Quote of the day

“The moral measure of this historic process is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how the jobless, hungry, homeless and poor are treated…At a time of record foreclosures, increasing poverty and high unemployment it is not justifiable to weaken the national safety net or to make disproportionate cuts to programs that can help low and moderate income families avert crisis and live in dignity.”

— USCCB letter to “Super Committee”  on deficit reduction

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30 responses to “Quote of the day”

  1. Critics respond to statements like this by insisting that Americans cannot continue funding our “national safety net” because the escalating costs of government entitlement programs are unsustainable. There is obviously truth in this. But in these calculations, programs that actually meet the needs of the “jobless, hungry, homeless and poor” are conflated with other programs that often help sustain very comfortable lifestyles for people who could provide for their own needs without them. Social Security, Medicare, and many government pension programs (state and local as well as federal) benefit the well-to-do and the poor alike, and they are all badly in need of modification. The challenge is to modify them in such a way as to maintain a genuine “safety net” for those who are truly in need.

  2. I am not sure how 98% of retirees who receive government pensions, Social Security, or Medicare could be described as “well-to-do.”

  3. My point was that most entitlements (and certainly the ones that are most costly) do not target the poor and needy at all. They enjoy broad public support–to the point of being sacrosanct–because they are not means-tested in any way. As a result, while some people could not survive without them, many others certainly could, including retirees who might well continue working longer if they did not anticipate a monthly check from the government.

    Believe me, I speak from experience. I retired early on a state pension, and my Social Security checks are an added bonus. Social Security even pays the cost of private school for our minor child. I certainly enjoy these entitlement payments and try to use the money wisely, but my family and I are by no means jobless, hungry, homeless or poor.

    Meanwhile, in rough economic times, those who really are in need are getting cut off from government support, even life-sustaining support, as I read in our local paper just minutes ago:


    I agree with my state representative (quoted in this article) that the time has passed when the government “could be all things to all people,” but cutbacks in government support need to start with those who could do for themselves, not those who may literally die without public assistance.

  4. The issue is precisely what the bishops have evidently decided is “above their pay grade”, namely how human beings are made “jobless, hungry, homeless and poor”. Which is very much the politics of “rewarding our friends and punishing our enemies”. This has ripples all the way through the economy as the friends of friends of customers of friends of employers of friends of customers of … of enemies get punished. And everyone else just hunkers down trying to protect themselves and their families and their neighbors as best they can.

  5. We have been driven by our political and social leaders (controllers?) into a false alternative. For years the educational system aided by the gigantic propaganda machine of the mass media through movies, music, TV, etc., have broken down the family and destroyed the moral social nets that used to support those in need. This was done so that the poor would depend on the government for their survival, allowing the State to dictate contraception through manipulation.

    On the other hand this same government spent us into almost bankruptcy, allowing the argument that we can no longer afford to help the poor. While one side of the thrust appears to be from the left (the Welfare State) and the other from the right (anti-Welfare State) in reality they are both one monster with two heads, and the ultimate goal is to provoke the society at large to accept the elimination of the poor (old, mentally disabled, immigrants, etc.) through contraception and perhaps even elimination through “natural causes” such as early death by improper medical care, hunger through malnutrition and even more aggressive methods such as abortion of undesirable or “unwanted” children and euthanasia of the handicapped or the elderly.

    I think the bishop’s statement is commendable. Many of us are at the brink and perhaps a paycheck or two away from poverty and despondency.

  6. Once again, in many ways, this statement is a very sad commentary on how out of touch the USCCB are. And I make that statement with an even greater sadness — that I have to say it.

    Our government over the last two years, has bankrupted us even more than in the last 40 years. We have had “cash for clunkers,” “shovel ready projects” (NOT) and more stimulus than a million junkies on speed.

    Each week, we hear of another scam bilking one program of millions of dollars, or another duplicate program. And when we ask why does this continue, I am told that I don’t care about the other person.

    I have been told that I am either too rich (and should pay more in taxes) but not poor enough for any sort of tax break.

    The average person like myself is being hit with taxes and service fees on every single item or service i purchase. In fact, there are times when I am paying almost 30% on top of the actual cost of an item. (And that does not include the taxes that the manufacturers or sellers are being hit with.)

    I attempt to tithe to my Church and help other families in my parish who are hurting with a food card here, part of a tuition payment there, or volunteer on this group or the next. (And, I don’t mind helping and doing this…for the record.)

