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September 3, 2008

Democrats' Platform Outperforms Republican Platform on Issues of Concern to Catholics

Minneapolis, Minn - Sept 2, 2008 - The concerns of Catholic voters are better reflected in the Democratic national platform, ratified at last week's convention in Denver, than in the Republican platform, according to an analysis by the Catholic Democrats. An association of state-based groups representing a Catholic voice within the Democratic Party, the Catholic Democrats is advancing a public understanding of the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching and its potential to help solve the broad range of problems confronting all Americans.

"Catholics have enumerated their social concerns in a variety of polls and statements throughout this campaign," said Dr. Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats. "Like all other Americans, they are deeply concerned about the economy, health care, the environment, and immigration."

"Like all Americans, Catholics are struggling today," said Pat Schaffer, chair of Catholic Democrats of Minnesota. "The Republican platform seems to really lack any fresh ideas to help the millions of Catholics, and other Americans, who are working longer hours just to put food on their tables and gas in the tank."

Catholic voters made up 23% of the respondents who were part of a New York Times/CBS News poll who said that economic concerns should be the main priority in this election. Over the past few months, both Catholic voters and Church leaders have discussed health care, the environment, and immigrati on as issues that merit wide public discussion during this campaign. In particular, Pope Benedict XVI recently stated that politicians and other public figures must be "capable of responding to the great ecological challenge and to be up to the task of this challenge." Similarly, Cardinal Richard Mahony of Los Angeles has supported a humane approach to immigration reform.

Comparison of Platform


Democratic National Platform
The Democratic platform leads with economic issues and says, "Families have seen their incomes go down even as they have been working longer hours and as productivity has grown. --- Worse yet, too many Americans have lost confidence in the fundamental American promise that our children will have a better life than we do.

Among other issues, Democrats are pledging to

* Provide an energy rebate to the middle class;
* Protect public and private retirement plans;
* Support policies that will ensure good jobs with decent wages and benefits;
* Invest in American competitiveness for job creation;
* Restore fairness to the tax code.

Republican National Platform
The platform does not lead with economic concerns,. Instead the Republican platform focuses first on war & security issues, and then emphasizes limiting government spending as its principal a pproach to domestic policy.

Not until Section 3 does the Republican platform mention the economy. The platform's first economic proposals are not about helping citizens find relief from the economic squeeze of higher food and fuel prices, but defending the tax policies of George W. Bush.

Furthermore, the platform offers no new economic policy insights beyond lowering taxes to promote "economic security." The heading of this section in the platform is emblematic: "The Republican Agenda: Using Tax Relief to Grow the Economy."

Health Care

Democratic National Platform
"Democrats are united around a commitment that every American man, woman, and child be guaranteed affordable, comprehensive healthcare. --- people expressed moral outrage with a health care crisis that leaves millions of Americans--including nine million children--without health insurance and millions more struggling to pay rising costs for poor quality care."

Among other issues, Democrats are pledging to:

* Cover all Americans and provide affordable health insurance options;
* End insurance discrimination;
* Emphasize prevention and wellness;
* Modernize system to lower costs and improve the quality of care.

Republican National Platform
Rather than focusing on how Republicans will fix the healthcare system to ensure that millions of Americans will ha ve the health insurance they need, the Republican platform focuses on what Republicans will not do. The list of five "will nots" severely and substantially limits the potential for Republican healthcare reform.

The platform offers limited and incremental solutions, such as encouraging insurance portability, emphasizing consumer rights for patients, and supporting health care technologies that are long-accepted conventional wisdom strategies.


Democratic National Platform
"We will lead to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change." The Democratic National Platform enumerates how warmer temperatures and declining rainfall will adversely impact the planet and the people living on it. "Never again will we sit on the sidelines, or stand in the way of collective action to tackle this global challenge. Getting our own house in order is only a first step."

Among other issues, Democrats are pledging to:

* Invest in efficient and clean technologies;
* Establish energy security;
* Lead in reinvestment in science and technology.

Republican National Platform
It is encouraging that the Republican platform now acknowledges the challenge of global warming. Unfortunately, the platform still states that global warming is "the subject of ongoing scientific research" and argues against "doomsday climate change scenarios."

Unlike the Democratic platform, the Republican platform makes no pledge to lead on this issue of global importance. Instead, the Republican platform asserts that the market is the solution and proposes the creation of a "Climate Prize" as its big idea.


Democratic National Platform
"America has always been a nation of immigrants. Over the years, millions of people have come here in the hope that in America, you can make it if you try.--- Nonetheless, our current immigration system has been broken for far too long. We need comprehensive immigration reform, not just piecemeal efforts. We must work together to pass immigration reform in a way that unites this country, not in a way that divides us by playing on our worst instincts and fears."

