Who Would Pope Francis Vote For? A Jewish Socialist?
The Pope and Bernie Sanders both see the economic issues being debated in society in moral terms. And Bernie has acknowledged his admiration for the Pope's teachings along these lines. Like many American progressives regardless of religion, Sanders says he finds himself "very close to the teachings of Pope Francis," and he recently described Pope Francis as "incredibly smart and brave." Sanders told NBC News that "the issue we're dealing with is actually the struggle to rebuild American democracy. Economically, over the last 40 years, we've seen a middle class in this country disappearing. 99% of all new income generated today goes to the top 1 percent. The top one-tenth of 1 percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Does anybody think this is the kind of economy we should have. Do we think it's moral?"
Sunday, writing for Politico, Ben Schreckinger asserted that the Pope is causing problems for Republican Catholics. His message of a more just and equitable system doesn't click with the kind of right-wing beliefs the Papacy has traditionally stood behind. And this Pope is getting down in the weeds with issues like Palestine and climate change. In September Pope Francis will address Congress about climate change and environmental degradation, two topics Republicans would rather sweep under the rug.
Jeb Bush and other GOP defenders of everything and anything that can be viewed as part of the status quo would rather read fascist-oriented, anti-democracy philosopher and racist Charles Murray, who Bush said is the author who has had the most impact on his thinking. Murray's new book, By The People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, is a sick, anti-American, fully dishonest right-wing screed that tramples democracy under its heels, something conservatives have always worked to do. Murray is clearly Satan's choice-- as well as the GOP's-- to debate Pope Francis.
Schreckinger interviewed Sam Clovis, a Catholic and political activist who’s run for U.S. Senate and state treasurer in Iowa. "In northwest Iowa," said Clovis, "we are discussing this a great deal, and sometimes it's hard for us to reconcile the pronouncements we read from the Holy Father with our conservative principles."
Jeb Bush-- who praised the pontiff in a commencement speech at Liberty University this month-- could lose out in the Iowa caucus, said Clovis. “It’s going to cause a lot of problems for Jeb Bush, because Republicans are simply not going to take him seriously,” he said.Yesterday, Bernie made a powerful speech to officially kick off his presidential campaign. You can read the whole speech here. Here are a few inspiring highlights that I hope will make you want to contribute to his run for the Democratic nomination.
Bush declined to address whether his admiration for the pope might affect how religious conservatives view him. In his speech at Liberty he said, “I cannot think of any more subversive moral idea ever loosed on the world than ‘the last shall be first, and the first last.’
“It’s a voice like no other,” he continued, “seen in the example of Francis the saint, or of Francis the pope.”
The other Catholic Republicans in the presidential conversation have taken their own wary approaches to Francis.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who often touts his religious conservatism, has also embraced Francis but sidestepped his apparent differences of opinion with the pope on matters like evolution and the Big Bang. Francis has said that both theories are compatible with Catholicism. But Jindal would not say when asked last year whether the pope’s statement altered his support for a bill that would allow Louisiana schools to teach creationism.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, meanwhile, have worked to draw a distinction between the pope’s authoritative declarations of Catholic belief, which they would feel compelled to follow, and his mere opinions, which they don’t consider binding. Earlier this month, Rubio said that as a political leader, he had a responsibility to oppose a diplomatic thaw with Cuba, even though the pope had signaled his support for it. In January, Santorum said he was agitated by the pope’s “off the cuff” remarks about Catholics not needing to “breed like rabbits” but that he would continue to heed Francis when “he speaks as the leader of the Catholic Church.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has remained uncharacteristically quiet on Francis, though one of his closest political allies, Catholic billionaire Ken Langone, has complained publicly about the pope’s statements on capitalism and inequality.
As the pope prepares to launch a global lobbying campaign in favor of climate action and a tour of the U.S. that will include an address to Congress made at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Catholic Republicans have some advice for their fellow Catholics in the GOP field: The candidates can continue to honor Francis’ religious authority while safely disregarding his “political opinion.”
...But the distinction between the pope’s moral authority and mere political opinion will get harder to draw this summer when Francis’ forthcoming encyclical is expected to make environmental protection and shielding the poor from the effects of climate change a matter of church doctrine.
“Obviously, when it comes to science, the pope is not infallible. Galileo proved that,” said Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and Washington-based analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, though he noted that Francis did earn a master’s degree in chemistry before entering the seminary. “When it comes to, however, the question of the impact of climate change on humanity, this is a moral issue. We’re talking about death and destruction on an apocalyptic scale.”
