Playing Chicken With Our Economic Future …

U.S. President Barack Obama departs Honolulu, Hawaii December 26, 2012, for a return trip to Washington. REUTERS/Larry Downing

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama was flying back to Washington on Thursday and the top Republican in Congress planned to speak with House of Representatives lawmakers as the clock ticked toward a year-end deadline for action to avert the looming “fiscal cliff” tax hikes and spending cuts.

Markets around the world awaited action in Washington to prevent tax hikes on nearly all Americans and the deep automatic government spending cuts due to kick in at the beginning of next month that could push the U.S. economy back into recession.

Such action, however, remained far from certain, with Republicans and Democrats each insisting the other side move first amid continuing partisan gridlock.

Air Force One carrying Obama from Hawaii took off at about 3 a.m. EST for a journey that can take nearly half a day.

The U.S. Senate was scheduled to meet later on Thursday but on matters unrelated to the “fiscal cliff.” The Democrats control the Senate and theRepublicans control the House.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday said through a spokesman that the Senate was ready to consider any bills coming from the House but would take no action on its own. (Read more here.)

Starbucks to Politicians: Come Together

NEW YORK, N.Y. -Associated Press

Starbucks is using its coffee cups to jump into the political fray in Washington.

The world’s biggest coffee chain is asking employees at cafes in the Washington, D.C. area to scribble the words “Come Together” on cups for drink orders on Thursday and Friday. CEO Howard Schultzsays the words are intended as a message to lawmakers about the damage being caused by the divisive negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.”

It’s the first time employees at Starbucks cafes are being asked to write anything other than customers’ names on cups.

While companies generally steer clear of politics to avoid alienating customers, the plea to “Come Together” is a sentiment unlikely to cause controversy. If anything, Starbucks could score points with customers and burnish its image as a socially conscious company.

This isn’t the first time the coffee chain is using its platform to send a political message. In the summer of 2011, Schultz also asked other CEOs and the public to stop making campaign contributions until politicians found a way to deal with a crisis over the debt ceiling that led to a downgrade in the country’s credit rating.

For the latest push, Starbucks is taking out an ad in the Washington Post on Thursday showing a cup with the words “Come Together” on it. (Read more here.)

Fiscal Cliff: Obama wants more than just taxes on rich folks …

Are we heading for a future where the only non-profits will be those with government blessing and government funding?

A move by the Obama administration to limit tax deductions for charitable donations could lead this country in exactly that direction. The administration has made this part of the package it is bargaining for in the so-called “fiscal cliff” imbroglio.

A December 13 Washington Post article discusses the lobbying efforts concerning the move to cut charitable deductions to non-profits. It says in part:

The White House and the nation’s most prominent charities are embroiled in a tense behind-the-scenes debate over President Obama’s push to scale back the nearly century-old tax deduction on donations that the charities say is crucial for their financial health.

In a series of recent meetings and calls, top White House aides have pressed nonprofit groups to line up behind the president’s plan for reducing the federal deficit and averting the year-end “fiscal cliff,” according to people familiar with the talks.

In part, the White House is seeking to win the support of nonprofit groups for Obama’s central demand that income tax rates rise for upper-end taxpayers. There are early signs that several charities, whose boards often include the wealthy, are willing to endorse this change.

But the White House is also looking to limit the charitable deduction for high-income earners, and that has prompted frustration and resistance, with leaders of major nonprofit organizations, such as the United Way, the American Red Cross and Lutheran Services in America, closing ranks in opposing any change to the deduction.

“It’s all castor oil,” said Diana Aviv, president of Independent Sector, an umbrella group representing many nonprofits. “And the members of the nonprofit sector I represent don’t want any part of it. It’s a medicine we’re not willing to drink.”
(Read more here.)

If the government cuts off deductions for charitable giving, where will that leave the many non-profits out there? Where, especially will it leave those non-profits who have the temerity to oppose the ruling powers in government?

I think it will leave them in a position where they either have to go to the government itself for additional funding, or curtail their activities. This, of course, would mean that those non-profits which please government leaders, particularly politicians, would become powerful and that their relationship with these politicians would tend toward a kind of political/social/financial incest.

Those non-profits with the temerity to oppose these powerful people would see their influence wither and weaken. NGOs have been the voice of conscience in far too many situations around the world for moves to constrict their funding to be a benign act.

That is where I think the administration’s ploy to reduce charitable tax-exemptions by the wealthy is heading. I’ve been hearing behind-the-scenes rumbling about plans to bring non-profits under the government heel for over a year now. This move makes me think that they are more than rumblings.

By linking the idea of reducing deductions for non-profit donations with the very popular idea of having the wealthy pay more of their fair share of the cost of government, the Obama administration has been able to slip this by the public with very little attention.

