Does It Really Stimulate?

Thursday, February 12, AD 2009

It seems a bipartisan effort to ensure that there is some sort of stimulus bill, and only a few politicians think there should be no package at all.  Many economists have warned in the past, and continue to do so now, that stimulus packages like the one currently waiting final approval, do not work.  Let’s take a moment and examine the arguments as to why they don’t work.

2 Responses to Does It Really Stimulate?

  • The Porkapalooza Bill is a classic example of the foolishness in this phrase- Don’t Just Stand There Do Something. It represents everything that the Washington Elite in their heart of hearts have wanted to inflict on their fellow Americanos since well nigh 1933. All in one big lovavble pork-filled sausage casing. Do not think many of us in PA will forget seeing GOP Senator Arlen Specter snuggling up to Dingy Harry Reid in the announcement of Pork In Our Time. At same time- except for mania for infrastructure- don’t see how state and local governments will receive help from Porkapalooza. Philly Mayor Michael Nutter told his top managers to give him three cost-cutting scenarios each- bad, really bad, and Oh My (will not break 2nd Commandment on this blog.) Meaning- up to 30 per cent budget cuts across the board. Including a possible 2000 or more police officers turning in badges. PA Government may or may not be in dire straits- we may not know until the annual late-June early-July kerfuffles between Gov. Fast Eddie Rendell and wascally Wepublicans(according to PA MSM, of course.) Meanwhile I hope to promote cousin Edward for Sen. Specter’s seat- devout Catholic, ethical lawyer, doting father of 2-year-old Katie, makes me look like a flaming liberal. Until then, we shall hold and roll.

  • Gerard,
    If I have any money left after being forced to subsidize abortion and welfare, I will donate to your cousin’s candidacy.

Now We Know Who Gets The Change

Thursday, February 12, AD 2009

obama-reid-pelosi

President Obama ran on a platform of Hope and Change.  From the details of the National Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009, sometimes called a “stimulus” bill, we can now see who gets the change:

“Q: What are some of the tax breaks in the bill?

A: It includes Obama’s signature “Making Work Pay” tax credit for 95 percent of workers, though negotiators agreed to trim the credit to $400 a year instead of $500 — or $800 for married couples, cut from Obama’s original proposal of $1,000. It would begin showing up in most workers’ paychecks in June as an extra $13 a week in take-home pay, falling to about $8 a week next January.”

Thanks a heap!

9 Responses to Now We Know Who Gets The Change

  • From two Happy Meals this year to one next January. At least worldwide sales at Mc D’s were up 7.1 percent last month. Now that Disney has acquired Dreamworks. more chances for movie cartoony characters served with your fries. This is truly Hope and Change.

  • Fear not; your Republican buddies kept out of the package the controverted spending on school construction.

    After years of Reagan, Bush I and II, oi polloi will remain content with a little bit more of bread and circus.

  • How did “the Republicans” keep anything out of the bill? They weren’t in conference on it, and Snowe, Specter and Collins aren’t exactly doctrinaire conservatives.

    I’d have been perfectly content with the bill had there been more actual job creation, regardless of whether it involved spending or tax cuts. The infrastructure stuff is great, not to mention overdue. But there’s too little of it, and too late to do much. Frankly, there’s precious little stimulus in all the spending, however meritorious much of that spending may be to help those who are down and out. And there’s precisely squat being done to address the mortgage crisis at the heart of our current troubles.

  • Mark,

    While I have no problem, in general, with school construction, I am dubious that it should be included in a stimulus bill. Is there any other economic stimulus other than a few construction workers getting a job for a year or so building or renovating, and then being out of a job when the funds run out? Much of what I’ve seen in the package should create a bunch of short term jobs, but it doesn’t seem to me that those jobs will last in the long term without future governmental spending on the same proportions we’re seeing now. Am I missing something?

  • Mark DeFrancisis,
    It’s that simple, right? Republicans don’t want schools built. Of course – so simple, and dovetailing nicely with the MSM narrative.
    Allow me to translate: School construction = make-work jobs for union tradesmen at an exorbitant cost. Union tradesmen that would do half the work at half the quality as a struggling crew of Polish immigrants. But hey, Dems are for the little guy, right?
    Thanks for regurgitating what the MSM told you. I needed this line of crap warmed up.

  • daledog,

    I worry about you. Have you talked to your doctor about high blood pressure or hypertension?

  • Daledog and Mr. DeFrancisis, keep it civil please.

  • Mark,
    Witty comeback.

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Now He Belongs to the Ages

Thursday, February 12, AD 2009

lincolns-tomb

Now he belongs to the ages.”  So said Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, who had kept vigil at Lincoln’s deathbed, after Lincoln died from an assassin’s bullet.

For the past few weeks in the leadup to today, the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, I have examined various facets of the public life of Abraham Lincoln.  Of course, the most important part of Lincoln’s life came, as it will for each of us, after his death when he stood before God for the particular judgment.  In this life the outcome of that judgment is unknown to us.  However, I think  the record is well-established that during the Civil War Lincoln found his mind and his heart turning increasingly towards God.

Honest Abe and Dagger John

Wednesday, February 11, AD 2009

archbishop-john-hughes

Archbishop John Hughes (1797-1864) of New York, was a titan within the Catholic Church in America in the nineteenth century.  Overseeing with skill the explosive growth of the Church in New York, and helping lead generations of Catholic immigrants out of poverty,  he also found time to take part in the public affairs of his day, and was probably the best known Catholic churchman of his time.  He was also a very tough and fearless man.  After the anti-Catholic riots in Philadelphia in 1844 he called on the mayor of New York, an anti-Catholic bigot, and informed him that if a single Catholic church were touched in New York, New York would be a second Moscow.  (The reference was to the burning of Moscow in 1812 during Napoleon’s occupation of the city.) Not a Catholic church was touched.  On another occasion when a threat was made to burn Saint Patrick’s cathedral the Archbishop had it guarded within hours by 4,000 armed Catholics.  No wonder his enemies and friends nicknamed him “Dagger John”!

14 Responses to Honest Abe and Dagger John

  • Strong bishops, that is what we lack in many parts of the country today. He certainly was needed during his time as well as today.

  • Don- thank you thank you 997 times thank you for this tribute to My Number One Americano Catlick Hero. Yes more than Blessed Fulton or our dear Bishops Chaput and Martino. Dagger John was a bad cat, in the complimentary sense. You did not mess with him. Not to mention the prelate who persuaded the New York immigrant Irish, still living with pigs in their streets, to turn over their hard-earned pennies and nickels to build a fitting house unto the Lord. The fruits of his efforts still dominate the landscape around 50th St. and 5th Avenue. St. Patrick’s Cathedral shines to this day- long after its principal sponsor has gone to his rest. A few more Dagger Johns and abortion on demand would scatter like sand in a windstorm. Dear heroic Archbishop- maybe a little too hard-edged for an Official Halo but we still dig him- intercede for us.

  • I have always appreciated “Dagger John” also Gerard. He had his flaws: nepotism, a blindess towards the evil of slavery, etc, but take him all in all, he was a very good man who fought with everything he had for the Church, his flock and America. May God send us many such bishops in our hour of need.

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  • Yes, Hughes was a powerhouse. His influence is still felt in Catholic NYC, make no mistake. People forget that the bishops had real moxie in those days, protecting their flocks. Men of valor and aggressive faith. Feisty, fighting men! Equally exciting was the vigor of Catholic bishops in the Southeastern US, around the same time. Those men had it rough, but they were in the trenches with their persecuted flocks, and it was said that southern Catholics had nothing to fear “so long as they were within one hundred miles of a bishop’s altar.”

    (sigh). The episcopate is decidedly due for a comeback.

  • Not sure I’d want a bishop who thought it was OK to do the bidding of a sitting president by going over to Europe to convince Napoleon not to take sides in the War Between the States; or one who would actually try to persuade poor Irish young men to come fight for the Union Army (where they were often used as cannon fodder by their WASP officers); nor would I want a bishop who, Wolsey-like, sought to dissuade the Holy See itself from being more sympathic to the Confederate cause than Rome already clearly was.

    Fortunately, we’ve come to realize that bishops should not allow themselves to be used as tools of politicians for purely secular political ends.

  • All good and valid points, Tom. I wouldn’t say that men like Dagger John were necessarily steeped in heroic virtue…and I daresay that modern bishops have all sorts of new & exciting ways of letting themselves be manipulated and maneuvered by contemporary powers, just as they themselves manipulate and maneuver. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, after all.

    I think Mr. McClarey was making the point that these “Dagger John” kinds of American bishops knew how to take care of “their own” in some powerful and unambiguous ways–ways that could be viewed as very admirable in their intensity; ways that some of us would like to see applied today.

    Though, without the more unsavory flaws-o-the-day, of course.

  • “or one who would actually try to persuade poor Irish young men to come fight for the Union Army (where they were often used as cannon fodder by their WASP officers); ”

    Oh give it a rest Tom. Have you ever heard of the Irish brigade? Yeah, there were a lot of WASP officers in that outfit! Not to mention the fact that WASPS were also dying in huge numbers to preserve the Union and that the most dangerous job in the war was to be a junior officer in an infantry or cavalry regiment.

    We get it Tom. You wish the Confederacy had won the war. “Dagger John” and “Honest Abe” and a whole lot of other Union men made that impossible. I do not take exception to your right to hold that belief. The country was divided during the Civil War and it still is in historical memory. However, I do not think it is fair to attack Hughes simply because he supported the side that you wish had lost in the Civil War, no more than I would think it fair to attack Southern Catholic ecclesiastics, some of whom will be featured by me in future posts, simply because they supported the Confederacy. Comparing Hughes to Wolsey is simply a pejorative since Lincoln was no Henry VIII attacking the Church or seeking a reversal of some past papal action, and the iron-spirited Hughes was no slavish servant of secular power, but rather a man who supported the Union cause because he thought it right.

  • Hi, I just discovered this blog and it looks interesting. I live in Springfield, Illinois, just a few blocks from Lincoln’s home and I am a geek for all things historic, political and Catholic so this blog is right up my alley!

    The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception here in Springfield (built in the 1920s and currently under renovation) has a stained-glass window that shows Lincoln sending Hughes off to France to talk Napoleon III out of recognizing the Confederacy. You can see it at this link:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/msabeln/2020317376/in/photostream/

    It’s one of several windows depicting great moments in American Catholic history. They are staying in place during the renovation and are being restored to look better than ever.

    It might seem odd to some that a Catholic church would depict a non-Catholic figure of American secular history but I suppose the point is that God accomplishes His purposes through the workings of both Church and State, just as was the case in the time of Christ and long before that.

  • Thank you for the interesting information about the Cathedral Elaine! My family and I live in Dwight, Illinois. Each year in July we go down to Springfield to see the Lincoln Museum, and what a superb place that is, and to say prayers at the Lincoln tomb for the repose of the souls of Mr. Lincoln and his family. The next time we are down we will stop in at the Cathedral, assuming the renovation is comlete, and look at the windows. The type of windows you describe reminds me of a stained glass window showing a WWI American doughboy kneeling at the foot of the cross which is at the Saint John’s chapel at the Newman Center at the University of Illinois in Urbana.

  • Thanks for the quick reply Donald! Be forewarned that the Cathedral renovation is likely to take the rest of this year, so you may have to wait until next year to see this.

    There is another window on that side of the Cathedral that shows soldiers massed in front of the Illinois Capitol, being blessed by a chaplain before they march off to World War I (it would still have been referred to as “The Great War” at the time the window was made).

    I have also visited St. John’s Chapel in Champaign and THAT is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. It was built in 1926, two years before the Springfield Cathedral.

  • Thanks for the tip as to the renovation Elaine. One of the high points for me during my seven years at the U of I was worshiping at Saint John’s. I especially loved the regular midnight mass on Saturdays which was usually packed.

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30 Responses to Some Bus Slogan Fun

  • Hmm. Your bus slogan seems to deny the Catholic belief in the social nature of the human person. Did you mean to imply such a denial?

  • Is it because your guest commentator Tito Edwards said so?

  • Keep the laughs coming Michael.

    You make me laugh and I like that.

    😀

  • Uh, Mike- is Tito laughing at or with you? Choose.

  • “He’s Probably GOD, So Stop Complaining, And Fall To Your Knees!

  • This blog has elements that remind me of meetings of the College Libertarians that got too rowdy, you know, whenever too much Mountain Dew was consumed and too many stories of first adolescent encounters with Ayn Rand were shared.

  • Michael,

    I would like to point out that the nature of slogan is necessarily brief, often to the point of excising almost every important detail. If people could tell an entire dissertation in a slogan, they would, but mathematically, the information simply vanishes when you compress it that much. When you take a complicated topic marked by social interaction, psychology, personal culpability weighted against circumstance and environment, and so on, and reduce it to a cute saying, you lose a lot of the crucial points.

    That being said, no, that denial is nowhere intended in my little slogan. Instead, I’m merely making a message to people that their lives are their own to live, so they should take charge of it. It is kind of like with that Despair.com poster, entitled “Dysfunction”, with the caption “The only consistent feature of all of your dissatisfying relationships is you.” It glosses over a lot, but has a pointed message, and it is fun to read.

    Lighten up, Michael. Have some fun. What would your bus slogan say?

  • Mark,

    Ah, yes, those were great days, weren’t they? Oh, wait, you’re being sarcastic… Dang.

    So, same call as to Michael. What would your bus slogan say?

  • “This blog has elements that remind me of meetings of the College Libertarians that got too rowdy, you know, whenever too much Mountain Dew was consumed and too many stories of first adolescent encounters with Ayn Rand were shared.”

    heh. I thought that was pretty funny, although I’m not sure how accurate it was given Rand’s hatred for all things Catholic.

  • too many stories of first adolescent encounters with Ayn Rand were shared.

    It’s true that Ayn could be a bit predatory, but I think all the guys hear can claim to be innocent of having enjoyed her charms…

    Oh, you meant reading Ayn Rand.

  • Ryan,

    …just having fun with you…

    For whatever it’s worth, I enjoy quite a bit of your posts.

    You put much thought in what you write and attempt to be very fair with your interlocutors.

    I also see that you are not afraid to alter your opinions, having the healthy awareness and the humimility to realize that we are all “on our way”, in the attainment of a fuller wisdom.

  • heh. I thought that was pretty funny, although I’m not sure how accurate it was given Rand’s hatred for all things Catholic.

    Nevertheless, I wonder how many AC bloggers appreciate Rand’s thought. It’s not uncommon for Catholics to “overlook” her anti-Christian views because they are just oh-so into her philosophy. My Jesuit alma mater’s business department literally hands a copy of Atlas Shrugged to every incoming freshman business major and sponsors an Ayn Rand lecture series.

    What would your bus slogan say?

    I’ll certainly think about it.

  • Mark.,

    Thank you. I really appreciate it. And don’t worry. I was just having fun in my reply. I’ve read some of Ayn Rand–a collection of essays, and I might someday try to finish Atlas Shrugged. But while I consider myself a fairly staunch capitalist, I think she goes way, way, way too far. Her economy theory of the virtue of selfishness is, in my opinion, off the mark and quite naive in many ways. I do, however, have something of a love affair with Mountain Dew that I’m trying to break off before it ruins my marriage…

    Still, this is supposed to be a threat where we have fun with bus slogans. What would you post up? (And by the way, this goes to everyone, not just Mark and Michael.)