Reese said the optics of the pope’s congressional address could get awkward. “I think it’s going to be hilarious,” he said. “What’s going to happen when Pope Francis says, ‘You should welcome the immigrants. You should take care of global warming.’ I mean what are the Republicans going to do? Because the Democrats are going to jump and applaud. Are the Republicans just going to sit on their hands?”
Mike McCarron served as executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops during Bush’s tenure as governor and Rubio’s tenure as speaker of the Florida House. “It would be my expectation that both of them are going to have a lot of respect for Pope Francis. Both of them regard their Catholic faith very seriously. When I interacted with them, it was very clear that it was important to them.”
And while Rubio has always maintained a respectful tone, he criticized the pope’s support for the U.S.’ diplomatic rapprochement with Cuba, saying in December: “I would also ask His Holiness to take up the cause of freedom and democracy.” “The pope is a shepherd of a faith. … He’s not a political figure,” Rubio said at the Council on Foreign Relations earlier this month. Santorum has been even blunter, remarking in January, “It’s sometimes very difficult to listen to the pope and some of the things he says off the cuff.”
But Bush has praised the pope’s style of public engagement. The former Florida governor told National Review last month that Francis’ attitude could “absolutely” help Catholics in public life. “I do think he can help change the conversation. Because right now, it’s just full of land mines,” said Bush.
Like so much else about Bush, his embrace of Francis places him in sync with a majority of Americans but at odds with large swaths of the Republican primary electorate. Seventy percent of Americans view Francis favorably, as do 90 percent of American Catholics, an approval rating that rivals his now-sainted predecessor John Paul II, according to a February survey by the Pew Research Center.
Today, we stand here and say loudly and clearly that; "Enough is enough. This great nation and its government belong to all of the people, and not to a handful of billionaires, their Super-PACs and their lobbyists."
Brothers and sisters: Now is not the time for thinking small. Now is not the time for the same old-- same old establishment politics and stale inside-the-beltway ideas.
Now is the time for millions of working families to come together, to revitalize American democracy, to end the collapse of the American middle class and to make certain that our children and grandchildren are able to enjoy a quality of life that brings them health, prosperity, security and joy-- and that once again makes the United States the leader in the world in the fight for economic and social justice, for environmental sanity and for a world of peace.
My fellow Americans: This country faces more serious problems today than at any time since the Great Depression and, if you include the planetary crisis of climate change, it may well be that the challenges we face now are direr than any time in our modern history.
Here is my promise to you for this campaign. Not only will I fight to protect the working families of this country, but we're going to build a movement of millions of Americans who are prepared to stand up and fight back. We're going to take this campaign directly to the people-- in town meetings, door to door conversations, on street corners and in social media-- and that's BernieSanders.com by the way. This week we will be in New Hampshire, Iowa and Minnesota-- and that's just the start of a vigorous grassroots campaign.
Let's be clear. This campaign is not about Bernie Sanders. It is not about Hillary Clinton. It is not about Jeb Bush or anyone else. This campaign is about the needs of the American people, and the ideas and proposals that effectively address those needs. As someone who has never run a negative political ad in his life, my campaign will be driven by issues and serious debate; not political gossip, not reckless personal attacks or character assassination. This is what I believe the American people want and deserve. I hope other candidates agree, and I hope the media allows that to happen. Politics in a democratic society should not be treated like a baseball game, a game show or a soap opera. The times are too serious for that.
...Today, we live in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world but that reality means very little for most of us because almost all of that wealth is owned and controlled by a tiny handful of individuals. In America we now have more income and wealth inequality than any other major country on earth, and the gap between the very rich and everyone is wider than at any time since the 1920s. The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time and it is the great political issue of our time. And we will address it.
Let me be very clear. There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and when 99 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent. There is something profoundly wrong when, in recent years, we have seen a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires at the same time as millions of Americans work longer hours for lower wages and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth. There is something profoundly wrong when one family owns more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans. This grotesque level of inequality is immoral. It is bad economics. It is unsustainable. This type of rigged economy is not what America is supposed to be about. This has got to change and, as your president, together we will change it.
But it is not just income and wealth inequality. It is the tragic reality that for the last 40 years the great middle class of our country-- once the envy of the world-- has been disappearing. Despite exploding technology and increased worker productivity, median family income is almost $5,000 less than it was in 1999. In Vermont and throughout this country it is not uncommon for people to be working two or three jobs just to cobble together enough income to survive on and some health care benefits.
