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Global Economic Injustice, Domestic Economic Injustice, and Political Leadership: Bill Maher Deftly Ties It All Together

December 26, 2001

A lot of what Bill Maher says on Politically Incorrect infuriates me.  Maher's repeated Johnny-come-lately defense of the Vietnam War, and more recently his ignorant pronouncements about Middle Eastern history, are two of his worst offenses.

But I do agree with Maher, a fellow vegan, on his pro-animal rights position.  And the other night he eloquently, with humor, said what others -- including me without his humor, and perhaps without his eloquence -- have been trying to get across for so long about global and domestic economic injustice, and the total failure of American leadership in these realms.

So I wanted to share Maher's words.  Following are  relevant excerpts from the transcript of the program:

Now, [this] being our last show of the year, I'd like to make a plea tonight for world peace. Oh, I know what you're saying. "Bill, you've had enough controversy this year."

[ Light laughter ]

True that, but --

[ Laughter ]

This being Christmastime, I figure it's my best shot to convince people of the unpopular position, that we Americans need to start thinking of ourselves as citizens of the world first and of any particular country second. After all, Jesus himself was, I don't know if you know this, not an American.

[ Light laughter ]

If you celebrate Christmas religiously, folks, you pray to a young man from the Middle East who, today, probably would get stopped at the airport.

[ Laughter ]

...Folks, we are living in a global village, and we need to become globalists.... we are living in a global village, and now that the haters, the have-nots, can so easily get to and inflict pain on the players, the haves, it is both a moral and selfish imperative for us to realize that a village, even a global one, is only as safe as its least safe and happy member.

So we can go on, as we have, considering American lives more valuable than all others, hogging resources and pulling out of treaties the rest of the world wants, or we can get smart and realize that there's a human ecology just like there's an ecology in nature. If you kill the spiders, you end up with too many flies... The lack of food, an education, and alternatives to hate and reasons to hope will produce terrorists.

God bless America? Sure. But Tiny Tim said it better --"God bless us, every one."

[ Cheers and applause ]

...Thank you. And it's always easy to applaud that, you know, in the abstract, but if I said to you, "That means that we're going to have to have a massive redistribution of our wealth that we might have to give up 10% to 15% of what we make so that the rest of the world doesn't suffer and hate us," would you agree with that?

[ Cheers and applause ]

Commenting later on political leadership:

I never hear the president say anything that makes people wanna do anything but what they have already been doing all along. His big sacrifice is, "Shop, enjoy Christmas, use more oil."

[ Laughter ]

That to me is not leadership. Leadership is be willing to take it on the chin because you present people with an option that may not be popular. That's what real leaders do.

[ Applause ]

And finally, the link to domestic economic injustice:

[M]y last fruit basket of the year goes to the author Barbara Ehrenreich. She wrote a book called "Nickel and Dimed," which was widely covered but not widely enough, where she basically said, "Guilt does not go far enough. We should feel shamed, all of us in the so-called "middle class," who depend on the underpaid labor of others."

She took jobs as a waitress, a house cleaner, and in Wal-Mart, and she said she wanted to find a simple question. How can anyone in this country live on $6 or $7 an hour?

Now, the people we were just talking about in the first segment who live in the third world might say, "Gee, how can you live on that a week like we do?" But both questions are good...

You know. We're a rich country, and we're not sharing either here at home or overseas, and we are gonna pay for it. That's my Christmas message.

I know Maher's comments were not a scholarly presentation citing statistics for each of his assertions.  Maher was only trying to plant thoughts in people's minds.  He did that well.  And when was the last time you heard anyone on the ABC television network expressing thoughts like these, to millions of viewers?  It was heartening to behold.  Kudos to Bill Maher for doing so.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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