  • Ryan,

    I am a theological sap. I think Id put something like , “Jesus humbled himself to share fully in all our humanity, so that we may fully share in his divinity. Know him.”

  • Nevertheless, I wonder how many AC bloggers appreciate Rand’s thought. It’s not uncommon for Catholics to “overlook” her anti-Christian views because they are just oh-so into her philosophy. My Jesuit alma mater’s business department literally hands a copy of Atlas Shrugged to every incoming freshman business major and sponsors an Ayn Rand lecture series.

    If so that’s pretty pathetic. Rand was lousy as an economist, as a political philosopher, and as a writer. I’m pretty sure that the economics departments at places like University of Chicago and George Mason would never hand out Atlas Shrugged to freshman as if it were serious writing. If the business department at your college did, they sound like they were clueless more than free market.

  • Did I not read somewhere that Alan Greenspan is a big fan of Rand?

    Anybody hear likewise and able to fill me in on the details?

  • Mark,

    Do we lose to much of what you want to say if we abbreviate to: “Jesus humbly shared in our humanity…”? I don’t want to break the phrase across colors, but your first clause is too long to fit entirely in the purple.

  • Ryan,

    I always need an editor (even after 5 self-edits) :). Whatever it takes.

  • My first encounter with Rand was right after highschool. A few of my friends had fallen in love with her stuff and just wouldn’t shut up about her. Finally, after a lot of cajoling, I agreed to read Atlas Shrugged. I got about two thirds of the way through it, but when they arrived at the libertarian paradise where no one did anything for anyone except for pay and therefore everything cost a nickle, I was no longer able to continue.

  • Mark, some websites I found. I don’t know how reliable they are.

    From Noble Soul, a timeline of Greenspan and Rand interaction.

    From Wikipedia (take it or leave it).

    From the New York Times, which is mostly about Rand but has a fair amount of stuff about Greenspan, as well.

    As note, he did contribute a number of essays to that collection of hers I mentioned earlier: Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

  • Atlas shrugged was a pretty puerile novel, as most overtly political novels are. It sold well no doubt due to the dollops of sex that Rand poured into it, at a time when such elements were still a relative rarity in respectable novels. Whittaker Chambers had Rand’s number as both a novelist and a philosopher in perhaps the most devastating review written in America in the last century.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/flashback/flashback200501050715.asp

    Since that review “Objectivists” and main stream conservatives have largely gone their separate ways.

  • Did I not read somewhere that Alan Greenspan is a big fan of Rand?

    He was in her inner circle. In fact, as I recall, he was one of the few people privileged enough to have an essay appear in one of Rand’s books. It was about how abandoning the gold standard would lead to disaster. Given Greenspan’s time at the Fed, I think it’s safe to say he’s a lapsed Randian.

    Rothbard wrote a pretty funny one act play about Rand, called Mozart Was A Red. If you google it you can find a transcript and video of a performance from the 1980s.

  • Ryan,

    Thanks for the websearchs. Now I see I could have easliy googled it myself.
    ——–
    I am embarassed to admit, but I got a ‘little drunk and enamored’ as a 17 year old, reading The Fountainhead. But looking back, I wonder if I understood even a word of what she was getting at. I read so voraciously and indiscriminately pre-college.

  • To be fair, a number of good friends went through Randian phases, before getting over it and going on to become thoughtful adults.

    On slogans, could would I be overly caustic to suggest:
    What you’re thinking is at least partly wrong,
    So have some humility and don’t say things you’ll regret.

  • Mark,

    There’s certainly various aspects of Ayn Rand’s works that greatly appeal, especially to a society that has become increasingly materialistic. Before my reversion back to the Church, I held her economic policies as absolute, and it has taken a while and some earnest soul-searching to understand why she was so devastatingly wrong overall. But hey, life is about learning, about approaching Truth and appreciating it as it is, as opposed to how we selfishly want it to be, right?

    And speaking of selfishness, one of the things that finally convinced me how Rand was wrong was her extolling the capitalist’s selfishness. The whole reason her “looters” looted was because of selfishness. How could selfishness be a vice for one group of people, but a virtue for others? Ah, but the others were enlightened, and thus their selfishness was good. At which point I can only scratch my head and say, “huh?”

    What I find amusing here is that BA described the point in Atlas Shrugged where I kind of gave up reading. The Utopian society was part of the problem, but I also had an issue with the main female protagonist sleeping with every main male protagonist across the course of the book. It is hard to keep sympathizing with someone who you feel is unfaithful in one of the most devastating ways to be unfaithful.

  • DC, I have to edit yours as well to make it fit. Let me know if the corrections are okay!

  • Sorry, but every time I hear Ayn Rand mentioned, I flashback to the South Park episode in which Officer Barbrady learns to read.

  • My Jesuit alma mater’s business department literally hands a copy of Atlas Shrugged to every incoming freshman business major and sponsors an Ayn Rand lecture series.

    Oy vey! — The Jesuits have a bad reputation as it is. Let’s not further ridicule them with such anecdotes.

  • Let’s not further ridicule them with such anecdotes.

    Right. Let’s ignore their conservative tendencies so you can keep insisting that they are “liberals” and “dissidents.”

11 Responses to Against Moderation

  • One of the best features of the original plan was aid to cash-strapped state governments, which would have provided a quick boost to the economy while preserving essential services. But the centrists insisted on a $40 billion cut in that spending.

    This is the statement where I just gape. Either that, or call BS. Perhaps someone else can explain to me how giving money to the state governments that have run themselves into deficits will help stimulate the economy? Let’s see–the government employs people who will hopefully spend their paychecks and move the money back into the private sector, so I suppose that could have an indirect effect. But if that’s one of the hopes, you can accomplish the same thing with *gasp* tax cuts. But how are the state governments going to spend these handouts? If they’re running budget deficits, that money is just going to go to shore up the budget. How does that work back into the economy? How are the “essential services” going to help? And by essential services, we’re talking about government entitlement programs and government facilities like prisons. If we’re thinking that school upgrades and renovations are going to stimulate the economy, we must be counting on the economic pickup coming 5-10 years from now, when those students (assuming they receive a better education) will enter the workforce.

    I just don’t understand. Every time I try to figure out how giving this money away is going to stimulate the economy, I keep coming back to people having more money to spend. And you can just as easily give people more money to spend by cutting taxes. Am I missing anything?

  • Ryan,

    I think the argument runs as follows:

    1) We are trying to spend money to stimulate the economy;

    2) One of the difficulties with spending money is identifying worthwhile projects;

    3) State governments have already identified a number of projects they feel are worthwhile (and probably would have been funded if the economy hadn’t tanked);

    4) Ergo, if you’re going to hand out money, state governments would be a good place to start (and it would preserve existing services).

  • I hear you. Frankly, it’s beginning to strike me that the appeal of Keynsian economics is mainly that some people want to spent that money regardless, and Keynsianism essentially tells them, “Don’t worry. You can eat all those deserts and it’s good for you!”

    The bit in Krugman’s column that really struck me was, “Even if the original Obama plan — around $800 billion in stimulus, with a substantial fraction of that total given over to ineffective tax cuts — had been enacted, it wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will amount to $2.9 trillion over the next three years.”

    It strikes me as fundamentally problematic to estimate that the downturn will result in a spending “hole” of 2.9 trillion and then turn around and simply borrow 2.9 trillion to spend thinking you’ll somehow “make it up”. Normally what that hole ought to do is result in getting rid of less efficient businesses and practices, thus eventually increasing productivity, creating wealth, and putting the economy back into growth. Simply pouring money out (and I’m not clear how borrowing in this way on the world scene is fundamentally different from printing more money) does nothing to sift out the bad and reward the good, it just slows the process down, so far as I can see.

  • John,

    Okay, I think that’s somewhat of an adequate answer, especially as it seems to play with subsidiarity. At least direct the money to local governments, since they have a better idea where the money would be better spent.

    Still, when you consider that Wyoming–because of its balanced budgets and reserve funds–doesn’t really need any of its portion of the stimulus bill (though apparently we’ll fight tooth and nail for our portion), and California–bankrupt because its poor budgetary practices–needs a sizable chunk of money just to balance their ledgers, it makes you wonder just how wisely even state governments will spend that money.

  • I quite concur with your line of reasoning, though not entirely with that of Krugman or Douthat.

    Most disheartening (but, let us face it, hardly surprising) has been the lack of bipartisan craftsmanship on this towering chunk of gristle we’re about to be force-fed. There hasn’t even been a pretense of bipartisanship (again, no shock there), and I see any attempt to brand portions of this stimulus bill as “too centrist” to be gallingly disingenuous, particularly coming from Krugman.

    I do like your line about moderation being, at times, overrated. How true. Especially the misconception of moderation, in Krugman’s case.

  • All irrelevant, as Porkapalooza bill passed 61-37 in Senate. Surprise surprise the GOP senators who joined the majority were my own Arlen Specter and the two Maine ladies. Now on to House-Senate conference committee for final round of sausage making. Will be interesting to see if final package includes provision for Ultimate Health Care Czar/Czarina. Great analysis on Bloomberg by former NY Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey on how this office will essentially set prices for any and all medical procedures. Surprise surprise out of hands of medical pros. So fans of Hope and Change don’t start crying if the real result of H&C is life-preserving surgery for Grandma. Coverage will get really really expensive for seasoned citizens. And my Spidey Sense tells me a bunch of Terri Schiavo cases around the bend. Thanks a bunch Obama voters. Hope you’re happy about this, Mr. Krugman.

  • Or lack of life-preserving surgery for Grandma. Maybe even the unborn. Could be a subtle form of FOCA. Stay on guard.

  • The Freedom of Choice Act is a way of energizing the base.

    I think the idea is to pass FOCA bit by bit. There is no way FOCA in its form could pass through either the House or the Senate. It’s too extreme and opposition would almost ensure political suicide for the Democratic Party.

    However, if you do it bit by bit, it hardly goes noticed. Why?

    I really support the anti-FOCA campaign going across the United States parish to parish. But why wasn’t this happening, in say, October?

    Not to mention, considering the improbable chances of FOCA which I believe many of us recognize, why did the pro-life movement not energize its efforts toward things that are likely: the Mexico City Policy being overturned and federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

    In a post advocating letter writing to Congress, I pointed out a bill in the House H.R. 34, there is a push to delay Bush’s executive order for conscience clauses to protect health care professionals from being forced to perform abortions. Why? When Obama finally gets a Secretary of Health and Human Services, they can reverse the conscience clause and put the consciences of many pro-life doctors and nurses at risk.

    We’ve seen the fight over Title X funding which goes to health “clinics,” i.e. Planned Parenthood and public funding of contraceptives and abortifacents. If I’m not mistaken, Plan B is now an over the counter the bill.

    Losing all these little fights actually amounts rather quickly. We’re writing about FOCA in our parishes and are opening ourselves to a host of losses. We’ll win in the long run, certainly. I’d like more strategy and less casualities.

  • I’d rather have it all-out as well; let’s see what the consequences of this insane (from my point of view anyways) policy decision really are – and let’s remember the lessons this time.

  • Frankly, it’s beginning to strike me that the appeal of Keynsian economics is mainly that some people want to spent that money regardless, and Keynsianism essentially tells them, “Don’t worry. You can eat all those deserts and it’s good for you!”

    Well, Keynes did say “In the long run, we’re all dead.” (Keynes was homosexual and childless, and although it might be un-PC to say so, I imagine that influenced his outlook. I’m childless myself, and so I know you don’t immediately think in terms of future generations if you haven’t generated any yourself.) I’ve used that line of reasoning when I’m tempted by the dessert tray in a restaurant, but of course, you can get into trouble very quickly if you use it to justify eating chocolate cake for breakfast. This stimulus bill is chocolate cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    Mark Steyn pointed out the essential difficulty with Keynesian economics – all socialist welfare states will run off the rails eventually because you need to keep the birthrate high in order to sustain the state’s spending. Sweden seemed to have the right idea back in 1970, when there were still a lot of young Swedes. Now things aren’t looking so hot. Who is going to pay for those cradle-to-grave programs when more citizens are closer to the grave than the cradle? Sarkozy has had a heck of a time trying to even modestly scale back the French welfare system. It’s ironic that we are about to expand entitlement spending on a huge scale in this country just as some European leaders are belatedly realizing that their own entitlements are becoming unaffordable.

    But hey, if you take the attitude that future generations can go to Hades and what’s important is “I’ve got mine, Jack,” than I suppose you can live with that.

  • I’ve heard speculation that the cost of this will start hitting at about the same time as it will start actually kicking in (1-2 years). The cost will be necessarily higher taxes, and higher inflation (stagflation). You can’t pump 1 trillion $ into a recessionary economy without incurring massive inflation.

Obama and the Stimulus Package

Tuesday, February 10, AD 2009

Has anyone ever wondered if it is possible that one can land in a financial crisis when one has a steady income, no debts, and a large reserve of money in case of emergencies?  Certainly, I suppose, if something devastating comes around, like an accident that requires weeks in the ICU, surgeries, and a long rehabilitation, that could bankrupt a person.  Yet such accidents, on a whole, are rare, and most people who live a financially responsible life never have to plead for a bailout.

When we look at our current financial crisis nationwide, I can’t help but wonder what people are thinking.  President Obama has promised us trillion dollar deficits for years to come in an effort to restore our economy.  Like most right-leaning folk, I’m under the impression that our current crisis has come from overspending, living beyond our means, and not being prepared for when we hit bumpy times in the economy (like $4/gallon gas, which drives prices up all around).  Perhaps, if this view is incorrect, someone will be willing to explain to me why it is so.  But my impression has been that first, people individually are consumed with buying, buying, buying, even when they don’t have the money to buy.   I have friends who, though they grossed over $60,000 a year, were still living paycheck to paycheck because of their deficit spending.  I’ve seen people who, upon receiving their government money, have gone and blown it on new cell phones (that are shut down after two delinquent months), on fancy steack dinners, and so on, instead of buying necessities or saving up what they can.  I’ve seen people struggling with hundreds of thousands of dollars of accumulated debt that came from student loans, house loans, car loans, credit cards, and so on.  This is just what I’ve seen.  What I’ve heard–word of mouth, or in the news, or on blogs–is even worse.

18 Responses to Obama and the Stimulus Package

  • My personal feeling is that the dollar will die within the next 10-15 years. I just don’t see how it can survive all these pressures of printing and borrowing in order to pay for entitlement programs and foreign interventions.

    If Obama were really interested in rescuing the economy and preserving the nations ‘greatness’ while there is still time he would:

    1.) End our overseas commitments, whose cost is perpetually skyrocketing to the detriment of our blood and treasure; not to mention the liberty of those we are trying to “help”

    2.) Audit the Federal Reserve if you aren’t willing to abolish them. The Fed is a quasi-public/private cartel of banks that has control of our currency via manipulating interest rates. Who the hell are they to arbitrarily decide the price of money? Our fiat currency had been far too politicized, thanks to the removal of any kind of commodity standard. We need to know what the Fed has been up to in total. Its way past time Congress reassert its powers and responsibilities.

    3.) Create a long-term transition away from entitlement programs. It turns out the Great Society ain’t so great. While many people are now dependent on the state to survive, the costs we could save from ending foreign commitments could be moved towards these programs as we slowly close them down over time. Congress should be barred from raiding Social Security/Medicare and Medicaid funds for their pet projects.

