Blatant Conservative Ignorance: It Never Ends

Hey Romney Supporters, I got a bone to pick with all of you

Mr. Romney has been traveling around the country telling supporters that President Obama gutted welfare reform by taking the work requirement out of welfare. Continue reading

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The Relentless Propaganda Machine that is Fox News: An Appeal to Viewers

Disclaimer: I am perfectly prepared to have a serious discussion in the blogosphere on any topic with conservatives as long as it does not degrade into disrespectful partisan bickering. I wish our politicians, on both sides, could do the same. I am not a liberal.  I am not a conservative.  I am not a libertarian.  Personally, I prefer not to identify with a single ideology because it locks you in to a certain way of thinking and then, inevitably, you become close-minded.  In fact, I possess some opinions which liberals would find rather distasteful. Continue reading

Obama Needs to Tell It Like It is: The Debt Burden is Not That Important

President Obama really needs to quit it with the timid act.  It’s getting old.  It’s getting tiresome.  And it’s the exact reason why the 2008 platform of “Hope and Change” has come up empty. Continue reading

Mitt Romney Picks Paul Ryan for VP: The Panderer’s Perfect Choice

Romney and Ryan Basking in the Glory………For Now

Since he became the GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney has done nothing but pander to the radical right-wing Republican base.  The man has no ideology.  The man has no original ideas for fixing the economy or entitlement reform or foreign policy.  As a result, every time you listen to him speak, it’s just GOP talking point after GOP talking point after GOP talking point spewing out of his mouth. Continue reading

My thoughts on Obama’s Speech Yesterday: FINALLLLY

FIINALLY, President Obama has stated clearly how his economic vision for America stands in stark contrast to that of Mitt Romney and the Republicans.  Honestly, this kind of speech was long overdue.  What can Mitt Romney say now?  Obama answered all the charges and not only gave a strong defense but went on offense.  He still needs to give  a lot more specifics (which have been desperately lacking so far in this election from either side), and I sincerely hope that he does .  But nonetheless this was the starting point.  Let’s look at some of the points he made:

“At stake is not simply a choice between two candidates or two political parties, but between two paths for our country. And while there are many things to discuss in this campaign, nothing is more important than an honest debate about where these two paths would lead us.”

This election needs to stop being about stupid finger pointing and constantly playing the blame game and all the irrelevant side issues.  It needs to be an honest debate about each candidate’s vision for the economy.  I do not expect it to be because if it was Romney would not have any support, but nonetheless Obama needs to hold up on his side.

“We were told that huge tax cuts, especially for the wealthiest Americans, would lead to faster job growth. We were told that fewer regulations, especially for big financial institutions and corporations, would bring about widespread prosperity. We were told that it was OK to put two wars on the nation’s credit card; that tax cuts would create a enough growth to pay for themselves.  Over the last few decades the income of the top 1 percent grew by more than 275 percent, to an average of $1.3 million a year. Big financial institutions, corporations saw their profits soar.  But prosperity never trickled down to the middle class. From 2001 to 2008 we had the slowest job growth in half a century. The typical family saw their incomes halt.

He needs to continually emphasize (and get into more specifics) about how fewer regulations and tax cuts did not help but hurt the economy and how Romney will continue these same policies that have already been proven to fail.  Remember, Romney already embraced Paul Ryan’s budget and Obama needs to emphasize the finer points.  Its a budget that claims to reduce our deficit by closing tax loopholes but doesn’t actually specify which loopholes it would close.  Its basically cuts taxes for the rich and slashes benefits to the poor, (like that is really what we need now)  They are, in fact, even worse than the Bush tax cuts.  According to the Tax Policy Center, $4.6 trillion is the cost of these reductions, and they disproportionately benefit the wealthy.  Obama needs to attack this attempt to blow smoke up the American people’s “you know whats”

“Now, an independent study said that about 70 percent of this new $5 trillion tax cut would go to folks making over $200,000 a year. And folks making over a million dollars a year would get an average tax cut of about 25 percent.  Now, this is not my opinion. This is not political spin. This is precisely what they have proposed.”

