Catholic Bishops Blast Debt Deal, Tea Party Extremism
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a scathing new report on the debt deal that will make Republican leaders and the Obama administration uncomfortable. Catholic bishops, who played a prominent role in lobbying efforts to protect the most vulnerable, clearly reject the anti-government, anti-tax zealotry the Tea Party has brought to the center of our economic debates. The bishops admonish both parties for not doing enough to protect the poor, struggling families and international aid programs that save lives in developing countries. In particular, Ayn Rand disciples like Rep. Paul Ryan, the architect of the GOP budget proposal who claims the imprimatur of Catholic social teaching for his draconian policy goals, will find no comfort in this report.
Written by John Carr, executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the USSCB, the report is a frank assessment of a deal that asks nothing from the rich even as it puts the squeeze on those already having trouble making ends meet. “While the crisis of default was averted, for advocates of poor and vulnerable people, this debate was disappointing, ominous, and just the beginning,” Carr writes. The report continues:
This legislation will require major cuts to discretionary programs, including and especially programs which serve those who are poor and vulnerable. Even with the exemption for low-income entitlement programs from automatic cuts, these programs, international development, and other poverty-focused programs remain particularly vulnerable to major cuts, with all their human costs and moral implications…. As is well known, there are no revenue increases of any kind, and the debates over tax and entitlement reforms were put off and referred to the special Congressional committee, which may simply reflect the continuing demands of special interests and Congressional factions.
The USCCB frequently speaks in measured tones in an effort to rise above the partisan and ideological smog that shrouds Washington. But make no mistake that this report, and the consistent advocacy the bishops have provided on behalf of the poor, offers a stark moral challenge to Republican leaders and Christian conservatives who demonize government’s vital role in serving the common good. Religious leaders have made a compelling case that private charity and free markets are not enough to build a fair economy that lives up to our nation’s core values and highest ideals. It’s time for elected officials to start listening.