    Yet, I am told that I am not doing enough and that I should do more. I am told that I don’t care for others because I won’t support another dollar going to another “social” program. (BTW, Social Security is paid for by you and your employer. It was a ponzi scheme from the start.)

    What the USCCB is doing is ensuring that everyone suffers.

  7. Oh, and one more thing…now that this has me going (or as a friend would say “Tell us what you really think.”

    The USCCB shows that it has no spine in criticizing this administration and instead couches it in this let’s blame everyone game.

    Barack Obama is a one man wrecking crew. Everything he touches and proposes brings one more hardship to the people of this country. He has brought down this country to the point we are on the fast track to being a third world nation (and I have been to a number of them, so I know).

  8. Good to see the U.S. bishops articulate a “consistent ethic of life” which has been part of Church teaching from the very beginning (with perhaps the exception of the death penalty) and which obviously does not mean that emphasis on the abortion has been abandoned.

    I’m delighted to see the words “common good” in the letter. I haven’t seen that term used much recently. It seems to have been superseded by an emphasis on subsidiarity. Also, I was surprised and happy to read the inclusion of an international focus and the plight of refugees seeking asylum. After all, the word, catholic, means universal, all-inclusive.

    Interesting to note that 5 of the 12 members of the “Super Committee” are Catholic.

  9. How do we define those who are truly in need?
    I work 2 jobs to make up for the fact that my health care costs and doubled (premiums and deductibles) this year, and I am at the median income for my geographic area with a 1,000 sqft home, 2 older cars in the garage, and 2 younger children. If I even have a dollar at the end of the month, then i feel very fortunate, but my company is going to raise both my premiums for health care again next year as well as increase the deductible. I don’t vacation, don’t spend excess money, and owe a lot to hospitals who have sent me to collections because sending them $25 a month isn’t good enough for them ( i have a special needs child and can’t get any assitance because i make more than the poverty level). It seems to me that the truly needy is a very nebulous term. I can barely make sure that my child, who needs speech therapy, gets her therapies that i pay for. Why am I being asked to pay more in taxes for the safety net when i bust my backside everyday? no one is giving me a safety net. I have to work hard every day or my kid doesn’t get her special needs addressed. There are few to no truly needy in this country because the truly needy in the WORLD live in less than a dollar a day and probably take in less than 1200 calories a day.
    As a hard worker who is barely keeping my family treading water, i don’t qualify for state assistance for my children. I’m all for social justice and helping the poor, but let’s compare the poor today to the poor in Africa, and let’s get some perspective.

  10. awashingtondccatholic #8

    “…we are on the fast track to being a third world nation (and I have been to a number of them, so I know).”

    So have I. I have lived in Nigeria and visited several countries in Africa and the Middle East. We are no where near being a third world country.

    I would say that you have made elegant use of the figure of speech and rhetorical device called hyperbole.

  11. I don’t like paying taxes either, but having lived in Mexico for eighteen years and traveled to many third wold countries in my life, I see the difference. Here we do have roads, schools, public lighting, public order, reliable mail service (try other countries!), kids go to school, the elderly receive services, etc. I can seat down and complain and curse the government, but the reality is that things are not as bad as they could be. Yes we need to figure out how to maintain our prosperity by being responsible and yes there are many who abuse the system, but these include giant corporations who were “bailed out”, others that have millions in subsidies, etc. It is not all the poor (whatever you want to define the term) fault. Right now jobs are scarce and the economy tough so the more we should understand that no all the poor are poor because they want. There is a lot of “fixing” to do, but we are blessed in this country with a tremendous amount of prosperity.

  12. 2012 Projected Federal Budget:

    Defense 25%
    Health Care (Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) 23%
    Pensions (Social Security Retirement) 22%
    Welfare 12%
    Education 3%
    All others 17% (Transportation, General Government, etc)

    The bulk of our money is going to the retiring Boomers their medical expenses and to the military, a full 50% of the budget.

  13. I am glad these Bishops have reminded us of our obligations and priorities as Catholics in this very difficult time.

  14. Rudy,

    Sorry but that adds up to 102%. I think the problem is because there is a mix of discretionary (programs like defense, education, transportation, etc) and non-discretionary (welfare, interest on the debt, medicare). As a bulk, non-discretionary makes over 60% of the total budget.

