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Casey Schoeneberger
Casey Schoeneberger, Faith in Public Life’s Press Secretary, 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.

Cuts That Kill: The Problem with Catch-All “Foreign Aid” Language

October 20, 2011, 3:32 pm | By Casey Schoeneberger

Trumpeting tired, tea-party rhetoric at the GOP Presidential Debate this week, the candidates responded to a question about foreign aid by almost universally across the line declaring they would severely cut or even eliminate the foreign assistance budget to save money. (That such funds make up less than 1% of the federal budget went unmentioned).

Tapping into conservative suspicions about corruption and waste in foreign governments and international institutions, the candidates painted all aid with a broad brush to downplay the real harm such cuts to life-saving programs would cause. But this generalization disguises an important reality that U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah spoke to Tuesday–that many of these funds go to faith-based organizations like World Relief and Catholic Relief Services that help carry out the agency’s mission. By threatening to demolish foreign assistance, GOP candidates are actually slashing the budgets of dozens of these faith-based organizations, severely limiting their ability to provide assistance to the world’s most vulnerable people.

These organizations generally enjoy broad support from across the political spectrum, including among religious conservatives. I’m guessing candidates would likely be less likely to boast about their plans to cut aid if they had to be honest about the actual people and programs such reductions would impact.

Unfortunately, Wednesday’s debate just gave us the same tired talking points and deficit peacocking we’ve seen before on this issue–all while people continue to suffer in places like famine-stricken Somalia. As other nations shrink their own foreign assistance budgets the need for real U.S. leadership on this issue is more important than ever. We can do better than this.

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Media Hit of the Week

October 17, 2011, 12:55 pm | By Casey Schoeneberger

Last weekend religious leaders lent their support to Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York with the help of a paper-mache golden calf. People of faith marched alongside the calf to Zuccotti Park on Sunday, calling attention to Wall Street’s continuing worship of false idols and enslavement to greed. Along with dozens of faith groups, Faith in Public Life helped organized the construction and delivery of the golden calf to New York.

This piece from the Wall Street Journal documents the continuing need for faith groups to lend spiritual support to Occupy Wall Street’s call for economic justice.

“Rev. Michael Ellick, the minister at Judson Memorial, a 300-member congregation, has spearheaded the gathering of different faith groups. He said religious groups have been calling him from across the city to ask how they can help, and he is holding another interfaith meeting on Friday.

“Churches and synagogues and mosques see this on the ground more than other agencies,” Ellick said, referring to the economic frustrations motivating the protests. “They are who people go to for a safety net when there’s no where else to go to.”

Bhikkhu Bodhi, chair of Buddhist Global Relief, said he was contacted Tuesday by an Episcopalian priest who asked that he join Friday’s organizational meeting. He plans to attend simply to learn more.

Religious groups can “lend the weight of spiritual support to the movement,” Bodhi said. “It will perhaps transform the tone of the movement from one of protest and objection, to one of peace and ethical conviction.”

Read the whole piece here.

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Poll of the Week: Support for Death Penalty Falls to 39-Year Low

October 14, 2011, 5:25 pm | By Casey Schoeneberger

Echoing a CBS poll released last month, new polling from Gallup out this week finds that support for the death penalty fell to a 39 year low. While the majority of American’s (61%) continue to approve of the use of the death penalty, support is at its lowest point since 1972. Republicans maintained widespread support (73%) of the practice while approval among Democrats and people under 30 continues to falter.

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The poll comes on the heels of the highly publicized execution of Troy Davis despite doubt about his guilt–the execution prompted widespread protest including a letter from over 300 Catholic theologians and scholars signed a petition calling for an end to capital punishment in general. In light of the theologians’ statement, consistent polling, and intense public outrage surrounding recent executions, the tide continues to turn in opposition to state-sanctioned executions.

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Why 9-9-9 Doesn’t Look so Good-Good-Good

October 12, 2011, 4:30 pm | By Casey Schoeneberger

If repetition is the key to success, Herman Cain succeeded by mentioning his “9-9-9″ economic plan 24 times at Tuesday’s GOP Presidential Debate. No matter the question, Cain’s “9-9-9″ economic plan was the answer. But political brand awareness doesn’t tell us anything about the actual feasibility of the plan or the moral impact it would have on struggling Americans. Unfortunately for Cain, the results of those analyses are in and they don’t look good.

Eliminating the existing tax code in favor of a 9 percent flat tax on corporate income, 9 percent personal income tax and 9 percent national sales tax, Cain’s plan radically shifts the tax code in favor of the rich at the expense of the poor — harming the most vulnerable by creating new taxes on basic goods like groceries and clothing, while delivering savings to the wealthiest by abolishing the capital gains tax and rescinding progressive tax rates. Cain defended his attack on the poor during an interview Wednesday morning with George Stephanopoulos:

Like Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal, Cain’s “9-9-9″ plan is yet another thinly veiled attempt to favor wealthy individuals and corporations while further destroying the economic well-being of working and middle-class Americans. Despite Cain’s assertion that people will support “9-9-9″, consistent polling finds broad support for progressive taxes and opposition to tax plans that favor a small portion of privileged Americans.

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Media Hit of the Week

September 30, 2011, 3:59 pm | By Casey Schoeneberger

David Gibson’s Religion News Service story this week highlights a petition that Faith in Public Life shared with reporters. The petition, signed by over 250 Catholic theologians, calls for an end to the death penalty in the wake the recent executions of Troy Davis and Lawrence Brewer. Their effort was especially timely in light of the Catholic bishops’ message for October’s “Respect Life Month” campaign, which failed to include capital punishment among the key issues highlighted.

Galveston-Houston Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, who wrote the message, focused tightly on the bishops’ increasingly fierce fight with President Obama over mandated contraception coverage, allegations of growing discrimination against believers, concerns about excess embryos from fertility treatments and long-term care of the infirm.

Conspicuously absent from the letter was any mention of the death penalty.

That struck more than a few Catholics as odd, especially in the wake of the controversial execution of Troy Davis in Georgia and because DiNardo’s own governor, Rick Perry, has unapologetically defended his state’s record of leading the nation in executions as he campaigns for the White House.

Vincent Miller, a Catholic theologian at the University of Dayton, called the omission “troubling.”

“If contraception is a life issue,” he said, “surely state-sponsored execution is one.”

Miller was one of 256 — and counting — Catholic scholars and activists who have signed a petition calling for the abolition of the death penalty in the wake of the Sept. 21 executions of Davis and Texas white supremacist Lawrence Brewer. The petition cites church teaching, as well as legal authorities and the latest research, to argue the capital punishment is racially unjust as well as immoral.”

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