The public debate over our deficit and astonishing National Debt is only going to get more heated over the next months. As a priest and not an economist I want to limit my reflections to a few moral considerations involved and what might important to consider as the politics of the issue plays out. But, above all I would like to hear from you as to some of the practical and moral considerations you think should hold sway in this national debate.

In framing this particular post I would like to reference a blog post over at the Faith in Public Life site, a site generally left of center in the political world. It asks the question, “Will the Catholic Bishops Stand up Paul Ryan.” Here are some excerpts:

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…speak out against this draconian proposal…..

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?

The full article is here: Will Catholic Bishops Stand Up to Paul Ryan?

Well, OK, The article is somewhat polemical in tone using words such as callously ideological agenda, draconian, and radical agenda. The post does seem to admit of the existence of spiraling debt, yet its main purpose seems more to be anti-republican than to be proactive in suggesting specific practical solutions or particular budget cuts that are more acceptable.

For the record, Democrats too have had to make hard choices and don’t always get the priorities right. Here in the District of Columbia, an exclusively Democratic City, (there simply ARE no Republicans in City Leadership), the Mayor and certain City Council Members have  suggested the total elimination of the Neighborhood Investment Act (an affordable housing and blighted neighborhood redevelopment fund that is funded by a percentage of taxes in targeted areas such as entertainment corridors and the like).  At the same time the Washington Convention Center and Sports Authority retains 100% of its budget. This Democrat-dominated city easily finds money to build baseball stadiums, fund waterfront preservation, and do downtown redevelopment, while the poorer neighborhoods are simply being written out of the proposed budget. These are tough economic times, and those of us who support the the Neighborhood Investment Act understand that cuts are going to be necessary.  But a total elimination of the fund, while projects enjoyed by relatively wealthy citizens remain fully funded, is hardly having proper priorities. And in all this, there isn’t a Republican in sight.

So, partisan sparring aside, what might be some considerations in the budget tightening that seems inevitable? I can only suggest some and ask your help in completing the list.

1. Let’s admit that overspending is an American problem. The fact is we’ve been doing it for decades. And the problem isn’t just at the Government level. Most people in this country carry a frightening amount of debt: credit cards, home mortgages, auto loans, second mortgages, student loans, equity loans, and did I mention credit cards? Bankruptcy, once considered a disgrace, is now considered a viable financial strategy. Many of us are in, way over the top. Collectively speaking, we just don’t seem very good at curbing our desires and only buying what we can afford.  Scripture says, Owe no debt to anyone (Rom 13:8). I will admit that  home mortgages and car loans may be a necessary evil, but most other forms of debt are signs that we are living beyond our means.

2. The National Debt is over 14 Trillion Dollars. You want to see something scary, look here: Debt Clock I watched the debt clock for just one minute and watched the debt increase by 1.2 million dollars, in just a minute. Some argue today that this talk of the deficits and debts is just a ginned up crisis. “We’ve been talking about a collapse for decades now and its never happened.” But we’ve never seen anything like this. 14 trillion, and over a million a minute is simply not sustainable. No reasonable person can think this is nothing to worry about. We DO have to get serious about spending, and soon. I am not an economist, but I DO have common sense. We need to get serious. Morally speaking we are stealing from future generations and saddling them with an enormous burden. It isn’t right and we do need to take action to dramatically reduce spending

3. But we seem locked into a dependency/entitlement cycle that is hard to break. It is not just the poor who are dependent. There is a huge amount of corporate welfare. Certain powerful and certain “politically correct” industries receive large subsidies from the government. We pay farmers not to plant, we subsidize things like ethanol, prop up failing industries, rescue banks, and car manufacturers.  There may be an argument for cutting over all corporate taxes at times, but why should we be giving certain companies and industries lots of money in grants and subsidies?

We also do silly things like “cash for clunkers” programs,  we pay wealthy beach-front home owners to rebuild their homes when they are destroyed by hurricanes, even though it is foolish to build on sand (Matt 7:26), and so forth. Further we subsidize a lot of nice, but not critical things, like symphonies, art museums, performing arts centers, Public Television and the like.

Recently Wolf Trap (a performing Arts Center here in the DC area) sent out pleas for everyone to flood congress with protests that they might loose 30 million in annual funding due to proposed cuts. But why should taxpayers give that sort of money so that fairly wealthy people can bring picnic lunches and a bottle of wine to listen to music on the lawn of Wolf-Trap?

Wolf Trap argues they cannot survive without the money. But how has Wolf Trap, a high class destination performance site, gotten so dependent on the Government? How and why has corporate America become so dependent on subsidies? Why do we pay farmers not to plant? And so on.

Now, everyone involved argues that they need this funding. And so we seem quite locked into a dependency cycle and seem to feel entitled to a living, or at least that our favorite activities and causes be funded. Don’t cut my program, cut the other guy’s program. Don’t raise my taxes, raise his. Hello 14 Trillion.

4. The article above is baiting the Bishops to enter the fray. But it would seem they can only enunciate certain general Catholic principles such as care for the poor, an equitable sharing of the burden of cuts in other areas of the budget, and proper balance between subsidarity and solidarity.  I surely know that the genuinely poor should be cared for before things like Wolf Trap or the Washington Convention and Sports Authority. But there are many areas in the budget debate wherein reasonable men and women will differ and I think the bishops ought to be very careful before over addressing the specifics. The temporal order is more the domain of the laity. It is also a true fact that the Catholic faithful are politically divided and that this limits the bishops influence in the public policy debate.

5. I am interested in hearing your concerns and your sense of priorities as the budget battles heart up. I am particularly interested in hearing from you if you are a member of the laity, for the temporal order is especially your area. I would help if blatant political posturing be kept minimal here. Perhaps if we focused more on what areas of the budget should be protected and what areas might be able to be cut or eliminated.

Here are a couple of videos from the Faith in Public Life site mentioned above. The First video has a tone that I consider rather unhelpful in the debate as it seems to appeal to a sort of class-warfare mentality. The second video however I think is more appropriate in its tone for this sort of discussion. As Catholics, in a Church with a wide political spectrum, mutual respect and a careful moderation of our tone is helpful to having an authentic discussion.

116 Responses

  1. Steve says:

    I’m sure you’ll agree that charity is not stealing from people & giving to people that have no thought to ever work for it. We have people hooked on the gov’t teet or drug. People vote for the theft of their neighbors’ property. Thou shalt not steal has been kicked out (well along with all 10 Commandments) for legal plunder. A great line I’ve heard is the Church will ask ‘will you help this person’ whereas the gov’t will say ‘you WILL help this person’. Yes, Christ would want us all to help each other & we as a people used to but we have moved away from helping each other, living in communities, going to Church for help in all ways, etc to trading God in for the god of Leviathan. the “God is dead’ philosophy that makes people look at their rulers to help them. Full disclosure I’m a fan of rugged individualism & not receiving handouts (I’m by no means rich & am in debt from yrs of being an idiot & living outside the laws of common sense economics) but most people do not want to help themselves. We do need to end all entitlements (which shouldn’t be called entitlements b/c when is someone entitled to my property that I earned w/o asking? That is a cute way of saying ‘theft’ or ‘plunder’), & the safety nets must go. Sure, people don’t all get caught in that net but freedom is not a utopia it is about risks. Just b/c you have a helmet on doesn’t mean you aren’t ever going to get a concussion. Anyways here’s a couple good audio links from a Catholic radio host (political show) in Louisiana that you’ll enjoy that goes with all this. We cannot call ourselves a moral people if theft is legalized & theft of future kids (if they survive the womb) is not moral. I could go on and on. We are not a representative gov’t anymore & haven’t been in a long long time.

    http://www.mikechurch.com/Show-Clip-of-the-Day/the-federal-government-is-dissolved-corrupt-a-illegitimate.html

    http://www.mikechurch.com/Liberty-Documents/frederic-bastiat-on-property-a-plunder.html

    • In saying all entitlements must end and the safety net must go, what is, then, your plan to care for the truly needy and poor, say those ill to work? I am generally concerned as you are with large govt welfare programs, more due to their pernicious effects on the poor than to concerns for theft. Prior to the 1960s and especially prior to the 1930s, welfare was largely handled by the churches and local communities. But how would you propose we practically return to those days?

      As for the radio clips you have supplied, I would ask you to consider that portraying the President in a dunce cap and calling him stupid is not a proper Catholic or Christian approach to such matters. We are to give proper respect to our leaders and to pray for them. It is quite legitimate to have policy differences with the President, I have many, but to demean him personally is not among the legitimate Catholic responses to such matters (cf 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Tim 2:1-3).

      By the way, one of the things I might ask you to consider in your description of government assistance to the poor as “theft” is that the poor DO have some claim to our excess wealth according to Scripture and Catholic Social teaching. I will grant you that having the govt mandate this by fiat may be questionable from the standpoint of the political order and the Constitution. But from the standpoint of the faith I do have obligations to the poor and they do have legitimate claims on me. My giving to them is not merely a matter of my personal mercy or largess, it is also a matter of justice. If I have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor. I do not thereby legitimate every govt tax and transfer payment to the poor, but I would like to challenge your use of the word “theft” without any distinctions. In the catechism, our obligations to the poor are set forth in the section on the seventh commandment and the fundamentals of the Church’s social teaching are well set forth there. In that section of the Catechism it is taught that to fail in our duty toward the poor is itself a form of theft and a denial of the “universal destination of goods” It is a worthy meditation if you have time to read it. I have also set forth the teaching in a previous blog post here: http://blog.adw.org/2009/11/the-forgotten-principal-of-social-justice/

      • Steve says:

        We are in the welfare state. We will not survive in this current plan. Pre welfare state times we were able to help each other out. Post welfare that is gone. Will it be eliminated? No b/c people are for legalized theft & people do not really want to live on their own. Rugged individualism is gone from most people and we will be on our knees before the recipient class while the recipient has their hands out asking for more more more. Notice you never hear a ‘thank you’ from anyone on welfare but always they want more more more.
        Now how can we get back to those days? It’ll take a generational change where people realize that welfare via gov’t is theft (there’s no way else to say that… charity is not forced). It used to be if you were in a rut in this union of states that you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps. Today its ‘well if I don’t make it then there’s always unemployment’ or ‘well I’ll get on food stamps’ etc etc.

