Fiscal responsibility, anti-poverty action both essential


E.J. Dionne is a syndicated columnist whose work I admire, and not just because he is a daily communicant. His opinion essays come the closest to Catholic social doctrine than does anything else I see. He writes the kind of thing all need to hear.
For instance, recently he wrote, “If you’re a conservative strongly opposed to abortion, shouldn’t you want to give all the help you can to women who want to bring their child into the world? In particular, shouldn’t you hope they’d get the proper medical attention during and after their pregnancy? This would seem a safe assumption, which is why it ought to be astonishing that conservatives are positively obsessed with trashing the Affordable Care Act’s regulation requiring insurance policies that include maternity coverage.”
The U.S. bishops have repeatedly criticized the Affordable Care Act for its contraceptive mandate and its narrow religious exemption, saying it erodes religious liberty rights. That’s a separate issue and one that has been widely reported. My concern here is with government programs and how they are funded.
So many pro-life people junk all credibility by proclaiming the evils of abortion only to harangue about cutting off all funding for medical care without which a poor woman might not be able to make it. Who will believe their pro-life credentials? Who will instead suspect that money is the root issue and not life when males, for instance, who could never have an abortion, denounce it while tightfistedly refusing to show a social conscience? This social conscience is the striking feature of Pope Frances that is enflaming some of his critics.
As must be obvious, all insurance of whatever kind covering life, health, cars, homes, etc. presupposes a large pool of participants who pay with the hope of never having to file a claim. Only this way would there be enough funds to pay the claims that inevitably come. Yes, there should be policing to make sure that fraudulent claims are stopped. The law already has a wide variety of protections that are advertised in the media, threatening prosecution. Private investigators who film suspected cheaters picking up a hundred pie plates scattered on their front lawn when they say their backs would not allow such exertions supply insurance company attorneys. On the way into court, they will tell the claimant’s attorney, “We have films.” At that point they file for dismissal.
A social conscience is the awareness of others in society. It is aware of one person’s responsibility to those others just by one’s own membership in that society. It rejects the selfishness of Cain, who thought he was not his brother’s keeper. We are all socially conscious of our rights in society that government and others have to deliver to us. The most rigid money-clutcher indignantly wants to know when the city will clear the snow or the power company restore power after a storm. He or she has no fear at this point about big government. He or she does not fear being accused of socialism. Social Security is almost a century old. It was opposed by those who feared the social part of it, worrying that big government would be meddling in a citizen’s privacy. Some might want to privatize it today, which would turn it into a casino of risk. But still they still cash their Social Security checks without embarrassment.
Dionne chides the inconsistent conservatives who reject food stamps, the Women, Infants and Children feeding program and other helpful government measures that they think they themselves will never need. They show a tough-luck attitude toward people who, unlike them, are minority or afflicted with sickness or laid off. Such a cavalier disregard for less fortunate people who might be struggling more than their critics ever have had to struggle is foreign to Christians. Catholic social doctrine makes no mistake in teaching that government is supposed to be the servant of the people to provide a minimum standard of living for everyone, not just for the financially fortunate. Right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh have chided popes for this.
Fair taxes will pay the bill, something of note in this the most lightly taxed of developed nations. The slash-and-burn conservatives, however, seldom call for reducing the two out of every three dollars for the Pentagon from the federal discretionary budget every year. They are comfortable with a military budget greater than that of the next hundred countries combined.
Some liberals admittedly have shot themselves in the foot promoting instances of tax-funded silliness. This has not helped their credibility. We need a better balance of fiscal responsibility and anti-poverty action, both of which are to be found in the social awareness of Catholic social teaching.
And since these things are so, we must repeal the Second Amendment.