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October 2012 Archives

October 4, 2012

Who "won" the first presidential debate?

Much was made Wednesday night about Mitt Romney's "passion" in his debate performance with President Obama. He talked about deficits as a "moral issue," and not just a fiscal issue. But again and again he refused to offer any details about how he would handle all the most pressing problems. He would eliminate financial reform, overturn national health insurance reform, close the Department of Education, and slash taxes on the wealthiest Americans. But he offered no information on how he would prevent another economic meltdown, or insure all Americans, or continue to improve education once the Ryan domestic spending cuts were implemented.

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Denver Post

If the deficit is a moral issue, he failed to enumerate any reasons why his own tax rate is half what most working Americans pay--and why wealthier individuals shouldn't step up to the plate the way they did during the roaring 1990s. President Obama pointed out that President Clinton had implemented higher tax rates for the wealthiest Americans to drop the deficit, and everyone did better economically. Mr. Romney completely sidestepped the lessons of history in this regard.

Mr. Romney repeatedly cited the number of people on food stamps, but seemed to imply that cutting funding for food stamps would help solve the problem. He said he wants to make sure no one is denied medical insurance for a preexisting condition, but offers no willingness to embrace the cost (ie. the personal insurance mandate) that he himself imposed in Massachusetts residents to make it happen there. He wants to cut everyone's taxes, but says the cuts will be "revenue-neutral" without acknowledging he would have to end the mortgage and other deductions that are a saving grace for middle class families.

Dick Cheney famously said that "deficits don't matter," but apparently many conservatives believe that this is only true when a Republican is in office. The message of the first debate was that, despite the fact that he cannot offer any details on his plans for the future, Mr. Romney should be trusted with the reins of government due to his possession of some abstract competence to lead. The debate made clear that the inevitable result of a Romney presidency would be further explosion of the deficits, further exacerbation of the disparity of wealth in the US, higher spending on weaponry, and less spending on education. Health spending will continue to escalate, but fewer people would be insured. There was no mention of abortion or end of life care.

By every measure of Catholic social justice, "the Romney plan" would come up short. Without a credible intellectual effort to think through how he would address any of America's pressing problems, Mr. Romney appears to feel passionately at present solely about the importance of getting himself elected.

October 12, 2012

Biden and Ryan meet in debate that threw two visions of Catholicism into stark relief

Two Catholic vice-presidential candidates sparred on a debate stage for the first time in American history, on the 50th anniversary of the convening of Vatican II and the 20th anniversary of the issuance of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church. Catholic Democrats had organized house parties across the country that brought together progressive Catholics to share the experience and discuss the issues. They were all linked by a national conference call before the debate that featured Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, a tireless advocate for the poor in America; Professor Nick Cafardi, a canon lawyer and former law school dean who is a member of the Obama Campaign national Catholic outreach team; and Professor David O'Brien, emeritus professor of Catholic Church history at the College of the Holy Cross.

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Sr Simone offered a moving summary of her experience with the Nuns on the Bus tour last summer, highlighting conversations she had with people across the country who had experienced loss of their healthcare in dire circumstances, and others suffering from the economic meltdown that confronted President Obama when he took office. Professor Cafardi talked about the primacy of the Catholic conscience, and the importance of studying all the issues to ask whether one candidate or the other better embraced the full meaning of "pro-life" from conception to natural death. Professor O'Brien spoke about the historical role of the US Bishops' Conference in speaking out on issues of war & peace and on the economy (1982's Economic Justice for All), and about the richness of the Catholic social tradition in grappling with the full-range of issues. A number of callers told stories about their parishes being taken over at Sunday Mass by ideologues who attacked President Obama and made communicants feel unwelcome in their own churches.

If the Catholic faith is mostly about seeking the truth, the debate itself was a dramatic illustration of two starkly different visions for Catholicism in America. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) repeatedly criticized the administration on foreign and domestic policy, but offered virtually no specifics on what he and Governor Mitt Romney would do differently--with regard to Israel, the war in Syria, the nuclear problem in Iran, resolving the war in Afghanistan or the provision of healthcare to the uninsured. He complained about lack of security for American diplomats in Libya, but had no response when confronted with the fact that his budget had sought $300 million in cuts for State Department security. He said Republicans wouldn't lower overall taxes on wealthy people, but refused to say how he and Gov Romney could square their math after giving the wealthiest 120,000 families an average income tax cut above $200,000 per year. He criticized VP Biden for provisions in the ACA removing $700 billion in waste from the Medicare Advantage program, but failed to mention that he had also advocated for elimination of that money in his own budget. He said he wouldn't increase taxes on middle class Americans, but wouldn't say whether he planned to reduce or eliminate the mortgage interest deduction that keeps most Americans in their own homes.

