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Santorum’s Attack on Higher Education Easily Debunked

February 27, 2012, 9:10 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Speaking with Glenn Beck last week, Santorum launched this culture war attack on higher education:

On the president’s efforts to boost college attendance, Santorum said, “I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their [sic] indoctrination mills, absolutely … The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.”

He claimed that “62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it,” but declined to cite a source for the figure.

Jose at Texas Freedom Network makes a quick fact-check:

The info appears to come from this study published in 2007 in the Social Science Research Council’s journal Social Forces (hat tip to PBS for pointing us to it).

The study does say that 64 percent — not 62 percent — Yikes! It’s even worse than Santorum thought! — of students enrolled in traditional four-year colleges report a decline in attendance in religious services. But what the study also says and that Santorum neglected to mention is this:

Yet, 76 percent of those who never enrolled in college report a decline in religious service attendance.

Kevin Drum adds:

Now, this is a new one to me. It’s commonplace for movement conservatives to believe that universities are dens of depravity and radical left indoctrination. So far, so normal. But as far as I know, most of them don’t believe that efforts to get more kids into college are motivatedby a desire to destroy their faith. That’s a step beyond even normal wingnut land.

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Rick Santorum’s “Phony Theology” on Climate Change

February 23, 2012, 5:34 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Rick SantorumRick Santorum has drawn scrutiny for attacking what he describes as President Obama’s “phony theology,” a line that has been widely lambasted along with some older comments now receiving fresh attention.

The comments came in the context of an attack on President Obama’s environmental record, with Santorum alleging that the President has a “theology not based on the Bible” and a “worldview that puts the earth above man.” But Santorum should probably rethink this religious critique given that the environmental positions he dismisses find support in the teachings of his own Catholic faith.

Most clearly, Catholic leaders acknowledge the reality that human-caused climate change is a real and growing danger to our planet. For the Catholic Church, this is a profound moral challenge that trumps partisan ideology. In contrast, Rick Santorum ignores the scientific consensus on climate change, calling it “patently absurd,” “junk science,” and a conspiratorial “scheme” by the left to justify more government regulation.

Santorum elaborated on his views at a campaign stop in Ohio last week, where he told a story about anti-pollution efforts in Pittsburgh to emphasize his point that local environmental regulations (not federal or state) are adequate to take care of problems:

[Someone came to Pittsburgh] during the heyday of the steel industry when we didn’t have any environmental regulations in Allegheny County. And someone looked at it and saw — it was night all the time in Pittsburgh, and it was black. And they said to Pittsburgh, “Abandon it.”

And what did we do? Well, we here locally, not the federal government, not the state government, came forward and said, “Well we’ve got to do something about this.” And eventually the community gathered together and passed clean air regulations, and was able to begin to change things. There’s obviously a role for government to play in making sure we have responsible environmental stewardship.

First, a little fact-check is in order. Pittsburgh’s worst visible smog problems have ended, but you can’t ignore the role the federal Clean Air Act legislation had in helping achieve those gains.

What’s more, Pittsburgh’s air quality is still one of the worst in the country. And one of the primary causes is the pollution that blows in from factories outside the city (and thus outside city ordinance laws). The new emission standards that are spurring change from these factories? You guessed it, federal requirements.

As Bill Peduto, the Pittsburgh councilman who sponsored the city’s Clean Air Act explained. ”Action is required from the federal level, but action is also required at the local [level],” he said.

The reason for this is obvious. Pollution is literally the textbook example of a negative externality (a social cost from an economic activity that spills over to a third party). As Pittsburgh knows, contaminated rivers and air currents flow freely across geographic borders. And states or cities desperate to attract businesses face significant economic incentives to engage in a race to the bottom with their neighbors, jeopardizing public health on a massive scale.

As Santorum should know, the Catholic idea of subsidiarity addresses this exact issue. The principle teaches that civic challenges are best addressed by the least centralized entity that is capable of handling the scope of the issue. Santorum’s suggestion that local regulation is sufficient continues his consistent mistake of appropriating the first part of this teaching in service of a “small government” agenda while ignoring the issue of capability.

For a better application of subsidiarity to the issue of environmental regulation, Santorum again needs only look to his own Church, which actively supports international talks to develop a global agreement that addresses climate change. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI and other Catholic leaders are particularly concerned that pollution disproportionately caused by emissions from developed countries is hurting poor nations least able to respond.

I’m not sure what part of the Church’s concerns Santorum thinks is based on “phony theology,” but maybe he should have the consistency to criticize his own Church as strongly as he does the President if he thinks they’re so misguided.

