:

Smart President ≠ Smart Country

New Rule: Just because a country elects a smart president doesn’t make it a smart country. A few weeks ago I was asked by Wolf Blitzer if I thought Sarah Palin could get elected president, and I said I hope not, but I wouldn’t put anything past this stupid country. It was amazing – in the minute or so between my calling America stupid and the end of the Cialis commercial, CNN was flooded with furious emails and the twits hit the fan. And you could tell that these people were really mad because they wrote entirely in CAPITAL LETTERS!!! It’s how they get the blood circulating when the Cialis wears off. Worst of all, Bill O’Reilly refuted my contention that this is a stupid country by calling me a pinhead, which A) proves my point, and B) is really funny coming from a doody-face like him.

Now, the hate mail all seemed to have a running theme: that I may live in a stupid country, but they lived in the greatest country on earth, and that perhaps I should move to another country, like Somalia. Well, the joke’s on them because I happen to have a summer home in Somalia… and no I can’t show you an original copy of my birth certificate because Woody Harrelson spilled bong water on it.

And before I go about demonstrating how, sadly, easy it is to prove the dumbness dragging down our country, let me just say that ignorance has life and death consequences. On the eve of the Iraq War, 69% of Americans thought Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11. Four years later, 34% still did. Or take the health care debate we’re presently having: members of Congress have recessed now so they can go home and “listen to their constituents.” An urge they should resist because their constituents don’t know anything. At a recent town-hall meeting in South Carolina, a man stood up and told his Congressman to “keep your government hands off my Medicare,” which is kind of like driving cross country to protest highways.

I’m the bad guy for saying it’s a stupid country, yet polls show that a majority of Americans cannot name a single branch of government, or explain what the Bill of Rights is. 24% could not name the country America fought in the Revolutionary War. More than two-thirds of Americans don’t know what’s in Roe v. Wade. Two-thirds don’t know what the Food and Drug Administration does. Some of this stuff you should be able to pick up simply by being alive. You know, like the way the Slumdog kid knew about cricket.

Not here. Nearly half of Americans don’t know that states have two senators and more than half can’t name their congressman. And among Republican governors, only 30% got their wife’s name right on the first try.

Sarah Palin says she would never apologize for America. Even though a Gallup poll says 18% of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth. No, they’re not stupid. They’re interplanetary mavericks. A third of Republicans believe Obama is not a citizen, and a third of Democrats believe that George Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, which is an absurd sentence because it contains the words “Bush” and “knowledge.”

People bitch and moan about taxes and spending, but they have no idea what their government spends money on. The average voter thinks foreign aid consumes 24% of our federal budget. It’s actually less than 1%. And don’t even ask about cabinet members: seven in ten think Napolitano is a kind of three-flavored ice cream. And last election, a full one-third of voters forgot why they were in the booth, handed out their pants, and asked, “Do you have these in a relaxed-fit?”

And I haven’t even brought up America’s religious beliefs. But here’s one fun fact you can take away: did you know only about half of Americans are aware that Judaism is an older religion than Christianity? That’s right, half of America looks at books called the Old Testament and the New Testament and cannot figure out which one came first.

And these are the idiots we want to weigh in on the minutia of health care policy? Please, this country is like a college chick after two Long Island Iced Teas: we can be talked into anything, like wars, and we can be talked out of anything, like health care. We should forget town halls, and replace them with study halls. There’s a lot of populist anger directed towards Washington, but you know who concerned citizens should be most angry at? Their fellow citizens. “Inside the beltway” thinking may be wrong, but at least it’s thinking, which is more than you can say for what’s going on outside the beltway.

And if you want to call me an elitist for this, I say thank you. Yes, I want decisions made by an elite group of people who know what they’re talking about. That means Obama budget director Peter Orszag, not Sarah Palin.

Which is the way our founding fathers wanted it. James Madison wrote that “pure democracy” doesn’t work because “there is nothing to check… an obnoxious individual.” Then, in the margins, he doodled a picture of Joe the Plumber.

Until we admit there are things we don’t know, we can’t even start asking the questions to find out. Until we admit that America can make a mistake, we can’t stop the next one. A smart guy named Chesterton once said: “My country, right or wrong is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying… It is like saying ‘My mother, drunk or sober.'” To which most Americans would respond: “Are you calling my mother a drunk?”