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Bishops Rightly Criticize Ryan’s Budget Proposal


Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 01:04

Photo by Zia Nizami/MCT Campus

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has denounced Paul Ryan’s proposed budget in a series of letters.

The messages of caring for the needy and loving the poor within the Bible seem to have been lost on Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and replaced with messages of tax breaks for the rich and oil subsidies.

Maybe that explains why the congressman from Wisconsin stated that his Catholic faith contributed to the shaping of his controversial budget plan. The proposal was passed by the House in a vote in which only 10 GOP lawmakers defected and not a single Democrat crossed party lines. It contains tax cuts for the wealthy and massive government spending cuts. About 70 percent of the cuts would be used to finance additional tax cuts, and the rest would be used to reduce the deficit.

Ryan’s budget is hardly a courageous, adult or Christian move. Its primary function is nothing more than to publicly and unapologetically criticize President Obama in an election year, not to propose new ways to create jobs, as he would like you to believe.

His three big proposals are to drill for oil, to cut taxes for the super-rich and to cut taxes for corporations. His call to increase oil production, frankly, tastes like a stale saltine. The proposed tax cuts for the rich and for corporations are simply yet another Republican attempt to “create jobs” by stuffing the already bulging pockets of America’s wealthiest and further strain those who are already struggling financially. To add insult to injury, Ryan also slashes government programs that help America’s poor, such as food stamps.

All of this is merely recycled, musty old musings from the GOP handbook. What is really surprising about Ryan’s budget is his claim that this budget is the result he arrived at “using [his] Catholic faith” and following Catholic doctrine.

If Ryan wants to call his budget a venture to shrink the deficit, fine, but is it the product of Catholic inspiration? I think not. Slashing taxes for the rich and for corporations while drastically cutting food and medical aid to the poor does not reflect Catholic values in any way. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was quick to notice this as well, pointing out that various aspects of Ryan’s budget failed to live up to Catholic “moral criteria.”

The bishops sent letters to various congressional committees that were critical of Ryan’s budget, writing that, “A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons…It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.” In a letter to the Agriculture Committee, the bishops wrote flatly that the “unacceptable cuts to hunger and nutrition” programs should be rejected for “moral and human reasons.”

This criticism is not coming from the bongo-bearing crowds at Occupy Wall Street, but from American Catholic bishops. Yet, Ryan tried to diminish the importance of the letters criticizing his budget from the USCCB, saying that the group does not represent all bishops. “These are not all the Catholic bishops, and we just respectfully disagree,” Ryan said on Fox News.

Forgive me if I trust the judgment of America’s bishops more than Ryan’s as to what defines Catholic morality. Furthermore, USCCB spokesman Don Clemmer points out that the letters do, in fact, represent all Catholic bishops. “Bishops who chair USCCB committees are elected by their fellow bishops to represent all of the U.S. bishops on key issues at the national level,” Clemmer said. “The letters on the budget were written by bishops serving in this capacity.”

When politicians like Ryan bring religion into politics, they sully both religion and politics. To heartlessly slash spending for programs that help the needy in order to fill the coffers of the super-rich, and then turn around and claim that God inspired you to do so is just disgusting. Ryan unfairly gives the Catholic faith a bad name when he pretends that kissing the polished shoes of the rich and pushing the needy into the deep end without a life vest is the result of good Catholic conscience.

Canton Winer, FCRH ’15, is an undeclared major from West Palm Beach, Fla. 

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