That’s great news for Planned Parenthood, since Planned Parenthood seems to have the President’s unwavering commitment. The Affordable Health Care Act is a plenteous bounty for Planned Parenthood. The administration has been willing to go to the wall in moves to attack organizations that Planned Parenthood regards as enemies. It’s even gone so far as to take on the First Amendment to attack the Catholic Church.

Based on all that, I’m not inclined to give the administration the benefit of the doubt about this move to limit deductions for charitable donations. I think, given recent history in these matters, that would be almost childishly foolish.

 

Lest we forget …

These irreplaceable people lost their lives in Newton Connecticut one week ago today.

Don’t let political squabbling make us forget them.

Unseemly haste …

The funerals are not finished.

Why did the President rush this country into a divisive debate about gun control before the victims of this tragedy were buried?

Why the unseemly haste?

Couldn’t he have given this country time to grieve before pushing us into another political fight? Would it be so hard to wait a few days?

Christmas is in four days.

Why didn’t he at least give us time to bury our dead and be together with our families at Christmas before forcing another battle on us?

Unspeakable Evil

This post with President Obama’s statement today says all I want to say right now. I think it’s the best speech he has ever given.

YouTube Preview Image

What Is the ‘Fiscal Cliff’?

What is this “fiscal cliff” that commenters and pollsters talk about? What difference does it make to you and me?

The following excerpt from a Yahoo Finance article does a good job of answering these questions.

As usual, our elected officials are taking polls to learn what we the people think about their brinksmanship politics. They use the results of these polls to determine how far they can go in endangering the rest of us and keep their jobs. I don’t read much about them putting our country first, just how they can frame their irresponsibility so that the other guy takes the political fall for it.

BOTH parties are at fault here. NEITHER party appears to give a care about this country.

Pollsters are polling us. Politicians who don’t care about governing are using those polls to determine their next move in the one thing they do care about, which is making the opposite political party look bad.

I doubt that many people who are being polled know what the “fiscal cliff” is, or why it matters to them. I don’t want Public Catholic readers to be that uninformed.

The Yahoo Finance article says in part:

The fiscal cliff refers to the potentially disastrous situation the U-S faces at the end of this year. At midnight on December 31st, a number of laws are set to expire. If the President and the Republicans don’t reach an agreement before then, Americans could face broad government spending cuts and tax increases on January 1st. The combined amount would total over 500 billion dollars. Those 500 billion dollars equal about three to four percent of the nation’s entire gross domestic product. This is what’s referred to as the fiscal cliff.
If there isn’t a resolution, here are the specifics of what will happen.
Taxes would go up for almost every taxpayer and many businesses. The Bush-era tax cuts, which tax relief for middle and upper-class tax payers, would be a thing of the past. So would President Obama’s payroll tax cut which added about a thousand dollars a year to the average worker’s income.
Government spending would be slashed. That means less money for most military, domestic and federal programs. $26 billion in emergency unemployment-compensation would be gone. Medicare payments to doctors would be reduced by $11 billion. Federal programs would take the biggest hit. They stand to lose a total of $65 billion.
If the fiscal cliff isn’t avoided, some investors will be hit hard. Those who receive qualified dividends could see the tax rate on those dividends go from 15% to almost 40% in 2013.
Many business owners believe going over the fiscal cliff will cripple the economy, triggering a deep recession. (Read more here.)

So … What does it look like from your side?

A reader brought me up short yesterday with the observation that Oklahoma is not the center of the known universe and what I experience here doesn’t translate so well to her life as a Christian in Seattle.

She had a point, and a good one. In truth, I am an expert on what it means to be a female, pro-life, Catholic, Democratic wife, mother, member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. It’s kind of hard to top my knowledge of that itty bitty piece of the universe. But in other things, other places, other ways of living … not so much.

I hadn’t looked too closely at the election numbers until yesterday. I wanted to wait until all the votes everywhere were counted and on the tally sheet. When I did take a look, I saw that the only state that went harder for Governor Romney than Oklahoma was Utah. Interesting, but not surprising. What did surprise me was how razor-thin the popular vote turned out to be.

President Obama targeted his race and drove up his electoral vote count. He did it with carefully selected wedge issues designed to appeal to urban voters in the big population areas of the electoral bread basket states of the country. He also clearly let the rest of the country go. His goal was to win.

Now, he has to govern. The way he won will inevitably make governing far more difficult than if he had been elected by a wider swath of the electorate. It also spells trouble for Democratic Congressional candidates who have to run for re-election in two years in states that were left off the list by their president.

