The Ryan Budget and Catholic Social Teaching

The American Catholic has an excellent round of commentary on the Ryan budget and the ensuing debate carried out on the question, “is the Ryan budget in accordance with Catholic social teaching, or not?”.  While this might seem an arcane debate for only Catholics to engage, the fact is that the debate is ultimately about what sort of America we will have.

There are two words everyone has to familiarize themselves with:

1.  Subsidiarity.

2.  Solidarity.

In a nutshell, “subsidiarity” is the Catholic teaching that all decisions should be made as far as possible at the lowest level.  This covers all sorts of decisions – political, economic and religious.  While the higher authorities play a vital role, their role is rather one of support and instruction rather than mixing in the day to day activities of life.  It is for you and me, dear reader, to take care of the poor in our midst – just as it is our duty to work and earn our own living; it is for the federal government to assist us in this – mostly by ensuring law and order, the execution of justice and our common defense against outside enemies; but, also, at times by directly aiding us when our own good, solid efforts are insufficient to secure what is necessary for the liberty, safety and dignity of ourselves and our fellows.

And that leads us in to “solidarity” – none of us is an island; we are not a law unto our selves.  We are part of a group and while we have absolute rights vis a vis the group, we also have absolute responsibilities to the group.  We do, indeed, have a right to our property and the fruits of our labor – but we also have a duty to ensure that our neighbor does not lack the necessities.

Liberals tend to concentrate on the “solidarity” aspect and use it as a justification for the welfare State.  Libertarians tend to concentrate on “subsidiarity” and use it as a justification for government so small as to be incapable of doing the genuine tasks of government (especially in terms of ensuring justice and the defense of the nation).  Paul Ryan’s plan is a judicious mix of subsidiarity and solidarity – as it should be, because while the laws of God are absolute, the actions of human beings within the parameters of those laws are subject to many varying pressures and needs and thus prudential judgement is needed in each particular instance in figuring out what is best.  Neither libertarianism nor statism is the answer – in some cases the State must take a strong stand, in others the State must butt out…in most cases it has to be a little of both.

Ryan is being furiously attacked, especially by liberal Catholics who see in the Ryan budget the moral justification for dismantling the welfare State.  They are attacking Ryan’s plan because they say it will harm the poor – but the fact is the plan wouldn’t do anything of the sort; it would, though, harm the vested interests of the welfare State who do little for the poor, but seem to make quite a lot of money ostensibly caring about the poor.  But do have a care – if Ryan’s budget is ever passed (say in January, 2013 and then signed in to law by President Romney) then the attacks will start to come from the other side – libertarians who will be upset that the State refuses to become morally neutral and still seeks to have a role in American affairs.

While Ryan’s plan has a great deal of Catholicism in it (no surprise given Ryan’s Catholicism), it really brings up and clarifies the real debate – super welfare State, libertarian anarchy, or a well reasoned approach which understands that things don’t resolve themselves in perfect, little boxes?  The whole of the American experiment – our whole Constitutional order (currently hibernating) –  is based upon the Founders’ realization that (a) no one has all the answers and (b) a wise system will leave great latitude for individual and local action while still retaining a government strong enough to act forcefully when necessary.

We’ll see how it comes out – but Ryan has earned the gratitude of all Americans who wish to see the Founders’ vision restored to America.



42 thoughts on “The Ryan Budget and Catholic Social Teaching

  1. neocon1 April 30, 2012 / 5:14 am

    liberals = socialists = commies LOVE OPM.
    resist this plague of money eating locusts at all costs.

  2. Green Mountain and improved with 66.6% less cynicism! April 30, 2012 / 8:23 am

    ” Libertarians tend to concentrate on “subsidiarity” and use it as a justification for government so small as to be incapable of doing the genuine tasks of government (especially in terms of ensuring justice and the defense of the nation).”

    Are you arguing that the federal government does have a role in providing welfare to it’s citizens? I’ll await your answer befoe I comment further.

    • Amazona April 30, 2012 / 9:53 am

      GMB, I had the same question.

    • dbschmidt April 30, 2012 / 12:18 pm

      Actually, as I have been going back through a lot of founding era documentation lately–the government was expected (set aside) to provide a safety net of sorts but that was a last resort following the individual, the family, the religion, the county, the State and finally the Federal government. Everything, including the law and welfare was to be handled at the lowest, or closest to the individual, level as possible. Add in that it was also designed only for those who COULD NOT work or feed themselves which was not decided by the individual.