The fact is, it is only the Republicans who can spin these numbers.  I believe they call begin the spin by using the phrase “demonizing the rich.”  I mean they have coined so many buzz phrases (“Demonizing success” is another one) in this election cycle, its gone beyond annoying is just starting to get plain insulting to our intelligence.  Folks at the top do not need more spending power.  They do not need more tax cuts.  It is a lack of demand from the middle and the lower class that is hurting this economy.

In fact, just the other week, one economist from Moody’s said the following about Mr. Romney’s plan — and I’m quoting here — “On net, all of these policies would do more harm in the short term.  If we implemented all of his policies, it would push us deeper into recession and make the recovery slower.”That’s not my spin.  That’s not my opinion.  That’s what independent economic analysis says.

He needs to keep emphasizing that it is the Republicans who want to spin everything, because otherwise they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on with their economic policy.  Romney won’t even answer tough questions from the media anymore and is constantly avoiding the press.  The reasons are clear. He can only win on the economy by manipulation of the facts.  Its terrible.  It’s disgusting.  It’s immoral that one of our potential candidates wants to manipulate and deceive in order to gain power, but unfortunately this is nothing new to American politics.

So, no, I don’t believe the government is the answer to all our problems.  I don’t believe every regulation is smart, or that every tax dollar is spent wisely.  I don’t believe that we should be in the business of helping people who refuse to help themselves.  (Applause.)  But I do share the belief of our first Republican President, from my home state — Abraham Lincoln — that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves.

He needs to keep refuting these stupid and untrue Republican talking points like the one smaller government is the cure for everything.  We are all in this together,  The American people and the American government.  Republicans like to forget that we are a community of people and our decisions affect each other, and that there should be no winners and losers.  It is basically the premise of why Republican policies will never fix the economy.  Businesses are not spending enough because consumers are not spending enough  The government is not spending enough, and often it is not spending wisely.  And when no one’s spending, unemployment is high.  The problem is Americans are not purchasing American products.  Total spending is down and if my spending is your income, as Paul Krugman Nobel Prize winning economist puts it, the country falls into depression.  Conservatives do not understand that we got out of the Great Depression by Government spending on the World War II effort.  People became employed.  Incomes  Consumer spending rose.  Businesses thrived.  The problem is that right now we are not making use of our full productive capacity.

Catholic Social Teaching, Conservatism, and the Economy

“The Lay Commission on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. economy” was one of the five groups mobilized to give influential criticism on the Bishop’s 1986 letter, Economic Justice for All.  The commission was led by former Treasury Secretary William Simon and Vice Chairman Michael Novak and composed of thirty business and government leaders including J. Peter Grace, chair of President Reagan’s Commission on spending cuts in the federal government, as well as Alexander Haig, former Secretary of State under President Reagan.  The text (Catholic Social Teaching and Movements by Marvin Mich) asks “to what extent did the lay committee “hear what the bishops were saying.  I think it is plainly apparent that all the Bishop’s criticisms of America’s economic system went in one ear and out the other.  One particular criticism from the Simon and Novak approach particularly confuses me.  It says “they argue that more important than any flaws in the current economic system is the larger breakdown in the moral/cultural traditions upon which our political and economic systems ultimately rest.”  This statement makes no sense at all.  The “flaws in our current economic system” that they speak of are a direct result of the “larger breakdown in the moral/cultural traditions”, which they mistakenly deem as being more important.  The two are not mutually exclusive.  One is not more important than the other.  One is dependent on the other.  Why has our federal tax system gotten significantly less and less progressive since 1960?  In 1954 our top marginal income tax rate was 91%.  Now it is just 35%.  What is the justification for the rich paying the same rate as the poor on the payroll tax?  What is the reason for dramatic cuts to the estates tax and capital gains tax which are taxes paid by the wealthy?  These are “flaws in our current economic system” that can only be explained by a fundamental breakdown in our moral principles.  Less progressivity in the tax code tells us that our government favors the rich over the poor.  How exactly can “The lay Commission on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy” not find that immoral?  By refusing to acknowledge that Catholic Social teaching has valuable insight on fixing the flaws of the American capitalist economy, the commission is refusing to recognize that there is a moral dimension to the marketplace.

