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Christians for a Sustainable Economy’s frivolous critique

August 5, 2011, 9:27 am | Posted by Tara Culp-Ressler

AEI ad.jpgNow that religious voices like the Circle of Protection have succeeded in highlighting the dangers of cuts to government programs that protect the most vulnerable, right-wing voices are scrambling to reinsert themselves into the national conversation. This week, conservative groups such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) project on Values and Capitalism, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, the American Center for Law and Justice, the Acton Institute, and the Family Research Council signed onto a letter organized by Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE), a coalition created to challenge the progressive religious narrative about a moral economy.

These signatories have launched a coordinated attack–including op-eds, radio ads, and a full-page ad in Politico–aiming to obscure the truth that safety net programs are crucial for protecting the poor. These groups are trumpeting conservative talking points about “welfare dependency” and the “threat” of government spending, harkening to the misguided assumption that private charity alone is sufficient to meet all citizens’ needs.

However, when it comes to articulating their own plan for caring for the poor while managing the debt, these critics offer mostly generic platitudes rather than a substantive approach. For example, when the Washington Post asked which government programs should be cut under the debt ceiling plan, AEI Values and Capitalism project head Eric Teetsel suggested eliminating “inefficiencies and redundancies throughout the budget” instead of providing a clear plan of action.

As we’ve pointed out before, several of these right-wing groups support draconian fiscal policies that would necessarily rely on extreme spending cuts that would harm struggling families by decimating the crucial programs to help them meet their needs during hard times. The Politico ad (placed by AEI) states that “our duty as people of faith is to advocate for just policies that advance human thriving,” but that certainly doesn’t describe the harmful effects of privatizing Medicare and block-granting Medicaid–policies AEI endorses that will jeopardize the health and even the lives of vulnerable people.

Conservative groups may be setting up a parallel to the Circle of Protection’s campaign by using similar values language and communications strategies, but they can’t disguise the fact that their economic philosophy harms the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable. The notion that depriving sick people of healthcare “advances human thriving” is, to say the least, a bit of a stretch. CASE is standing against the thousands of people of faith who share the principles of the Circle of Protection–including over 4,000 clergy, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and dozens of denominations and humanitarian organizations–not to mention the basic Biblical teaching that informs the call for economic justice.

Photo: AEI’s full-page ad in Politico

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