Casey Schoeneberger, Faith in Public Life’s Media Relations Assistant, came to FPL from NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby’s Associate Program after studying economics at Saint Joseph’s University. She blogs about tax and budget issues on Bold Faith Type.
Looking back over the past several months, it’s not easy to tell where the GOP Presidential candidates stand on immigration reform – one of the most critical social justice issues facing America and people of faith.
Back in October, Herman Cain touted an electric fence as a solution to preventing undocumented immigrants from crossing the border. After facing intense criticism over his stance, Cain contended he was only joking.
At November’s CNN National Security Debate, Newt Gingrich appeared to take a political risk by endorsing “humane treatment” for undocumented immigrants already residing in the United States. But a closer look reveals that the “citizen juries” he recommends are actually neither that humane or courageous.
Even so, Newt’s proposal prompted attacks of “amnesty” from GOP rivals. Surprisingly, the loudest attack came coming from Romney, who previously supported a similar plan for undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S.
If backtracking on his stance isn’t confusing enough for the American public, Romney also refuses to answer whether he would deport immigrants already living here.
Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Perry, after facing intense conservative backlash for calling opponents of his policy letting undocumented high school students qualify for in-state tuition “heartless“, is campaigning with radical anti-immigrant sheriff Joe Arpaio. Perry is now calling for the deportation of all undocumented immigrants (as is Rep. Michelle Bachmann) — a move that would undoubtedly cost the American economy millions- if not billions- in lost wages and productivity.
These kinds of devastating consequences are already visible in Arizona, Alabama and Georgia, states whose anti-immigrant policies demonstrate the high economic costs that businesses and local governments are incurring by effectively eliminating their immigrant population.
Hopefully, whichever candidate wins the Republican nomination will recognize that the general population rejects these extreme policies and supports just, comprehensive immigration reform proposals.
Photo Credit: IowaPolitics.com, Flickr
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As the Occupy Movement has grown, a diverse group of faith communities have partnered with Occupiers to bring attention to the growing inequality and needs of the 99%. Paralleling this national conversation, the New Bottom Line coalition’s “Move Our Money” campaign is giving these people of faith an opportunity to put their principles into action to protest the appalling greed of predatory corporations by moving their money from the worst of the big banks.
With a goal of moving $1 billion to community banks and credit unions, the campaign and its supporters are protesting the illegal practices of big banks (like Bank of America, JP Morgan and Wells Fargo) that have victimized millions of people with predatory lending practices, inadequate mortgage modification plans and foreclosed homes–all while raking in enormous profits.
Featured in a Religion News Service story last week, the “Move Our Money” campaign has really just begun, with $55 million in assets moved so far. Following PICO’s national clergy gathering in New Orleans, the campaign gained even more momentum, with “…a broad cross section of Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations [pledging] to move an additional $100 million.”
Besides speaking out against unethical banking practices, former customers are telling big banks that if they want to live in their communities, they will need to take a more active role in investing in the communities where customers live.
“In a way, the banks have divested from our communities, especially communities of color,” said the Rev. Ryan Bell, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Los Angeles. “So we’re basically telling Bank of America that we want them to invest in our communities, and until they do that we’re not going to give our money to them.”
To keep the energy going, the “Move Our Money” campaign needs even more religious congregations, non-profits, and individuals to move their money out of big banks and in to community banks and credit unions. Religious leaders and people of faith can make a real difference by encouraging their own congregations to participate. With more movements like these, towns, families and small businesses can once again thrive.
For more information on how to move your money into credit unions and institutions that keep the needs of you and your community in mind, click here.
Photo: LA Voice members explain their decision to divest from Bank of America. Credit: Move Our Money USA
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Last month, the Congressional Budget Office published a report highlighting the dramatic rise in income inequality over the last 30 years. The findings provided a direct rebuttal to conservatives whose response to the concerns of the Occupy movement was to downplay or deny these problems.
In response, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) published his own report attempting to explain how the CBO numbers impact his own economic proposals. Considering the numerous factors that have contributed to inequality in America today, it’s valuable to have a variety of voices calling attention to the (until recently) largely overlooked problem of income inequality. Unfortunately though, Rep. Paul Ryan’s response reaches some very misleading conclusions.
Greg Sargent at the Washington Post interviewed Tim Smeeding, an expert on inequality, about the validity of Ryan’s arguments:
Ryan claims the real problem exacerbating inequality is not income disparity, but the lack of mobility of those at the bottom. Smeeding agrees with Ryan that mobility is key. But Ryan then argues that rather than try to promote equality through redistributive taxation, we should instead “promote upward mobility, increase broadly shared economic growth, and ensure that more and more Americans are able to freely earn their success.
Smeeding, however, rejects this as a false choice. He says we can simultaneously make the tax system more progressive while also pursuing policies that enhance mobility. Indeed, Smeeding argues that those goals are two sides of the same policy coin — they are linked. The goal of raising taxes on the rich isn’t merely to promote equality by redistributing wealth. Rather, it’s about generating more revenue to invest in policies that enhance the mobility Ryan hopes to achieve.
