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Friday, October 22, 2010


Fernando Umberto Garcia de Nicaragua, Prefectus Minimus: The Jacksonian Institute

The Tea Party's reminder, however limited, of founding principles is good. But until they're willing to touch Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, these people are not serious. See:

When a group like this is thought of as "extreme," as liberals have called it, then we're far, far gone. The Tea Party would have us put out the fire - and only on a shingle of the house. Yet the house has burned down. Ashes. It's not about putting out the fire. It's about rebuilding the house. And this begins not with our fiscal bankruptcy, but with the moral bankruptcy from which this flows. Yet the Tea Party focuses only on the long-gone burning shingle.

"A country that legalizes the murder of its own children is doomed."

-Dietrich von Hildebrand

Tea Partiers have little to say about this, for example.

Fernando Umberto Garcia de Nicaragua, Prefectus Minimus: The Jacksonian Institute

By the way, the founders, especially Jefferson and Franklin, did indeed advocate a measure of welfare for the poor. So-called conservatives who say otherwise simply don't understand the founding. It was seen as an implication of natural rights theory that government would provide some minimum of poverty relief - but as a last resort, after family, church, a various private associations. Moreover, government help wasn't expected to be particularly comfortable, and for the able-bodied it was designed to be shameful.

See Ch. 6, Poverty and Welfare, of this:

Vindicating the Founders, by Thomas G. West

David K. Monroe

This is the usual leftist false dichotomy - either you support progressive taxation and the endless creation and expansion of entitlements, bestowed by the government and paid for with tax dollars, or you are a hard-hearted, selfish, extreme individualist who believes that you need have no concern for your neighbor whatever. There is no clear contradiction between Catholic teaching on caring for the poor and needy and the concerns and aims of the Tea Party or other conservative movements - none at all. The question is, what approach to governance is more likely to produce the circumstances in which people may prosper. Prosperous conservatives, especially prosperous religious conservatives, are in no way less likely to give to charitys or volunteer for charitable work. The whole approach, which evaluates compassion simply on the basis of whether or not one supports big-government solutions to social problems, is a calumny and ought not to be taken seriously by intelligent people.

Todd Newbold

I heard a Tea Party person on TV tonight say that over 85% of Social Security Medicare Medicaid goes to citizens over 60. No kidding genius. What would Americas Founding Fathers say about that statistic? Raising the retirement age doesn't make sense and cutting benefits doesn't make sense. Most of mankind hasn't lived past 50 years old. We are in a new era. Have your kids young and join the borrowed time club.

Fernando Umberto Garcia de Nicaragua, Prefectus Minimus: The Jacksonian Institute

"Most of mankind hasn't lived past 50 years old."

This is false. High infant mortality in the past skewed the numbers. The truth is that if one made it past infancy, one had a good chance of living 70-80 years. Look into it.

Brian J. Schuettler

Actually, Maureen "Moe" Tucker, former drummer of the Velvet Underground, has done the best job ever of explaining where the tea party stands and why it stands there. She also suggests the breadth and variety of the movement. In an interview this week in St. Louis's Riverfront Times, Ms. Tucker said she'd never been particularly political but grew alarmed by the direction the country was taking. In the summer of 2009, she went to a tea-party rally in southern Georgia. A chance man-on-the-street interview became a YouTube sensation. No one on the left could believe this intelligent rally-goer was the former drummer of the 1960s breakthrough band; no one on the left understood that an artist could be a tea partier. Because that's so not cool, and the Velvet Underground was cool.

Ms. Tucker, in the interview, ran through the misconceptions people have about tea partiers: "that they're all racists, they're all religious nuts, they're all uninformed, they're all stupid, they want no taxes at all and no regulations whatsoever." These stereotypes, she observed, are encouraged by Democrats to keep their base "on their side." But she is not a stereotype: "Anyone who thinks I'm crazy about Sarah Palin, Bush, etc., has made quite the presumption. I have voted Democrat all my life, until I started listening to what Obama was promising and started wondering how the hell will this utopian dream be paid for?"

As quoted from a Peggy Noonan piece

Dan Buckley

When compulsory tax money is used to aid the needy, the possibility of moral freedom is eliminated and the theological virtue of charity ceases to apply. One may argue that the only thing essential is that the poor be helped, but one then proposes that the end justifies the means.


Thanks for that post. For too long the "Catholic Social Teaching" mantra has gone unquestioned. It is a prudential, not dogmatic, manner, and prudence may dictate that gov't economic intervention does not really promote the common good. I won't be dogmatic about it either. I'm not a libertarian fundementalist. But it's good to have an open scholastic discourse and not just repeat ideological cliches.


I've listened to a lot of the Tea Party people and some of the conservative leaders who are in sync with them.

What I hear is the other part of the Catholic social doctrine, subsidiarity. That is in fact why the Tea Party seems to be comprised of a broad cross-section of political nuance from the center right through to the right.

Individuals, towns, cities, counties, states, in that order, can much more efficiently and directly apply the charitable principles of Catholic doctrine than can the federal government. Moreover, that is exactly how the founders saw it as well (even though they were not Catholics for the most part). That is why the Tea Party keeps harping on the Constitution. It's all there.

No Catholic principle is sacrificed, but rather is enhanced. Liberty is safe-guarded, another Catholic principle, lest we forget, and the centralizing of power that lends itself to socialist tyranny is thwarted.

And, in answer to Fernando Umberto Garcia de Nicaragua, Prefectus Minimus: The Jacksonian Institute, the possibility of reversing the culture of death in America is more likely when the federal government's power and control are dispersed.

Francis Beckwith

Schneck states, “Much as we might like otherwise, the Catholic argument is that government and citizen are equally expected to be our brother’s keeper.”

Here's the problem: what happens when the government asserts that certain persons are excluded from the set of "brother," e.g., the unborn? What does a Catholic do when the government states that gender is socially constructed but sexual orientation is immutable? In both cases, we are given a false account of what counts as a "brother." So, to say that government and citizen are equally expected to be our brother's keeper, when the issues over which we debate hinge on who precisely is a brother, mother, father, family, etc., is to really say nothing at all. It's another empty abstraction that provides no practical direction on what we should actually do.

Professor Schneck surely knows that Europe's shame--and its 100 million murders of the 20th century--is not the result of the Tea Party Movement. It is the result of utopian dreamers whose high-minded planned economies were driven by their desire to be their brothers' keeper. How did that work out?

Maurice Griffin

37. Rights must be religiously respected wherever they exist, and it is the duty of the public authority to prevent and to punish injury, and to protect every one in the possession of his own. Still, when there is question of defending the rights of individuals, the poor and badly off have a claim to especial consideration. The richer class have many ways of shielding themselves, and stand less in need of help from the State; whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own to fall back upon, and must chiefly depend upon the assistance of the State. And it is for this reason that wage-earners, since they mostly belong in the mass of the needy, should be specially cared for and protected by the government.

Pope Leo XII "Rerum Novarum" 1891

Every social encyclical since then including Benedict XVI "Caritas in Veritate" says similar. You can't just be a cafeteria Catholic and pick subsidiarity, you have to embrace the whole of Catholic teachings.


M Griffin: The question of nuance still applies. Federal govt? State govt? If we want to hammer on encyclicals, I'd point out that in 1891 inerrancy was the doctrine of Scripture with no dissent allowed. I think the menu on the cafeteria has expanded slightly there!

Carl E. Olson

You can't just be a cafeteria Catholic and pick subsidiarity, you have to embrace the whole of Catholic teachings.

If you really think that is what is being said here, you are missing the boat. Oh, sure (sarcasm alert!), Catholics constantly hear about subsidiarity, subsidiarity, subsidiarity, and almost never hear about solidarity and taking care of the poor. Seriously, how many Catholics have even heard of subsidiarity, let alone know what it means? But, of course, there are countless Catholics who think (or "think") that any mention at all of subsidiarity or limited government or personal responsibility is simply mean-spirited opposition to helping the poor. A balanced, Catholic position considers all of these factors together, employing prudential judgment and sound reasoning to gauge the application of the entirety of Catholic social doctrine to real life situations. Bringing subsidiarity into the conversation is not only reasonable, it is necessary, as the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church makes abundantly clear (pars. 160-163). The fact is, folks who talk about subsidiarity do not scoff at or ignore solidarity or the common good (far from it); however, many of those who harp endlessly about solidarity and "social justice" never, ever talk about subsidarity. What gives?

Maurice Griffin

I'm saying Schneck has it right. You can't read Rerum or the Compendium or the other encyclicals as they emphasize the special responsibilities of government to the poor, sick, and similar and not see some problems with the Tea Party's anti-government libertarianism from the Catholic perspective.

