Tim Huegerich of Catholics for Dean emailed me and a couple other bloggers with this.
In posting on various Catholic blogs and forums over the past few months, I have been surprised to find strong resistance to Dean’s positions on almost every issue, not just his positions on abortion or GLBT issues. This is the first part in a series specifically addressed to the Christian Right concerning these “other” issues.
Part I: Children
The phrase I hear over and over again is “personal responsibility.” Dean’s policies are labeled socialism and denounced as discouraging personal responsibility (or as contrary to the Church’s understanding on subsidiarity–a charge I will examine at a later date).
The strongest answer to this is that the Right has forgotten about poor children. One in six American children live in poverty. Millions have no health insurance, to cite one specific disadvantage, which means they have to wait for hours and hours in the emergency room just to have their flu or sore throat checked out. Really try to imagine what that’s like for a child. In addition, these children usually must avoid playing sports to avoid the risk of injury, and they may have to forego treatment for more serious medical problems. Another urgent concern is the striking lack of quality education in poor communities throughout America, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and denies children of hope for a better future.
Should we hold these children responsible for their parents’ poverty? The question of whether their parents are responsible for their own poverty becomes irrelevant (I will examine this issue at a later date). The question becomes whether to act to help these children–whether we, the people of the richest nation in history, care enough to ensure these “little ones” access to the mere basics of life: food, quality education, and health care, for starters. This is a moral question, not an ideological or political one.
While I am in no way a apologist for the GOP who Mark Shea accurately calls the Stupid Party, I will try to lay out some of what I believe to be the answers to the questions raised. The first part of this response will deal specifically with why I don’t think the Democratic Party has the answers for these problems. The second part deals with what I think the true solution is and it has nothing to do with donations to the GOP. I am also glad that Tim wonders at the negative response he has gotten in support of Dean’s agenda in these areas.
I support the general social conscience of most Democrats and their concern for the poor. Though I think that the very policies they advocate do more harm then good and in many cases it is like using water to put out an oil fire. Not only is the fire not put out but it spreads and causes even more damage.
The GOP errs when it places a total reliance on “personal responsibility” and the whole self-made man concept. I invite those who have not read what Chesterton had to say about self-made men in Orthodoxy to do so. The Democrats abandonment of “personal responsibility” and repercussions for actions is even worse. There are many times even when we are trying to be responsible that we need help from others. Conservatives often cite the saying about “giving a man a fish and teaching a man to fish” as an illustration of the difference between them and the Democratic Party. Unfortunately few Republicans are willing to give of their time to “teach a man to fish” and are against any government program that would do so.
Since I am not being very curt today I will place the rest of this in the Extended Entry.
1. The number one cause of poverty here in the U.S. and the Western world is fatherless homes. Children born outside of marriage and the divorce rate are the prime factors for poverty. Knowing this what answers do the Democrats advocate? There is no moral ethic displayed by this party that does anything to discourage sex outside of marriage or any measures aimed to prevent divorce. If you are serious about the welfare of children than you also want a stable family consisting both of a mother and father. You would also be a strong advocate of life to ensure that no harm comes to children and would say that all life is precious. You would do everything you could to discourage sex outside of marriage. But instead what has the Democratic party historically done in the last four decades? More liberal divorce laws and the hideous no-fault divorce. Sex education taught without any moral values that also teaches the use of contraceptives. They have also fought against abstinence education. Support of the demeaning of life through abortion. The support of the right to abortion at all costs only helps the attitude that sex is for pleasure only and children should be avoided at all costs. This attitude only leads to the hatred of virginity and children and when they do allow one to be born, their selfish attitude in no way helps the sacrifice needed in raising children. How can you care about the welfare of children and at the same time murder them in the womb? The Democratic party never cries out against sex outside of marriage since their ethic is sex is always okay between consenting adults. They also support the demeaning of marriage through same sex unions/marriage and are not willing to say that marriage is between one man and one women.
My parents divorced when I was in high school. I won’t go into details about my downward spiral as a result of this, but I will say my experience is not uncommon. This destruction of families through divorce creates a culture that knows nothing about love or sacrifice and the highest motives are pleasure.
Now I am not going to turn around and say the Republican Party is the paragon of virtue and that they have not helped lead us to where we are today. At least they are wiling to speak about moral values and the pursuit of virtue without the fear of offending someone. They have supported traditional marriage, but have not fought very hard to prevent the liberalization of divorce laws. Rush Limbaugh, one of the conservative icons has been married three times. They have been opponents of abortion, but have turned their backs on the abortafacient effects of most contraceptives. In many ways the ideals promoted by the GOP properly reflect what our views should be towards sex and marriage, yet their implementation and hypocrisy have not helped to advance the ideals they profess.
2. Now as to health insurance. I think I can speak specifically about my experiences with socialized medicine. I don’t have to talk about how it doesn’t work in other countries. Both as active duty and as a retired veteran I have received my health-care through the military hospital system. While there are many good doctors, nurses, and corpsmen they are hamstrung by this government run system. If I need to go to the emergency room I will wait many hours to be seen. If I need a flu shot I have to take off from work and spend a couple hours waiting to get one. While active duty the taxpayer paid for any treatment I received and as retired military the taxpayer still subsidizes my health-care with me paying only a relatively small part of it. The military system is socialized medicine. Military hospitals for the most part are not on par with their civilian counterparts. They do not have the latest equipment and training. Have you ever heard a veteran brag about the care they received from a V.A. hospital? The money for care in the military is controlled by Congress, and there has been a cut back in care and a heavier reliance on care provided by non-doctors. Since the care is provided free for active duty you also have the costs associated with what we called “sick bay commandos.” I remember having to go to the dispensary on the ship once and on the doctors wall was a long list of people that shouldn’t be seen. These people always seemed to get sick right around the time there was physical work to be done. Since they weren’t paying for their visits they had no problem wasting time and money to be seen. What is seen as “free” gets abuses. There is no concern about the waste of taxpayers money. I firmly believe that socialized health-care in the U.S. will fail just as it has in other countries and our own efforts through Military hospitals proves that we wouldn’t do it any differently.
