Sunday, December 20, 2009

Something's Not Right Here: Bill Moyers on U.S. Leaders

Update, 4:32 P.M. I note below that the U.S. Catholic bishops have been collaborating in the past day or so with Rep. Bart Stupak and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell to block health care reform because the Senate bill for reform is not, the bishops maintain, in line with Catholic teaching about abortion. The source I cite for that claim is John Aravosis’s America Blog.

I’m now seeing that Ben Smith at Politico is reporting the same story. Politico has obtained emails showing that a Stupak’s aide has been working with Republican leaders to coordinate opposition to health care reform, in emails ccd to key staffers of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

As a Catholic, I’m deeply concerned to see the U.S. Catholic bishops playing partisan politics with something as significant and as morally important as health care reform. In my view, Americans in general ought to be up in arms about the attempt of the leaders of any religious group to strong-arm our political leaders to implement policies that reflect the particular teachings of a given religious group, when those same leaders don't submit the policies and teachings they want to impose on all Americans in backroom deals to open public debate.

Sunday reading or listening: Bill Moyers in conversation with Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner about what’s gone wrong with the change we believe in:

Something's not right here. One year after the great collapse of our financial system, Wall Street is back on top while our politicians dither. As for health care reform, you're about to be forced to buy insurance from companies whose stock is soaring, and that's just dandy with the White House.

Truth is, our capitol's being looted, Republicans are acting like the town rowdies, the sheriff is firing blanks, and powerful Democrats in Congress are in cahoots with the gang that's pulling the heist. This is not capitalism at work. It's capital. Raw money, mounds of it, buying politicians and policy as if they were futures on the hog market.

I encourage you to watch the program or read the transcript. Something’s not right here, indeed. In our declining empire, as raw money calls the shots, there is no longer even a pretense of push-back from political leaders who came to power promising change we can believe in and a retrieval of our fragmented democracy.

The gap between campaign rhetoric and governing reality couldn’t be starker. Or more blatant and cynical. And as the health care bill heads into Hobbsean wonderland, the Catholic bishops have been working fast and furious, it’s being reported, to hatch backroom plots with Rep. Stupak and—get this—Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell. Plots to block health care reform altogether. Plots to serve Republican ends, while claiming to be all about life. Catholic absolutism on abortion as a way to collude with partisan attacks on health care reform altogether, while millions upon millions of Americans lack any access to health care coverage at all.

Pro-life? You’ve got to weep at the disparity between what they tell us about, and what they do over and over again to enact their “pro-life” values.

Meanwhile, I will return to the commentary on John Allen’s take on Uganda and Catholic silence in an upcoming posting. I’m working on it now, but prefer not to release it of a Sunday, when many readers are taking a break from blog-reading, especially as Christmas nears.