Now I do not think the criticisms of this commission are any surprise given the fact that it was composed of conservative business and government leaders.  Conservatives will stand by their unwavering ideological standards whatever the cost, even if they go against the principles of economic justice as well as just basic common sense.  Most recently, they have pledged not to raise taxes, refusing even to close loopholes, even though it has always remained a fact that in order to reduce our federal deficit it will take a combination of both wise tax increases and wise spending cuts, not just one or the other.  The Republican Party is also amazingly opportunistic and inconsistent when it comes to abiding by Catholic principles.  They’re all friendly to the Catholic bishops when it comes to relatively unimportant social issues like abortion and birth control, but when these same bishops try to give counsel on the economic problems that plague our nation they conveniently refuse to listen.

Take our great Speaker of the House John Boehner, for instance, commenting on the Catholic Bishop’s response to Paul Ryan’s proposed budget plan.  The Bishops have pointed out that the proposed budget fails to meet “moral criteria”.  They have written a series of letters addressed to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, arguing that the proposed spending cuts disproportionately hurt the poor (which they do by the way)  In one document they write, “Just solutions … must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs. The House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.”   All John Boehner can say is “”I want them to take a bigger look,” and the bigger look is, if we don’t make decisions, these programs won’t exist, and then they’ll really have something to worry about.”  Um, Mr. Boehner it is you who refuses to take “the bigger look.”  The fact is the Ryan budget gets 62% of its spending cuts from programs that help lift poor people out of poverty.  Here is another fact, Mr. Boehner.  It DOES NOT, I repeat DOES NOT have to be this way.  The fact is, by all standards of moral decency and common sense, America can and should reduce its deficit without making these radical cuts and hurting the most vulnerable Americans.  How about making the tax code more progressive, which they staunchly refuse to do?  For starters, tax capital gains at a higher rate.  Why not make the top marginal rate somewhere between 45 to 50%?  Analyze each tax expenditure and reform the ones that need fixing.  Raise and reform the estate tax.  These are just some of the more sensible and moral proposals that will reduce our deficit.  I intend to expand and give more details in a later post.  But suffice it to say, as usual, Republicans, rather than deal with reality, prefer to stick to their flawed ideology no matter the cost to the American people.  I should be fair though.  This is a characteristic of most politicians, not just Republicans.  Obama’s budget proposal is not perfect either and I will also address that in a later post.  But it is so easy to pick on Republicans because they are so arrogant and insufferable when it comes to defending their positions on certain issues, positions that are often not in touch with reality.  For instance, let’s take the case of Mr. Congressman Paul Ryan defending his budget.  He recently claimed that his Catholic faith inspired his 2012 budget proposal.  That’s laughable.  Honestly, how stupid does this guy think we are?  The Catholic bishops expressly condemn his budget based on Christian principles, like preferential option for the poor, and he’s trying to save face by saying that his Christian faith guided him in its construction?  He’s not even a Christian.  His biggest influence is the philosopher Ayn Rand who “says that each person should pursue the values that achieve your own individual self-interest and happiness.” (Sider 46)  Ryan has been quoted as saying that Ayn Rand is “the reason I got involved in public service.” (Sider 46)  And he’s trying to convince us he’s a follower of Jesus?  Give us a break.  But, honestly, can you expect anything less from a politician these days?

Sider, Ronald. Fixing the Moral Deficit: A Balanced Way to Balance the Budget. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012. Print.

Mich, Marvin. Catholic Social Teaching and Movements. 7. New London, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1998. Print.