    • dbschmidt April 30, 2012 / 3:42 pm

      Actually, it should have read ‘community / county’

    • Mark Edward Noonan April 30, 2012 / 11:56 pm


      It is a Biblical principal that those who do not work shall not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10) – so, anyone who is capable of work must work, or starve. However, those who cannot work must be provided for in their entirety – regardless of cost and even if providing it has a detrimental effect on the overall economy. Additionally, those who can work but simply cannot find work must be provided for – though for such persons the level of support must be kept below what can be obtained by the least remunerative job available, lest people choose not to work because welfare pays as much as (or more) than working in some cases.

      It is not possible for the federal government – remote as it is from the day to day lives of the people and lacking in sufficient knowledge of the needs and desires of the people – to intervene directly in the sustenance of individuals. But if a locality is stricken and unable to provide for all of the local people then it is the moral duty of the federal government to provide what aid proves necessary so that local individuals and groups can see to it that no one lacks the necessities of life.

      • Green Mountain and improved with 66.6% less cynicism! May 1, 2012 / 3:51 am

        And I would argue with you Sir that it is the Churchs responsibility to make sure that those who can not fend for themselves are taken care of. Not the federal governments.

        I will not claim to be an expert on the Constitution. I have read and re-read it. I can find no authority enumerated to the federal government to take wealth from one to give to another no matter how needed.

        Who gets to decide what the necessities of life are. You? Me?

        Taking somebodys wealth without thier permission is moral? Thou shallt not steal is no longer in force?

        Very slipper ground you are treading here to determine what is moral and what is not.

      • Mark Edward Noonan May 2, 2012 / 2:21 am


        All questions are ultimately moral questions – theological questions, really. All of life finally comes down to this: accept or reject God? To try and separate things out and pretend there are issues we can decide outside of deciding how we view God is absurd. Every choice we make is a decision on how we view God. Now, if we decide we will act in accordance with a God-centered world view, we will act one way, if we decide we will act as if there is no God, we will act in quite a different manner. We have been acting, for the better part of a century, as if there is no God (or, at least, no God who actually cares about humanity). The results you see all around you – the complete and utter moral degradation of civilization where even the decent people can’t hold a moral candle to the average run of people 100 years ago. Mark Steyn in his most recent book pointed out something – say what you will about the men of 100 years ago, but when the Titanic went down, plenty of strong, healthy men choose certain death in order that some women and children could survive….recently, a ship was going down and the strong, healthy men simply ran over the women in children in order to get to the lifeboats. The men of 100 years ago were certain there is a God and so knew that their own, individual lives were not so important that they should act like scoundrels to hold on to them…here in 2012, plenty of men figure that this life is so important that being an utter piece of trash is worth it if it gives you just one more day.

        It is only by acting as if there is no God that we can take such a narrow view of the Constitution that we can say “it doesn’t directly empower government to assist the needy, so the government must not assist the needy”. Certainly it is the local people – in their families, churches and clubs – who are primarily responsible for the well being of their immediate neighbors…but if we have a society which is acting as if there is no God – and thus will not permit government to help – do you really think that the local people will help? They will be the ones forbidding the government to help.

        Don’t get me wrong, here – the liberals get it wrong entirely the other way…taking the moral injunction to help and twisting it in to a desire to live fabulously off of the taxpayer while making noises about helping the poor.

        The key is always a balance – God is absolute, we are not.

  3. Cluster April 30, 2012 / 8:23 am

    Ryan’s budget is hardly draconian, in fact mostof the cuts are simply cuts in the rate of growth. For example, Ryan’s budget in terms of food stamps calls for spending to ultimately be at per recession levels by the year 2016. Does anyone now think that Ryan is trying to starve the poor? This is just another example of dishonesty by the nedra, by democrats, by Obama, and by the Catholic church (no surprise there though).

    We really need smarter, more self reliant people who have common sense, are honest and have integrity to live in this country. Right now we have dishonest, brain dead liberal pundits who will lie at the drop of a hat to protect the idiot in chief – Maddow, Matthews, etc, We have a President who believes that a lot of Americans are simply bad people and without him, this would be a fre for all society and minorities and women will be hurt, and we have too many people who vote that haven’t respectable brain cell in their head.

    At least Ryan had the courage to present a budget that address’s the nations problems. We certainly can’t expect the democrats to do such a thing as they are currently busy trying to find the victim du jour.

    This morning Slick Willy actually said that Romeny’s policies are failed policies of the past, which I find amusing. The policies of the past actually led to unemployment les than 6%, 52 consecutive months of GDP growth, and high consumer confidence. Strip away the housing crisis (which were fueled by Clinton’s policies), and the policies of the past were pretty damn solid. It’s the policies of the present that are killing this nation.

    • Amazona May 1, 2012 / 2:35 pm

      Does Willy really want to discuss “failed policies of the past”?

