Thursday, April 18, 2013

Who Will Save Your Seoul

By Bill Maher

Recently on the news, I heard a South Korean say he wasn't worried about war with North Korea, because "We know the U.S. has our backs."

At first, I swelled with national pride, and thought, "You're welcome." But then I thought, "Wait a minute -- why can't South Korea get its own back?"

They're a rich country, with the world’s 12th largest economy. They have one of the best education systems in the world. They have a large active army -- 650,000 troops -- and 3.2 million reserves. Their population is twice the size of North Korea's, and their economy 40 times as big. They have electricity. And food.

So why does the United States still have 28,500 troops there -- more than we'll probably have in Afghanistan by the end of next year?

How do troops protect from nuclear weapons?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Not Lovin' It

By Bill Maher

Earlier this month, hundreds of New York City fast food workers walked off their jobs and picketed in front of restaurants, demanding a living wage. All that was left inside were the customers and the rats.

It used to be that the fast food jobs were the extra jobs kids would do to earn some money for gas and weed, so they weren't using up all of Mom and Dad's. The rest of us worked the actual jobs jobs. But now the economy is such that the fast food jobs are the jobs jobs. The median age of a fast food worker is now over 28. Moms and dads, whose decent-paying jobs have been downsized or outsourced, are now working the counter at McDonald's. Full time, that's just about $16,000 a year, or just enough for you and your family to live in one of the nicer refrigerator boxes.
Last month, Senator Elizabeth Warren made the case for a living wage at a Senate committee hearing:
"If we started in 1960 and we said that as productivity goes up, that is as workers are producing more, then the minimum wage is going to go up the same. And if that were the case then the minimum wage today would be about $22 an hour. So my question is... with a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, what happened to the other $14.75? It sure didn't go to the worker."
One fair way to narrow the wealth gap is to make the hugely profitable fast food companies pay more and profit less. When we don't force huge fast food corporations to pay a living wage, yes, their profits go up (McDonald's profits were up 130% during the recession) and their stockholders benefit -- but their employees need to go on public assistance and we, the taxpayers, end up footing the bill.

Why should I have to finance some rich prick's McDonald's Corporation stock staying at 99.34 instead of 97.86?

A Taxing Feeling

By Bill Maher

A few weeks ago I mentioned on the show that, while I'm willing to pay more in taxes, Democrats could lose me on this issue if they continue to go to that well over and over. In other words, there's a limit to what I think the government should be allowed to take from its citizens, even the wealthiest ones. I wasn't suggesting that I was going to start donning a tri-corner hat and going Galt, or even Wesley Snipes. I was simply saying that when you combine all of the state and federal and local taxes, especially in a high tax state like California, it is a lot. Because -- oh, how shall I say this? -- it is a lot. Maybe I feel this way because it's April 15th and, like many Americans, I feel like the radius of my asshole just changed. Or maybe it's because, again, numerically, it's a lot.

Now, I'm not asking for any sympathy. I've done quite well, and I'm willing to pay a higher rate than Joe Six-Pack. Or Mitt Romney. And I do. What I didn't like is what the reaction to my comments says about how Americans have come to discuss political issues: both sides have their talking points and their spokespeople, and nobody gives an inch, and then they commence talking past each other.

Really. I didn't think this was a very controversial statement. But apparently it was, because it got picked up in the conservative media, and I heard from lots of liberals about it because it vaguely veered from Democratic dogma on taxes, which is that not only should you always be for raising them -- especially on the wealthy -- but you should really, really enjoy paying them!

Well, just because Republicans hate taxes and pledge to lower them at every turn, doesn't mean that I have to love taxes and pledge to raise them at every turn. But this is basically the arrangement we have on every issue in this country. The Republicans take a ridiculous, extremist view on an issue, and the left is left to defend the basic principle on the other side, and nothing interesting gets discussed by anyone.

Instead of discussing what the appropriate tax rate should be and who should pay -- which, let's face it, is dull enough already -- the discussion we have is whether taxes are bad because government is bad, or whether taxes are good because all government programs are the cat's meow. And then the buzzer goes off and the middle school debate team competition is over.

Well, I'm sorry, but for the most part I don't love paying taxes. I view them as a necessary evil. I even view paying them as a form of patriotism. But I'm also a sentient adult who understands that a lot of that money goes to stuff I really don't like and don't think is necessary, like our enormous and bloated defense budget. Like many Americans, I think we often spend too much and receive too little benefit for the money we spend, and that our budget should look vastly different than it does, and that the tax code is completely screwed up, so I'm not going to defend the current system as if it's perfect and delight in paying for it simply because there's a Democrat in the White House. I'm also not going to take the position of "All government programs are good." Or "All poor people are noble." Or "Everything the teachers union does should be defended." Or "The higher the tax rate on the rich, the better."

And conservatives, just because I say something like "tax rates are getting pretty high" it doesn't mean I've suddenly seen the wisdom of cutting them to Paul Ryan levels, or even cutting them at all, or that now I'm on your team. I'm not. In fact, you're the real reason we're having these shitty debates, because you've gone to such an extreme that we're left to simply argue for the basic principle, like that taxes are necessary, or that global warming is real.

So, let's all grow up a bit. And if you want to watch a show where your biases are relentlessly confirmed, where children argue and no one ever concedes a point on anything, try Hannity.

Impeach Scalia

During oral arguments over same-sex marriage last month, Justice Antonin Scalia suggested gay adoption might be harmful to children. He said, "There's considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful or not."

This is complete bullshit.

Here's what the American Sociological Association actually says, which Scalia would have known if he'd bothered to read their amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court brief, on this exact case. Hat tip to Ezra Klein for finding this:
The claim that same-sex parents produce less positive child outcomes than opposite-sex parents--either because such families lack both a male and female parent or because both parents are not the biological parents of their children--contradicts abundant social science research. Decades of methodologically sound social science research, especially multiple nationally representative studies and the expert evidence introduced in the district courts below, confirm that positive child wellbeing is the product of stability in the relationship between the two parents, stability in the relationship between the parents and child, and greater parental socioeconomic resources. Whether a child is raised by same-sex or opposite-sex parents has no bearing on a child's wellbeing.
The clear and consistent consensus in the social science profession is that across a wide range of indicators, children fare just as well when they are raised by same-sex parents when compared to children raised by opposite-sex parents.
You also hear bullshit talking points, like the one Scalia cited, from fools like Ralph Reed -- but his job is to be a professional right-wing jackass. He's allowed to make things up. Scalia is on the Supreme Court, and if this were a one-time offense, I'd overlook it. But when you go back and listen to every question this guy asks from the bench -- read the transcript to the health care case, for instance -- they all basically come from nonsense that you could read in a chain email or see on a sign at a tea bagger rally.

I say we impeach him on grounds of knuckle dragging. I know it would be unprecedented, but it would be deserved, and fun.