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Hypocritical: Faith leaders condemn Ryan’s use of religion to justify his budget

Economic Security

PICO National Network

April 11, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 11, 2012

Contact: Gordon Whitman, PICO Policy Director, gwhitman@piconetwork.org, 202-427-2992     

 

Hypocritical: Faith leaders condemn Ryan’s use of religion to justify his budget

PICO National Network issued the following statement today:

If it became law, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s federal budget would decimate food stamps, Head Start, higher education assistance, Medicaid, Medicare, job training and other programs that help vulnerable working families make it through tough times and live better lives. It would push more Americans into poverty, while dramatically cutting taxes for the richest people in the country. 

“It’s the height of hypocrisy for Rep. Ryan to claim that his approach to the budget is shaped by Catholic teaching and values,” said Fr. John Baumann, S.J., founder of PICO National Network. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been clear about where they stand on protecting the poor in the federal budget.

The Catholic Church not only sponsors a vast array of anti-poverty programs and initiatives, but has been at the forefront of lobbying Congress to reject the radical proposals to cut social programs for the vulnerable while reducing taxes on the wealthy. During last year’s budget debate, the Bishops, along with leading Evangelical and Mainline Protestant religious leaders said in their Circle of Protection statement1 that any effort to reduce the deficit must not increase poverty or inequality. The Bishops reiterated that clear standard of assessing budget proposals based on whether they promote the common good and protect “the least of these” (Matthew 25) in their March 6, 2012 letter to Congress:

“A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25).  The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.”2

By these measures, the Ryan budget is a severe failure. It places the burden of reducing the deficit on the backs of struggling families, while cutting the taxes of the wealthiest Americans by trillions dollars. The non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that two out of every three dollars cut from non-defense spending would come from program that serve people of limited means.3 The Center’s analysis is that the Ryan proposal would produce “the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).”

These cuts include $800 billion from the Medicaid program over ten years, $133 billion from food stamps, as well as hundreds of billions of dollars from low-income housing, nutrition programs for women and children, Head Start, and Pell Grants for higher education. These are programs that not only help people in need, but they create opportunity by giving young people a chance to grow up healthy and housed and able to attend college. That is why the Catholic Bishops have been steadfast in their opposition to cutting or eliminating them and why historically they have had bi-partisan support.

Rep. Ryan’s claim that he is helping the poor by making their lives more difficult is inspired by radical Libertarian novelist Ayn Rand (author of a book entitled "The Virtue of Selfishness"), not Holy Scripture. The mission of the Church is to “bring good news to the poor” and to protect the vulnerable, not to justify the impoverishment of the very young, the very old and the sick in order to enrich the wealthy. The debate over the federal budget is not an intellectual exercise.  It has real life consequences for families, parishes and communities. American families are under enormous economic and social pressures; the Ryan budget would make their lives more difficult by removing much of the social safety net that families rely on at times of need.

During his time in Congress, Rep. Ryan has raised more than $2.2 million from insurance companies, banks, lobbyists and other Wall Street interests for his campaign and political causes.4 Rather than pretending that he is standing up for faith values or the needs of the poor, Rep. Ryan should tell the truth  - that he is protecting the interests of the wealthy and powerful by working to reduce their taxes, at great cost to American families.

(1) http://circleofprotection.us/

(2) http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Letter-to-Congress-Federal-Budget-2012-03-06.pdf

(3) http://www.offthechartsblog.org/low-income-programs-would-bear-the-brunt-of-ryan-cuts/

(4) http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/industries.php?cycle=Career&cid=N00004357&type=C

 

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PICO National Network is the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the United States. PICO works with 1,000 religious congregations in more than 200 cities and towns through a network of 48 member federations and 10 state networks. More information at www.piconetwork.org. PICO National Network and its federations are non-partisan and do not endorse or support candidates for office. PICO urges people of faith to consult their faith traditions for guidance on specific policies and legislation.