      Well, we can start with the Community Reinvestment Act and then go through the various bastard children of that Act, the subsequent legislative patches put on a fatally flawed Act to try to make it work, which only made it worse. That would cover about three decades of “failed policies of the past”.

      Or we could examine the “failed policy of the past” that defined Islamic terrorism as criminal activity and then applied United States civil law to the question of whether or not the U.S. should accept the offer to hand over Osama Bin Laden to U.S. authority. Whew—THAT “failed policy of the past” is sure a stinker.

      How far back does Willy want to go? We do have the “War on Poverty” which covers nearly six decades of “failed policies of the past” and cost the nation’s taxpayers trillions of dollars, only destroy the black family and create generations of government-dependent voters deadbeats.

      Does he want just one specific “failed policy of the past”. I offer up the Bay of Pigs.

      And so it goes……

  4. Cluster April 30, 2012 / 8:35 am

    Here’s yet another lie being promoted on the most dishonest network on TV, MSNBC, and that is the gender wage gap. Funny to note but the “expert” they just had on works for some government funded group devoted to closing the “gap”, and she had a Freudian slip – she actually said that “there will never be complete equality”- well of course there won’t be because that would mean that she would be out of a job and the democrats would lose a wedge issue that they can divide people with, so let’s keep this issue alive. The truth of the matter is however that young women now make more money, and as Pete get older, more married women opt to stay home than men – so again, it’s a common sense thing.

  5. Amazona April 30, 2012 / 9:59 am

    Some interesting quotes from historian Will Durant, his observations on freedom based upon his historical studies and research:

    In my youth, I stressed freedom, and in my old age I stress order. I have made the great discovery that liberty is a product of order.

    History assures us that civilizations decay quite leisurely.

    Forced to choose, the poor, like the rich, love money more than political liberty; and the only political freedom capable of enduring is one that is so pruned as to keep the rich from denuding the poor by ability or subtlety and the poor from robbing the rich by violence or votes.

    Nature smiles at the union of freedom and equality in our utopias. For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies. Leave men free, and their natural inequalities will multiply almost geometrically, as in England and America in the nineteenth century under laissez-faire. To check the growth of inequality, liberty must be sacrificed, as in Russia after 1917. Even when repressed, inequality grows; only the man who is below the average in economic ability desires equality; those who are conscious of superior ability desire freedom, and in the end superior ability has its way.

    If our economy of freedom fails to distribute wealth as ably as it has created it, the road to dictatorship will be open to any man who can persuasively promise security to all.

  6. Amazona April 30, 2012 / 10:28 am

    …… if Ryan’s budget is ever passed (say in January, 2013 and then signed in to law by President Romney) then the attacks will start to come from the other side – libertarians who will be upset that the State refuses to become morally neutral and still seeks to have a role in American affairs.

    Some of us will respond, not with attacks but with observations that Ryan’s budget is a vital step in the right direction but is only a step, and that we will need to concentrate on moving farther and farther away from federal intervention in matters which are not specificlally delegated to them within the Constitution.

    Pragmatists understand that it is not possible to unring a bell, and that those who are currently dependent on federal programs like Social Security and Medicare must be accommodated, as there is a moral responsibility to honor promises made to them. Pragmatists understand that deep changes must be made gradually, weaning future generations off the government teat by incrementally shifting programs to state control, where states can determine what they will and will not do for their citizens.

    Ryan’s budget is a slowing down of the headlong rush into constantly rising government expenditures and the inevitable plunge into bankruptcy, and certainly not a slamming on of the brakes. But the cliff is still ahead, and we will need to decrease our speed as quickly as we can before we get too close to the edge.

    I see this budget as not a lot more than discovering there is a brake, and figuring out what it is for, but hardly an excessive use of it.

  7. Cluster April 30, 2012 / 12:26 pm

    It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow with May day and the OWS morons. I think that they will further hurt Obama’s reelection chances by acting like the uncontrollable children that they are, and the fact that Obama has embraced their antics.

    • neocon1 April 30, 2012 / 1:45 pm


      I think children and antics are far to kind of words to use to describe marxist revolutionaries, and hard core anarchists.
      these people are borderlining on treason and sedition.

      • Amazona April 30, 2012 / 7:29 pm

        I think most of them are as ignorant of the actual ideology of the Left as the PL trolls who infest this site. While their minders are ideologues, the masses are nothing more than hyper-emotional dupes, sucked into the froth of superficial promises and platitudes, whose innate ignorance and hostilities and rages are manipulated with great skill by the puppet masters.