Rep. Ryan spoke repeatedly about bipartisanship, but failed to acknowledge his own role in refusing to compromise on bill after bill in the House, from the budget to the health care reform law to job creation legislation. He failed to acknowledge that he helped lead the most obstructionist Republican caucus in history, which sought to torpedo the American economy to serve its own political interests. Then with a straight face he criticized President Obama for not talking the Republicans out of doing so.

Vice-President Biden could hardly contain his laughter at the ridiculousness of it all. At a human level, Rep. Ryan was honest in putting himself on the side of those who would use strategic nuclear weapons to resolve the conflict with Iran; on the side of eliminating programs that help the poor; and on the side of those who would fuel "job creation" with more tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals.

Moderator Martha Raddatz did a superb job of guiding the discussion, and toward the end she said, "This debate is, indeed, historic. We have two Catholic candidates, first time, on a stage such as this. And I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion. Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that. And, please, this is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country, and please talk personally about this, if you could."

After 75 minutes of emphasizing how much he would downsize the social safety net and on how much more money the Republican candidates intended to spend on the military, Rep. Ryan said somewhat incongruously, "I don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, of how to make sure that people have a chance in life."

He then addressed his beliefs with regard to abortion. "Now I understand this is a difficult issue," he said, "and I respect people who don't agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother." He then launched into a repetition of the nebulous and flawed argument that providing health insurance to millions more people through the Affordable Care Act was "assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They're infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals."

He intimated that he approved of President Clinton's formulation of working to make abortion "safe, legal and rare." But then he falsely stated that the current administration "support it without restriction and with taxpayer funding." No mention of President Obama's executive order maintaining the status quo with regard to federal funding of abortion; no acknowledgement of President Obama's repeated insistence that he supports current legal restrictions on late-term abortions; no acknowledgement of the new funding incorporated in the Affordable Care Act for abortion reduction.

Vice-President Biden spoke similarly about his faith, saying, "My religion defines who I am, and I've been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And (my faith) has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can't take care of themselves, people who need help." He indicated that he shares the Catholic belief that life begins at conception, "but I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others." He pointed out that the ACA regulations on contraception had been modified so that no religious institution would have to pay extra to provide their employees with contraception.

After the debate, a number of commentators, including Republican Steve Schmidt, pointed out that wider use of contraception was likely to result in fewer abortions, and they worried that the apparent antipathy of many Republicans to the use of contraceptives could actually worsen efforts to decrease abortion. Rep. Ryan was clearly uncomfortable with Gov. Romney's acceptance of abortion for women who had been assaulted, who were victims of incest, or who's life was in jeopardy from their pregnancy. There was also some discussion among the commentariat about Gov. Romney's history of supporting Roe-vs-Wade when he ran against Senator Ted Kennedy for the Senate in 1994, then his conversion to abortion opponent when he ran for president in 2008, and then his statements the past week saying he didn't intend to pursue any legislation limiting abortion.

Ms. Raddatz' final question was about personal character, and Rep. Ryan offered a curious response. After spending nearly 90 minutes refusing to offer any details about the specifics of their tax cuts or approach to foreign policy, he congratulated himself and Gov. Romney on being "people who, when they say they're going to do something, they go do it. What you need are, when people see problems, they offer solutions to fix those problems." He then talked about a return to the Bush economic agenda under Gov. Romney, and called them "proven, pro- growth policies that we know works to get people back to work." He then congratulated himself on being someone who would work in a bipartisan manner once he left the Congress he helped to divide so bitterly.

Vice-president Biden closed the debate by saying, "The fact is that we're in a situation where we inherited a god-awful circumstance. People are in real trouble. We acted to move to bring relief to the people who need the most help now. And, in case you haven't noticed, we have strong disagreements, but you probably detected my frustration with their attitude about the American people. My friend says that 30% of the American people are takers. Romney points out 47% of the people won't take responsibility. He's talking about my mother and father. He's talking about the places I grew up in, my neighbors in Scranton and Claymont, and he's talking about the people that have built this country." He concluded, "The president and I are not going to rest until that playing field is leveled, that (most Americans) in fact have a clear shot, and they have peace of mind, until they can turn to their kid and say with a degree of confidence, "Honey, it's going to be OK. It's going to be OK." That's what this is all about."

