Some 4,000 pastors nationwide signed an open letter to Congress asking that social programs that help the poor and the marginalized not be cut during the final budget negotiations. The pastors point out that real people will be hurt by these cuts, which are usually discussed in DC as if they were mere line items in a budget. The letter is powerful and if your pastor has not signed it, urge him to do so.
Yesterday, Our Sunday Visitor posted a column by Congressman Paul Ryan in which he explained how he understands Catholic Social Teaching and how he applied it to his budget proposals. Today, OSV has an article from Professor Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at CUA presenting a vastly different, and far more accurate, explanation of how Ryan's budget does and does not cohere with Catholic teaching.
GOP presidential aspirant Tim Pawlenty, the former Governor of Minnesota, has posted a video in which he explains how his faith informs all that he does. Unsurprisingly, he repeats the idea that the Separation of Church & State was designed to protect the Church from the State, which is only half the story: The founders clearly also wanted government free from ecclesiastical interference. And, in speaking of traditional marriage, he notes that the Bible teaches the centrality of marriage between one man and one woman, neglecting the fact that the Hebrew Scriptures are also filled with instances of polygamy.
But, as an RC, I was especially interested in the almost breezy way he described the way he left the Catholic Church to join his wife's evangelical church. I am just enough of a stiff-necked Catholic to miss the days when it was virtually assumed that a mixed-marriage would result in the non-Catholic becoming Catholic. I can understand why a person would leave the Catholic Church and become an atheist or an agnostic, but I simply cannot understand how someone would leave the Catholic Church to join a Protestant denomination. I will never understand it.
Here is the video:
According to an article in The Atlantic, the church Michele Bachmann attended for many years, the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota, holds to the belief that the Pope is the Anti-Christ.
And you thought the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was a problem?
Students of Catholic Church history will recall a different association with Stillwater. It was there, in 1891, that Archbishop John Ireland oversaw an arrangement with the public schools in which the local school board rented the parochial school during school hours, nuns provided instruction but were both certified and paid by the government, and an religious instruction occured outside of regular school hours. The reulting controversy was one of the first battles between Ireland and the "Americanists" and the conservatives led by Archbishop Michael Corrigan of New York. The arrangement did not last, but the controversy did.
Alexander Burns at Politico explains that a recent Quinnipiac poll has bad numbers for everyone in Washington, but better numbers for President Obama than you might think. For example, although voters disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy, by a whopping 56-38 percent, they still trust him more than Republicans to fix the economy, 45-38 percent. On particvular issues, like raising taxes on the wealthy to help close the budget deficit, voters overwhelmingly side with the President over the Republicans.
I hope these numbers allow the President to feel a bit easier about his prospects and, consequently, to be a little less eager to strike a deal that entails more capitulation to the GOP than it does concessions from them. There needs to be a balance and Obama seems to have put his finger on the center of the electroate pretty well. Better to say, the GOP has been so busy pandering to its base, that they have driven off the reservation of the sane people, leaving the political center to Obama.
Finally, it appears that the Holy See is set to accept the resignation of Philadelphia’s embattled archbishop, Cardinal Justin Rigali and to name his replacement. A source tells me a press conference can be expected as early as tomorrow or, more likely, early next week.
Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, writing at Get Religion, does all the heavy lifting taking on Bill keller's recent review of the book "Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy." It is hard not to agree with Hemingway that the Times' blinders are so comprehensive, they don't even know they are wearing them.
Bill Galston has a very smart article up at the New Republic in which he argues that the reason the economic recovery is so anemic is not, as the Dems suggest, we need more stimulus nor, as the GOP suggests, that taxes are too high, but that in the past couple of decades, Americans became way, way too indebted and that instead of investing in the economy with new purchases, families are still busy paying down debt. Most of that debt is, of course, mortgage related. His conclusion: "I wonder what would happen if the financial wizards whose innovations helped crater the world economy turned their attention to devising a plan for reducing household debt to healthier levels without destabilizing systemically important lenders. One thing, though, is clear: Nothing of the sort will happen unless President Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner set aside their incomprehensible passivity and fealty to the financial community’s cramped vision and get to work on the problem."
Quinnipiac now has Michele Bachmann solidly in second place in a new national poll with 14 percent of the vote, more than doubling her showing in their last poll. Mitt Romney still leads the pack with 25 percent.
The danger for Romney is, of course, that he is a thoroughly known quantity. People around the country are just getting to know Bachmann and she is telegenic and smart and charismatic. Look for her numbers to continue to rise. Additionally, the Quinnipiac poll has Sarah Palin in third with 12 percent of the vote and Rick Perry in fourth with ten percent. But, it is far from clear either Palin or Perry will decide to run, and it is far from certain their supporters would tend towards Romney.
Increasingly, it looks like Romney's best hope is that Palin or Perry does enter the race, splitting the anti-Romney vote. Otherwise, Romney is in for a tough road.
How bad is the federal tax code? One loophole has gotten much deserved attention. Under current law, hedge fund managers classify their bonuses as capital gains and pay only taxes only at a 15 percent rate instead of the current highest personal income tax rate of 35 percent. (Yes, the bonuses are large enough to ensure that the managers are paying the highest rate.) Mind you, the bonuses are not a reward for their capital but for their work.
How much would be saved by closing this loophole? $20 billion over ten years. In fact, if you only closed the loophole for the top 25 hedge fund managers, would raise $4 billion in new revenue, the same amount of taxes collected from 441,000 middle class families.
$20 billion will not close the federal budget gap. But, it is shocking and worse than shocking - and immoral - to maintain such incongruous loopholes while gutting programs that help the poor.
(h/t Center for American Progress)