Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jesus' Ethics Supports Expanding, not Shrinking, the Welfare State

In Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan opposes Catholic values, NJ Star-Ledger Editorial board member Linda Ocasio basically smeared Representative Paul Ryan (R) for claiming that his proposed budget--which would modestly scales back growth of the welfare state--is consistent with Catholic teaching. What drew Ocasio's ire? This from Ryan:

"The preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenets of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life. Help people get out of poverty, out onto life of independence."
From that, we get this from Ocasio:

We’d love to hear Ryan’s version of the good Samaritan. Maybe instead of helping the poor fellow on the side of the road, the Samaritan dispensed a few uplifting words and continued on his merry way.
The problem is, "help" is not defined. Ocasio does make it obvious that by help she doesn't mean a voluntary act of good will. That doesn't fit into her worldview. She writes:

Ryan is the mastermind behind the Republican budget that lays waste to anti-poverty programs. Ryan cuts billions for Medicaid, food stamps, Head Start, Pell grants, job training and elder care. Hey, that’s what Jesus would do, isn’t it?
Ocasio equates Good Samaritanism with welfare statism. Every one of those programs begins with government theft. Every one is funded by money forcibly taken from productive people. The Good Samaritan, in Ocasio's world, is the man who pulls legal stick-ups for a living, hands some of the loot to some "poor fellow," making him dependent on stolen goods, then claims credit for being "anti-poverty." 

Since Ocasio shrieks in horror at so callous a phrase as "life of independence," one wonders what she means by "anti-poverty." Isn't independence the very antithesis of poverty? Ocasio should explain how one could be against both poverty and independence.

But Ocasio raises a more fundamental question: What does Christianity actually stand for?  This goes to the heart of the conflict between the Christian Right and the Christian Left. In this regard, I've left the following comments:

zemack April 26, 2012 at 8:42PM 
   It’s an open question whether Jesus would support the redistributionist state. After all, every dollar handed out by government programs is a dollar taken by force from someone who earned it. Would Jesus support legalized theft on such a grand scale? Who knows?
   But one thing for sure is that the Catholic Church thinks so. It has long been on record, in the name of Jesus, as calling for a totalitarian global welfare state. Paul VI lays out this vision in no uncertain terms in his 1967 Encyclical Populorum Progressio. He called for “public authorities” to be endowed with powers to redistribute “created goods” from those who created them to those who didn’t. Those powers are to be total, enabling governments “to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed, and the methods to be used” in pursuit of their collectivist vision. Paul was unequivocal: “All other rights, whatever they may be, including the rights of property and free trade, are to be subordinated to this principle.”
   In other words, you live at the mercy of an omnipotent state, which will guarantee your basic sustenance. Benedict XVI, reaffirmed this view in his 2009 Encyclical Caritas in Veritate. This is a long-held ideology. The Church was Marxist before Marx.
   Whatever Jesus’ politics, his ethics of universal altruism and self-sacrifice for those who have less underpins socialism in all of its variants. If Ryan—who, by the way, would not actually cut the welfare state, but merely grow it more slowly—is going to rely on Jesus to support his budget, he’ll lose. Morally, Jesus is clearly on the other side.
   The only way to defeat socialism is to reject altruism and uphold ethical, rational egoism; the inalienable right of every individual to think and act on his own judgment, in support of his own life, choices, goals, property, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Or, to put it more simply, the right to be free from thieving welfare statists.

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