October 17, 2012

Closing arguments in the second presidential debate

ROMNEY: In the nature of a campaign, it seems that some campaigns are focused on attacking a person rather than prescribing their own future and the things they'd like to do. And in the course of that, I think the president's campaign has tried to characterize me as -- as someone who -- who is very different than who I am.

I care about a hundred percent of the American people. I want a hundred percent of the American people to have a bright and prosperous future. I care about our kids. I understand what it takes to -- to make a bright and prosperous future for America again. I -- I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I'm a guy who wants to help, with the experience I have, the American people.

My -- my -- my passion probably flows from the fact that I believe in God, and I believe we're all children of the same God. I believe we have a responsibility to care for one another. I -- I served as a missionary for my church. I served as a pastor in my congregation for about 10 years. I've sat across the table from people who were -- were out of work and worked with them to try and find new work or to help them through tough times. I went to the Olympics when they were in trouble to try and get them on track. And as governor of my state, I was able to get a hundred percent of my people insured -- all my kids; about 98 percent of the adults. Was able also to get our schools ranked number one in the nation so a hundred percent of our kids would have a bright opportunity for a future.

I understand that I can get this country on track again. We don't have to settle for what we're going through. We don't have to settle for gasoline at four bucks. We don't have to settle for unemployment at a -- at a chronically high level. We don't have to settle for 47 million people on food stamps. We don't have to settle for 50 percent of kids coming out of college not able to get work. We don't have to settle for 23 million people struggling to find a good job.

If I become president, I'll get America working again. I will get us on track to a balanced budget. The president hasn't. I will. I'll make sure we can reform Medicare and Social Security to preserve them for coming -- coming generations. The president said he would. He didn't.

MS. CROWLEY: Governor --

MR. ROMNEY: I'll get our incomes up. And by the way, I've done these things. I served as governor and showed I could get them done.

MS. CROWLEY: Mr. President, last two minutes belong to you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Barry, I think a lot of this campaign, maybe over the last four years, has been devoted to this notion that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer. That's not what I believe.

I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world's ever known. I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk-takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules, because that's how our economy is grown. That's how we built the world's greatest middle class.

And -- and that is part of what's at stake in this election. There's a fundamentally different vision about how we move our country forward. I believe Governor Romney is a good man. He loves his family, cares about his faith.

But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considers themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility -- think about who he was talking about: folks on Social Security who've worked all their lives, veterans who've sacrificed for this country, students who are out there trying to, hopefully, advance their own dreams, but also this country's dreams, soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now, people who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don't make enough income.

And I want to fight for them. That's what I've been doing for the last four years, because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.

And when my grandfather fought in World War II and he came back and he got a GI Bill and that allowed him to go to college, that wasn't a handout. That was something that advanced the entire country, and I want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities. That's why I'm asking for your vote and that's why I'm asking for another four years.

October 19, 2012

President Obama's closing remarks at the Al Smith Dinner in NYC, October 18, 2012

I couldn't be more honored to be here this evening. I'm honored to be here with leaders of both the private and public sectors, and particularly the extraordinary work that's done by the Catholic Church. You know it's written in scripture that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope. This country's fought through some very tough years together. And while we still have a lot of work ahead, we've come as far as we have mainly because of the perseverance and character of ordinary Americans. It says something about who we are as a people that in the middle of an election season, opposing candidates can share the same stage, and that people from both parties can come together to support a worthy cause.

October 23, 2012

Romney moderates previous militancy, and two candidates largely agree on direction of US foreign policy in final debate

President Obama and Governor Romney met for their third and final debate Monday night, dealing with foreign policy. Mr. Romney focused on reassuring viewers that he would not rush to use American troops in Syria or other conflict zones except "as a last resort." He largely applauded the administration for its handling of the civil war in Libya, the use of drones to deal with Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, and attempts to hold China accountable for its currency manipulation. Both leaders lamented the tragedy of the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at the American Consulate in Benghazi Libya.