    4.) Elimination of the Income Tax. The government could easily put money back in the hands of consumers instantly by simply not taxing the fruit of their labor. There are plenty of other tariffs and taxes that would maintain the size of government at about the level it was in the Clinton years. If you have to institute a consumption tax, fine… but it should eventually be phased out too.

    5.) Secure the border. If the Defense Department really needs something do, why can’t they defend our federal border from rampant illegal immigration? Immigration, particularly of educated individuals is crucial to our society’s resources, but that is a far-cry from the seemingly endless free-for-all occurring on the border with Mexico. If the Mexican government were ever to collapse, the U.S. has to be able to preserve its physical integrity. Entitlement programs in medical care and education that have an effect of subsidizing illegal immigration should be ended.

    6.) Allow the liquidation of assets to occur. If the banking industry, real estate industry, auto industry etc. don’t fail how can we ever rebuild on a better footing? We have to discover the price of their assets by rewarding the people who have saved their money. They are the ones capable of bringing on a genuine recovery and moral redistribution of wealth. What is occurring now is an attempt by the elite and politically-well connected to keep the status-quo afloat at the expense of taxpayers and responsible consumers. This process will undoubtedly be extremely painful. But quick and painful is preferable to slow and painful.

    The fact is for the last few decades we’ve been living in a fantasy world of cheap money, easy credit and an entitlement mentality. Thats NOT what this country was ever supposed to be about. We’re supposed to work towards lifting ourselves up so that the next generation could go even higher. Instead we chose the pleasures of today at the expense of tomorrow.

    We aren’t the first generation to ever act this way. Its something that can be forgiven and reversed if we are willing to endure the consequences of our bad decisions. There’s no easy or popular way out. Its time to freaking man-up and deal with it.

    At least thats the way I see it.

  • I’m usually just a lurker here and love The American Catholic writers and the in depth dialogue here – Thank you. … I can’t help myself in making this point to enough people… I believe the goal of Obama and whoever is behind him is to destroy this country and maybe that just means Democracy but I can’t help think it also includes Christianity.

  • Lee,

    I really hope you’re wrong.

  • I think it is inappropriate to accuse the President of wanting to destroy the country. After listening to similar accusations from Bush-haters for the last eight years, I think those on the right should be especially sensitive to this.

  • I don’t believe that the President intends to destroy this country. I think he sincerely believes that unprecedented deficits that our descendants will never be able to repay, an ever-expanding public sector, and enhanced government regulation are the path to prosperity. Truth to tell I would have more intellectual respect for the President if I believed that he did wish to destroy the country, instead of accepting the fact that he actually believes this snakeoil.

  • Lee,

    I would also caution against spreading that speculation. I’m more in the camp that Obama and his ilk are plunderers (cf Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged), and they simply think they can keep plundering the wealth accrued by our hard-working, industrious citizens indefinitely.

    Part of the problem is that there’s a disconnect between viewpoints on the right and the left. The ideas of how economics work, how to stimulate job growth, how to make sure everyone has his needs met, are so divergent there is simply no middle ground to work with. To this extent, both sides see the other as being completely disassociated with reality. Frankly, I believe most of these people who are willing to plunder our nation–and they are on both sides of the aisle–are the ones who are truly disconnected with reality. The plundering occurs to score political points, and those points continue to put a person in power.

    Now, I don’t really see what Obama gains personally by being president, except that he gets to be the one directing the course of the nation. Now, most people are drawn to one party or another because they believe that party has a particular vision that agrees with their own view (even if that party hasn’t held that vision since 1960). I think Obama truly believes there are huge injustices working in our nation. Ask any Democrat, and you’ll get that kind of response. In some cases, those injustices are completely valid, and Republicans are remiss in failing to address them. In other cases, those injustices are trumped up, or are infantile railing against the natural order of the world. But just because they’re trumped up doesn’t mean that the person advocating fixing those injustices knows it.

    Consider the plight of having extremely wealthy and extremely poor in our nation (though, arguably, our poor are wealthier than most “wealthy” in many third-world nations). Democrats view this disparity as coming from free market economics, a system that plunders the poor for the advantage of the rich. (I’ve argue long and hard with my sister on this point, and she won’t budge an inch on the denunciation of capitalism as personified by the industrial giants of the late nineteenth century.) Republicans view the disparity as being derived from government interference, whose subsidies and favoritism to lobbyists create situations and loopholes that permit the plundering to occur. I believe the disparity comes in part because the free market permits people to get rich by working hard (and often being in the right place at the right time), and permits people to be destitute by not working hard, or having the wrong ideas, or being in the wrong place a the wrong time. But I also believe that governmental interference with the markets by and large has permitted the grossest of injustices to occur. So when I see someone calling for more governmental oversight, more governmental interference, more governmental control, I cringe and feel that the person calling for this is either off his rocker, malevolent, or making power plays.

    But you have to understand, that someone working with that opposite viewpoint things the same about me when I call for deregulation, for tax cuts, for more faith in the market, and so on. When Obama speaks about the “failed policies of the past eight years”, I really think he believes what he says. That doesn’t mean he isn’t flat out wrong, but I think he’s honest about it.

    But I also think he is plunderer, in the sense that he feels the hardest working and most successful have an obligation to subsidize those who aren’t as successful. Now, Catholics believe that a man’s excess wealth should by right be accessible to the poor, but that can be accomplished in more ways than just handing money out. But there’s a big difference between believing there’s an obligation on the part of the rich to help the poor, and believing that a person can only be rich at the expense of the poor, and therefore should have his possessions forcibly confiscated and returned to the “rightful” owners, which I think Obama believes.

    Have no doubt–I believe Obama’s economic policies will do much to ruin our nation. But I also believe he feels he’s doing right. But then, I believe no one willingly does evil. They simply convince themselves that what they want to do is good, and then feel justified in what they do.

    Of course, you could argue that Obama sees the destruction of this nation as a good he is fighting for, but I don’t think there’s much justification for that.

  • “Catholics believe that a man’s excess wealth should by right be accessible to the poor…” – Ryan Harkins

    I disagree. I do not have such a low opinion of Catholics as to believe that Catholics approve of envy, theft, and ingratitude.

  • Micha Elyi,

    Of course Catholics do not approve of envy, theft, and ingratitude. The principle I’m referring to is when a man has more wealth than he needs, and the poor person does not even have the essentials for survival. The right to private property does not outweigh the obligation to work towards the common good, especially when one can deliver needed sustenance to those who would perish without. The Catholic church does not approve of theft, and many of the arguments we tend to have concerning social justice is whether, say, governmental taxation and entitlement programs are thinly disguised theft, or if they are true genuine charity, the option that is least bad for helping the poor.

    The problem that we face is how much wealth one can possess before any more is truly excess, and how little one can possess before it constitutes to a desperate situation that permits the usage of another’s goods in order to survive.

    Context, Micha Elyi, should help resolve what I’ve said with what the Church teaches.

  • This stimulus plan is the old “wrong execution of the right idea”. The
    righy idea being something is needed to “kick start” the economy after a
    brutal loss of confidence. But piling on more debt after execessive debt will
    not work anymore than giving a heroine addict more heroine.

    We must do what Kennedy and Reagan did. Cut Taxes!

  • Ryan,

    The right to private property does not outweigh the obligation to work towards the common good, especially when one can deliver needed sustenance to those who would perish without.

    I think you’re comparing apples to oranges here. It is precisely because we have a right to private property, that we have a moral obligation to work towards the common good.

    The Catholic church does not approve of theft, and many of the arguments we tend to have concerning social justice is whether, say, governmental taxation and entitlement programs are thinly disguised theft, or if they are true genuine charity, the option that is least bad for helping the poor.

    While the state has an obligation to insure the barest needs of the poor are met, even when the state does step in, it is not out of charity in any Catholic sense. The state is incapable of theological virtues as far as I understand it.

    The problem that we face is how much wealth one can possess before any more is truly excess

    In our economy, the excess wealth is that which one keeps in one’s mattress, or uses to buy yachts. Funds invested in the markets, bonds, treasuries etc. is not excess, it is actually “working”, it is providing the needed capital for job creation, manufacturing needed goods, and in fact funding social programs. There is such a thing as excess consumption. The beauty of the fair tax is that it taxes consumption, not wealth.

    and how little one can possess before it constitutes to a desperate situation that permits the usage of another’s goods in order to survive.

    If they have cable TV, DVD, a car, cell phone, MP3 player, etc… then… I submit that their situation is not so desperate.

  • Good post, Matt. I would add that a free society means that one is free to behave selfishly. The miser who shovels wads of money under his mattress and the big spender who buys more houses and yachts than necessary are both guilty of being uncharitable, but that does not give the state the right to take their property away. Characters like Paris Hilton can momentarily make a Marxist out of even me, but then I remember that there have always been rich people who choose to lead selfish and self-serving lives. They will be judged, just as the rest of us will be.

    If charity is forced, it is not a virtue. And you are perfectly right that the state is not in the charity business, but in the business of expanding itself.

  • Donna V.,
    I would add that a free society means that one is free to behave selfishly.

    Quite right, I meant to be suggest that, to the extent that the state is obligated to provide for the common good, that it should be funded from excess consumption rather than by reducing the capital which is the engine of the economy.

  • Matt,

    I think you’re comparing apples to oranges here.

    Hardly at all. The crux of the question is how much wealth is enough, and how much is too much (or excess)? At what point does a person have so little that he has a right to appropriate my property in order to survive? Private property and working towards the common good go hand in hand. The common good upholds the notion of private property (for a variety of reasons, like making our work fruitful, like providing for our individual needs so as not to be a burden on others), but that does not mean that private property is inviolable, either.

    But keep in mind that you’re making way too much out of my statements. I’m not in the slightest an endorser of the massive lot of entitlements the government keeps handing out. What I do endorse is understanding two things. One, we Americans have by far more stuff than we need. Just think of all the things that you could do without (and maybe should, since wealth has this nasty tendency to get between one and God (cf Luke 16)). Two, while investments are good long-term strategies for both making sure one is provided for in old age and providing jobs for people, there are plenty of people who need some short-term solutions just to make it to the long-term solutions. I would hope that these are apparent. The question then is: how do we best help those who truly need an act of charity to make it through the day?

    The Catholic church does not approve of theft, and many of the arguments we tend to have concerning social justice is whether, say, governmental taxation and entitlement programs are thinly disguised theft, or if they are true genuine charity, the option that is least bad for helping the poor.

    While the state has an obligation to insure the barest needs of the poor are met, even when the state does step in, it is not out of charity in any Catholic sense. The state is incapable of theological virtues as far as I understand it.

    Keep in mind I just stated what the dilemma was here, and not a solution. You have proffered an understanding of the government that bars any true charity in governmental acts. I would counter, reluctantly, that the government is made up of people who are capable of charity, and who often enough believe that passing laws to force others to subsidize the needy is the only way to provide aid. But I say reluctantly, because Donna states it correctly when she says: If charity is forced, it is not a virtue. But you have to understand where the supposed charity theoretically lies in the case of the government–it is supposedly (and I say supposedly because too often I feel the government entitlement programs have nothing to do with charity, and everything to do with political power) on the side of the government officials who are wresting the money from one person to another. The absence of charity is, often enough, on the part of the tax-payer, because their tax dollars are an obligatory contribution, not a gift.

    Of course, if we look at charity–the love and willingness to give of oneself for another (even a stranger) because of one’s love for God–then we see that the government official fails in part because the wealth is taken from someone else, not the official. But then, you have to understand that a case could be made that the government official’s giving of herself is the giving of her time and talent to craft those laws that wrest the money from the rich man and redistribute it to the poor.

    Now, if it seems that I’m wishy-washy here, or waffling, or whatever, it is because I’m just writing arguments. I’m not arguing one side or the other; I’m merely presenting other factors to consider. I don’t think my case for the charity of the government worker is at all compelling, but it is an argument that can be made, and to someone in power, is a good justification for enacting massive entitlement programs. (That whole fallen nature thing I’m sure comes into play somewhere around here.)

    If you want my honest opinion, it is that most government entitlement programs enable sloth, breed envy, and in general make the situation worse. The principle of: if you subsidize something, you get more of it is at play. Sometimes love for our neighbors has to be tough love, but the only way to know if that is the case is to be intimately involved with our neighbors.

    Just some things to chew on.

  • Ryan,

    Ryan:The right to private property does not outweigh the obligation to work towards the common good, especially when one can deliver needed sustenance to those who would perish without.

    Matt:I think you’re comparing apples to oranges here.

    Perhaps I’m misreading, but in my understanding you are comparing the right to private property with the moral obligation of that owner to give of his excess to support the poor. The first is a right, the second is an obligation which flows (at least in part from the right), it is not a question of one outweighing the other.

    But keep in mind that you’re making way too much out of my statements. I’m not in the slightest an endorser of the massive lot of entitlements the government keeps handing out.

    I recognize this, just seeking to clarity.

    What I do endorse is understanding two things. One, we Americans have by far more stuff than we need. Just think of all the things that you could do without (and maybe should, since wealth has this nasty tendency to get between one and God (cf Luke 16)).

    Absolutely, and with regard to “stuff” this is exactly the argument in favor of the fair tax, which targets stuff.

    Two, while investments are good long-term strategies for both making sure one is provided for in old age and providing jobs for people, there are plenty of people who need some short-term solutions just to make it to the long-term solutions. I would hope that these are apparent. The question then is: how do we best help those who truly need an act of charity to make it through the day?

    Principally by letting those who have a right to those investments determine what portion ought to go to charity, it would be for God to judge them on their culpability for letting greed interfere, secondarily, by the state acting as an emergency backstop to take by compulsion what it is absolutely necessary (all the better based on consumption rather than income)

    Matt: While the state has an obligation to insure the barest needs of the poor are met, even when the state does step in, it is not out of charity in any Catholic sense. The state is incapable of theological virtues as far as I understand it.

    Ryan: You have proffered an understanding of the government that bars any true charity in governmental acts. I would counter, reluctantly, that the government is made up of people who are capable of charity, and who often enough believe that passing laws to force others to subsidize the needy is the only way to provide aid….The absence of charity is, often enough, on the part of the tax-payer, because their tax dollars arean obligatory contribution, not a gift…a case could be made that the government official’s giving of herself is the giving of her time and talent to craft those laws that wrest the money from the rich man and redistribute it to the poor.

    Excellent! This is the sort of precision I like (I recognize that you aren’t agreeing with these arguments).

    1. government people are capable of charity – absolutely
    2. government people believe that taking from the wealthy to give money to the poor is charitable – absolutely, but they are in complete error on this (the crux of my opposition)
    3. government people are charitable when they give their efforts to taking from the wealthy – they are in error, particularly when they are paid, it increases their power or furthers their ideology. They may be charitable to an extent when they give of themselves as part of their work to aid the poor, and/or they sacrifice potential for private sector wealth by working for government (great distinctions have to be made here, as this may be exceedingly rare).

    My definition of “government people” extends from legislators, to employees of government and non-governmental organizations (as well as those who support such) who’s practice it is to expand the role of government.

    If you want my honest opinion, it is that most government entitlement programs enable sloth, breed envy, and in general make the situation worse. The principle of: if you subsidize something, you get more of it is at play. Sometimes love for our neighbors has to be tough love, but the only way to know if that is the case is to be intimately involved with our neighbors.