        I find it hard to imagine someone wearing Gap clothing, holding an iPad, and ranting against “corporations” having anything like a coherent political philosophy, and the mere fact of buying into the bogus “1%” demagoguery is proof of no real political compass, just a mindless willingness to be used.

        That being said, just as ignorance of the law is no excuse, neither is utter stupidity, so they should be held accountable for their actions, including vandalism and interference with police activities.

        If you sit around a room getting high and planning a bank robbery, and your buddies give it a try and shoot a guard, you are considered part of the crime. The same should hold true of the OWS losers——-any damage to people or property by any of them ought to incriminate all of them at any specific event they stage.

        And let’s call this what it really is—an effort by mob mentality to impose mob rule.

    • Amazona April 30, 2012 / 7:14 pm

      I heard part of his interview with Leslie Stahl on the radio today–though calling that dog’s dinner of an overheated meltdown by Stahl an “interview” is being awfully kind.

      The book is on my new list, along with Jonah Goldberg’s “Tyranny of Cliches” and Arthur Brooks’ “The Road To Freedom”.

    • Amazona April 30, 2012 / 7:09 pm

      Elizabeth Warren also has described herself as creating “much of the intellectual foundation” for the Occupy movement.

      What could be a stronger indictment than this? The “INTELLECTUAL FOUNDATION”????? You’ve got to be kidding!

      Oh, that’s right—“intellectual” means producing nothing more than ideas, which do not have to be correct.

      But I have to wonder just how Warren “created” this “intellectual foundation”—–by going back through Marx and his diatribes against the ownership of private property? Quoting “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”? Paraphrasing Noam Chomsky or Saul Alinsky?

      Sorry, I not only don’t see much “creation” evident in any part of the footing for the”Occupy movement”, being nothing as far as I can see but rehashed old Marxist dogma, I don’t even see much of an “intellectual” foundation for it, either.

      Looks like Liz makes up a lot of stuff, from denying her use of possible Native American heritage to get a job at a university that had been criticized for its “lack of diversity” to claims of “creating” the claptrap the Occupy parasites have been spouting, to claiming that it HAS an “intellectual foundation”.

      • Cluster April 30, 2012 / 8:13 pm

        I would be interersted in knowing what the “intellectual foundation” is for OWS too. I don’t even think they know. Warren is also the one that that bashed manufacturers for using the roads that other people built for them, evidently ignoring the fact that the manufaturer also pays taxes. And hasn’t Warren lived off the public dime her entire life?

      • Amazona May 1, 2012 / 10:26 am

        Did Warren have any ideas about how to get products to consumers?

        Clearly, with no market, there is no reason to produce anything, so there go the manufacturing jobs, and the jobs necessary to make the raw materials used by the manufacturer, etc.

        Not only do the companies pay taxes, they pay money to employees who pay taxes on that income.

        But what this mental midget doesn’t even know is that there are additional taxes paid by trucking companies, for the use of the roads. There used to be what was called a “Ton Mile Tax”, a complicated assignment of additional taxes paid by every trucker based on the weight of his vehicle and the miles traveled. I don’t know the various names of the various taxation programs of each state, as I don’t handle that aspect of our business, but I do know we have to apply for and pay for a permit for every oversized load we carry through different states. Hauling a tank through three states involves paying additional permit fees (taxes) in each one, a separate permit for each trip, and these fees are in addition to taxes paid in the home state.

        When I hauled horses to horse shows around the country, I did not have apply for and pay for a permit for my large truck and trailer because I was not commercial, but if I had been hauling commercially I would have had to apply for and pay for permits for most if not all the states I crossed.

        And if I had been hauling commercially I would have passed those transportation costs on to the manufacturer, just as we pass on our permit fees to the manufacturer paying us to haul his oil field tanks to his customers.

        The man on the street probably doesn’t know this, and doesn’t have to. But he is not using his access to public forums to make stupid and false statements. The information is available to anyone who cares about facts and truth, but clearly Warren has no interest in either. Somehow Elizabeth Warren has acquired a podium, from which she can spout lies and nonsense.

        Warren, alone, is just an irritating squeak in the background. But what is alarming is that Warren’s political bias and the way it shapes her ignorance are so typical of everyone on the Left.

        Anyone who can get in a car, or on a train or a bus or a plane, and go to an OWS demonstration, wearing factory-made clothes and shoes, carrying at the very least a cell phone and probably an expensive Smart Phone and/or an iPad, stay in a hotel or in a factory-made tent using a factory-made sleeping bag, and shriek that “corporations” ought to be eliminated is illustrating a breadth and depth of both ignorance and stupidity that boggle the mind.

