I defer to no one in my contempt for Bill Maher. He is an unfunny little crapweasel. However, of late, he’s beginning to show an alarming pattern of non-reflexive-leftwing opinions that probably spell the end of his career. First, there was his opinions of Islam which got ThinkProgress within a gnat’s whisker of calling him an Islamophobe
Indeed, while this weekend’s sketch riled a group largely unfamiliar with Maher’s show (Zain fans), he has made bashing Muslims — or Islam in general — a recurring part of his act in recent months. In October of 2014, he called Islam “the only religion that acts like the mafia — that will (expletive) kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book.” Maher and another guest, prominent author and “New Atheist” Sam Harris, insisted this position was the “liberal” stance, but actor Ben Affleck, another guest on the show who claims to be a “moderately liberal guy,” defended Islam, saying Maher’s comments were “gross” and “racist.”
A month prior, Maher frustrated journalist Charlie Rose by claiming that all of Islam was complicit in the actions of ISIS, the terrorist group currently committing atrocities across the Middle East. Maher said there was “connecting tissue” between ISIS and the broader Muslim world, noting “The Qur’an absolutely has on every page stuff that’s horrible about how the infidels should be treated.” Maher singled out Islam again in January after the tragic killing of Charlie Hebdo journalists by terrorists who claimed to be acting in the name of Islam. Referencing remarks he made earlier that week on the “Jimmy Kimmel Live” show, Maher said of Islam, “what we’ve said all along, and have been called bigots for it, is when there’s this many bad apples, there’s something wrong with the orchard.”
The latest episode is his encounter with Bernie Sanders and their discussion on the cost of the laundry list of free stuff Sanders promised America during the debate. Maher did everything but quote Margaret Thatcher: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” Via The Daily Beast. We start with Sanders:
“What we do is we have to make a movement if you like to correlate what we’re talking about, because on every one of the major issues I’m talking about, the American people agree,” explained Sanders. “Do the American people agree that public colleges and universities should be tuition-free, as they are in many other countries? Do the American people agree that the largest corporations and the wealthiest people, who today are doing phenomenally well while the middle-class shrinks, do people believe they should have to pay more in taxes? The American people say yes.”
Instead of rolling over, Maher gave him a substantive response:
“The tax revenue that we would get just from taxing the people who I think your fans think you’re talking about, the people who own a yacht, does not come close to covering what you want to pay for,” said Maher.
“Not true. Not true,” a clearly-thrown Sanders fired back. “What I’m saying is there have been articles out there that have been really unfair and wrong. For example, what they are suggesting is that if we move to a Medicare-for-all single-payer program, which guarantees healthcare to all people, it would cost a lot of money. That’s true. But what they forget to tell you is it would be much more cost-effective than this dysfunctional system we have right now, which is the most expensive per capita on earth.”
“But it couldn’t even work in your home state of Vermont!” Maher said. “They were going to institute it, and the governor said it’s going to cost too much money. We just can’t do it. It would be the entire budget. That’s true.”
“No… Well, it’s not…,” a shaken Sanders replied. “I’m not the governor from the state of Vermont, I’m the senator from the state of Vermont…”
Sanders asked Maher—Maher?!—to explain why he feels his universal healthcare plan wouldn’t work. And Maher obliged him.“Because they control both ends of it,” said Maher. “If you’re saying that the government is going to pick up the tab but not make the insurance companies, the hospitals, and the doctors not gouge people, then we are going to break the budget. It has to work both ways. So you’re going to make the hospitals do that? Because that is socialism.”
From there Mister Toad’s Wild Ride went on to Social Security and free college:
OK. But you want to increase social security.
“And you know how we do that? We pay for it. We say that somebody who’s making $10 million should not end up paying the same amount as someone making $118,000. Lift the cap. We can extend and expand social security.”
You also want free college.
“We do. Not free college—free tuition at public colleges and universities. You know how we pay for that? Through a tax on Wall Street speculation.”
So you’re saying we can pay for all this without raising taxes on anybody but the 1 percent?
“We may have to go down a little bit lower than that—but not much lower. And what people have to understand is right now people can’t afford to send their kids to college, and people are graduating school deeply in debt. Do I think we should join Germany and many other countries and encourage young people to get the education that they need, and make the country stronger? I sure do.”
I’m not insinuating Maher has suddenly join Cato Institute or become a member of the Austrian School of economics. In fact, I think he’s probably in the tank for Hillary Clinton and was doing to Sanders what Clinton was afraid to do during the debate. But the upshot is positive. The critique of Sanders’s socialism applies equally well to progressive programs. That will be obvious to even some of Maher’s fans.