        We will always have poor & needy but most on welfare are not poor & needy. The ‘poor’ in America have flat screen tvs & cell phones & multiple cars.

        • I realize with you we’re in a pickle here. I still wondering how to extract ourselves from it, a kind of step-back plan that does not destroy the genuinely poor. I also want to reiterate that charity cannot be forced but some of what we must do for the poor must not be seen as charity but as justice.

          • Annie Kapfer says:

            Let us remember that these social programs are not just for the poor or the old, but for those who truly CANNOT care for themselves – the mentally retarded (politically correct term is now intellectually disabled) and autistic are examples of PEOPLE that society has a moral obligation to care for – long term. And the Church MUST fight hard for them. As a Catholic parent of a child with Down Syndrome, who was blessed with the knowledge that she would have DS before birth, I have always been proud to say that I knew and yet I did not abort, as the Church has taught me. However, I am very distressed when I find Catholics fighting against programs to support the very children the Church insists we must not abort.

        • John says:

          Steve,

          I just want to say that I feel you are misinformed on the poor of this country. Go help and meet them. They are not the embezzling, lazy crowd you make them out to be. Many work and still cannot afford to feed their families and pay for rent, many others have addiction or psychological problems that challenge their daily existence. Are there people who scam the system? Sure, there are those in every system that take advantage. We are not called to be a judge of those people, we are called to love them all. Please do not believe the hateful rhetoric that the poor have large tv’s, cell phones, etc. There is a lot of factors that go into the life of the poor that you cannot find in news articles or reports.

          As for the “theft” as you call it (that I agree with Msgr. Pope you are wrong about), I have no problem with someone taking something from me that was already not mine. Stop arguing over gold coins and just give to God what is Gods.

      • Steve says:

        I don’t have the ability to influence the pictures posted on someone else’s webpage I posted the link for the audio portion not the picture on it. Nor can I keep one from what name they call him or them I went for the corruption of gov’t that we have at present time.

        Now I don’t know how else to say this is theft? I did not sign up for Medicare or Medicaid yet it is taken directly out of my check which I work for involuntarily to give to another .. that is by definition redistribution of wealth (is it not?) Now I used to work in medical sales & saw people on Medicaid with flat screen tvs (big ones) & multiple cars in parking lot yet they complain of money. I now work at a cable sales company (got laid off & needed a job took me 5 months to land on .. don’t like selling cable to people but its a job currently looking for better one.. & yes I was laid off shortly after the healthcare bill was signed) & people that have no cash call to sign up for all services + all movie channels yet they complain about not enough cash. I go into the grocery store & see what… grocery carts full of food stamp bought sodas, ice cream, chips, beer, cigarettes, etc (non essiental to life items) & I am struggling to buy chicken to grill for a week. What am I doing wrong I ask? I work I should be on the gov’t dole receiving stolen money. It is stolen money & people that receive that are not virtuous people. You cannot steal money or receive stolen money & think you are doing good.

        Social Security, is something I never signed up for & is the biggest ponzi scheme ever yet I pay into it involuntarily & probably will never ever see that cash again. Isn’t that theft? If I stole money from you & gave it to another that never would think of doing a thing for themselves would anyone think I was ‘generous’? Its always generous with other peoples money but never right.

        Yes, Christ would want us to help the poor, supply them with food, supple them with things but would he want it via the Roman spear? No He would want it via our generous hearts.

        If an individual gives from their own then that, yes, is how it should be & is true generousity & is virtuous, but having an elected official steal it from one via a vote to give to another is no where close to virtue & is no where near Christian thinking.

        Along with the added debt is our endless perpetual wars. Peace & prosperity cannot be found in endless wars. Billions per week is sent for a war & we are in 130+ sovereign nations (we would never allow a nation to put a base here) & that costs tons of cash. Heard a great line the other day that a trillion dollars nobody can fathom it would be equal to spending a million per day since the time of Christ & we’d still be 300 million short & we are $14+ trillion in the hole. Bankrucpy for us is on the way (notice the southern sudan seceded from its corrupt northern part & is now debt free… just a thought about getting out of this tyrannical gov’t we’ve been in for decades now).

        Only way to get out of this is either cutting all entitlements (& yes this would require people to live like Christian people & help each other out) cutting 99% of gov’t agencies (the alphabet soup departments like FDA, EPA, FCC, REA, you name it .. cut it, along with dept of diseducation, dept of we don’t create energy, dept of whatever…cut it). Our overlords in gov’t have been at this for decades & most people think its heaven sent, most think they feed our kids, they educate our kids, they pay for this or that.

        Imagine how much more the poor would get if gov’t didn’t take it from us, waste it, & ‘claim’ it went to the poor. Nobody can tell me all that money goes to them & is not wasted or abused. True freedom we would be able to directly help them. redistribution of wealth is a false uptopia (I’m sure you know & this isn’t breaking news) but for gov’t to handle it & we to think that is good is laughable & money gets wasted to pet projects, grease palms, or lost. Why is it that there are more & more on welfare daily if we are giving so much to these entitlements & adding more & more to them. We aren’t a free people if we have to rely on gov’t to feed us

  2. Ken Kannady says:

    Simply, quit borrowing our own money from the Fed…….

  3. Linus says:

    We have to do something or there will be no ” safety net ” for anyone and we will revert to a third world country. We can’t work our way back to solvency without draconian corrections. We can at the very least go back to the state of law and spending in place at the beginning of Bushe’s first year in office. This was the beginning or our real downward spiral. To make up for the built in increases of entitlements effective at that time we could adopt means tests ( like Australia ) for all entitlements. We then have to do something effective to offset the drain to the economy caused by benefits given to illegal aliens. If we can get to that point we can take a breath and see where we are. Do we have the political will to do it.? I doubt it. If we don’t, bad things will happen. I don’t mind reverting back to 1850 but there were no safety nets then. Think about it. That is the choice as I see it.

    • OK, so you see a rollback to 2000 spending as a way back plus some better assessments of entitlements

      • Linus says:

        Actually, I think God has allowed us ” to go our own way ” and now we find ourselves not too different from the people at the Tower of Bable when He mixed their tongues so none could understand what the other said. So, our mess is so tangled and insane that only God can straignten it out and why should He help us? I think we are just at the beginning of our troubles.

  4. Nick says:

    So the people on the side of the bill are using the ol’ hasty generalization political fallacy about people on welfare checks and other government-sponsored relief programs.

    But ‘Faith in Public Life’ has also used a political fallacy, which makes its whole argument against the bill invalid (as fallacies do): The ol’ appeal to fear about an ideological agenda.

    Most Catholics use these two fallacies without realizing it when they label the media (“liberal MSM”), political parties (“conservative Republicans”), or their enemies (“progressive Catholics”).

  5. Dismas says:

    I certainly don’t have any immediate answers I’m willing to offer. However, this article was brought to my attention on the internet recently. It’s by a now retired syndicated columnist, Charlie Reese, associated with the Orlando Sentinel. I did some checking and the column seems to be authentic, although I think there are different versions floating around. The column is titled ‘The 545 People Responsible For All Of U.S. Woes’.

    I’m not sure how pertinent it is regarding this conversation here, and I don’t agree with everything he says, however, it gave me a great deal to think about and thought it could be useful for others as well regarding this topic. In the end, for me, the 545 are really us. I hope you enjoy it.

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article18568.htm

    • Yes, congress surely has a strong role in this mess. However, it is ultimately Americans in general who empower these 545 and who often insist on spending and complain when it is time to cut. I think there’s more than 545 to blame

      • Dismas says:

        I’m easily tempted to become complacent and think that things are to complicated and overwhelming, that there’s nothing I can do to help make a difference. The following two quotes help me re-think that error, and I hope it helps others that may feel the same way as well.

        “Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical forces like “the economy,” “inflation” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.”

        “They and they alone should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses – provided they have the gumption to manage their own employees.”

  6. martin (the sinner) says:

    I think that a good place to start is for the Federal Government to cut all the regulatory agencies that are duplicates of State agencies. For example, every state most certainly has a Department of Environmental Protection/EPA, so why is it necessary for the feds to copy this and cause confusion and complication for businesses who are forced to wade through two sets of regulations to do business (so, basically I make an argument for states rights)?

    Second, let’s save some money on our prison system. Legalize pot. No, you shouldn’t smoke pot, it’s not right. But that doesn’t mean the government should try to legislate morality. And this so-called “gateway drug” argument is bunk; tobacco and alcohol are much bigger gateway drugs.

    Third, let’s cut every single program, agency (yes, this includes military spending) by 10% (maybe this should be #1). No exceptions, we don’t have time to mess with anything else. Also, cut all foreign aid. Why are we giving money to countries who harbor terrorists and bad people in general (this is a Trump argument, I don’t like everything he says but sometimes he makes sense)? We gave Pakistan $798 million in aid in 2008 according to Parade. We know Bin Laden is in that country. We know he is a 6′ 3″ Arab who is on dialysis. Stop giving them aid until they give him to us. I bet he’d be on the White House’s front lawn w/in 24 hours.