Regrettably, Ryan’s arguments sound more like self-serving exercise than an honest contribution to the debate. As the spotlight on Ryan’s austerity measures has diminished, he seems to be scrambling for a way to insert his tired rhetoric into a changing political debate. It’s telling that the entitlement programs he wanted to essentially eliminate last year are now being blamed for the state of inequality in America.
Tim Noah at The New Republic describes Rep. Ryan’s runaround on entitlements and tax policy:
Ryan says that federal income taxes are more progressive than they used to be, but he doesn’t say that all federal taxes are more progressive than they used to be. He doesn’t because he can’t. When you combine all federal taxes, including the payroll tax (which started out regressive and has become more so), the capital gains tax, the corporate tax, etc., etc., then the federal tax system has become more regressive … just like you thought it had. And that’s before you also factor in the effects of state and local taxes, which also tend to be regressive.
On benefits, I’ll take Ryan at his word that over time Social Security and Medicare have failed to make the totality of government benefits more progressive, because I don’t know whether they have or not. I would merely point out that these programs don’t exist to redistribute income but to provide security to people in old age, when they no longer have jobs and are much more likely to get sick.
By proposing that entitlement programs are to blame for inequality, Ryan essentially lays the fault on the elderly, the sick, and those in poverty. Ignoring the role that tax policy has played creating an increasingly inequitable society is downright deceitful.
Placing the fault on the poor and elderly is nothing new, though. As Nick has tracked, conservatives often deride those in poverty as lazy and dependent on government programs–identifying poverty as a trait of those who simply lack a strong work ethic. In that lens, it is difficult to seriously consider any plan that Paul Ryan puts forward to increase mobility, when he has spent so much time trying to slash or eliminate programs that make mobility possible by improving education, housing, healthcare and nutrition for people who bear the brunt of our economic crisis.
When Rep. Ryan delivers some meaningful and honest policy solutions, he will be welcome to join the conversation on how to genuinely create opportunity and upward mobility for all people. Until then, we’ll keep watching and waiting.
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Laurie Goodstein detailed the Catholic bishops fight over religious liberty this week in the New York Times. Interviewing FPL Senior Writer and Catholic outreach coordinator John Gehring on the bishops’ ongoing struggle for relevance in public policy debates:
Bishop Lori said in his speech, “The services which the Catholic Church and other denominations provide are more crucial than ever, but it is becoming more and more difficult for us to deliver these services in a manner that respects the very faith that impels us to provide them.”
The bishops have also been lobbying the Department of Health and Human Services to expand the religious exemption to the mandate in Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul that requires private insurers to pay for contraception. The exemption, as currently written, would still require Catholic hospitals and universities to cover birth control for most of their employees — which the church says is a violation of its religious freedom.
Some liberal Catholic commentators have criticized the bishops’ priorities, saying they are playing into the culture wars. John Gehring, Catholic outreach coordinator with Faith in Public Life, a liberal religious advocacy group in Washington, said, “The bishops speak in hushed tones when it comes to poverty and economic justice issues, and use a big megaphone when it comes to abortion and religious liberty issues.
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During last week’s CBS/National Journal foreign policy debate, several GOP candidates decried foreign development assistance as nothing more than wasteful spending. Ignoring years of evidence documenting its crucial role in protecting national interests and safeguarding millions of vulnerable people from hunger and disease, Governor Rick Perry said he would zero-out current levels of aid and require countries to “re-apply” for support.
As a response to the impending “supercommitee” deadline (and perhaps the GOP debate), five former Secretaries of State crossed party lines and called for the protection of the foreign aid budget while identifying it as “…the one area where leaders of both parties can find common ground and come together to ensure a better, safer world and a more prosperous future.”
Along with all the former Secretaries of State, Richard E. Stearns, head of World Vision USA, called on all Americans to stand up in support of human need programs around the world. As the head of the largest evangelical aid organization, Stearns asked that Americans and policymakers recognize both the moral value and economic importance that foreign assistance affords:
From The Wall Street Journal:
Americans should understand that foreign aid strengthens democracy. A 2006 report out of Vanderbilt University and the University of Pittsburgh found a direct connection between U.S. aid and increased democratization and good governance, as measured by the Freedom House index. Evangelicals generally support promoting democracy abroad not only because they support the values on which our country was founded, but also because they are strong advocates for the freedom of religion that accompanies democratic values.
Then there are the lives saved. Our aid programs don’t have an unblemished record, and waste and corruption need to be rooted out. But Pepfar, for example, is now providing lifesaving drugs to three million people living with AIDS, mostly in Africa. It also provides care and support to another 2.5 million orphans and vulnerable children. If Congress cuts that program 10%, my organization estimates, 400,000 people will lose their medicine and potentially lose their lives.
Hopefully the majority of evangelicals who believe the foreign assistance budget is too generous and should be cut will pay attention to Stearns argument. More importantly, it’s crucial that budget-crafting policymakers take heed before it is too late.
Photo: Richard Stearns
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