I've not watched his entire testimony, but when Stephen Colbert was asked why he is trying to work on behalf of migrants, he had a pithy answer.

Comments

Vince Killoran | 9/27/2010 - 3:22pm
??"Big corporations only have power over you because of big government."

Ever heard of the Robber Barons and Gilded Age America?
Anonymous | 9/27/2010 - 9:54am
Jack,

Big corporations only have power over you because of big government.  If government was small then big government would have no protection against start-ups and independents who do the same service for less money.  The consumer (you) win because you can vote with your pocketbook.
Stanley Kopacz | 9/26/2010 - 12:15pm
Joe,
Government needs to perform what it is mandated to perform.  It is not a matter of size.  Making government larger or smaller is not reform, and reform of the government at all levels is what is needed.  The government is huge now and, in many respects, is not doing its job. SOme agencies do their jobs.  THe DOD does its job but only because we throw vast amounts of money at the problems.  NIST does its job, otherwise a pound could be anything you want it to and measurements in labs everywhere would be screwed up.  The GPS system is run by the Air Force and that gets me where I want to go.  A smaller government could do the job but not without reform.  Europeans seem to do alright.
Vince Killoran | 9/28/2010 - 2:26pm
"ignores the greater ills in our society/world"  

That's not hypocrisy-that's being in disagreement with you.  They're two different things. As for his "mocking" I guess that's a person's stock in trade when they are a comedian.  Some people find him compelling and laugh at the truths he articulates.
Anonymous | 9/28/2010 - 9:15am
It's hard to figure out the sense in some arguments some times.  


First we get the 1950 as some idealist time when unions controlled the world and economic expansion was rampant. But that was bad because it was not Happy Days but some other horror show, as yet unknown.


We get the oppressive second half of the 19th century when economic expansion was rampant and immigrants were flocking to this country for its opportunities.   I guess someone forgot to tell them about the horror show of oppression that awaited for them in America. 


By the way I took the course again from a different instructor and got an A+.  And I have sat through, watched, listened to about 200 lectures in total on the 18th and 19th century including the Industrial Revolution, all its causes and repercussions.  The two big events of that time which are still affecting intellectual thought are the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.  Progressives are still living in the time of the Industrial Revolution using the thought processes that created the French Revolution.


One thing I learned is that progressives usually have good intentions but fail to see the implications of what they recommend.  We get some good practices but we get fascism and communism and the oppressive Wilson presidency too.  All have one thing in common, namely someone thinks they know better than others and imposes their will on the rest for a greater good.  Nearly 100% of the time with dysfunctional consequences, sometimes to the extent that millions must be impoverished or killed to make the dreams come true.  So the dreams become nightmares with a regularity of about 100% of the time.  Just witness the financial debacle we are in which was due to making it easier for people to get home loans, artificially inflating home prices.  A laudatory goal at first glance but one that has had disastrous consequences.  That is the track record of progressives which they never deal with.


Colbert is a hypocrite.  Not because he is advocating better conditions for migrant workers which probably needs more light, but because he cherry picks what he supports and ignores the greater ills in our society/world.  He mocks those who want to correct them.  That is his forte, mocking.
Vince Killoran | 9/27/2010 - 6:44pm
Cosgrove-I'd give you a failing grade as well if you equated the 1950s with "Happy Days."  I don't know when you went to college but the historical interpretation of the period has changed considerably in the last 15 years. It was complicated decade-surprise, surprise-but the twenty years following WWII were the high water mark of American liberalism (think Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.s THE VITAL CENTER). High taxes on corporations and high unionization rates; lots of state and federal spending on education etc. Plus, a civil rights movement and proto-feminism!

Your take on the Gilded Age seems downright incorrect as well, but it's hard to respond to your weak response that "things were even worse before then" because you don't offer any evidence.  I will grant you this: the whole 19th century was a choatic period of industrialization and dislocation.  The Progressive Movement had its work cut out for it.

Cheers to Colbert for some clarity.
Anonymous | 9/27/2010 - 6:20pm
''THe 1950s saw a large-scale expansion of the middle-class. Unions were strong, comprising almost half of the American work force.''
 
