The National Catholic Review

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan was back in the news today, promoting his budget proposals and his take on Catholic social teaching in an interview with CBN. Critics, including the U.S.C.C.B., have assailed Ryan’s budget as too hard on the poor, but he apparently doesn’t see a contradiction in the proposals he will use in negotiation with Congressional Democrats and his Catholic faith. During his chat with CBN’s David Brody, Ryan equates subsidiarity with the American political concept of federalism and he limits Catholic concepts of subsidiarity and solidarity, which he seems to jumble together, to essentially individual and community based expressions of civic engagement.

“To me, the principle of subsidiarity, which is really federalism,” Ryan said, “meaning government closest to the people governs best, having a civil society of the principal of solidarity where we, through our civic organizations, through our churches, through our charities, through all of our different groups where we interact with people as a community, that’s how we advance the common good. By not having big government crowd out civic society, but by having enough space in our communities so that we can interact with each other, and take care of people who are down and out in our communities.”

Ryan sees a narrow to nonexistent role for government in anti-poverty efforts. He reduces the preferential option for the poor, which he acknowledges as a “one of the primary tenets of Catholic social teaching,” to meaning “don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck in their station in life.”

This maintains a binary understanding of government and culture that outflanks any positive role for government in responding to human need. There is little room for nuance or subtlety through that unforgiving filter. The outcome from such a perspective is wonderfully beneficial for people who seek a reduced role of government and the resulting reduction in tax burdens, which, it is worth noting, are currently at historic lows for all classes of Americans.

In this interview with CBN and in the mainstream media when Ryan surfaces such notions, the practical implausibility of a charity-based safety net is never discussed. Though many argue it is not spending enough to respond to the continuing crisis among the nation’s growing poor, the federal government is still spending billions each year in various health and anti-poverty services. For instance in fiscal 2012, it spent $35 billion to continue rental assistance to 4.7 million families. Assuming Ryan sincerely believes charitable agencies bankrolled by private giving can step in to provide assistance in the absence of government (and allowing that from his perspective $35 billion was probably too much to spend to begin with), can anyone imagine that the nation’s charities could so realign their infrastructure and unify their efforts to replicate and replace even this one federal anti-poverty commitment?

Certainly no one can say that every federal dollar spent on poverty reduction has proved well invested; few Catholics support an over-defining or unwarranted role for government; and no one desires that poverty in America become a generationally fixed reality because of state-induced dependency. But are our options really as stark as no government or an obliterating, infantalizing government? When Ryan surveys contemporary poverty he sees government interventions that have not only not succeeded, they have created generational self-replications of poverty. In doing so he ignores any number of other variables, for example, the continuing malperformance of underfunded public education systems in urban and rural communities, the excessive costs of higher education and limited options for vocational and skills retraining, the continuing shift to single parenthood (often mistakenly assessed by conservatives as an outcome of the public aid system, and not a driver to the same) that are, among many other forces, propelling modern poverty.

America’s left is frequently charged with fear mongering, but Ryan engages in his share here, assuring that without drastic reductions in social spending, for example, the complete revamping of Medicare, the nation is doomed to crash on Hellenic shores as if such emergency measures were the only way out of our current fiscal woes. He also ignores growing evidence that austerity at this time is possibly a complete recipe for disaster as the nation’s timid recovery totters along (Just take a gander at poor old Ireland: "Poverty Spreading Across Irish Society.")

Ryan seems to ignore issues that might complicate his analysis. He simply leaves out the notion of positive subsidiarity--defined neatly in the OED as “the ethical imperative for communal, institutional or governmental action to create the social conditions necessary to the full development of the individual, such as the right to work, decent housing, health care”—and focuses on the concept’s preferential option for “smaller essential cells of society” (186). But that preference does not exclude or prohibit a role for higher social players, like state and federal government, to intervene when it is appropriate for them to do so. In fact they are required to do so in a morally well-ordered society. From the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (188):

Various circumstances may make it advisable that the State step in to supply certain functions [401]. One may think, for example, of situations in which it is necessary for the State itself to stimulate the economy because it is impossible for civil society to support initiatives on its own. One may also envision the reality of serious social imbalance or injustice where only the intervention of the public authority can create conditions of greater equality, justice and peace.

