Posts by Nick Sementelli

Home > Nick Sementelli

Evangelicals Break With Conservative Approach to Deficit

March 21, 2011, 1:06 pm | By Nick Sementelli

NAE.jpgAs we’ve written about recently, the budget is a moral issue for the faith community. Today, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) joins the growing chorus of religious leaders calling on Congress to not make budget cuts that harm poor and vulnerable people. NAE’s executive board passed the ‘Lowering the Debt, Raising the Poor‘ Resolution, which states:

We reiterate our insistence that deficit reduction not lead to an abandonment of our commitments to the poor. We embrace the Church’s call to care for the poor. The government also shares in this responsibility. Basic decency requires that we assist those who lack the bare essentials for survival. Prudence dictates that we help the poor reach their full potential as productive, tax-paying citizens. Addressing extreme poverty abroad demonstrates the nation’s values and builds a more stable, prosperous and secure world for everyone.

Specifically, the NAE highlights the widespread myth that foreign aid to the world’s poor is a cause of our budget deficit:

Contrary to popular belief, total international assistance programs represent only 1.7 percent of the federal budget; poverty-focused aid is only 0.6 percent. We have not amassed our national debt by spending too much on the world’s poor.

Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons contributed to this post.

add a comment »

What’s Really Causing the Budget Deficit?

March 18, 2011, 12:48 pm | By Nick Sementelli

As the right works to build religious support for draconian budget cuts to domestic programs, they often point to the size of the deficit to justify the “necessity” of dismantling a social safety net “we just can’t afford.”

But as this graph from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, their argument is a red herring. To suggest that there is any serious link between the deficit and programs like foreign aid, low-income energy subsidies, or Pell grants for college students is seriously misguided.

causes of budget deficit graph.jpg

add a comment »

Glenn Beck’s Greatest “Hits” Against People of Faith

March 17, 2011, 4:30 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Faithful America put together a collection of Glenn Beck clips that really drives home his animosity towards people of faith who take their traditions’ calls for social justice and the common good seriously.

Beck Video Still.png

Visit their website to check out the video and sign the petition to ask advertisers and radio stations to drop Fox.

add a comment »

King Witness Frank Wolf De-funded a Muslim-FBI Cooperation Program

March 17, 2011, 4:05 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Frank wolf.jpegI missed this last week during the King hearings, but Walid Zafar at Political Correction put together a great background piece on hearing witness Rep. Frank Wolf’s (R-VA) history de-funding a promising FBI program to foster greater cooperation with the Muslim community.

According to the report, the Partnership for Prevention and Community Safety (PfP) was based on research by Deborah Ramirez, a professor at Northeastern School of Law and a former assistant U.S. attorney. The program enjoyed broad support and was moving towards implementation–until it caught the attention of noted anti-Islam profiteer Steve Emerson:

In mid-2005, Ramirez presented then-Deputy Director (and now TSA Administrator) John Pistole with an outline of the program. She notified Pistole that the program had received the approval of the FBI’s training program, the counterterrorism unit and officials at the FBI Academy in Quantico. No one raised any objection, she says. Pistole approved the program after one of the FBI’s budget people notified him that the agency had sufficient funds to support it.

By then, Steven Emerson, the anti-Muslim entrepreneur best known for claiming that the Oklahoma City bombing showed “a Middle Eastern trait,” had heard of PfP. Emerson favored an FBI policy of “total disengagement” with the Muslim community, says Ramirez. As he saw it, the organizations that supported the PfP were Islamist in nature and could not be trusted. According to a former FBI agent who worked closely with the program, Emerson’s objections were odd given that he was never briefed on the specifics of the program.

Emerson, determined to kill PfP, turned to his friend Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which controls the Justice Department’s (and FBI’s) purse strings.

Soon after, funding for the program was rescinded. According to FBI officials, the decision was partly due to a funding issue. The money, a paltry sum by the standards of counterterrorism, was no longer there. If the community wanted to go forward with the initiative, they would have to self-fund it.

A meeting with local Muslim leaders apparently failed to change the Congressman’s mind either:

Wolf wouldn’t budge and segued into a litany of complaints about being insufficiently appreciated by the Muslim community in his congressional district. Wolf cited his support for NATO intervention in Bosnia (a decade earlier) as proof of his support for the community. But, he complained, local Muslims had not sufficiently reciprocated with the campaign support to which he believed he was entitled.

Wolf’s hissy fit is strikingly similar to that of Peter King, whose entire transformation from Muslim community ally to villain seems to revolve around a petty grudge.

But more importantly, the story is another example of the dangerous alliance between right-wing Islamaphobic organizations and some “mainstream” conservatives. While both King and Wolf may try to keep those alliances out of the public eye, the connections seem just below the surface.

add a comment »

Media Hit of the Week, Ctd.

March 17, 2011, 2:14 pm | By Nick Sementelli

The religious drumbeat against Florida’s proposed immigration enforcement law continues in Tallahassee this week.

The Florida Council of Churches and FOCUS (Federation of Congregations United to Serve, a federation of the PICO National Network) hosted an interfaith prayer service at First Presbyterian Church in Tallahassee today. The service attracted media coverage from outlets like the Associated Press and La Prensa.

Catholic Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice, who spoke at the service, gave these remarks:

In the book of Leviticus we hear: “When an alien resides with you in your land, do not molest him. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the Lord am your God.”

We, the Catholic bishops of Florida, in our meeting with Gov. Scott yesterday, expressed to him that we are deeply concerned with our nation’s flawed immigration system and its impact on the human dignity and lives of our migrant brothers and sisters. This system divides families and causes human suffering to those who search for work in support of their families.

Read the rest after the jump.

It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that the more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2241)

While we support the right of the sovereign nation to control its borders, this does not mean that it should be done in a manner that undermines basic human rights. The vast majority of immigrants to this nation are not criminals, which should be taken into account in any enforcement strategy. The recent increases in deportation and the sometimes inhumane treatment of detainees such as refusal to allow contact with families and no legal representation causes us to question the methods used against those already in fear for their lives. Immigration law is complicated and only trained professionals have current knowledge of the laws, not local law enforcement.

Any passing of laws that give legal sanction to profiling people will decrease public safety and discourage reporting of crime. The so-called ‘illegals’ are so, not because they wish to defy the law, but because the law does not provide them with any channels to adjust their status in our country which needs their labor.

We call upon our federal delegation to lead the fight for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress. We call upon the Florida legislature to resist efforts to demonize those who provide the labor for our economy and a living for their families. Our Catholic Social Teaching and the tradition of the Church affirm the dignity of every human being, made in the image of God.

On behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Florida, we congratulate you for the way you are engaging this issue. Let us not impose our solutions, but propose just solutions that honor the dignity of all. Thank you and God bless you.

add a comment »