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Take the Deal

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By definition, no compromise is perfect. Given the circumstances, the question facing members of Congress is not even whether or not the compromise struck by negotiators is so bad that they cannot support it. The question is whether or not the agreement would be worse than a government default. That is an easy question to answer.

The worst part of the deal is obvious: It requires no new taxes and it closes no existing tax loopholes. It is a scandal that the wealthiest pay less of a percentage of their income than the middle class. It is a scandal that the right-wing mantra about “job-killing tax increases” has been accepted as Gospel when, in fact, budget cuts will have a worse immediate effect on the economy and jobs than would a tax cut. Money that goes to the poor through government social programs is guaranteed to be spent. A tax cut may be spent, but it might not: As we know, corporations are currently sitting on huge mountains of cash. As I have argued before, if tax cuts resulted in job growth, the last ten years would have seen full employment. They did not.

Bernie Sanders Telling It Like It Is

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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the only self-identified socialist in Congress, tells it like it is. Congress is set to do exactly what the American people do not want it to do. Instead of focusing on addressing the obscene anomalies of a tax code that has billionaires paying a lower rate than the average Joe, Congress is about to further deflate the economy by cutting spending. How did Obama and the Democrats lose the debate so thoroughly? And, if you, dear reader, are one of those people who sat out the midterm election, shame on you too.

Atheists Sue Over Ground Zero Cross

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According to Huff Post, a group of Atheists are suing to have the "Ground Zero Cross" removed from the museum being erected at the site or, in the alternative, to have a bunch of other religious and non-religious symbols included in the museum.
I have no objection to this latter course. Indeed, I think the atheists just need a bit of patience. The Ground Zero site will become like the wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial here in Washington. People will leave all sorts of mementoes and the museum should find a way to display them regularly. A memorial, like a church, grows into its own cultural niche with time. There was a time when Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was pristine, not ancient. Now, the stone has been softened by the years, and by incense, and by the smoke from burning candles, and by prayer.

Schneck on Conscience Rights

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In case you missed it on our NCR homepage, Professor Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at CUA, has a fine essay on the need to include broad conscience protections in the mandated coverage plan forthcoming from the Department of Health and Human Services.
A source close to the negotiations expressed confidence that the final decision by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, due out next Monday, will allow Catholic organizations to continue their missions and ministry, that the conscience protections will be strong enough. Certainly, as Schneck points out, the political prospects for the new rules - and for Obama's re-election - will only be strengthened by including such conscience protections.

What Gov. Perry Meant to Say

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You could see this one coming.
Last week, when asked about New York State's decision to legalize gay marriage, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said, "That's New York, and that's their business, and that's fine with me." Perry was giving voice to his states' rights' advocacy.
But, predictably, his comment did not sit well with social conservatives who value the fight against gay marriage more than they value any antiquated ideas about states' rights.
Yesterday, Perry backtracked after a meeting with Family Research Council head Tony Perkins. "I probably needed to add a few words after that ‘it’s fine with me,’ and that it’s fine with me that a state is using their sovereign rights to decide an issue. Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn’t changed."
Score one for the social conservatives. They remain the bedrock of any GOP primary electorate and potential presidential candidates ignore them at their peril.

De-Bunking the CW on Partisanship

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At least one good thing has emerged from the debt ceiling negotiations. The conventional wisdom that Washington is mired in partisanship has been debunked. Washington doesn’t suffer from too much partisanship, indeed it can’t suffer from too much partisanship because there is no such thing any more as a political party.

Can you imagine Speaker Sam Rayburn having a day like Speaker John Boehner had yesterday? Of course not. This does not reflect poorly on Speaker Boehner’s leadership or intelligence or powers of persuasion. It reflects the fact that today the smoke-filled room is gone, not an entirely bad thing that, but it has not been replaced by any other appropriate venue for forging compromises and cutting deals. That power to cut a deal and make it stick no longer exists within the walls of Congress.

White House on +Sambi

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President Obama sent a personal letter to Pope Benedict XVI expressing his condolences to the Holy Father on the death of Archbishop Sambi. That letter has not been released to the press. However, Vice President Biden, who lived across the street from the apostolic nunciature, released the following statement this afternoon:
Statement by Vice President Biden on the Passing of Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi

It is with great sorrow and sense of loss that I learned of the passing of the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, the Most Reverend Archbishop Pietro Sambi. I greatly appreciated Archbishop Sambi’s friendship and counsel; he brought a deep sense of empathy and comfort to the many lives that he influenced. I also long admired his distinguished diplomatic service for the Roman Catholic Church in this country, as well as in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Europe. Archbishop Sambi was held in great esteem by all Americans who met him as he traveled the length and breadth of this country. Our condolences and prayers are with Archbishop Sambi’s family and friends.

Statements on Abp Sambi

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A variety of Catholic leaders have issued statements on the death of Archbishop Pietro Sambi. These statements give some indication of the high regard in which he was held and how much he will be missed.
From Professor Stephen Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at CUA:

The Holy See has lost a diplomat of grace and charm. By combination brilliant and pious, jovial and savvy, Archbishop Sambi was at the heart of the excellent relations between the administration and the Vatican and will be sorely missed.

From Sister Carol Keehan, of the Catholic Health Association:
The death of Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., is a great loss to the Church, especially in the United States.
Archbishop Sambi was a wonderful and joyful servant of his Lord. He loved the Church in the United States and was loved in return.

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April 11-24, 2014

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