Is there a Catholic approach to the debt ceiling debate?

Charles Dharapak AP House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, center, stands with, from left, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of … Continued

Charles Dharapak


House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, center, stands with, from left, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., left, and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as he speaks to reporters outside the White House in Washington, Wednesday, June 1, 2011, after their meeting with President Barack Obama regarding the debt ceiling.

The official stance of the USCCB opposes the cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as proposed by House Speaker John Boehner and Representative Paul Ryan. The need for Catholicism’s opposition is especially important because of how such cuts have been twined with the requirement upon Congress to raise the debt limit. Regardless of how the debt ceiling is confronted, beneath today’s partisanship in Washington is a much larger issue about social inequality and the role of government in addressing social injustice.

The division between rich and poor in the United States is reaching Third World proportions. Since 1979, the income for U.S. workers in real dollars has stagnated. Meanwhile, wealth has been concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewer people. Today, 400 multi-billionaires have more money than the bottom 60 percent of the country’s population. That’s 400 persons with more wealth than 180,000,000 Americans combined. People may debate
there is such inequality of income: but none can deny the

I think it is important for Catholic America to quickly recognize that the unseemly partisan fighting about whether the deficit will be reduced when the rich will loose tax loopholes (most Democrats) or when only spending will be cut (most Republicans) is a surrogate argument about the social fabric of the United States. Is Capitalism in America to be unbridled? Or should the people rely on elected government to limit the power and wealth of the few in the papal call for Social Democracy? I believe the answer to that question transcends partisan politics. Nonetheless, in the real world people have to make strategic choices among imperfect options – call it compromise – in order to move towards a more just society. To escape the laissez-faire Capitalism that brought about the Great Depression in 1929, Americans voted for a New Deal that placed elected government as arbiter between the excesses of the few and the needs of the many. Something like that radical choice is now called for by our society at the end of the Great Recession.

Academics view the current crisis in structural terms. When Capitalism runs out of targets to exploit, e.g. workers or Third World colonies, it begins to enrich the few by bleeding resources from its own population. This is “Late Capitalism” and it historically creates a scapegoat within the national population. The scapegoats are blamed for the shrinking wealth and getting rid of them is supposed to take the country back to previous prosperity. In past world history, scapegoats have been made of unions, leftists, and religious (including Catholics) and racial minorities: literally, anyone who can be categorized as “not fully one of us.” Such trends are painfully present to a union member in Wisconsin or a Latino in Arizona, and we should not pretend that “it can’t happen here.”

What complicates unambiguous Catholic support for Social Democracy over radical right-wing Capitalism is how the Catholic agenda is muddled with anti-Communist, anti-Secularist, and/or anti-Abortion rhetoric. Mussolini, Trujillo, Peron, Marcos and Pinochet are right-wingers that cuckolded some bishops into supporting their systematic undermining of social justice norms and the Gospel’s preferential option for the poor. Sadly, some bishops in the United States today seem to have fallen into the same trap by supporting Republican promises on abortion and same-sex marriage while ignoring the GOP’s recent complicity in social engineering to benefit the super-wealthy.

There is a racial component to the politics of social justice today. A recent report showed that from 2005-2009, Hispanics were the most affected by the Great Recession, losing more than half, that is, 66 percent of all we own. African Americans, who had less to begin with, lost 53 percent of their wealth. But white Americans saw a drop of only 16 percent in their wealth. A Pew research team reported: “Median wealth of whites is now 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, double the already marked disparities that had prevailed in the decades before the recent recession.” Such economic imbalance, combative politics and racial inequality, has been the recipe for revolution in Third World countries, but is has now arrived in America. Catholic America needs to provide a living example of how to resist these temptations to class warfare and racial antagonism.