As to waiting a couple hours to get seen. What is the big deal about that. Should our health-care be seen like the fast food culture. I learned in the military to always bring a book along with me. We should not be worried at all about waiting to be seen. We should be happy that we are seen and taken care of.
I would like to know what real children who are poor are truly concerned about not getting injured? I went to a high school that we affectionately called “Ghetto High.” We were mainly made up of families that would be considered poor or lower middle class. Yet we played just as hard playing sports as anyone else. I had a couple of injuries playing sports and never had a concern about my parents being able to pay for it. True this was selfish, but most kids don’t live their life believing they are going to get injured and worry about how their parents are going to afford it. Usually when you are young you think you are almost indestructible.
Millions have no health insurance because they have not put heath insurance as a priority in their lives. The majority of the people living at what we call the poverty level or above it also are able to afford many of the trinkets of our consumer market. I have traveled all over the world and have seen true poverty. Families living in temporary structures made out of plywood and cardboard. Families crowed into a small apartment to get by. I have not seen the same type of poverty here. People make choices to spend their money on fast food, alcohol, tobacco, entertainment, and junk food. The last choice they usually make is on health care. Now I am not speaking about those in desperate means who need health-care. I just find the statistic of millions without health-care being disingenuous, as if millions had no opportunity to buy health-care if they wanted it.
3. I found it especially ironic for a Democrat to be complaining about the education given to poor children. Who is one of the largest donors to the Democratic party? No surprise it is the teachers unions. The Democrats have a virtual lock on what goes on and is taught in our public schools. I would like to see just one example where the increased school budget resulted in the increase of education. Washington D.C. has some of the worst schools, yet we spend around 10,000 dollars per child for that inferior education. Atlanta spends a lot of money per child for public education, yet again they are ranked among the lowest in education. If Democrats were serious about the education in public schools they would be advocates for a true liberal education which was not heavily peppered with politically correct dogmas and environmental junk science. They want to do nothing about the lack of discipline and violence going on in the schools. Instead we are installing video cameras on school buses so we know who to arrest when the fights invariably break out. I know from my own experience in public school that I was robbed. I was not so much educated as brain washed. I have spent most of my life as an adult unlearning the inaccurate history I was taught and replacing it with true education. The situation has only got worse since I last attended public schools.
4. Reading the Gospels concerning what Jesus said about the poor I see such statements as :
“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind
“Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.”
for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
The common thread is our personal actions towards those in need of help. Our reliance on government programs to fix problems ultimately removes us of the responsibility of being the ones to help. We decry that there isn’t a government program when we see someone in need. We totally forget that we ourselves can help that person. For I was hungry and the government gave me food does not appear in the Gospels. The St. Vincent de Paul society and the Salvation Army has done more for poor people than the multi-trillion dollars spent on Great Society programs ever will or could. Almsgiving is part of the Gospel. Almsgiving by proxy is not. To say something like we should tax rich people another five percent and give it to the poor, because they won’t miss it is also not part of the Gospel. Jesus praised the widow’s charity in given most of what she had because she voluntarily gave of what little she had. He did not say that she shouldn’t have given it and that a rich person should do so in her stead. He condemned those who gave large amounts of money as a pubic show. Our society should do all it can to encourage personal almsgiving to those in need. Not only because it helps those in need, but because it also leads to our personal sanctification. Nobody will ever be sanctified by a large tax bill, mortified perhaps. It is no surprise that the more one relies on government solving the problems the less they donate themselves in almsgiving. This is not just because they are taxed at a level where they can’t afford to give in charity. Some of the richest areas in average income are also some of the worst areas for charitable donation.
We need to treat the poor as fellow humans in need of help instead of a problem to be cured by the government. The check routing number on an account for a welfare check does not make up for us giving of ourselves sacrificially through our time and talent. We should work towards a society where not only the rich give out of their excess, but that every single one of us does the same. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in her second vocation did not work tirelessly to get the Indian government to help the poor. She gave tirelessly of her own time and her very example encouraged others to do the same.
The destruction by liberalism of religious life in our country has done much to remove access to low cost health-care and low cost quality education. We no longer have the quantity of those in religious life that can give of themselves in our Catholic hospitals or Catholic schools. We should be praying for vocations and doing all we can to support religious life. But again this is no substitute for our own time and efforts to these same causes. We can make the mistake of replacing what the government can do with what those in religious life can do. It is definitely another case of Both/And.
We should be working at the community level and not have our tax dollars sent through Washington where by the time the money gets back to our same communities it has been much reduced by bureaucratic programs. Toss your dollar upon the waters of the Government and about twenty cents might actually go to helping someone. In contrast to the bumper sticker that says “Think Globally,” I say “Act Locally.”
5. Oh and by the way Tim. You have left many comments throughout St. Blogs, but on your own site you only allow comments that have been vetted first. So much for the Democrat’s love of free speech.