A blog by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration about justice and peace issues

Posts tagged ‘Holy Week’

Enter by the Eastern Gate

Trayvon Martin at 17.

This Palm Sunday, for some reason, the image I had in my head was of Trayvon Martin and his grieving parents. I wonder what it means to live in a society that upholds the law that the shooting of an unarmed minor is legal? That the death of your son was his own fault for appearing suspicious and threatening to an armed adult who was told by the police, prior to shooting, to cease and desist. Suspicious in this case being the wearing of a “hoodie” and apparently being a young man of color.

We know the story of Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey and is greeted in many ways as a king by the crowds of people who have come to believe in his preaching. What is not often taught with the story is that through the other gate, the Western gate, the military of the Roman empire entered the city of Jerusalem as well. They entered on big horses, in full uniform, a spectacle of terror to all the Jews who were gathering for Passover week. A reminder that the empire had the power to  arrest and put to death anyone who did not conform to the laws of Roman occupation.

Jesus’ entering on a donkey was a way to challenge the empire, to create a new image of power that was grounded in the people. The common folks who traveled on a donkey and bore the burden of the Roman’s taxes and laws. A way also to challenge religious powers who colluded with the empire in oppressing the people.

In the weeks since Trayvon’s death I have seen image after image of people putting on a “hoodie” to show that wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up does not equal being dangerous. I have seen protests and rallies across the country of communities calling on the Department of Justice to challenge the “Shoot First” law that makes Trayvon’s death an act of self-defense rather than murder.

I see people entering by the eastern gate, choosing the donkey over powerful horses to be present to those who are oppressed, left out and disappeared in the failed and terrifying logic of “Shoot First”.

This Holy Week I invite you to the eastern gate, to gaze from a perspective that is the opposite of powerful or mainstream, and see where it takes you.

The Budget: A moral crisis not a fiscal one

Holy Week seems an apt time to stop and take a simple action to impact the national budget for 2012. Below is a good summary of what passed the House from Huffington Post and an action from NETWORK.

Many blessings on this week and on Easter as we move as a Christian community through our shared collective stories toward celebration and rebirth.

Huffington Post

Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan  proposed, and last week the Republican House approved, a budget bill that will transfer tens of trillions  of dollars from ordinary working people to the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and generic rich people from any industry. This money will come in the form of higher payments by seniors in their old age for health insurance and another round of tax breaks for the country’s richest people.

The Medicare story is the bigger transfer here. Representative Ryan wants to replace the current Medicare system with a voucher system. The size of the voucher in Ryan’s plan is held even with the overall rate of inflation. This means that it will not rise at anywhere near the rate of projected health care cost growth. As a result, a greater portion of the cost of health care will be shifted from the government to retirees.

However, this is the less important part of the story. The main reason that retiree health care costs will increase is that the private sector is less efficient at delivering care than the existing Medicare program. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that, under the Ryan plan, the increase in the cost of buying Medicare equivalent policies would be more than $30 trillion over Medicare’s planning horizon.

This additional waste comes to almost $100,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. It is approximately equal to six times the size of the projected Social Security shortfall. This waste is a direct transfer from retirees to the insurance industry and the health care industry.

This is not the only way that Representative Ryan and the Republicans dip into the pockets of ordinary workers for the benefit of the obscenely rich. He also wants to give an additional $2.9 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy over the next decade. These tax breaks would be paid for with cuts to Medicaid, Food Stamps and other programs that middle-income and poor people depend upon.

The tax breaks would be real money for the people who get them. For example, Representative Ryan’s tax breaks could give Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, another $3 million a year based on his $20 million annual paycheck. That’s the equivalent of more than 2,600 monthly Social Security checks.

Representative Ryan and the Republicans in Congress are likely to justify their budget by saying that they believe that their health care plan will hold down costs and their tax cuts will spur economic growth. While we can never know what politicians believe, we do know that these are not plausible stories.

We have already tested expanding the role of private insurers in the Medicare system. We did this in the 90s when the Gingrich Congress pushed through their Medicare Plus Choice plan. We did it again more recently with the Medicare Advantage program that was promoted by President Bush. These plans did not lower costs; they raised them. That is the basis for the non-partisan CBO’s projections that the Ryan plan will raise costs.

Similarly, Representative Ryan and the Republicans claim that tax cuts for the wealthy will spur growth. We have also twice tested this one. The first time was when President Reagan gave us big tax breaks beginning in 1981. The 80s were the worst decade of growth since the Great Depression, prior to the 00s, when President Bush tested his tax cuts for the wealthy. Certainly the economy’s bad performance during these decades cannot be blamed solely on the tax breaks for the wealthy, but it is a bit hard to maintain tax cuts to the wealthy gave a big boost to growth in these years.

While Representative Ryan and the Republicans may actually believe that giving private insurers more control over health care lowers costs and that cutting taxes for the rich increases growth, who cares? These people may believe that the moon is made of green cheese, but this does not make the green cheese theory true or even plausible.

We have extensively tested both parts of the Ryan transfer program to the wealthy, and they don’t work as he claims. They redistribute money to the rich: end of story. Thanks to Representative Ryan we have the Republican Party on record as supporting these massive transfers to the wealthy. We just have to hope that the Democratic Party takes a different position.

NETWORK: Budget issues return after recess

The budget battles continue, as President Obama denounced the House budget resolution for FY2012, which is also known as the “Ryan Budget” after Rep. Paul Ryan, the chair of the House Budget Committee. This budget cuts Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs that support low and moderate income families, while handing out more tax breaks to millionaires and corporations. NETWORK agrees with President Obama, that this is not the vision Americans have for our country.
It is very important that all members of Congress hear from constituents who believe that our budget decisions should prioritize people who are struggling, and ask those who are already wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes.
Please try to contact your members of Congress during this Congressional recess. Call their office and find out when and where you can meet them, or talk to their staff people. You can find contact information for local offices through our web site at:
See “How to Talk about the Budget” at www.networklobby.org/blog/2011-4-18/blog-about-federal-budget for suggestions on talking about the budget with your friends, family, and members of Congress. And let us know how the conversations went!
More on NETWORK’s response to the FY2012 budget resolution is here:

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