Our guest blogger is Jack Jenkins, researcher for the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress.
Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan might have appealed to religion during his speech at the Republican National Convention last night, but it’s unclear whether a Romney-Ryan presidency would help or hurt faith-based charities and churches.
Ryan, a Catholic, spoke to the convention delegates about the common “moral creed” shared himself and Romney’s Mormon faith. Ryan appeared to echo Jesus’ Biblical call to take care of “the least of these,” saying, “And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.”
But if you peel back the rhetoric, would a Romney-Ryan presidency really help churches and faith groups “protect the weak”?
Ryan has said local charities and churches should provide for needy communities instead of the federal government. But there is a flaw this plan: churches and faith-based charities, which offer roughly $50 billion worth of services a year to the poor and needy, often depend on government funds to operate. Catholic Charities, for example, is one of the largest charities in America, and gets over half of its operating budget from federal funds.
Yet the Romney/Ryan ticket appears undeterred by this reality. In fact, if Romney followed through on Ryan’s proposed budget and cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $169 billion, every single church in America would have to come up with an additional $50,000 simply to feed those in need. For many cash-strapped churches, this is an impossible task.
What’s more, the Romney/Ryan budget would likely overburden soup kitchens and food programs by cutting welfare, food stamps and agriculture subsidies by two trillion dollars over the next ten years. These cuts would leave millions of Americans – especially those most in need of assistance – without the means to feed and clothe themselves, and already-overburdened faith-based charities unable to provide for them.
So if congregations and charities can’t provide the care required and Ryan’s government refuses to help, who exactly is the “strong” tasked with stepping in for the “weak”? Ryan isn’t saying.
Ryan and other conservative commentators like Gov. Mike Huckabee talk a lot about how they believe faith is under attack in America. But if Ryan truly believes a society is best judged by “how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves,” then perhaps he should take a second look at how his own policy proposals negatively affect those doing the hard work of caring for the poor — churches and faith-based charities.