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  • Protecting Ineffective Programs Doesn’t Protect the Poor

    On Saturday, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R–OH) delivered the commencement address at the Catholic University of America. In advance of his speech, a group of Catholic academics sent a public letter to Boehner, who is a practicing Catholic, accusing him of going against the teachings of his Church. At issue are proposed cuts to government welfare programs. Based largely on the 2012 budget that Boehner helped pass in the House, the academics charge him with undermining a moral obligation to help the poor.

    Their letter calls on Boehner to sign the “Circle of Protection,” an ecumenical statement by American Christian leaders who resist budget cuts for anti-poverty programs. Both the letter and the Circle of Protection statement declare that the budget debate is a moral debate and that Christians should care for the “least of these.” But both statements also jump directly from these moral principles to policy recommendations, with the implied assumption that disagreeing with these recommendations means refusing to prioritize the poor.

    Father Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute takes issue with that assumption:

    To jump so seamlessly from the Magisterium’s insistence on the fundamental and non-negotiable moral obligation to the poor to the specifics of contingent, prudential, and political legislation is wholly unjustified in Catholic social teaching. … Surely [the moral   theologians who signed the letter] know what the American Bishops stated in their own 1986 Pastoral Letter, “Economic Justice for All”: “There are also many specific points on which men and women of good will may disagree. We look for a fruitful exchange among differing viewpoints.”

    Sirico also finds fault with the tendency to equate concern for the poor with government spending:

    Indeed, it could be said that what these Catholic academicians are proposing is not a  “preferential option for the poor,” but rather a preferential option for the State. They make the unfortunately common error of assuming that concern for the economically weak and marginalized must somehow translate into (yet another) government program.

    The mere intention of a government program to help the poor doesn’t mean it actually achieves that goal. And allowing unsustainable spending on government welfare isn’t the most effective—or moral—way to protect the vulnerable. Heritage has explained a different approach to fighting poverty in The Economy Hits Home series and the Seek Social Justice curriculum.

    Sadly, neither the letter to Boehner nor the Circle of Protection calls for the elimination of welfare programs that don’t work or that trap recipients in dehumanizing cycles of dependence.

    Nor do the statements contain any discussion of what is or isn’t a legitimate function of government. If government programs currently exist, the assumption is that they should continue to exist and be exempt from debt-reduction debates. In the words of the Circle of Protection, “Funding focused on reducing poverty should not be cut. It should be made as effective as possible, but not cut.”

    Working through their churches and faith-based ministries, Catholics and Protestants are equipped to help those in need and advance the common good. They also bear a moral obligation to call on government to play its proper role in seeking justice. What’s needed is a better public discussion about the roles and responsibilities of these different institutions and which policies actually work to help people escape poverty.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    10 Responses to Protecting Ineffective Programs Doesn’t Protect the Poor

    1. Bobbie says:

      How dare government impose the Christian Faith with governments politics! Then take advantage of the faith! How come they don't address and politic the moral claims of Muslims and their said charitable nature?

      Obama said himself "America isn't a Christian nation anymore." That seems to be apparent as Christians are one people of inner strength amongst others of the same, that once populated America by self governance.

      Yet today under President Obama, the government tests a faith by obligating the faith to follow as government commands? The Christian faith serves GOD NOT GOVERNMENT! When mankind is in need, their God given ability will find them help if they choose and the good of people truly in need, won't look to government. This is wrong and discriminating the freedom of faith.

    2. P. Francis Linn, Mil says:

      Of course all Christians have an obligation to the poor. And few Christians, whether they be academics, legislators, or just plain old sinners, do as much to serve the poor as faith commands. But have the Catholic academics who wrote an open letter to Speaker Boehner actually concluded that one's obligation in Christian charity toward the poor is somehow satisfied by taking money from one person (through taxation or otherwise) and giving it to an anonymous poor person (or more likely by giving it to a bureaucrat in a program whose actual track record is to perpetuate poverty and the poverty industry). It is soft thinking, especially disappointing when coming from a Catholic academic or cleric, to confuse the obligation each has toward the poor in Christian charity with the necessity or even the appropriateness of a particular legislative proposal to provide relief for the poor or solutions to poverty. Reasonable people can of course differ on whether the poor are better helped by policies that promote the "right of economic initiative" (to use Pope John Paul II's words) than by bureaucratic and statist relief programs. But in terms of the Catholic worldview, surely these Catholic academics must know that Pope John Paul II strongly criticized the deficiencies of the “social assistance state", the excesses of which he concluded lead “to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.” (Centisimus Annus, n. 35) Despite the possibly good intentions of those with views like the academics who wrote the open letter to the Speaker, the reality is that in this country, the development of the social assistance state and the parallel imposition of ever more restrictions on the right of economic initiative have actually coincided and, many would submit, have caused a tremendous increase in the poor, in poverty, and in the loss of human dignity. The academics confuse their politics with their religion.

    3. George Colgrove, VA says:

      The Salvation Army can assist a human being with average funding of less than $20 per person. The feds spend upwards of $15,000 to do the same. The assistance provided by the S.A. is targeted and applied with precision. Any person of faith should argue that the money that goes to federal programs, which end up in lucrative federal worker compensation packages, and bureaucracy bloat should stay in the hands of the people. Even if the people donate just 10% of that to organizations such as S.A. and Good Will, their budgets would multiply abundantly and therefore more people will be served with not only a meal, but career counseling, a volunteer job and job training, an address to start the ball rolling and so on.