  15. The issue is not that we should be aware of those in need in our country. I think most would agree that those who are truly in need of help need for the people in this country to find creative ways to help them.

    For generations now, we have tried the massive government approach started under FDR and set to steroids by LBJ. Only those who believe in government solutions to everything would still believe government is the answer. Every time there is serious discussions about cutting spending, we see politicians come up with savings in fraud and abuse in the billions no matter what the government program they are talking about. We have a healthcare crisis because of government involvement going back to Truman and again enhanced under LBJ and now Obama. Liberals see problems with massive government programs and that solutions are more massive government programs. Social security started as a very minor program with very limited impact. Not only was that massively expanded from the simple 3% on the few to the huge percentage we see today on everyone, but the political hacks added massively to those getting benefits with programs like Medicaid and Medicare. Once the government threw billions into healthcare with the associated massive increase in regulations and control, it was forever removed from reality. We have extended life in years, but the result is millions hanging on in nursing homes with massive costs that make little sense.

    We need to end these programs through true reform that slowly weans the people off the government teat giving power and funds back to the people who need to take responsibility for themselves and their families.

    In many ways, the Church suffers from a lot of this same problem. There are more leaders and committees in every area that drains money and allows those in leadership to run free from responsibility themselves for those in their area of care. No wonder they would put out a letter showing comfort with big government. In past times, the local church had a huge roll in helping the poor. Now they guard their tax exempt status by coddling politicians who say they are Catholic, but vote to keep abortion alive and trample on marriage and families.

    Where is the cry from the left to have the bishops stay out of politics and separation of church and state? I notice some commenting here supporting the bishops involvement in this pure political move that screamed to the heavens if a bishops says that those who vote for politicians who support killing babies are in grave sin.

  16. Deacon,

    Please go back to banning comments, this obama vs republicans debate is old and sad.

  17. “We have extended life in years, but the result is millions hanging on in nursing homes with massive costs that make little sense.

    We need to end these programs through true reform that slowly weans the people off the government teat giving power and funds back to the people who need to take responsibility for themselves and their families.”

    I would like to know how those in nursing homes can be weaned off government help.

  18. Banning comments isn’t the answer.

    Working hard to control ourselves, commenting briefly and to the point, and keeping the spirit of courtesy for this place (it’s Deacon Greg’s living room, eh?) clearly in mind will move us toward the answer.

    God bless.

  19. We are blessed to live in a materially wealthy nation, arguably the most wealthy nation in history. Yet we have a huge and growing chasm between the wealthy and the poor.

    Many have offered moral pronouncements about those on the bottom of the economic scale. What about those on the top? What obligation would God put on them having blessed them with such wealth? If we are to judge the poor for how they became (and remain) poor, where is the judgment on the wealthy who continue to accumulate wealth, sometimes at the expense of the poor?

    From James 2

    My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

    Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?

  20. Will, if you have ever visited a number of nursing homes, there is very little joy in that as a lifestyle. It is largely created by a government which in many ways destroyed what was once a strong family unit. With the government picking up the huge tab and providing ever increasing ways to keep the heart beating and money coming in the door, we have changed the fabric of a culture that use to have elderly moving in with families and dying a much more normal death with those they love. I am in no way advocating anything massive or shutting off the programs without thought, but at some point, we all have to think through this total nanny state process that anyone who looks at it says it is not sustainable. Much of what we spend in healthcare is used in the last years of this desperate struggle in a very inefficient system which bring little joy or value to life. It is killing this country where technology is ever increasing to sustain life that for the vast majority in these old folks stoarge facilities is worse than anything human beings should have ever devised. In many ways, it shows our lack of faith in the better life to come that we cling to this horrible system. The family is able to visit when they have some time and feel that grandma is taken care of by others and largely paid for by others. Meanwhile, grandma is constantly waiting for those few precious hours when someone comes to visit. Again, I am not in favor of any form of euthanasia, but think we all need to come to terms with what we have is not working. I also note that many of the nursing homes are now becoming for profit organizations with huge teams looking at ways to utilize every wrinkle to get every dollar possible from the government. If there is one area that I detest for profit, it is in the caring for the elderly in nursing homes. If anyone thinks this is charitable loving care for the poor, let them visit about 30 of them in their area and look into the faces of the people. This can only be solved by the families taking over again the responsibility for the care of those who once cared for them. Like abortion, change requires a culture of life over death and love over nanny state big government. It would be far better to have the elderly living with family that loves them and have some nursing assistance available to assist. What we have is an example of when we turn our backs on those we love and give them over to the impersonal government care.