Ryan’s analysis also takes as a given that the problem of persistent poverty in the United States is too much federal intervention, not too little, ignoring the fact that poverty levels were at their lowest at the end of the Great Society program and have been creeping up steadily since and that growing evidence suggests the nation's well-touted welfare reform does not lead to happy outcomes during economic downturns. His budget proposals similarly assume that the problem of federal overspending emerges exclusively out of its social welfare budget, not the defense budget, interest on past overspending on defense or ill-advised tax breaks for the wealthiest. Hence his planning for fiscally reforming America absolves defense spending and seeks even deeper tax cuts (to 25 percent) for America’s wealthiest. Ryan does seem open to closing tax loopholes and that may mean, according to the kindest analysis, more overall tax revenue even as rates are cut back further. We shall see.

At any rate his performance on CBN did not go unnoticed. "If Rep. Ryan thinks a budget that takes food and health care away from millions of vulnerable families upholds Catholic values, then he also probably believes Jesus was a Tea Partier who lectured the poor to stop being so lazy and work harder," said John Gehring, Catholic Outreach Coordinator at Faith in Public Life. "This budget turns centuries of Catholic social teaching on its head and completely ignores the U.S. bishops' recent call for a budget that puts defense cuts on the table and protects food stamps and other vital safety nets.”

And Ryan’s commingling of Republican budget aims with Catholic social teaching drew a scathing response from Graeme Zielinski, Communications Director for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin: "For Paul Ryan to claim that the Catholic social teaching that emphasizes participation, solidarity and care for the least is the backbone of his divisive and exclusionary budget is an act of political cynicism.”

Zielinkski said, “The American bishops have since the end of World War I called for government to provide a safety net to the orphan, the widow, the disabled, the poorest among us. Paul Ryan would shred that net while giving tax cuts to the richest and shredding a juridical system to oversee the market and protect other human beings. There are more than a few Catholics like me who are opposed to the Ryan budget precisely because of our faith, not in spite of it. It was Blessed John Paul, after all, who wrote, ‘It is right to struggle against an unjust economic system that does not uphold the priority of the human being over capital and land.’"

Comments

Vince Killoran | 4/16/2012 - 8:32am
Conservatives have searched high & low for a way to connect with Catholic social teaching. THey now think that they have found it by claiming that they are simply putting "subsidiarity" into practice.

And they are correct-if you drain the concept, and all the other ones associated with it about the way government should work and what it should do, from it.  THey did a keyword search and choose something that has a whiff of familiarlity to it and then claiming it as the centerpiece of your program.
J Cosgrove | 4/15/2012 - 10:47pm
Is the Catholic term, subsidiarity, best practiced by the Republican party.  After reading what it was, based on the links that Vincent Miller provided a few months ago, I came away with that conclusion.  Here is an article by Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal which discusses Paul Ryan who comes away with the same conclusion.


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304356604577337922580242292.html?mod=WSJ_article_MoreIn_Opinion
Franz Kuo | 4/13/2012 - 1:43pm
Putting aside Rep. Ryan's misunderstanding of Catholic Social Teaching and completely ignoring the vicious comments posted in response to this article, one point not mentioned is that while Ryan believe churches and civil society should care for the poor, he seems to overlook that most local Catholic Charities and Catholic charitable institutions caring for the poor depend very much on government (federal, state & local) funding, via contracts and grants, to do their work.  Most, but not the notably independent Catholic Worker movement, who would be the first to reject his skewed budget priorities.

