Catholic thinkers debate government's role in helping poor


#1

I hope this qualifies as a news article.

catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-thinkers-debate-governments-role-in-helping-poor/

Excerpt:

In a recent debate, two Catholic commentators disagreed over how large a role government should play in exercising society's responsibility to assist the impoverished.

Father Robert Sirico, a priest of the Grand Rapids diocese and co-founder of the Acton Institute, a conservative think tank, said government should be kept small. He also stated that free markets – capitalist economies free from government interventions – will be strong enough to naturally care for the poor.

The Jan. 28 debate between Fr. Sirico and Michael Sean Winters, a writer with the National Catholic Reporter, occurred on the campus of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

It was hosted by The Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought, an arm of the university's parish which aims to “promote the Catholic intellectual tradition.”

During his remarks, Winters countered that a “robust social welfare program,” run by a government representing “our collective moral action,” is needed to correct the dangers posed by the unregulated competition of a free market.
.....

(more)


#2

interesting , thanks for the article!


#3

If I understand them correctly, I'm not sure I would agree with either one of them.

If I have read the "social encyclicals" correctly, the popes have supported the idea that it is the absolute duty of a society to provide decently for those who do not have decent means and who cannot help themselve it obtaining them. They also support the "most proximate competent means" for doing it.

The most proximate means is the family. But if the family can't do it, then the parish, diocese, or whatever. If it can't do it competently, then the community, then the state, then the feds, and so on.

I don't think anyone today can say with any degree of certainty whether means more proximate than the federal government can do it, because it has been so long since anyone actually tried it on any kind of scale. It is assumed the federal government has to do it because it has the resources. But it takes the resources away from more proximate levels in order to have them.

In a major city particularly, if you know what you're looking for, you can find really magnificent remnants of the Church charitable institutions of long ago. But most of those "social agencies" are now long gone, for various reasons. Nobody now living has a memory long enough to really know how well they functioned or even quite how they functioned.

But on the assumption (and it really is nothing but an assumption) those entities failed in their efforts, then the duty would have to flow "upstream". In considering all of it, however, we would need to consider the appropriation of funds from the lower levels of otherwise competent authority to higher levels. None of that would be easy.

So, as things are now, we drift along, with various protagonists advocating this or that without any of them actually knowing what the best way truly is. So, the most powerful entity; the federal government, takes all duties on itself by default for lack of better ideas, and distributes it politically. As to that, all we need to do to realize its ineffectiveness is to consider the upper middle class subsidy called "cash for clunkers" and the failure of the feds to improve SSI from its current miserable level.

Something has clearly gone wrong, but I don't think some on the one hand saying the "free market" will fix everything automatically and those on the other hand promoting ever greater outlays to the federal government are offering anything truly helpful.


#4

I'll add this.

Critics of Chestertonian "Distributism" miss an element, I think. Much of Distributism assumes a certain character on the part of those who would acquire productive assets. Consequently, much of it is not so much of a "system" as it is an "individual approach to life".

Can an ordinary person today acquire productive, inheritable assets? For the most part, yes, but there are prices to be paid, and attitudes on the part of individuals and families for them to be willing to pay those prices.

So, in a way, the underlying assumptions of Distributism are circular. In order to have the independence of family and philosophy that can be enhanced by the acquisition of productive assets, one almost has to assume the philosophy is already there. Will a person with a "consumerist" attitude change his mind? Will a person with a "collectivist/statist" attitude change his mind?

To me, that's where the Church comes into it, or ought to. But when do we hear personal and family independence and bypassing either consumerist or statist views of life from the pulpit? Well, not much. Too many Churchmen are wound up in their own political confusions or fears of unpopularity to set anybody straight.


#5

They seem to have taken the cable news route by taking the furthest extreme of each position in a debate thus lessening the overall quality of any exchange.


#6

[quote="ProVobis, post:1, topic:313279"]
I hope this qualifies as a news article.

catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-thinkers-debate-governments-role-in-helping-poor/

Excerpt:

[/quote]

It may not be a sin to have government help the poor people, but it has been a disastrous failure.

The "war on poverty" has not even made a dent in the poverty rate; in fact poverty rates have increased since this began.

"Aid" to Africa has prolonged wars and increased poverty by several times because of corruption.

That's what happens when policy is made based on emotions.

If the Faithful are wise, they will see this.


#7

We do aid the poor,and should. The problem is that continual welfare and government assistance is bad,not just for taxpayers,but those collecting.