The 50's are anathema to liberals.  These were the times of ''Happy Days'' and all that was bad with America according to the left.  I once told an aged liberal professor that the 50's were Happy Days and good times and he almost went into conniptions and told me how oppressed the era was and how racist it was.  I got my only F as a result.  What an ''_______''  fill in the blanks, there are 7 of them.
 
 
If you want to discuss the economic expansion that took place after WWII, it was due primarily to two main things among others, the repudiation of the New Deal economic policies since Roosevelt was dead and politicians could not work his oppressive patronage policies like they did in the 30's.  Essentially the Wicked Witch was dead.  This led to a more business friendly era as business taxes and some other taxes were reduced.  I say this as one who listened to my parents and grand parents speak of Roosevelt as they would a saint.
 
 
The second reason was that the manufacturing capability of the rest of the world was destroyed in WWII.  Both of these two environments encouraged new business formation.  The GI Bill also created a technologically and savvy work force which is another reason.
 
 
There was another great expansion in the 80's as Reagan took the shackles off investment restrictions and encourages another surge of new investment.  This led to 40 million jobs in the next 25 years, all within small business.  And some of those businesses have grown quite large and we should be wary.
 
 
And as far as your comment about how bad things were, the answer is that they were quite worse before then.  In every period there are the less than desired circumstances but for the most part, these worked themselves out over time.  For the individuals caught up in the problems, it is never enough to say it will get better because some led some very harsh lives but in general the progression was steady in making life better.  And yes, unions helped in that.  But so did the big bad financier who enabled the progress to continue as they invested in new technology.

Vince Killoran | 9/27/2010 - 5:50pm
With all due respect to Wikipedia the Gilded Age was not so great for workers (unions all but illegal, sweatshops, child labor, Chinese Exclusion Act, JIM Crow south, huge numbers of industrial accidents, gross inequality of wealthm urban pollution, etc.).

BTW, if your do want go toe-to-toe on Wikipedia, here's the entry for the 1950s when taxes on the rich were high: "THe 1950s saw a large-scale expansion of the middle-class. Unions were strong, comprising almost half of the American work force."
Anonymous | 9/27/2010 - 5:40pm
"government could be the ONLY economic agent & you would still have people dying from bad meat"

If there were no government regulations how would we know where to get our eggs and meat?  There would be a market incentive to prove to the customer that your eggs or meat or good.  On might hire a reputable company to "certify" your eggs or meat.  This certifying company would have an incentive to do a good job and be reputable.

Instead we have goverment certifying our eggs and meat.  When things go wrong and bad eggs are sold you don't fire the government certifying agency you argue that there should be more regulation.

The data do not support that we are safer because of government regulation.  Big businesss is safer.
Anonymous | 9/27/2010 - 5:21pm
"Big corporations control much of our big government, since they are the ones with power.  Do you think the little guy benefits from bigger government?  Those who can influence the politician benefit from bigger goverment.  As a Christian this causes me great fear."

- Tell that to Goldman Sachs (who's biggest mistake may been investing investing millions of dollars in the Obama campaign), Microsoft, GM, and Lehman Bros.  There is a reason that most big business CEOs are big time Democrat donors - because big government helps big business more than anything.  Regulations are very expensive, and increased regulations increase the cost of business that can primarily be borne by big businesses, preventing competition from springing up. 

I can guarantee Mr. Kopacz that government could be the ONLY economic agent & you would still have people dying from bad meat.  As soon as Catholic social teaching discovers free market capitalism is the best (albiet imperfect) vehicle for justice, the sooner it will be relevant again.  Look at the history of this country since the Great Depression.  We are the wealthiest nation in the world (yes, even our poor) and at the same time we have EXPANDED the number of people who own capital, i.e. stocks, bonds, savings accuonts, homes, retirement plans, as well as traditional capital like land.  That is no accident.  I suppose some those on here would still prefer the medieval Catholic guilds as the primary economic organization to foster greater justice.
Anonymous | 9/27/2010 - 5:11pm
From Wikipedia,


''The Gilded Age is most famous for the creation of a modern industrial economy. During the 1870s and 1880s, the U.S. economy grew at the fastest rate in its history, with real wages, wealth, GDP, and capital formation all increasing rapidly. A national transportation and communication network was created, the corporation became the dominant form of business organization, and a managerial revolution transformed business operations.'' 