If we focus on our risen Lord's teachings, care for the poor, hungry, widows, immigrants and the oppressed in general should be the top priorities in our budget.  Turning swords into plowshares would certainly help us follow our Gospel obligations more sincerely.
david power | 4/13/2012 - 1:12pm
Kevin,

I am surprised to find that you have a thinskin.
Maybe  Paul Ryan does too,maybe not.
I did not want to offend but find it hard to picture you weeping at my comments.
Surely you could just write me off as some Republican nutjob.
While it may seem refreshing to some people to find somebody declare themselves biased and declare themselves a liberal catholic etc I think that we can all do better than that.
Me too.I am neither right or left.I am apolitical.Can you imagine how much more you could contribute if you removed yourself from preconceptions?I am not saying that you would always transcend your history and the failings of your culture and era (who does?)but you might somedays.
I know culture wars are attractive to some and the reaction is like a drug and the feeling that we are tipping the scales one way or another is also a high but demonizing the opposition is not the most convincing way. I agree with what you wrote by the way.My problem is not with the article above but just the fact that there is no focus on democrats.This is manichean .It could be somebody else who attacks their failings.I am glad that you responded and spared me your wrath/snarkiness ,really?  and hope that at least you consider what I am saying.
Give it 5 seconds and then shrug it off an go get a nice cool well-earned beer and enjoy the weekend.   
david power | 4/13/2012 - 4:27am
Tim,

Your point is taken.I should have worded it differently and not named names.
My point ,which I have made a few times, has never been answered.
Is it America's policy just to scrutinize Republican politicians?
If so it would be wonderful to know.
Is there a reason why democrats are off-limits to such hit jobs on the correspondence or lack of between their professed faith and their politics?
Perhaps there is a very good reason why there is an article every week seeking to expose deficencies  in the Republican policies and attempts to question the integrity of Santorum,Ryan and Gingrich but zilch on Pelosi or Biden.
I am always willing to learn.
Please don't stifle the conversation just for me griping .Just delete my comments.
I promise to think before I write again. 
david power | 4/12/2012 - 6:40pm
Vince,

You have uncovered me for the dilettante that I am.Still I believe  that a far more judicious view of politics is needed on a Jesuit website.
The Republicans are straight out of The Simpsons no doubt ,but the viewpoint of the political writers here is really no better.
I come here for the occassional spiritual fruit.
Nonetheless ,it smells of the ghetto at times. 
Joshua DeCuir | 4/12/2012 - 4:36pm
Prof. Schewe wrote:

"A lot of what we're going to hear in the next six months will be positional negotiating. After the election, I hope all parties will engage in sustained principled negotiation, starting from the Simpson Bowles recommendations, to solve our fiscal problems.   During this election season, ask your representatives to support Simpson-Bowles next year."

Prof. Schewe:

Are you aware that Mr. Ryan's own proposals fall closer in line with Simpson-Bowles than the President's own budget?  You are aware, I'm sure, that much of Simpson-Bowles centers around major reforms to entitlements that liberals have demagogued.  You are a close ally of Pres. Obama (having written in support of ACA among other things).  Where is YOUR public criticism of Pres. Obama for completely ignoring the recommendations of the very commission he formed?  Where is your public criticism of Pres. Obama for failing to offer a single deficit-reducing, entitlement reform plan?  Where is your public criticism of Pres. Obama's gimmicky Buffett Rule that will raise less than 1% of the total revenue the President needs to support the programs so many here object to cutting?
Carlos Orozco | 4/12/2012 - 11:26am
For those who want to go beyond partisan politcs and open their mind, watch this video written and narrated by Sean Stone, son of the famous director.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b76mBlnm86w

In depth interview on the previous video:

http://www.infowars.com/obama-impeachment-2012-with-film-director-sean-stone


J Cosgrove | 4/12/2012 - 9:04am
''There will certainly be more tax revenue from an economy fueled by further tax cuts, but only the most credulous would claim $4 trillion from growth. ''


I believe the lower tax rates are justified by Ryan on two rationales.  The first is identified in the statement above, and is based on the history that the lower rates will fuel additional revenue and thus taxes.  The second is that many of the tax loop holes will be closed and we will have a much simpler tax code.  I saw a video recently by him where he mentioned that deductions account for a $trillion a year in tax avoidance.  Not all will be eliminated.  My guess is that the charitable deduction, state and local taxes, and the home mortgage deduction up to a point will be mostly kept but all others might be on the table for elimination including the health care deduction.  If that is so, then $ 4 trillion might be easily achievable.  For someone making over a million a year, these deductions are relatively minor and the effective rate will get close to the 25%.  Here is Ryan discussing his budget a few weeks ago.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uy7GoVYj1C8