    Fourth, but down and eventually out welfare. The government feeds and houses the poor in this country. Why? This is nothing that the Church hasn’t traditionally done in the past. Welfare is one way that the government weakens the influence of the Church. Further, when I am taxed and the government gives my money away to the poor (money that I would have otherwise given away had they not taken it from me) I loose out on grace. The government is stealing grace from me.

    Finally, they need to close all the loopholes in the tax code by simplifying it (this means for corporations and individuals). Why should GE pay nothing on billions (this isn’t an indictment on GEs part, they’re just doing what good businesses do, make money) while my father’s little rental business (and I mean little) get’s taxed to the gills? Equality under the law. This is something that we as society supposedly hold as a high ideal; we treat the rich like the poor, the black like the white, like the Indian, like the Asian etc. The rick receive Holy Eucharist at the same communion rail as the poor, and the black at the same as the white. Yet in reality we somehow think that just because someone is “rich” we can tax them more (in reality they often end up paying less because of all the loopholes, just like big business). Why? How is it that we allow this to happen?

    • OK it does seem there is a lot of overlap that likely costs a lot of money. The 10% stepback seems good and simple, and I have wondered why we don’t think about it that way too. And as for the care of the poor, I also would like to see the govt eventually step out of welfare. But how to organically and gradually get there is a difficult plan to imagine. And yes you are right, tax policy is a total nightmare and is riddled loopholes that savvy accountants can manipulate unto unjust ends, IMHO

      • Linus says:

        I think, as good as this sounds, we would need a lot of vocations to religious life to carry it out. I assume that if the government wasn’t running things, the churches would. That means vocations or highly devoted and dedicated laity. Where to get them?

  7. David says:

    First step: Admit that we are powerless

    Second step: Come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.

    Third Step: Turn our will and our lives over to His care.

    Nothing else will work .

  8. Micah says:

    I think the bishops need to acknowledge that many of the Church’s social teachings are based in principle. Yes, we ought to help provide for those who cannot provide for themselves, whether they are senior citizens or the disabled, but the Church does not mandate the precise role of government in all this. Rerum Novarum 14 implies that the family is to take care of its own members, as much as possible, and only in extreme circumstances should the government intervene. The trouble is that we are now in a situation in which most of our countrymen are unwilling to take in their parents and disabled relatives or otherwise provide for them. So if we shut down these programs, what will become of these people? My father-in-law is disabled and currently living on his own, but my wife and I are working to buy a house so that he may live with us.

    And yet, we need to shut down these programs. They are bloated, often used by corrupt officials, often cheated by leeches on the federal government. Applying the principle of subsidiarity, I think these sorts of programs need to be run on the most local level possible, where the public has more power to hold the government accountable and where less bureaucracy might develop and fewer people might be needed to manage the program.

    I wonder how having these sorts of programs run on more local levels (and in union with churches) would change the cost.

    • I certainly concur that the Bishops can only enunciate principles and it does not pertain to them to articulate a precise role for govt. Further the family and local community are better places from which help should come (subsidarity). But how, as you state to scale back to that level.

  9. Micah says:

    By my above comment, I do not mean any disrespect for the bishops. Rather, I’ve noticed that the US bishops tend to back this or that piece of legislation the same way a PAC does. What is needed, instead, is for the US bishops to lay out the principles that are necessary, so that they are not backing a piece of legislation with some desirable and some undesirable factors, but rather are providing input that will not support pork or entitlement spending.

  10. Dan says:

    Yes, Msgr., it is a matter of priorities. There is no reason in the world for the trillions of dollars governments (federal and otherwise) collect to not be enough to provide for those who are in need. So, I say there should be real cuts in spending, back to 2007 levels, let’s say. Also, I’m not sure why it is that we have come to accept the federal government as the “provider” for all seniors and the poor. Some subsidiarity would be a good idea. The fact of the matter is, I think Ryan’s plan is a good start. Go ahead and call me Dracula.

  11. Concerned in the Heartland says:

    I, too, am not an economist, but I do read and listen. It is hard to separate the informational wheat from the chaff(?) when listening to news and talk radio outlets. It would be wise to become familiar with credible sources of information that seemingly “have no axe to grind”. It is not enough to align strictly with any political party but go deeper and identify people, blocs by their actions and consequences. Having said all that, any further legislation that does not enact law that severely cuts spending in the name of compassion is nothing but error and confusion. My limited understanding of the Catholic concept of “subsidiarity” makes sense in all areas of our lives. The aim of all taxes is confiscatory and designed to feed the beast in Washington. When has government ever done anything well? With huge bureaucracies and laws that are thousand of pages in length how can anything be done efficiently? The American people don’t understand the tsunami of debt that we as a nation face…or don’t care just so long as they get theirs. And so they choose to look the other way. As far as compassion for the poor. That remains and is just. But certainly it is not done in a justly way. Does anyone think that the redistribution of wealth from the few who pay taxes to all who do not via political means is done equitably? It is indeed naive to think that. Again how can any federal or state government do anything more efficiently than local communities? Does not St. Paul say in one epistle that those who can work ought to work (paraphrase)? What would Jesus do? Feed the poor, clothe the naked, care for widows and orphans. But would He suggest that it be done “from the tip of the spear of Caeser?”

    • I think you’re right about tax policy. I do not pay income taxes (don’t earn enough) but I do pay payroll taxes which is not insubstantial. But it does seem that fewer and fewer pay income tax.

    • Aaron says:

      Examples of things government has done well, even if it isn’t doing it as well as it once has: Interstate highways, policing, air traffic control, public safety, basic science research – honestly, the list goes on and on. Anything that isn’t made better through a capitalist cost/benefit analysis is and should be mandated by the government for the public good. I am discouraged by the call for individualism in a world that demands some collectivism to support a moral civilization as we have built it.

  12. Paul Hughes says:

    All social security and so on should be local. This means that when someone too lazy to get out of
    bed in the morning goes for his check he can have a cheese sandwich. Local people would know
    who was deserving and who wasn’t.

    If a 10% tax cant pay for all of government services then there is something hugely wrong. Fourteen
    trillion dollars of debt because people think they can get away with stealing other people’s money.

    Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s but not what is yours.

    Paul

  13. Mark Duch says:

    Msgr.,

    I’d like to see the USCCB actively promote subsidiary as a solution to our problems. It seems that, contra Church teaching, the USCCB repeatedly throws weight around centralized policy proposals. I’m tired of seeing it. Unbroken Church teaching is that these problems are best solved as locally as possible. It’s time the bishops started transmitting that part of the faith courageously.

  14. Blake Helgoth says:

    It does seem that government has crowded out the work of churches and other charities. The problem here is that the needy receive material aid but not the loving care. Just ask someone unfortunate enough to be in a government nursing home! One of the things that big bureaucracies do is waste lots of money. We should end the things like the NEA and government run schooling, just about everyone else does schooling cheaper. The size of government should be scaled way back and people should be trusted to care for each other. People will do that when they do not have to give uncle Sam so much of their money.

  15. Mandy P. says:

    Here’s the problem. If we don’t fundamentally change the structure of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, they will combined consume the entirety of our federal even within the next thirty years. That means that every single dollar that the federal government takes in will go to pay for these programs and everything else, including defense, will have to come from borrowed money. We currently owe a hair over 14 Trillion dollars in debt. Our GDP- Gross Domestic Product, which is what the entire private economy produces and has circulating- is a hair over 14 Trillion dollars. So, we owe just a wee bit less than is circulating in the entire private economy. This is bad- and yes, that is an understatement.

    We could literally confiscate everything that the “rich” and the “corporations” have and only barely be able to fund federal operations for one year. That doesn’t even take into account the severe economic damage that would occur should we do so.

    So, the options here are (a) do nothing or merely tamper around the edges of our spending (entitlement programs included) and have the country collapse or (b) change our spending habits and reform the big 3 entitlements. If you go and read the Ryan plan, it’s actually very gradual. It would take several decades to balance the budget, but it does dramatically cut spending and it reforms two of the three entitlements. Medicare and Medicaid would no longer be mismanaged by the Feds and they would give block grants to the states so that the pele closest to the recipients could run the programs and tailor to the needs of their various communities. Not only is this significantly more efficient, if jobs quite nicely with the principle of Subsidiarity.

    Ryan’s plan, at the moment, does not touch Social Security. However, he has presented a different plan previously (his “Roadmap”) that called for keeping benefits exactly the same for current retirees and those close to retirement (55 and up). People under 55 would be able to start gradually withdrawing from Social Security and investing for their own retirement.

    The worse thing about this whole debate is that we’ve all known it was coming for a long time. People have been discussing the insolvency of our entitlement programs and their eventual implosion if left alone for my entire life. And yet, because they are afraid of the people who will cry about “changing [insert entitlement program here] as we know it”, Congress kept kicking the can down the road. Now we’re at the tipping point and it’s absolutely shameful, in my opinion, that we cared so little for our progeny that we all just continued to happily live in the fantasy that these programs would just all magically be there with no consequences. And no matter how we choose to fix it- and that’s entirely dependent upon our government being courageous enough to face these challenges head on, which I doubt- my children and grandchildren will suffer because of our collective refusal to face economic reality.

  16. Ranting Catholic Mom says:

    When I look at my paycheck and see the amount of money that is taken for social security and medicaid, I am always questioning what I would do with that money on my own. We live in a country where people on welfare have cable t.v., cell phones, money to go to night clubs, child care provided during the day to pursue their own desires (although the child care is supposed to be for education and job hunting), and a host of other luxuries that have been deemed necessities. Incurring increasing debt for these luxuries is fundamentally wrong.

    It is also wrong to require citizens to provide charity through the government. I like to give to charities. Prayer, fasting, and alms giving are central acts of faith. I do not feel charitable when I pay taxes. The bulk of the money spent on entitlement programs is used to pay bureaucrats who provide no direct service to the poor.

