Dan Nejfelt, Faith in Public Life’s Senior Editor and Training Coordinator, worked at Sojourners magazine as part of his graduate study of journalism at the University of Missouri before coming to FPL. Prior to that, he taught remedial reading and writing to 7th and 8th graders in rural Arkansas as a Teach For America corps member. Dan blogs about health care, the Religious Right and budget issues.
Religion News Service has a story today about faith leaders’ efforts to prevent Congress from making literally deadly cuts to lifesaving international investment programs:
As Congress prepares for a high-stakes battle over federal spending, religious leaders are lobbying senators to preserve foreign aid as a moral obligation.
“We’re talking about lives–great numbers of lives that are saved with minimal input on our part,” said the Most Rev. Denis Madden, the Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and vice chair of Catholic Relief Services, on Wednesday (Nov. 2).
Madden affirmed that poverty-focused international aid makes up just 0.6 percent of the federal budget, but that amount feeds more than 46 million people and saves 3 million lives through immunizations each year.
“Part of the discussion centered on the importance of reminding the American people that hunger and poverty around the world has a human face–that we’re not just talking about statistics, but real people,” said the Rev. John McCullough, director of Church World Service, the humanitarian arm of the National Council of Churches.
The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Christian anti-hunger group Bread for the World, said the Senate faces a proposal from the House to cut foreign humanitarian programs by 20 percent, which he said would cause “14 million of the most desperate people in the world” to lose food rations.
Hopefully these leaders’ moral witness will overcome the utter madness of ideologues who would sacrifice innocent lives to score political points by looking tough on government spending. In an encouraging sign, the RNS story noted that the Senate Appropriations Committee has recommended that the funds be protected from the cuts proposed by House Republicans.
And on a personal note, I greatly admire this effort not only because it’s such an important cause, but also because it takes very strong faith to love and to reason with people who are contemplating absurdly immoral courses of action.
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Amid the ongoing economic crisis and a host of other serious global challenges, the House of Representatives leadership determined that the best use of Congress’s time today was to reaffirm that “In God We Trust” is in fact the national motto. From Roll Call:
Republicans may be trying to focus their messaging on jobs and the economy — and hammering President Barack Obama for campaigning — but they still have time for some red meat base-baiting on the House floor.
To wit: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (Va.) decision to bring to the floor a measure that “reaffirms ‘In God We Trust’ as the official motto of the United States and supports and encourages the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions,” according to the resolution, sponsored by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.).
In a statement, Forbes defended bringing the bill to the floor, arguing that Congress needs to directly confront “a disturbing trend of inaccuracies and omissions, misunderstandings of church and state, rogue court challenges, and efforts to remove God from the public domain by unelected bureaucrats.”
The absurdity of this gambit is so multilayered that I don’t know where to begin. Did I miss a genuine national dispute about what the national motto is, or a huge campaign to change it?
But the core problem here, as I see it, isn’t just that the House is shirking substantive work so they can flog purely symbolic issues. It’s that distractions like this prop up the dubious, divisive narrative that religion is under persecution in America – a myth that allows politicians to cast themselves as hardworking champions of the American people while ignoring their constituents’ real needs.
But perhaps stunts like these have something to do with Congress’s 9 percent approval rating.
Photo credit; rpongsaj, Flickr
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The new, draconian anti-immigrant law in Alabama has drawn strong protest from the faith community for its harsh provisions and potentially anti-religious consequences. As a federal appeals court ruled on Friday, it also may be unconstitutional.
Although it’s disappointing that a the federal judge declined to overturn the entirety of the on Friday, there’s consolation in the fact that several of the most egregious provisions were struck down. For example, public schools will no longer be required to verify the immigration status of their students–a provision that was already scaring Hispanic students from showing up to school.
It’s hard to explain how deeply misguided this policy was, and as a former teacher in impoverished public schools in Houston and the rural Deep South this strikes a very personal chord with me. Schools play a central role in all communities, but especially so in high-poverty areas (which are plentiful in Alabama). Hanging a “Hispanics not welcome” sign in the schoolhouse doorway (that might be impolite to say, but it’s the truth) cuts off children not only from the education they need to succeed in life, but also meals, supervision, crucial socialization, inspiration from life-changing role models, and diagnosis of learning disabilities and hard-to-detect health problems.
Educators are not ICE agents, and not a single child in our nation should be deterred from going to school – undocumented or not. It’s unconscionable that such cruelty was forced upon schools and children, and it’s an answered prayer that this immoral provision was overturned.
Photo credit: UMWomen, Flickr
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Following up on Casey’s takedown of Herman Cain’s farcical 9-9-9 tax reform plan, I noticed that Rep. Paul Ryan has now commended it. Given Ryan’s inexplicable reputation as a budget policy wunderkind, this will probably be portrayed in the media as a legitimizing endorsement for Cain.
But on a substantive level, Ryan’s support should signals how misguided and destructive Cain’s proposal is. Recall that Ryan not only authored the House GOP’s radical and immoral federal budget proposal (which gutted Medicaid and safety net programs, ended Medicare as we know it and gave trillions in tax giveaways to millionaires), but also made the disingenuous argument that his plan was consistent with Catholic social teaching.
And not only does Ryan’s support further illustrate the deeply regressive and radical nature of Cain’s plan, it also shows how unserious Ryan himself is about responsible fiscal policy. A Washington Post editorial this week pointed out just how fuzzy Cain’s math is:
Mr. Cain, without providing details, insists that it would produce as much as the existing tax code. “We have had an outside firm, independent firm dynamically score it,” he said at the debate. Leave aside the point that the current tax code does not generate adequate revenue to meet the needs of an aging society. Mr. Cain’s argument of revenue-neutrality rests on the sleight of hand of dynamic scoring — taking into account the economic growth to be generated by lower tax rates. This kind of faith-based tax analysis is too dubious a basis on which to rest an economic program. Bloomberg News, analyzing Mr. Cain’s plan, found that it would have generated $200 billion less in 2010 than the government’s $2.2 trillion in collections that year.
Even if it generated adequate revenue, Mr. Cain’s plan would do it on the backs of the least well-off — and to the benefit of the wealthiest taxpayers.
I expect nothing less from a plan supported by Paul Ryan.
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The House of Representatives is about to vote on yet another bill based on the false premise that the Affordable Care Act (aka, “Obamacare”) provides federal funding of abortion. H.R. 358, “The Protect Life Act,” claims to prevent federal funding from going toward coverage of abortion services in health insurance plans purchased through the subsidized exchanges. However, the Affordable Care Act already requires that policyholders who receive federal subsidies separately pay for coverage of abortion services with their own money. A federal judge recently affirmed this fact in ruling against the Susan B. Anthony List, saying, “The express language of the PPACA does not provide for tax-payer funding abortion. That is a fact, and it is clear on its face.”
The facts clearly and repeatedly get in the way of the Religious Right’s story that Obamacare funds abortion. In addition to Federal courts, health policy experts, independent fact-checkers and media investigations all conclude that the Affordable Care Act does not provide federal funding of abortion services. H.R. 358 would significantly breach this status quo, which was agreed to by pro-life and pro-choice lawmakers, by outright prohibiting women who receive federal premium assistance from purchasing coverage of abortion services even with their own money. That is a dramatic departure from existing law, and decidedly outside the realm of common ground solutions.
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