Among other issues, Democrats are pledging to:

* Secure our national borders;
* Improve the legal immigration system;
* Find a pathway to legal residency for undocumented workers who are otherwise playing by the rules.

Republican National Platform
The Republican platform focuses on immigration as a security issue, not as a part of the American tradition, and emphasizes securing the borders (a concern shared by the Democratic platform).

The platform talks about "embracing immigrant communities" by insisting they learn English. A lso, the platform uses 54 words to welcome refugees. The platform offers no solutions on integrating immigrants into American society beyond saying that Republicans oppose amnesty.


Democratic National Platform
The Democratic platform offers solutions to reducing the number of abortions, saying, "We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs."

Republican National Platform
Language in the Republican platform that originally invited all people of good will "to work together to reduce the incidence of abortion" was stricken from the final draft. Additionally, the Republican platform offers no commitment to supporting policies that have been proven to encourage women to continue with an unplanned pregnancy.

September 4, 2008

Palin Attacks Catholic Community Organizing by Senator Obama; No Mention of Economic Distress Across America

Minneapolis, Minn. - Sept 4, 2008 - Catholic Democrats is expressing surprise and shock that Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's acceptance speech tonight mocked work that her opponent had done in the 1980s for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. She belittled Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's experience as a community organizer in Catholic parishes on the South Side of Chicago, work he undertook instead of pursuing a lucrative career on Wall Street. In her acceptance speech, Ms. Palin said, "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities." Community organizing is at the heart of Catholic Social Teaching to end poverty and promote social justice.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has operated the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, its domestic anti-poverty and social justice program, since 1969. In 1986, the Bishops issued Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the US Economy, which said, "Human dignity can be realized and protected only in community." Senator Obama worked in several Catholic parishes, supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, helping to address severe joblessness and housing needs in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods of Chicago.

"It is shocking that a vice presidential candidate would disparage an essential component of the Catholic Social Tradition with her condescending attack on urban community organizing," said Dr. Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats. "Her divisive rhetoric, repeatedly pitting small towns against urban communities, demonstrates not only a lack of charity toward the needs of some of the least among us but a fundamental disrespect for those who dedicate their lives to overcoming poverty across our country. Her sarcastic tone is also emblematic of the contempt that she and Senator McCain have shown toward actually addressing the economic distress that is gripping America in these difficult times. Economic issues, including extreme poverty, are among the most important to Catholics and other people of faith in this election."

"Why do Governor Palin and the McCain Campaign sarcastically attack efforts to organize unemployed Catholics and Protestants? Senator Obama has spoken warmly about his experiences as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago," said Lisa Schare, chair of Catholic Democrats of Ohio. "His work in helping people who were experiencing the real trauma of losing their jobs and livelihoods demonstrates an authentic Christian spirit and the real essence of Catholic Social Teaching, something strikingly absent from Governor Palin's remarks tonight."

September 9, 2008

Administration ignored expert advise on 'troop surge' in Iraq, preferring to send soldiers and buy peace at taxpayers' expense

A new book by Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward has put the Bush White House on the defensive. Released Monday Sept 8, the book makes allegations that the Administration spied on individuals within the Iraqi government. Mr Woodward conducted two interviews in the spring with President Bush, and argues in the book that Mr Bush was largely detached from decisionmaking in Iraq.

But one issue that Mr Bush weighed in on, in defiance of the "commanders on the ground," was the so-called troop surge of thousands of new soldiers in 2007. The book alleges that many of the Administration's military advisors in Washington and the Army commanders in Iraq were opposed to sending large numbers of new troops. Unreported so far was the role that the draw-down by other coalition members had on the decision to send new American soldiers into Iraq.

The Defense Department has consistently exaggerated the number of members in the "Coalition of the Willing," with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stating in August 2006 that 35 countries had contributed troops. Between 21 and 26 nations actually had soldiers in Iraq at that time, some contingents numbering less than 10 individuals. The number of troops has fallen by at least 17,000, including the further losses this past month as a result of withdrawal of the entire contingent of 2000 Georgian troops following the Russian invasion of their country.

British troops have declined from a peak of 45,000 to 4000 currently. Japanese soldiers were withdrawn in July of 2006, the Italians in November 2006, and all of Slovakia's troops last December. The remaining foreign soldiers are largely confined to base, to avoid casualties. The US is thought to have paid nearly $2 billion, mostly to Poland, to support these contingents of foreign soldiers.

Only seven other countries--Bulgaria, El Salvador, Romania, South Korea, Australia, Poland and Britain--have 100 or more troops remaining in Iraq.