Make no mistake about it: The electoral vote will elect a president, but the popular vote affects his ability to govern.

How does this relate to the reader’s comments about my lack of understanding concerning the life of a pro-life Christian in a blue-state environment like Seattle? Just this: Obama won Washington State with a healthy 55.8% margin, but he didn’t landslide it. Romney came in at 41.8%, which leaves a little less than 3% of the voters who either voted for third-party candidates or didn’t vote in the presidential election at all.

Don’t misunderstand me; President Obama won Washington State, and he won it decisively. But 42% of the votes cast still went to the candidate nobody but his mother wanted. Why, with 42% of the voters demonstrating that they are in some sort of general agreement with her, would the commenter feel so isolated?

She said, “Here in Seattle I espouse conservative pro life ideas and get knocked over the head called names yelled at, etc. Forget the party elites, you are a fool to try to compete here with if you are a conservative.”

That’s isolation. It’s also outrageous behavior on the part of those who are treating her this way. However, even based on my almost total ignorance of what it’s like to live anywhere except what is called “flyover country” by those on the coasts, I can see the truth of what’s she’s saying. In my very brief visits to areas like San Francisco and Seattle, I’ve heard some of the same.

Based on the statistics I’ve looked at, the big vote totals for President Obama came, not just from the states he targeted, but from the parts of those states that he targeted. He went for the urban vote and he got it. One method he used to engage voters in those areas was to use things like abortion, same-sex marriage and an inaccurate representation of federal funding for contraceptives as wedge issues.

He didn’t have to do much to engage the Hispanic populations in those areas. The Republicans, with their attacks on Hispanics in the past, had done that for him. All of this was layered on top a base of passionate African American voters.

I can see how any traditional Christian living in one of these cities would feel isolated, beleaguered and totally outnumbered. The President not only won the commenter’s town, he won it by going in-your-face with traditional Christians like her. That says plenty about what the comfort level in the community would be for a  pro-life, pro-family, pro-religious freedom Christian.

I can also see that someone who is living through that would feel more than a little bit of exasperation with me for assumptions I make based on life in Oklahoma. I’m not trying to equate my experiences with hers, or to say I know what I don’t, but I have had some experience with being hazed for my faith.

Even though I live in the reddest of red states, I am still a Democratic elected office holder. I get my fair share of what traditional Christians who live in places like Seattle encounter. But the commenter is right when she says it comes from party activists and not the larger culture.

Actually, here in Oklahoma, most of the criticism I get from the larger culture is for my more Democratic opinions, such as my opposition to the attacks Republicans made on Hispanics. My feeling is that wherever you live, if you follow Jesus, you’re going catch flack.

One thing I’ve learned from doing this blog is that the blah, blah, blah of those who attack traditional Christians is virtually the same everywhere. I don’t just mean that it’s the same both in Seattle and Oklahoma. I mean it’s the same worldwide. The intensity may vary. The freedom these people feel to attack Christians surely varies. But the verbiage is identical to the point of boredom.

We can discuss what this identical messaging from these people means another time. For now, let’s focus on what life is like for a traditional Christian in an urban, blue-state environment. How can a Christian be effective for Christ in an environment like this?

Since I don’t live in that part of the country, I need to learn from those of you who do. Feel free to tell me these things. I really want to learn from you.

Christian Persecution: What Does the Election Mean to Christian Freedom?

Standing Against Christian Persecution

What does Tuesday’s election mean to Christians?

We have two polarized political parties who have demonstrated repeatedly that their only concern is battling one another. One of them is increasingly hostile to traditional Christians, the other patronizes us.

The question: What does this mean for Christians in the years ahead? Will we be able to continue with our many ministries which serve the poor, provide health care and education without bowing before the false idols of government demand? Will we be able to speak about our faith openly on college campuses, at work and in public discourse without being harassed and penalized?

How many Christians will side with those who seek to limit Christianity and push us from the public sphere? Who among us will chose political party affiliation over following Christ? Who will chose popularity and keeping their friends over following Christ?

We are harassed, hazed, verbally assaulted right now. We see our faith and our beliefs openly insulted everywhere from cable tv to our workplaces. Much of the things that are said about Christians and Christianity today is clearly hate-speech. That is now. It is happening today.

What will happen now? The HHS Mandate was a bold move into the territory of government control of religion. What will be next?

I’m going to leave this open and let you give me your ideas. Please avoid fear-mongering. Let’s just think about what we honestly believe might happen so that we can begin to develop our ideas for how we will take a stand against it. Those who come on here to try to use this conversation to insult and offend Christians and Christianity will be deleted. Play nice and talk it through. I want to hear what you think.