    Amen! The amazing thing is that true Charity has a much better impact on the reciever and the sender because it is not seen as an entitlement or taking but a gift of love.

  • Matt,

    Just to clarify:

    Perhaps I’m misreading, but in my understanding you are comparing the right to private property with the moral obligation of that owner to give of his excess to support the poor. The first is a right, the second is an obligation which flows (at least in part from the right), it is not a question of one outweighing the other.

    I’m viewing this more as a weighted scale than a comparison. Our first obligation is to take care our of ourselves, and we are not called to give charitably when doing so harms our ability to survive. But as we accrue more wealth, the possibility of a contribution harming said survivability decreases, and eventually vanishes (save for being stupid about it…). At some point, we have so much (think scales dropping well below the equilibrium point) that we have a graver obligation to use that wealth for the benefit of others than for our own concerns.

    So it really isn’t comparing two unrelated objects (in my mind, anyway), but trying to determine where the tipping point comes, and what should be done when the scales tip.

  • Ryan,

    Our first obligation is to take care our of ourselves [, our families and those we have a special obligation to], and we are not called to give charitably when doing so harms our ability to survive. But as we accrue more wealth, the possibility of a contribution harming said survivability decreases, and eventually vanishes (save for being stupid about it…). At some point, we have so much (think scales dropping well below the equilibrium point) that we have a graver obligation to use that wealth for the benefit of others than for our own concerns.

    Now we’re on the same page, the apples-apples is obligations, to our own vs to others. I agree completely. Of course, using our wealth for the benefit of others is not necessarily direct help for the poor, it can include hiring workers or investing in businesses that do so.

  • using our wealth for the benefit of others is not necessarily direct help for the poor, it can include hiring workers or investing in businesses that do so.

    I might add, that growing our business is not charity, even if it helps others. No matter how many people we help through employment, we have a serious obligation to direct charity.

20 Responses to Res Ipsa Loquitur

  • A consistent pattern since the DC sanitation engineers swept up the trash from the Inaugural Hope And Change Bash. Market has pretty much said pfffft to this President since election. Seems to be the response from those companies whose executives did not arrive on Capitol Hill, tin cups in hand. Which is to say the majority of entities trading shares, Non Financial Services Division. Probably means panicked trips north on Amtrak to have heart to heart chats by new Treasury Secretary Timmy The Tax Dodger Geithner. As in c’mon guys get with the program. Doesn’t happen that way. To look at stock markets, take a rational view of the irrational. Fear greed worry over the future always mixed with the number. Any amount of jawboning by the Paragon of Hope and Change or his Tax Dodger/Treasury Secretary may not help. Meantime sit tight. Buy good Americano companies. The market always goes up and may do so around June. Regardless of any Porkapalooza Bills.

  • His Messiahness (PBUH) seems to have failed in ‘inspiring’ investors.

  • Don’t be fooled. 0bama likes what he sees. A slipping market means more government intervention is warranted.

  • Let me try this…

    …ipso facto mucho taxo…

  • I would agree with Henry (Karlson that is, not John). When the stock market goes up or down, there is a tendency for analysts to look around for some piece of news that might plausibly explain the change, and then assume that the news caused the change. A funny example of this is recounted in Nassim Taleb’s book. On the day Saddam Hussein was captured, Taleb recalls getting a news alert from Bloomberg News: US Treasuries Rise; Hussein Capture May Not Curb Terrorism. Half an hour later, he got another: US Treasuries Fall; Hussein Capture Boosts Allure of Risky Assets. So if bond prices go up, that’s because of Hussein’s capture, and if they go down, that’s because of his capture too.

  • Right, and then we just need to invent theories to explain why his capture either caused the bond market to go up or down. I would agree in principle; but when the market drops 4% on the same day as a significant financial event (or non-event based on the lack of specificity in the plan), I think there is a much stronger argument for causation rather than just correlation.

    If you are making the general observation that reporters can draw erroneous conclusions, I agree. If you think in this specific case that the announcement of the Banking plan had little to no effect on the market, despite a 4% drop, well, you are in a distinct minority. That minority may be right, but generally the minority (as with AGW) should produce a stronger argument than ‘maybe they aren’t linked’. Do you really think they are unrelated?

  • Here are some of the accounts I’ve been reading:

    Noah Millman (arguing the rollout of the plan was very poorly handled):
    http://theamericanscene.com/2009/02/10/might-not-want-to-bother-unpacking-tim

    McArdle (the same):
    http://meganmcardle.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/02/im_from_the_government_and_im.php

    Major financial news services linking the two:

    Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aC.r9M_1vPd8&refer=home

    Yahoo: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Wall-St-tumbles-on-bank-plan-rb-14312204.html

    Reuters:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/ousiv/idUSTRE5160AM20090210

    Sure, reporters look for narratives to sell papers/attract traffic, and all these people could be wrong. But you’re tempting me to accuse you of armchair thinking. 😉

  • Semper ubi sub ubi.

  • John,

    In the case of global warming, the consensus is based on more than a bunch of people looking at the same single data point. If it weren’t, then I’d see no real reason to defer to it.

    If I had to guess whether the stock drop was related to the Treasury proposal then I’d say it was. But I don’t have to guess. And more generally, I think that trying to infer much about the wisdom of a particular policy based on the day to day (or even hour to hour) movements in the stock market strikes me as being a very bad idea.

  • “I think that trying to infer much about the wisdom of a particular policy based on the day to day (or even hour to hour) movements in the stock market strikes me as being a very bad idea.”

    Agreed. But if the plan is meant to reassure the market (which is one of its primary goals), it wasn’t initially successful. Many commentators have suggested this is because there was little detail presented in the ‘plan,’ which creates uncertainty and undermines market confidence. Maybe the details, when they come, will be brilliant. Maybe they won’t. But either way, the initial presentation did not go well.

  • I always where under where.

  • Blackadderiv,

    In the case of global warming, the consensus is based on more than a bunch of people looking at the same single data point. If it weren’t, then I’d see no real reason to defer to it.

    but if the globe stops warming and starts to cool almost 10 years ago, can you still say it follows that it’s man-made? If the warming was man-made, was the cooling necessarily man-made?

    Henry K,

    Post hoc ergo proctor hoc, is a question, it’s not an argument. Just because the thing follows doesn’t mean it is NOT causative. The market is not completely random, it responds to internal and external stimulus. These stimulus can be examined, after the fact and likely causes can be analyzed.

  • but when the market drops 4% on the same day as a significant financial event (or non-event based on the lack of specificity in the plan), I think there is a much stronger argument for causation rather than just correlation.

    Henry’s right about the fallacy employed here by both John Henry and some analysts. As a college philosophy instructor, I am particularly sensitive to the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy as it is raised repeated by those who really possess no real knowledge about the connections and correlations of data in a given field. That’s what we find here today in this post.

    The problem with the post is twofold: 1) Who here really is an expert on economic analysis and is equipped to interpret a few hour drop?; 2) As of 9:30am this morning, the markets are rebounding.

    So using the logic expressed in some of these comments, shall we conclude that the stimulus bill caused the rebound today? Probably a bit too hasty for that. I think Blackadder, who along with MM are better read on economics than anyone at Vox Nova and here (this is a belief, not something I can prove), nailed it. In a world of internet news and soundbites, it’s good to know that at least some people actually study this stuff before posting on it.

  • Post hoc ergo proctor hoc, is a question, it’s not an argument. Just because the thing follows doesn’t mean it is NOT causative.

    Of course, this is a trivial and obvious point. The fallacy (it’s not a “question”) was imputed because a causal relation was implied in some of the comments without sufficient evidence. No one argued that that there was NOT a causal relation, so your point here is rather irrelevant.

  • “The problem with the post is twofold: 1) Who here really is an expert on economic analysis and is equipped to interpret a few hour drop?; 2) As of 9:30am this morning, the markets are rebounding…In a world of internet news and soundbites, it’s good to know that at least some people actually study this stuff before posting on it.”

    A few responses:

    1) Your supercilious tone is unnecessary and unappreciated.

    2)It’s a stretch to call a .5% uptick after a 5% drop a ‘rebound’. But even a rebound wouldn’t disprove that the initial reaction to the plan was quite negative.

    3) If you think working as a financial analyst for five years, and having an MBA and extensive legal academic coursework in corporate finance topics makes me unqualified to comment, then I hope you hold yourself to the same standard. But since you obviously do not, perhaps you’ll be more generous to others.

    4) Please, cite one expert in the field who has stated the market drop was independent of the bank plan roll-out yesterday. Until then, hold fire on the “I’m a philosophy professor and an expert in logical fallacies” argument. Notice, everyone’s favorite nobel laurete is making the first part of the argument (i.e. the plan was unspecific and uninspiring). When an uninspiring plan is followed by a sharp drop in prices, we have a pretty good case for causation, as BA more or less conceded.

  • While it’s true that a short term (though very sharp) drop in the stock market isn’t an economic indicator in and of itself, there’s a sense in which the stock market as a whole can serve as a sort of informal predictions betting market. A broad sell-off can indicate an expectation that the economy as a whole will either not get better or will in fact get worse. Thus a broadly held expecation/bet of this sort right after a major financial policy announcement is essentially an prediction on the part of those holding securities that the policy will not do any good.

    It’s not something I’d take as armor-plated proof that something was a bad idea (for instance, it might be that there were widely held unrealistic expectations about the policy) but it strikes me as a moderately good indicator of lack of confidence.

  • Pingback: Res Ipsa Loquitur (II) « The American Catholic

July 4, 1864

Tuesday, February 10, AD 2009

martin_de_porres_chapel

On July 4, 1864 Abraham Lincoln had much to pre-occupy his mind.  Grant’s drive on Richmond had bogged down into a stalemated siege to the south of Richmond around the city of Petersburg.  Grant, due to the appalling Union casualties of the campaign, was routinely denounced as a butcher in Northern newspapers, a charge echoed privately by Mary Todd Lincoln.   On June 27 Sherman had been bloodily repulsed at Kennesaw Mountain, and his campaign against Atlanta appeared to be very much in doubt.  Lincoln suspected that he would not be re-elected and that the Union might very well lose the war.  So what did he do on July 4?  He, along with Mrs. Lincoln and most of his cabinet, attended a fundraiser held on the White House lawn to build a Catholic church!

39 Responses to July 4, 1864

  • Many thanks Don for your regular features on Honest Abe during his presidency. Provides superb context and contrast with the current White House occupant. The post above clearly indicates the depths of Honest Abe’s mind and spirit. Given that physical contact with both released slaves and Catholics was more than just politically incorrect back in the day. Again Don nice work by you.

  • Thank you Gerard. Your kind comments are much appreciated.

  • Gerard said it well for me.

    With our President Obama wanting to wrap himself in the image of Abraham Lincoln, it is ironic in the disparity of character between the two.

  • Its funny how those of us who aren’t huge fans of Lincoln see the connections Obama tries to make and see THAT has huge warning signs.

    Well whatever gets you to the truth I suppose, haha.

  • Obama and Lincoln have precisely these things in common:

    1. Home state.

    2. Males.

    3. Wives given to causing furors in the press.

  • “3. Wives given to causing furors in the press.”

    In Mary Lincoln’s case, the furors she caused were largely due to her complusive and lavish spending. I have no idea what Michelle’s spending habits are like, but even a coked up Paris Hilton on a shopping spree can’t begin to compete with the spending we’re about to get in DC. Mary Lincoln’s fancy ball gowns and Nancy Reagan’s china – pretty small potatoes compared to a stimulus package that generations not yet born will be paying for.

  • She was also attacked for Southern sympathies, Donna, and for being pro-slavery, both of which were false. I have always cherished her favorite phrase when referring to the ink-stained wretches of the fourth estate: “The vampire press!”

  • I have always cherished her favorite phrase when referring to the ink-stained wretches of the fourth estate: “The vampire press!”

    I just finished the fourth disc of Burns’s Civil war series, and there’s this great line regarding Sherman’s views of the press. I’m paraphrasing, but he said something along the lines of there will be dispatches from hell before morning if I killed all members of the press (which I think he was very tempted to do).

    Mary Todd Lincoln was an odd character. I think she always had some psychological issues, but the loss of two of her sons, and then finally the assassination of her husband, was the final straw.

  • Your series on President Lincoln has been very enlightening Don. From someone from “Downunder”, even though we new of Lincoln through our history studies as youngsters – the slave liberator, the Pres. during the civil war, and his assasination – these days one doesn’t get much further insight and information outside of the USA.
    Very informative, and probably gives a bit of an insight into Donald R. McCleary as well 😉
    Thanks.

  • No doubt Don. Thank you for your kind words. Lincoln has always been a passion for me and I am happy to share what I know about him.

  • As to Sherman Paul he made the comment after it was reported, falsely, that two reporters had been killed by the Confederates. He said that they now could expect the latest news from Hell with their morning coffee. Sherman despised reporters as little better than spies who gave away military information in the newspapers, which did happen regularly on both sides in the Civil War. Sherman also said that the meaning of military glory was to die on the battlefield and to have your name mispelled in the newspapers the next day.

  • I’ve also been reading and learning a great deal from your posts, Donald, so let me offer my compliments as well. I thought I knew a fair amount about Lincoln, but the information that he helped to ensure the success of a fundraiser for a black Catholic church was news to me, although it is no surprise that a man with such a noble spirit was also a friend to us Catholics.

  • Thank you Donna. Part of the essence of the greatness of Lincoln was that he could care for the rights of people who were not like him. This extended to Southerners who he refused to demonize. He noted that the Southerners held precisely the same opinions on slavery that most Northerners would have held if they had been born in the South, for example. In the second inaugural address he blamed both the North and the South for slavery. Such largeness of vision in the midst of a bloody civil war is rare indeed. Lincoln was always ready to appeal to the “better angels of our nature”, in a time of crisis that makes our present national woes insignificant by comparison.

  • If only this blog talked about Jesus as much as you talked about american presidents… Who is your Christ, really?

  • Hey Michael J.

    That’s a low blow brother.
    One can admire qualities in our fellow men (and women) without detracting one iota from our love of Christ.

    Do you understand “iota” ?

  • Catholic Anarchist I am quite clear on who Christ is. Unlike you I try not to confuse my politics with my religion. I am going to allow your comment to stand but I give you notice that in future I will immediately delete any comments in threads to my postings in which you attack either my faith or that of other commenters. I will not tolerate that type of nonsense.

  • “I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races—that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

  • I deleted your comment Catholic Anarchist. I will not allow my threads to be derailed by your charming habit of attacking the faith of those who do not agree with you politically.

  • No, Tito, that was an Abraham Lincoln quote often used by Lincoln bashers to show that, shockingly, a white man living the middle of the country in 1858 did not have 21st century views on race relations.

  • Yes, Paul, but surely it’s not too much to ask that the Great Emancipator might have views slightly more enlightened than those of a former Grand Whatever of the KKK.