They both agreed that the Iranian government was beginning to respond to comprehensive international sanctions intended to turn back the nuclear weapons program the, and they both spoke strongly in support of Israel. Mr. Romney argued that the US should help get weapons to anti-government fighters in Syria to address the incredible suffering brought by the government there, but he had no answer to the concern expressed by President Obama that those weapons could end up being used against Turkey or Israel or the United States. Overall, there were no discernible differences between them in their overall priorities for US foreign policy, as Governor Romney moderated many of his earlier positions on the use of force and the role of diplomacy in avoiding conflict. In particular, he backed away from his previous statements on keeping troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, as President Obama winds down those grinding conflicts.

There were important problems that did not arise during the debate: how to deal with the Eurozone economic crisis and shield the US from the drag imposed on our economy; the continued grinding poverty in much of Africa, and the burden of infectious disease there; and the terrible drug war that continues to be waged in Mexico, largely because of the ongoing drug problem in the United States. There was no discussion about the 45 million abortions performed worldwide every year.

But as the two candidates focused on the challenges of the Arab Spring, and touched on the difficulties posed by the world economic situation, there was little reflection on the very first subject raised in the debate. Moderator Bob Schieffer started the evening by mentioning that Monday was the 50th anniversary of President John Kennedy's announcement that nuclear missiles had been identified in Cuba. As much as the world suffers under the continued weight of religious and other conflict, little note was made of the fact that the number of wars is dramatically lower now than it was 30 to 50 years ago.

Until twenty years ago, every child in America had to endure periodic drills addressing the possibility of nuclear attack from Soviet Russia. Thousands of nuclear warheads were aimed at US cities, and conversely at those across the Soviet empire. Twenty years ago there was no treatment for AIDS, as it marched across Sub-Saharan Africa. In many respects, the world is a significantly more interdependent and peaceful place than it has been in the last 500 years. After years of war in Iraq, largely opposed by Democrats and the rest of the world community, it appeared that the US had indeed turned a corner on attitudes about the use of force that had been the centerpiece of Bush foreign policy. Both candidates talked about respecting religious differences, and it was possible as a Catholic to come away with a sense that perhaps the divisions so evident in American domestic politics now may in fact be evaporating in our international relations. Perhaps the Nobel Peace Prize committee got it right, when they recognized President Obama for turning the corner on the unilateral use of force in international affairs.

October 28, 2012

Health security is national security

A nation that isn't strong at home cannot project strength in the world

By Patrick Whelan and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

8:00 AM EDT, October 28, 2012

On the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's dramatic announcement about the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, the two presidential candidates met for a debate last Monday only 250 miles away in Boca Raton, Fla. Moderator Bob Schieffer began the night by reminding the nearly 60 million viewers that those 13 days in late 1962 were "perhaps the closest we've ever come to nuclear war. And it is a sobering reminder that every president faces at some point an unexpected threat to our national security from abroad."

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Though billed as a clash of ideas over foreign policy, the debate saw the candidates returning again and again to domestic issues like the deficit, "which is a significant national security concern," said President Barack Obama, "because we've got to make sure that our economy is strong at home so that we can project military power overseas." Eight times the two men agreed that the country was in need of "nation building here at home," and yet the starkest differences between them continued to be over the fundamentally different direction the two candidates would take the country on health care and the economy.

Indeed, Mr. Romney seized on health care as the principal item that would fuel his efforts to cut the deficit. "Number one I get rid of is Obamacare," he said. "There are a number of things that sound good but, frankly, we just can't afford them. And that one doesn't sound good, and it's not affordable, so I get rid of that one from day one, to the extent humanly possible." He went on to call for breaking up Medicaid and turning it into a block grant program administered by states.

But there is something perverse about Mr. Romney, of all people, seeking to cut off health insurance for millions of people in order to fund his tax policies and a significant expansion of the U.S. Navy. In Massachusetts, the Romney health reform plan helped drive down the adult un-insurance rate to less than 2 percent, enabling hundreds of thousands of people to obtain regular medical care rather than having to wait until they were sick enough to require an emergency room visit.

Money that was previously funneled to hospitals for uncompensated emergency care was redirected to provide free health insurance for residents earning less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level, resulting in much more efficient care at little additional cost to the taxpayers.

But is health care truly a national security concern? How many people's lives have to be at risk before a problem becomes a matter of national security?

With the full implementation of universal health care laws in Mexico (2011) and Turkey (2012), the United States became the last industrialized country (among all members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) without universal health insurance coverage. Despite spending 50 percent more per capita than the second highest-spending country (Norway), roughly 1 in 6 Americans had no health insurance prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act.