      Private Sector Faith-based solutions are holistic – providing the full package of relief mostly by people who were in the same situations as those who are in need. It is the advantage of faith based relief organizations that we do not have federal programs. If people were able to keep their hard earned cash and not have it wasted in DC, there would be less poor to start with, but people of means would be far more ready to donate cash to these far more caring, effective and efficient organizations.

      What people need to start thinking is just because it is government does not mean it is good. Look at what the federal workforce has done to this country. It plunged it into a never-ending debt that will be the creator of poverty for decades if we do not stop the spending NOW! I see more financial resources going in the direction of federal workers per capita, than to those who they are supposed to be supporting.

      If I had to put my faith in solving poverty, it is not with the feds. They have proven themselves to be very greedy with our money. I trust the faith-based organizations. They can do far more with much less.

    4. roger, michigan says:

      People MUST learn to stand on their own. Helping someone is one thing, giving them things is another. Welfare is a program gone wrong. Michigan now has a 48-month limit on welfare payments, with exceptiions. If people are young and healthy, make them work while helping them.

    5. Jeanne Stotler,Woodb says:

      The Bible tells us tht the "Poor" will be with us always. Some are just lazy, others have ailments, wether physical or mental that prevent them from attaining a job or keeping one, maybe they are only able to do work that pays min. wages. That being said, there are church run asoc. that also help, the Catholic church has St. John deVienny, and Catholic charities, There are also local org. such as here in Pr. Wm. Co, we have ACTS and SERVE, I know other churches have individual food pantries. Also we need to live by the adage, "Give a man a fish, and he has a meal, teach a man to fish and he eats for life" Remedial classes to teach skills etc. should be conducted on local levels. When what should be a non-profit org. gets the Gov't. involved, corruption is just around the corner and those who should be getting the help are left in the cold. Food stamps is a good idea BUT the corruption and abuse is costing way too much.

    6. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      When we ask for government programs to help the poor, we shirk our obligations as Christians who have been shown the greatest love in Christ or simply as citizens of the most blessed nation on earth to give our own time, talent and treasure to help our neighbor. I'll paraphrase Dr. Walter Williams in saying that helping our neighbor with our own treasure is praiseworthy, but taking treasure from one who has and giving it to another who has not is theft. We essentially do the latter when we ask for government programs to help the poor, and that is immoral.

    7. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Man Alive! Most of the Government Programs are Over Kill! They micro manage poor people into perpetual dependance! Glance over to Heritage Foundation's overcriminalized.com site. You will find Demo-crats hosting nothing but Unconstitutional Over Reach. I think the Demolition Plutocrats are pursuing a Strategy of Over Kill! Where Over Kill is doing the most Damage is in American Law! (Obama's turf!) Criminal Law has become new turf for the Thought Crime Over Lords. Oh! They're 'going to scrub out crime!' Make it impossible! "The People won't even dare to think about commiting a crime!" Over Kill! Oh! Blah te blah! That's absurd! Especially for the poor (who can't defend themselves in Court!) Police caused Damages are real Damages, not just probabilities of Damage. In Drug Law Possession is Evidence of Distribution. "We THINK you are selling drugs!" The Law contemplates a vast drug ring, God knows the Law has created it!

      The new Thought Crime Industry being so 'wonderful' and all, the People do not dare to talk to the Police! In all ways Over Kill is destructive of the precious civilization we have built! Thought Crime has touched everyone! No kidding! Unthinkable! Do you know? The biggest Secret we held at the State Level? (I wasn't sworn.) It was the unbelievable amount of Money the State (and the Municipalities) were making off Thought Crime in Traffic Law! Really! It was a sworn secret for High Officials! We went away far beyond our Safety Mandate! Scandalous amounts of Money were swindled from the People! (Often from the poorest ones!)

      The Progressive Weasels put Thought Crime into Law by hyperbolizing, actually lying in Chambers of Courts and Congress with Statistics! "Punish the People for Statistical Probabilities!" They Laundered the Money through the General Fund but it wasn't told, there was a Hidden Tax on Probabilities! It is proven to me that you don't give Police the power to pursue Informations! That's too much power! It has corrupted our otherwise Noble Police! Progressive Programs always harm the Poor! We are defined as Sovereign Citizens at Liberty Under God! The reason Communism never works is that Communism cuts off Spirit and Communism cuts out God! It is the Socialism Mind Set that keeps Americans poor. The Divine Design calls for the Children of God to Create their way out of trouble! Not to wait for the Government!

    8. Tim AZ says:

      So there are some self imposed intellectual elites within the church that are saying that we are bleeding from lawsuits and are no longer able to care for the poor and maintain our financial cushion. We now place the concerns of the poor in the hands of the govt. while we continue to collect offerings from illegal aliens. That's interesting.

    9. and2therepublic, ill says:

      "[T]he government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government."

      James Madison – Speech in the U.S. House of Representatives – January 10, 1794.

    10. Gary says:

      When Christ appealed to his followers to care for the least of these he was talking to individuals, not governments. It does an institution no good (spiritually or emotionally) to care for those in need, but it does a world of good for individuals. The cumenical statement by American Christian leaders "Circle of Protection" even specifies that Christians should care for the “least of these,” with no mention of government. Let's keep government out of our spiritual lives and allow individuals the opportunity to care for the needy without burdening taxpayers who receive no spiritual, moral or emotional benefit.

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