    😉

  • Yep Tom, that is a quote from Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln-Douglas debates where Douglas was using race baiting in the debates to attempt to win the election for the Democrats in Illinois. It was a successful tactic as Douglas was returned to Washington as a Senator by the Illinois legislature. Lincoln realized that most of the white voters in Illnois and around the nation dreaded the idea of negro equality. It was all Lincoln could do to to amass sufficient support in the North to have a plurality of the voters support him for President on a platform of restricting the extension of slavery in the territories. Lincoln was first and foremost a politician and he was not about to lose a campaign fighting for something that the voters were not yet ready to accept. However, during the war when the opportunity presented itself, he acted to destroy slavery, and by the end of his life he was calling for suffrage for blacks. His personal attitude towards blacks is perhaps best typified by Frederick Douglass who wrote: “I have often said elsewhere what I wish to repeat here, that Mr. Lincoln was not only a great president, but a great man — too great to be small in anything. In his company I was never in any way reminded of my humble origin, or of my unpopular color. While I am, as it may seem, bragging of the kind consideration which I have reason to believe that Mr. Lincoln entertained towards me, I may mention one thing more. At the door of my friend John A. Gray, where I was stopping in Washington, I found one afternoon the carriage of Secretary Dole, and a messenger from President Lincoln with an invitation for me to take tea with him at the Soldiers Home, where he then passed his nights, riding out after the business of the day was over at the Executive Mansion. Unfortunately I had an engagement to speak that evening, and having made it one of the rules of my conduct in life never to break an engagement if possible to keep it, I felt obliged to decline the honor. I have often regretted that I did not make this an exception to my general rule. Could I have known that no such opportunity could come to me again, I should have justified myself in disappointing a large audience for the sake of such a visit with Abraham Lincoln.”

    Douglass also noted in 1876 “Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.”

  • He not only did not have contemporary views on race, he clearly believed that while slavery was wrong, blacks were inherently inferior and not entitled to true equality.

    It gives the lie to the whole thing about “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” a passage Lincoln famously used in order to cast the war from being merely the forcible subjugation of states that chose to pursue independence, into a war for liberation of the black, a liberation that clearly did not really for Lincoln involve any type of equality for black persons.

    Now it’s not surprising that Lincoln was hypocritical about this, he was, after all, merely a man, and merely a politician. That he may have had other good qualities is also probably true. But that he merits the beatification some want to bestow on him?…. not so much.

  • And the canard that “well, after all, he was only reflecting the views of his time” is baloney. There were many enlightened folks who did not deny the ontological equality of all men (hmmm, the Church for one?)

    Besides, in other matters, Lincoln was very modern and progressive… such as in his enthusiastic embrace of “Total War” against not simply armies but against civilian, non-combatant populations, see, e.g., an account of Sherman’s wasting entire regions of the south with the specific intent of causing civilian suffering (http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=551)

    Now how his belief that it was OK to terrorize and starve civilians as a war policy can be reconciled with this:

    The Church greatly respects those who have dedicated their lives to the defense of their nation. “If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace. [Cf. Gaudium et spes 79, 5]” However, she cautions combatants that not everything is licit in war. Actions which are forbidden, and which constitute morally unlawful orders that may not be followed, include:

    – attacks against, and mistreatment of, non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners;

    – genocide, whether of a people, nation or ethnic minorities;

    – indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants.

    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2313-2314).

    … is beyond little old me to comprehend.

    But then, I don’t simply swallow an Americanist-tinged view of our history. There is nothing inherent in Catholicism, after all, that lends support to the centralizing, revolutionary nature of what Lincoln did, much less to his warm embrace of modern notions of warfare which are nothing but war crimes.

  • I was going to respond to Tom, but I think Don’s comment covers what I would say in response.

  • “Now how his belief that it was OK to terrorize and starve civilians as a war policy”

    Except that he didn’t believe it was OK to terrorize or starve civilians as a war policy. The South had plenty of food, and the blockade had no impact on the food supply. Terrorize civilians? Union troops were routinely executed for crimes against Southern civilians. Unlike the Confederate army, they also did not round up civilians of a certain complexion and send them South to be sold as slaves. If one wishes to cast stones over the protection of civilians in that war partisans of the Confederacy very much live in a glass house.

  • Tom,

    I never read that quote before from Lincoln, but judging by the context I was able to surmise it was. My Byrd comment was a bit off, but it was only in done in jest.

  • As to Sherman, did he ever hold an entire city to ransom and then burn it to the ground when the ransom was not paid as Confederates did to Chambersburg Pennsylvania? Then of course we could get into the activies of Forrest’s troops at Fort Pillow. The Civil War was largely fought as an honorable war, free of atrocities, but if Lincoln is going to be bashed for the actions of some of his commanders, there is a fair amount on the other side of the ledger.

  • Don, it looks like a two-front war: the people who oppose Lincoln, and the people upset you’re writing this much about Lincoln. Fortunately, you are Grant, and you can handle them with little problem.

  • Well, when the nuns were teaching me, they said it was not right to justify a practice by claiming that “the other guy does it too.”

    I thought we were talking about Lincoln’s merits, not Davis’.

    And if you don’t think Sherman deliberately targeted civilians, you’re not a serious student of the war.

    He sought to deny food and supplies to the Confederate army (which was already beginning to face severe shortages) by burning farmland in as wide a swath as he could from Atlanta to Savannah… civilian farmland, civilian barns, civilian homes. Forced relocation of civilians, including women and children, and forcing entire cities to be emptied: “it to be to the interest of the United States that all citizens now residing in Atlanta should remove,” read Sherman’s order to the confederate general, Hood, who replied: “This unprecedented measure transcends in studied and ingenious cruelty all acts ever before brought to my attention in the dark history of war.”

    Special Order no. 127, issued by Sherman, reads: “In case of…destruction (of bridges) by the enemy,…the commanding officer…on the spot will deal harshly with the inhabitants nearby….Should the enemy burn forage and corn on our route, houses, barns, and cotton-gins must also be burned to keep them company.”

    Etc, etc., these examples can be multiplied ad naseam. These crimes were noted in the Northern press, rightly condemned by many there, but fully and unequivocally supported and encouraged by Lincoln.

    Facts are messy, and get in the way of one-dimensional views of our heroes.

  • While I make no excuses for whatever atrocities were committed by the Confederate States, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to agree with Tom that Sherman’s views on “total war” were not in line with Catholic teaching on the matter.

  • “He sought to deny food and supplies to the Confederate army”

    A perfectly legitimate tactic since armies are, by definition, not noncombatants.

    “Forced relocation of civilians, including women and children, and forcing entire cities to be emptied: “it to be to the interest of the United States that all citizens now residing in Atlanta should remove,” read Sherman’s order to the confederate general, Hood, who replied: “This unprecedented measure transcends in studied and ingenious cruelty all acts ever before brought to my attention in the dark history of war.””

    Proving once again that Hood was as poor a student of history as he was a poor Army commander, as I am sure the Confederate dead at Franklin would attest. Forced relocation of civilians and the burning of towns and cities is not uncommon in war. George Washington was given the nickname “town destroyer” by the Iroqois after Sullivan’s expedition in 1779 where, under Washington’s orders, numerous Indian towns and villages were destroyed in retaliation for raids against the Americans. Sherman burned Atlanta because he did not want it turned into a Confederate base in his rear as his Army marched to the Sea. A perfectly legitimate, although unpleasant, aspect of war. Of course similar tactics were used by the Confederates in areas they considered disloyal, such as East Tennessee which was heavily Unionist in sympathy. Sherman did not burn churches or hospitals, and ordered that no dwellings be burned. The burning he ordered was to be limited to the business and industrial sections and any Confederate property that Hood had not burned when he retreated from the city. However many civilian dwellings were burned against Sherman’s orders, mostly by civilian looters who had stayed behind to rob vacant house. About 37% of the city was destroyed. The civilian population returned within three weeks later and were well on their way to rebuilding the portions of the city destroyed before the end of the war. The burning of Atlanta was rough business, but it was not a major war atrocity, in spite of what the ill-read General Hood claimed.

    As to the actions of Sherman’s troops on the March to the Sea, I find them little different from those of Confederate troops when they were in Northern territory during the war.

    Facts are messy Tom, and ascertaining historical truth is harder than bashing Lincoln, who you obviously harbor a great animus towards.

  • I deleted your latest attempted comment Catholic Anarchist. I think once again you were attempting to attack my faith, and besides the subject is Lincoln here and not the hobby horse you wish to ride regarding religion and politics. If you wish to add a comment germane to the topic I will be happy to respond to it.

  • Good work, Don.
    We have a similar problem with a commenter on our local blog “Being Frank.co.nz” who trolls the comboxes with accusations, red herrings and irrelevencies.

    You may recall Chris Sullivan from Mark Shea’s blog? :mrgreen:

  • Chris is emblazoned on my mind forever Don! The Catholic Anarchist and I disagree about most things, but I have no problem allowing him to comment on threads to my posts as long as he doesn’t attack my faith or the faith of other commenters and if he stays on topic.

  • We should keep in mind that admiring a man’s greatness does not necessarily mean we acknowledge that all of his actions are in line with a Catholic moral theology that he does not know. Obviously, in the case of Lincoln, the good works vastly outweigh the potential moral failings of some of his wartime actions. Surely we’re not recommending him for sainthood.

  • “Surely we’re not recommending him for sainthood.”

    Agreed.

  • With all due respect, there I was, five years and more ahead of the curve: Pro-Catholic Abraham Lincoln (Thu. 07/10/03 07:29:23 PM) and Abraham Lincoln and the Catholic Church (Sat. 08/16/03 02:16:03 PM). 🙂

  • Bravo ELC! You indeed have pride of place!

The Catholic Liberal Case for Sanctioning Pro-choice Politicians

Monday, February 9, AD 2009

I was talking with a good friend who is both a faithful Catholic and a principled progressive the other day, and she said something which (sometimes feeling mildly guilty about how politically convenient calls to sanction pro-choice Catholic politicians are for me) I had not thought of before.

“I think the bishops are partly to blame,” she said, in regards to the difficulties pro-life Democrats have in getting elected. “There are so many fears of seeming like shills for the Republicans that pro-life and pro-choice Catholic Democrats get treated much the same.”

I’d never thought of this, but really: what a slap in the face. If you’ve taken the politically difficult stand of being a pro-life Catholic Democrat in the historically Catholic-heavy regions like New England or the upper mid-west, and the Church leadership treats your candidacy exactly the same as the pro-choice Catholic incumbant you’re running against, how much incentive is there to take the courageous stand?

And so we end up with this kind of situation.

25 Responses to The Catholic Liberal Case for Sanctioning Pro-choice Politicians

  • So, is your friend arguing that the Bishops SHOULD impose sanctions against “pro-choice” Catholic politicians? Makes sense to me that a pro-life Democrat would want that distinction to be drawn between those not in line with Catholic teaching and those who, at great risk to their political fortunes, are following Catholic teaching with respect to abortion. Clearly, there being no downside to being Catholic and a “pro-choice” Democrat means there’s little if no upside to being Catholic and a “pro-life” Democrat.

    But, then, that raises the question of why we don’t hear this from more pro-life Democrats. This is a generalization, of course, but we often see pro-life Democrats cautioning (and even railing) against suggestions of the Bishops taking such corrective measures.

    On the other hand, the prospect of Rudy Giuliani winning the GOP nomination for President had many pro-life Catholic Republicans talking of abandoning their party. Many of those same folks also took issue with Rudy receiving Communion at a Papal Mass during Benedict’s visit last year.

  • Picking up from Jay- Cardinal Egan was right and proper to lay out Rudy. But to concentrate on him is to miss forest for trees. The Dem party its own self is the issue- and the baptized Catholics who conveniently ignore the Church’s teachings on any and all life issues. Agreed, the bishops have not exactly been Profiles In Courage candidates up to this summer. Mostly due to their desire to issue safe, politically correct documents. Trying to win the approval of Dems. Only to get back of hand in return. Slapping escalated after Roe. Therefore a bit of reluctance to endure stinging faces. Much like poor Pope Paul after the firestorm from Humanae Vitae. Never issued another encyclical of such importance again. With a fairly new set of shepherds, who got their marching orders from Pope B last April, we can reasonably expect them to act stronger and bolder. But like the couch potato who orders PS90, hard to break old and bad habits.

    To counter DC’s friend, consider a recent conversation between mineself and a bright young friend, working on her master’s degree. Secular upbring, with all it entails. She had never heard of Humanae Vitae. Thus our dilemma.

  • So, is your friend arguing that the Bishops SHOULD impose sanctions against “pro-choice” Catholic politicians?

    That was her take, though I agree with you that it often seems a lot of people simply stick at complaining that their party is getting beat up too much.

    Her opinion was that as long as the Kennedys and Pelosis of the world get treated as reputable Catholic politicians by their bishops, there’s really no incentive for Democratic candidates to put in the work of bucking their party on the abortion issue.

  • Hilarious. My heart goes out to those many, many Catholic Democrat politicians who are persecuted for their “pro-life” convictions by the Roman hierarchy. Is your friend a unicorn, peradventure?

    “Her opinion was that as long as the Kennedys and Pelosis of the world get treated as reputable Catholic politicians by their bishops, there’s really no incentive for Democratic candidates to put in the work of bucking their party on the abortion issue.”

    For one thing, that doesn’t even make sense. According to that line of reasoning, if bishops are treating pro-choice Democrat candidates like “reputable Catholics,” then these mysterious and rarified “pro-life Dem candidates” would have all the more cause to trumpet their life-affirming values within a Catholic political context, if it’s really Catholic approval they seek! No bishop could fail to draw the distinction between a pro-life Dem candidate and a pro-choice Dem candidate. Moreover, if the playing field for pro-life and pro-choice Democrat candidates is equal in the eyes of bishops (as you say your friend opines), then what “incentive” is needed, pray tell, for a pro-life candidate to act according to conscience, all things being equal? What your friend is failing to admit, in all this obfuscation, is that the goal of winning votes is more important than Church teaching on the life issue, one way or the other. It’s astonishingly clear.

    This is all so much smoke-and-mirrors…a Democrat semantic dance-in-the-dark. No wonder so-called progressive Catholics are confused and generally adrift. They can’t even get their excuses straight.

    Episcopally persecuted/unchampioned pro-life Democratic candidates. Yes, that’s GOT to be at the root of the problem. I’ve heard it all, now. Please: there aren’t enough little violins in the entire world.

  • Well, as a Catholic Democrat, I think there is something to her argument. In a spirit of good charity, I disagree with many of you have find the perspective to be some sort of a joke.

    First, to be a pro-life Democrat is to walk a fine line. It is essentially hell to run in Democratic primaries; elections are usually a cake walk compared to the primary run against the monetary force of pro-choice groups. But there are times in general elections when the party won’t back pro-life Democrats with money, though still incumbent pro-life Democrats generally don’t lose their seats to Republicans in elections; they lose them in primaries. Often times, very principles pro-life Democrats have to drop out of races or they don’t even run.

    Secondly, there is this mentality that you cannot be Catholic and a Democrat, sometimes even if you are pro-life and are working in the trenches. I was reading an article in the Human Life Review, I’m not sure if it was a magazine or if it was online, but either Representative Tim Ryan or Bob Stupak, both of which are pro-life Catholic Democrats with consistent 100% pro-life voting records. Whomever it was, discussed his Catholic faith and his difficulties in public office and one was this mentality that you cannot be Catholic and a Democrat, or kind of mocked the idea of voting for such candidates as if the ethical dilemma was voting for a Democrat not a “pro-choice” candidate — the two are not always synonymous.