Intellectual Freedom

Last semester, I took a religion class entitled “Introduction to Basic Themes and Theology”.  On the one hand, I was angry that my college required me to take this class for a number of reasons.  One, I was a biology major and failed to see the connection between a religion class and the knowledge I would need for a future career in medicine.  Secondly, even though I had recently, in a long journey of self-reflection, decided to become a believer in God, I still harbored this very negative perception of religion and dreaded the idea of listening to a college professor expound the virtues of Christian theology.  On the other hand, I have always prided myself on having an open mind, always receptive to fresh perspectives and new ideas, and this was a chance to gain new perspective.  In a previous post, entitled “A Framework for Education”, I put forth a model for an educational system with the ultimate goal of creating a mutually supportive society.  Branching outwardly from this goal were four objectives I defined as skill sets, understandings, and abilities which our educational system will have to develop in its students in order so that this goal can be achieved.  One of those objectives was self-awareness.  I defined self-awareness as the ability to identify one’s passions and dreams and recognize how they have been influenced by cultural and political norms.  I went further on to say, “To be truly self-aware one must not only know what one passionate and convicted about, but also how outside influences have shaped those convictions.  Criticism of one’s self is essential to being truly objective and therefore not being subservient to the cultural and political environment in which you live.”

Now suffice it to say I would not be repeating all this, if I didn’t think it was absolutely critical to my next point.  In today’s world it is unbelievably easy…almost too easy to be turned off by religion.  You have the battle between evolutionism and creationism which many believe is a battle between Christian doctrine and scientific theory, you have the rise of Islamic fundamentalism across the globe, you have the battle between pro life and pro choice advocates on abortion, you have the widespread belief that religion infringes so drastically upon personal freedom, you have Pat Robertson attributing the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to a pact sworn to the Devil by the Haitian people, you have the Christian Right arguing for the introduction of Creationism into the public school curriculum, you have Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and North Africa, you have Boko Haram in Nigeria, you have theocratic societies in the Middle East who believe their religion tells them that women can’t drive cars and that Israel needs to be wiped off the face of the earth……ok I’m done…but trust me there’s more.

Now it’s so easy, almost too easy to say to myself”Oh religion is telling me to blindly believe in a God that I can’t see with my own two eyes, religion is telling me to fly planes into buildings and kill scores of people in the name of God, religion is trying to tell me that Jews are the scourge of this earth, religion is trying to tell me that even though I have suffered the horror of rape and never wanted this baby I can’t have an abortion, religion is trying to tell me that the earth was created in a thousand years when science proves to me it took much longer….and these are the many reasons why I hate religion”.

Now hearkening back to the importance of self-awareness, I pose a question, “Am I not being wholly and totally subservient to the cultural and political environment in which I live if I automatically denounce religion as irrational, controlling, and destructive after say watching the events of September 11, after reading that Boko Haram blew up another police station in Nigeria,  listening to Pat Robertson make the outrageous claim that the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for America’s abortion policy?”

What I have come to realize is that we are immersed in a culture of fear, doubt, and power.  There are too many people out there who all they want is power and influence over you.  They want influence over your thoughts and your ideologies.  They want to tell you who to hate and who to love.  They want to tell you how the world works and what is right and what is wrong.  They want to instill blind fear in you.  They all have an agenda and they want you blindly buy in to what they’re selling.  They rather lie than tell you the truth.  They want you to join in their cause whatever it may be, pitting one side against another.  They have no morals and no scruples.  They call Barrack Obama a socialist.  They fly planes into buildings in the name of Allah.  They refuse to compromise on anything.  They sit in our Congress.  They reside on our major news networks.  They are our presidential candidates  They use buzz words and phrases to get you to stand up and cheer.  They tell you what you want to hear.  They play to your prejudices.  They instill in you prejudices.  They tell you why to hate the other side.  They give you no room for clarity.  They give you no room for free thought.  They sit behind their bully pulpits whether it be on the radio or on television and spew hatred.  Hatred for the right, hatred for the left, hatred of religion, religious backed hatred.

