Now, neither of these have (or will) become law. These annual budgets are merely proposals and are often political statements of priority. Both the President and the House write their budgets, not realistically, but extremely, hoping that once negotiation begins, they’ll walk away with more of what they want.
But still, like I said, these proposals are expressions of priority and direction to which a party will try and “bend” the nation’s spending. The House Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan, said as much when he unveiled the plan (upon which he bears the final word), calling it “a choice between two futures” (others called it “careless”).
Now, I know Catholics have been in the news lately for seemingly “over-Conservative” views on contraceptives, but they actually have a long history of very thoughtful and nuanced views on economics and the role that the Christian-informed conscience should have on these decisions. (In one of my favorite pieces of long-form journalism, Michael Wachter walks through the history of the Catholic Church in American economic and justice efforts, and championing a “Corporatist” view of economic stewardship. It’s a great and insightful economic read.)
Anyway, Ryan is a devout and proud Roman Catholic, but the budget proposal he is promoting is one that drew sharp ire yesterday from one prominent Catholic justice organization, Catholics United, an organization “dedicated to promoting the message of justice and the common good found at the heart of the Catholic Social Tradition”
In their press release, they point out the influence of Objectivist author and writer Ayn Rand on Congressman Ryan (he has proudly spoken of how she is the reason why he’s in politics), how this has influenced his budget, and how this is antithetical to a Catholic (or I would say “Christian”)-influenced budget. Or, as James Salt, their Executive Director puts it, “The recently-released budget saddens me as it’s clear Congressman Ryan continues to follow the teachings of Ayn Rand, not Jesus Christ.”
Here’s a fuller quote. Enjoy:
Rand, whose doctrine states self-sacrifice for one’s friends—a core tenet of Christianity—is akin to slavery, teaches the value of the self over all others. In her worldview, self-interest and greed take the place of a higher power.
Ryan’s budget emulates Randian principles by decimating safety net programs and turning them into voucher-based systems, ostensibly ignoring the human dignity of the most vulnerable in society. Catholics United calls on Congressman Ryan to sincerely examine his conscience and recognize the devastating impact his Rand-inspired budget will have on the most vulnerable in society. The social Darwinist teachings of Ayn Rand have consistently been denounced by major Catholic leaders as antithetical to Catholic doctrine.
“This is not the time for political ideology to trump human dignity,” said James Salt, executive director of Catholics United. “… For Catholics, there is no debate on this issue: the needs of the poor and vulnerable take preference over the needs of the wealthy and powerful—period. It’s puzzling and frustrating Congressman Ryan and so many self-proclaimed Catholics in Congress ignore this fundamental Catholic teaching.”
What are your thoughts on this influence of Christian thought upon political and economic action?
This post is part of an occasional, on-going series exploring ways that it coudl help us all to be a little more Catholic in our thinking and theology.