Distinctly Catholic

On Wisconsin, Plunge Right Through That Line!


If you grew up playing the trombone, as I did, one of your favorite college "fight songs" to play was "On Wisconsin." The lively song is also the state song of Wisconsin.
Today, there are special recall elections in the Badger State for six state senators. The recall efforts were mounted after the showdown in the state legislature over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's union busting efforts last winter.
Midterm elections are always difficult to predict, especially when they occur in the middle of August. What is likely to be tested today is not the sentiment of the majority, but the organizing capacity of the opposing sides and, to a degree, the relative degrees of outrage among the respective bases of the two parties. If you are reading this, and you are a registered voter in Wisconsin, be sure to make your voice heard. And if you are Catholic and in Wisconsin, be sure to stand with the Church in its long history of support for the right to organize and its support for organized labor. In other words, maybe we should "plunge left through that line!"

Romney Has Some Explaining To Do


There is nothing an opposition researcher likes better than a video clip that shows an opponent speaking on a topic in a deeply personal manner, and evidencing how profoundly committed he is to a given position, but which, in the event, the candidate has now flipped on.
Salon has just such a video clip from a 1994 debate in which Mitt Romney spoke about how traumatized he was in the 1960s when a close relative died after procuring an illegal abortion.

What Should Obama Do Now?


President Obama’s midday speech did not have its desired, immediate effect of calming the markets. They tanked anyway. Words will no longer suffice to end the skittishness of the markets. But, the president did say something that was consequential yesterday. He announced that in the next few weeks, he would present a proposal to address the next round of budget negotiations, mandated by last week’s agreement to raise the debt ceiling.

Sometimes, Tories Are Right


E. J. Dionne is almost always spot-on. And, in this morning's column, E. J. looks at the debt ceiling, credit downgrade mess with his usual incisiveness. But, I especially liked the quotes at the end of the piece from a member of the UK's Conservative Party:

“As a political strategist, he is often underestimated,” this shrewd politician said of Obama. “He’s playing a longer game.” While “the Republicans have allowed the Tea Party tail to wag the dog .?.?. Obama will be able to say, ‘I believe in spending cuts, but I also believe that the richest in the country should pay a little more.’?” Republicans will counter by arguing for steep cuts in Medicare and other popular programs, but he noted that where public opinion is concerned, this will give Obama the high ground.

Then came the downside: that Obama “seems to be a passive figure at a time when the world needs a leader.”

DC on the Cuyahoga


The "cut government at all costs" mantra that brought the government to a standstill, risked the natioln's first ever default and achieved the nation's first-ever credit downgrade is not confined to the banks of the Potomac. Tom Allio, longtime social action director for the Diocese of Cleveland, has this post up about how, whether it is in DC or Ohio, the mantra conflicts with traditional Catholic teaching.

The Problem with Gov. Perry's Prayerfest


Governor Rick Perry has had his prayer rally at a Reliant Stadium in downtown Houston. I will leave it to the reader to decide whether it is an auspicious sign or not that a typical football game at that same stadium attracts more than 50,000 more people than came to the governor’s prayerfest. Even in Texas, size is not the most important criterion of judgment in religious matters.

Many people were disturbed by the ministers Gov. Perry tasked with organizing the event. To be clear, the charge is not one of guilt by association. That McCarthyite tactic entails turning a casual association into a significant one. In this instance, Gov. Perry could have called the American Family Association and the Rev. John Hagee and others to put the event together. Hagee, you will recall, said such nasty things about Catholicism and about God’s involvement in the Holocaust, that Sen. John McCain declined the reverend’s endorsement in 2008.

No, No, No on Bible as Literature


The Christian Science Monitor has an article about why the Bible should be taught as literature in our public schools to enable students to "win" the future, whatever that means.

Hey, I am all for cultural literacy, but this argument strikes me as akin to those Supreme Court rulings which say it is okay to have a cross on public land because the cross has become a generic or meaningless symbol, which is to say, no symbol at all.

I would much prefer that the Bible NOT be taught as literature in public schools. It was, after all, not written as literature. It was written, and made part of a canon, because it was inspired. Kierkegaard warned about such efforts to take the heart out of religion and compared it to praising St. Paul for his skill as a maker of tents.

Frum Calls Out Conservatives


Last time I checked, David Frum was not a Democrat, not a leftie, not a friend of the administration. So his calling out conservative Republicans for their attacks on Obama's economic policies is especially significant. He writes:

My conservative friends argue that the policies of Barack Obama are responsible for the horrifying length and depth of the economic crisis.

Question: Which policies?

Obama’s only tax increases – those contained in the Affordable Care Act – do not go into effect until 2014. Personal income tax rates and corporate tax rates are no higher today than they have been for the past decade. The payroll tax has actually been cut by 2 points. Total federal tax collections have dropped by 4 points of GDP since 2007, from 18+% to 14+%, the lowest rate since the Truman administration.

If so minded, you could describe Barack Obama as the biggest tax cutter in American history.

Funny, I have not heard the president called "the biggest tax cutter in history" on Fox News.

Jobs Report Better Than Expected


The economy added 117,000 new jobs in July, reducing the unemployment rate to a still horrendous 9.1 percent. The figures exceeded analysts' expectations, which may be the needed tonic to the fear of a second recession that has caused the stock market to plummet in the past few days.
It should be noted that the private sector accounted for 154,000 new jobs last month, across a broad range of economc sectors, but these gains were hampered by a loss of 37,000 government jobs. Remember that fact the next time you hear someone say that cutting government spending is the way to promote job growth.

The USCCB Report on the Budget Deal


The USCCB has issued its report on the recently concluded debt ceiling and budget negotiations. The document does not mince words, opening with this verdict: “This debate demonstrated the partisan, ideological, and dysfunctional polarization that dominates Washington. It wasn’t pretty, and it isn’t over. While the crisis of default was averted, for advocates of poor and vulnerable people, this debate was disappointing, ominous, and just a beginning.”


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In This Issue

April 21-May 4, 2017