CNN is not the customary locale-of-choice for a catechesis on Catholic social doctrine. But that’s what Paul Ryan, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, offered viewers of a CNN national town hall meeting on the evening of August 21.
Challenged with a semi-“Gotcha!” question by Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Erica Jordan, who not-so-subtly suggested that Ryan’s approach to healthcare reform, tax reform, and welfare reform was in conflict with the Church’s social teaching, the very Catholic Speaker replied that he completely agreed with Sister Erica that God is “always on the side of the poor and dispossessed”; the real question was, how do public officials, who are not God, create public policies that empower the poor and dispossessed to be not-poor and not-dispossessed?
Congressman Ryan then laid out an approach to alleviating poverty and empowering the poor that seemed to me entirely congruent with the core Catholic social ethical principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. Solidarity with the poor is a moral imperative, Ryan agreed, but solidarity should not be measured by inputs—How many federal dollars go into anti-poverty programs?—but by outcomes: Are poor people who can live independent and fruitful lives being helped by our welfare dollars to develop the skills and habits that will enable them to be self-reliant, constructive citizens? The moral obligation of solidarity is not met by programs that perpetuate welfare dependency.
Speaker Ryan is a longstanding advocate of decentralizing and (as he puts it) “customizing” social welfare programs. That means abandoning one-size-fits-all attempts to address poverty and looking to the states, where a lot of the creativity in American government resides these days, for approaches that actually empower the poor, because they treat poor people as men and women with potential to be unleashed, not simply as clients to be maintained. Proposals to decentralize social welfare programs and give the states the funds necessary to conduct all sorts of customized efforts to empower the poor—crafted so that each “fits” the vast array of distinct circumstances we find in impoverished America—strike me as a sensible application of the social doctrine’s principle of subsidiarity. That principle, first articulated by Pope Pius XI in 1931, teaches us to leave decision-making at the lowest possible level in society, closest to those most directly affected by the policy in question. Paul Ryan thinks Washington doesn’t have to decide everything; Pius XI would have agreed.
The fact that poverty remains a serious problem in the United States after the federal government has spent $22 trillion dollars on social welfare programs over the past fifty years should have taught us all something about the complex problems of empowering the poor. No one with any sense or experience imagines that he or she has the silver-bullet answer to poverty in all its social, cultural, economic, and political dimensions; I know my friend Speaker Ryan doesn’t think he does.
But unlike those who insist on measuring an official’s or a party’s commitment to the poor by inputs rather than outcomes (an approach that tends to instrumentalize the poor and render social welfare policy a cash transaction rather than a human encounter), Paul Ryan and reform conservatives like him are willing to face the fact that there is no direct correlation between magnitude-of-dollar-inputs and success-of-human-outcomes when it comes to anti-poverty programs. Inner-city Catholic schools (the Church in America’s most effective social welfare program) demonstrate that time and again: They spend less than the government schools, and their students learn much more—and not just in quantifiable, standardized-testing terms.
America needs many serious conversations in this age of the demagogic tweet and the rabid talk-radio sound-bite. One of them is about the scandal of poverty amidst vast wealth and the empowerment of the poor. That conversation is not advanced when, as happened after the CNN broadcast, smug partisans attack a serious Catholic public official by suggesting that he’s deficient in both his moral commitment to the poor and his understanding of Catholic social doctrine. Paul Ryan is no more the reincarnation of Simon Legree than Sister Erica Jordan and her fellow Sinsinawa Dominicans are the reincarnation of Ingrid Bergman/Sister Mary Benedict in The Bells of St. Mary’s. Keeping that in mind would help foster the thoughtful debate that the Speaker, and the country, would welcome.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.
Daily Archives: September 20, 2017
“President Trump’s total vindication over his wiretap claim reminds me of one of the most important things I have discovered over the past couple of years: If the national media loses its ever-loving mind and launches a campaign to brand Trump a liar, that can mean only one thing — that Trump is not only telling the truth, he is telling a Big Truth, an inconvenient truth, a truth the MSM does not want the American people to hear.” – Nick Nolte
- In February 2017, The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, McClatchy, NBC News, ABC News, the BBC, CBS News, and the Associated Press all gleefully trumpeted the news that the Obama administration had used the mighty powers of the federal government to spy on Team Trump, including outright “wiretaps.”
- In March 2017, Trump said the same thing, at which point the Left Stream Media embarked on a six month lying spree, during which they ignored that their own reporting ever existed. They even went so far as to attack media outlets like Breitbart that continued to tell the truth about Obama’s abuse of power.
