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.
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.
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.
As I’ve noted before, Rick Santorum frequently touts his Catholic values on the campaign trail despite holding many positions that are fundamentally at odds with his own Church’s social justice tradition.
While Catholic bishops made life miserable for Sen. John Kerry over the issue of abortion during the 2004 presidential election, so far we have not heard from any Catholic leaders challenging Mr. Santorum’s public disagreement with his Church on immigration reform, government programs that protect the most vulnerable, racial justice or his blind faith in free markets. Perhaps Santorum’s latest knife to the back of compassionate conservatism will wake up some religious leaders.
At a recent campaign stop in Colorado, a young boy asked Santorum what the candidate can do to make medicine more affordable, and he was also challenged by the a mother who was worried that parents in her child’s cancer ward can’t pay for life-saving treatment. Instead of taking a pause from scripted talking points, Santorum seemed annoyed and proceeded to lecture the family about the tough spot lucrative drug companies are in these days.
He argued that “free people going out there and competing against one another” will solve the problem and warned that patients who advocate for lower prices for medicine will ultimately “freeze innovation.” And adding insult to injury, he whined that people are willing to pay $900 for iPads but complain about paying $200 for pharmaceuticals. (If he knows any such people, he declined to name names.)
Later in the week at an event with Religious Right leader James Dobson, Santorum further demonstrated his lack of concern for the details of health policy by perpetuating the inexcusable lie that the new health care law includes death panels and brazenly inventing an HHS ruling that stroke victims older than 70 will be denied care.
The idea that drug companies are victims and parents of dying children need a lesson in free-market economics is as outrageous as it is insulting. It’s also an affront to centuries of Catholic social teaching. Bishops and several popes over the years, including Pope Benedict XVI, have insisted that health care is a basic human right and warned that unfettered free markets – focused solely on profit margins – often trample on human dignity.
Will conservative Catholic organizations that have endorsed Rick Santorum defend his comments? Do they disagree with Cardinal Peter Turkson of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace who recently said: “People who suffer from the way the financial markets currently operate have a right to say, ‘Do business differently. Look at the way you’re doing business because this is not leading to our welfare and our good.’”
GOP presidential candidates courting Catholic swing voters should take a break from polishing their stump speeches and read the powerful Vatican statement released a few months ago on the need for a moral economy. You can’t read this without considering how powerful drug companies and insurance companies dictate the terms of health care by denying coverage to sick people or making life-saving drugs so expensive that even middle-class families struggle to afford medical bills. “We should not be afraid to propose new ideas, even if they might destabilize pre-existing balances of power that prevail over the weakest,” the Vatican urged.
The health care reform law that Republicans want to overturn address many of these egregious abuses, of course, but it’s more politically convenient to demonize and distort “Obamacare” on the campaign trail than give real answers to a scared parent.
Santorum sees himself as the ideal choice for “values voters” in this election. He has every right to worship at the altar of radical individualism and put his faith in the salvation of the free-market. This will surely be greeted with hallelujahs from the conservative choir. But it’s a posture that’s hard to square with bedrock Catholic values and a message preached by a prophet from Nazareth who healed the sick and threw the money changers out of the Temple.
Paul Krugman masterfully summarizes the meaning of Mitt Romney’s “not very concerned about the poor” gaffe from last week by putting it in the context of Romney’s previous claims about the safety net and his policy proposals:
So Mr. Romney’s position seems to be that we need not worry about the poor thanks to programs that he insists, falsely, don’t actually help the needy, and which he intends, in any case, to destroy.
Romney’s policy proposals, of course, are in line with the conservative crusade to drastically cut the safety net under the guise of “reigning in out-of-control government spending we can’t afford.” But, as Brian Beutler catches John McCain bluntly admitting: the same standard mysteriously doesn’t apply to the government spending Republicans happen to like:
“Let’s not let a domestic issue such as tax increases interfere…with our nation’s security,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — the top Armed Services Committee Republican — told reporters at a Thursday Capitol briefing.
[This] is really what every budget argument I’ve heard Republicans give in the last few years boils down to: they have plenty of spending they’re for and plenty they’re against, and taxes they’re against and more-or-less taxes they’re for, but they just reject the idea of trade-offs designed to bring revenues and expenditures together.
“Fiscal responsibility” is just a misleading way of saying “the government spends too much on programs I don’t benefit from and people not like me.”
Mitt Romney’s claim that he’s “not concerned with the very poor” might sound like quite a gaffe, but it’s actually consistent with many of his previous comments and policy proposals.
For one, Romney seems to believe the conservative meme that poor Americans are under-taxed. At a campaign event in Florida last fall, Romney castigated the 47% of Americans who only pay payroll, sales, property, state and local taxes because their incomes fall below minimum levels for federal income liability as greedy threats to democracy that will “kill the country.” In light of this claim, it’s hardly surprising that his economic plan would raise taxes by 60 percent on people who earn less than $20,000 per year.
But Romney’s most troubling claim is that he doesn’t have to focus on the poor because “we have a very ample safety net.” In addition to the fact that our current net is already insufficient to meet the needs of all of our citizens, Romney plans to shred it even further if he becomes President.
Far from not being concerned about the poor at all, Romney’s record on the campaign trail suggests that he thinks they have it too easy. Rather than having faith in the safety net, his platform suggests a belief that it’s too strong.