Paul Ryan Challenged On Budget By Georgetown Faculty (UPDATED)
Posted: 04/24/2012 1:31 pm Updated: 04/24/2012 4:00 pm
UPDATE: 4/24, 4:00pm: Rep. Paul Ryan’s spokesman, Kevin Seifert, sent this email in response to an inquiry about the Georgetown Faculty Letter from The Huffingtonpost:
“Chairman Ryan remains grateful for Georgetown’s invitation to advance a thoughtful dialogue this week on his efforts to avert a looming debt crisis that would hurt the poor the first and the worst. Ryan looks forward to affirming our shared commitment to a preferential option for the poor, which of course does not mean a preferential option for bigger government.”
WASHINGTON—Joining a chorus of Catholic bishops, theologians, priests, and social justice leaders, nearly 90 Georgetown University faculty and administrators have called Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to task for his misuse of Catholic social teaching in defending his budget, which hurts the poor. The group sent a letter to Rep. Ryan in advance of his appearance on the Catholic campus on Thursday morning to give the Whittington Lecture.
In their letter to Ryan, the scholars make clear they are not objecting to his speaking on campus, but rather his recent comments defending his budget on Christian grounds.
“Our problem with Representative Ryan is that he claims his budget is based on Catholic social teaching,” said Jesuit Father Thomas J. Reese, one of the organizers of the letter. “This is nonsense. As scholars, we want to join the Catholic bishops in pointing out that his budget has a devastating impact on programs for the poor.” Reese is a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.
The letter quotes the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which wrote several letters to Congress saying “a just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons.” The bishops noted that “the House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.” Last week, Rep. Ryan dismissed the bishops’ critique, erroneously claiming the letters didn’t represent “all the bishops,” a point the USCCB media office denied.
“I am afraid that Chairman Ryan’s budget reflects the values of his favorite philosopher Ayn Rand rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Father Reese. “Survival of the fittest may be okay for Social Darwinists but not for followers of the gospel of compassion and love.”
The Georgetown scholars pointed to the devastating impact of cuts in food programs that keep the poor from starvation. From personal experience, they also “know how cuts in Pell Grants will make it difficult for low-income students to pursue their educations at colleges across the nation, including Georgetown.”
The scholars corrected Mr. Ryan on his use of the Catholic concept of “subsidiarity” as “a rationale gutting government programs.” The scholars say that it is true that “It calls for solutions to be enacted as close to the level of local communities as possible. But it also demands that higher levels of government provide help—‘subsidium’—when communities and local governments face problems beyond their means to address such as economic crises, high unemployment, endemic poverty and hunger.”
The scholars also gave the Representative a reading assignment: “The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church,” which was commissioned by John Paul II and published by the Vatican.
Signing the letter were over a dozen Georgetown Jesuit priests, numerous members of the Theology and other departments including History, Government, Philosophy, School of Foreign Service and School of Nursing & Health Studies.
The letter to Rep. Paul Ryan follows:
Dear Rep. Paul Ryan,
Welcome to Georgetown University. We appreciate your willingness to talk about how Catholic social teaching can help inform effective policy in dealing with the urgent challenges facing our country. As members of an academic community at a Catholic university, we see your visit on April 26 for the Whittington Lecture as an opportunity to discuss Catholic social teaching and its role in public policy.
\However, we would be remiss in our duty to you and our students if we did not challenge your continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has wisely noted in several letters to Congress – “a just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons.” Catholic bishops recently wrote that “the House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.”
In short, your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love.
Cuts to anti-hunger programs have devastating consequences. Last year, one in six Americans lived below the official poverty level and over 46 million Americans – almost half of them children – used food stamps for basic nutrition. We also know how cuts in Pell Grants will make it difficult for low-income students to pursue their educations at colleges across the nation, including Georgetown. At a time when charities are strained to the breaking point and local governments have a hard time paying for essential services, the federal government must not walk away from the most vulnerable.
