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.
Both lawmakers and clergy members this week weighed in on the proposed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cuts included in Rep. Paul Ryan’s draconian GOP budget proposal. Despite SNAP’s proven ability to prevent hunger and lift families from poverty, the program remains on the chopping block.
Writing as both a lawmaker and a Catholic, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) detailed why Congress has a moral obligation to maintain SNAP funding. From The Hill’s Congress Blog:
For one, as a Catholic, I have always believed we have a moral obligation to alleviate suffering and hunger. In the words of Matthew 25:35, “For I was hungry and you gave me food.” In the deeds of Christ, who brought plenty in the midst of want with the miracle of loaves and fishes. Preventing our fellow citizens from starving and suffering the effects of malnutrition is a basic component of what good government does.
Exemplary among government programs, SNAP has a nearly unparalleled record of program integrity and a historically low improper payment rate of just 3.8 percent. This means more than 96 percent of SNAP benefits are accurately and appropriately delivered to those who are eligible to receive them.
For this highly targeted group of people, SNAP is nothing short of a lifesaver that spares them from having to choose between food and other necessities such as rent, utilities and health care.
A program, then, that saves lives so effectively deserves to have its story told with facts, not distorted narrative. Contrary to what some would have you believe, for the vast majority of the 46 million Americans currently on SNAP (over half of whom are children or seniors), the program serves not as a permanent handout from the government but a temporary bridge to get past hard times. On average, SNAP recipients transition off the program in nine months — receiving benefits just long enough to find a new job or get back on their feet.
While Congress continues to argue over whether millionaires should pay their fair share in taxes, vulnerable children and families continue to pay the highest price for these immoral budget priorities.
Following a deluge of negative publicity on Goldman Sachs and the financial services industry last month, a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research proves that advisors frequently encourage clients to build riskier, higher-fee investment portfolios in the pursuit of higher commissions for themselves.
The researchers used an array of portfolios with differing strategies and degrees of risk in the study, but found that financial advisers recommended a change in strategy — often toward “active management” that increased their fees or commissions — 85 percent of the time. And when advisers did mention fees, they “downplayed them without lying,” the authors of the study found.
Even worse, those without knowledge of financial advising and their own portfolios aren’t aware of how bad the service can be. Despite the study’s findings, the actors were willing to return to 70 percent of the advisers.
This goes to show a perverse incentive structure that has serious financial, human and moral consequences for our nation. While any sector attracts people with varying degrees of integrity, the financial services sector rewards dishonest and reckless behavior that, as we saw in 2008, can bring severe harm to innocent people who have done nothing wrong. Studies like these continue to build the case that the financial services industry has a long way to go to establishing necessary consumer protections for clients.
Standing in solidarity with thousands of young people from around the country, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) donned a hoodie on the House floor today in honor of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and called attention to the dangerous consequences of racial profiling and lax gun regulations.
Rep. Rush, whose own son “was shot down in the streets”, said the real “hoodlums in this nation” are not young people, but those “who tread on our laws wearing official or quasi-official clothes.”
Before being escorted off the House floor for violating dress code rules, Rep. Rush called for an end to racial profiling and said that Luke 4:18 teaches us that “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.”
In an interview with The Washington Post shortly following Rep. Rush’s protest, Trayvon Martin’s parents commended him for bringing attention to their case and questioned why Rep. Rush was not permitted to further address racial profiling on the House floor.
Sponsored by a broad coalition of Christian organizations, nearly 800 people of faith gathered for the 10th annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days this weekend to reflect upon and lobby for “a national budget that break the yokes of injustice, poverty, hunger and unemployment throughout the world.”
The conference’s powerful and timely theme, entitled “Is this the Fast I seek?”, brought preachers, religious leaders and policy experts together to educate participants on everything from the dangers of wealth and income inequality to how to engage with local media on federal budget issues.
The dynamic conference culminated yesterday with participants spreading out across Capitol Hill to educate and lobby lawmakers on the need for a federal budget that protects the safety and dignity of all people and prioritizes programs that protect children and families over tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.
While Religious Right groups like Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition attract a disproportionately large amount of media attention despite poor attendance at their Washington conferences, progressive Christians working for more just budget priorities get almost no attention.
Though news outlets ignored the gathering this weekend, advocacy and media trainings like those at EAD will equip progressive people of faith to continually rebut the Religious Right’s distorted budget priorities and more effectively inform both lawmakers and the media that Religious Right pundits don’t represent the priorities of all people of faith.
Long before a resigning mid-level executive wrote a scathing op-ed confirming Goldman Sachs’s toxic culture of greed, the religious community was confronting the firm’s immoral culture.
In 2010 and 2011, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility successfully petitioned for the right to bring questions about the firm’s outrageous executive compensation structure to a vote at Goldman Sachs shareholders’ meeting.
But despite ICCR’s past successes and the recent spotlight on Goldman Sachs “greed is good” philosophy, the Security and Exchange Commission denied ICCR’s 2012 request to bring questions on executive pay to a vote at the next shareholders’ meeting. From Reuters:
This year, the group, including the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, again sought to have its proposal voted on by shareholders. But for the first time, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sided with Goldman, which argued it had already complied with the request. An official at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, a Jewish group that is the lead filer of the proposal, said she was somewhat surprised that the agency rejected its request given that the op-ed touched on exactly the issues it had hoped to address. The 2012 proposal would have asked for an independent board to review the risks, including reputational risks, associated with high executive compensation levels and disclose the findings to shareholders.
The firm may have stopped religious groups from bringing this issue to a shareholder vote in 2012, but there’s no doubt people of faith (and some very tenacious nuns) will continue to shine a light on the irresponsible, immoral practices of banks like Goldman Sachs.