Morning Report, August 14: Jesus for Universal Health Care? District 9. Fairness Doctrine Redux. Sarah Palin keeps hitting. Pro-life America. And the cutest reporter of them all.
1. MSNBC’s Ed Schultz suggests that Jesus would want universal health care. I’ve received messages to much the same effect from Jim Wallis and Sojourners. Jesus, to be sure, would want for his followers (and all people) to respond compassionately to the needs of the sick and the poor. But it’s a long way from that simple truth to the argument that Jesus would want the government to install a universal health care system such as the Obama administration is advancing. Perhaps one reason why the Left’s religious argument on health care fails to persuade is because “we want the poor to receive quality health care” does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that “we should want the government to take over the health care industry in this way.” Don’t get me wrong; such an argument can surely be made. But I’m not seeing it being made. Progressive Christians seem to assume that care for the poor = desire for universal health care, and that non-desire for universal health care = hatred of the poor. Presumably it is because of the latter equation that the Left’s rhetoric is growing increasingly ugly and accusatory. If you oppose this health care reform, you must hate the poor, probably because you’re racist. But these are poor equations, and the Left, including the Christian Left, needs to do a better job of laying out the moral argument–and taking the opposing argument seriously.
Some representatives, rather than endure the contentious town hall meetings, are skipping them entirely and spending their time instead at bloggers’ conventions.
2. Yesterday I saw a movie. Let me just say this. If you can see one movie right now, skip G. I. Joe and see District 9. There is a fascinating interview with the director of District 9 (LOTR’s Peter Jackson was a producer of the film) here.
3. Another unfortunate consequence of the breakdown of public discourse: the Left is absolutely convinced they’re losing the health-care debate because of “lies and deceptions,” not because of legitimate, justified concerns. If that were true, if it were lies and deceptions, then surely we would be justified, for the sake of our democracy, for the sake of moving forward as a society, in seeking to soften the voices of those who perpetuate these lies and deceptions? Given how critical and urgent it is that we pass health care reform, and environmental reform, and whatever else Obama tells us we need right now, surely we would be justified in forcing those–say, private broadcasters who make money with conservative talk shows–to fund other stations that present the opposing points of view? As I predicted long ago, the “Fairness Doctrine” cannot advance directly; but the more that “right-wing demagogues are seen as a threat to the Republic, the stronger the Left will push for some equivalent.
4. Sarah Palin continues to hammer the Dems’ health care plans. Those on the Left will surely mock. I don’t agree with her every point, and I think the rhetoric of “death panels” was egregious. But the fact is that many Americans will find her sort of common-sense language more persuasive. Consider two selections. First: “Medical care at the end of life accounts for 80 percent of all health care. When care is rationed, that is naturally where the cuts will be felt first. The “end-of-life” consultations authorized in Section 1233 of HR 3200 were an obvious and heavy handed attempt at pressuring people to reduce the financial burden on the system by minimizing their own care. Worst still, it actually provided a financial incentive to doctors to initiate these consultations. People are right to point out that such a provision doesn’t sound “purely voluntary.””
Two: “Our nation is already $11.5 trillion in debt. Where will the money come from? Taxes, of course. And will a burdensome new tax help our economy recover? Of course not. The best way to encourage more health care coverage is to foster a strong economy where people can afford to purchase their own coverage if they choose to do so. The current administration’s economic policies have done nothing to help in this regard. Health care is without a doubt a complex and contentious issue, but health care reform should be a market oriented solution. There are many ways we can reform the system and lower costs without nationalizing it.”
These arguments may or may not be correct, but they’re based on what seem to many Americans to be common-sense truths. Could Sarah Palin stay in the national eye, and polish her policy bona fides with conservatives, simply through Facebook and the occasional op-ed?
5. A Gallup poll released in May suggested the “pro-life” movement was gaining in numbers. A previous poll, from the end of 2008, had shown that 50 percent called themselves “pro-life” and 44 percent “pro-choice.” The May poll showed a 51% to 42% majority called themselves “pro-life.” Polls are easily manipulated, of course, through sampling and the phrasing of questions, but in a fairly straightforward self-identification poll, from a highly reputable polling organization, it was a surprising result. Now a new Gallup poll shows the numbers at 47% pro-life and 46% pro-choice. Being in-between the two previous polls, it probably represents the standing of the issue accurately.
Amy Sullivan of Time magazine reports triumphantly that “the much ballyhooed pro-life majority seems to have disappeared.” Also, she notes, “a solid 78% think abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances,” and even among those who call themselves pro-life, 60% “believe abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances.” The true “anti-abortion activists,” she claims, would not consider such people pro-life. Yet this is an oversimplification. There is disagreement within the pro-life movement (it is not a monolithic entity, as a “guardian of nuance” such as Amy Sullivan should know) on what should be done in those (very rare) cases where abortion is considered due to rape, incest or the possible death of the mother. Pro-choice activists such as Sullivan always emphasize that 78% figure, but Roe v. Wade had nothing to do with cases of rape or incest or cases where the health of the mother is threatened–because abortion was already legal under those circumstances. And surely the more important point is that only 21% believe that abortion should be legal under any circumstances–which is currently the law of the land. 75% of Americans believe that you should not be able to have an abortion at any time for any reason.
Progressive Christians often talk of finding compromise on the abortion issue–and, of course, liberals often point to European nations as models, while conservatives recoil in disgust from much of western Europe. So how about a compromise? How about we follow the lead of some European nations and prohibit abortion in the third trimester? Or even the second? That would be a more accurate reflection of where the American people are on the issue.
6. Today’s Two-Sides. This article claims that “ignoring Iran’s nuclear plan” would be a colossal blunder of the West. Yet David Clark at the Guardian argues that we can live with a nuclear Iran. Also, Paul Krugman claims that the opposition and criticism Obama has faced has nothing to do with any of Obama’s policies. Charles Krauthammer, on the contrary, argues that Obama lost the health care debate because of specific missteps. Peggy Noonan says that President Obama, though brilliant at becoming President, turns out not to be such a great President. It reminds me of what Obama said when he had been in office for about a month: “turns out I’m pretty good at it,” he assessed his performance.
7. Cub reporter interviews President Obama. Cute kid, with real gumption, and Obama is very winsome in this sort of environment.
8. Finally, Paul Helm is a Christian thinker of the first order. Check in on his series of reflections on the work of another first-rate Christian thinker, N. T. Wright.