Congressman Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal, which was released today, has shifted political focus away from the looming government shutdown onto a much larger debate. Ryan’s budget would dismantle Medicare as we know it and drastically weaken Medicaid protections for the elderly, the disabled and millions of struggling American families. Simply put, Ryan’s plan will take affordable healthcare away from millions of Americans who — unlike Ryan — bear no personal responsibility for the government’s financial problems. And it asks for no sacrifice from the richest Americans or powerful corporate special interests who pay less in taxes than I do. This is just plain wrong.
Yet pundits ranging from New York Times columnist David Brooks to MSNBC’s Chuck Todd are speaking of Ryan’s “courage” and politicians like Rick Santorum are lauding him for making “tough choices.”
There is nothing courageous or tough about using the budget shortfall to justify taking health care away from the elderly, the disabled and families in need while sparing rich and powerful special interests from any hardship whatsoever. It is immoral and cowardly – especially in light of Ryan’s personal role in creating the deficit by voting for Wall Street deregulation that led to the economic crisis, multiple rounds of massive tax cuts for millionaires, two costly wars, and the poorly designed, unfunded creation of Medicare Part D.
Commentators such as Brooks and Todd either don’t know the definition of courage or make no connection between policy proposals and their human consequences. Ryan’s move might be a risky political gambit, but political risk and moral courage are different things entirely. If Ryan succeeds, millions of people he never has to see face to face will experience physical, financial and psychological harm as a direct result of his actions. If Ryan fails he’ll still have a job, and it’s extremely unlikely that his family will ever experience the hardship his plan would inflict on millions of his fellow Americans. He’s putting countless families’ well-being in serious jeopardy so he can clean up his own mess without asking anything of the wealthiest and most powerful Americans. And win or lose, he’ll be just fine.
Tough times call for moral courage and fair, practical solutions. Ryan offers neither. Our political discourse is in a truly sad state when presenting a transparently immoral plan is lauded as courageous because that plan might not pass.
The budget fight is heating up this week here in Washington. Egged on by the Tea Party, leaders in Congress are refusing to compromise and govern responsibly, meaning we could be headed for a government shutdown as early as Friday.
All this week, we’ll be hosting a “Preach-a-Thon” on the budget here at Bold Faith Type. Every day we’ll post new video and written commentary from religious leaders and people of faith on what their faith says about the budget fight. At the end of the week, we’ll package all the preaching, along with petition signatures from Faithful America, and deliver it to wavering Members of Congress who need to hear from constituents calling on them to do the right thing.
We’ve been pretty focused this week on Ohio and otherstates facing immoral budget cuts and major setbacks for the rights of employees to organize and negotiate for fair contracts. And while there’s much at stake for hard-working American families, the stakes are even higher for millions of vulnerable children around the world who’ll be hit hard by the GOP’s proposed cuts to foreign aid in the federal budget.
Rajiv Shah, the USAID Administrator, testified today before Congress that proposed GOP budget cuts would lead to the death of 70,000 children. The thought of it is horrifying… to yank investments and critical aid away from those who most desperately need it, and to know that cut won’t even make a dent in reducing our deficit.
As Michael Gerson, former speechwriter and advisor to President George W. Bush said on a recent press call we helped organize, “From a fiscal perspective, cuts in global health and poverty programs are inconsequential. From a moral and humanitarian perspective, they would be tragic. America does not have a debt problem because it spends too much on AIDS drugs or bed nets.”
Sixty-three percent of Ohioans (including 66% of Catholics and 57% of Evangelicals) think it’s the government’s more important moral responsibility is to make sure citizens have a quality education and safe and healthy communities, while only 26% think the more important responsibility is to cut taxes.
As our executive director Rev. Jennifer Butler said today: “Attacks on workers’ rights and reckless cuts to needed investments in education, public safety, and protections for the most vulnerable don’t honor our values, and people of faith are standing up to these immoral policies.”
On the heels of yesterday’s vote by the Ohio state legislature to pass Senate Bill 5, restricting collective bargaining rights for hundreds of thousands of teachers, nurses, first responders, and other public employees in the state, new survey data finds people of faith overwhelmingly oppose these efforts.
A new poll of Ohio voters released today by Faith in Public Life shows that Ohioans of faith strongly reject Governor Kasich and GOP legislators’ political agenda of cutting funds for education, health care and other public services and restricting collective bargaining for public employees while protecting tax breaks for big businesses. Some findings:
Asked “do you think Governor Kasich’s plan to restrict collective bargaining for Ohio public employees such as teachers, firefighters and police, is the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do,” 57% of Catholics said it was wrong, compared to 39% who said it was right. Similarly, 59% of evangelical/born-again Christians said it was wrong, and 32% said it was right.
Sixty-one percent of Catholics, 63% of evangelical/born-again Christian, and 61% of voters said that the proposed budget cuts to education and health care are unfair, compared to only 27% of evangelical/born-again and 35% of Catholics who said it was fair. A majority of politically independent voters (59%) said the budget proposal was unfair, compared to 32% who said it was fair.
More interesting findings from Ohio here, including majorities of all faith groups disapproving of Governor Kasich and saying Ohio is on the wrong track.