The GOP holds compassion for ransom

Want to read what might happen if the tea partiers succeed in breaching the debt ceiling?

As I was reading Pope Francis’ remarks about the Catholic church’s “obsession” with abortion, marriage equality and contraception instead of creating an inclusive “home for all” focused on serving the poor, I reflected on two of Nevada’s most prominent Catholic political leaders who also cared deeply about the less fortunate, Joe Dini and Bill Raggio.

These two men, from different political parties, led the Legislature for decades, working together by necessity and choice to forge compromises that kept the state moving forward. While both men were pro-business, they also felt personally responsible to ensure the state budget considered the needs of seniors, the disabled and the mentally ill. I heard Raggio lecture his fellow Republicans many times in public and in private about cutting the budget too much, urging them to do what was right, not what was politically expedient.

This lesson is one many in Congress should take to heart as they prepare to blackmail us until the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed. They seem oblivious to the fact that Obamacare means that the marginalized will finally have access to basic health care. Although the Act is complex and not without initial growing pains, preliminary results have been promising, with health care premiums already decreasing due to competition for the expanded market.

Yet Nevada Representatives Joe Heck and Mark Amodei voted for a spending resolution to cut all funding for the ACA, thereby risking another government shutdown. They’re also threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling if Obamacare isn’t defunded, potentially causing us to default on our debts, generating world-wide economic chaos.

Speaking for his caucus, Speaker John Boehner said, “The American people don’t want the government shutdown, and they don’t want Obamacare,” forgetting that for many people, Obamacare is keeping their college-age children insured or allowing them health care despite a pre-existing condition.

Adding insult to injury, Florida Rep. Ted Yoho compared the rebellion of House conservatives to the acts of visionary civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, saying, “It only takes one with passion … people with passion that speak up, they’ll have people follow them because they believe the same way, and smart leadership listens to that.”

Adding another level of absurdity, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz read Green Eggs and Ham during a 21-hour “talk-a-thon” intended to derail a Senate vote on the House bill, despite lack of support from his own caucus.

In a stunning display of craven politics, House Republicans pushed through a new farm bill slashing the food stamp program, despite unlikely passage in the Senate and a certain veto by the president. The draconian cuts would mean millions of Americans still struggling through the recession will lose their benefits, careening deeper into poverty.

Although Democrats called the bill “heartless” and “a monumental waste of time,” Republicans insisted the food stamp program had grown out of control during these hard times. Representatives Heck and Amodei voted for the bill, while Democrats Dina Titus and Steven Horsford opposed it.

Rep. Horsford noted that 71 percent of Nevada’s food stamp participants are families with children. Nearly 42 percent are working families, with wages so meager they qualify for the program. He pointed out the real budget problem is the huge corporate welfare subsidies for “Big Ag.”

Political budgets express our values and carry real-world consequences. While Catholics are spiritually guided by the Pope, voters ask political leaders to base decisions on what is right for everyone, not just the privileged few.

Of course the Pope can demonstrate his moral courage without worry of being deposed. But our politicians should show courage by opposing the blackmail demands of those more concerned with a radical ideology than helping their constituents.