#8

[quote="SuperLuigi, post:6, topic:313279"]
It may not be a sin to have government help the poor people, but it has been a disastrous failure.

The "war on poverty" has not even made a dent in the poverty rate; in fact poverty rates have increased since this began.

"Aid" to Africa has prolonged wars and increased poverty by several times because of corruption.

That's what happens when policy is made based on emotions.

If the Faithful are wise, they will see this.

[/quote]

Can we really see this as being true, though? Maybe the best thing to do would compare the plight of the poor today as opposed to, say, 50 years ago. The Law of Distribution says that you will always have the poor. How many is decided by how you wish to define poor. My main concern is that of the marginal, one who misses the cutoff because he makes or has too much to qualify.


#9

[quote="ProVobis, post:8, topic:313279"]
Can we really see this as being true, though? Maybe the best thing to do would compare the plight of the poor today as opposed to, say, 50 years ago. The Law of Distribution says that you will always have the poor. How many is decided by how you wish to define poor. My main concern is that of the marginal, one who misses the cutoff because he makes or has too much to qualify.

[/quote]

It works the other way too, though. I know plenty of people whose salary would cause many to think them "poor". But a lot of "poor" people measured by that metric actually enjoy a good, if modest, living. One of the problems with any program designed to help the poor is that it does not take individual situations into consideration very well. It's a "broad brush" approach, so that the truly needy are often missed while some of those who are not actually needy get government support. It is probably inescapable that the more remote the level of support is, the less accurate it is in defining and meeting real needs.


#10

[quote="SuperLuigi, post:6, topic:313279"]
It may not be a sin to have government help the poor people, but it has been a disastrous failure.

The "war on poverty" has not even made a dent in the poverty rate; in fact poverty rates have increased since this began.

"Aid" to Africa has prolonged wars and increased poverty by several times because of corruption.

That's what happens when policy is made based on emotions.

If the Faithful are wise, they will see this.

[/quote]


#11

[quote="SuperLuigi, post:6, topic:313279"]
It may not be a sin to have government help the poor people, but it has been a disastrous failure.

The "war on poverty" has not even made a dent in the poverty rate; in fact poverty rates have increased since this began.

"Aid" to Africa has prolonged wars and increased poverty by several times because of corruption.

That's what happens when policy is made based on emotions.

If the Faithful are wise, they will see this.

[/quote]

If the war on Poverty is a disasterous failure it has equally failed in the private sector. But the war on poverty is not a failure at all. It is simply something we will always have an obligation to deal with both publicly and privately. I was once very poor but it was not the private sector that helped me get out of poverty, it was the government by creating opportunity for me through education grants. The government paid for my college education and I received a Bachelor's degree in both Engineering Physics and Mathematics. While going to college I worked at Walmart and hade to supplement my income with foodstamps which again was government help that worked. Today I am a Senior Engineer for the department of the Navy. I eventually went on to receive a Master's degree.

There are millions of Americans who have gotton out of poverty and have become successful because of government assistance. So in a very real sense I was taxed into prosperity. This just goes to show you that government failing to fight poverty is a myth perpetuated by those who are too selfish and sinful to love their neighbor as they love themselves. Today I also pay a great deal of taxes, more in taxes than some people earn in a year. But I am thankful to God that I am able to pay taxes and give back to those who are in need as well as invest in America's future. Moreover I give about 12% of my income in private donations in addition to my taxes. If everyone had the attitude of Thanksgiving that I have, we would not have the economic problems we have today. People ae too consumed with the affairs of others rather than seeking out their own salvation. I suggest Catholics get familiar with the Social Justice Encyclicals written by the Popes since the 1890's as well as what the Catechism teaches us about Social Justice, the Common Good, and the role of government. You may want to start out with Romans 13:1-6 and than CCC 1897-1937 as well as CCC 2401-2449.

Peace,

David


#12

[quote="davidmlamb, post:11, topic:313279"]
If the war on Poverty is a disasterous failure it has equally failed in the private sector. But the war on poverty is not a failure at all. It is simply something we will always have an obligation to deal with both publicly and privately. I was once very poor but it was not the private sector that helped me get out of poverty, it was the government by creating opportunity for me through education grants. The government paid for my college education and I received a Bachelor's degree in both Engineering Physics and Mathematics. While going to college I worked at Walmart and hade to supplement my income with foodstamps which again was government help that worked. Today I am a Senior Engineer for the department of the Navy. I eventually went on to receive a Master's degree.