  • fredscharf

    The Catholic Church does not call for Social Democracy or any particular form of government, but for government executed by morality. Marxism, socialism or any other variant is intrinsically immoral. Your stance, Mr. Stevens-Arroyo, is completely incorrect. It demonstrates your lack of understanding of American Constitutional government and the Catholic Faith. The Constitution allows for public charity, but that charity is to be located in the state and local governments, not the federal government. Charity is not an enumerated power.
    Stop spouting Welfare socialism.
    If the poor are getting poorer, it is because the government is crowding out the people in the business and philanthropic communities as liberal and RINO politicians seek to accrue more money and power to the federal government to keep them in their jobs. The biggest damage to the American people has been the federalization of education, producing pliant drones incapable of resisting tyranny. Time to wake up and get with it. Socialism is intrinsically evil. If you care about the poor, pull out your check book, not that of the American people through federal spending.

  • persiflage

    ‘Sadly, some bishops in the United States today seem to have fallen into the same trap by supporting Republican promises on abortion and same-sex marriage while ignoring the GOP’s recent complicity in social engineering to benefit the super-wealthy.’

    Exactly right. The forces of repression seem to gravitate toward one another in some mysterious fashion with an authoritarian world view as the binding agent. Hyper-capitalism is no longer what it once was – these days it’s more like corporate feudalism, with big business running both Washington and Wall Street. Rightwing politicians are just making sure corporate interests prevail.

    The social democracies of Europe have the right idea……Germany, as an example, has pretty much defeated unemployment and still remains a society fundamentally driven by enlightened capitalism. Common sense policies overcame greed, and benefitted all.

    The USA is far behind – as we can see today when anti-government anarchists in Congress are holding the entire country and the global economy hostage based on a misbegotten ideology that has become a full-blown pathology.

    Uninformed voters put them there, and now they’re going to pay the price.

  • amelia45

    Oh, so right, Mr. Stevens-Arroyo. There is something close to worship of capitalism – an economic system that, for sure, produces wonders, but is based on greed. Even Catholic Cantor is seduced by the godless Ayn Rand and considers her thinking the model to follow for economic policy. Capitalism requires and rewards greed, greed is its God, efficiency is its method – don’t confuse the two. And don’t assume that you can’t have one without the other.

    We had a surplus in year 2000. Ten years later we have the Great Bush Recession after foolishly cut taxes while fighting two wars, one of which was unjustified. We have deregulated markets to the point that the failure in the U.S. over gimmicked credit default swaps and derivatives pushed most of the industrial world to near economic collapse.

    The Republicans divert blame for their utter failure by rousing people to hate Muslims, Hispanics, gays, and abortionists. As if solving those issues, whatever that means (and I shudder), would miraculously create jobs.

    If tax cuts create jobs, where are they?

  • keess1

    The Catholic approach would be to get on your knees, humble yourself ,repent of your evil ways and ask God to heal our land. Materialism, greed, abortion, fornication, adultery, abuse etc etc….God’s mercy is turning over to judgement and until the hearts of the people turn back to God nothing will prevent the dire consequences coming down upon us.

  • Schwartz1

    The Church should worry about their approach to covering up crimes against children. Where’s Bernie Law? Kicked upstairs to the Vatican. Most Catholics I know abhor what the Church leadershio has become…apologists for child rapists and and others that a civil society would have locked up. God Bless the nuns in Africa doing the real work of Jesus, and the priests everywhere doing what Jesus would do. Blind obedience is a crime in itself, yet masquerades as faith.

  • allinthistogether

    Mr. fredscharf,
    Your comment clearly illustrates the damage to perception and reason, and then to our country, that is caused by seeing and interpreting the world through a pre-determined ideology. Ideologues see only what they want to see, interpret it as needed to fit their prior thought structure, and then rationalize poorly-informed behavior based on those interpretations. Your lens sounds as if it is formed by a competitive greed that bears no resemblance to the teachings of Jesus. I recommend that you get out and observe the conditions around you, particularly the children who are going hungry because their parents’ jobs evaporated in this economy. Put your ideology aside and just look and listen. We all owe it to ourselves and our country to try to compile an accurate read of what is happening around us and to then make a conscientious effort to understand and act from that awareness. Mindfulness and wisdom are what is needed.

