Monday, August 24, 2009

Crashing Empires and Missed Moral Opportunities: The Health Care Debacle Again

George Lakoff on where the Obama administration went wrong in presenting the case for health-care reform:

[I]t was a mistake to put cost ahead of morality. Health care is a moral issue, and the right-wing understands that and is using it. That's why the "death panels" and "government takeover" language resonates with those who have a conservative moral perspective and have effectively used terms like "pro-life." Health care is a life and death issue, which is as moral as anything could be. The insurance companies have been on the side of death, and that needs to be said overtly.


• The basic values are empathy (we care about people), responsibility for ourselves and others, and the ethic of excellence (making ourselves better and the world better).
• These values form the basis of democracy: It's because we care about our fellow citizens that we have values like freedom and fairness, for everyone, not just the powerful.
• From that, it follows that government has two moral missions: protection (of consumers, workers, the environment, the old, the sick, the powerless; and empowerment through public works; communication, energy, and water systems; education; banks that work; a court system: and so on. Without them, no one makes it in America. Taxes are what you pay for protection and empowerment by the government, and the more you make the greater your responsibility to maintain the system.
Appropriate language can be found to express these values. They lie at the heart of all progressive policies. If they are out there every day, it becomes easier to discuss any issue. This is what it means to prepare the ground for specific framings.

And Frances Kissling on the lamentable sin of omission of the American Catholic bishops, who have chosen to play partisan politics in this kairotic moment of opportunity to assure access to health care for all citizens, rather than assist the new administration:

For decades the bishops have advocated for universal healthcare -- in fact, for a single-payer system with a strong emphasis on covering the uninsured, the poor and immigrants. The best shot at reform is now. But the bishops are squandering every ounce of moral capital they have, not on the public option, but on ensuring that in any reform bill not one penny of federal funds is used for abortion.
This strategy has put them in the extremist camp among those opposed to abortion. Moderate evangelicals and antiabortion Catholics bit the bullet on abortion four years ago and decided that other issues like ending wars, reducing global warming, and fighting poverty meant it was time to move on from attempting to outlaw abortion. While one can quibble with their strategy, working to prevent the need for abortion was a step forward from working to make it illegal.

Conservatives love to play games with narratives about declining empires. For generations, right-wing movements have sought to attribute the fall of the Roman Empire to increasing tolerance of homosexuality.

But as the prophets of the Jewish scriptures note, the corruption that destroys one proud civilization after another has nothing at all to do with increasing tolerance of sexual minorities. Instead, empires decay when the gap between rich and poor in a society grows intolerably wide, and when the rich are allowed to continue oppressing the poor with impunity.

As the prophets note, when people of faith not only stand by in silence as such oppression weaves itself into every facet of life, but collude in the oppression, everything comes tumbling down. And when that happens, as the crash of collapsing structures of civil life becomes the only sound anyone is capable of hearing, who will listen any longer to the fine words of religious leaders who talk about economic justice for all and God’s preferential love for the poor, but who do nothing to enact their fine rhetoric in times when their voices might have counted?