That is the first sentence of a thought-provoking op-ed in today's Washington Post titled E.J. Dionne Jr.: The campaign’s moral hole. Dionne is a Catholic and a liberal, which places him not on the side of the nationa's Catholic bishops. some of whom he note
often give the impression that they constitute the Republican Party at prayer. Instead he prefers
One of my favorite pressure groups, Nuns on the Bus, will be launching a five-day tour on Wednesday through the red, blue and purple parts of Ohio.Let me follow that link for the Nuns, where the first text on the web page is about the tour, and says
As Catholic Sisters, we are missioned to stand with people in need and to be witnesses for economic justice.The Vice-Presidential debate this week in Danville KY is not in a swing state, but not that far from the critical swing state of Ohio. The Nuns feel an obligation to speak out on the Ryan Budget, which Mitt Romney has said he would have signed had it come to his desk:
Jesus said, "You will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judea and Samaria, and indeed to earth's remotest end." (Acts 1:8)
As Catholic Sisters, we must speak out against the current House Republican budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). We do so because it harms people who are already suffering.They note the Ryan Budget would
* Raise taxes on 18 million hardworking low-income families while cutting taxes for millionaires and big corporations.Please keep reading.
* Push the families of 2 million children into poverty.
* Kick 8 million people off food stamps and 30 million off health care.
Dionne rightly notes that there is a struggle going on for the political soul of American Catholicism:
Those among the faithful who see the abortion issue as trumping all others are in a quarrel with their brethren who place more emphasis on the church’s long-standing commitment to social justice.He is on the side of the latter, and of the nuns. He reminds us that when it comes to the issue of poverty, two leading Bishops, Cardinal Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, issued a statement that is somewhat supportive of the nuns position on this issue:
“There are very dark clouds,” they wrote. “Too much rhetoric in the country portrays poor people in a very negative way.”Let me offer words from someone not a Catholic that also spoke to this issue. The author served as Mayor of Minneapolis, Vice-President of the United States, and before and after that position as a distinguished United States Senator. Hubert Horatio Humphrey also narrowly lost the Presidency of this nation to Richard Nixon in 1968. The headquarters of the Department of Health and Human Services is appropriately named after him. At that building's dedication, Humphrey said
They argued that the economy is not only failing to “provide sufficient jobs for poor people to earn a decent living to support themselves,” but is also offering fewer “resources for government to do its part for Americans in need.” The situation, they concluded, is “devastating to struggling families throughout the country.”
It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.Lest anyone think those sentiments were uniquely expressed on this one occasion, Humphrey had previously said
Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.Dionne focuses on what he considers the important criticism of President Obama in the first debate:
his failure to convey passion for the purposes of government, the requirements of justice and the point of his presidency. “The president,” says Sister Simone, “has gotten disconnected from the people he cares about.”Let me digress for a moment.
I am a Democrat because it is our party that has the record of caring for people, for providing and preserving the social safety net that has enabled many to rise up from and stay out of the debilitations of poverty. Think of the track record of Democratic social safety net programs broadly defined, in this partial list:
* Social Security
* Title I Education
* Educating All Handicapped Children Act (now Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)
*Earned Income Tax Credit
Think of the broad strokes of the New Deal and the Great Society, two sets of public programs under the great Democratic Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, which did so much to address the crippling poverty faced by many in this country. The first of these two men came from wealth but felt a moral responsibility. The second had seen poverty up close as a teacher in the Rio Grande Valley. Neither ignored the importance of providing work opportunities for the unemployed, but both understood that until someone had a job that paid sufficiently to support themselves and their families they needed help. When people were old or disabled and could no longer support themselves through work, they needed help. And government needed to be present to provide that help when no one else could.
It is also why Democrats have supported increases in the minimum wage, which is still far too low. The drivers of our economy must include the ability of people to spend money, and for them to do it, they have to have it. Allowing corporations and even small businesses to exercise downward pressure on the wages and benefits of their employees helps neither the employees nor our nation, but merely increases the already obscene economic disparity in a country whose wealth is not fairly accessible to all.
We are seeing the result of the "Greed Agenda" of the likes of the Koch Brothers, the agenda against which I have been writing as I travel on my bus tour in recent days (check my user page if you have not been reading those diaries, and watch for addtional diaries each day this week).
The most recent example of social safety net legislation is the Affordable Care Act. No, I did not forget it in the list above.
If people cannot afford medical care, or if it might bankrupt them, it hurts them. It makes them less than productive. It can shorten their lives. It can also jeopardize the health of the rest of us. It costs us money - to say the uninsured can always get treatment in an emergency room, as Mitt Romney and other Republicans often say, may be true, but ignores that such treatment is very expensive. Besides, they would exclude the undocumented from receiving such treatment, as if somehow their immigration status makes them less than human. On this the Nuns and the Catholic Bishops are in strong agreement - on this all should have access to medical care, as well as having their basic needs of food, shelter, and housing addressed. Against this contrast the most horrid of the Romney statement on the 47% when he speaks in a scornful tone of voice of how those people think they are entitled to such things. Yes they are. All human beings are.
So let me close as does Dionne in his final paragraph. And let us hope that the President and Vice-President pay attention, because this country and its people cannot afford the policies that will be implemented should they blow this election:
Nuns on the Bus will no doubt be criticized from the right for intervening in a political campaign, something that doesn’t bother conservatives when religious figures engage on their side. But the nuns’ most important message is to Obama and Biden: Don’t be afraid of reminding voters that budgets and elections have moral consequences. Doing so just might keep debate-watchers from changing the channel.Peace?