    It seems logical that if we stopped supporting the bureaucracy, more money would be available for direct charitable work. Some would give more to charities, given the opportunity. Others would not. I want to know how much of our entitlement budget is spent on government bureaucrats, and how much is actual service to the needy. Generally speaking, charities try to keep budgets for administrators versus service at a 20/80 split or better. If they don’t, they are not given a positive ranking by the National Chronicle of Philanthropy.

    Can our government do that? If they could, entitlements would cost far less than they do now. There is now way out of debt without cutting spending.

    • Yes, one would hope we’d still care for the poor if the govt stepped back but how that can be done gracefully is a signifcant question

    • Chris Taylor says:

      I’m sorry but I can’t just listen to a statement like this and stay silent. There is simply no evidence that the poor people on welfare have “big screen tvs with cable” or “money to go to night clubs”.

      Am I the only one who pictures a single mother with 2 kids, barely getting by, while working 40 hours a week at minimum wage as a welfare recipient? Apparently everyone on welfare/food stamps is rich!

    • Aaron says:

      You seem to be upset that there are administrative costs involved – however if you look at Social Security, for example, administrative costs are less than 3% of program funding, compared to almost 9% for something like Red Cross.

      Remember that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are not welfare programs, and even if we grant that there is some fraud, it is right-wing propaganda that holds these examples up as the norm.

      Read some Ezra Klein for examples of how the deficit could be managed without discretionary cuts and with some revenue-positive changes to SS, MCare/MCaid, along with allowing tax breaks for the ultra-rich to expire back to Clinton-era levels (you remember, when the economy was doing well?) and you’ll see that there is a way to avoid the objectivist tendencies of the modern conservative movement.

    • Robyn says:

      Hey Ranting Catholic Mom – why don’t you do less ranting and more educating yourself? Money is taken out of your check for Medicare, not Medicaid. This misunderstanding highlights the ignorance of the rest of your post. “Money to go to night clubs”..”a host of other luxuries”…really??

  17. Jon White says:

    “what is, then, your plan to care for the truly needy and poor, say those ill to work?” Lay the burden on the churches’ congregations and other charitable organizations where it belongs. The federal constitution lays out limited powers for the federal government – charity work is not one of them (unless one wants a “living” constitution to twist and bend the “promote the general welfare” phrase completely out of its original meaning.) Christian churches have been all-too-comfy with abandoning to the State their historic mission to the poor and sick, and thereby give their members an easy out: “I already gave at the office in my taxes.”

    • Ok so lay the burden on the Churches, perhaps this is right in theory. But I know that my parish is not equipped to run nursing homes, care for the mentally handicapped etc. How do we gracefully hand over such things?

      • Jon White says:

        Subsidiarity is the answer. If the parish cannot handle the burden, the responsibility bumps up to the next level (the diocese, I believe). And so on, and so forth. For we must always remember and teach our fellow citizens as well as the upcoming generations, our American (USA) society was conceived and ought to perform the minimum functions we need it to perform so that our liberty is maximized. That, in turn, maximizes our capacity to live compassionate, redemptive lives. American government does not, cannot, and should not be allowed to determine and effectuate the morality of the citizens of the USA.

  18. Nolan says:

    Holy Mother our Church teaches us that government taxes are not the best way to build up the Kingdom of God. Through time and geography, all the Bishops in our beautiful eternal Church have legally avoided paying taxes whenever possible.
    Maybe, Jesus Christ teaches us that the best government is God centered and has a 10% flat tax. Thank you for being a priest Monsignor (It is like being both a father and a mother to an enormous family).

  19. Micah says:

    Ultimately, I don’t think any government programs will really fix the debt crisis. I think a change of heart in the American people, to love God and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, will do far more. If we all did that, we could cut out the government middle man and associated program costs, practice charity, and be a closer people, more willing to sacrifice for one another. The government needs to call on religious leaders for a moral and spiritual revolution instead of trying to fix the numbers by legislation.

    Only the conversion of hearts will fix this. It needs to be something grassroots, coming from us. Trouble is, many of us can’t afford to donate much of anything to charity because we’re taxed so much. I think cutting the taxes and telling people to donate to charity is far better…or, perhaps, giving a dollar-for-dollar tax refund for donations to charitable organizations, which would encourage donation to charity but still leave the government with the money it needs to make up the difference, and also allow the government to reduce expensive programs slowly. Over time, more and more people would give to charity, doing what the government does via entitlement programs, but more efficiently and with less overhead cost. Meanwhile, government revenues would slowly decrease, but they would decrease at the same (or slower) rate than the decrease in government entitlement programs. In any event, it needs to be ground-up, grassroots, and inspired by a conversion of hearts.

  20. Tim says:

    What disturbs me about Congressman Ryan is that he is a follower of the atheist Ayn Rand. Religion and Ayn Rand are NOT compatible. He even makes his staff read the writings of Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand hated religion, and her philosophy is counter centuries of Roman Catholic teachings. How can the Church be silent when people like Congressman Ryan who purport to be Catholic brazenly promote anti-christian beliefs?

    • Linus says:

      Do you have proof of this? Isn’t he pro-life, hardly a tenent of the ” virture ” of selfishness.

      • Tim says:

        Yes. Here is a video from Rep. Ryan’s facebook page in which he claims the atheist Ayn Rand has morals.
        https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1191939045695

        Just do a search on Rep. Ryan and Ayn Rand. Lots of material to read, some biased, some not.

        another article http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-04-10/the-gops-war-on-the-poor/full/#

        Here is a link about how pervasive the atheist Ayn Rand has become in political circles that Catholics sometimes think of as allies. http://www.npr.org/2011/04/12/135171116/the-rampant-rise-of-ayn-rand-o-mania?ft=1&f=1014

        • AveMaria says:

          Tim,

          You seem to be shifting the actual sins of one person (Ayn Rand) to the actual sins of another (Paul Ryan) as if the sin was an accounting entry you make on a ledger somewhere. If this is the case, to whom would you assign the sins of Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood)? Remember President Obama stated that he was willing to shut-down the entire US government solely to protect Planned Parenthood.

          As for me and my house, it is totally and wholly inappropriate to assign the actual sins of any human to another human. Please do not so callously judge others, lest you be so accused yourself.

          • Tim says:

            AvaMaria: you can’t rationalize away support for Ayn Rand. Her philosophy of Objectivism is totally incompatible with Christianity. All of her ideas come from her well spring of atheism. Check out her own writing here http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/texts/jesus.html

            It in unfathomable to me how any person can justify following one iota of Ayn Rands philosophy. One can not pick some parts and leave other parts. Did you know Ayn Rand supported abortion at any time in a pregnancy? Disgusting, right? Here is a youtube of Ayn Rand herself speaking on abortion.

            I am hoping that one day I’ll be sitting in Mass and hear a letter from the Bishop decrying the philosophy of Objectivism as anti-Catholic. IMHO She might as well be the devil, and the book ‘Atlas Shrugged’ might as well be considered the Devil’s Bible.

        • Linus says:

          I went to the sources you mentioned. In the first Ryan merely states that like Rand he values the moral force of Capitolism and individual self reliance. Nothing worng with that, though political and economic liberals would reject it. The second cannot be relied upon at all since the source cannot be regarded in any sense as seeking truth, it is a prejudiced tool of the left. The third seems to be an advertisement for Rand movies and likewise is doing nothing but selling a product – Ayn Rand. On the other hand Ryan has a very strong pro-life history. The only objection I have with him, and this may be a deciding factor for pro-lifers, is that he thinks social issues should take the sideline in the coming political season so we can focus on economic issues. I personally reject that position and unless Ryan is willing to support pro-life issues and even stress them in the coming political season I could not support him. I still like him but he has that one weakness. It does not make him a Randite. By the way there was nothing moral about Ayn Rand. She taught and praised capitalism and individualism but on morality or the natural moral law she was absolutely bankrupt and I would regard all her novels as an occasion of sin for all. But if you like her philosophical thought, well, why not read St. Thomas and St. Augustian and the social teachings of the Church. That will keep you out of trouble.

          • Tim says:

            Linus: thanks for looking at the links. I guess you are applying a more complex and nuanced view than I. Let me explain why I became so upset about Ayn Rand (just last month): March was ‘Woman’s History Month. At work there was a board where people could identify women that have been important in their life. For me, after much thought, it was Sister Dolores in the 8th grade at St. Josephs in Ballwin, Mo. Actually, I started realizing that whatever I understand about spirituality and Catholicism, it was the Sisters taught me nearly everything I know. [note: I'm a not terribly good Catholic, but I am one], Then shortly after, I looked up Ayn Rand to see what all the fuss was about. I saw this quote: “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute”. —Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged[4] from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivism_Ayn_Rand, from ‘Atlas Shrugged’. All I could think of is the Objectivist philosophy is exactly opposite (as in evil is opposite of good) of the two greatest commandments (as I learned from the Sisters) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

            Then I looked up Paul Ryan. I did not know until last week that he was Catholic. And I was appalled. Evil is devious, and slides into one’s life innocuously (another lesson from the Sisters). A person who starts down the Objectivist path is possibly dooming themselves, and to have so many followers of Objectivisim as public leaders right now is totally alarming to the spiritual side of me. I realize Jesus, when confronted with the Romans and a similar pagan philosophy, let them be, but then the Romans didn’t have Objectivists claiming to be Catholics.

            I’ll let this go now, but thanks for reading.

  21. Tim says:

    In my reading of the New Testament, Jesus didn’t really care about government. He cared about the individual and their eternal soul. I ask myself the question ‘What would Jesus do about the government’, and I believe he would do nothing about it. Individuals and their souls were his concern, not what the government taxes, provides, whatever.