While you often appeal to Catholic teaching on “subsidiarity” as a rationale for gutting government programs, you are profoundly misreading Church teaching. Subsidiarity is not a free pass to dismantle government programs and abandon the poor to their own devices. This often misused Catholic principle cuts both ways. It calls for solutions to be enacted as close to the level of local communities as possible. But it also demands that higher levels of government provide help — “subsidium”– when communities and local governments face problems beyond their means to address such as economic crises, high unemployment, endemic poverty and hunger. According to Pope Benedict XVI: “Subsidiarity must remain closely linked to the principle of solidarity and vice versa.”
Along with this letter, we have included a copy of the Vatican’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, commissioned by John Paul II, to help deepen your understanding of Catholic social teaching.
It isn’t Catholicism behind the criticism of Paul Ryan. It is socialism.
What socialists fail to see is that centrally planned economies are regressive and not progressive. Socialism is a type of feudalism. During the Middle Ages, landed Lords dictated to their subjects how resources were to be allocated and how prices were to be set: grow more of this, grow less of that and so on. Even within the confines of a small estate, this was extremely difficult because no Noble could could organize things as well as if he were to simply allow free markets.
This feudal idea was the same basic idea behind the economy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: produce this in Siberia, produce that in the Ukraine and set prices by means of central planners. Consider this quotation from two Soviet economists, Nikolai Shmelev and Vladimir Popov. They are talking here about problems that arose when central planners raised the price consumers would pay for moleskins so that hunters would get more. In this quotation, note especially the very last line:
“State purchases increased and now all the distribution centers are filled with these pelts. Industry is unable to use them all, and they often rot in the warehouses before they can be processed. The Ministry of Light Industry has already requested Goskomsten twice to lower purchasing prices, but the question has not been decided yet. And this is not surprising. Its members are too busy to decide. They have no time: besides setting prices on these pelts, they have to KEEP TRACK OF ANOTHER 24,000,000 PRICES. [Emphasis mine] Sowell, Basic Economics, 17.
24 millions prices in need of management by central planners! Economist Thomas Sowell goes on to note that when Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev visited Great Britain, he asked Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: “How do you see to it that people get food?” He was seriously perplexed by this. Her answer was that she didn’t. A free-market economy did that.
Socialism is not progress. Socialism is a return to feudalism. “Given that any modern economy has millions of products, it is too much to expect the leaders of any country to even know what all those products are, much less know how much of each resource should be allocated to the production of these millions of products.” Sowell, Op. Cit. 13. A movement toward socialism is not progress, it is a regression to feudalism. Feudal economies failed for the same reason as socialist and communist economies failed. Even a genius with PhDs in economics and business management from 100 top-notch universities cannot manage a complex economy as well as people living in those economies acting in freedom.
History shows that as soon as socialist central planners allow free markets into their countries, those countries thrive. India and China are booming. Cuba is still wallowing in poverty. And it is not just the rich in India and China whose standard of living is rising. It is the entire population: a rising tide raises all boats! Free markets help the poor. Socialism hurts the poor. As Catholics we are supposed to help the poor.
The error of socialists is their false belief that inequality is based on politics when in fact it is based on scarcity, ontological scarcity! I live in a city bordered by a mountain. Many people would like to have homes there with a nice mountain view. Sadly the mountain is only so big. It is impossible for 500,000 people to all have homes there. The price of land on the mountain reflects that. Prices don’t create scarcity. Scarcity creates prices. Even if the Mayor of my city were to attempt to create a central plan for “universal access” or “universal human rights” for mountain homes and create price restrictions, rationing and caps, that would not change the fact of the scarcity of mountain property in my city. Take away price and what factor would decide who could live on the mountain property: central planning whim? ruling power favoritism? Both are forms of injustice. Even if everyone was given a “human right” to live on the mountain, nothing would change.
What is so difficult to understand about this concept: “The staggering number of economic transactions, on ever-changing terms as supply and demand vary, is beyond the knowledge and capacity of any individual or any manageable-sized group of planners to direct in any economy.” Sowell, Op Cit, 16. What is so Catholic about returning people to the serfdom of feudalism???
The fact that the faculty gathers to protest Paul Ryan but fails to unite to make a statement to protect the unborn makes them look like Marxists. Certainly not Catholic.