Rep. Paul Ryan spoke this morning at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference; afterwards James Salt of Catholics United caught up with the Congressman to offer him a Bible on behalf of Faithful America, which is running a campaign encouraging Ryan to put down Ayn Rand and pick up the Bible. James also asked Ryan a pointed question about Ryan’s radical federal budget plan, which reflects Ayn Rand’s love of greed and contempt for the weak by giving huge tax breaks to millionaires while making deep and harmful cuts to programs that protect seniors, struggling families and the middle class:
“Why did you choose to model your budget off the extreme ideology of Ayn Rand rather than values of basic economic justice in the Bible?”
In his great story on Rep. Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand, Daniel Burke at Religion News Service manages to elicit a semi-answer from Ryan’s staff to the question of how Ryan reconciles his faith with his support for Rand:
Ryan’s spokesman, Kevin Seifert, said the congressman “does not find his Catholic faith to be incompatible with his feelings for Ayn Rand’s literary works. … Rand is one of many figures and authors that Congressman Ryan has cited as influencing his thinking during his formative years.”
But the question wasn’t about Ryan’s admiration for Rand’s prose or narrative structure, but rather his explicitly stated support for her extremist political ideology.
The more Ryan dodges the fundamental question of how he reconciles Rand’s ideology of selfishness with the Bible’s call to work for the common good, the more clear it becomes that he doesn’t have a good answer.
Writing on his blog today, Dolan referenced the confusion but failed to clear it up. Instead he simply reiterated broad Catholic principles and bemoaned the fact that Catholics find areas of agreement and disagreement with both sides of the American political spectrum.
This generic approach only raises more questions. Dolan wouldn’t have had to take political sides to clarify his initial letter. And neglecting to do so not only failed to clear the air, but gave more fuel for the Dolan critics who claim tacitly endorsing Ryan and his budget was Dolan’s plan all along.
Ryan’s claims just don’t hold water. As Rand herself pointed out many times, her worldview is entirely at odds with Christianity and all other faiths that teach concern for others.
Since Ryan clearly needs to brush up on his theology, Faithful America is asking Ryan to put down Ayn Rand and pick up the Bible. For every 1,000 petition signatures we collect we’ll hand-deliver one Bible to Ryan’s DC office and maybe toss in a Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church for good measure.
Ryan is entitled to his own political philosophy and theology, but he’s not entitled to pass off Randian, cruel budget cuts as examples of Christian charity without somebody calling him on the contradiction.
When Bill O’Reilly hosted Drs. Steve Schneck and Vince Miller, two signers of the Catholic theologians’ letter to Speaker Boehner before his commencement speech at the Catholic University of America, he made a number of flawed arguments trying to defend the morality of the Ryan budget.
But one of O’Reilly’s claims deserves some special attention given how ubiquitous it is among small-government advocates: the idea that private charity is a sufficient social safety net.
All entitlements must be re-evaluated. There are ways to help the poor that don’t bankrupt us, and Catholics are compelled to help the poor. As you may know, “The Factor” gives millions of dollars to charitable causes. We have set up BillOReilly.com to do that because we believe those who have should help the have-nots.
The idea that churches can tackle national poverty, take care of those who are ill, and rebuild communities after natural disasters requires a spoonful of bad moral theology and a cup of dishonesty.
As commendable as O’Reilly’s charitable efforts are, his millions of dollars in charity are a drop in the bucket of what is needed.
Take one example of a program to care for low-income Americans: WIC. WIC is a supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children that feeds almost 9 million people each month. House Republicans proposed cuts of $747.2 million for the current fiscal year. It is simply dishonest to suggest that American charity can replace such a cut.
Another great example is Social Security, a program inspired by the staggering rates of poverty among elderly Americans in the early 20th century. By providing a steady income for all older Americans, the program helped ensure that no senior would be left vulnerable because of uncontrollable factors like lacking surviving family, not living close enough to a private charity, or finding insufficient support when charitable resources dried up. In fact, the program has been one of defining successes of American government–almost singlehandedly spurring a 25 percentage point decline in senior poverty from 1960 to 1995.
It’s callous to assert that cuts to any of these program would be anything but seriously harmful. Using misleading claims about the capacity of private charity to suggest otherwise distorts a debate of tremendous importance.