  8. Leo Pusateri May 1, 2012 / 1:38 pm

    Last time I looked at the Bible, try as I might, I just couldn’t find the verse that says, “Go ye forth and confiscate thy neighbor’s goods, and re-distributeth their wealth as vengeance for their prosperity”

    I have, on the other hand, seen in the commandments, “Thou shalt NOT covet.”

    Seems pretty cut & dried to me.

    • dennis May 2, 2012 / 1:13 am

      Jesus’ words seem pretty cut and dried as well: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

      Of course Jesus’ words are far less popular here than the apostle Paul’s counsel regarding a local church issue.

      • Mark Edward Noonan May 2, 2012 / 2:38 am


        I often find myself pondering that passage:

        Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

        When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

        Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

        When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:21-26

        It is interesting, first off, in that while we are told the young man went away sad, we don’t know what he ultimately decided to do. Given that Jesus said it is easier for the camel to get through the eye of a needle our presumption is that the young man would hold on to his possessions…but, maybe he didn’t? We won’t find out, of course, until we die.

        The second thing that strikes me about it is that if the rich man is to sell, there must be someone to buy – an implicit acceptance of the fact that some would be wealthy; I mean, why not just say “give all you have to the poor”? Why sell it, first? Sell it, then give to the poor. I don’t quite understand the passage even though I must have read it quite a number of times. I’m not really upset that I don’t understand – my pride does some times get me riled up that I can’t figure it out, but the grace of God helps be overcome that – but it is astonishing.

        Finally, this passage is often used as you have used it – but I think you’re using it wrong. The rich man is to give up his possessions because they are coming between him and the Kingdom of God; better to be rid of them because the treasure of heaven is infinitely more valuable than anything a person might have on earth. The command is not “tax the rich and give to the poor and you’ll inherit the Kingdom” but “give up your own possessions”. This part of the passage seems pretty clear to me – worldly things are a snare and as the rich man has more of them, he’s much more likely to be trapped in that snare…and thus much more likely to choose his transient, worthless wealth in the world over the imperishable, invaluable wealth of the life of the world to come. The liberal who wants to use this passage better have made sure that Soros has sold all he has and given to the poor before making use of it.

      • tiredoflibbs May 2, 2012 / 6:16 am

        wow, there goes self-righteous and pious denny quoting the scriptures.

        ““If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.””

        Well as we know, most proggy politicians and proggies are filthy rich and want to remain so, freely confiscating and distributing other peoples’ money while holding tightly to their own. Their tax returns have proven it …… so they are far, far from perfect.

        Thanks denny for affirming what we already knew!!!

        Please stop using the Bible to promote your ideology, stick to photography and stained glass since they are more your speed.

  9. Amazona May 1, 2012 / 3:49 pm

    I wonder what Princess Nan thinks about this:

    Favorite line: “I’m not lookin’ for a job. Maybe a career, but not a job.”

  10. dennis May 2, 2012 / 2:54 pm

    Mark, I agree with most of what you’ve said in this thread, and respect both your honesty and humility in how you treat this passage from Matthew. I’ll go further and say I believe everyone could profit from having your same willingness to be taught by Scripture – to understand humans need a moral frame of reference higher than our own personal wants.

    I’m not sure what you mean, that I was using Jesus’ statement wrongly. I made no interpretation of it – I simply noted that He said it. I’ve long observed how easy it is to take passages things in the Bible out of context, and place them in conflict with other things it teaches. This is a tactic often used by people trying to discredit the Bible altogether, but it’s also done by those trying to gain credibility for some pet idea or issue they want to press. This is why exegesis is important, as well as understanding major themes that are woven all through the Scripture – through several thousand years of human and divine history.

    I completely agree that Jesus’ teachings should be understood first and foremost as a call to personal generosity. However we know Jesus consented to the concept of taxation and at one point is on record paying tax. Is taking care of the poor a legitimate use of tax funds? From a biblical perspective it seems silly to even question the point, in view not only of the Gospel’s values, but of the Torah’s provision for the poor as a legal and moral obligation for the nation of Israel. (Which did incidentally require the poor to work – they had to glean the fields of the landowners and farmers, who were required to leave a portion of their crops unharvested). I have never heard a persuasive biblical argument against using tax money to help the poor – people throw a couple verses around, but you just cannot build a thematic biblical case against it, when the weight of biblical values go so definitively the other way.

    By now you may have seen this, but Father Thomas Reese also addressed this issue on the Stephen Colbert show – see—thomas-reese

    • neocon1 May 2, 2012 / 7:18 pm


      marxist redistribution of wealth is from the Anti Christ system form of government.
      NO one said paying taxes was wrong, but when 47% pay none, live of the back of others and demand even more you have thrown Christianity out the window with the Bible.

      the wolf in sheeps clothing blabs false doctrine again.

