SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

May 15, 2011

Boehner takes heat on Budget

Catholic academics blast Boehner over budget

Cuts conflict with church’s teachings on poor, group says

By Jack Torry THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

                    House Speaker John Boehner is the Catholic University of America’s graduation speaker.

WASHINGTON — A group of Catholic academics assailed House Speaker John Boehner yesterday for backing a budget plan that is “particularly cruel to pregnant women and children” while dramatically revising the federal health programs of Medicare and Medicaid.   

In a letter to the Republican from southwestern Ohio, more than 70 Catholic university professors, priests and nuns from across the country charged that the House Republicans’ 2012 budget proposal “guts long-established protections for the most-vulnerable members of society.”

They also asserted that Boehner’s long voting record in the House “is at variance from one of the Church’s most-ancient moral teachings”: to help the poor.   They wrote that “your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress.”

The sharply worded letter is one of the most-intense attacks on Boehner for his effort to slash federal budgets to reduce the deficit.   Boehner is a Catholic from the Cincinnati suburb of West Chester.

The letter was sent days before Boehner is to give the commencement address on Saturday at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.   More than two dozen academics from Catholic University signed the letter, while 14 scholars and professors from Ohio schools signed as well.    Brittany Bramell, a Boehner spokeswoman, said the speaker will “be delivering a personal, nonpolitical message” that “he hopes will speak to all members of the graduating class, regardless of their backgrounds or affiliations.”

“He is deeply honored to have been invited by CUA to address the school’s graduating class and is looking forward to receiving an honorary degree from the only Catholic college in our country that is chartered by Catholic bishops.”    Victor Nakas, a university spokesman, said in a statement that the letter raised “diverse viewpoints on these questions not only within our university, but also within the Catholic community in the United States.”

In a backhanded swipe at Boehner, the authors of the letter wrote that “it is good for Catholic universities to host and engage the thoughts of powerful public figures, even Catholics such as yourself who fail to recognize … important aspects of Catholic teaching.”

House Republicans earlier this year approved a budget for the 2012 federal spending year that begins Oct. 1.   It not only includes deep cuts in social programs, but also would transform Medicaid,  a federal-state program that covers health costs for the poor,   into a block grant for the states,   giving them broad authority to design their own programs.

In addition, the House GOP budget would end Medicare’s fee-for-service plan and instead provide seniors with a voucher to buy insurance offered by private companies.    The letter accuses the House GOP budget of “gutting maternal- and child-health grants and slashing $500 million from the highly successful Women Infants and Children nutrition program.”

  • “The House budget radically cuts Medicaid and effectively ends Medicare,” they wrote.
  • “It invokes the deficit to justify visiting such hardship upon the vulnerable, while it carves out $3 trillion in new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.”  

Among those in Ohio signing the letter were John Sniegocki,  professor of Christian ethics at Xavier University,  and Vincent J. Miller,   Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture at the University of Dayton.   Boehner is a graduate of Xavier.

jtorry@dispatch.com

(Anything I could possibly say would be redundant.   Therefore, I will just add    “A M E N.”              Jan)

OH FOP betrayed by Sen Jones

The COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Ohio FOP retracts its support of Sen. Jones

By Ann Sanner ASSOCIATED PRESS

                                           State Sen. Shannon Jones sponsored a law restricting collective-bargaining rights.

Ohio’s largest law-enforcement organization has withdrawn its endorsement of the Republican state senator who sponsored a new law that restricts public workers’ collective-bargaining rights.

The state board of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police voted this past weekend to retract its 2010 endorsement of Sen. Shannon Jones, said Jay McDonald, the group’s president.

The organization represents more than 26,000 officers and their families. It typically is courted for endorsements, as candidates look to grab key support from law-enforcement officials during their campaigns.    Some Republicans who voted for the collective-bargaining law were among those backed by the groups’ members this past November. Now, the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police and several of its local lodges are pulling back endorsements they gave to some of these Republicans who won last fall and in previous elections.

Jones, of Springboro, got the police endorsement last year during a Republican primary race for state Senate against former state Rep. Michelle Schneider. Jones won the May primary, and then her seat this past November.