    • I think you are largely right about Jesus’ detatchment from the political issues of his day

    • Aaron says:

      To me, this sounds like a possibly false dilemma between a) a logically necessary theocratic government wherein all social programs are relegated to one overarching church bureaucracy or b) a total rejection of political action, rights and responsibilities by Catholics and rendering unto Caesar etc, etc.

      I think a more practical solution must be to both render and provide under Christ’s example of charity, and to understand that taxation and charity belong to separate civil and spiritual worlds.

  22. David says:

    I don’t exactly know very much about what needs to be cut. But as a member of the disabled population, I’m very alarmed at what is being proposed. Many of the disabled people that I know pocket very little of the money that they receive from the govt. They live in group homes and the SS money pays for their bed and board. They have 20 to 30 dollars of pocket money left over. Or they live in cluster homes and use the rest of their money for groceries and for bus passes. As for medicaid and medicare…these people are dependent on medications. It is not uncommon for a single prescription to cost 60+ dollars and many of these people take 3 or more medications daily. Many of these people lead difficult and sometimes lonely lives, but take away their benefits and then they would have no lives at all. Its the truth!

  23. Irene says:

    1. Get out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Tunisia. Immediately. War is consuming our wealth.
    2. Put in a trade policy to protect American jobs. No jobs = no taxes = no money for social safety net.
    3. Create a free trade policy with limits. We will import from any country, tariff-free, goods up to the amount that country purchased from us in the previous year. After that, impose tariffs on imports from said country. Given the current computer technology, this can be done.
    4. Close the Mexican border, even unto the point of tanks and troops.
    5. Require proof of citizenship to receive public services.
    6. Unless Americans get back their jobs there will be no safety net, Catholic social thinking notwithstanding.

    • Mandy P. says:

      On points two and three:

      With foreign nations holding so much of our 14 trillion dollar debt, enacting protectionist policies might not be the best of ideas. At best it would spark a trade war. At worst, those nations holding our debt (hello, China!) would dump our currency and start demanding payment. Bad, bad stuff all round.

  24. Kevin says:

    Msgr, Rep. Ryan wants to preserve a safety net by reforming entitlements (especially for the middle class). Simply keeping the status quo in terms of middle-class entitlements will lead to a disaster: Our nation will be much poorer and the safety net will by necessity disappear. The only way to keep a real safety net for the destitute is by reforming the system.

  25. Stu says:

    There are some simple rules that have to be understood by when dealing with economics (personal, business or government).

    First, all things are scarce – Money, time, and even air. You must give up the opportunity to do one thing, if you want do another. So we must understand the government can not do “all things”.

    Second, business do not pay taxes. They pass that cost on to the consumer. So if you tax a business, you are just increasing your own costs.

    Third, there are reasons to encourage people do pursue objectives that seem counterintuitive. Like we pay farmers to plant or not plant crops, because it keeps the cost of food “stable”. We also pay companies to push certain technologies (solar power) that are not very profitable otherwise.

    Fourth, you can not simply just “tax” people enough to pay for everything. At a certain point, you will no longer try to earn more if you can not enjoy the fruit of that labor.

    And in my personal opinion, if you decide that US tax payers have to fund what we want as charities, you will have to agree that we will also fund things we don’t want (planned parenthood). It is compromise and they won’t fund your project, if you won’t fund theirs. This also gives the government the right to interfer and make rules for your charity work. Do we all like the government in our Catholic schools, and hospitals?

    Since thinking in extremely large scale numbers is beyond most peoples logic capability (mine included), I suggest you lop oThis zeros. THis makes 3, 600,000,000,000 (3.6 trillion) a much easier number of 3,600. Now work on the idea of you have $2,200 and $3,600 in bills (might be as high as $4,000).

    So you have some bills you have no choice to fund…

    1. You have to pay about $365 in debt payments ($1,875)
    2. Have to pay for social security for this year $725 ($1,150)

    Now you have $1,150 and somehow you’ll need to figure out how to pay for the rest of the government. Here are the costs to fund at what we currently fund at

    1. Medicare, Medicade ect… $820
    2. Defense $715
    3. Treasury $640
    4. Everything else $709

    You couldAfghanistanars in Iraq and Afganistan and save around $200. Though, do realize that the talban will most likely retake Afganistan in a few years and will have a grudge against our country.So it is just kicking the can down the road for the next generation to deal with.

    The defunding of NPR or Planned Parenthood (both of which I support) is only only a combined $0.0008 of the budget.

    Is there an easy solution? No, but if we don’t figure it out now it will be much worse in the future. We are the backer of the World Bank and the IMF. So there is no loan for when we go bankrupt. Our government is spending more than the GDP of Japan. It is over spending more than the GDP of England. We will face the austerity programs of Greece, Ireland, Spain, and England without help. You will not be able to “spend your way down”, it will be a sudden stop. The clock is ticking and we have less than 10 years in my opinion.

    So yes, we will have to make painful cuts and we citizens will have to pick up the slack for charities and other social endeavors.

    • Thanks for an informative comment.

    • Aaron says:

      The one thing I would challenge this excellent post on is the issue of increasing taxation – in my opinion, the Laffer curve is more of a plateau – there is a point at which revenue decreases as taxation increases, but we currently nowhere near that point for the top 5% of earners, when the wealth-disparity is so great.

  26. Dennis Dreyer says:

    Sr. Simone – shame on you for making up your analysis of spending and attributing our debt to the “rich.” The fact is that our country’s spending falls under five programs; Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Defense and Interest on the Debt. Eliminating everything else would leave us with 80% of the problem untouched. The question to be asked is – if we do not deal with these big five (and they are each nearly equal in size), what will become of the poor among us?

    I believe it is most irresponsible for us to think that the “rich” can be taxed (confiscate their property) to save these programs. The top 50% of the tax payers currently provide 97% of our revenue. We have too many takers and not enough givers. Eventually we will run out of money to take/confiscate.

    As for caring for the needy, as Jesus commands of us, what has happened to the Church’s principle of subsidiarity. Surely we do not believe that asking the government at the federal or global level will produce positive results. Please provide me with examples and I will counter with many times the numbers of small groups that are many times more effective in helping the needy.

    Let us stop providing words based on emotion and start providing deeds based upon the teachings of Jesus.

  27. elcid says:

    Msr, would like to comment on your list:

    1. I agree, we all overspend, I learn my lesson the hard way, I just recently paid off a credit card, you mention home mortgages and car loans as necessary evils, true but people finance more than their budget can support, I think we saw that in the housing bubble in the past few years, so if we’re advocating responsibility on the federal level we should also do so on the individual level, I don’t think anything should be off the table for next years budget cuts, do we really need all these government agencies? the US Post Office is in the red; could we sell it to UPS or Fedex? do we really need a billion dollar jet/fighter plane or could we upgrade the one’s we have for a fraction of the costs? Could we allow oil drilling in parts of the USA to bring in more revenue and in return invest part of that revenue in new energies so we can one day not pay the high cost in oil we import which drives up prices?

    2. The national debt is a serious issue that we have to address asap, are people blind to history, what about what’s going on in other parts of the world as we speak, I think the main problem is many Americans think serious economic issues cannot happen here in our country, we have to address the realities that are before us, the recent budget cuts are a joke, when you consider the Trillions in debt we have, as it stands right now this issue is too political and I don’t know if our politicians are willing to do what needs to be done, I think the American people have got to educate themselves on this issue and get directly involved.

    3. This is a big one for me…the welfare system…while I believe it was a noble endeavor in the 1960′s during the Johnson administration and the purpose of this system was to get people out of poverty; in fact I believe it had the adverse effect and keeps people in poverty

    (a) I don’t think it’s right for my tax dollars going to support immorality, ie..teen girls getting pregnant and having to support their babies, the more babies they have the more money they get, I am not saying to throw them in the street but we have deal with this head on; maybe we can have the IRS garnish the parents wages and put this money in Medicaid, maybe term limits on getting Medicaid like we do for employment compensation, maybe incorporate some sort of job training for people on welfare, force them to take the training or else benefits will be denied at some point.

    (b) yes this applies to business as well, ie…subsidies, tax breaks, etc…but this is just government intervention in the free market system this has been going on for years, as history has shown this hurts the system more than it helps.

    4. If the Bishops are speaking out against funding Planned Parenthood then I would think they will use the same reason to speak out against funding a corrupt welfare system to the extent that it is currently funding immortality, greed, etc.
    You mention the Washington Convention Sports Authority…I think the reason for this is the Neighborhood Investment Act is a pure cost, whereas the WCSA brings in revenue to fund other city programs, this is one of those situations where Catholic business people can give back to the community when the local government cannot, I think there are situations where Christians can live their faith and get involved as much as possible and not depend on the government.

    I know solutions are out there, but do we have the courage to rationally address them and make the needed changes, or will this heated political class warfare that’s the ethos of the day prevail and bring chaos to our country.

    God Bless You Msr Pope!
    elcid

  28. Irene says:

    It isn’t only the fat cats who are avoiding taxes via off-shoring, and various loopholes.

    We have a massive underground economy in this country that isn’t taxed at all. A good chunk of it (in the
    $ billions/yr. ) is wired to the relatives abroad and therefore does nothing whatsoever to create jobs for Americans.

    However, the folks earning their $$ via the underground economy use hospitals, schools, prisons and other facilities paid for by the dwindling tax revenue generated by Americans who do pay their taxes. Somehow, this point seems to escape the general Catholic discourse on social justice.

  29. taad says:

    In my prayer book, one of the morning readings is 2 Thomas 3:10-13 : “We gave you a rule when we were with you not to let anyone have any food if he refused to do any work. Now we hear that there are some of you who are living in idlleness, doing no work themsleves but interfering with everyone else’s. In the Lord Jesus Christ, we order and call on people of this kind to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat. My brothers, never grow tired of doing what is right.”

