Could Ryan (and his budget) alienate Catholic voters from Romney?

by pdxblake

I’m no expert on Catholicism and so I will leave it to the US Conference on Catholic Bishops, who wrote a letter back in April on what they expect from the US government budget.  I may not agree with them all, but its probably going to be something that factors into Catholic voters’ minds when looking at the choice between Romney/Ryan vs. Obama/Biden:

1.Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.

2.A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.

3.Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times…

The first issue seems like a clear “in the bag” issue for R&R, but it is a bit more complicated since Romney was pro-choice before he wasn’t and the Republicans policy focus right now is focused on allowing Catholic hospitals to not give their employees coverage for contraception.  Some Catholic groups like Catholics United support the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for all employers to cover access to birth control since, in that groups own words:

Although we recognize the authority of Catholic teaching on the issue of contraception, we also acknowledge that there is a silver lining in today’s ruling. Increased access to contraceptive services will dramatically reduce the abortion rate in America. Reducing abortion should be a goal recognized by both sides of this highly polarized debate. Furthermore, we look forward to working with the administration in finding a win-win solution that will both meet the medical needs of women while protecting the religious liberty of Catholic institutions.

Giving that one a ‘leans Republican’, lets move on to points 2 and 3 and the Ryan/Romney budget (ht Wonk Blog)

“Over the next decade, Ryan plans to spend about 16 percent less than the White House on “income security” programs for the poor — that’s everything from food stamps to housing assistance to the earned-income tax credit.”


“And, compared with the White House’s proposal, he’d shell out 33 percent less for “Education, training, employment, and social services.”

There are more details on the exact proposals (and their impact in widening income inequality and increasing poverty) from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, but on balance, it is hard to find any way that the Republican proposals for the future direction of government policy would put those in poverty first, or create an economic system where the government supports the common good when Ryan’s policies act as “Robin Hood in reverse”, what Paul Krugman calls Dooh Nibor.  The CBPP summarizes:

“In essence, this budget is Robin Hood in reverse — on steroids.  It would likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).”

The hallmark of the religious right over the past 30 years has been to focus on ‘social issues’ like abortion and gay rights, and ignore the economic issues like poverty and inequality.  I may be wrong, but the US Conference on Catholic Bishops’ guide for government policy, while it includes a role for social issues, places at least a high burden on policymakers to consider the impact of their policies on the poorest, which the Ryan/Romney budget plans completely ignore (or worse).

If the Catholic population is represented by people who look at policy through these 3 lenses, than the nomination of Ryan as Romney’s VP candidate could hurt, not help, his standing with Catholic voters.

UPDATE: Liberal Catholics are apparently not too happy with Ryan’s nomination for exactly the reasons outlined above: “According to Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK’s Executive Director: “We agree with Catholic Bishops that Paul Ryan’s budget fails the test of Catholic Social Teaching since it deliberately harms people at the economic margins. It is also unpatriotic because it says that we are an individualistic, selfish nation. This is emphatically not who we are. Both our Constitution and our faith teach us that “We the People” are called to care for one another, to have responsibility for each other. This year’s election will present us with a critical choice. Do we want to favor the rich on the backs of people in need? Is that who we want to be?'”