    • Amazona May 2, 2012 / 7:56 pm

      Whatever the Old Testament may have said, or not said, the people who created the binding law of the new nation of the United States of America understood the inherent problems of large and powerful central government, and purposely set up a governing system in which the federal government was severely restricted as to size and scope of power, and the states were given great leeway to do as they wished as long as what they wanted to do did not violate any of the Constitutional laws.

      Wishful thinking about what one might want the federal government to do will always have to take into account what it legally CAN do.

      And basing laws on Biblical commands would create a theocracy, which is another trap the Founders worked hard to avoid. They acknowledged a Divine Presence responsible for the inherent rights they laid out, and stopped there. Wistful musings along the lines of “Wouldn’t it be so great, and so Christian, to give such-and-such to so-and-so” are fine, but any such goal simply has to be compared to what the federal government is legally allowed to do.

      And it is limited to the enumerated duties laid out in the Constitution, with further clarification and reinforcement in the 10th Amendment.

      That is just the way it is.

      So all the passionate preaching about the Torah saying this and Jesus saying that may very well be relevant in some contexts, but none of it can change the simple fact that they are not permitted actions of the United States Federal Government.

      One can bemoan the legal inability of the federal government to enact Old Testament edicts, one can fuss and fret that our government in 2012 is not acting the way Jesus said His government should act in 33 A.D., one can believe with his whole heart and soul that the wealthy are damned because of their riches, one can engage in all sorts of pious and probably sincere regrets, but not a single one of these can change the structure of the United States’ rule of law.

      • Amazona May 2, 2012 / 8:02 pm

        I suggest that you clarify and firm up your arguments, as the way they stand they tend to diminish your credibility—for example, you say that Jesus paid taxes, implying that Jesus intended those taxes to go to the poor and not to pay to feed and equip an army. Shifty pseudo-reasoning of a type that will always cast doubt on anything else you say.

        And then, when you can make an authentic and linear argument for your case, without demagoguery or deceit, take it to your state government, which has the legal right to do what you want the feds to do. Better yet, start locally, in your town or county, and preach the teachings of the Old Testament to them, The nation is supposed to be governed from the bottom up, so start at the bottom.

        But you really need to stop beating your head against the wall of Constitutional law. The simple fact is, even when what you want is noble and good and lovely and kind and Christian and Biblical and Jesus-centered and all that, if it is illegal it is illegal, and even those who agree with your end goals will fight you on the way you want to reach them if that involves ignoring the Constitution.

      • dennis May 2, 2012 / 10:34 pm

        Zona, the 16th amendment makes income tax constitutional. Congress decides who gets taxed, how much and where to allocate those funds. Constitutionally, it is hardly mandatory to help the poor – however neither is it unconstitutional, if Congress passes a budget that includes assistance for the poor. It’s all a matter of due process; the representatives we elect and the laws they pass end up reflecting our national values.

        The values of our Judeo-Christian heritage do not become our laws, but they do inform our national values. This is a concept that’s been defended on this blog many times without any objection from you that I can recall. I’ve never “passionately preached” the Torah, nor would I suggest it should become our law. I simply note that it’s a foundational component of our Judeo-Christian heritage. You can’t have it both ways – if you want to claim that heritage you can’t call it irrelevant to our lawmaking process. If you want to dispense with it, then you are essentially a secularist, which I suspect would put you at odds with Mark. In this area, I happen to be in general agreement with him, even if not in the details of policy.

        Mark is the one who introduced religious values into this discussion – in fact that’s the very heart of the discussion he started here. I just picked up the ball and ran a few yards with it. If you’ve got a problem with religious values informing our lawmaking process, the Republican party is very much the wrong place for you to be.

      • Amazona May 3, 2012 / 1:21 pm

        dennis, although it is quite generous of you to keep reminding us of your ignorance of the Constitution, it is not really necessary.

        Though there is a certain morbid fascination in watching you do it. Take this odd gem of confusion:

        Zona, the 16th amendment makes income tax constitutional. Congress decides who gets taxed, how much and where to allocate those funds. Constitutionally, it is hardly mandatory to help the poor – however neither is it unconstitutional, if Congress passes a budget that includes assistance for the poor. It’s all a matter of due process; the representatives we elect and the laws they pass end up reflecting our national values.

        Perhaps you can guide us to the part of our national law that says that Congress can just override the Constitution by simply passing a law. I have been under the impression that the only way to amend the Constitution was to, well, AMEND THE CONSTITUTION. You seem to have access to other information—please share.

        The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

        Does this look even remotely familiar to you? Do you have the slightest idea of what it means?