There are millions of Americans who have gotton out of poverty and have become successful because of government assistance. So in a very real sense I was taxed into prosperity. This just goes to show you that government failing to fight poverty is a myth perpetuated by those who are too selfish and sinful to love their neighbor as they love themselves. Today I also pay a great deal of taxes, more in taxes than some people earn in a year. But I am thankful to God that I am able to pay taxes and give back to those who are in need as well as invest in America's future. Moreover I give about 12% of my income in private donations in addition to my taxes. If everyone had the attitude of Thanksgiving that I have, we would not have the economic problems we have today. People ae too consumed with the affairs of others rather than seeking out their own salvation. I suggest Catholics get familiar with the Social Justice Encyclicals written by the Popes since the 1890's as well as what the Catechism teaches us about Social Justice, the Common Good, and the role of government. You may want to start out with Romans 13:1-6 and than CCC 1897-1937 as well as CCC 2401-2449.

Peace,

David

[/quote]

David-
I commend you on your industriousness. Unfortunately you seem to be the exception of those working their way out of poverty. I worked my way through college too, but without federal loans or "freebies." I paid the tuition myself at a Catholic University. It took me 9 years, but I made it.

We have more children living in poverty and born to single parent homes than in 1965.

Where I work, we have employees whose almost minimum wages are being garnished for failure to pay back student loans.

We have employees in bankruptcy because they bought houses they couldn't afford because of the Fed regulations lowering loan eligibility.

These people are anxious and stressed out. They never owned a house and don't know how to maintain a house. They never had to study in grade school and high school, yet are going to college because they are told they can get better jobs, and here, "free money" to achieve that.

We have higher crime rates in the lower income areas of our cities.

We throw more money at education in this country than any other country except Switzerland, yet it is still not "enough."

A faceless Federal one-size fits all spending programs can't asses individual need. The closer one is to the situation, the better one is able to help. Charity demands reciprocity. Human dignity must be part of the equation, and being on the receiving end without being able to give back robs a person of their worth.

And please spare me the lecture on how I "owe" the federal government taxes for charity or that I haven't read the Catechism. I am not selfish because I disagree with you.


#13

[quote="davidmlamb, post:11, topic:313279"]
If the war on Poverty is a disasterous failure it has equally failed in the private sector. But the war on poverty is not a failure at all. It is simply something we will always have an obligation to deal with both publicly and privately.

Today I also pay a great deal of taxes, more in taxes than some people earn in a year. But I am thankful to God that I am able to pay taxes and give back to those who are in need as well as invest in America's future. Moreover I give about 12% of my income in private donations in addition to my taxes. David

[/quote]

I am not persuaded that the War on Poverty did much more than substitute one set of payers for another. I'm old enough to remember that fairly ordinary people once had domestic help; some of it live-in, particularly among the elderly. If you know what you're looking for, you see signs of it in a lot of very old, middle-class houses. I'm old enough to remember that there were a fair number of farmers and ranchers who had hired hands who often lived on the farm or ranch property. I recall being on more than one farm on which the farmers had built housing for their workers and families...all falling into ruin now, of course, or gone. There are still jonquils or lilies growing around some of the old foundations. I have known some folks, mostly gone now, who spoke well of those situations in which they lived and worked.

But that really did end. Some few wealthy people can afford domestic help, but ordinary people cannot. Given the regulations and constraints on hiring, it would be difficult for anyone to do it for that reason alone.

So now the government pays those who probably filled those roles long ago, to do nothing at all. Yes, it's more secure for the recipients. All things considered, it would be more generous than some previous payers, less so than some.

But when we talk about the good things government does, we rarely think about what those things replaced. In many instances, government projects did replace some private endeavor. Whether it has been a good thing or not is problematic because few remember those old private practices and institutions and assume that before government this or that there was nothing, when it really wasn't that way.


#14

[quote="Ridgerunner, post:13, topic:313279"]

**But when we talk about the good things government does, we rarely think about what those things replaced. **In many instances, government projects did replace some private endeavor. Whether it has been a good thing or not is problematic because few remember those old private practices and institutions and assume that before government this or that there was nothing, when it really wasn't that way.

[/quote]

I can't help but think of the huge failures of the housing projects. They began being built in the '50's. Families moved in and formed community. In the '60's something new happened. It was no longer two-parent families who lived there but single parents. And there began the demise of "The Projects." Drug-dealing, theft, and outright terrorism of fellow residents.

What started off as well-intentioned ideas devolved into unintended consequences: supporting lifestyles known to cause problems.

