I once read that in 1948, the average federal tax burden on a family of four in the United States was $0.02 of every $1.00. Think about that. Let it soak in. Go find your pay stub. Look at what you paid to the federal government there and year-to-date. Now aggregate this to all the families in the United States. Is it any wonder why so many families in the United States are convinced the wife/mother have to work in order to simply make ends meet, much less get ahead? (And, yes, indulge themselves in SeaDoos, etc.)
And it has undermined the family in ways non-economic, as well. One of my fraternity brother's wife left him for a man with whom she worked. It was devastating. Yes, men have been doing to their wives this for eons, and this sort of thing could and maybe even would have happened given what must have been problems in the relationship. However, how much more of this goes on because couple decides "We must have this extra income for XYZ reason," and at some point down the road, husband and wife fall into a rough patch, either spouse knows someone else at work who seems more attractive/attentive/whatever, they can't see that the rough patch is just a passing phase that will go, come back, and go again ad nauseam for the rest of their lives, and pretty soon, an affair is in full bloom, it gets discovered, and the family is destroyed. Add into the mix Paul VI's admonitions in Humanae Vitae of what would happen if birth control became widely available, and each of the gazillion studies that show the societal consequences of the breakup of the nuclear family come into sharper focus.
And so it makes me wonder: Why isn't the USCCB more firmly pressing for tax relief for families so moms don't feel they have to go to work but can stay in the home (as many working moms have told me is the case)? Why aren't they insisting that the portion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that abolished the family wage or any family considerations when employers seek to remunerate their workers be repealed? Why is it -- or has it historically been -- "SPEND, SPEND, SPEND!", even though overwhelming evidence shows this does more harm than good? Why have we so blithely ignored 2 Thessalonians 3:10, where St. Paul commands us, "If anyone will not work, let him not eat"? When has that factored into the equation?
And, yes, you don't hear this sort of "SPEND, SPEND, SPEND!" mantra that led one wag to call the USCCB "the Democratic Party at prayer" as much anymore if at all. However, nothing has replaced it (or have I missed something)? In any event, I pray that what Fr. Sirico has written is becoming the conventional wisdom amongst Church types. Government spending on the poor is not bad, but if we're going to use precious tax resources for that purpose, they ought to be verifiably effective and we shouldn't protect government spending on the poor just because it's government spending on the poor.
Anyway, would love to know what you think about the following or the above.
The Church as the Bride of Caesar
July 27, 2011 4:15 P.M.
By Fr. Robert A. Sirico
It is telling that the Washington Post report on the religious Left’s Circle of Protection campaign for big government describes the effort as one that would “send chills through any politician who looks to churches and religious groups as a source of large voting blocs,” because, in fact, this is not an honest faith-inspired campaign to protect the “least of these” from Draconian government cuts, as claimed. It is a hyper-political movement that offers up the moral authority of churches and aid organizations to advance the ends of the Obama administration and its allies in Congress.
The Circle of Protection, led by Jim Wallis and his George Soros-funded Sojourners group, is advancing a false narrative based on vague threats to the “most vulnerable” if we finally take the first tentative steps to fix our grave budget and debt problems. For example, Wallis frequently cites cuts to federal food programs as portending dire consequences to “hungry and poor people.”
Which programs? He must have missed the General Accountability Office study on government waste released this spring, which looked at, among others, 18 federal food programs. These programs accounted for $62.5 billion in spending in 2008 for food and nutrition assistance. But only seven of the programs have actually been evaluated for effectiveness. Apparently it is enough to simply launch a government program, and the bureaucracy to sustain it, to get the Circle of Protection activists to sanctify it without end. Never mind that it might not be a good use of taxpayer dollars.
It is also telling that the group’s advertised “Evangelical, Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant, African-American, and Latino Christian leaders” who are so concerned about the poor and vulnerable in the current budget negotiations have so little to say about private charity, which approached $300 billion last year. [QUAERITUR: To what extent would a rise in interest rates coupled with the abolition of tax breaks for charitable giving impact help for the poor and other worthy efforts?] To listen to them talk, it is as if a prudent interest in reining in deficits and limiting government waste, fraud, and bloat would leave America’s poor on the brink of starvation. It is as if bureaucratic solutions, despite the overwhelming evidence of the welfare state’s pernicious effects on the family, are the only ones available to faith communities. This is even stranger for a group of people who are called to “love the neighbor” first and last with a personal commitment.
Although the Circle of Protection has been endorsed by a few Catholic bishops, the predictably left-leaning social justice groups, and Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Church in America has long moved beyond the heady (and increasingly-distant) days of the 1980s when knee-jerk opposition to any reduction in government spending was the norm. That still holds, even if some of the staff and a few of the bishops at the Bishops’ Conference still imbibe such nostalgia.
The actions of Wallis and the co-signers of the Circle of Protection are only understandable in light of political, not primarily religious, aims. Wallis, after all, has been serving as self-appointed chaplain to the Democratic National Committee and recently met with administration officials to help them craft faith-friendly talking points for the 2012 election. And when Wallis emerged from that White House meeting, he crowed that “almost every pulpit in America is linked to the Circle of Protection … so it would be a powerful thing if our pulpits could be linked to the bully pulpit here.”
Think about that for a moment. Imagine if a pastor had emerged from a meeting with President George W. Bush and made the same statement. I can just imagine the howls of “Theocracy!” and “Christian dominionism!” that would echo from the mobs of Birkenstock-shod, tie-dyed, and graying church activists who would immediately assemble at the White House fence to protest such a blurring of Church and State.
But in the moral calculus of Jim Wallis and his Circle of Protection supporters, there’s no problem with prostrating yourself, your Church, and your aid organization before Caesar. As long as he’s on your side of the partisan divide.
— Rev. Robert A. Sirico is president and co-founder of the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan