Mark Shea is back to his old trick of saying that unless you agree with me on policy issue x which is not directly related to abortion, you are not really pro-life. It is an attempt to stop debate on policy issue x, at least among pro-lifers. Mike Gannon at Pocketful of Liberty takes the argument apart:
This past Tuesday over at Patheos, Mark Shea, noted gadfly of Catholics and other Christians who come down on the small government side of the aisle, authored a post that started out with the provocative assertion “If we oppose abortion and social safety nets, we don’t really oppose abortion.”
Balderdash, I say!
Now, that’s a qualified balderdash, as I explain below. Mark Shea is a complicated thinker who is usually worth giving a second look (halfway through the piece he denounces the idolatry of the individual and the state in the same breath, demonstrating the difficulty one has at putting him neatly into this or that political box). Nonetheless, in this piece Shea falls victim to the temptation to cast aspersions on fellow pro-lifers who at the same time harbor serious concerns about the scope of our modern welfare state.
It’s a cheap trick that is all too common in political discourse to attempt to strong-arm a fellow traveler into lockstep with one’s own preferred platform by questioning their commitment to the cause if they disagree over tactics or emphases. Continue Reading
The world is a comedy to those that think; a tragedy to those that feel.
In the unintentionally hilarious humor category we have the article by Darlena Cunha, a former television producer, which appeared in the Washington Post about how irked she felt when she was judged by people as she drove up in her 2003 Mercedes to pick up her food stamps.
That’s the funny thing about being poor. Everyone has an opinion on it, and everyone feels entitled to share. That was especially true about my husband’s Mercedes. Over and over again, people asked why we kept that car, offering to sell it in their yards or on the Internet for us.
“You can’t be that bad off,” a distant relative said, after inviting himself over for lunch. “You still got that baby in all its glory.”
Sometimes, it was more direct. All from a place of love, of course. “Sell the Mercedes,” a friend said to me. “He doesn’t get to keep his toys now.”
But it wasn’t a toy — it was paid off. My husband bought that car in full long before we met. Were we supposed to trade it in for a crappier car we’d have to make payments on? Only to have that less reliable car break down on us? Continue Reading
Hattip to Guy Benson at Hot Air. An argument that has been part of the pro-abort playbook since Roe is that abortion reduces welfare costs:
The CBO has also concluded that aborting babies at 20 weeks or later in pregnancy saves money for the government-run federal-state Medicaid system. The CBO made these determinations when doing its official “Cost Estimate” of a federal bill that would prohibit abortions at 20 weeks or later into pregnancy (except in cases of reported rape, incest against a minor or to save the life of the mother). “Because the costs of about 40 percent of all births are paid for by the Medicaid program, CBO estimates that federal spending for Medicaid will rise to the extent that enacting H.R. 1797 results in additional births and deliveries relative to current law,” says CBO. “H.R. 1790 would result in increased spending for Medicaid,” says CBO. “Since a portion of Medicaid is paid for by state governments, CBO estimates that state spending on the program would increase by about $170 million over the 2014-2023 period. Continue Reading
A couple of days ago I was listening to a radio show on Sirius. The hosts were playing audio of a woman who had spent six hours waiting in line at the welfare office. The woman did not sound particularly old, and she had six kids.
There were several disconcerting elements to the story. The fact that this woman waited so long highlights the inefficiencies of government bureaucracies. More importantly, it was clear that this woman not only depended on the welfare checks to get by, the attitude expressed in the soundbite revealed how deeply she felt entitled to the government benefits.
No one should begrudge those who truly need government assistance. I know nothing of this woman’s history, so I won’t comment on her situation specifically. But I was saddened as I listened to this woman speak, and I thought of how welfare has turned many people into truly helpless individuals – not because they are so by nature, but because that is what the welfare state does to people.
The radio hosts who played this story have what can be described as a libertarian bent, and they decried the welfare state’s tendency to breed dependency. Yet I couldn’t help but laugh at their willful blindness, for they are certainly the types who would mock social conservatives. So many libertarians, or socially liberal and economically conservative individuals, fail to appreciate the nexus between social and economic issues. The breakdown of the family contributes to the rise of the welfare state. More and more children are born out of wedlock, and single mothers must turn to the state to provide financial support to their families. Yet these social libertarians (indeed some of them are libertines) see no contradiction in promoting lax cultural mores while decrying ever-increasing government dependency.
Yet libertarians are not the only ones who fail to connect economic and social issues. Looking at it from a different perspective, those who consider themselves socially conservative but who advocate enhanced government intervention in economic affairs do not see how the welfare state itself leads to the breakdown of the family. The welfare state has practically displaced the family in many situations, fostering the sense of independence from family life. The family hasn’t been wholly displaced as the primary means of financial support, but many people have been brought up to expect that the government will be there to bail them out of poor life choices. Therefore, just as the breakdown of the family contributes to the rise of the welfare state, the welfare state itself contributes to the breakdown of the family. It is a vicious cycle, and those who insist that we can separate economic and social issues perpetuate that cycle.
One of the difficult balances to achieve in the area of politics dealing with “social services”, and with bringing a proper Catholic understanding to how we as Christians should strive to shape such policies, is knowing how we should balance efficiency with proper concern for human dignity and human pride. I see this as being particularly the case when it comes to some of the large scale assistance programs which form part of our “social safety net” in the United States. Many of these are, it seems to me, essentially welfare of “assistance programs”, yet are cloaked in the form of all-encompassing “savings” or “insurance” programs.
For example, the purpose of Social Security was clearly to assure that the aged are not relegated to poverty once they are no longer able to work. In the past, this was done through private savings, the help of one’s children, and the help of one’s community. However, these mechanisms often fell through, and so people often found themselves in poverty in their old age. Thus was created the Social Security system, which collected money via a payroll tax and “saved” it to fund retirement payouts after age 65. Medicare, which is designed to assure that the elderly can afford medicare care is much the same.