Comedy Central news anchor Stephen Colbert testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security today about his experience doing farm work with committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren earlier this year.
Colbert’s presence brought a much needed jolt of attention to the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, and his trademark satire exposed the argument of opponents as both uninformed and morally flawed.
Colbert impressively managed to stay in character for the majority of the hearing, but poignantly let down his guard to answer a final question from Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA). Asked why he was interested in working on this issue, Colbert, a Catholic, quoted from the familiar Gospel passage Matthew 25 to explain his desire to speak for the powerless.
COLBERT: I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and this seemed like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet we still invite them to come here and at the same time ask them to leave. That’s an interesting contradiction to me. And, you know, “whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers,” and these seem like the least of our brothers right now. A lot of people are least brothers right now because the economy is so hard. And I don’t want to take anyone’s hardship away from them or diminish anything like that, but migrant workers suffer and have no rights.
I thought it was an inspiring answer and a great example of putting faith into practice.
Today marks the six-month anniversary of the passage of historic health care reform and the implementation date for many of the law’s benefits and protections. The provisions going into effect are online at www.healthcare.gov.
One of the most important aspects of the law is the creation of high-risk pools for people who have trouble getting insurance on the open market. This video about a cancer survivor in New Hampshire who was the first to sign-up for the high-risk pool in her state illustrates well why these reforms are so important:
Senate Republicans, along with several Democrats, filibustered repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this afternoon in defiance of basic fairness, public opinion (including the vast majority of people of faith), and the wishes of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, and President Obama. Most disappointing to me was Sen. Collins’s statement this morning about why she supported the filibuster:
“Now, Mr. President, I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. I support the provisions in this bill. I debated for them; I was the sole Republican on the Committee that voted for the Lieberman-Levin language on don’t ask, don’t tell. I think it’s the right thing to do, I think it’s only fair. I think we should welcome the service of these individuals who are willing and capable of serving their country. But I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down debate and preclude Republican amendments. That too is not fair. [emphasis added]
This rationale is particularly troubling because Senator Collins mentioned earlier in her remarks that more than 13,000 service members have been dismissed from the armed forces on the basis of their sexual orientation. She believes repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is the right thing to do, and she sees that the policy has forced thousands of people to be unfairly dismissed from their jobs, but she voted against her conscience because of procedural objections. In response to a political maneuver she believes is unfair, she voted in support of a policy she believes is morally wrong. And she admitted as much on the record. Amazing.
Audio of Mike Huckabee’s remarks from the Values Voter Summit this afternoon is making the rounds today, for good reason – the former Arkansas governor made some rather callous jokes about people with pre-existing conditions (ie, people who have had serious medical problems). Via Media Matters, here’s the transcript:
And a lot of this, it sounds so good, and it’s such a warm message to say we’re not gonna deny anyone from a preexisting condition. Look, I think that sounds terrific, but I want to ask you something from a common sense perspective. Suppose we applied that principle that you can just come along with whatever condition you have and we’re gonna cover you at the same cost we’re covering everybody else ’cause we wanna be fair. Okay, fine. Then let’s do that with our property insurance. And you can call your insurance agent and say, “I’d like to buy some insurance for my house.” He’d say, “Tell me about your house.” “Well sir, it burned down yesterday, but I’d like to insure it today.” And he’ll say “I’m sorry, but we can’t insure it after it’s already burned.” Well, no preexisting conditions.
How would you like to be able to call your insurance agent for your car and say ‘I want you to insure my car.’ ‘Well tell me about your car.’ ‘Well it was a pretty nice vehicle until my sixteen year-old boy wrecked it yesterday. [He] totaled the thing out but I’d like to get it insurance so we can get it replaced.’ Now how much would a policy cost if it covered everything? About as much as it’s gonna cost for health care in this country.
My, what a difference an election cycle makes. If you’re just joining us, Huckabee’s compassion was a subject of much attention during his presidential run. Apparently, compassion was so 2008. Now he’s comparing people who have had costly medical problems to wrecked cars and burnt-down houses in a dehumanizing, illogical analogy meant to defend the insurance industry’s practice of denying them coverage. I’m a former constituent of Mike’s, and I have a pre-existing condition. If I lose my health insurance, the cost of my very necessary prescription drugs will jump from $10/month to $350/month, and no one will sell me remotely affordable health insurance unless they are compelled to do so by law.
Should I receive this protection, or is the health insurance industry’s right to maximize their profits by any means necessary more precious than my life? It really is that simple of a question, Reverend Huckabee.
The fierce debate over whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts has become front-page news and provoked a steady stream of punditry as the midterm elections approach. It seems that faith leaders have an important voice to raise on this issue. While some might think this is an unlikely topic for pastors and faith-based advocates, diverse religious traditions have a proud history of advocating for a just economy, and Catholic social teaching in particular has some pretty specific things to say about how taxes relate to the common good. In fact, the Catholic Church calls for “a reasonable and fair application of taxes” in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, a long and daunting title for the encyclopedic volume of the church’s centuries-old social justice teachings:
Tax revenues and public spending take on crucial economic importance for every civil and political community…Public spending is directed to the common good when certain fundamental principles are observed: the payment of taxes as part of the duty of solidarity; a reasonable and fair application of taxes; precision and integrity in administering and distributing public resources. In the redistribution of resources, public spending must observe the principles of solidarity, equality and making use of talents. It must also pay greater attention to families, designating an adequate amount of resources for this purpose.
Let’s hope Catholic leaders in states like Ohio, home to House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner – now an influential evangelist in the Church of Trickle-Down Economics – can weigh in with some timely values messaging about the role of taxes. Faith leaders nervous about entering this critical debate that strikes at the very core of what ends our economy should ultimately serve have a good example in Pope Benedict XVI, who last summer called for a dramatic rethinking of the global economy in ways that recognize the moral and practical perils of free-market fundamentalism. Religious leaders, it’s time to lift up your economic justice positions, sharpen your talking points for the media cycle, and go make some news!