    In fact, there was a little bit in the article, which was nearly 20 pages about tension between pro-life Democrats and the National Right to Life, including instances where the NRTL endorsed a single candidate with two pro-life candidates with proven records voting against each other and a quarrel over the NRTL monetarily supporting Republican candidates, but not so eagerly lending that support so readily or abundantly to proven pro-life Democrats (whom they repeatedly give 100% ratings) in close, hard fought elections when what is truly at stake is keeping a seat pro-life. I think any sensible pro-life person would rather two pro-life candidates run against each other than allow the risk of a pro-choice candidate winning at all. If anyone is interested, I’ll look into finding the article — though, I’m not entirely sure if it’s online. I think I might have wrote about it at some point before.

    Now, DC made says that his friend says the Bishops are “partially” responsible for these complications. I am not sure if this means that Catholic bishops are clearly condemning pro-life Democrats. I don’t think it does. I think it is implicit of the fact that certain Bishops who make comments without further clarification almost make statements that voting Republican is non-negotiable and this may inadvertently effect the pro-life Democrats, particularly those who are Catholic. As a Catholic myself, there is always seems to be a question of my orthodoxy even after it becomes clear that I am unapologetically pro-life. So, while some may in good charity disagree, I humbly ask that you not so harshly laugh off such “absurdness” before really considering what it’s like to be on the other side.

    I think it is clear that if we’re going to win the battle for the unborn, we cannot allow the pro-life movement to be locked to one side of the political spectrum; I believe it would be more effective if there wasn’t a war of rolling back pro-life gains and fighting to get them back after a pro-life sweep because really building a “Culture of Life” in my view has been cheapened to a political slogan talked about every election cycle in order to ensure votes. Hence, I don’t think the pro-life movement should be confined to a single side of the American political discourse.

    That’s my two cents.

  • As much as I disagree with the democrats on almost every issue, the abortion holocaust so vastly outweighs that I completely agree the your analysis. A pro-life Democrat party might be bad news for the Republicans it would be great news for the unborn, and so I am wholeheartedly in favor of it.

    Ian,

    are you kidding? The US bishops with few exceptions take grand steps to avoid condemning pro-abortion politicians of either party, to the detriment of the pro-life cause and at the expense of pro-life politicians of both parties.

    That being said, there really are only a very small number of pro-life democrats, most of them are just pro-choice lite.

  • Eric,

    Secondly, there is this mentality that you cannot be Catholic and a Democrat, sometimes even if you are pro-life and are working in the trenches. I was reading an article in the Human Life Review, I’m not sure if it was a magazine or if it was online, but either Representative Tim Ryan or Bob Stupak, both of which are pro-life Catholic Democrats with consistent 100% pro-life voting records. Whomever it was, discussed his Catholic faith and his difficulties in public office and one was this mentality that you cannot be Catholic and a Democrat, or kind of mocked the idea of voting for such candidates as if the ethical dilemma was voting for a Democrat not a “pro-choice” candidate — the two are not always synonymous.

    Who did those 2 pro-life congressmen support for speaker of the House? Nancy Pelosi? Who did they endorse for president? Barack Obama?

    100% pro-life? I think not. I would not suggest it is necessarily immoral for a Catholic to support these candidates, but it is certainly not morally acceptable to give Nancy Pelosi control of the House of Representatives. I believe that completely justifies NRTL’s stance on pro-life Democrats. Look at the example of Casey? So many of these are just providing cover for the abortion pushers.

    I would also be interested to know their stances on other non-negotiable items.

    To be clear, I believe YOU are not in this category.

  • The Democratic party is opposed to principles. They are relativist to the core. Sure, certain people who fancy themselves Democrats have principles, and may even really want to put them into practice, sort of. But the Democratic politicians, the people elected to office, by and large, do not have any principles, and they actively work against those who do, calling them dogmatic and narrow minded and opposed to change. Democrats, enlightened, appeal to whatever people seem to want at the moment and then try to give it to them. After all, as Keynes said, “in the long run, we’re all dead”. Principles tend to get in the way with what we might want right now.

    In short, the party is a bad match with Catholicism.

  • I’m not sure on who either of the two voted for in the past election. As far as I know, they did not publicly come out and endorse a presidential candidate. Nor do I know who they voted for, for Speaker of the House.

    As far as voting goes, to the end of the 2008 year, both of these two Congressmen have voted completely pro-life on legislation in regard to abortion and ESCR. As a matter of fact, the Pregnant Woman Support Act which is the Democrats for Life of America’s 95-10 initiative which was re-introduced in both chambers of Congress — supported by the U.S. bishops — has actually become more pro-life. In the House version, I’ve noticed that Ryan removed public funding of contraception as a means of combatting abortion.

    Sen. Casey is not his father, certainly. But I don’t think it is fair to let the failures of some be grounds to withhold approval and/or assistance to honest-to-goodness men of good will, particularly pro-life Democrats like Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska who has voted consistently with pro-life Republicans his entire career in Congress.

  • Well, if the Democratic Party is opposed to principles, then I think it’s a noble cause to transform it from the inside and make it open to principles.

  • Can’t find anything on the votes for Speaker, but here is Tim Ryan’s record:

    http://www.ontheissues.org/OH/Tim_Ryan.htm

    * Voted YES on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. (Jan 2007)
    * Voted YES on allowing human embryonic stem cell research. (May 2005)
    * Voted YES on restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions. (Apr 2005)
    * Voted YES on making it a crime to harm a fetus during another crime. (Feb 2004)
    * Voted YES on banning partial-birth abortion except to save mother?s life. (Oct 2003)
    * Voted YES on forbidding human cloning for reproduction & medical research. (Feb 2003)
    * Rated 10% by NARAL, indicating a pro-life voting record. (Dec 2003)
    * Expand contraceptive services for low-income women. (May 2006)
    * Rated 80% by the NRLC, indicating a mixed record on abortion. (Dec 2006)
    * Provide emergency contraception at military facilities. (Apr 2007)
    * Ensure access to and funding for contraception. (Feb 2007)

    * Voted NO on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. (Jul 2006)
    * Voted NO on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. (Sep 2004)
    * Rated 63% by the HRC, indicating a mixed record on gay rights. (Dec 2006)

    * Rated 25% by the Christian Coalition: an anti-family voting record. (Dec 2003)

  • Bart Stupak does much better on abortion.

    http://www.ontheissues.org/MI/Bart_Stupak.htm

    * Voted NO on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. (Jan 2007)
    * Voted NO on allowing human embryonic stem cell research. (May 2005)
    * Voted YES on restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions. (Apr 2005)
    * Voted YES on making it a crime to harm a fetus during another crime. (Feb 2004)
    * Voted YES on banning partial-birth abortion except to save mother?s life. (Oct 2003)
    * Voted YES on forbidding human cloning for reproduction & medical research. (Feb 2003)
    * Voted YES on funding for health providers who don’t provide abortion info. (Sep 2002)
    * Voted YES on banning Family Planning funding in US aid abroad. (May 2001)
    * Voted YES on federal crime to harm fetus while committing other crimes. (Apr 2001)
    * Voted YES on banning partial-birth abortions. (Apr 2000)
    * Voted YES on barring transporting minors to get an abortion. (Jun 1999)
    * Rated 0% by NARAL, indicating a pro-life voting record. (Dec 2003)
    * Rated 100% by the NRLC, indicating a pro-life stance. (Dec 2006)
    * Prohibit transporting minors across state lines for abortion. (Jan 2008)

    He appears to be in conflict on other non-negotiables:

    * Voted NO on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. (Jul 2006)
    * Voted NO on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. (Sep 2004)
    * Voted NO on banning gay adoptions in DC. (Jul 1999)

  • Like it or not the US is a two party political system. It is in the best interest of the nation to have a strong, and healthy (meaning not in favor of abortion and other fundamentally immoral positions) Democrat and Republican party.

    I have a more pessimistic assesment of pro-life Democrats than Eric, but he is entirely right that the a strong stance by the bishops would help pro-life Democrats, and be a good thing for the nation.

    A strong stance by the bishops would force the Democrats to reform into at least being neutral, or face electoral decimation.

  • Now, DC made says that his friend says the Bishops are “partially” responsible for these complications. I am not sure if this means that Catholic bishops are clearly condemning pro-life Democrats. I don’t think it does. I think it is implicit of the fact that certain Bishops who make comments without further clarification almost make statements that voting Republican is non-negotiable and this may inadvertently effect the pro-life Democrats, particularly those who are Catholic.

    I think her point was that too often bishops (in an effort not to seem partisan) congratulate Republican Catholics for what they see as typically Republican Catholic issues (such as protecting the unborn) and Democratic Catholics for what they see as typically Democratic Catholic issues (such as helping the poor) but are afraid to be seen as taking sides when a pro-life Democrat who is Catholic runs against a pro-choice one.

    Specifically, she wished that rather than continuing to give the Kennedys and similar Catholic political dynasties that turned pro-choice respect as Catholic laymen, those politicians’ bishops had explicitly endorsed pro-life Democratic challengers in the primaries.

  • Correction: Representative Davis introduced PWSA not Ryan. Ryan co-sponsored it. I thought it was the other way around.

  • Maaaatttttttt:

    ~Read~

    I did not say a word about the amount of episcopal support or non-support of political candidates of either persuasion. I made my remarks based upon Darwin Cath’s contention, i.e. that his politico-pal lamented this perception of bishops as giving no explicit endorsement to one sort of candidate over the other.

    Hence, that would mean the playing field is allegedly equal, and, all things being equal, what could possibly impede a Dem candidate who *already espouses genuine pro-life convictions* from simply following their conscience? Could it be that they require a reward, an incentive, (specifically from bishops!) if they already possess such convictions?

    DEM CANDIDATE: “As a Catholic, I already have pro-life convictions but you bishops need to publicly endorse me or else I’ll lie to myself and my constituents and follow my Party’s most popular opinion. Nyah.”

    What a commedy of errors. One can clearly see that, if a genuinely pro-life Democrat politician whines and deflects some sort of milquetoast blame to bishops, this is a smokescreen. When that politician rejects their own conscience and publicly proclaims a pro-choice allegiance they do not necessarily feel, they do so ostensibly to “get elected,” and in doing so reveal that *this* is their ultimate concern–not any sort of hypothetical approval from the episcopate or, apparently, even from their own consciences. Such a hypocrite does not admirably represent the Church or the Democratic constituency, in this case–and this IS the specific scenario mentioned by Darwin Catholic within this conversation, from the very lips of his political friend.

    Please. You dear rocket scientists need to read between the lines of all this Democrat prevarication and obfuscation concerning the life-issue. We all know the history of the Democratic Party and the RC Church in this country (or we should). We know how that relationship was forged, formed, and changed over the decades based upon the thrust of the Party’s changes, Catholic demographics and sundry. The relationship is changing now, due to the Life-issue, which was not a political issue until Roe v. Wade made it an issue and it took the church, as a whole in the US, a couple of decades to process that development and begin to shift (even a bit) in terms of its political colouring.

    No one is saying that Catholics cannot be Democrats. Let them be Democrats and espouse pro-life convictions and reap whatever reaction they reap within their Party. There is no ~law~ stating that a democrat cannot be a Democrat if they hold pro-life convictions. Let them be Democrats and, for sake of argument, subjugate their consciences for politically expedient purposes, following Party lines and espousing pro-choice convictions and I guarantee they will face some consequences from certain people in the Church, bishops or not bishops. Let them be Democrats and publicly promote genuinely pro-choice convictions, in which case, they are NOT Catholics. The bishops have made this latter point quite clear, at least.

    Moreover, the bishops in the US have been generally quite clear, as a body, that they will not publicly endorse one candidate over another. In fact, to do so poses a potential problem for them, in case you are unfamiliar with tax exemption/conflict-of-interest laws in this nation. Where’s the big surprise in all of this?

    So, no, amid everyone else’s evasive maneuvering around the real issue (personal responsibility and integrity, even for–gasp!–politicians), amid all this self-victimization of Democrat Catholic candidates, I was not kidding. And you, apparently, were not reading.

  • Iaaaaannnnn,

    I think it’s you who was not reading. I highly doubt that DC or I, or Eric is saying that pro-abortion Democrat politicians would suddenly become pro-life if the bishops supported them actively… but that the pro-life ones would be more inspired to act and they would actually be successful.

    There is no suggestion that the bishops are opposing pro-life democrat candidates or oppressing them, but they aren’t giving them the support that would make them, and potentially the pro-life cause successful.

    Again, don’t get me wrong, I totally oppose most of the positions even pro-life democrats hold, and I think they are mostly pro-choice lite… all the more reason for the bishops to put the whole party’s feet to the fire.

  • Ian,

    I think you underestimate the importance of incentive structures. Politicians, like most people (perhaps more than most people), respond to incentives. For the last thirty years, Democratic Catholic politicians who vote pro-choice have received relatively little criticism from the bishops. And when they are criticized, the bishop who criticizes them is often characterized as an extremist or a Republican flack.

    The argument in the post is that this scenario creates little to no disincentives for Catholic politicians to be pro-choice. Arguably, if the bishops were more forceful in their criticisms, these politicians would have at least some disincentive to support pro-choice legislation. After all, Ted Kennedy went from saying abortion wasn’t acceptable in civilized society in 1976 to his current position by around 1980 when he wanted to run for President. Politicians respond to incentives.

    Regarding your point about sincerity, I vote for politicians based on what I think they will do. I’ll take someone who doesn’t care one way or the other about an issue but will do what I want over a politician that sincerely disagrees with me (particularly on abortion) every time. Sincerity is relevant to me as a voter only to the extent it is predictive. I don’t care as a voter whether a politician is sincerely pro-life, conflicted, or sincerely pro-choice; I care about how they will act on the issue. As we have plenty of evidence that politicians respond rather quickly to incentives, the actions of the bishops in providing incentives or disincentives is relevant.

    It may be, again, that bishops do not have enough influence for this to matter. But it’s not crazy to suggest it would in some cases, and bishops have a responsibility in any case to prevent the scandal of public Catholics muddying what the Church teaches.

  • Along the lines of what Matt and John Henry said, but being a Darwin type I can’t help pointing out what we’re looking at is basically a selective pressure. Look at it this way:

    Among likely Democratic voters there exist three groups:

    a) Those who are are actively pro-abortion.
    b) Those who are to some extent pro-life (and to make things simple, let’s assume that they listen to the bishops as well)
    c) Those who don’t care.

    Imagine that two Democratic politicians who are Catholic are running for a nomination in the primary. One is pro-choice and one is pro-life.

    A) will vote for the pro-choice candidate. C) will split unpredictably between the two. Thus if the pro-life Democrat is going to stand any chance of winning, he desperately needs B) to vote for him. In this regard, it might help if the local bishops denounce the pro-choice Catholic loudly and make clear how unacceptable his position is, while allowing the pro-life Catholic to make his case. If instead the bishop treats the pro-choice candidate gently (perhaps because he’s a Kennedy or a member of some other political dynasty), the pro-life candidate is far more likely to lose.

    That does not by any means mean that the pro-life candidate will change his convictions (though he might) but it does mean that the pro-life candidate is unlikely to hold office.

    So the argument is essentially: If bishops don’t give pro-choice Catholic Democrats a hard time, they make it harder for pro-life Catholic Democrats to defeat them in the primaries — and thus those pro-life Democrats there all will almost never win (except in areas that would otherwise go Republican.)

  • Have all of you forgotten the situation in which religious leaders find themselves, in this nation, concerning the explicit endorsement of political candidates?

    Gents, please tell me that you understand this much, at least, or all of our discussion is in vain.