For a couple optimistic views of Ryan's budget and tax proposals see


http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterferrara/2012/03/29/washington-post-misleads-readers-about-paul-ryan-tax-rates-and-deficits/


This article includes the results of recent tax cuts and tax increases in generating revenue.(1990-2007) and 


http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/truth-about-paul-ryans-tax-plan


We should wait and see as to what the specifics are and we may be surprised or disappointed in the process.  It will certainly be open for all to see but I am sure no one will agree on everything and the actually proof will be in the collections during the first 2-3 years.  Right now the Democratic plan is based on spite and resentment and not on any economics that would help for the poor.  The best way out of our mess is increased economic activity.


''I note the continual lack of engagement  of Ryan's defenders with the serious objections offered on religious grounds to his budget.'' 


If one is going to object to Ryan's budget on religious grounds then one has to be specific on just what the Ryan budget will do.  Neither the author or any other commenter has provided anything but rhetoric against the budget.  No one has shown just what the supposed cuts are.  If Ryan's budget leads to greater economic activity and more job creation then that is better for the poor then all the blustering by critics.  So consider there are no objections of any consequence and thus, they have been dealt with.
Vince Killoran | 4/12/2012 - 8:28am
To Joseph's plea that "theology experts" weigh in on Ryan's budget: they did-last year-when prominent Catholic theologians published a letter to Speaker Boehner. [http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/breaking-news-catholic-academics-challenge-boehner] At that time their position was met with derision from conservative bloggers, including those posting on IAT.

I note the continual lack of engagement  of Ryan's defenders with the serious objections offered on relgious grounds to his budget.  Just the usual distracting comments. . .
JOSEPH CLEARY II | 4/11/2012 - 11:51pm
Kevin:
 
A) When will AMERICA actually invite Ryan in for an interview or ask him to write an opinion article? I am not asking you to agree with everything but he is an important Catholic voice who should be soberly listened to and debated.
Instead all we get is plenty of Ryan as boogey man pot shots here on this site that sound too much like the WH talking points - disappointing.
 
B) I agree with Josh that the last two paragraphs are weak- if you want to take Ryan to task on catholic social teaching then bring in theology experts and the like. If you want to contrast him on politics then certainly bring in the state Democratic chair to point/counter point him on politics. But to conclude with a lengthy knee jerk response from the state D chair as if he was some sort of expert on catholic social teaching misses the mark 

J Cosgrove | 4/11/2012 - 9:43pm
In a previous OP by Vince Miller he discussed Subsidiarity:


http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?entry_id=4852


Here was a comment I made about subsidiarity:

''I read the material linked to by Mr. Miller about the Catholic version of Subsidiarity.  It sounds like the Republican party platform.  There is nothing in there that I am uncomfortable with and I guess a lot of people here would call me conservative or is it neo-liberal these days.  Maybe Mr. Miller could expand on how this is at odds with what Mr. Ryan and Santorum are recommending,  Then maybe we could have something of substance to discuss instead of denigrating comments.''


So, I ask how is the Ryan budget and the Republican platform not in sync with the Catholic concept of subsidiarity?


Also the following comment was made in the OP


''the problem of federal overspending emerges exclusively out of its social welfare budget''


Do we have budget estimates of what funds would be provided by the Ryan budget for social services compared to say 2010, 2008, 2004, 2000 in constant dollars per person.  That way we can see just how drastic the Ryan budget treats these areas and whether he sees these areas as the source of actual budget cuts or just a slow down of growth in expenditures.  After all the Ryan budget grows 48% over 10 years or an average of 3.3% a year. 


My understanding was that he thought that medicare and medicaid was the biggest problems and that current levels of service could be accomplished by market forces.  Maybe that is not feasible but it is not one that assumes a cut in services, only the cost of these services in the future.  Social Security could be solved in a second by limiting the payouts to future recipients to the same level received today in constant dollars.
Vince Killoran | 4/12/2012 - 6:26pm
David at #22: "Say something negative about Obama.I dare you.Transcend yourselves !!!!"

