Friday, December 25, 2009

Warped Arguments

Yellow Dog at on 12/24 pretty clear summed up the conflict some of us face in viewing health care reform as it has become (_ _ _ not in original):

This is why I'm glad the Democrats have won - so far - on health care DEform, even though I still think the bill is a piece of s_ _ _ that will cost Democrats dearly in extra work, extra money, extra time and lots of lost votes.

This bill is making repugs rip out their own eyeballs in rage and despair, and for the moment that's a good enough outcome for me.

It's hard to argue with logic like that, especially when one of those Republicans, Oklahoma's Senator Tom Coburn, argued on December 24

If this bill becomes law, future generations will rue this day and I will do everything in my power to work toward its repeal. This bill will ration care, cut Medicare, increase premiums, fund abortion and bury our children in debt.

This process was not compromise. This process was corruption. This bill passed because votes were bought and sold using the issue of abortion as a bargaining chip. The abortion provision alone makes this bill the most arrogant piece of legislation I have seen in Congress. Only the most condescending politician can believe it is appropriate to force Americans to pay for other people's abortions and to coerce medical professional to take the lives of unborn children.

Senator Coburn, understandably did not- could not- say how the measure would "ration care" or "bury our children in debt." Given that the bill would not ration care and was fashioned to be at worst deficit-neutral, Coburn was wisely discreet. And of course he has been an advocate of extending the GWB tax cuts for the wealthy, which did its part in exploding the deficit.

Certainly Coburn is aware that abortion was used "as a bargaining chip" by the anti-choice Nebraska senator Ben Nelson, not by pro-choice proponents; and that the Senate bill (as does the House bill) further restricts, rather than expands, a woman's right to choose. Sure, gloating would be rude; but whining after a victory is so childish.

It's (sarcasm alert) heartwarming that Senator Coburn worries that the legislation will "cut Medicare." It would be a little more convincing, however, if he hadn't one sentence earlier claimed

Congress ignored the coming economic storm and impending bankruptcy of our entitlement programs....

Now what could one of the Senate's most conservative members have meant when he referred to the "impending bankruptcy of our entitlement programs?" Probably the same thing Rush Limbaugh, Concord Coalition founder Pete Peterson, and what Digby refers to as "the Village" (roughly, the Washington media-corporate-political establishment) mean.

The Social Security system, notwithstanding being robbed by successive congresses and presidents to fund the general debt, is sound. Medicare is endangered- but by increasing health care costs, which must be addressed by effective health care reform. The interests wringing their hands over "the impending bankruptcy of our entitlement programs," as Digby noted in late May, is trying

to break the generational bond between the young and old and are always looking for a good moment of impending crisis (or "opportunity" like a rising stock market) to put an end to the program. Whatever works.

As for Medicare --- there's no fixing it without health care. But they know that too --- which is one of the reasons they will block reform

But the more intriguing portion of Coburn's speech contained the seemingly innocuous reference to Christmas, when he contended of Senate Democrats

Their hide the ball strategy led them to rush this process and ram the bill through on the eve of the most important Christian holiday when they hoped the American people wouldn't be watching.

In the long run, the GOP's original intent, to delay the vote until 7:00 p.m. Christmas Eve, is irrelevant. But what about "the most important Christian holiday?"

Perhaps the calendars are all wrong, it is March or April, and we've just celebrated Easter. Christmas may be "the most wonderful time of the year"- to many Christians and non-Christians- and the most important holiday to individual Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox Church members. But it simply is not the "most important" holiday in Christendom. The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible explains the importance in Christendom of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, the former the basis of Good Friday and the latter of Easter, both days obviously inextricably linked:

First, it (the resurrection) has been treated as the validation of Christian claims about the effectiveness of his atoning death. Jesus' resurrection demonstrated his victory over death (Ac 2:24, 1Co 15:54-57), vindicated him as righteous (Jn 16:10) and confirmed his divinity (Ro 1:4). This event therefore led to his ascension, enthronement (Ac 1:9-11; 2:33-34, Php 2:9-11; cf. Isa 53:10-12) and present heavenly reign. The reality of the resurrection guarantees believers; present forgiveness and justification (Ro 4:25; 1 Co 15:17; Heb 7:24-25), as well as their future hope of resurrection life when Christ returns (Jn 11:25-26; Ro 6; Eph 1:16-2:10; Col 2:9-15; 3:1-4).

Moreover, the apostle John (in 6:58) reportedly quoted Jesus as declaring to skeptics "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!" (after which stones rained down on him). The birth of the human Jesus (notwithstanding to a virgin) approximately 30 years prior is very important to Christian belief but not as much so. The resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his death by crucifixion is simply the central event of Christianity.

Feel free not to believe any of this. Most people around the world- including an awful lot of nominal Christians- do not. But they are the fundamental beliefs around which Christianity resolves, contrary to Senator Coburn's implication.

One could argue that Coburn is not even a Christian, but rather a member of a Christian cult- the Family, which combines an elitist allegiance to capitalist domination with its own brand of Christian theology. But that would be a violation of the Law of Parsimony. It is, after all, Christmas season; a time of good cheer, Santa Claus, and egg nog. And if Tom Coburn can combine the positive emotions of the season with the enduring Repub tactic of portraying Democrats as the godless, anti-Christian party, exploitation of the Christian faith is mere "gravy," an added bonus.

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