I remember one Thanksgiving when my kids and I delivered Thanksgiving Day meals in "The Projects." The elevator was broken. The stairwell was filthy and smelled of urine. It seemed no one took ownership of their own surroundings. The family who had ordered the meal was not at home, but the apartment across the hall had someone who wanted it. We were told to give the meals away if the family wasn't at home. The person across the hall who opened the door was clad only in briefs. There was no furniture in the place, just mess everywhere. He was happy to have a warm meal on Thanksgiving.

Delivering those meals was personal to us. I know it was personal to the recipients who realized the meals were served with love.

Last week, after serving a meal at the homeless mothers shelter where I volunteer, one of the moms said, "Be careful on your way home." It was cold, windy, and rainy. I needed to hear that, and I thought about her kind remark the whole way home.

She was able to think outside of herself. What a blessing.

True charity is delivered with love and respect for the dignity of the receiver. No heart or life will be changed without it. Government cannot meet this ideal.


#15

[quote="qui_est_ce, post:12, topic:313279"]
David-
I commend you on your industriousness. Unfortunately you seem to be the exception of those working their way out of poverty. I worked my way through college too, but without federal loans or "freebies." I paid the tuition myself at a Catholic University. It took me 9 years, but I made it.

We have more children living in poverty and born to single parent homes than in 1965.

Where I work, we have employees whose almost minimum wages are being garnished for failure to pay back student loans.

We have employees in bankruptcy because they bought houses they couldn't afford because of the Fed regulations lowering loan eligibility.

These people are anxious and stressed out. They never owned a house and don't know how to maintain a house. They never had to study in grade school and high school, yet are going to college because they are told they can get better jobs, and here, "free money" to achieve that.

We have higher crime rates in the lower income areas of our cities.

We throw more money at education in this country than any other country except Switzerland, yet it is still not "enough."

A faceless Federal one-size fits all spending programs can't asses individual need. The closer one is to the situation, the better one is able to help. Charity demands reciprocity. Human dignity must be part of the equation, and being on the receiving end without being able to give back robs a person of their worth.

And please spare me the lecture on how I "owe" the federal government taxes for charity or that I haven't read the Catechism. I am not selfish because I disagree with you.

[/quote]

The first things I want to ask you are how were you able to pay you’re living expenses and your tuition without any kind of assistance? I pointed out to you that I worked at Wal-Mart (for 8 dollars an hour) which was not even enough money to pay my basic living expenses much less my tuition. Moreover I had a couple of children I was raising. So how would you suggest I climbed out of that cycle of poverty without some kind of assistance? Did you live with you parents? Did you have a good paying job? Did you have a family to raise? It is these things that make you selfish because you only think of your situation and do not consider the welfare of others. If we love our neighbor as we love ourselves than we consider the welfare of others on an equal level of our own welfare. You loved yourself enough to work your way through college, but I am certain you had some kind of help achieving your educational goals. If you loved yourself enough to do this than you should love your neighbor in the same manner considering their welfare. This does not of course negate personal responsibility of everyone receiving either public or private assistance. We must expect and demand personal accountability of every person to work hard to the best of their ability but we should not expect to eliminate public programs designed to assist people who want to end the cycle of poverty and achieve their goals and dreams.

Let me call your attention to 2nd Corinthians 8:12-15. The Christians formed their own communities and basically lived in a type of communist society were the ones who gathered the most surrendered a portion of what they gathered to those who gathered least. This precept suggest that not everyone has the same abilities to "gather" but everyone has the natural right to basic human needs even if that means taking from those who have and giving it to those who have not (CCC 2402-2406). At the same time everyone must work to the best of their ability and everyone is indeed their brother’s keeper. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is a community effort and not an autonomous one.

Peace,

David


#16

[quote="davidmlamb, post:15, topic:313279"]
The first things I want to ask you are how were you able to pay you’re living expenses and your tuition without any kind of assistance? I pointed out to you that I worked at Wal-Mart (for 8 dollars an hour) which was not even enough money to pay my basic living expenses much less my tuition. Moreover I had a couple of children I was raising. So how would you suggest I climbed out of that cycle of poverty without some kind of assistance? Did you live with you parents? Did you have a good paying job? Did you have a family to raise? It is these things that make you selfish because you only think of your situation and do not consider the welfare of others. If we love our neighbor as we love ourselves than we consider the welfare of others on an equal level of our own welfare. You loved yourself enough to work your way through college, but I am certain you had some kind of help achieving your educational goals. If you loved yourself enough to do this than you should love your neighbor in the same manner considering their welfare. This does not of course negate personal responsibility of everyone receiving either public or private assistance. We must expect and demand personal accountability of every person to work hard to the best of their ability but we should not expect to eliminate public programs designed to assist people who want to end the cycle of poverty and achieve their goals and dreams.
I went to night school. My BIL got his master's degree at night school too. He has a wife and three children.