This has significant consequences. A 2004 report by the well-respected Institutes of Medicine estimated that about 18,300 deaths occur annually as a result of a lack of health insurance. A 2009 Harvard study published in the American Journal of Public Health estimated the number at nearly 45,000.

The economic competitiveness of the United States, which undergirds our military strength, is critically dependent on solving the challenge of rising health care costs, as President Bill Clinton discovered when the new movement toward health care capitation (the HMO revolution) was a major factor in the remarkable economic expansion of the 1990s.

On matters of foreign policy in their final debate -- whether in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya -- Mr. Romney hewed closely to the positions that President Obama had charted in dealing with one challenge after another. But when it came to the one issue that most directly affects loss of American life, the provision of health care for people when they're sick, Mr. Romney went to great pains to declare that he intended to withhold from Americans the kind of personal health security he once fought for in his own state.

One of the most striking things about the Cuban Missile Crisis is recalling the true fear that children and adults across America felt in October 1962 when confronted with the possibility that they could suffer and die as a result of decisions being made in Washington, D.C. In this election, it's worth asking whether the "every man for himself" attitude that has led to the 50 percent of all personal bankruptcies caused by a family health emergency, or the thousands of deaths that result from a lack of health insurance, or the loss of competitiveness in world markets created by U.S. health care costs, brings us the kind of security our country really needs.

Dr. Patrick Whelan (jpatrickwhelan@gmail.com) is on the pediatrics faculty at Harvard Medical School and is the author (with Doug Kmiec and Ed Gaffney) of "America Undecided: Catholic, Independent and Social Justice Perspectives on Election 2012." Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is the niece of President John F. Kennedy and the former lieutenant governor of Maryland.

The Romney-Ryan Budget: A Threat to Us All

by Ben Palumbo
Washington DC, October 26, 2012

The now famous, or infamous, Ryan budget endorsed by Mitt Romney (though he now says he has his own), has been roundly, and rightly, criticized for its assault on the poor in favor of the richest Americans; and boy are they rich!!

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Young Mr. Ryan--he did not want to be called Congressman during his debate with Vice President Biden for fear of being tarred by the brush of the Republicans' miserable Congressional reputation--argues that he cares for the poor. He says his budget is in tune with the social teaching of the Catholic Church of which he is a member, although it would decimate help for those who otherwise would go hungry, suffer sickness, lose jobs, be evicted from their homes, or miss college opportunity. Unfortunately for him, his argument has been refuted by the USCCB, a large portion of the faculty of Georgetown University, and most recently in a splendid document prepared by 100 Catholic theologians and academics from around the country called, "On All Our Shoulders." No amount of phony photo ops of him washing pots at soup kitchens will change the reality of his hypocrisy.

It is absolutely right to denounce this budget for turning its back on the Church's "preferential option for the poor"; and for its assault on "The least…" about whom Jesus was so concerned and whom he loved so much. What that budget(s) would do to the most vulnerable is a moral travesty. But what about the impact on the rest of us who are fortunate enough not to be among those in need of government assistance? Or do we in fact need government assistance? To answer that question it is useful to remember that our health and safety depends on a group of U.S. regulatory agencies; a shocking thought isn't it. But recall James Madison's words: "If men were angels, we wouldn't need laws." And the friends of Romney and Ryan to whom they are obligated are not angels.

If anything like the Ryan-Romney budget(s) were to take effect, Americans can be sure that the risks from contaminated food and medicine will rise. Why? Because the budget of the Food and Drug Administration will be cut, meaning the people necessary to do the inspections to prevent corporate misfeasance or malfeasance will be reduced. Every year thousands are made ill and many die from this type of contamination; there will be more under Ryan-Romney.

U.S. consumers, particularly children, are protected from defective products by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Thousands of lives have been spared from the scourge of lead poison and other product defects by this agency. But now thousands will be at risk as the Ryan-Romney budget(s) of that agency will be cut and the needed personnel reduced.

Workers in the U.S. are afforded a measure of protection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. But how will that safety be assured when the number of inspectors necessary to the mission of these agencies is reduced? Remember the deaths at the Upper Big Branch coal mine not so long ago? That mine had scores, if not hundreds, of safety violations. But MSHA had not the means for enforcement; it can barely keep up with its work load now. Look for more casualties caused by unsafe conditions in working places if the Ryan-Romney budget(s) prevail.