    Why don’t we hear the bishops and priests preach on this reading ever? There are many out there who are milking injuries, faking diabilities and the like to collect money from the government. This is just much stealing as anything else. Maybe worse, because those who truly need help, are forced to jump through so many hoops that it is hard on them.

  30. MichaelP says:

    I echo St. Paul when it comes to unemployment benefits, unless the person is truly disabled.

    <>
    Douay-Rheims Bible
    1 For the rest, brethren, pray for us, that the word of God may run, and may be glorified, even as among you; 2 And that we may be delivered from importunate and evil men; for all men have not faith. 3 But God is faithful, who will strengthen and keep you from evil. 4 And we have confidence concerning you in the Lord, that the things which we command, you both do, and will do. 5 And the Lord direct your hearts, in the charity of God, and the patience of Christ.
    6 And we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly, and not according to the tradition which they have received of us. 7 For yourselves know how you ought to imitate us: for we were not disorderly among you; 8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nothing, but in labour and in toil we worked night and day, lest we should be chargeable to any of you. 9 Not as if we had not power: but that we might give ourselves a pattern unto you, to imitate us.

    ***10 For also when we were with you, this we declared to you: that, if any man will not work, neither let him eat.11 For we have heard there are some among you who walk disorderly, working not at all, but curiously meddling.***

    12 Now we charge them that are such, and beseech them by the Lord Jesus Christ, that, working with silence, they would eat their own bread. 13 But you, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

    14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed: 15 Yet do not esteem him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

    16 Now the Lord of peace himself give you everlasting peace in every place. The Lord be with you all.

    17 The salutation of Paul with my own hand; which is the sign in every epistle. So I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

  31. Dr Mac says:

    The policies of deficit reduction are much easier than the politics. That said, because we didn’t start changing our behaviors 25-30 years ago, at the beginning of the so-called “age of prosperity”, we have put ourselves in a position that the policies have become somewhat impossible too. (Because the projected costs of Entitlements and especially interest payments with likely increase in rates)
    A few suggestions though:
    1) Drastically reduce our overseas presence in NON-war zones (which now includes Iraq). 100′s of thousands of troops in Germany, Korea, Japan and elsewhere with theor families spending money in those countries rather than here.
    2) Stop building so many submarines and fighter jets. We have enough fancy toys, while our enemies tend to defeat us without such things.
    3) Eliminate the Department of Veterans Affairs, and make all Veterans eligible for Medicare. Sell the hospital properties.
    4) Eliminate the Department of Education, leaving schooling to the states. Trade the states for Medicaid, and by completely federalizing it, drastically reduce the cost of the program.
    5) Restrict Medicaid benefits to the lowest morally acceptible limit. (Sorry, no transplants. The lives of patients who can pay for their organ are worth as much as the lives of those who can’t, while not sacrificing care for others elsewhere by the depletion of funds)
    6) Eliminate means testing for Medicaid (where 20% of the cost goes). Everybody’s eligible. ObamaCare becomes irrelevant.
    7) Reduce Medicare benefits to include only those services that have demonstrated benefit (no screening stress tests, for instance)
    8) Place Medicare beneficiaries that have not paid into the system in the Medicaid pool.
    9) Raise the retirement age to 70. Quickly.
    10) Enact tort reform to become similar to other nations: losers in lawsuits pay winners’ legal costs. Also the plaintiff should not be the recipient of punitive damages. Goes to state. Legal protections for Medical providers to forgo tests to detect highly unlikely diagnoses would go a long way to reducing health care expenditures.
    11) Seriously address Medicare/disability fraud both on the patient and provider end.

    I could suggest many other things, but the reality is, without addressing Medicare/Medicaid/Veterans Affairs and Defense, we cannot help but to go bankrupt as a nation.

  32. AveMaria says:

    All great journey’s start with one step.

    I second the suggestion above on following the Catholic teaching of subsidiarity as the Bishop’s clear first step.

    Block grants to states for Medicare and Medicaid appropriately pushes the resources and the responsibility for this massive expense down to a level of government closer to the people in need.

    Likewise, providing individuals with the means to manage their own children’s education via school vouchers comes to mind as a clear second step.

    If Catholic Bishops cannot support those two clear implementations of the teaching of subsidiarity the Bishop’s credibility will be weakened. After all, if subsidiarity is good enough to guide the Catholic organizational hierarchy — how could it not be so for governments?

    Failure to follow subsidiarity as a first step will weaken the Bishop’s credibility beyond repair. One could easily conclude that if the Bishops cannot support a guideline so foundational to their own episcopate, how could they have credibility in weighing-in on federal spending programs?

    Would the Bishops give up their individual authority over their diocese to the USCCB? Of course not. Then why continue to support any spending program that would do so? Let the Bishops step forth in support of block grants and show their mettle.

  33. Robert G. says:

    From the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church #351: :Solidarity without subsidiarity, in fact, can easily degenerate into a ‘Welfare State,’ while subsidiarity without solidarity runs the risk of encouraging forms of self-centered localism. In order to respect both of these fundamental principles, the State’s intervention in the economic environment must be neither invasive nor absent, but commensurate with society’s real needs.”
    Where the appropriate medium should be in each society is left to the prudential judgment of politicians and voters. The sad reality is, most Catholic Democrat politicians will not acknowledge that degenerating into a welfare state is an unhealthy thing (not to mention unsustainable), nor will they acknowledge the goodness of an appropriate subsidiarity.

    • Yes, there are real problems with welfare

      • Kurt says:

        The sad reality is, most Catholic Democrat politicians will not acknowledge that degenerating into a welfare state is an unhealthy thing (not to mention unsustainable), nor will they acknowledge the goodness of an appropriate subsidiarity.

        Actually, every Democratic policy leader I have know and every person authorized to speak for the Catholic episcopate on social policy matters does acknowledge that. And in near every social policy initiative, those two parties have jointly been responsible for the creation of those program.

        Medicaid is a shared partnership among federal and state government (who jointly offer most of the financing), the private sector and non-profit sector (who deliver the health services) and community organizations (who do most of the enrollment and counseling). Food Stamps is federally financed, locally administered, with the food provided by the private sector (grocery stores, etc.) and with churches and private charities responsible for most of the outreach and enrollment.

        I could go on, but I think the pattern is clear and in all of these programs you will find Catholic clergy and lay church workers involved in the design of the program.

  34. EdQ says:

    Although I’m don’t really enjoy paying taxes, I find it a dubious claim that if our taxes were lowered we would all of sudden “give more” while currently many of us (myself included) spend an inordinate amount of discretionary money eating out/paying for cable/going on vacation/saving for retirement/college. If our taxes were lowered would we really commit that money to care for others or would we add a few $s to our tithe and say “all is well” as we continue to ramp up our consumerism? Also, would we give to those really in the most need or we would funnel that money to our suburban churches and relatively well to do suburban communities?

    Not sure of the answer but the question gives me pause…

  35. Retired from Tucson says:

    For a start, how about putting the Principle of Subsidiarity into action and do a step-down program? First step Feds return money to states, second step States levy taxes rather than the Feds and give monies to Counties which would be much more responsive to individual needs.

    In addition, start giving state tax credits to individuals who help the poor at a local level.

    Eventually, get the money out of the hands of the Feds which is needed for social services, health care and education.

    The American Bishops should be on the forefront of the need to establish the Principle of Subsidiarity.

    Get the government off people’s backs by streamlining taxes and the regulations for small family businesses.

    Get out of the Nation building business.

  36. Clare Krishan says:

    Msgr. while you may not be an expert secular economist in material terms, what we may call tangible assets (ie to have and to hold), you most certainly are called to be a expert transcendent economist in the more immaterial realm of relational terms, what we may call intangible assets, or grace (which is not ours to have or to hold but is ALL GIFT).

    The failure of so much recent public discourse is IHMO to be laid at the feet of clerics in past decades who reduced much of the Church’s teaching to tangibles that could be bartered over in political terms. But what’s really key here (forgive the papal pun) is that the tangibles in te material world are simply reflections of the intangibles in the transcendent. Profit is only possible in the industry of men because of the gift of intellectual powers to make subject decisions on the best use of the limited material resources available and choose the outcome that will attain the gains both participants in the trade seek. The moral hazard enters in when a third party can embezzle the units of exchange to their advantage (see Matt Taibbi http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-real-housewives-of-wall-street-look-whos-cashing-in-on-the-bailout-20110411?print=true ) at another’s expense, socialized losses but privatized gains.

    A great deal of what we call our democratic system of governance is built on such a Ponzi scheme – made possible by a private association of fiduciary institutions (ie formerly banks, but nowadays since TARP any commercial entitiy bold enough to go beggin’ for free money to their peers with the power to print money by FIAT) called the Federal Reserve.

    The Vatican’s top banker has warned that this practice is capable of bringing on a collapse of the whole house of cards – when will bishops and priests take the time to learn how legal tender fiduciary media are circulated and where exactly the sinful conduct lies with government awards of legal tender privileges to paper money producers? Spanish economist Jesus Huerta de Soto’s work is a good place to start, but its a hefty tome, so instead I always recommend The Ethics of Money Production that takes us where Bishop Nicholas Oresme left off
    “In the West, there is a long tradition of scholarship on both the economics of, and morals of, the acquiring and using of money, mainly in the scholastic tradition, and drawn upon by the papacy. Scholarship combining ethical and economic analysis on the production of money seems to have reached its heights with Oresme’s Treatise on the Alteration of Money (book, webbed) until developments in the XXth Century, with the important ones being outside of Catholic thought. This gap in scholarship has been born at the high price of immoral, and therefore dysfunctional, monetary systems.”