You're not reading the website very closely.  I did a quick search and found plenty of grumbling by America's editors and contributors about the prez.  Very little wholsale endorsement of the administration.

(e.g., "A State of Dysfunction," 3-12-12; "Conscience in the Mud," 10-31-11).

BTW, I don't like BO very much-far too moderate, wrong on many of the issues; he panders to the GOP and financiers in the Dem. Party.  But I don't come to this website to weigh in on partisan politics.
david power | 4/12/2012 - 5:45pm
Nothing that Kevin Clarke says on politics has any real value for the simple reason that he is an ideologue .
He has never ,ever ever taken aim at a Democrat Politician and so is no better than somebody who wrote for Pravda back in the day. 
The writers on America are Democrats.They see life through those lens and only throw in catholicism to cover their you-know-what.
I have never seen anything on this site ever critical of the Democrats .
The fact that he cannot rise to even the minimum of objectivity should  tell you that his animus against Ryan is vice dressed up as reason.
About six months to Election day and I lay down an almight challenge to all America's writers.Say something negative about Obama.I dare you.Transcend yourselves !!!! 
Eugene Devany | 4/12/2012 - 3:16pm
The “Ryan” budget is a political response to the “Obama” budget. Neither budget is a genuine attempt at tax and spending reform. Rep. Ryan’s beliefs should not be inferred from the budget and he should not be personally accused of shredding the safety net or eliminating Wall Street oversight. Better spending and smarter oversight can be virtues to the open minded. Remember it was only a short time ago when Paul Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future called for an 8.5% VAT to replace the corporate income tax. Now the Ryan budget calls for a reduction of the top corporate and individual rates to 25% with little indication of what tax expenditures (a/k/a “loopholes”) will change. The vagueness of both budget documents was deliberate because it encourages political contributions to both parties in the hope of maintaining the favorite loopholes of the donors. The uncertainties of the budgets also enable businessmen like Mr. Romney to project an open mind by saying he intends to look at each tax expenditure at the appropriate time.
 
A Catholic social advocate might look past the speck in his brother’s eye and be ready to think out-of-the-box. Please consider better federal taxes and better federal government spending when the political theatre takes a curtain call in November.
 
Better taxes:
 
Individuals - If we taxed individual income at 8% and individual net wealth at 2% (over $15,000 and excluding retirement funds) we could replace all current federal revenue and eliminate regressive payroll taxes. Economic mobility would be created by keeping 92% of income and the concentration of assets would gradually diminish. [Payroll, capital gains, estate and gift taxes would not be needed].
 
Business - An 8% corporate income tax and 4% and business value added tax (VAT) could bring in an extra 0.5 trillion (with rates lower than all major competitors). [The VAT would apply to the 8 out of 10 businesses which escape the C corporation tax].
 
Better spending:
 
Rental Assistance – “in fiscal 2012, it spent $35 billion to continue rental assistance to 4.7 million families” is something that is done because the government zoning restrictions on housing prevents fair market rents. Government rent control is also counterproductive. If there were no such thing as “family” zoning of homes and occupancy was restricted by safety concerns rather than pedigree, the rental housing market would free up. The Supreme Court has upheld restrictive local zoning but it could be changed to promote racial and economic integration and revitalize the housing market (and at great savings to the taxpayers). [Better housing, less tax money].
 
Seniors – Stop encouraging late retirement with higher social security payouts and excessive retirement exemptions. [More good jobs for younger people, less tax money].
 
Safety Net – Replace food stamps and most other federal “safety net” programs with government part time jobs at salaries a little below minimum wage. Government and not-for-profit entities would train and supervise workers in a supportive environment. [Be creative!]
 
Education – Provide copyright free digital books, educational videos and tests to all; and leave public education to the state and local government. [Some education help for all at very little cost].
 
