In the on-going debate about the federal budget, several conservative Catholics have sought to defend the draconian cuts in federal spending being demanded by the House Republicans by invoking the principle of subsidiarity. The cuts are so manifestly directed at programs that assist the poor, while demanding precisely no sacrifices from the wealthy, that the invocation of subsidiarity bears the appearance of a fig leaf. Actually, the reality is worse.
Subsidiarity is the idea societal issues and problems are best dealt with at lower levels of social organization, and that the higher levels should intervene only when the lower levels have failed to achieve the social goal in question. So, the most basic social unit, the family, should deal with whatever problems it can, then turn to the community, the state and only as a last resort should the federal government be employed.