Conservatives love to tout their religious credentials and Christian candidates, in particular, seem to think their political views are in lockstep with Christian ideals. I would like to focus on one group of Christians: Catholics. This election cycle, Catholics should be supporting President Obama and all Democratic candidates. Catholic social teaching affirms a commitment to the poor, which Democrats share, and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has repeatedly trumpeted Democratic legislation while condemning Republican proposals.
Now that Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney’s running mate, it is important to recall that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops denounced Mr. Ryan’s 2013 budget proposal. The Bishops correctly admonished that the budget would, “hurt hungry, poor, and vulnerable people in our nation and around the world,” while also declaring that, “A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons; it requires shared sacrifice by all.” Republicans, including Mr. Romney, have been religiously devoted (pun intended) to slashing social spending programs since the beginning of the recession.
In contrast, the Bishops praised many aspects of President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal: “We support proposals […] such as Pell Grants and improved workforce training and development. We also support proposals to restore cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as well as efforts to make permanent recent expansions of low-income tax credits.”
The Catholic Church undoubtedly opposes Republican-designed budgets that hurt the poor, and offers the following guidelines for drafting a just budget: “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” (US Conference of Catholic Bishops). Let’s apply these principles to Mr. Romney’s policies.
Mr. Romney refuses to raise “adequate revenues” and, in fact, has proposed a $5 trillion tax cut, which many prominent economics have declared will increase the tax burden for middle-income people.
Mr. Romney is pushing “unnecessary military” spending by vowing to keep military spending at 4 percent of GDP even though the defense department has not requested such spending; relative to President Obama’s plan, this proposal increases military spending by $2 trillion.
Finally, well over half of Mr. Ryan’s proposed budget cuts passed by the Republican House this year falls on the backs of poor and low-income Americans. Mr. Romney’s budget is very similar and would cut services like veterans’ disability compensation, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for poor elderly and disabled individuals, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), school lunches and other child nutrition programs, which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warns, “would cause the incomes of large numbers of households to fall below the poverty line. Many who are already poor would become poorer.”
Aside from aberrant Republican budget proposals, conservatives break step with Catholic social teaching in their opposition to healthcare reform. Although the Bishops raise some concerns over Obamacare’s support of women’s reproductive health services, they sustain the overall goals of the legislation. According to the Bishops, “health care is a basic right flowing from the sanctity of human life and dignity of the human person.” Furthermore, they praised Obamacare for extending “[healthcare] accessibility and affordability to tens of millions of uninsured Americans.”
In a 2009 letter to Congress, the Bishops urged legislators to make healthcare “accessible and affordable to everyone,” including “immigrants, their children, and all of society.” Mr. Romney’s obsession with repealing healthcare reform does not bode well with these prescriptions; Democrat’s promise to protect it, does.
One final and relevant issue is immigration. Immediately following President Obama’s announcement of the deferred action program for young undocumented immigrants this June, the Bishops issued a press release titled, “Bishops Welcome President’s Deferred Action on Dream Eligible Youth, Urge congressional Action on Dream Act.” In fact, the Bishops fully support the passage of the Dream Act, which Republicans, including Mr. Romney and Scott Brown, have opposed.
For Catholics, the choice in this election is clear. The advice of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops speaks for itself: Democratic values are more in line with Catholic social teaching than Republican values.
Boston College '14