Infrastructure – The federal government should not take tax dollars from one community and give them to another (including highways, mass transit, empowerment zones, education, farming, fisheries, police and most other congressional earmarks). [Reduce the role of federal government].
 
Sin Taxes – Eliminate all federal taxes (except as part of a VAT) on cigarettes, gasoline, alcohol, carbon, etc. State and local governments will tax as needed.
 
Research and Development – Patent Law encourages private investment in new technology and rewards success. R&D tax credits gives most rewards to research efforts which are not successful and should be eliminated. Tax credits are not needed for successful R&D.
 
Health Care – Catastrophic health insurance (with co-payments and limited provider choice) should be provided to all for free; or via voucher toward better insurance. Health insurers should be required to receive and maintain digital health records of all patients, identify create best practices (i.e. interactive online patient questioners, nurse and physician assistant triage, video examinations, and doctor referral scheduled as needed), and steer patients to cost effective providers through lower co-payments. [Current federal health care law under court review].
 Eugene Patrick Devany, JD, MPA
www.TaxNetWealth.com
david power | 4/12/2012 - 2:46am
Amy,

How can I follow you on twitter??? 
Alan Mitchell | 4/11/2012 - 8:57pm
Tom Blackburn

Since you had mis-identifed Lazarus, I did not perceive that you were being ironic.
T BLACKBURN | 4/11/2012 - 6:04pm
ACM, well, your interpretation is what I had always believed.  But, following Paul Ryan, I discover I have been wrong for 77 years and that creating dependency is evil, especially if it ends in a hungry person being fed at taxpayer expense.

I am surprised the thread has turned to government's failure to run schools at a price wealthy taxpayers can afford. For one thing, schools basically are local, not Obamaist. For another, my parish's school is closing this year - finances. If we didn't have government schools we probably would have no schools at all. The socialist in the White House wants them to be good, but there he goes again - educational dependency.

Alan Mitchell | 4/11/2012 - 5:49pm
Apologies to David Smith, my comments was for Tom Blackburn
Alan Mitchell | 4/11/2012 - 5:47pm
Wow! David Smith.  I have heard of the creative misreading of Scripture, but yours takes the cake.  The beggar is Lazarus, and you seem to have overlooked how the rich man got consigned to Gehenna in the first place. Isn't the point of the parabe that if the rich man had given Lazarus handouts they would both have ended up in the bosom of Abraham?
james belna | 4/11/2012 - 5:16pm
I think it is worth noting that Kevin Clarke selectively quoted Section 188 of the Compendium. Here is the rest of the paragraph that he left out:

''In light of the principle of subsidiarity, however, this institutional substitution must not continue any longer than is absolutely necessary, since justification for such intervention is found only in the exceptional nature of the situation. In any case, the common good correctly understood, the demands of which will never in any way be contrary to the defence and promotion of the primacy of the person and the way this is expressed in society, must remain the criteria for making decisions concerning the application of the principle of subsidiarity.''

I also think that a paragraph from the immediately preceding article (187) bears on this question:

''The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to certain forms of centralization, bureaucratization, and welfare assistance and to the unjustified and excessive presence of the State in public mechanisms. “By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending”[400]. An absent or insufficient recognition of private initiative — in economic matters also — and the failure to recognize its public function, contribute to the undermining of the principle of subsidiarity, as monopolies do as well.''

