Saturday, July 13, 2013

Weekend News Analysis: Unemployment, Immigration, Food Stamps, Medicaid, and the Blood of Our Brothers and Sisters

To my way of thinking, these four articles that I read yesterday share a common theme. A thread of moral analysis runs through all of them, linking them, though they were written as separate statements:

Jim Hightower, Common Dreams, "The Mean Team Piles on Jobless Americans":

What's at work here is a profoundly awful ethical phenomenon that has seeped into the top strata of American society: Our nation's corporate and political elites have developed an immunity to shame. 
It has become morally acceptable in those lofty circles to enrich themselves while turning their backs on the rest of us. Even more damning, they feel free to slash America's already tattered safety net, leaving more holes than net for the workaday majority of Americans who've been knocked down by an ongoing economic disaster created by these very elites.

Andrew Sullivan, The Dish, "The Warped Logic of the Immigration Bill Killers":

Another Catholic, Ramesh Ponnuru, is in no rush to pass an immigration bill:
"I think the interests of illegal immigrants have some weight, because they’re people, and if the lot of any group of people can be improved that is, all else equal, worth doing. But offering them legalization is not a requirement of justice, and so it’s fine to haggle over terms."
What’s so striking about this is that the fact that illegal immigrants are human beings is a concession here. It seems to me that in a humane society, let alone for a Catholic, that is a premise, not a concession. And haggling over terms is what legislation is about. It’s precisely what the GOP refuses to do – on anything.

Paul Krugman, New York Times, "Delusions of Populism":

Moreover, if you look at what the modern Republican Party actually stands for in practice, it’s clearly inimical to the interests of those downscale whites the party can supposedly win back. Neither a flat tax nor a return to the gold standard are actually on the table; but cuts in unemployment benefits, food stamps and Medicaid are. (To the extent that there was any substance to the Ryan plan, it mainly involved savage cuts in aid to the poor.) And while many nonwhite Americans depend on these safety-net programs, so do many less-well-off whites — the very voters libertarian populism is supposed to reach. 
Specifically, more than 60 percent of those benefiting from unemployment insurance are white. Slightly less than half of food stamp beneficiaries are white, but in swing states the proportion is much higher. For example, in Ohio, 65 percent of households receiving food stamps are white. Nationally, 42 percent of Medicaid recipients are non-Hispanic whites, but, in Ohio, the number is 61 percent. 
So when Republicans engineer sharp cuts in unemployment benefits, block the expansion of Medicaid and seek deep cuts in food stamp funding — all of which they have, in fact, done — they may be disproportionately hurting Those People; but they are also inflicting a lot of harm on the struggling Northern white families they are supposedly going to mobilize.

Peter Laarman, Religion Dispatches, "Time to Call a Satan a Satan?":

The radical Republicans in Washington and in many statehouses want to further punish and distress the poor; they want to enshrine prejudice and discrimination; they want to shred human and civil rights that are currently secured by law.  
We not only have the freedom to say that; we have a responsibility to say it. 

I wonder what the future of a nation can be when its leadership structures, at the very top, are dominated by people who think and act in the terms outlined in each of these articles--who think and act in the ways resoundingly criticized by the four commentators cited above. What kind of world do we build, I ask myself, when indifference is globalized, as Pope Francis has just noted, and no one seems to own any responsibility for the blood of brothers and sisters? It's none of our business, after all, that blood:

Who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters? No one! We all respond this way: not me, it has nothing to do with me, there are others, certainly not me. But God asks each one of us: "Where is the blood of your brother that cries out to me?" Today no one in the world feels responsible for this; we have lost the sense of fraternal responsibility; we have fallen into the hypocritical attitude of the priest and of the servant of the altar that Jesus speaks about in the parable of the Good Samaritan: We look upon the brother half dead by the roadside, perhaps we think "poor guy," and we continue on our way, it’s none of our business; and we feel fine with this. We feel at peace with this, we feel fine! The culture of well-being, that makes us think of ourselves, that makes us insensitive to the cries of others, that makes us live in soap bubbles, that are beautiful but are nothing, are illusions of futility, of the transient, that brings indifference to others, that brings even the globalization of indifference. In this world of globalization we have fallen into a globalization of indifference. We are accustomed to the suffering of others, it doesn’t concern us, it’s none of our business.

What kind of humane, livable world can be constructed when those who hold the reins of power, who wield so much power over everyone else in the world, own no connection at all to the blood of others, but care about that blood and those others only as pawns to be used in cynical political games designed to consolidate their power or put more money into their coffers?

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