        Hint: It means that if a power is not specifically DELEGATED to the federal government, it is reserved to the states, or to individuals, unless it is prohibited within the Constitution.

        “The states decided to ratify the Tenth Amendment, and thus declined to signal that there are unenumerated powers in addition to unenumerated rights. The amendment rendered unambiguous what had previously been at most a mere suggestion or implication.”

        So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to first identify the reason you think Congress can simply ignore the enumerated powers within the Constitution and then the 10th Amendment which clarifies (“renders unambiguous”) the limitations of the enumerated powers, merely by voting to have the federal government do something that is not an enumerated power, and second, if you are unable to do the first, show us where there is an enumerated power for the federal government to “…pass a budget that includes assistance for the poor..”

        As for arbitrarily tossing me aside as a “secularist” for believing that charity is a personal and not federal duty, that is simply nonsense. You may consider yourself to be an arbiter of religious vs secular thought, but you are mistaken. Quite complacent in your egoism, but mistaken.

        My religious beliefs, quite deeply and sincerely held, have no conflict whatsoever with a deep and sincere belief that as an American I am obligated to follow the law of the land, which is the Constitution of the United States of America.

        As for this bizarre and condescending pronouncement “If you’ve got a problem with religious values informing our lawmaking process, the Republican party is very much the wrong place for you to be.” I can only say, translating it into blog-acceptable language, claptrap and nonsense, and goofy as hell, as well as even more proof of your ignorance of political ideology.

        (As an aside, it is my conservative values that make the current, existing, Republican party a slightly bad fit for me, but I feel my job is not to throw my vote away in a quixotic statement of purity of intent but to work within the party to bring it back to a more Constitutional focus.)

      • Amazona May 3, 2012 / 1:26 pm

        “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
        -Benjamin Franklin

        “To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”
        -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816

        “A wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”
        -Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

        “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”
        -Thomas Jefferson

        “When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”
        -Thomas Jefferson to Charles Hammond, 1821. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Memorial Edition) Lipscomb and Bergh, editors, ME 15:332

        “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.”
        -John Adams, A Defense of the Constitution of Government of the United States of America, 1787

        James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, elaborated upon this limitation in a letter to James Robertson:
        “With respect to the two words ‘general welfare,’ I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.

        In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison stood on the floor of the House to object saying, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”
        -James Madison, 4 Annals of congress 179 (1794)

        “…[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

        “If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular exceptions.” James Madison, “Letter to Edmund Pendleton,”
        -James Madison, January 21, 1792, in The Papers of James Madison, vol. 14, Robert A Rutland et. al., ed (Charlottesvile: University Press of Virginia,1984).


        Funny—it doesn’t look like the Founders shared your vision of the federal government being the source of charitable donations to the poor. And the body of the Constitution itself outlines the only legal mechanism for altering it, such as adding an enumerated power.

  11. dennis May 3, 2012 / 7:30 pm

    Amazona, I didn’t call you a secularist “for believing that charity is a personal and not federal duty.” You continue to make things up out of whole cloth. I’d never have said that – in fact I told Mark up the thread I agreed that “Jesus’ teachings should be understood first and foremost as a call to personal generosity.” I don’t know whether your reading comprehension is at third grade level or you’re just plain dishonest, but what I said to you exactly was this: “You can’t have it both ways – if you want to claim that [Judeo-Christian] heritage you can’t call it irrelevant to our lawmaking process. If you want to dispense with it, then you are essentially a secularist.”

    As for the founders, I’m sure they also never envisioned Social Security, Medicare, the Interstate highway system or investing trillions of taxpayer dollars to create an Islamic Republic half a world away to replace a secular dictatorship the president didn’t like. But Congress voted to do these things, they happened, and the Iraq war in particular is defended vigorously here. The rest are taken for granted by liberals and most conservatives alike.

    Does Social Security fall under the enumerated powers? How about the Iraq war? The United States was neither under attack by Iraq, nor under any threat from it. So that war was not “providing for the common defense” any more than giving Pell grants to needy students. It really was all about regime change way over yonder, which pleased the aesthetic sensibilities of the Bush adminsitration – but it certainly wasn’t about providing for the common defense in fact. The Constitution also doesn’t allow Congress to pass the authority to declare war to the executive branch. Yet Congress voted to allow the president this multi-trillion dollar indulgence that we will be paying for it for at least a generation to come. So much for doctrinal purity.