    If things crash and burn as in the 30s, it will be up to those of us who are fit and able to “adopt” the elderly and infirm into our own homes, much like pious Europeans hid their Jewish neighbors, for otherwise they will be euthanized as lifeunfitforliving (Lebensunwertesleben, the fascist ethic practiced by totalitarians the world over, most infamously by the Nazis.)

    If we are to avoid things crashing and burning, we may have to develop an intangible form of currency for exchanging charitable services that cannot be as easily expropriated by the civic authorities, perhaps membership bonds in putative guilds such as a Worshipful Association of Gratis Retirement Homes or Confraternity of Gratis Healthcare Providers (where gratis denotes a benefactor’s free gift to social entrepreneurship AND the free gift of social entrepreneurship to beneficiaries as the available means permit (ie no “rights” to specific “means” simply a share in the same “obligation” of mutual human dignity between caregiver and care-recipient). The simplest form of such a guild of course is a conjugal union between a husband and wife for the mutual care of their dependent children.

    • John says:

      The Church has a much greater role to play in this but due to years of a false understanding of the “separation of Church and State” it has been effectively neutralized. While not disagreeing with the concept I do think that the Church’s understanding of it was in some ways formed when States were effectively if only nominally Catholic. When the State is basically atheist as it is in most countries today then the Church must more loudly proclaim it’s teaching.

  37. Clare Krishan says:

    oops my bad here’s the link to the Ethics of Money Production:
    http://mises.org/books/moneyproduction.pdf

  38. Kenneth Aubrey says:

    I don’t see that there is any discussion on what to do about the problem we find ourselves in. My family can not spend more than we earn. I submit that the government must stop spending what we don’t have and stop moving this debt to our children and grand children.

    With what money we have we must establish priorties with our spending.

  39. Tony in Central PA says:

    The Church will have to be a big part of managing the end of the Welfare State as we know it. This could end up being something quite positive for our society, but it won’t be easy.

  40. Katherine G ERT says:

    From the healthcare point of view (and sitting through countless meetings on this, so I have heard it firsthand), the budget cuts are really hurting us. Nursing and PA schools have less professors, so there are less students, and on the opposite side of things, hospitals are on major budget cuts and do not always have the money to hire a large group of new grad nurses/doctors/Physician Assistants. It costs 35,000 to 40,000 to train a new grad nurse at my hospital (and at others, depending on the training). That money goes to 4 months or more of orientation with an experienced nurse, and the training classes. These budget cuts are preventing us from being able to hire new nurses. Anne Arundel Community College’s Physician Assistant School (which I am looking into applying to once my bachelor’s is finished this summer) has just announced that their in-county tuition will apply for the entire state of Maryland. We are hurting in healthcare for new people but yet don’t have the money or resources because of how the government has chosen to spend their money.

    I agree with you that wealthier institutions like Wolf Trap should not be so dependent on government and thus our money. I do think that there is good debt, like school debt, but that is one of the few types of good debt out there. School debt is good because if we end up in the job we want/are called to, it should be easy to pay off at the cheaper colleges. That said about college, I think the costs are way too high at many schools and this is probably why there is so much debt in the nation and why people are having trouble paying back the loan. I believe in working hard to play hard – if I want something I don’t rely on my credit card to pay for it. I don’t have to have it now, and it will be there when I am ready to buy or invest in it. If not, then it wasn’t for me anyways. I agree with Kenneth above – we must establish our spending priorities, and I will add that the spending priorities should be to our families first and foremost (and necessary bills), to church and charity, and then whatever is left over is to be saved and some spent on something that makes us truly happy.

  41. Gadsden says:

    The Catholic Church’s teaching on subsidiarity has an important part to place in solving this mess. The Federal government has gotten far to involved in our day to day affairs, affairs that should be dealt with at the local level. Applying this principle, which happens to be a founding principle of our country, would solve a lot of problems.

  42. Dan Brennan says:

    Msgr., I regularly check in on your blog from my home near Toronto, Canada so if you don’t mind a nosey neighbour (oops, “neighbor”), a few observations may help.

    Toronto is a city in the province of Ontario. In Canada a province is very similar to a state in the USA. In 1990, Ontario elected a socialist government (the “New Democratic Party”), who immediately began racking up monster debt, believing they could spend Ontario into prosperity. Things deteriorated naturally for a while, but the big crunch came late in the NDP’s tenure when they went to extend their spending spree and discovered that lenders were choosing not to line up to fund the party (both meanings). The government was forced to agree to major fiscal constraints by lenders. The question arose “what would happen if nobody would lend?” The answer never came, but of course the answer was that government would stop. Imagine the recent US budget crisis down to the core of government services.

    The biggest risk the US faces with its astounding debt is that the lending flow will stop, and along with it, the services people depend on. Before that happens, at a certain debt level the lenders begin dictating terms for extending more credit. With China holding a huge share of US debt among other foreign lenders, it’s certain those terms will serve the interests of those lenders, not those of America. The US government could try declining the terms, but then it will face situation 1. Meanwhile, the value other nations assign to the US declines as it mortgages more of its future. If you want a unique Canadian perspective, have a look at a chart of the Canadian v. US dollars over 10 years. I enjoy the relatively cheaper exchange rate in Buffalo shopping excursions, but I’m not pleased about the cause or the eventual cost.

    My understanding of the Rand Paul proposal is that among other things it intends reform Medicare and Medicaid by adjusting its applicability to people who are now approaching 50 and not eligible for these services for many years. It doesn’t appear to be the “throw seniors off the cliff” that some in the US have proclaimed.

    Is it more merciful to stay the course and keep people dependent on a system that has failure as its sure destiny or to start putting burdens back on dependent people to avert a crisis? I think the latter.

    Catholics have in the last century focused on taking others’ burdens even when they can shoulder some of the burden themselves. That has consequences. True Christian charity shoulders burdens that others cannot bear. False charity shoulders all of them without regard for consequences to anyone. Finding the line between them is perhaps the biggest problem of our time, but it’s certain the US is now well to the wrong side of that line.

  43. John says:

    Here are a couple ideas. First, recognize as Fr. Vincent McNabb wrote years ago, the City can’t support all the people that want to or are living there so we need to encourage and develop policies that encourage people to return to living in rural communities. Not only economically but morally this makes sense. I’m not suggesting that we become like the Amish or similar communities. However we could learn something from them that they are not really concerned or affected by the financial crisis, the fuel crisis, the housing crisis, unemployment etc. It should also be realized that mortality and morbidity rates among Amish communities is on par with the rest of society, despite not having “health insurance.” .

    A second change needs to occur in our view of a second spouse in the workplace. Here I am not talking about couples that need to work to “make ends meet” but those situations where both spouses are in good paying jobs, with few or no children. Let’s face the fact that there are only so many “good paying jobs” to go around and when you have two members from the same family taking them you are depriving someone else of that opportunity. Perhaps Dad wouldn’t have to work two jobs and Mom could stay home with the children. Again this is not absolute, there certainly are circumstances where both spouses could work, especially if they work in specialized fields. But in general it would be a greater benefit to society. There are numerous social programs that exist precisely to take care of children while parents are at work that could be eliminated.

    Some have pointed that we are in general too materialistic and consumerism is a big problem. Unfortunately we are stuck in the vicious circle. If we stop buying things, then the economy stops and we are left with fewer and fewer jobs. Tied with this is the simplistic idea that we just start laying off government employees as though that will solve the problem, which it won’t, it just creates a different problem. Think of all the additional out of work people trying to find jobs that aren’t already there. Those ex-government employees now have no income so they stop buying things, making car and mortgage payments etc. While there is clearly waste in government that should be fixed remember that all those government wages go back into the economy to support private business, pay taxes etc. It’s not as though those wages disappear into a vacuum.

  44. TeaPot562 says:

    Our politicians (this includes national (Washington, DC; California; and several countries in Western Europe), have a marked tendency to make promises, yet not be willing to set sufficient taxes to pay for these promises.
    The Social Security promises were last updated in the mid 1980s; and since then, people are living even longer than was forecast then. As part of the “recovery” spending approved by Pres. Obama, the payroll tax funding Social Security was suspended for some time. This action puts the Social Security program even further out of balance.
    Postponing retirement beyond the currently scheduled “full benefit” age of 67 toward age 70 is one way to help put it back into balance, where the anticipated taxes should roughly offset the anticipated benefits in future years. The “Baby Boomer” generation has widely used contraceptives to reduce the number of babies that were born. These missing babies did not grow up and pay Soc. Sec. taxes to support their parents. Social Security has sometimes been described as “a compact between generations”. If a generation fails to give birth to enough children to support them in their retirement years, it only seems fair for that generation to work a few years longer. An acquaintance of mine is fond of the saying “What goes around comes around.”
    This may seem heartless, but it seems grossy unfair for people who deliberately chose not to give birth to children to expect other peoples’ children and grandchildren to support them through payroll taxes.
    Congressman Ryan has set a broad framework for several debates, one major program at a time. Parameters for correcting each program are obviously subject to broad adjustment; but we should not expect our government to keep spending funds that our grandchildren will have to bear the burden of repaying.
    TeaPot562

  45. Nolan says:

    Monsignor, thank you for being a priest. (It takes a spiritually strong man to suffer so much for Christ.) On 4/12, I posted that Holy Mother our Church teaches us that taxes are to be legally avoided as All our Bishops have legally avoided taxes whenever possible. The Dioceses work at putting Church income into tax exempt charities. The message being sent (at least to a lot of people) is that taxes by the government are not the best way to gain merit through “acts of Corporal Mercy”.
    The question that follows: Are the people who advocate higher taxes (for the government programs they favor) at odds with the teachings of Holy Mother our Church which avoids paying taxes whenever possible? To be more explicit on Judgment Day— on the scales of justice, does the “good” works of the government outweigh the number of dead babies murdered in abortion mills?
    In Matt 3:7-9, Saint John the Baptist spoke to the “priestly people of God (CCC#63)”, and commanded them to “produce good fruit”. Sometimes people do great evil while being deceived into thinking they are doing good. Please address the issue of -increasing- taxes and whether it will ultimately do good or evil in accordance with the teachings of Holy Mother our Church. (The Church avoids taxes)
    I’m the “grunt in the trenches” for the Army of God; I’m obligated to be obedient. The men that put on the Cassock, hold the Staff and wear the Mitre have to make the hard decisions: here We stand…here We do or die! Thank you for being a priest!