Still with all the success of the Gilded Age, most lived or worked on farms or near them till early in the 20th Century. 


Anything big is a real problem because it then exerts power just by its size and not by the benefits it generates.  So big business and big government or big anything are all suspect for the good of all.   For example, in China now the PLA exerts a great amount of power because of its size and ability to use force to gets it way.
Marie Rehbein | 9/27/2010 - 2:00pm
Joe Kash wrote, "Big corporations only have power over you because of big government.  If government was small then big government would have no protection against start-ups and independents who do the same service for less money.  The consumer (you) win because you can vote with your pocketbook."

It's sounds so simple, but without oversight, the free market would use and discard workers like nothing we've ever seen.  No one's life would be predictable, except maybe that of physicians, whose services would always be needed by someone and who would do fine so long as they did not waste their time treating those who could not pay.
Anonymous | 9/27/2010 - 9:55am
Edit:

Jack,

Big corporations only have power over you because of big government.  If government was small then big corporations would have no protection against start-ups and independents who do the same service for less money.  The consumer (you) win because you can vote with your pocketbook.
Vince Killoran | 9/26/2010 - 8:23pm
"Documented migrants have some rights.  Undocumented migrants have few."

They're both extremely vulnerable to human rights violations. It took a long time for documented workers to get "some rights" but the simple fact is that many aren't aware of them and those that are hesitant to file complaints because the enforcement mechanisms are weak and the nature of farm work makes it easy for employers to exploit their workers.

John Raymer | 9/26/2010 - 7:33pm
Joe,

I wish there was an historical example of anything that did not always need reform. That is why we Catholics have confessionals and Spiritual Exercises. The best way to get rid of the need for reform is to eliminate all of those sinners....

If we assume that the big and powerful will generally prevail over everyone else, then I would rather my democratically elected government be big and powerful rather than some corporation over which I have no control. At least if my government gets overbearing I can vote it out of office. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the popular energy for reform has become manipulated by very slick corporate interests into an ideological disdain for government in general. Then, when our government is emasculated, the only ones with the power will be the corporate interests. Again, in my opinion, just about everything one hears on Fox News, talk radio, and EWTN since Mother Angelica was ousted, is about creating dispair about our government so we can be manipulated by the rich and powerful. (I would love to talk with you some time about EWTN.)
Adam Rasmussen | 9/26/2010 - 6:55pm
For me that was the highlight of his testimony, when he answered a very serious question without sarcasm (notice also that he had to pause to think for a moment). I don't understand why Michael Sean Winters was so appalled by his appearance. I loved it, and it's good to bring some publicity to an important moral issue.
Anonymous | 9/26/2010 - 1:30pm
Stanley,

I wish there was a historical example of a large centralized government that did not always need "reform".  This reform project is a historical truth precisely because the concentration of power makes reform always necessary.

Decentralization has built in reform.  Those who exploit lose to those who offer better service at more reasonable price.  The little guy can compete with big business because they are not regulated out of the competition.  The little guy has choice because the big corporation does not have the big government in their pocket.

Anectodes about the one or two things that government do ok does not compare to the ability of the free market to make thousands of different pencils for a few pennies each.
Anonymous | 9/26/2010 - 8:40am
Stanley,

Big corporations control much of our big government, since they are the ones with power.  Do you think the little guy benefits from bigger government?  Those who can influence the politician benefit from bigger goverment.  As a Christian this causes me great fear.
Anonymous | 9/26/2010 - 8:38am
Jack,

Larger governement does not attract saints.  It attracts those who seek power.  As a Christian this causes me great fear.

Seeing Cobert make a mockery of our centralized government does not allay my fears.
Stanley Kopacz | 9/26/2010 - 2:12am
Government is already smaller than Wall Street and most of the big corporations.  In other words, it's not big enough to patrol the game and maintain fairness.  It can't even keep the meat pure and healthy.  Of course, we can always let the wondrous free market take care of it.  So if I died from eating bad meat, I won't buy it from that store any more.