I encourage everyone to follow the link and read the relevant parts of the Compendium for themselves.
Joshua DeCuir | 4/11/2012 - 3:26pm
Wow, I knew some America bloggers were Democrats, but ending the piece with a quotation from the Wisconsin chairman of the Democratic Party to rebut Ryan's (admittedly simplistic) view of CAtholic Social Teaching is quite revealing.  Unfortunately, many CAtholic liberals like Mr. Clarke continue to exist in the mistaken notion that Catholic Social Teaching is co-existent with the Democratic Party platform, despite his statement that ''Certainly no one can say that every federal dollar spent on poverty reduction has proved well invested; few Catholics support an over-defining or unwarranted role for government; and no one desires that poverty in America become a generationally fixed reality because of state-induced dependency.''  For he then goes on to state: ''In doing so he ignores any number of other variables, for example, the continuing malperformance of underfunded public education systems in urban and rural communities, the excessive costs of higher education and limited options for vocational and skills retraining, the continuing shift to single parenthood (often mistakenly assessed by conservatives as an outcome of the public aid system, and not a driver to the same) that are, among many other forces, propelling modern poverty.''  What this latter statement does, of course, is ignore the fact that, in at least the first and third variables'' can be directly attributed to Democratic/liberal policies.  It is the Democratic Party, for example, which has been called ''a wholly-owned subsidiary of the teachers' unions'' which have blocked common sense, bottom-up reforms to the public educational system in this country, actions which have kept thousand of poor black and other children of color in failing schools, and it was Democratic party policies that thought it was a great idea to heard poor families into large public housing units isolated from meaningful jobs and which became, over time, huge islands of social dysfunction.  And that is not Paul Ryan's view; it was the view of a great Catholic democrat: Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Ryan's budget is not perfect; but the implication that many of his reforms are simply unacceptable under Catholic Social Teaching is not only unsubstantiated, but seems to continue the mistaken notion that the Democratic Party's proposals measure up.  Perhaps instead of castigating and savaging Ryan's statements, we should (like many Catholic liberals suggest who defend pro-choice CAtholics) take them in good faith and attempt to forge some compromises that more accurately reflect both Catholic Social Teaching AND common sense policy than the extremes of both parties.
C Walter Mattingly | 4/11/2012 - 9:15pm
Kevin: "I think it is exceedingly disingenuous to blame the nation's problematic public education system on the Dems and the public teachers' union."

Increase the funding for public education? Until 2004, the US spent more per student than any major industrial nation; since the recent devaluation of the dollar we are now merely in the top 10% or so. And the performance is in the third quartile. In one year George Bush raised federal spending on public education 19%. What did we get for our money? The fewest hours and days of classroom instruction of any OECD nation. That is the NEA's idea of a solution for student underperformance: cut the teachers' student hours and workload. The NEA has also fought tooth and nail to avoid teacher evaluations and merit pay for teaching excellence. 
We have Loyola Marymount's recent study of inner city education in Los Angeles. It concluded that students of the inner city parochial schools graduated on schedule 98% of the time; the comparative rate for the similarly located, demographically and economically, for the public schools was 69%. Do you think that America should study its own Jesuit educational institution's apparent 15 times greater success in the critical area of high school graduation than similarly located public schools? Inner city parents are begging for the opportunity vouchers would provide them to escape these chronically failed schools, and it wouldn't cost the country more money it doesn't have. Shouldn't these low income parents have at least a semblance of the opportunity that President Obama has taken advantage of, sending his children to a private religious school that he feels will better serve them than DC's troubled public school system (as almost all congressmen and senators have done for their children as well)? New Orleans has done away with teachers' unions and is totally non-union charter and parochial schools, and it is performing far better than the previous traditional unionized system did. Charter schools in Florida have just been evaluated and perform better on 8 of 9 measures than the traditional schools under the banner of the NEA. 
This is perhaps the most critical issue concerning the future economic success of middle and lower income Americans: do they get a decent education? Huge sums of money devoted to our existing school structure has resulted in no improvement. Competition would force productive change. President Obama is fighting vouchers, as he is the Church on several other fronts, but many of these parents would find such a choice a godsend. It really is a question of social justice. 
Amy Ho-Ohn | 4/11/2012 - 7:01pm
Can anybody identify anything in the Ryan budget that an atheist or Protestant or evangelical or Scientologist conservative would not have included? Or anything not in it that an atheist, etc. conservative would have included?

If not, then it is not unreasonable to suspect that Ryan constructed the budget exclusively in accordance with secular conservative principles, then contrived some pseudo-theological faux-Catholic verbosity around it afterwards, probably with the assistance of his political staff.

Obama does this too. Can anybody think of anything he has ever invested political capital in that an atheist Democrat would not have? (I can't.) But he also has his political staff draw up pseudo-theological talking points, which he dutifully reads from his teleprompter.