  21. Greta:

    Please provide data to support your comment “the bishops involvement in this pure political move.”

    The bishops are articulating Church teaching and practice from the very beginning. It is found in Acts 2 and 4 and even more so in the homilies of St. John Chrysostom.

  22. Re: Greta #18 and #23

    On another comment stream on this blog, a contributor identified as Fiergenholt suggested that everyone agree to a self-imposed set of rules:

    –Three main points

    –150 word maximum

    That sounds like an eminently sensible set of guidelines and if we follow those, maybe Dcn Greg won’t be tempted to totally cut-off comments like he did for a few weeks.

  23. Greta #23: “I am in no way advocating anything massive or shutting off the programs without thought, but at some point, we all have to think through this total nanny state process that anyone who looks at it says it is not sustainable.”

    What can the church do now, in this present time, to address the very valid issue you bring up regarding care for our aging family members? Surely there is something that Christians (or people of other faiths, for that matter) can do to directly impact this without waiting on the slow moving wheels of government to improve the situation.

  24. We all can start by taking care of our own parents, grandparents, disabled, sick, dying. And by that I mean me, individually and then worry about welfare and all the other stuff later. As Christians we need to give care, starting in our own home and moving then to our neighbors, community. Small things done individually go a long way. Richard is right, we don’t need to wait for the government or even for the Church hierarchy.

  25. One issue with the approach of moving forward while not waiting on government is that government now controls so much of the funds which could be used better by the people. Money is taken from our paychecks to pay for the care under social security and medicare. If we decide we are going to take on the care of our parents or grandparents, often we need help and support such as drugs, nursing help, or with equipment. Anyone who has tried to fight this battle can quickly tell you the average person is ill equiped to do this while the for profit organizations have teams that know every aspect of milking the system for all its worth.

    Having said that, I nursed both my parents in my home for a number of years out of love and respect only moving them to hospice at the very end because of their unique talents in dealing with this critical phase and their easy access to drugs to ease pain. During that time I battled weekly with some government agency. I did this will operating as Founder and CEO of a company which employed hundreds of people so I know first hand the issues involved. Medicare and Social Security need massive reform and that has to include a lot more individual control and far less government.

    My beef with the bishops is that they seem to be telling the committee to change nothing. “At a time of record foreclosures, increasing poverty and high unemployment it is not justifiable to weaken the national safety net or to make disproportionate cuts to programs that can help low and moderate income families avert crisis and live in dignity”. I think espousing nothing happening to these programs where most of the spending expansion is occuring will result in the growth of the very thing they see as the problem; more foreclosures, more unemployment, increased poverty. Change to its very core has to occur in the concept of socialist nanny state that does not work.

  26. Richard, the Church can advocate a call to its people to take up the cross and to have greater personal responsibility for our own actions, in what we do and what we fail to do. The Church can advocate that the government change from the concept of socialism and big government, to a much more responsive small government approach leaving money in the hands of the people and with less regulations that restrict companies growth and expansion of jobs. JPII talked about the failed concept of socialism and how it robs the person of their dignity and drive. He had issues with materialism as well, but his main focus was to defeat the socialist state he had first had experience in dealing with most of his life.

    I believe we need to push for a massive overhaul of our tax system as well as our safety net rules to encourage people to do the right things rather than the wrong ones.

  27. Greta #29: “Richard, the Church can advocate a call to its people to take up the cross and to have greater personal responsibility for our own actions, in what we do and what we fail to do.”

    I once heard a minister preach on the topic of government “entitlements”, making the point that if the Christians gave to the Lord first from their fruits (their wages), and if the churches focused on people instead of buildings, the need for government programs would decrease dramatically. His main point was that God was not willing to allow the poor to suffer further because Christians were stingy in the offering plate, and therefore God used the secular government to do that which the church refused.

    Our nation is perhaps the most wealthy in the history of the world to date. That is a blessing from God. While the NT may no longer command tithing, it does command stewardship and care for the less fortunate among us.

    I note that you are always quick with the tag “socialism”, Greta. Take a look at this passage of Scripture for a moment, from Acts 2:42-47

    “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
    Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

    Clearly there is no imposition of government mandate taking money from these folks. They are doing this out of a response to the gift they have just been given…salvation.

    Is this something the church should be encouraging today?

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