But I guess such concerns make me a brain-damaged liberal.
John Raymer | 9/26/2010 - 12:16am
''What I see is a hard core loyalty to a failed political ideology that has impoverished tens of millions in this country and killed hundreds of millions in the 20th century at various parts of the world.''

Which failed ideology? Communism? Nazism? Colonialism? Nationalism? Fundamentalism? American Imperialism? Zionism? (to name some that have killed lots of people.)

Jesus Christ is the only antidote I know to the destitution of our world. Stephen Colbert offered the only valid answer in his testimony: ''Whatsover ye do unto the least of these, my brethern, so also ye do unto me.'' Everything else is just loud noise.

Maybe Stephen Colbert should write for America.
John Raymer | 9/25/2010 - 11:37pm
Excuse me. I couldn't tell.
Peter Roth | 9/25/2010 - 10:35pm
Wait, we get cards?
Anonymous | 9/25/2010 - 10:05pm
''I am astonished by the first two comments. Why do these atheists even read a Catholic magazine?''

''What is social justice anyway? - obviously a non-Catholic.''


I happen to be a card carrying Catholic who loves the Catholic Church very much who goes to Mass every Sunday and some other times, went to Catholic schools through college, graduated from a Jesuit college, taught six years at a Jesuit college, sent my kids to Catholic schools, help my parish, am working on a website for the Mass etc.  What I do not see here on this website run by Jesuits is any real concern for social justice by many of the commenters though they mouth it frequently.  What I see is a hard core loyalty to a failed political ideology that has impoverished tens of millions in this country and killed hundreds of millions in the 20th century at various parts of the world.


So I would be careful who you cast aspersions at. The nuns who taught me had a word for this attitude.
John Raymer | 9/25/2010 - 8:40pm
I am astonished by the first two comments. Why do these atheists even read a Catholic magazine? Jesus was very clear - what you do unto the least of these you do also unto me. Stephen Colbert used that scripture exactly in the way it was intended - as a call for justice for the powerless.

Smaller government? Our govenment is about the only hope of the powerless. Our Church has become too incompetant to do very much. Maybe there is some hope from individual people of good will.

What is social justice anyway? - obviously a non-Catholic.

I think Stephen Colbert was totally serious. But like an actor friend of mine, he probably couldn't talk about the death of his own mother without being funny. Its just the way he is.
Winifred Holloway | 9/25/2010 - 8:12pm
Stephen Colbert is a very smart and astute observer of the contemporary political and social scene.  That's why he's such an on the mark satirist.  The best satirists have a sensitive antenna for BS and where better to practice their art than a congressional sub-commitee.  No one in the media would have paid any attention to a hearing on migrant workers had Colbert not showed up to testify.  He stayed in character most of the time while gently mocking Congress (oh, heavens, how could he do such a thing) except when asked a question by one of the congressional members.  He responded to her as himself,  and I must say he made me proud to be a Catholic Christian.  His unscripted and spontaneous response obviously came from a deep well of conviction and belief.  We can't say that of many of the blowhards who dominate the airways or walk the halls of congress and use bible-talk as a tool for election or personal advancement.
Anonymous | 9/25/2010 - 12:42pm
I will flip the question around for Mr. Colbert.  What is the main thing preventing social justice from taking place in this country, in the world.  That would be an interesting debate.  It is not that migrant workers do not have rights.  And what is social justice by the way?  I know the term was not mentioned but it is a staple around here for such topics.

Are the migrant workers and their families better off because they have this opportunity?  Would Mr. Colbert like to open up the opportunity to other nations that have poor workers such as Sub Saharan Africa, Bangladesh, Nicaragua. Bolivia etc. and let them compete for the jobs?


A lot of non sequiturs in all this.  And why was Mr. Colbert given this forum?  There was an extremely important Congressional hearing going on at the same time that got buried by the theatre of Mr. Colbert.
Anonymous | 9/25/2010 - 10:30am
Congress is a joke.  Cobert's testimony was a great example of why we need smaller government.