McDonald told the Associated Press that the board took back its support because members felt Jones betrayed them by sponsoring the collective-bargaining legislation.    Jones, who was notified on Tuesday about the retraction, said she thinks the law maintains the rights of police and firefighters to bargain. “And I believe that they are different — and therefore should be given an expressed right to negotiate things like safety equipment,” which is in the law, she said.

Some lodges have also retracted their previous support for other Republican legislators, including Senate President Tom Niehaus of New Richmond,    state Sen. Kevin Bacon of Columbus,    and state Rep. Joseph Uecker of Loveland.

There IS Gov’t “success”

The Columbus DISPATCH  May 10, 2011

Government’s successes deserve coverage, too

      E.J. DIONNE

Don’t expect to see a lot of newspapers and websites with this headline: “Big government bailout worked.” But it would be entirely accurate.

The actual headlines make the point. “Demand for fuel-efficient cars helps GM to $3.2 billion profit,” declared The Washington Post. “GM reports earnings tripled in first quarter, as revenue jumped 15 percent,” reported The New York Times.    Far too little attention has been paid to the success of the government’s rescue of the Detroit-based auto companies, and almost no attention has been paid to how completely and utterly wrong opponents of the bailout were when they insisted it was doomed to failure.

“Having the federal government involved in every aspect of the private sector is very dangerous,” Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., told Fox News in December 2008. “In the long term it could cause us to become a quasi-socialist country.” I don’t see any evidence that we have become a “quasi-socialist country,” just big profits.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, called the bailout “the leading edge of the Obama administration’s war on capitalism,” while other members of Congress derided the president’s auto-industry task force. “Of course we know that nobody on the task force has any experience in the auto business, and we heard at the hearing many of them don’t even own cars,” declared Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, after a hearing on the bailout in May 2009. “And they’re dictating the auto industry for our future? What’s wrong with this picture?”

Sorry to say, but you won’t see a news conference where the bailout’s foes candidly acknowledge how mistaken they were.    The lack of accountability is stunning, but not surprising. It reflects a deep bias in the way our political debate is carried out. The unexamined assumption of so much political reporting is that attacks on government’s capacity to do anything right make intuitive sense because “everybody knows” that government is basically inefficient and incompetent, especially when compared with the private sector.

Government failure gets a lot of coverage. That’s useful because government should be held accountable for its mistakes. What’s not OK is that we hear very little when government acts competently and even creatively. For if mistakes teach lessons, successes teach lessons, too.    In the case of the car industry, allowing the market to operate without any intervention by government would have wiped out a large part of the business that is based in Midwestern states. This irreversible decision would have damaged the economy, many communities and tens of thousands of families.

And contrary to the predictions of the critics, government officials were quite capable of working with the market in restructuring the industry. Government didn’t overturn capitalism. It tempered the market at a moment when its “natural” forces were pushing toward catastrophe. Government had the resources to buy the industry time.

What’s heartening is that average voters understand that sweeping assaults on government provide better guidance for the production of sound bites than for the creation of sensible public policy. That’s why House Republicans are backpedaling like crazy on their plans to privatize Medicare.    Conservatives really believed that voters mistrusted government so much that they’d welcome a chance to scrap Big Government Medicare and have the opportunity to purchase policies in the wondrous health-insurance marketplace. Don’t people assume that anything is better than government?

But there were deep potholes on the road to a market utopia. Put aside that the Republican budget wouldn’t provide enough money in the long term for the elderly to afford decent private coverage. The truth is that most consumers don’t have great confidence in the private insurance companies, with which they have rather a lot of experience.

  • When it comes to guaranteeing their access to health care in old age, most citizens trust government more than they trust the marketplace. This doesn’t mean they think Medicare is without flaws. What they do know is that Medicare does not cut people off in mid-illness and that its coverage is affordable because government subsidizes it.

It’s axiomatic that government isn’t perfect and that we’re better off having a large private sector.   It ought to be axiomatic that the private market isn’t perfect, either, and that we need government to step in when the market fails. The success of the auto bailout and the failure of the Republicans’ anti-Medicare campaign both teach the same lesson:   The era of anti-government extremism is ending.  

E.J. Dionne writes for the Washington Post Writers Group. ejdionne@washpost.com

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