If the US troop increase has merely replaced the disappearing coalition contingents, how can the decrease in violence be explained? One likely explanation for the seeming pacification of Iraq over the past 12 months is the massive additional funds provided at US taxpayer expense to pay off the Sunni militias, man-by-man at about $300 per month.

In this light, the US 'surge' may have been largely incidental to the decreased violence in Iraq, since the increased troop presence has mostly just replaced the loss of soldiers from other countries. Although it could be argued that buying the allegiance of the various combatants is an intelligent expenditure, if it spares American lives, the question that looms large is whether this represents a stop-gap measure by the Administration until after the US Presidential Election takes place in two months.

September 27, 2008

It's naughty vs nice, and Obama wins on civility and the facts

Huge numbers of Americans tuned in for the first debate Friday night between Democratic nominee Barack Obama and Republican John McCain. The subject was foreign policy, with a heavy dose of economics in light of the grave financial crisis hanging over the head of the US economy at the end of two turbulent weeks in financial markets around the world. But in a sense, more than just the performance of the two candidates was on display. Each was playing to the expectations of the American audience, while aware that they were speaking on a world stage as well.

Both candidates appeared very presidential and quite knowledgeable. But if respect for the truth and civility of tone were the highest measures of the candidates' self-confidence, Senator Obama won the debate in a walk.

Over and over, Senator McCain played fast and loose with the facts. He spoke of increased offshore oil drilling as a "short-term solution to high gas prices," when he knows experts have indicated that the 10-20 year delay in realizing such leases and the smallness of US reserves (only 3% of known world oil resources) guarantee that increased drilling cannot possibly impact US gas prices in the short-term. He spoke of building 45 new nuclear reactors and generating 700,000 new jobs, when not a single new reactor has been built anywhere in the US in dozens of years. He lied about Senator Obama planning to raise income taxes on people earning as little as $42,000 per year, despite Senator Obama's repeating hundreds of times that no one making less than $250,000 per year would see their income taxes rise.

Senator McCain repeated twice that Afghanistan hearings had never been held by a subcommittee Senator Obama chairs, despite the fact that responsibility for Afghanistan does not reside with that subcommittee. He accused Senator Obama of voting for a bill providing tax breaks for oil companies, when in fact the measure in question increased oil company taxes by $300 million. He said "earmarks" had tripled in value over the past five years, when in fact they have fallen over the past three years.

The New York Times labeled only one factual error by Senator Obama, when at the end of the debate he said that China held $1 trillion in US debt. But this depends on how debt is defined: while China holds a little more than $500 billion in US Treasury securities (as Senator McCain asserted), the Chinese hold more than a $1 trillion in foreign exchange reserves. Misrepresentation of the facts is a severe form of disrespect for one's opponent, and for one's audience.

But more troubling was the obvious contempt with which Senator McCain treated Senator Obama, numbingly repeating the construction "Senator Obama doesn't understand..." as if his lobbyist political consultants had beaten it into his head that he had to belittle Senator Obama's capacity for judgement at every opportunity. Senator McCain made virtually no eye contact with Senator Obama during the 90-minute debate, including when they shook hands at the end. Senator McCain never once used the word "Barack" during the debate. One wondered if Senator McCain, who has long prided himself on his sense of honor, was nonetheless ashamed by the personal criticism he felt compelled to level at his opponent.

In contrast, Senator Obama repeatedly addressed his remarks to has adversary by his first name. He refused to condemn Senator McCain's reversal on the torture legislation last year, instead applauding the older senator's earlier opposition. He offered no ad hominem attacks based on Senator McCain's health or age or poor school performance or previous misstatements of the facts, and demonstrated no hostility toward his rival.

These lapses of civility made Senator McCain look small, and his personal insecurity seemed unbecoming of someone who has battled so much adversity in his own life.

Perhaps the most striking impression left by the debates was the low expectations reserved for the American audience. Despite the world teetering on the brink of the worst financial crisis in 80 years, the subject of world poverty was barely mentioned. Out of the Great Depression arose an unprecedented political instability that led to the rise of fascism and a war that killed as many as 50 million people around the world. The recent food riots across the developing countries, as prices spiraled upwards, seemed to warn of a similar impending global security emergency.

Jim Lehrer, the moderator, seemed to feel as if Americans had no stomach for hearing about world poverty, in spite of the crisis atmosphere this week at the United Nations where government leaders and NGOs were debating the potential upheaval that could be precipitated by a global economic depression. As an educated people, we must rise to some new realization that the fate of poor people on the other side of the world directly affects our own security.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

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"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

"On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

"On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

First Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama

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