"Religious people are stupid," the political talking-point writers assure the candidates, "We'll just throw in some pseudo-pious bunk and their pack-doggy instincts will kick in and they'll roll right over for the big Alpha Dog in the Sky."
Stephen SCHEWE | 4/11/2012 - 6:11pm
Paul Ryan is a big fan of Ayn Rand; in fact, he's been quoted as saying that Rand was the philospher who influenced him most to enter public service.  As an atheist and an advocate of ''the ethic of selfishness,'' Rand's views are hard to square with the Gospels.  Taking Congressman Ryan at his word that he accepts (using his definition) a preferential option for the poor and won't cut assistance to them, we would still need to discover how Ryan plans to pay for the $4 trillion tax cut (dropping the corporate rate from 35% to 25%) generated over 10 years by his proposal.  He's on record as saying he won't cut defense.  Where's the money going to come from?  There will certainly be more tax revenue from an economy fueled by further tax cuts, but only the most credulous would claim $4 trillion from growth.  Historically, when cuts to government are threatened, the losers are the programs protected by less effective lobbying, which means the programs for the poor will be most threatened.

Alternatively, would Congressman Ryan be willing to build systemic preferential options for the poor into government in return for passing his economic program?  Would he be willing to advocate, for example, a free college education for people from families that earn less than $25,000 annually, or universal access to health insurance (with no mandate of course) with premiums subsidized for those with low incomes?  Or a loan jubilee - once in a life time loan forgiveness? Or passage of the federal version of the Dream Act?  These provisions would increase the overall cost of Ryan's budget to the rest of us, but they would establish his bona fides to the least among us without encouraging chronic dependency on government assistance.

A lot of what we're going to hear in the next six months will be positional negotiating. After the election, I hope all parties will engage in sustained principled negotiation, starting from the Simpson Bowles recommendations, to solve our fiscal problems.   During this election season, ask your representatives to support Simpson-Bowles next year.
Joshua DeCuir | 4/11/2012 - 5:22pm
"The Wisconsin Dem Party chair is as Catholic as Ryan, that makes his perspective and rebuttal relevant. In fact, I located the quote within CBN's own coverage of the interview. Following your logic, that makes CBN a shill for the Dems as well, I suppose."

That may be so; then Ryan's view (istm) is as equally valid as the Chairman's view.  In other words, if both are 'as Catholc' as the other, why are you giving his view added weight and using it as a critique of Ryan's view?

"I think it is exceedingly disingenuous to blame the nation's problematic public ed system on the Dems and the teachers' unions."

Apparently you've missed out on significant commentary in this area.  I'd suggest you start with "Waiting for Superman" (which was made by the same guy, by the by, that made "An Inconvenient Truth").  For other evidence of this, I'd suggest you re-visit President Obama's recent actions pulling the plug on the DC school voucher program.

"I notice the system seems to work fairly well in suburban districts where they do believe in throwing money at the "probelm."
 Mind providing some evidence for this observation?  I like to believe I follow education policy fairly closely; I don't think this is a fair summary of the situation.

"I don't doubt Moynihan wasn't a fan of them, but remember they were intended to be an improvement over the "slums" they were replacing, and remember, too, poverty-striken Americans are not, and were not, located only in public housing."

That's all well-and-good, but I am referring to the actions more recently in cities such as my own - New Orleans - where Democrats attempted to block the destruction of these islands of social dysfunction in favor of mixed-income housing that many of the residents openly favored.  Furthermore, it simpl is inaccurate to disavow that public housing was a central element of Democratic social welfare in the 1960s.  I think you'd find the work of William Julius Wilson helpful in clarifying this matter.

T BLACKBURN | 4/11/2012 - 3:03pm
Following Ryan closely (since I am afraid my ordinary will strongly suggest I vote for his ticket), I have begun to understand the parable: The beggar wound up in the bosom of Abraham precisely because the rich Lazarus did not allow him to become dependent on handouts. Had Lazarus shared his scrumptious repasts, they both would have wound up where Lazarus did, wishing for a drop of water.

Got it. Wil go and do likewise. Amen.