For Friday’s episode of “Real Time,” host Bill Maher eschewed his usual format of opening monologue, short interview, and panel discussion in exchange for the “special episode” style of long interviews with figures he admires. I’ll save my commentary on the first half hour’s interview with rap superstar Jay-Z for tomorrow. Today it’s NewsReal Sunday and some of the comments from Maher’s second guest, Baptist minister, Great Society architect, and “progressive” PBS journalist Bill Moyers need to be answered.
Maher: And he never really effectively has yet anyway, made it a moral issue.
Moyers: He started just recently, a few days ago. He talked about health care as a moral issue. But it is a moral issue! It’s not an economic issue.
Maher then brought up Civil Rights in the ’60s as a moral issue before he invoked the late, great mythology scholar Joseph Campbell (whom Moyers helped publicize to millions) and shifted the discussion to talk of metaphors capable of changing the debate:
Maher: What would be a true metaphor that we could use now that would change this?
Moyers: We’re all in the same boat. That would be a metaphor. And that’s the moral. The moral message that America would stand by: adopting health care as a human need to which everyone should have access. The moral message would be that we are in this together. That we care about each other. Universal healthcare for every citizen irrespective of your resources is representative of a deeply moral society. And what do I mean by moral? A society that cares for the other.
My progressive friend Pat Ray — a frequent poster in these forums under the alias “Clergyman P-Ray” — had taken this line of argument before as well. (By the way, Pat’s not really a clergyman. It’s just his handle.) The other day he emailed me in response to an article I’d forwarded to him.
It looks as though the rightwingers are pulling out all the stops in a lie-and-distortion campaign to defeat healthcare reform this year. For America’s sake, we need to get it right this time.
This stung a bit. I was now one of these “rightwingers” with the “lie-and-distortion campaign” to which Pat was referring. But did my dear friend of more than five years really think that I was dishonest? I responded:
Am I a liar? Am I intentionally saying things that I know aren’t true? Am I a horrible person because of the ideas that I hold which are counter to yours?
The “Clergyman” replied:
Do I think you’re knowinglyÂ lying David?
Sometimes I wonder. You’ve already toldÂ me on numerous occassions youÂ don’t believe morality should play into people’s values on economic issues.Â So that gives me a littleÂ glimpse of your worldview. And it is a little bitÂ disturbingÂ and far different than mine.
I care more about bread-and-better issues and let morality guide my principles on issues such as healthcare, trade and unions just as much as you seem to let morality guide your principles on gay rights, civil rights,Â freedom of religion, etc.
I do not know what your values are when it comes to economic issues like poverty, a living wage, healthcare that’s accessible to all citizens, etc. From our debates, what your economic “freedom” arguments usually come off like and especially with the kinds of articles you’re posting in your new position, it seems youÂ support political & economic systems that value profits over people.
Basically you come off very libertarian to me (as libertarian as your average Republican lawmaker) and don’t seem to take much into consideration other than the wad of cashÂ someone waves in front of you when it comes to what kind of economic policies to support.
(On this last point Pat seems to be echoing Joe Conason’s attack on David Horowitz highlighted in today’s quote of the day — the slur that conservative writers/activists are just trying to make money and not arguing from any moral conviction. How insulting!)
I had not yet responded to my friend but I will now. And this response isn’t just to Pat but to Moyers, Maher, and all the “progressives” who claim that conservatives’ opposition to single-payer health care is the result of a moral deficiency.
First, let’s define what we’re talking about:
morÂ·al //Â (mÃ´rl, mr-) adj.
1. Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character: moral scrutiny; a moral quandary.
2. Teaching or exhibiting goodness or correctness of character and behavior: a moral lesson.
Thus we see how ambiguous the term “morality” is — how people can choose to make it mean whatever they want in order to further their objectives. What is moral derives from whatever religious or ideological belief system (BS) one ingests. What is immoral to one person’s BS is moral to another. In the Muslim world it’s “moral” to flog a woman for wearing pants. In the Western world this is profoundly immoral.Â So too in the health care debate. In the leftist world it’s “moral” for government to swallow up the health care industry to insure everyone gets “cheap” medical care. In the conservative world this is tremendously immoral.
Am I advocating “moral relativism” or some kind of ethical nihilism here?Â Certainly not. Not all moral systems are equal. Arguments can be made on behalf of one system of values as superior to another. And that’s what needs to be done. Either side merely invoking “morality” does nothing here to further the argument one way or another.
So for my six “moral” points here my objective is not to argue against socialized medicine. Instead, it’s to demonstrate to Pat that though my politics are not what they were when our friendship began five years ago, I’m still very much a man concerned about doing what is morally right. It’s a sentiment that those on the Right should repeat. In rejecting the Left’s morals, we still have our own values:
1. It’s immoral to rob Peter to pay for Paul’s health care. It’s not right for government to come in and take one man’s wealth and redistribute it to another who did not earn it. “Thou Shalt Not Steal” is one of the Ten Commandments.
2. It’s not moral to break working systems. Estimates place the percentage of uninsured at 3% of the population from Conservative sources to 18% from leftist sources. That means that the vast majority of people in this county are capable of doing for themselves what the Left insists the government needs to do. The moral thing to do here would be to ask this question: what’s preventing that 3-18% from getting their own health insurance?
3. It’s not moral for healthy people who have made tough, responsible decisions — exercising, eating nutritious foods, not smoking, not engaging in risky behaviors — to be forced to subsidize those who acted irresponsibly. (See Ashton Kutcher’s recent argument.)
4. It’s immoral to give a man health insurance instead of helping him better himself so he can buy it on his own. It shows a lack of respect for men and women’s ability to better themselves. It looks down at people as children who need a Nanny state to protect them.
5. It’s immoral to take away people’s freedom by denying them the right to choose how they’re going to spend their money. This comes in two fashions. First, the immorality of forcing people to pay for health insurance when they choose not to. And second, the immorality of denying people the choice to choose a healthcare plan other than what the government offers.
6. It’s immoral to plunge our government deeper into a sea of debt. We can’t even afford to pay our existing entitlement programs and “progressives” want to add more? How is that moral to promote such fiscal irresponsibility?
And so my final question for Pat, after this Sunday’s sermon: now do I get to be a “clergyman” too?