  • bruce18

    Dear Mr. Stevens-Arroyo,
    You are fully correct in your observation of the Catholic Church’s preference for the poor. While the inequality statistics you cite are interesting, they hardly constitute a segregation of the poor. Those 180,000,000 people are not poor, particularly by global standards. Also, the Catholic Church supports private property ownership and does not believe all assets nor income belongs to the state to allocate as it sees fit, even in a democracy.
    When we have a Social Security system that makes payments to over 50,000,000 people, many of whom are quite wealthy, I think reform is in order and consistent with Catholic principles. The same goes for a Medicare system that enrolls anyone over 65 regardless of their economic status. While some beneficiaries of those programs are poor, many are not. Reforming them to focus more exclusively on the poor may actually be the more Catholic action.
    Finally, I note that the reform of welfare in the late 90’s proved more beneficial to the poor despite limiting their benefits.

  • YEAL9

    Time for some ways to pay OUR bills and balance OUR federal budget:
    from :
    CNN- 2007
    ” The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and anti- terrorist efforts abroad could cost the country $2.4 trillion over the next ten years, according to a report Wednesday.

    The $2.4 trillion would pay to keep 75,000 troops dep-loyed overseas from 2013 to 2017. About 210,000 troops are currently deployed. It does not include the Pentagon’s normal spending, which in 2007 is estimated to be about $450 billion.”

    Obviously, we can no longer afford to fight Muslim terrorism abroad. So bring the troops home making it clear to countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan that WMD already in our arsenal and paid for will be delivered upon their capitals and mosques if our country is ever attacked again by Muslims from anywhere.

    And the promulgation of the flaws and falacies of Islam should be made the number one priority of Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security. With no Islam, there will no longer be any koranic/mosque-driven acts of terror.

    And do we still need troops in Germany? Ditto for Japan? WWII was over 66 years ago.

    And then there are these other suggestions:

    Some incentives to live a healthy life style and also ways to pay for universal health care.

    1. An added two dollar health insurance tax (or higher) on a pack of cigarettes. Ditto taxes on alcoholic beverages, the higher the alcohol content, the higher the tax. Ditto for any product shown to be unhealthy (e.g. guns, high caloric/fatty foods??)

    2. Physicals akin to those required for life insurance- the overly ob-ese will pay signficantly more Medicare and universal health insurance (unless the obe-sity is caused by a medical condition).

    3. No universal health care coverage for drivers driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or using cell phones while driving.

    4. No universal health coverage for drug addicts or for those having self-inflicted STDs.

    5. No universal health coverage for abortions unless the life of the mother is at

  • nkfurlong

    If the Bishops could raise their voices on the Republicans’ attack on society as they did against the bill to help the sick and weak, the nominal Catholics in the congress might have paid attention. Now a few speak out when it is too late. We have no Catholic voice in society only the voices of conservative clerics who choose to be Republicans.

  • usapdx

    With the country debt of $14 TRILLON , a new source of money would be to repel the TAX EXEMPT law with so many groups that do speak on political matter then turn around claiming TAX EXAMPT without paying any tax. Are these groups that file TAX EXAMPT being fair to the country and the American tax payers? Is this a catholic thing to do?

  • Bippy

    With all due respect, I don’t think molesting the debt ceiling will help, especially not if you plan to coverup your having molested the debt ceiling and then refuse to pay for it’s repair, afterward. Let’s not take the Catholic approach.

  • gtullio1

    There is nothing Catholic about this article. It is simply Marxist pablum, Modernist swill w/ made up concepts like ‘social justice’. Go back and learn your faith. read the Encyclicals and Aquinas. Spare us this high sounding philanthropic tyranny masquerading as Catholic principles.

  • thebump

    Mr. Stevens Dash Arroyo’s blather is usually wrong, sometimes amusing, rarely edifying. But this piece of staggeringly ignorant tripe takes the cake.

    The most damning sentence is the following unintentional punch line: “Academics view the current crisis in structural terms.”

    LOL. Enough said.