“In a coordinated campaign, almost every media outlet in the country, almost every Big Shot reporter in America, purposely and with the intent to deceive, looked you dead in the eye and LIED to you; repeatedly gaslighted, swindled, conned, and hustled you. Oh, and so did the media’s chief bootlickers — those pathetic, cowardly, lying liars in the #NeverTrump crowd.” – Nick Nolte
At any rate, you would think so if you listened to the lefts’ reaction to his remarkable speech to the U.N. yesterday. He served notice to one and all that he was, indeed, in charge. He called out North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela, and called terrorists what they are: radical Islamists, words that Barack Obama could never manage to utter. His address was welcomed by the right and left the socio-communists in horror.
Freak Out: ABC Assails Trump Speech as ‘Bordering on Threat’ of ‘War Crime’
ABC journalist Terry Moran suffered a full meltdown as he reacted to Donald Trump’s United Nations speech on Tuesday. The network’s chief foreign correspondent condemned the President’s warning to North Korea as “bordering on the threat of a war crime.” Bizarrely, he claimed that the speech, which warned Iran and condemned socialism in Venezuela, was one Vladimir Putin would give and that dictators everywhere would love.
Hillary says Trump’s UN speech was ‘very DARK’ and ‘DANGEROUS’
The Hillinator is still being asked to comment on stuff and I have no idea why, but she thinks her opinion still matters to Americans. It’s sad really. Uhm… yeah I mean she might have a point but no one cares what Hillary says. And in fact, according to the lovely and brilliant Dana Perino, who is no fan of Trump, the speech was well received by the right and those in the center.
Trump slams Venezuela at UN; Maduro calls him ‘Hitler’
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro hit back by calling the U.S. president “the new Hitler” of international politics. He also accused Trump of threatening to assassinate him, even though Trump did no such thing. What Trump threatened was to build upon sweeping economic sanctions that the U.S. slapped on Venezuela last month if Maduro “persists on a path to impose authoritarian rule.”
CNN Rolls Out Their Obama Alumni To Attack Trump’s Speech
Both national security reporter Jim Sciutto — a former Obama appointee — and analyst John Kirby — a former State Department spokesman whose job it was to defend the Iran deal during the Obama years — attacked Trump’s speech.
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer declined to inform CNN’s viewers of Sciutto’s previous tenure in the Obama administration, presenting him as an objective reporter on Trump’s speech, in which the president attacked the Iran deal — one of the defining pillars of Obama’s legacy — as a national embarrassment.
Clinton criticizes Trump’s ‘rocket man’ nickname for North Korean leader
“When you face dangerous situations like what is happening in North Korea, to make it clear, your first approach should always be diplomatic,” Clinton said during an appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
‘Holy Sh**’: Trump at the U.N.
A Jacksonian speech in Turtle Bay
As someone said on Twitter, never before has been there so much murmuring of “holy sh**” in so many different languages. Donald Trump’s speech at the United Nations was a sometimes awkward marriage of conventional Republican foreign policy and a very basic version of Trump’s nationalism.
Trump Hits Home Run for America in UN Speech
President Trump gave his first official speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning, and was immediately berated by the New York Times (Trump’s “characteristically confrontational message”) and the Washington Post (“Trump’s menacing United Nations speech, annotated”). Sen. Dianne Feinstein lambasted him for words that “greatly escalated the danger” from Iran and North Korea. And the foreign minister of Venezuela’s socialist dictatorship, Jorge Arreaza — apparently trying to formulate some sort of supreme insult — compared Trump in 2017 to President Ronald Reagan in 1982. With that kind of reaction, you might just start to suspect that Trump did something right.
Huckabee: Trump’s ‘courageous’ speech is what UN needs
Trump U.N. speech was vintage Trump: Nigel Farage
Newt Gingrich analyzes Trump’s ‘remarkable’ UN speech
[CtH: If you only have time for one article or interview today, I’d recommend this one. Gingrich talks not only about Trump’s UNGA speech, but also about our military’s readiness and the Obama DOJ’s egregious violations of our civil liberties.]
Netanyahu: No Speech At The UN Has Ever Been Bolder Or More Courageous Than President Trump’s Speech
I CAN STILL IMAGINE THE HUGE SIGH OF RELIEF IN ISRAEL WHEN THIS MAN WAS ELECTED. THEY KNEW THEY HAD A FRIEND ONCE MORE.
Families of Americans Imprisoned in Iran Applaud Trump’s Call for Their Return in UN Speech
During Trump’s speech to the United Nations, he demanded that Iran free all Americans, as well as those from other countries, who the regime is holding captive on false charges.
THE BEST OBAMA COULD DO WAS TRADE 5 TOP TERRORISTS FOR A TRAITOROUS DESERTER
Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar Explain North Korea
Come along with the ladies of The View as they take long detours into strange lands uninhabited by logic or knowledge. THIS IS HARD TO WATCH.