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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.

FPL Daily News Reel: April 12, 2012

April 12, 2012, 11:59 am | By Casey Schoeneberger

The FPL News Reel is a daily round-up of the top faith and politics stories in the news. You can sign up for the email version of the News Reel here, subscribe to the RSS feed here, and follow it on twitter at @FPLNewsreel.

Zimmerman’s arrest in Trayvon Martin case met with relief, anger
By Laura Isensee And Audra D.S. Burch — Miami Herald
Outrage over Trayvon’s death and the lack of an arrest galvanized ordinary citizens, particularly in the black community who saw the case as a symbol of the consequences of racial profiling and the hazards of being a young, black male.

Searching for Justice in Florida
By New York Times, Editorial
That the Police Department in Sanford, Fla., did not bring charges weeks ago shows how this law undermines the justice system and harms public safety. It must be repealed if the Trayvon Martin case is to advance the meaning of justice.

Fla. Megachurch Pastor Joel Hunter: Impossible for Church to Feed Poor in Place of Gov’t
By Michelle A. Vu — Christian Post
…an evangelical pastor who is also one of President Obama’s spiritual advisers said that looking at the numbers, it is not possible for the church to replace the government in feeding the poor, let alone meet other needs.

‘Buffett Rule’ vs. Ryan plan: Who should chip in more?
By David A. Fahrenthold and David Nakamura — Washington Post
Democrats point at millionaires, and Republicans turn to people who use Medicare and Medicaid.

Rep. Ryan goes all social-teaching-ish
By Steve Thorngate — Christian Century, Opinion
In what universe does cutting Pell Grants constitute replacing a culture of dependency with an effort to lift people out of poverty?

Karl Rove and company are losing the argument over inequality
By Greg Sargent — Washington Post, The Plum Line
…they are trying to solve a society wide problem that threatens the future of a country of over 300 million people — one that, in their telling, requires a bit more sacrifice from high earners as a whole class if we are to have any hope of solving it.

The marginalized pay for the church’s ideological battles
By Jamie L Manson — National Catholic Reporter, Opinion
Because, ultimately, it is the poor, the sick and the marginalized who must bear the burden of these ideological battles. All of those whom Jesus mandated we care for and protect are being sacrificed for the sake of political crusades.

Is this the Mormons’ JFK moment? Maybe, maybe not
By David Gibson — Religion News Service
Ostling also argued that the attacks on Romney’s Mormonism, while unseemly, don’t compare with those that Smith or Kennedy endured.

Death Penalty Repeal Goes to Connecticut Governor
By Peter Applebome — New York Times
After more than nine hours of debate, the Connecticut House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to repeal the state’s death penalty, following a similar vote in the State Senate last week. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has said he will sign the bill.

How Santorum boxed in Romney
By E.J. Dionne — Washington Post, Opinion
Yes, it’s still early. Renewed economic jitters in Europe could spoil a fragile U.S. recovery. But for now, Romney finds himself in a political maze with no obvious path out. He’s there partly because of his own mistakes, but he was also led to this point because of the unlikely strength of Rick Santorum’s challenge.

Obama delays ban on discrimination by U.S. contractors, disappointing gay rights advocates
By Peter Wallsten — Washington Post, 44
A surprising new rift opened between the White House and the gay rights movement after White House officials revealed Wednesday that President Obama would not sign an executive order sought by activists to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Lawmakers & Clergy Decry Immoral Food Stamp Cuts

April 12, 2012, 4:30 am | By Casey Schoeneberger

"Demand Budget Justice" SignBoth 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.

While it may be difficult to picture the true effects of a ten-year, $134 billion cut to food assistance programs, it isn’t hard to imagine the dangerous consequences of a  family of four losing  $90 a month in SNAP benefits.

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.

Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Abby Leibman of Mazon also weighed in on the effectiveness  of SNAP in a Jewish Telegraphic Agency Op-Ed:

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.

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Study Confirms Financial Advisors Put Profits over People

April 5, 2012, 12:04 pm | By Casey Schoeneberger

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.

As Think Progress noted:

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.

Photo Credit: Brian Glanz/ Flickr

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Congressman Escorted Off House Floor for Quoting Scripture in Hoodie

March 28, 2012, 4:44 pm | By Casey Schoeneberger

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.”

Watch:

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.

 

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What if 800 Christian Activists Descended on Capitol Hill and No One Noticed?

March 27, 2012, 10:40 am | By Casey Schoeneberger

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.

Photo Credit: Ecumenical Advocacy Days

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