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Rick Santorum Dissents from Catholic Teaching on Health Care

February 13, 2012, 8:00 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Rick Santorum’s speech at CPAC on Friday included this impassioned segment about how the right to healthcare is not a proper right that comes from a higher power, but a manufactured one pushed by liberals seeking to make people dependent on government. (Video from Right Wing Watch):

This of course, is entirely at odds with the teachings of Santorum’s Catholic faith. Here are the U.S. Bishops on this exact issue:

The bishops believe access to basic, quality health care is a universal human right not a privilege

All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage in life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born. There may be different ways to accomplish this, but the Bishops’ Conference believes health care reform should be truly universal and genuinely affordable.

Here’s more evidence from 50 years of Vatican documents.

Santorum, of course, already tried and failed to explain this contradiction earlier last week — seemingly arguing that because God created reason, and his reason leads him to an ultra-conservative position on this issue, his faith must do the same.

At least when Santorum did this exact same thing on immigration he had the courage to admit he was actually disagreeing with the his Church.

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The “War on Religion” and the Importance of the Religious Left

February 10, 2012, 3:31 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Almost every speaker at CPAC so far has railed against President Obama’s “War on Religion.” The feeling in the air is that Obama has awakened a sleeping giant of outrage among religious people of all denominations by revealing his long-hidden animosity toward religion in general and Christianity in particular. The enthusiasm for this dramatic language, and the speed with which it’s spread throughout the conservative community, speaks to a larger belief about the role of faith in politics on the right.

One of yesterday morning’s panelists summed it up well. Speaking at the ”Do ‘We Still Hold These Truths?’: The Future of the Conservative Movement” panel, Jeffrey Bell, Policy Director of the American Principles Project, suggested to the crowd that the popular conservative focus on the left’s commitment to “socialism,” while important, misses the larger threat. In reality, liberals’ embrace of socialism is merely a means to the greater end of destroying the Church and the traditional family.

In this fantasy world, the HHS decision on contraception coverage wasn’t a tough call between competing sets of interests and rights, it was proof of Obama’s determination to destroy religion. Rick Santorum explained today that this decision puts America on the path to literally executing people of faith. I have no reason to question that people actually believe him.

This conspiracy theory depends on the presumptions that faith is the exclusive property of the right and the left is animated by godless moral relativism. The very existence of the religious left, and even the fact that sometime-allies like the Catholic bishops often oppose the right’s agenda, threaten to expose the whole charade.

That’s why, rather than acknowledge ideological diversity within the faith community or admit when they disagree with their own faith traditions, conservatives so often tie themselves into knots trying to explain the contradictions away or resort to demeaning,discrediting and dismissing religious progressives as heretical or marginal voices.

“War on Religion” language is a symptom of this larger narrative, and it’s incredibly important for the religious left to counter it by speaking loudly and prophetically about its values.

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Tom Perriello on Mitt Romney

February 7, 2012, 5:39 pm | By Nick Sementelli

Former Congressman Tom Perriello (now head of Center for American Progress Action Fund) weighs in at Politico on Mitt Romney’s “not very concerned about the poor” comments by adding the context of the policy agenda Congressional Republicans are pushing for right now:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the leading GOP presidential candidate, may well be praying that the media move beyond his controversial quote about “the very poor.” But the real problem is bad policy and values — not a bad interview.

Romney has made himself the poster child of the 1 percent by insisting that he’s “not concerned about the very poor.” He has said this twice in as many months. This is a man who literally makes more money off his trust funds in one night’s sleep than a minimum-wage worker breaking her back for 40 hours a week makes in a year.

Would Romney consider those workers — waitresses, home health care providers or janitors — the “very poor”? Too many of these hardworking individuals wake up every day on the cusp of poverty. Are those Americans truly not worthy of concern? Would Romney be willing to bet that $10,000 — more than many of these people make in nine months — to see if he could survive with dignity one week in their shoes?

Romney’s callous comments could not have come at a worse time for Republicans in Congress. They recently proposed to pay for working Americans’ desperately needed payroll tax cuts by taking food from children of taxpaying immigrant workers.

The ideological contrast could not be more obvious. The Democrats offered proposals that provide tax relief to working families and small-business owners through a small surtax on those making more than $1 million per year. The GOP alternative is to demonize and punish poor American children, paying for the payroll tax extension by cutting the tax credit for U.S. children of tax-paying immigrant workers.

Some political analysts made this a story about Romney’s penchant for verbal slip-ups. But the real problem is one of policy, not PR. It’s his moral framework, not his misstatements.

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