Subsidiarity is great as far as it goes. Obviously, so is charity. But, for the encyclicals that doesn't mean the government shouldn't care for those who can't fend for themselves. Yes, and as the Compendium organizes it the four basic parts of Catholic social teachings are the dignity of the human person, the common good (as opposed to individual pursuits of happiness), solidarity, and subsidiarity. We don't get to pick one of these; we embrace them all. And, it would take some amazing theoretical tomfoolery to square solidarity and common good with the Tea Party's fringe.

Carl E. Olson

Maurice: Other than misrepresenting what most Tea Party folks believe (as in, what they actually say), downplaying the significance and place of subsidiarity in Catholic social doctrine, and engaging in ad hominem silliness, your "argument" makes perfect sense.

Maurice Griffin

So, Carl... All that talk about the role of government in the encyclicals and Compendium you'd just...what, erase? Bracket? Try to spin it in a way to fit some political preferences? Jeepers, isn't that what the pro-choice "Catholics" do with teachings they don't like?

If we're Catholics then we go with the teachings as they're written and as they're interpreted by the bishops.

Fernando Umberto Garcia de Nicaragua, Prefectus Minimus: The Jacksonian Institute

And let's not forget the need for the social reign of Christ the King: Pius XI, Quas Primas. Somehow we hear very little of this today.

Carl E. Olson

All that talk about the role of government in the encyclicals and Compendium you'd just...what, erase? Bracket?

I thought you had actually read my post, but apparently you haven't. You seem to be assuming that I am "anti-government", despite there being no evidence that I am (which makes sense, as I am not "anti-government"). Besides, if I was "anti-government", why would I bother to quote at length statements by John Paul II that speak of the rightful role of the State? I suppose I can take solace in the fact that your grasp of my position is about as secure as your grasp of Catholic social doctrine.

Again, John Paul II focuses on an issue that is, I am quite certain, of great interest to many Americans: "Malfunctions and defects in the Social Assistance State are the result of an inadequate understanding of the tasks proper to the State." In other words, there are limits to what a State should do, and how it should do what it does. Asking what those limits are and debating how such limits should be recognized and addressed is completely within the realm of Catholic social doctrine; in fact, it is an important part of being a responsible and thinking Catholic. And it is in no way parallel to pro-choice Catholics, especially since such questions do not involve a renunciation of dogma, but the application of principles (common good, solidarity, subsidiarity, etc.) to concrete situations.

Todd Newbold

I will try to be pleasant. I believe the Catholic Church, Popes, Bishops, and Encyclicals are all right. I believe the WWII "Greatest Generation" is right, and lastly I believe Fr. Jerzy of Poland was right. I need to say one last thing - its not just abortion and infant mortality that skews demographics and statistics, but also all forms of birth control and population control. For Families and local Churches/Parishes to take care of "their own" you need large families as of old. I will give the Tea Party the benefit of the doubt, their intention is obviously must be to raise large/extendend families ( I am 40 with 4 beautiful kids) for only then will Governmant Philanthropy naturally dissolve. I am going to vote Democrat, "their are many different evils in this world."

Kevin C.

Dan Buckley: Bingo.

England before and after the persecution of the Church during the time of St. Thomas More is a good historical case study for a comparison between a society that has a proper balance between solidarity and subsidiarity (prior to the persecution) and a society that ignores subsidiarity (during and post-persecution welfare state).


I guess most Catholics do not understand the Principle of Subsidiarity. Most do not understand that in Catholic teaching acording to Pope Leo XIII, "When a government takes money from one who works for it with thier hand or brain, in the quies of giving it to those who have not earned it, then they are stealing it." This goes against Natural Law. Check this out at

Todd Newbold

I regret beleaguering the point friends, but with smaller families and men living into their 80's and women living past 100 now, the numbers require assistance and a comfortable life for citizens over 60 (past working age/health). Would someone please refute this argument with me, this blog is almost a week old? In the U.S. Marine Corps Leadership 101 taught that silence meant agreement?

David K. Monroe

Todd, the issue is not whether or not people require assistance but whether assistance MUST come from the Federal Government through tax dollars. The Federal Government is NOT the only source of charity on the planet and to assume that anything other than expanding Federal entitlements means the end of charity in our society is, as I stated before, a calumny.

Todd Newbold

Lets talk over coffee. SSA Medicare Medicaid cost about 1 trillion dollars. If you want to privatize those programs, my gut feeling is to many people would fall through the cracks - because of dozens of reasons, largely reasons that are protected by the Constitution for example (race, religion, sex, etc......)