 

Two Swing-State Catholic Universities Host Speakers From Catholics for Obama

According to a CNA article, at least two Catholic colleges in the swing states of Colorado and Ohio have ended up hosting discussions by Catholics for Obama. Among those who attended were representatives of Catholics United, a group which opposes the Church’s teaching on traditional marriage.

I’ve experienced the lengths some people will go to in order to find a way into forums that hold opinions different from theirs. Public Catholic has attracted more than its share of this. I am wondering if the college administrators fell for arguments similar to the ones that have been used on me.

On the other hand, university campuses have traditionally been places that were open to the free exchange of ideas between people of opposing viewpoints. My concern with this is not that they had these people on campus so much as whether or not the presentation was balanced and that there were faithful Catholics who also spoke who were capable of standing up to them.

What do you think?

The CNA article says in part:

Denver, Colo., Nov 1, 2012 / 04:03 am (CNA).- The Obama campaign attempted to schedule a rally-like event on a Catholic university campus in the key swing state of Colorado before settling on a dialogue with a co-chair of Catholics for Obama.

“Their original intent was to have more of a rally element to it,” said Paul Alexander, director of Regis University’s Institute for the Common Good, which hosted the event.

“We just felt we couldn’t do a rally, but we felt a healthy dialogue among Catholics was important.”

About 45 people attended the Oct. 25 dialogue and small group discussion with Catholics for Obama national co-chair Nicholas P. Cafardi, a law professor and dean emeritus of Duquesne University School of Law.

The event was titled “Catholic Social Teaching: The Intersection of Faith and Politics.” Although it was hosted by the Jesuit university’s institute, it took place because of outreach from the Obama campaign.

Alexander told CNA Oct 26 that another Catholics for Obama national co-chair by the name of Victoria Kovari, the “main point of contact,” had sought out the university and asked if it would be willing to host an event.

Kovari is a former national field director and former interim president of the Democrat-leaning group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

She attended the Denver event along with Broderick Johnson, a senior advisor to the Obama campaign.

At the Thursday evening gathering, Alexander said that the campaign had reached out to schedule the event, but had set no conditions on the talk.

“There was a strict adherence to bring a message that is totally non-political,” he said.

Cafardi’s remarks examined moral judgment in public life, saying that the Church must leave solutions to political problems to “the informed consciences and prudential judgment of the laity.”

He had pointed criticisms of Catholic bishops’ actions on political matters.

“Our sacred pastors will tell us the ethical and moral principles that should govern human behavior. They can tell us the values that should be defended,” he said. “No bishop, no priest, can tell you how to vote, ever. They don’t have that right. That right belongs to you, and your informed conscience.

“They don’t even have the right to hint how you’re supposed to vote, as a number of them have been doing lately in their non-endorsement endorsements,” he said, adding that no one can question the decision of an informed conscience.

Cafardi, who rejects the criminalization of abortion, said the Catholic Church’s advocacy for the legal prohibition of abortion as the only way to address life issues ignores the need to use prudential judgment to decide the best way to protect human life.

He defended the Obama administration’s controversial mandate which requires most employers of 50 or more employees to provide no co-pay insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.

Cafardi argued that the Obama administration’s proposed conscience accommodation, whose details are unclear, is adequate. He also said that the mandate was justified under the same logic as the cost segregation practice which allows the government to fund the non-religious activities of religious employers.

He ridiculed broad exemptions for objecting private employers as the “Taco Bell exemption.”

At least one other Catholic college has hosted Catholics for Obama speakers. Last month in Ohio, another politically key state for the presidential elections, the Xavier University College Democrats hosted Johnson, Kovari and other speakers who presented a Catholic case for voting for President Obama.

CNA contacted the Romney campaign to determine whether it has engaged in similar outreach to Catholic colleges and universities but did not receive a response by deadline.

Michael Hernon, a former president of the Republican-leaning group The Catholic Association, told CNA he has not heard of any Catholics for Romney outreach to Catholic colleges and universities.

Hernon, who is also a vice president of advancement at Franciscan University, said that Franciscan University of Steubenville has many faculty and students who support the Romney campaign in a personal capacity, but the university has not had any partisan events on campus.

Among the attendees at Regis University event were Catholics United Colorado State Chairman Anthony DeMattee. The organization expanded into Colorado with its first Denver event on Oct. 22, holding a debate watching party with Catholics United Executive Director James Salt.

Until recently, Catholics United avoided directly contradicting Catholic teaching. On Oct. 18, it denounced Catholic efforts to defend traditional marriage as a “far right-wing” social issue. The group also attacked the Knights of Columbus for giving financial support to the Catholic bishops’ marriage defense efforts and to marriage amendment ballot initiatives. (Read more here.)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X