Well I’m so tired of it.  I’m so tired of people who have nothing better to do but to take something so good, so fundamentally and inherently good and distort it for money, power, and influence.  I’m so tired of people who have nothing better to do but play politics and blame the other side instead of working together to solve problems.  I’m so tired of people who rather foster conflict than community.  And the only place where I find any explanation for these things, any logical explanation for why these things happen and how we could move away from this type of world and towards a more peaceful, just, intellectually free, and communal society….is Catholic Social thought.  Its not Republican.  Its not Democrat.  Its not extremist.  Its not socialist.  Its not Communist.  Its not atheist.  Its not agnostic.  Its not ideologically stifling.  Its not establishment.  Its not anti-establishment.  Its not anarchist.  Its not pro big government.  Its not anti big government……………Its just human.  The only thing that Catholic Social thought is subservient to is the cause to further human dignity and making the world a better environment for all human beings to flourish…..not the state, or the party, or the government, or the rich people, or the interest groups, or any backwards, hatred spreading ideology

Here are several passages from the 1971 encyclical Octagesima Adveniens which relate to this issue:

Ideologies and Human Liberty

26. Therefore the Christian who wishes to live his faith in a political activity which he thinks of as service cannot without contradicting himself adhere to ideological systems which radically or substantially go against his faith and his concept of man. He cannot adhere to the Marxist ideology, to its atheistic materialism, to its dialectic of violence and to the way it absorbs individual freedom in the collectivity, at the same time denying all transcendence to man and his personal and collective history; nor can be adhere to the liberal ideology which believes it exalts individual freedom by with drawing it from every limitation, by stimulating it through exclusive seeking of interest and power, and by considering social solidarities as more or less automatic consequences of individual initiatives, not as an aim and a major criterion of the value of the social organization.

27. Is there need to stress the possible ambiguity of every social ideology? Sometimes it leads political or social activity to be simply the application of an abstract, purely theoretical idea; at other times it is thought which becomes a mere instrument at the service of activity as a simple means of a strategy.

In both cases is it not man that risks finding himself alienated? The Christian faith is above and is sometimes opposed to the ideologies, in that it recognizes God, who is transcendent and the Creator, and who, through all the levels of creation, calls on man as endowed with responsibility and freedom.

28. There would also be the danger of giving adherence to an ideology which does not rest on a true and organic doctrine, to take refuge in it as a final and sufficient explanation of everything, and thus to build a new idol, accepting, at times without being aware of doing so, its totalitarian and coercive character. And people imagine they find in it a justification for their activity, even violent activity, and an adequate response to a generous desire to serve. The desire remains but it allows itself to be consumed by an ideology which, even if it suggests certain paths to man’s liberation, ends up by making him a slave.

When I read this, I think of the current race for the Republican nomination.  I think of the United States Congress, its 9% approval rating and its lack of bipartisan ability due to ideological enslavement.  I think of everything that is wrong with our political system.  Another quote from the same document, “

25. Political activity – need one remark that we are dealing primarily with an activity, not an ideology? – should be the projection of a plan of society which is consistent in its concrete means and in its inspiration, and which springs from a complete conception of man’s vocation and of its differing social expressions. It is not for the State or even for political parties, which would be closed unto themselves, to try to impose an ideology by means that would lead to a dictatorship over minds, the worst kind of all. It is for cultural and religious groupings, in the freedom of acceptance which they presume, to develop in the social body, disinterestedly and in their own ways, those ultimate convictions on the nature, origin and end of man and society. .

Let me ask you.  What is the nature of political activity in this country?  Just look at our current race for the Republican nomination.  Is this race mostly an attempt to gain “dictatorship over minds”or is it “the projection of a plan of society which is consistent in its concrete means and in its inspiration, and which springs from a complete conception of man’s vocation and of its differing social expressions?

You tell me….