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HBO: Maher decries "profit motive" and sees conspiracies in healthcare, prisons

Posted on July 29 2009 7:49 am
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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The healthcare and prison industries were the targets in HBO talk-show host Bill Maher‘s “New Rules” segment on his Real Time program last Friday.

Maher thundered how not everything should be for-profit in America:

“And finally, New Rule: Not everything in America has to make a profit. You know, if conservatives get to call universal healthcare ‘socialized medicine,’ I get to call private, for-profit healthcare ‘soulless, vampire bastards making money off human pain.’

“Now, I know what you’re thinking: But, Bill, the profit motive is what sustains capitalism! Yes, and our sex drive is what sustains the human species. But we don’t try to (expletive deleted) EVERYTHING. It’s okay for some things to remain non-profit. Just like when it comes to sexual relations, some people are off limits, like your cousin or your sister…or, if you’re a leading Republican, your wife.

“But, like everything else that’s good and noble in life, some bean-counter decided that hospitals could also be big business. So, now they’re not hospitals anymore. They’re Jiffy Lube’s with bedpans. The more people who get sick and stay sick, the higher their profit margins. Which is why they’re always pushing the Jell-O.


“The problem with President Obama’s healthcare plan isn’t socialism. It’s capitalism. When did the profit motive become the only reason to do anything? When did that become the new patriotism? ‘Ask not what you could do for your country, ask what’s in it for Blue Cross-Blue Shield.’

“And it’s not just medicine. Prisons also used to be a non-profit thing. And for good reason. Who the hell wants to own a prison? By definition, you’re going to have trouble with the tenants. It is not a coincidence that we outsourced running prisons to private corporations, and then the number of prisoners in America skyrocketed. There used to be some things we just didn’t do for money.”

As is pretty much always the case, when one devolves into fact-free conspiracy theories, one tends to delegitimize other potentially more meaningful arguments. There’s a corporate conspiracy to imprison more people so that corproate-prisons can make more money? In railing against a “prison-industrial complex” and seeing conspiracies to lock up as many people as possible, Maher is following in a long leftist tradition of attacking the institution of incarceration.

The figurehead of this movement has for a long time been communist and former Black Panther fugitive Angela Davis. Davis explains her wild views on the issue in the following video:

In the video, Davis describes the necessity for a new abolitionist movement to abolish the institution of the prison just as 18th century abolitionist helped lead to the end of slavery. People who rape, kill, and steal are akin to those kidnapped and enslaved? This is the mentality that allows for people like convicted murderer Mumia Abu Jamal (whom even neo-communist filmmaker Michael Moore has admitted is likely guilty) to become icons for a movement.

Davis’s views and Maher’s are certainly different, but they are related and both emanate from the same political tradition: a Left which seeks to destroy the institutions that have allowed for the defense of the freest society on the planet.

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