Let me call your attention to 2nd Corinthians 8:12-15. The Christians formed their own communities and basically lived in a type of communist society were the ones who gathered the most surrendered a portion of what they gathered to those who gathered least. This precept suggest that not everyone has the same abilities to "gather" but everyone has the natural right to basic human needs even if that means taking from those who have and giving it to those who have not (CCC 2402-2406). At the same time everyone must work to the best of their ability and everyone is indeed their brother’s keeper. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is a community effort and not an autonomous one.

Peace,

David

[/quote]

The early Christians formed their own communities voluntarily. They did not depend on the Roman government.

Also, it is good to take Scripture as a whole, otherwise how do you answer
[BIBLEDRB]2 thes 3:10[/BIBLEDRB]


#17

[quote="qui_est_ce, post:16, topic:313279"]
I went to night school. My BIL got his master's degree at night school too. He has a wife and three children.[BIBLEDRB]2 thes 3:10[/BIBLEDRB]

[/quote]

You did not answer my question, how were you able to afford to pay your living expensis plus your tuition? I pointed out to you that although I worked full time and went to school full time I did not have the skills to bring in enough money to pay for living expensis plus tuition. How were you able to accomplish this? You said you went to night school but you did not mention if you made enough money to cover all your expensis plus your tuition. How are the working poor able to accomplish this without some kind of assistance?

[quote="qui_est_ce, post:16, topic:313279"]
The early Christians formed their own communities voluntarily. They did not depend on the Roman government..[BIBLEDRB]2 thes 3:10[/BIBLEDRB]

[/quote]

They did not depend on the Roman government but they did depend on the community. and they did not exactly volunteer, either they belonged to this Christian community or they remained outside the Church and dependent on the Roman Empire. We don't have these communities today yet we are still dependent on someone to step up to the plate. If the Christian Community is not going to do thius than either the government or familes who are well off will do it. Once again you are only considering your own welfare and not the welfare of others. You have broken the commandment to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

[quote="qui_est_ce, post:16, topic:313279"]
I went to night school.Also, it is good to take Scripture as a whole, otherwise how do you answer
[BIBLEDRB]2 thes 3:10[/BIBLEDRB]

[/quote]

It is not I who has failed to take all of scripture into account it is you. You deliberately misqoute scripture to advance your own selfish agenda. Not one time did I suggest one does not work. I clearly stated that not everyone gathers equally but everyone has a natural right to basic human needs even if it means taking from those who have an over abundance CCC 2402-2406. Additionally the Church has clearly taught us that the government has a role in advancing the common good which includes the welfare of others and collecting taxes to secure this effort (Romans 13;1-6 CCC 1897-1937).

Peace,

David


#18

[quote="davidmlamb, post:17, topic:313279"]
You did not answer my question, how were you able to afford to pay your living expensis plus your tuition? I pointed out to you that although I worked full time and went to school full time I did not have the skills to bring in enough money to pay for living expensis plus tuition. How were you able to accomplish this? You said you went to night school but you did not mention if you made enough money to cover all your expensis plus your tuition. How are the working poor able to accomplish this without some kind of assistance?

[/quote]

I took two classes a semester. It took me a long time, but I did it.

They did not depend on the Roman government but they did depend on the community. and they did not exactly volunteer, either they belonged to this Christian community or they remained outside the Church and dependent on the Roman Empire. We don't have these communities today yet we are still dependent on someone to step up to the plate. If the Christian Community is not going to do thius than either the government or familes who are well off will do it. Once again you are only considering your own welfare and not the welfare of others. You have broken the commandment to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

It is not I who has failed to take all of scripture into account it is you. You deliberately misqoute scripture to advance your own selfish agenda. Not one time did I suggest one does not work. I clearly stated that not everyone gathers equally but everyone has a natural right to basic human needs even if it means taking from those who have an over abundance CCC 2402-2406. Additionally the Church has clearly taught us that the government has a role in advancing the common good which includes the welfare of others and collecting taxes to secure this effort (Romans 13;1-6 CCC 1897-1937).

Peace,

David

I'll get back to you. I have a busy day.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.