Every year 30,000 Americans die from guns; 11,000 of whom are murdered. Tens of thousands more are wounded. The annual NRA assault on the budget of the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives, which already makes it difficult for the agency to do its job of trying to protect us, will be intensified by the Ryan-Romney budget(s). Look for the slaughter to continue.

Want clear air and clean water? We can fully expect that funds available to carry out the duties of the EPA to protect us from air and water pollution will be savaged by Ryan-Romney budget(s). Our health depends on an effective EPA; Romney and Ryan depend on support from polluters. Just watch the video of Romney expressing joy over the closing of a coal-fired polluting power plant when he was governor of Massachusetts, and then contrast it with his present shilling on behalf of coal producers/polluters.

These are some examples of the dangers to our lives that will grow if Romney Ryan ticket was to prevail and their budget(s) put into place; which no doubt would happen. But what about our financial safety?

Because of the Romney-Ryan love affair with the uber-rich in the financial world, there is every reason to believe that a Romney-Ryan budget would reduce the resources of the Security and Exchange Commission at a time when the Commission is already struggling with a funding short-fall. The task of protecting us from the crooks and charlatans in the stock market will become almost impossible. And Romney already has made known his hostility to the financial reforms of the Dodd-Frank law. So can we be assured that the Romney-Ryan budget(s) will provide sufficient funds to those agencies designated to implement the reforms enacted to protect us? If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

Which Republicans do Romney and Ryan resemble? They bear a striking resemblance to those who accepted a system in which the government would turn to financial titans like J.P. Morgan to bail out the government whenever it was in need; and make a handsome profit for doing it. They do not resemble Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt who understood the inordinate power wielded malignantly by the financial titans, and fought them as "The malefactors of great wealth." Those are the kinds of people to whom Romney and Ryan wish to turn our country over to.

And while comparing the Romneys, Ryans, and their Tea Party fellow travelers to other Republicans, let's look at one last, but by no means least, contrast: Infrastructure. Ours is in dire need of massive investment; there is no denying that. To provide that investment we need something called taxes, the very things the late Supreme Court Justice and prominent Republican Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said he "..did not mind paying because they buy civilization." An interesting contrast indeed. Yet the taxes we need for that investment have not been forthcoming because of mindless opposition to all taxes by Congressional Republicans and their right wing constituencies. The last time the gas tax which funds the Highway Trust Fund was increased was 1993, and it was not indexed for inflation; it will run out of funds in the not too distant future. In the meantime our roads, bridges and other means of transportation have been starved, putting all of us at risk and costing our economy billions.

Here is the Republican legacy on which Romney, Ryan and today's Republicans have turned their backs: (1) Alexander Hamilton, who was a major inspiration for the Republican Party, produced a "Report on American Manufacturers" while George Washington’s Treasury Secretary which called for subsidies for roads, canals and other internal improvements; (2) Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President, whose initiative gave us The Transcontinental Railroad; (3) Republican President Teddy Roosevelt without whom The Panama Canal would not have been completed; (4) Republican President Calvin Coolidge from whom our national system of airports received its biggest boost; (5) Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower who gave us the interstate highway system; (6) and, Republican President Richard Nixon who continued our commitment to space exploration. Where would we be if these Republicans had not succeeded? The answer is obvious: the incalculable benefits of these enormous initiatives would have been lost, and our country would have been much the poorer as a result. It is so hard to believe that today's Republicans have turned their backs on this legacy. But they have.

So what can we expect from Romney, Ryan, et al.? Just look at the recent Republican record: opposition to funding for infrastructure; cancellation of high speed rail projects by several Republican governors; cancellation of the much needed new rail tunnel between NY and NJ by Romney surrogate Republican Governor Christie of NJ; unwillingness of congressional Republicans to pass a comprehensive long term transportation bill. In short, they oppose anything that would require funding irrespective of how great the country and most of its citizens will suffer.

A Romney-Ryan victory would be a prescription for accelerating the decline of America; it would be a huge danger to the health and safety of virtually all Americans; and it would further empower those of immense wealth and corporate muscle who would benefit mightily from that which would befall the rest of us.

Ben Palumbo is a veteran of Democratic politics, as a Senatorial chief of staff, national campaign director of the Bentsen for President campaign, and staff director of the Democratic Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives under Rep. Phillip Burton. He is on the board of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, the Children of God Relief Fund, and the John Mott Foundation.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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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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