Catholics Aren’t Crazy: Paul Ryan & the 2013 House Budget


Yesterday, House Republicans unveiled their own 2013 budget to counter President Obama’s proposed budget.

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.

5 thoughts on “Catholics Aren’t Crazy: Paul Ryan & the 2013 House Budget

  1. It’s hard because so called “safety nets” which we know can often be blurred with “hand-outs”/”entitlements” depending on how far we take them, can actually end up crippling people, imprisoning them to their current state, a la http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55aujTwuJY8 . I know, it’s kind of a weird video, but you get the point. I think we know one thing, the Christian answer is not to just “throw” money at poor people without a good plan. Similarly, giving is such a personal thing, especially to the Christian…why should we trust the government to give our money away, which we believe is God’s, in an intentional, Christian-influenced way. Perhaps it’s actually haphazard to do this with our money. This all goes on the premis though that you don’t end up hoarding your money or using it on yourself instead. That’s what most people would do (I’m not talking about committed Christians but your common, secular person or nominal Christian) I believe, if they were taxed less.

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  2. A few things:

    First, medicare and medicaid are not “safety nets” and actually serve their clients pretty darn well.

    Second, the whole “spider web” thing is not nearly as true as we assume, and those for whom it’s true are those receiving government benefits without social services attached to them. They are the loners abusing the system. As you cut those aspects of the budget, those social services are the first things to go-not the benefits. And so, with these cuts, you’re actually creating MORE leeches on the system, not less.

    Third, giving is a very personal thing for Christians. So…what if a Christian wants to give his tax money and vote in such a way that that tax money is used to help those he/she cannot.

    And lastly, there is still NO evidence that cutting taxes for the rich benefits ANYONE but themselves (and the politicians who vote for these budgets)-not the economy, not the poor, not the unemployment rate, not their companies, and not their workers.

    Time and time again, it has been shown that there is no connection between the tax rate of an individual and their choices as executive of their company. Whether they hire or lay-off is determined by the economy overall, and has no correlation to whether they are taxed 10% or 80%.

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