Now I believe SSA FICA MEDICARE MEDICAID taxes bring in about 500 Billion, so there is a shortfall of 500 Billion dollars. Another 1 Trillion dollars in the Sunday Collections at Church would be nice :)

Robert Miller

Catholics (and many non-Catholic Christian social conservatives) made a Faustian bargain with libertarians in the 1970s/1980s that is coming back to haunt us in the Tea Party allure of 2010.

For the sake of brevity, I'll call us "social conservatives".

Social conservatives, rightly alarmed by the excesses of the Great Society and the Warren/Burger Supreme Court, decided that the main objective of their political activity ought to be to reduce the scale and intrusion of government (confident as they were that a "silent majority" of good, solid American folk would use their "liberty" to reverse the agnosticism and amoralism of the 1960s and early 1970s). And so, they won a few elections -- and, arguably, things in the US are not as bad as they might have been).

Problem is that economic libertarianism breeds that democratic libertinism that enabled Hippies to become Yuppies -- and now old f___ts, who want to "balance the budget" on the backs of the corporal's guard of young people they grudgingly produced when they got around to it. It's the demography, Stupid!

The Tea Party, in my opinion, is trying to resurrect the old social conservative/economic alliance that was profoundly flawed from the beginning.

I think Fernando Umberto Garcia de Nicaragua, Prefectus Minimus: The Jacksonian Institute nailed it perfectly with his comment: "And let's not forget the need for the social reign of Christ the King: Pius XI, Quas Primas. Somehow we hear very little of this today."

Personally, I'll take Cristo Rey any day over and against the "Founding Fathers" (let's not forget that human fathers can produce b_____ds).

Finally, as readers of this blog know, I hold no brief for BO, but it seems to me that his stimulus measures (as distinguished from the general amoralism of the rest of his initiatives) are no more than any reasonably prudent president (as witness W's final acts) would have taken to prevent catastrophe. In fact, I reproduce Carl's quotation of JP2 below to underscore the principle:

"This does not mean, however, that the State has no competence in this domain, as was claimed by those who argued against any rules in the economic sphere. Rather, the State has a duty to sustain business activities by creating conditions which will ensure job opportunities, by stimulating those activities where they are lacking or by supporting them in moments of crisis."

Let's not join a bunch of idiots who are blasting BO for the only thing he has been doing that's in keeping with Catholic social teaching. Let's get organized to take control of this country, using its government in coordination with all subsidiary entities to establish a "Catholic" solidarity around sound natural law principles, whether or not the "Founding Fathers" would have approved.

David K. Monroe

Nope, not believing that the federal government is the best and most efficient engine to solve social problems. They've been trying ever since LBJ and the result is more people dependent on federal handouts. The claim that if the same or similar services were privately administered, the result would be all kinds of people denied services because of their race, sex, and religion is a further calumny. I'm stunned that people have such unshakeable faith in federal government programs largely engineered by one political party and have absolutely NO faith in private charities of any kind, apparently even those that may be run by their own Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Politicians did not engineer the Welfare State to end poverty. They did it to supplant private charity with government run charity and assure the re-election of themselves and their successors. I'm disappointed that people have complete cynicism about the private sector and think that the government and its programs are sacrosanct. The federal government has done nothing to earn such loyalty. Congressmen, senators and government employees are no less likely to be racist, sexist, or oppressive than anyone else, and Constitutional protections apply no less to private enterprise than to public institutions.

Todd Newbold

Robert Miller -


I would like to add to my previous post - "the vow of poverty needs to be added to non-Catholic churches before 1 Trillion dollars of Sunday collections makes sense. But I am attracted to the philosophy of Equal Rights - race, religion, sex, creed, and the list goes on and on.

Thank You Robert Miller

Todd Newbold

David K. Monroe -

If I may. Lets cut to the chase. When you say Welfare State, you are talking about Senior Citizens - that is where almost two thirds of the National Budget goes, can you address this? I am fine with those numbers. The old, poor, sick, uneducated need to be taken care of. What if people live to 120 ? That would be 60 years of need. We cannot fight medicine, better living standards, nutrition, and the sort. And by the way I would be fine if the Catholic Church took over SSA, Medicare, Medicaid - I may be wrong but do any other denominations vow poverty for their clergy?

