The Poor, the Pope, and the Liberals
The new Pope -- Francis not Francis I -- is a staunch supporter of the poor. This has led many liberals to lick their chops about how the new pope will condemn conservatives. They ignore the fact that it was Blessed Pope John Paul II who made popular the phrase "a preferential respect for the poor".
Aside from the fact that Pope Francis clearly declares that the holiest liberal sacrament, the untouchable third rail in liberal social circles, abortion, is a death sentence for the unborn, and that active homosexuality, another cornerstone of the liberal view of life, is a grave sin, the problem with the idea of Pope Francis championing liberalism is that he possess a completely different view of how poverty should be addressed.
Liberals view their charitable obligation as being fulfilled by supporting laws that take money from others and give that money to liberal politicians to redistribute as they wish; a concise definition of a liberal is someone who wants to be philanthropic with other people's money. Francis however believes in the obligation of everyone to voluntarily give of what is theirs to help the poor; that is Pope Francis believes we must be charitable with what is ours, not with what is our neighbors'.
While that certainly does not preclude the government taking a role in helping those in need, the Pope's position is worlds apart from the government centric and confiscatory perspective of liberals.
When Argentina faced great economic problems, Pope Francis did not present political solutions. Rather he and his brother bishops called the people to live by the teachings of Christ, to take individual responsibility for helping the poor. Working to change laws that discriminate against the poor or protect the rich can certainly be part of that responsibility, but laws are not the core of it.
Liberals have repeated the lie that conservatives don't care about the poor for so longthat they, and many of the poor, really believe it. Yet a conservative churchgoer gives a lot more to charity than an atheist liberal. Liberals talk about caring for the poor but do less personally to help the poor and they also seem unconcerned that many of the governmental programs they support end up hurting the poor -- the development of generational poverty or the collapse of the black family under the Great Society, for example. Conservatives, on the other hand, support programs that will help people out of poverty as well as voluntarily donating their own hard-earned money to help the poor.
Clearly, conservatives and liberals agree that there needs to be some sort of safety net to ensure that the poor in America do not starve or freeze in the winter. But liberals go far beyond that by pushing, as Obama does, income redistribution where the intent is not just to provide the necessities for the poor but to rather ensure the poor the same standard of living as those who have not made bad life decisions and who work hard every day.
Additionally it is not bias that leads many to wonder if helping the poor is even the primary objective of liberal economic policy. The liberal approach to the poor involves massive governmental and hence a very inefficient distribution of resources to the poor; those government bureaucrats make, including benefits, significantly more than what the average American worker in the private sector earns. If helping the poor is one's objective, it's hard to see how growing the power of government, and the number of high paid government employees, is the best approach.
Historically the most efficient channels for aiding those who are in need have been private charities whose workers are often volunteers and who are generally not well paid. In fact, prior to the Great Depression the Federal government had little or no role in helping the poor in America. In addition, private charities can discriminate between those who are poor through no fault of their own or who are working to change themselves -- kicking drugs, not having more babies outside of marriage -- in order to escape poverty from those who are poor because they are unwilling to work; something that the cookie-cutter government aid establishment is hard pressed to do. Yet even though private charities have wonderful track records, liberals seem actively hostile to them because they are generallyassociated with religious establishments.
But beyond liberal hostility to the works of charity by those of faith, there is the simple fact that liberals yearn to control our lives. From the definition of marriage to the size of the soda we can buy, liberals believe that they, and they alone, know what is best for all Americans. Liberals go far beyond what any religion in America has ever done in trying to impose their "faith" on others. While Catholics have never tried to make it a law that you can't eat meat on Fridays, liberals have tried to control the size of a soda Americans can buy based on the liberal faith that sugar is evil.
Government is the ideal tool to enact the liberal jihad against all who dispute the perfect universality of liberal dogma. As such, every increase in government power gives liberals more control over the lives of every American. It is therefore not inappropriate to ask if liberal advocacy for massive welfare programs is based on a sincere love for the poor or on a desire to increase the power of the liberals over their fellow citizens.
In addition to directly giving liberals more power, the expansion of government-centric programs to help the poor indirectly empowers liberals by motivating voters on the receiving end of government largesse to vote liberals into office. It's odd that liberals universally declare that all rich people are selfish but then turn around and declare that no poor person will ever vote based on selfishness; it probably reflects the liberal belief that the wealthy all cheated in order to become rich.
Given that Pope Francis clearly teaches that we must have a love for the poor because Jesus Himself loves the poor, it is unclear that there is much common ground between liberals and the Pope even on the basic economic issues. For example, one way liberals rationalize abortion is to say that killing the unborn saves money, especially if those being killed are minorities. Yet clearly Pope Francis does not endorse killing the unborn as a moral way to ease the plight of the poor. Pope Francis has also been clear in his concern for the elderly, yet liberals are constantly urging the elderly to die and not waste money by consuming medical care.
If liberals truly loved the poor as Pope Francis calls us to, liberals wouldn't suggest helping the poor by killing them off before they're born or by urging the elderly to die quickly. Yet conservatives, who are supposedly so selfish, constantly fight to end abortion even if it increases welfare costs and strive to eliminate death panels advocated by liberals.
Pope Francis will hopefully help some conservative economic extremists, those who say that we don't have an obligation to the poor, to rethink their position. But for the vast majority of conservatives who have a deep-seated concern for the poor, as opposed to the lazy, Pope Francis, like his predecessors, will be preaching to the choir. While the conservative approach to helping the poor may not be perfect, their motivation is the same as that of Pope Francis -- an acknowledgement that we must love our neighbor as ourselves.
You can read more of tom's rants at his blog, Conversations about the obvious