    It is pointless to look for excuses within this context. You say that you want bishops to explicitly endorse pro-life candidates, because it would really be an “incentive” for these poor, afflicted, wilting-flower Democrat politicians.

    I will counter by telling you that the bishops most clearly and incontrovertibly endorse pro-life candidates by virtue of their unwavering and unmistakable teaching about life’s sanctity. Period. There’s your unmistakable endorsement. No other incentive is required. My point is that, if “incentive” is required to uphold one of the most clear and basic tenets of Catholicism, then the motives of the one seeking said incentive are patently aberrant, if one is even remotely talking about ethics. And if we’re not talking about ethics, then this conversation is pointless.

    DEMOCRAT CANDIDATE: “I’m not sure I’ll believe what I’m supposed to believe, or what I’m clearly told I’m supposed to believe, unless I have some incentive from Catholic bishops (whine whinny whine whinny).”

    BISHOPS: “Political candidates who publicly espouse or vote for pro-choice legislation should refrain from receiving the Eucharist and consider themselves no longer in communion with the Church. How’s that for incentive?”

    It’s clear, fellas. And, John Henry:

    “As we have plenty of evidence that politicians respond rather quickly to incentives…”

    This means what, exactly, John? That we should encourage, indulge, revere and simply accept the neediness of politicians for their multifold incentives? That Roman Catholic bishops should alter their teaching and orthopraxis to conform to the oft-shady world in which American political incentive thrives so often at the cost of ethics? Really? Are you truly trying to make a case for that?

    That issue is relevant only if you are seriously considering or promoting the notion that Catholic bishops should act in such a fashion. Otherwise, it is relevant only to condemn such an idea as ethically and morally unacceptable.

    Rather, I would urge you to start holding Catholics in-the-pew, as it were, the political and non-political, to far greater accountability when it comes to identifying themselves as Roman Catholic and when it comes to accepting their fellow Catholics as such. There are canon laws regarding scandal, lest you forget. Do not think that this is a negligible point.

    Compared to the Catholic episcopate, evangelical leaders have a much less well-defined doctrine about the sanctity of life, but maintenance of this belief is nevertheless enthusiastic and pervasive in its enthusiasm. Even then, evangelical leaders (like Catholic leaders in the US) must be very guarded about public endorsement of specific political candidates. Very guarded. The brilliance is that, in their churches, they don’t need to publicly endorse or offer “incentives.”

    I guarantee you that a publicly pro-choice Democrat politician who (hypothetically speaking) claimed full membership in, say, Saddlebrook Church, would feel considerable heat, a most considerable degree of discomfort. This discomfort would come largely from the congregation, rather than the pulpit.

    If pro-choice Democratic candidates find it easy to justify their viewpoints and attend Mass simultaneously, it is because they find the ambience and climate in their local Catholic congregations to be quite welcoming and impartial. Why?

    Should not lay Catholics, who far outnumber bishops, and who form the vast majority of political constituencies themsleves (!), be considered far more responsible than bishops when it comes to the giving of certain “incentives” to their fellow-Catholics who happen to be political candidates?

    Certainly you must be able to perceive this reality, at least. The teaching and accountability of the bishops has been and remains clear and unmistakable on the issue of the sanctity of life. The climate in our congregations, among Catholics in general, is ~not~ clear and unmistakable. Lay the blame for this wherever you wish but it remains a fact.

    I believe you’ll find that this is more pertinent to the point, particularly when speaking of large numbers of people who vote, and those who claim to represent large numbers of people who vote, and any and all “incentives” such people may require from the religious sphere, and what sorts of incentives are there to be given from the religious sphere.

    Think about it.

  • Ian,

    the bishops most clearly and incontrovertibly endorse pro-life candidates by virtue of their unwavering and unmistakable teaching about life’s sanctity. Period. There’s your unmistakable endorsement.

    this is where you are wrong. There are precious few bishops who do so, it is rarely or never preached. Most bishops have completely refused to act against pro-abortion politicians. Are you aware of estimates that as many as half of the US Bishops actually voted for Obama? Where have you been?

  • Respectfully, Matt, you misunderstand. I did not say nor am I saying that the bishops are out there showing-up by surprise in the churches, patrolling regularly in the bushes, waiting to leap out and pontificate, or standing in the pulpits and hammering away at congregations about the evils of abortion. I think we all agree that this does not happen.

    However, the episcopate’s teaching, its official position about abortion (and thus that of the entire Church) is crystalline in its clarity. Every year, in numerous and often high-profile clashes with various opponents, the bishops have opportunity (and are usually required) to reiterate that teaching in one official capacity or another. People do get frequent opportunity to be reminded of the Catholic position, and reminded that it is an uncompromising position.

    For my own argument’s sake, I believe in the “say it, then say it again” approach.

    The episcopate’s position on abortion is fundamental, clear, and unmistakable. No Catholic needs or should require an “incentive” to publicly uphold that teaching about the sanctity of life and continue to call themselves Catholic, no matter who/what that Catholic may be (animal, vegetable, mineral, politician).

    That being noted, I mentioned above that congregations of Catholics across the nation/world have a very real responsibility to police their own churches, to create and maintain truly Catholic environments at the parish level. This is far more pertinent to the original matter because of the simple fact that large numbers of Catholics = large numbers of voters. If Catholics in-the-pew were enthusiastically adhering to the clear teaching of the Church, teaching of the bishops, etc., then the politicians who represent those Catholics would court them and need no “incentive” to waffle (or not waffle) on the abortion issue, would they? There you have it, and I suspect you would/should quite agree with this.

    Yet, the conundrum (or one of them): we know that the vast majority of Catholic congregations/constituencies are not composed of well-catchetized or enthusiastic Catholics. It was after making this assertion that I was careful to note that one can drop the blame for poorly evangelized Catholics at any number of potential doorsteps. Sure, you can blame the bishops. You can blame the priests. You can blame Catholics themselves. Every Catholic has the responsibility to seek-out and establish their own firm foundation in the Faith–even if bishops and priests are not doing a proverbial bang-up job of teaching.

    But that is a separate issue, this assigning of blame for the poor state of catechesis in general and subsequent correcting of the problem.

    Upholding the most basic and well-known tenets of Catholic doctrine, like the position on abortion, under all circumstances (without the need for incentives and rewards) is quite another issue. After all, I am fairly certain that far more “Catholics” can tell you that their Church categorically condemns abortion and brooks no argument than the number of average Catholics that can give you even a slightly coherent definition of the Trinity, or the Incarnation.

    I’m certain you get my point. I, too, was a little bit stunned by the polling figures of lay Catholics in regard to Obama. I am not aware of any credible polling stats about related episcopal votes and would consider any publicized estimate about how bishops voted to be very speculative and questionable. In any case, Obama is a man who (among other things) basically voted for legislation that favors a form of infanticide. I was aware of that fact, but most lay Catholics, apparently, were not as inclined to inform themselves. Perhaps that was the case? There are other reasons, as well. None of them excusable.

    To finish: I understand your point. We are living in very disturbing times–particularly and peculiarly disturbing times, given the general lavishness of our blessings and gifts and creature comforts and means, etc. (while they last, at this rate). These times require a greater amount of discernment on the part of Catholics, who are not, for the most part, inclined or encouraged to *discern*.

    The issues before us are complex and all of these things merit vigorous discussion, which is exciting to do, and it’s pleasant to have discovered this forum, and I respect the opinions rendered here. Things seem very well delineated and worthy. Though some answers may seem more apparent than others, and even simple at times, the actual solutions are not so. Basically, all things being noted, it seems we are in agreement. Cheers~

  • Ian,

    The proof is in the pudding. It is a strange contradiction, but the reality is, one of the gravest and most common evils is is rarely preached strongly and sanctions are not made in the many cases where it is called for.

    Look at the other seriously neglected sin… contraception? When did you here a priest or bishop preach against it?

  • I don’t disagree with you, Matt. I’ve made that clear. But do look at the complexity of the matter and the responsibility individual Catholics have to root-themselves firmly in their Faith if they are ignorant concerning that Faith, regardless of the disinterest or poor leadership on the part of clerics.

    And, of course, I’ve heard maybe two or three things about contraception from the pulpit in nearly 30 years (!), but in personal friendships with various bishops and priests here in the USA and Europe, it has been discussed. I’ve never, ever met a bishop who allows even a hint of wiggle-room on abortion, but I’ve met several who feel privately that contraception should not be considered “sinful.” But remember: the majority of bishops across the world were once prepared to officially allow contraception before Paul VI thwarted the will of the majority of bishops on this specific matter, as was his prerogative, of course.

    The bottom line is that these matters are currently part of Catholic teaching and, if one wants to be genuinely, fully Roman Catholic, one ought to adhere.

    But, if a lay Catholic knows Church teaching on these matters and chooses to flaunt such teaching, then they have some responsibility for the tepidity of the Catholic dynamic, too.

    Let’s pray that both the episcopate and the laity get their respective acts together. We can do our part in this via strong Catholic witness.

  • Ian,

    but do look at the complexity of the matter

    you need to stop implying that your interlocutors are idiots for not agreeing with your assessment.

    and the responsibility individual Catholics have to root-themselves firmly in their Faith if they are ignorant concerning that Faith, regardless of the disinterest or poor leadership on the part of clerics.

    Nobody here is saying that there is no culpability or responsibility on all Catholics to be pro-life and work hard for the cause of the unborn. This discussion is about the responsibility of Bishops to make sure they do.

    I’ve met several who feel privately that contraception should not be considered “sinful.”

    Which position is materially heretical and is in itself “sinful”. This is precisely why they don’t preach it, because they don’t really believe it’s sinful. In fact I’ve heard priests suggest that they believe if they preached it, then it would become sinful for their flock, so they avoid the subject, trying to protect “innocence”. What a sad state of affairs.

    are currently part of Catholic teaching

    Always and forever. These are definitive and infallible teachings, they don’t change.

Blogging in the Grudge-o-sphere

Monday, February 9, AD 2009

In the last four years I’ve learned a great deal about a host of topics, including my Catholic Faith, while blogging, reading other people’s blogs, and participating in comment box discussions. And yet there are some notable dangers that come with blogging as well.

A few months ago, I did myself no great credit in a combox discussion on a friend’s post. Someone against whom I carried paper left a comment I disagreed with, and rather than sticking with a basic refutation I went all out: questioned motives, brought up old arguments, put words in his mouth, the works. An hour or two later I got an email from my friend. “Wow. Next time tell us what you really think…”

But I knew I was right. I hit reply and was pouring out the reason I’d been 100% justified in behaving that way at 70wpm. A year and a half ago, this other blogger and said such-and-such. And when I’d pointed out his obvious errors, he’d said that. And then there was that other time. And remember when over on that other guy’s blog he’s said this in the comments? And…

I took a moment to stare at the paragraphs I’d written and realized this would sound a lot more appropriate coming out of my six-year-old as an explanation for why she’d hit another kid than coming out of a thirty-year-old man who fancies himself intellectual.

As bloggers we sometimes live by the word in rather the same way that a duelist lived by the sword. And slights which, when explained to anyone else, would immediately sound small and petty, fester and become long term rivalries.

Given the source of my recent embarrassment, I’ve tried to make it a rule to think how I would feel writing an explanation of my behavior in any given conversation to a disinterested party. Given my pride, this is a strong incentive to charity, or at least calmness. Naytheless, the temptation remains. I suspect that it is a built in feature (or bug) in an avocation such as blogging.

duty_calls
[Source]

8 Responses to Blogging in the Grudge-o-sphere

  • I think I’ve deleted more comments without ever posting them than I have posted comments, all because I forced myself to stop and think, “Is this constructive? Is this charitable?” And yet, I know a few uncharitable remarks have slipped through my sensors. We seem to have this driving need to be right, and should anyone gainsay us, we take it as a personal affront.

    One of things I’ve found invaluable is to pay close attention to what people have to say, even if their comments seem to be filled with invectives that contribute little. Paying close attention to those who disagree with me, or hold a much different viewpoint, has actually helped me learn and grow (after the anger has cleared). To this, I have to extend special thanks to Michael Iafrate, for calling my attention to various errors I have committed, even if his means of communicating such errors is a little more abrasive than I’d prefer. I still don’t agree with him on a vast array of issues, but he has helped me learn by challenging me to make thoughtful and charitable responses.

    We need to be willing to accept criticism. We need to be willing to admit that we might be wrong from time to time, and we need to be introspective enough to realize when we are. When we start with the premise, “How could I be wrong on this issue, to have drawn such remarks?”, then we can start to formulate good responses. Because, as we argue out with ourselves our reasoning, we lay the blueprints for hopefully a strong argument, and if we still are convinced we are right, we at least have something intelligible to say in response.

  • This post only adds to the fire.

  • I’m sorry you feel that way, Mark. I don’t know, though, from your comment if you feel the post shouldn’t have been written at all, or if it was subtly offensive, or just missed the point. Frankly, DC’s frank admission of guilt in adding to the blogstorm now and then, with comments not quite thought out, is an important reminder to us all.

    I would like to know your thoughts specifically how the post adds to the fire. (Whether or not DC wants to hear it, I would. We’re always on the lookout for improving the quality of our blog.)

  • But…but…someone IS wrong on the internet…!

    All joking aside, a fine post.

  • I suspect that it is a built in feature (or bug) in an avocation such as blogging.

    I think that’s right. Alan Jacobs has a post up today about the limits of blogging, which I think is worthwhile. He points out that the infrastructure of blogs and comment threads is not very conducive to thoughtful, nuanced discussion. Ad hominems and sloganeering often become par for the course.

    It seems to me that this has a corrosive effect over time. I can think of many well-known bloggers who are almost unreadable at this point on certain topics. Like everything else, blogging has its benefits and its drawbacks. Here’s a link to Alan’s post:

    http://theamericanscene.com/2009/02/09/what-blogs-can-and-can-t-do

  • Blogs help us to see clearly the restlessness of our hearts.

  • One of the emotional/spiritual dangers of too much blogging, for me, has been exposure to a lot of the toxic comments people make, which start spilling over into my general attitude toward life and even, regrettably, into how I talk to my husband and daughter. This is especially true of newspaper website blogs, particularly those that aren’t well moderated.

    With Catholic blogs, the danger for me isn’t so much uncharity and viciousness as it is temptation to despair and discouragement. Of course there are a lot of very serious issues going on out there with regard to pro-life, marriage, lay movements (e.g. the Legionnaires of Christ scandal), etc. They deserve attention and I do not mean to minimize them.

    Likewise, Catholic bloggers who promote particular lay movements or private revelations, or things like homeschooling which are praiseworthy but which I do not myself have the means to participate in probably do not intend to sound “holier than thou,” or make me feel like a second-class Catholic for not participating in them, but I may take them that way.

9 Responses to Lincoln, the Constitution and Catholics

  • When I was visiting the Mission of San Juan de Capistrano in California, I learned that it had been seized from the Church by the Mexican government but was returned by President Abraham Lincoln.

  • This is one of the reasons why I don’t understand certain Catholic efforts to paint Lincoln as the villain of the Civil War.

  • Reconcile:

    Lincoln’s enthusiastic embrace of “Total War” against not simply armies but against civilian, non-combatant populations, see, e.g., an account of Sherman’s wasting entire regions of the south with the specific intent of causing civilian suffering (http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=551)

    with:

    The Church greatly respects those who have dedicated their lives to the defense of their nation. “If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace. [Cf. Gaudium et spes 79, 5]” However, she cautions combatants that not everything is licit in war. Actions which are forbidden, and which constitute morally unlawful orders that may not be followed, include:

    – attacks against, and mistreatment of, non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners;

    – genocide, whether of a people, nation or ethnic minorities;

    – indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants.

