True right-wingers have never really cared about the poor. What does change, from time to time, is how much of their position they reveal to the public and what they keep hidden. They never admit their lack of compassion outright, but it’s evident in their legislative priorities.
Take, for example, Paul Ryan’s much-celebrated budget plan. Although the plan is billed as a solution to the debt crisis, it really only does three things: 1) increases taxes on the poor and middle class while decreasing them for the rich; 2) increases an already bloated defense budget; and 3) slashes all other areas of the government, often by severe proportions.
And while Paul Ryan is busy advocating further tax breaks for millionaires, Congressional Republicans have advanced a measure that would make draconian cuts to food stamp programs. The effort would make it harder for families to get on nutrition assistance programs (food stamps), give them less money while they’re on the rolls, and kick them off quicker and more easily.
It’s amazing that Republicans can even keep a straight face while threatening to cut off the only food available to hundreds of thousands of poor families. What’s even more shocking, though, is how they claim that their position is supported by Jesus and the Bible.
Mr. Ryan, a Catholic, told NPR, “Through our civic organizations, through our charities — through all of our different groups where we interact with people as a community — that’s how we advance the common good.”
He fails to realize, however, that if our government suddenly decided to get out of the social aid business and just drop all welfare, food stamp, Medicaid, and disability recipients onto the doorstep of civic organizations and charities, they would all go broke and thousands of people would die. Suddenly we would become aware that “big government” does, in fact, perform a necessary function, one that the private sector doesn’t have the means or desire to manage.
The arguments that these conservatives do have are tenuous at best, relying on shaky interpretations of a few verses (even claiming, ridiculously, that one parable teaches opposition to unions). Richard Land at the Southern Baptist Convention is in Ryan’s camp. “The Bible tells us that socialism and neo-socialism never worked,” he says. “Confiscatory tax rates never worked.”
Actually, the Bible never uses the word “socialism.” In fact, there are scores of verses that support a compassionate approach to helping the poor, regardless of who has to undertake the mission. Even a handful of these verses should be enough to convince even the most hard-headed among conservative Christians. Here are just a few:
“However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.” Deuteronomy 15:4
“Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan.” Exodus 22:22
“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be lifted high in honor.” Psalm 112:9
“If one of your countrymen becomes poor and sells some of his property, his nearest relative is to come and redeem what his countryman has sold. . . . If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. . . . If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave.” Leviticus 25:25, 35, 39
“Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” Leviticus 19:15
“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” Galatians 2:10
“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” Luke 14:13
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18
To read more of these verses, click here. To stop Paul Ryan from starving the poor and giving more money to bloated fat-cats who don’t need it, call your congressman. Unless he’s Paul Ryan, in which case, you move.