    As for the founders’ visions, James Madison also opposed military and legislative chaplains. He warned against a very large standing military as a threat to liberty, and would have been appalled at today’s military budget and bases around the world. However our system of laws is not bound by the opinions of the founders in every particular. The constitution has proven durable enough to guide America’s transition from a primitive, slave-holding agrarian culture to the modern age with many orders of magnitude larger population and greater complexity of government. It is naive to think all the founders’ convictions, formed in the society they knew, should be carried out to the letter centuries later in a world they weren’t even capable of envisioning.

    The implications of the separation of church and state, however, have changed very little since Madison’s time. “Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom? In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the U.S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. The law appointing Chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by Ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them; and these are to be paid out of the national taxes… The establishment of the chaplainship to Congs is a palpable violation of equal rights, as well as of Constitutional principles: The tenets of the chaplains elected [by the majority] shut the door of worship ag[ain]st the members whose creeds & consciences forbid a participation in that of the majority…

    James Madison, Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical Endowments

    Religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together. Letter to Edward Livingston

    So as usual you’re picking and choosing among the founders’ doctrines for ones that please you while ignoring others that don’t. Lots of people do it, but few are so sanctimonious about their pure and elevated devotion to constitutional ideals.

    • tiredoflibbs May 3, 2012 / 8:16 pm

      “It is naive to think all the founders’ convictions, formed in the society they knew, should be carried out to the letter centuries later in a world they weren’t even capable of envisioning.”

      And there you have it, denny and the left’s belief that we have a living breathing Constitution that changes with the times.

      It does not matter that the Founding Fathers KNEW they did not have a perfect Constitution. They put in place a process for AMENDING it. Now, proggies find that process too cumbersome and does not allow them to make the changes they want as fast as they want.

      wow, denny I have never seen so much of James Madison cherry picked and taken out of context.

      Again, stick with photography and stained glass. A Constitutional discussion and Founding Fathers philosophies are way too complicated for you. I have never seen anyone screw up “Provide for the common defense” as you have.

      I love this line:

      “Yet Congress voted to allow the president this multi-trillion dollar indulgence that we will be paying for it for at least a generation to come.”

      and here obAMATEUR has outspent Bush in just 3.5 years!!!!! And what do we get from denny???? crickets….. Still waiting for you to criticize your pResident for his “bearing false witness against the Brotherhood of Man” as you put it. ObAMATEUR is outright lying about his previous statements and for example, Romney’s statements about OBL. Yet again, you remain silent when your party and your leaders do what you berate others of doing.


      • dennis May 4, 2012 / 2:43 pm

        Tired, in regard to the spending of the last two presidents and the budget deficit I don’t have time to school you. The facts are accessible to anyone who cares. You could go here for a brief corrective (pay special attention to the second graph):

      • tiredoflibbs May 4, 2012 / 3:16 pm

        Denny, you article only address spending according to policy only. obAMATEUR increased baseline spending across the board by 20% PLUS incorporated the stimulus spending in baseline increases as well. Some of the “policy spending” by Bush has be repaid in the banking bailouts.

        obAMATEUR will have increased the DEBT by $6 trillion in just 4 years moreso than 42 presidents before him?!? And all you can give me is a cherry-picked article that pretty much says – “it’s Bush’s fault”???

        Newsflash, denny, Bush increased the debt by $4 trillion in EIGHT years. ObAMATEUR has surpassed that in a little over 3 years. Your article does not account for increased spending, over and above their “normal” increase, in existing policy that obAMATEUR has implemented.

        Details denny, details – a major problem for you. Again, your WILLFULL ignorance is very telling – it makes you to be the hack that you are more than ever.

        Again, stick to stained glass and photography they are more your speed and will never prove you wrong when it comes to politics.

      • JACO May 4, 2012 / 5:31 pm

        “The facts are accessible to anyone who cares.”

        Therein lies the problem, it would seem, Dennis: One has to care about the facts in order to heed them, and your debate opponents here appear to care more for histrionics than facts. Regardless, you made some thoughtful posts in this thread, so kudos on that.

      • tiredoflibbs May 4, 2012 / 8:28 pm

        Sure the facts are available.

        It is just the fact that denny (and the rest of the proggy drones) only care about facts they can cherry pick to make their argument. They don’t look at the big picture.

        His article only listed new spending by the policies they created and passed and not what they actually spent – at least in obAMATEUR’s case. Since obAMATEUR became pResident, he has amassed $6 TRILLION in NEW DEBT – Bush is not President anymore. The new spending has his signature all over it.

        If you want to cherry pick the spending and try to blame Bush then so be it – it is dishonest and does not follow your “facts are available if you are wiling to look” meme.

        Trouble is taco and denny, those are facts you do not want to face. That is why you drones continue to dodge away from your pResident’s pitiful record and need to keep the focus on “well…….obAMA got bin Laden”.

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