    (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2313-2314).

    Hux, perhaps some Catholics don’t simply swallow an Americanist-tinged view of our history. There is nothing inherent in Catholicism that lends support to the centralizing, revolutionary nature of what Lincoln did, much less to his warm embrace of modern notions of warfare which are nothing but war crimes.

  • Um, I dunno that Lincoln embraced “total war” in the sense you describe. If you read Slate magazine’s recent article on Lincoln and the “laws” of war, you find that he more or less set the standards that we follow to this day for what is considered legitimate warfare and what isn’t.

    It’s true he took fighting beyond the strict limits of 18th-century warfare, where elaborately uniformed soldiers marched in straight lines to shoot at one another. However, he did also set limits that kept Sherman’s march to the sea and other offensives from degenerating into the kind of take-no-prisoners, rape-and-pillage campaigns that, for example, the Soviets and Japanese practiced during World War II.

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Iudicium for 2-9-2009 AD

Monday, February 9, AD 2009

Salvete AC readers!…

…when my Internet Explorer 8.0 browser is downloading one of my favorite websites, InsideCatholic.com, I notice it takes twice as long as most other websites to download.  Is it because there is a lot code that is being downloaded?  Does anyone else experience this same situation?…

…speaking of browsers, The American Catholic looks pretty neat on the Apple Safari 3.2 browser…

…came across a great tool to search for Catholic bookstores across the U.S.  It’s called Catholic Store Finder

…has anyone noticed that the homepage for New Advent has changed formats yet again?  It looks simple, spiffy, and sharp.  I like the layout and how the news is displayed.  Kevin Knight has done a pretty good job of transforming what seemed to be a passing hobby into a great Catholic news portal to complement PewSitter.com

…I enjoy watching the sci-fi series firefly and I have discovered that Firefox 3.0 is twice as fast, if not faster, at downloading streaming video than Internet Explorer 8.0 when viewing the series on Hulu

…if you still haven’t gotten your fix on Catholic news click here

9 Responses to Iudicium for 2-9-2009 AD

  • “Salve AC readers!”

    You mean “Salvete”! 😉 You are addressing more than one person.

  • Alan,

    Thanks!

    Would you know how to say “News and analysis for” in Latin?

    I’m looking for the correct wording thus far.

    🙂

  • Hi Tito,

    I’m no expert – I suspect for some of this, you’re stuck with neologisms to convey exactly what you mean, but perhaps there is help. The Finnish News in Latin site uses nuntii for “news”, from the word nuntius: that announces, making known, informing. So, at least there is recent precedent there. That’s one option.

    For “analysis”, I think someone said that iudicium pertained more to an official legal opinion, and I think they’re right. Perhaps cogitatio might work better, plural cogitationes, which would go more to considerations or thoughtful reflections about something.

    I don’t know if you need to literally transcribe “for” in this case. Keep it simple – just give the date, A.D.

    I don’t know if my suggestions are any better than what you have. You may want to track down a Latinist 😉

  • Firefox Rules

  • You could try Res & Explicatio.

  • At the risk of sounding “modern”, might I suggest that you could just, you know, keep it in plain English and save a lot of trouble. Not to discourage anyone from appreciating the beauty of a very ancient and most enlightened language as Latin surely is! Sometimes the most eloquent things are the most simple.

  • Res et Explicatio…

    That sounds cool.

    Alan,

    I was thinking the same as well. I’m still experimenting, but I like ‘Res et Explicatio’. This’ll keep on changing until I get it right.

    More suggestions will be appreciated!

    Tito

  • BTW, Tito. As I recall you were working on learning a bit of Latin. Listen to your tutor first of all, of course, but to this day I still swear by my tiny Collins Gem Latin Dictionary. The thing is tiny and you can get one used for a few cents:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/000470763X

    But it’s an incredibly good small Latin dictionary. In fact, I only ever used it except when I needed to go consult Lewis & Short.

  • Darwin,

    I’m using, as a beginners book, “Latin for Americans” by Ullman. If I progress, I’ll probably get a better textbook than that one (I heard there is one, but the name escapes me).

An Audit for the Legionnaires & Regnum Christi?

Sunday, February 8, AD 2009

George Weigel argues that a papal delegate should be appointed to audit the Legionnaires and Regnum Christi. This is a rather drastic step, but, I think, a necessary one. An excerpt:

Assuming, as we can and must, that this remains the Holy See’s intention, it must now move without delay to address the accelerating train-wreck-heading-toward-the-cliff that the Legion and Regnum Christi have become over the past ten days, as credible reports appeared in the blogosphere that Fr. Maciel had lived a life of sexual and financial scandal, probably for decades.

The reports have emanated from those who had been advised of the Legion’s own investigation of Maciel, but there is still no formal statement from the leadership of the Legion as to what its internal investigations have uncovered. There has been no full disclosure of what is known about Fr. Maciel’s corruptions. There has been no disclosure as to the nature and extent of the web of deceit he must have spun within the Legion of Christ, and beyond. And there has been no public recognition of what faithful, orthodox, morally upright Legionary priests believe have been grave corruptions of the institutional culture of their community.

14 Responses to An Audit for the Legionnaires & Regnum Christi?

  • The whole organization should be disbanded.

    Too may leaders were complicit in a prolonged coverup of the founder’s grave misdeeds and remain inside.

    Combine this with the mythical accounts of Maciel’s “saintly” life that were ’til this very week the everyday ‘spiritual nourishment’ for LC-RC members, and the center of everything the LC-RC is/was about, and we still have a disaster only waiting to get worse.

    Too many good lives have be ruined and are in the process of ruining, as attachment to the Maciel myth and the cadre of its knowing, complicit perpetrators persist.

  • Mark,

    this would most certainly NOT serve the interest of saving souls, I’m sure the Holy Father would reject it out of hand. If we’re going to treat them so harshly, considering that they are very orthodox and loyal to the Holy Father, then perhaps we should disband the Jesuits, and a whole lot of other orders that have lost their Faith.

    I’m not fan of the LC-RC, but they need reform, not banishment (same with the Jesuits).

  • I think the jury is still out on what the best approach forward is. As Matt notes, there are some very good, faithful Catholics in these organizations. As Mark notes, there are good reasons to suspect that the entire organizational culture is corrupt.

    I think Weigel’s proposal warrants serious consideration: Let an outside source evaluate the organizations. I would probably prefer a committee to one individual, but I think it’s a necessary step in the process. Disbanding the organizations without this step might hurt a lot of innocent people; on the other hand, the current leadership cannot be trusted. An independent evaluation is necessary (although I would expect membership to drop precipitously in any case after the recent disclosures).

  • An open letter to the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi, by Dr. Germain Grisez, Flynn Professor of Christian Ethics at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

    This morning I found the attached Catholic News Service report posted on the National Catholic Register website, which suffices to convince me that the report’s content is substantially accurate. I attach it so that you may know exactly what has moved me to write this message to you, who are the only Legionaries of Christ I know well and regard as friends.

    I hope that you will realize without my saying so that nothing true of Father Maciel could ever lessen my admiration and affection for you, my readiness to associate with you, and my desire to cooperate with you whenever our different vocations make doing so appropriate. As your friend, I am thinking about your plight, and wish to offer the help I can give you.

    You must be feeling great pain at your spiritual father’s betrayal of Jesus, of his Church, and of you and all your good and faithful confreres. You also must be feeling great anxiety at the dimmed prospects for the unfolding of your vocations to priestly life and service. I try to imagine and do sympathize with those feelings and pray that the Holy Spirit will console you and strengthen you to console your good and faithful confreres.

    In my draft of chapter three of my volume on clerical and consecrated service and life, I wrote:

    While good close collaborators never renege on their total self-gift, some do leave the diocese or institute to which they first committed themselves in order to enter another, form an entirely new institute, or undertake a different sort of consecrated life. But they only undertake such a change if convinced that God is calling them to make it. Many saints have discerned such a calling and responded. Their example makes it clear that their commitment to and membership in particular dioceses or institutes is a stable but not always unalterable way of carrying out their fundamental commitment, namely, their self-gift to Jesus and his Church.
    If I were you, I would bear in mind that your fundamental commitment is to Jesus and his Church. The question that should be uppermost in your minds is how to continue carrying out that commitment most faithfully and fruitfully.

    You and all your good and faithful confreres share a common good that includes realities of great value: your communio with one another, your experience and habits of working together, and material means of carrying on your common service and life. All that should be protected, salvaged, and, if possible, kept intact. I do not think that good end can be realized by the juridical person, the Legionaries of Christ, and its present leadership.

    Sex-abuse involving diocesan clerics and members of religious institutes has been dealt with up to now solely by sanctions against those guilty of abusive activities and by measures to prevent such activities. The bishops, religious superiors, and others who were guilty—of complicity in such wrongdoing, lying about it, irresponsibility toward victims, and so on—have in general not honestly admitted, much less rectified, what they did and failed to do. For that reason, the injury to the Church continues to fester. Still, those past experiences might seem to some Legionaries to provide a model by which your present plight can be overcome.

    That would be a grave mistake for two reasons.

    First, no matter how corrupt the hierarchy may be, faithful Catholics cannot do without it, but we can do without any particular religious institute. Everyone realizes that Father Maciel’s double life required the complicity of associates, some of whom surely are still members of the institute, and some of whom probably are functioning as superiors. Unless those who shared in the betrayal are identified and faithful Legionaries cleanly separate from them, the latter group’s common good will not continue receiving the support of faithful Catholics, and will not be preserved.

    Second, when a bishop dies, the diocese’s priests cease cooperating with him. But even after the death of an institute’s saintly founder, its members’ service and life continue as cooperation with him or her. Regardless of Father Maciel’s subjective moral responsibility—which only God knows—the evidence of his objective betrayal of his commitment makes it impossible for you and other good and faithful Legionaries any longer to carry on your service and life as cooperation with him. Unless you and your confreres proceed as quickly as possible to terminate the juridical person, the Legionaries of Christ, and reorganize yourselves into a new institute, the common good you now share will begin to decompose: very few new men will join you, many in formation will leave, some professed members will separate, and the collaboration and support of the lay faithful will shrink.

    The Pope is the ultimate superior on earth of every religious institute. Only the Pope can oversee the termination of the Legionaries of Christ, the salvaging of its faithful members and other assets, and their reconstitution into a new institute. Therefore, if I were you, I would at once appeal to the Pope to fulfill his responsibility toward you, to appoint two or three prelates—members neither of the Legionaries nor of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life—as an ad hoc papal commission to conduct a thorough visitation, identify those complicit in Father Maciel’s wrongdoing and its concealment until now, and work closely with faithful, professed members in carrying out an orderly termination of the existing Institute, election of a small group to serve as founders of its replacement, and the preparation of an entirely new and reformed body of particular law for the new institute.

    Some of your good and faithful confreres undoubtedly will tell you that following my advice would violate your vow of obedience and constitute grave disloyalty to your superiors. Those sincere men will be mistaken. Your vow is to obey morally acceptable precepts. In the present disaster, it is, in my judgment, your grave moral duty to appeal to the Pope, as your superior, to save the common good of the faithful members of the Legionaries of Christ by terminating the present juridical person, and seeing to the formation of a new institute. I am sure that most who were complicit in Father Maciel’s wrongdoing were constrained by a false sense of loyalty. Do not follow their bad and disastrous example. Remember instead your responsibility to Jesus and to his Church—to all those whose souls are still to be saved by your service and that of the members of the new foundation

  • Thanks for posting Dr. Grisez’s letter. I updated the post to include a link to the letter.

  • Not sure what was “uncharitable” about my last post on Tito’s thread. care to explain, Tito? I’m serious.

  • Michael,

    It’s been four days since that post. Tito apologized. Let it go.

  • John Henry

    He didn’t really apologize — that’s the problem. And his insistance to characterize the victim as uncharitable shows the extent of his error.

  • Hrmmmmmmm — I thought this post was about the Legionnaires & Regnum Christi?

  • Henry,

    As I said, I understand your concerns, and there are differences of opinion among the contributors here. But this thread is not intended as a place to discuss those differences, and honestly I don’t feel that VN contributors are in the best position to cry foul given their own rhetorical excesses. Feel free to either post on this at your blog or discuss differences via e-mail. Any future comments on this thread unrelated to the topic of the thread will be deleted.

  • I suspect that something on the scale of what Weigal or Grisez suggest will be necessary, and I hope that the Vatican exceeds its usual speed in doing something sooner rather than later.

    I would assume that a large portion of the 800 LC priests around the world are good men who knew nothing about all this, and finding a positive direction to channel their energies rather than leaving them in freefall under a leadership now in question would seem an important move.

  • I think disbanding them is too drastic and leaves too many adrift, as has been ably noted above. But a decapitation of the upper echelon of the leadership would not be. The rot is both too pervasive and too obvious to avoid a serious housecleaning.

  • The adulation of Maciel was so excessively unhealthy. I remember, for example, how some LC leaders shared gleefully with me a story of how during a Maciel visit Nuestro Padre went onto a soccer field during a game and put his hand up to signal a stoppage of action,.One LCer either did not see Maciel’s action, or. in the passion of the game ignored the signal, kicking the soccer ball. As a result, Maciel banned soccer in all LC facilities for at least a few years, as seminarian/priestly recreation. As the story was told, everyone at the table was all smiles about how Maciel issued such orders despotically, and how all then showed such willing, unconditional obedience.

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2 Responses to Bigotry and the "Stimulus" Bill

  • It’s a small thing, I suppose, but it’s symbolic. Does anyone really think there is a pressing danger of too much money being directed towards religious facilities on college campuses? If so, they must have spent time at very different public universities. While many Congressional Democrats would be loathe to admit hostility towards religion publicly, these type of petty efforts to exclude religious Americans suggest such hostility is fairly pervasive in the current Democratic party.

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Michael Dubruiel

Saturday, February 7, AD 2009

As Tito mentioned, Michael Dubruiel, beloved husband of Amy Welborn, died suddenly this past week.

I’d just like to remind our readers that Our Sunday Visitor will make its own contribution to the children’s college fund by doubling what would have been Mike’s proceeds from book sales on all of his OSV books through the month of February.

Michael Dubruiel is author of such books as The Church’s Most Powerful Novenas, and The How-to Book of the Mass: Everything You Need to Know but No One Ever Taught You.

Click here to purchase Michael Dubruiel’s books from Our Sunday Visitor‘s website.

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Money Meets Rathole

Saturday, February 7, AD 2009

moneyrathole

The Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009, sometimes called the “Stimulus” bill, looks like it might pass the Senate.  The amount of money we are about to saddle upon our grandchildren, if not our great-grandchildren, to attempt to pay back, may be as little as $780,000,000,000.  For the sake of comparison,  here is a list of how much other monumental undertakings in our nation’s history cost, adjusted for inflation.  Between the Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009 and the Great Bailout Swindle of 2008, our government will be allocating funds in less than six months that represent one-third the inflation adjusted cost of the US expenditures in WW2 over three years and eight months.  This is fiscal lunacy on a cosmic scale and future generations will wonder at our abysmal folly.