President Obama’s presentation of his long-term deficit-reduction plan today is a great opportunity to draw a stark contrast between his own approach and the Republicans’ irresponsible, immoral plan.
Rep. Ryan’s plan asks for no sacrifice from the wealthiest Americans or big business, but its deep cuts will cause concrete harm to families, seniors and children. This is wrong, and we think the President would be wise to say so. Making the contrast between fairness and unfairness, responsibility versus recklessness, and right versus wrong cuts to the heart of the matter.
For more thoughts in this vein, see Greg Sargent, Paul Begala and Jonathan Cohn.
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Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the intellectual darling of the Republican Party, has proposed a 2012 budget plan that would end Medicare and Medicaid as we know it. Ryan frames his dismantling of bedrock social safety nets as a “moral imperative” to save us from spiraling debt. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, pushing the plan this weekend, callously argues that “we have a safety net in place in this country for people who frankly don’t need one.”
Simply put, seniors and vulnerable families are being used as pawns in an ideological agenda whose end game is nothing less than wiping away the New Deal. Given that Ryan, a Catholic, has claimed the moral high ground, I’m challenging Catholic bishops to revive the legacy of another Ryan and speak out against this draconian proposal.
In 1919, the U.S. Catholic bishops recruited Monsignor John Ryan, a Catholic priest whose thinking on labor and social inequality were widely read in the decades following World War I, to write their Program for Social Reconstruction – a bold plan for what at the time were visionary social reforms: minimum wages, public housing for workers, labor participation in management decisions, and insurance for the elderly, disabled and unemployed. The bishops’ proposal and Ryan’s rising star in Washington laid the groundwork for New Deal legislation proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the following decades. Time magazine described the “Right Rev. New Dealer” as “U.S. Catholicism’s most potent social reformer.” Where is this Catholic voice today?
Bishops were influential (and controversial) actors during recent legislative battles over health care reform. They clearly have the stomach for tough political fights. Will they now take on Paul Ryan and a Republican Party pursuing a radical agenda that is antithetical to a Catholic vision of the common good?
Photo credit to the John A. Ryan Institute at the University of St. Thomas
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This week’s Newsweek features a fascinating portrait of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan as an acolyte of novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand. Rand, of course, is perhaps the archetypical enemy of the common good. Jonathan Chait writes:
The enduring heart of Rand’s totalistic philosophy was Marxism flipped upside down. Rand viewed the capitalists, not the workers, as the producers of all wealth, and the workers, not the capitalists, as useless parasites…
One conservative making that point was Ryan. His citation of Rand was not casual. He’s a Rand nut. In the days before his star turn as America’s Accountant, Ryan once appeared at a gathering to honor her philosophy, where he announced, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” He continues to view Rand as a lodestar, requiring his staffers to digest her creepy tracts.
While Rand criticized Marxism, she joined in Marx’s condemnation of religion. She called Christianity the “”the best kindergarten of communism possible.” An avid atheist, she saw religions’ support for the common good as antithetical to her individualistic philosophy.
As Paul Ryan leads the Republicans push towards immoral cuts to programs protecting families and the poor while giving tax breaks to millionaires, we must remember his proposal is rooted in Ayn Rand’s twisted view of individualism, not the commitment to the common good that runs through all religions.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
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This Fighting for Families reflection comes from Michael Livingston, Director of The National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative:
We Need a Congress with a Conscience
Far too often in these budget battles, our elected representatives seem intent upon protecting millionaires, billionaires, and corporate special interests at the expense of the larger public – the middle class and working families of our nation – and the common good. It’s as predictable as it is wrong.
Budgeting is about priorities, about using our resources in ways that reflect our values. Politicians want to preserve tax breaks for big oil companies, yet cut funding for vital programs that provide health care to our seniors, children and disabled citizens. That is a direct reflection of what our elected representatives care most about. Our public schools are a primary means by which we fulfill our moral obligation to prepare all children for a bright future. Yet, funding education cuts proposed in HR-1 would total $11.5 billion. Ten aircraft carriers, the first to be completed in 2015, the last in 2040, will cost $120 billion. Couldn’t we just build nine and make sure our children get the education they deserve?
We live in a God-created world of abundance. Yet in this world of enough for all, people still go hungry, children still die of preventable disease, and a systemic poverty that violates God’s created order still exists. We need a spirituality of engagement rather than a spirituality of apathy or worse yet, withdrawal. We need a Congress with a conscience. We need a budget and an economic policy that brings healing, instead of harm to our common life. As people of faith we must insist that we are a nation of United States, not of wealthy individuals and corporations striving only to increase their bottom line
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Today FOX News announced Glenn Beck’s daily TV show will be no more.
FOX executives deny the move had anything to do with outside pressure, but it’s hard to see how FOX could ignore more than 300 lost advertisers and continuous criticism from the faith community.
FPL’s online action arm Faithful America, which has been putting pressure on Beck for his attacks on social justice, called the news a “major victory for people of faith.”
It’s too early to tell who will take Beck’s place in FOX’s lineup, but thanks to the work of Faithful America, Jewish Funds for Justice, Sojourners, Media Matters, Color of Change and the entire Stop Beck effort, I doubt we’ll see another host who quite like Beck anytime soon.
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