  46. Michael Apostoli says:

    Msgr. Pope:

    Thank you for your thoughtful words on the budget and for asking your readers for input. I am not a parishoner in your neck of the woods. I live here on Long Island in new York. I have been a reader of your articles for some time now and I get a lot out of them You have a great knack of explaining things simply and in a straightforward manner. Thank you!

    As for my input I speak as a lay person frustrated by what I see going on. While I am not a mdoel Catholic, more like a sinner in recovery, I do hold the Church’s teachings to be a valuable guide through the morass that we find ourselves in.

    I work in a health/helping profession so I am aware of what might happen should cuts become inevitable, which I think they will become. The problem is, in New York anyway, the benefits given to eligible individuals are so comprehensive that they individual and their caregivers become trapped by them. Even if it made sense to ‘get off” benefits few do beecause of the upheaval that will occur. The problem is that benefits are often dispensed in a “comprehensive program” fashion (for example Obamacare). In this scenario it is difficult to identify what is essential versus nice to have versus a gift. We look to the governement for way too much of wjhat families and local communities used to provide. By the same token, when we “cut” or reduce benefits this is also done in a comprehensive manner- all oe nothing. It never gets down to what the individual needs but what the program offers or spends. I think this is counter to subsidiarity treating all people in need as if they have the same needs at the same levels.

    I also think about the church’s response in all this. The bishops speak up to remind us of the need for the loving protection of the poor but they have no real idea of how these programs “help” or don’t help the poor. They defend a living wage- fine. But does this mean they have to tell us what it should be? They cross the line from shepherding to becoming economists. The funny part is that, if the living wage was set at $18.00/hour for entry level jobs I don’t know how many church leaders would be willing to pay it. If we accept the average public school techer’s salary as ‘just” and deserved ( as they would argue, there is no way that Catholic school teachers could be paid the same. So who is unjust? Who is unreasonable or who is lacking in common sense?

    I gre up in a time when the Corporal Works of mercy were emphasized and taught. I don’t know if they are still referred to in this manner. But I think they serve as a nice guide for helping us to insure that basic needs of people are being met. What I find increasingly disheartening is the wat that our Catholic Cahrities and other works of mercy have been intermingled with state and federal funding. I guess I am naive when I think that parishes should know the needs of the people living in their locale and should try to meet them- basic needs. More affluent parishes can help poorer ones. But taking on large initiatives that require buildings and space and rent and all those assciated costs requires termendous funding. Most of that funding, in many cases, comes from the government.Then we get trapped and our mission stops. I look forward to the time when we can have an honest and open discussion in our parishes that addresses the needs of our local residents and our resources can be directed towards those needs. Like I said msgr. probably simplistic thinking in that we would not be able to help many. But if we start small we can all be links in a chain as cardinal Newman once noted. it would put us closer to the needs of others and give us more of a firts hand experience.

    God bless you msgr. and keep up the good work. You do speak ” a word that rouses” your readers!

    Michael Apostoli

  47. Dan Buckley says:

    My parish suggested some time ago that we write our legislators to make Earned Income credits more available and larger as an effective way to alleviate the burden on the poor. Effectively that is asking for our tax money to be used for “charity.” But “charity” is not a virtue if it be not voluntary, and taxes are compulsory. To increase the tax burden to assist the poor is to deprive those taxed of the ability to be genuinely charitable with that money. A good end does not justify a bad means. There are few societies on this planet so generous as ours when a need is made evident. For all our selfishness, we still know how to sacrifice for others to a greater degree than any other first world society. Get the government out of the “charity” business and see if we don’t respond with love, imperfect love, but real love.

  48. anne says:

    I have no ready answer. But I would like to point out that there was a real need for SSI at the time it was created. Same for medicare. To abolish both, without serious regulation of the health care industry, would be catastrophic. Not to mention we are called to care for the least among us.

  49. Jimo says:

    I could go on and on but I’ll just stick with the beginning. Let’s admit that America has a spending problem.

    Urrrr…no. We do not have a spending problem. The average American incurs a lot of debt in order to live. Sure, some of this debt comes from people who can’t say no to a Las Vegas vacation or Buffy the Vampire Season 4 DVD collection.

    But the average American – middle class to the core – has a debt problem as a direct and inescapable consequence of having an income problem. That is, is the vast scheme of law and politics and economics that determines who gets what slice of the economic pie, various distinct and easily identifiable choices have been made in the last several decades that guarantee a smaller relative slice of an absolutely growing pile of wealth.

    One cannot even begin a discussion of debt until one starts with the fact that average Americans are starved for a fair share of income. One of the most amazing phenomena of the current era are Americans pining for the ‘good old days’ of the post-war golden era while simultaneously rejecting so many of the legal, political, and economic structural controls of that era: unions, progressive taxation, government regulation of industry, public investment in infrastructure, science, and education. Even a modest nod in this direction, such as a return to Reagan-levels of progressive taxation would–by itself–remove most(!) of the current budget deficit. Yet, doing so would instantly be branded as radical socialism, guaranteed to bring economic collapse (as opposed to the exuberant giddiness of current economic health).

    Jesus – again and again and again – speaks against wealth and in favor of the poor. There is plenty of room to debate the merits of one political policy in comparison to another. There is no room, however, to debate what the standard of comparison is to be in judging that debate: the interest and welfare of the needy. Does every person have a roof over their head? Is anyone hungry? Is there a single American willing and able to work who doesn’t have a job? Solve those problems first and then we can move on with the debate to your other points. Yes, the federal gov’t has $14T of debt. And the U.S. has almost $60T of wealth. What of it?

  50. Ted says:

    It is certainly true that Democrats in local government in some places have cut budgets in ways that Republicans nationally seem to behave, but it’s also true in most places that local governments are not allowed to have an unbalanced budget — which changes the whole game. Tha national government is free to borrow as it sees fit.
    Yes, overspending is a national disease, but it also seems to correspond quite nicely to the erosion of the comparative earnings of the middle and lower classes who were to some extent suckered into borrowing in order to maintain their standard of living even as having two incomes in the family, rather than one, did not give rise to income comparable to the 1950′s when the upper classes earned nowhere near the vastly higher multiple of middle class earnings those privileged few now garner. That’s when class war began, Monsignor, in the 1960′s, not when others took note of it later.
    Monsignor, you correctly identify that the national debt requires attention and whittling down. However, there’s two ways of getting there and myriad intermediate ways. There’s much talk to reducing expense,which is assuredly one way. There’s another, not being acknowledged by the Republicans: raising taxes. There is a some level of taxes as would create a surplus supporting the immediately past budget and payment on the debt. And there are myriad intermediate combinations of payment and taxing. An honest discussion must consider both.
    There are many entitlements to be considered, some as separately supported programs (Social Security supported adequately so far by taxes in its name), some as addressing needs of the poor (Medicaid), some promoting a public good related to the poor (Medicaid), some promoting a public good related to the environment (a few you’ve noted), and some supporting an industry favored by politically powerful interests … The value of these each toward its intended purpose, and the value of the purpose, should not be ignored. Social Security for one is insurance against what happened to those who lost their jobs during the tech bubble bust, or during the immediately past blood bath. Nothing like retiring when your private portfolio you need to depend upon is at its lowest point in years. Thus Social Security is insurance against poverty for seniors. Medicare the same, especially considering the health problems associated with becoming elderly.
    “It is also a true fact that the Catholic faithful are politically divided and that this limits the bishops influence in the public policy debate.” One area this Catholic lay person feels the Church has fallen down over the centuries is not the area of Christology, is not the area of so much of the effort of the Magesterium to preserve unity of doctrine respecting Christology, but is rather much more looking at what Christ taught about how we are to look at the communities in which we live; and I am confident Christ walking among us today would be aware of subsidiarity, but also aware of when problems are so widespread, and knowledge of them so diffused, that a national response is essential. Certainly in areas of the West where the timber industry has undergone major change, or mining has petered out, there are whole communities of the poor whose plight is not widely known. We no longer live in villages where the well to do are fully aware of the poor among the villagers. I have no knowledge of to whom to send funds most needy of what I can afford, nor have I knowledge of who may already be dealing with that person’s problem.That’s where Catholic Charities and/or government comes in. Yet I must doubt that Catholic Charities is in the position to seek out the poor, rather than just to respond to the poor that seek out Catholic Charities. Government is the answer. Yet the county may be poor, the state may be poor, and so forth, much more so that other counties or other states, and that’s where the federal government enters in.
    Personally I feel that taxes should be returned to those in effect during the Clinton administration … indeed, I feel the top bracket should be significantly higher than today or even then, and that capital gains and rents should be taxed much more like ordinary income. I think all forms of deductions available in the computation of taxable income and credits should be reviewed to see if there is a comparable public good served.by them. (And we should not be shy of considering, for one example, what effect programs for the poor have upon necessary wages and business expenses given that oversees competitors of American business are often relieved of expenses American business has, relieved by overseas programs that meet worker needs in ways not affecting the overseas business’ cost of good sold.)
    A wide-ranging discussion is indeed necessary, and the vast collective expenses of business interests for lobbying not ignored …

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