...Let me be as blunt as I can and tell you what you already know. As a result of the disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, the American political system has been totally corrupted, and the foundations of American democracy are being undermined. What the Supreme Court essentially said was that it was not good enough for the billionaire class to own much of our economy. They could now own the U.S. government as well. And that is precisely what they are trying to do.
American democracy is not about billionaires being able to buy candidates and elections. It is not about the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other incredibly wealthy individuals spending billions of dollars to elect candidates who will make the rich richer and everyone else poorer. According to media reports the Koch brothers alone, one family, will spend more money in this election cycle than either the Democratic or Republican parties. This is not democracy. This is oligarchy. In Vermont and at our town meetings we know what American democracy is supposed to be about. It is one person, one vote-- with every citizen having an equal say-- and no voter suppression. And that's the kind of American political system we have to fight for and will fight for in this campaign.
When we talk about our responsibilities as human beings and as parents, there is nothing more important than leaving this country and the entire planet in a way that is habitable for our kids and grandchildren. The debate is over. The scientific community has spoken in a virtually unanimous voice. Climate change is real. It is caused by human activity and it is already causing devastating problems in the United States and around the world.
...Let us be honest and acknowledge that millions of Americans are now working for totally inadequate wages. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage and must be raised. The minimum wage must become a living wage-- which means raising it to $15 an hour over the next few years-- which is exactly what Los Angeles recently did-- and I applaud them for doing that. Our goal as a nation must be to ensure that no full-time worker lives in poverty. Further, we must establish pay equity for women workers. It's unconscionable that women earn 78 cents on the dollar compared to men who perform the same work. We must also end the scandal in which millions of American employees, often earning less than $30,000 a year, work 50 or 60 hours a week-- and earn no overtime. And we need paid sick leave and guaranteed vacation time for all.
This campaign is going to send a message to the billionaire class. And that is: you can't have it all. You can't get huge tax breaks while children in this country go hungry. You can't continue sending our jobs to China while millions are looking for work. You can't hide your profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens, while there are massive unmet needs on every corner of this nation. Your greed has got to end. You cannot take advantage of all the benefits of America, if you refuse to accept your responsibilities.
That is why we need a tax system which is fair and progressive, which makes wealthy individuals and profitable corporations begin to pay their fair share of taxes.
It is time to break up the largest financial institutions in the country. Wall Street cannot continue to be an island unto itself, gambling trillions in risky financial instruments while expecting the public to bail it out. If a bank is too big to fail it is too big to exist. We need a banking system which is part of the job creating productive economy, not a handful of huge banks on Wall Street which engage in reckless and illegal activities.
If we are serious about creating jobs, about climate change and the needs of our children and the elderly, we must be deadly serious about campaign finance reform and the need for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. I have said it before and I'll say it again. I will not nominate any justice to the Supreme Court who has not made it clear that he or she will move to overturn that disastrous decision which is undermining our democracy. Long term, we need to go further and establish public funding of elections.
The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change. We can do that if we transform our energy system away from fossil fuels, toward energy efficiency and such sustainable energies such as wind, solar, geo-thermal and bio-mass. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient, and we need a tax on carbon to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuel.
The United States remains the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care for all as a right. Despite the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act, 35 million Americans continue to lack health insurance and many more are under-insured. Yet, we continue paying far more per capita for health care than any other nation. The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all as a right by moving toward a Medicare-for-All single-payer system.
At a time when millions of Americans are struggling to keep their heads above water economically, at a time when senior poverty is increasing, at a time when millions of kids are living in dire poverty, my Republican colleagues, as part of their recently-passed budget, are trying to make a terrible situation even worse. If you can believe it, the Republican budget throws 27 million Americans off health insurance, makes drastic cuts in Medicare, throws millions of low-income Americans, including pregnant women off of nutrition programs, and makes it harder for working-class families to afford college or put their kids in the Head Start program. And then, to add insult to injury, they provide huge tax breaks for the very wealthiest families in this country while they raise taxes on working families.
Well, let me tell my Republican colleagues that I respectfully disagree with their approach. Instead of cutting Social Security, we're going to expand Social Security benefits. Instead of cutting Head Start and child care, we are going to move to a universal pre-K system for all the children of this country. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt reminded us, a nation's greatness is judged not by what it provides to the most well-off, but how it treats the people most in need. And that's the kind of nation we must become.
And when we talk about education, let me be very clear. In a highly competitive global economy, we need the best educated workforce we can create. It is insane and counter-productive to the best interests of our country, that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and that millions of others leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades. That must end. That is why, as president, I will fight to make tuition in public colleges and universities free, as well as substantially lower interest rates on student loans.