David K. Monroe

Todd, the situation we are in now, and the situation that you apparently have no problem with, is unsustainable. We are not going to be able to take care of millions of people for 60 years apiece in perpetuity with the current broken and wasteful system. It is the way to poverty, not by vow, but by economic disaster. It's al; good and well to be satisfied with two thirds of the budget going to entitlement programs because you see charity to the old, poor, sick, and uneducated as necessary, but if it just sets up a situation that is very likely to collapse at some point, then it is not good and is in fact a very bad thing. The collapse of these burgeoning programs stands to hurt many people in the future, perhaps even more than it ever helped.

I'd be find if the Catholic Church took over SSA, Medicare and Medicaid also. I do think that the Church would be infinitely better able to handle such services because her priests and bishops are not elected officials and would be far less likely to use charitable endeavors to enrich and empower themselves.

Todd Newbold

Thank You David K. Monroe -

Creativity is the correct answer.

Todd Newbold

Now lets have some Earl Grey Tea.
Long Term Care, Medicine, Biology is the New Economy.
Life use to be 100% before 50, now it is 50% before 50% after.
All disciplines can adapt.
The Pope wants us to Evangelize and convert. "Long Term" Opportunity.

Bill Jerome

IMHO, all the comments ignore one salient fact: the monstrous weath/income pyramid of the class system in where a very small per cent of the population owns a huge proportion of the nation's (and the world's) wealth. If you exclude use of government then you are left with begging the very wealthy for handouts. I think it makes more sense to tax them. Another point, where was all this talk of how bad the government is and all the money it spends during the past nine years of war at the rate of billions of dollars a day? Where was all this concern for loss of innocent life when scores of thousands have lost their lives as by-standers in our wars? Regardless of your intentions this rubbish is going to result in a huge gift to the wealthy and a kick in the pants to the elderly, and poor. This is most assuredly Catholic social justice.I am praying thatthe Holy Spirit melts your hearts!

Bill Jerome

Oops, in my hast and distress I omitted the "not" from the next to last sentence. Sorry!

David K. Monroe

Bill, where were you during the Bush administration? Did you not hear all the protesting about money spent and lives lost for the sake of Iraq? Did you not hear many people saying "I voted for Bush twice but he's run up all these deficits and I no longer support him and am no longer a Republican?" Seriously, it's bad enough that you're trying to pull the old tired "Ignore the present! Talk about Bush!" canard, but your implication that all that happened in the Bush years passed without criticism is bogus.

Begging the wealthy for handouts? How about being hired by "the wealthy?" I've never worked for a poor man or woman. Wealth creation is what we need in this country and on this planet. Wealth creation is the engine of employment AND of charity. Excessive, punitive taxation kills both. I pray the Holy Spirit opens your eyes.

Todd Newbold

Tax schedule based on 3 criteria

1 - age
2 - 1 years income
3 - net worth

example 1 - 20yr old, 25,000 income, 0 net worth
11% tax rate

example 2 - 40yr old, 50,000 income, 100,00 net worth
33% tax rate

example 3 - 60yr old, 100,000 income, 500,000 net worth
66% tax rate

with a flat 5,000 child tax credit
with a flat 20,000 mortgage interest tax credit

Manuel G. Daugherty Razetto

David K. Monroe:

Amen to that.

Todd Newbold

Here would be my Tax Schedule - philosophy (have kids early)

1. anyone under 30 only pays 5% income tax
2. ages 31 - 50 pays 25% income tax
3. anyone over 50 pays 50% income tax
4. anyone with a gross net worth over 1M at anytime pays 66% income tax
5. no deductions


I'm usually a huge fan of yours, Mr. Olson. But in this case, I think you've given Mr. Schneck a far more measured and courteous response than he deserves. Where does he get off saying that tea partiers don't care about the poor and that the tea party movement is all about "citizens being free from the demands and needs of the country as a whole"?

I am flummoxed at this statement, and flummoxed as well that you -- in your altogether patient and reasonable style -- address it seriously.

Woody Allen recounts being accused of cheating in a Metaphysics class, when, during a test, he looked into the soul of the student sitting next to him. Apparently Schneck did the same thing; otherwise, how could he make such an absurd, biased and irrational statement about the private inclinations of millions of people?

To be preached to by someone guilty of such patent intellectual dishonesty -- not to mention snobbery -- is intolerable. Schneck deserves to be pilloried.

(Not to worry, by the way. I am maintaining my subscription to InSight Scoop.)

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