Ryan’s Budget Approach Challenges Bishops, at Odds with Catholics

GETTY IMAGES Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wave as Ryan is … Continued


Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wave as Ryan is announced as his vice presidential running mate in front of the USS Wisconsin Aug. 11, 2012 in Norfolk, Va.

Mitt Romney’s decision to include Catholic congressman Paul Ryan on the Republican ticket presents a challenge for the U.S. Catholic bishops. And, equally importantly, it has the potential to open up a new “religion problem” for the Romney campaign among rank-and-file Catholics. At the heart of this tension is Ryan’s signature budget proposal, driven by a vision of economic austerity and small government, which aims to dramatically cut government spending and reshape the tax code.

Prior to the Ryan pick, the Romney campaign enjoyed a largely supportive relationship with the Catholic bishops. This was most prominently illustrated by the Bishops’ “Fortnight of Freedom” campaign, which attacked Obama’s health care plan as an infringement of religious liberty. The Romney campaign followed their lead with a hard-hitting ad that featured images of Pope John Paul II and accused President Obama of waging “a war on religion.”

But the Ryan pick may complicate this warm relationship. Earlier this year, the bishops sharply repudiated the Ryan budget plan’s cuts to hunger and nutrition programs that aid poor and working-class Americans, calling the proposed cuts “unacceptable,” “unjustified,” and “wrong.”

The essentials of the Ryan budget, particularly the deep cuts to programs that address the needs of the poor, are also at odds with Catholics overall. While a majority (60 percent) of Catholics agrees with Ryan that shrinking the deficit is a critical issue facing the nation, they disagree sharply with him on the correct approach to this goal. Central features of the Ryan budget include striking cuts to social welfare programs like Medicaid and Social Security. When American Catholics, however, are asked about measures that could help reduce the deficit, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Catholics oppose cutting federal funding for social programs that help the poor. Over 6-in-10 (62 percent) Catholics also agree that protecting Social Security is a critical issue facing the country.

Rather than cutting social welfare programs, Catholics overwhelmingly believe that the government should ask the rich to pay a greater share, a strategy that clearly conflicts with the Ryan plan, which calls for lower taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Nearly three-quarters of Catholics (73 percent) believe that, to shrink the deficit, the government should raise taxes on Americans making more than $1 million a year. A majority (55 percent) also agree that tax breaks for large corporations should be eliminated.


House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) introduces U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as he addresses supporters at Lawrence University during a campaign stop in Appleton, Wisconsin, in March.

Most strikingly, rank-and-file Catholics embrace the idea—rooted in over a century of Catholic social teaching—that it is both appropriate and necessary for the government to play a central role in reducing economic inequality in America, an idea that presents a clear contrast with Ryan’s core philosophy. Nearly 7-in-10 (69 percent) Catholics believe that the government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.

While Ryan’s budget plan and economic philosophy may appeal to the conservative base of the GOP, it will at best complicate the Romney campaign’s outreach to both the Catholic bishops as well as the laity. It remains to be seen how both the bishops and the campaign will handle this tension. But among the majorities of Catholics who align more closely with a vision of the U.S. economy that prioritizes reducing economic inequality, the appeal of Ryan’s Catholic background is likely to be canceled out by his budget’s failure to account for the moral priorities that American Catholics believe should be part of our country’s economic plan.

View Photo Gallery: Romney and Ryan are embarking on the first day of a four-day bus trip that will take the White House hopefuls to four key swing states: Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio.

Robert P. Jones
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  • AgentFoxMulder

    Bwahahahahaha! Talk about trying to manufacture a crisis. If Romney/Ryann has a problem with Bishops, it is a mole hill compared to Obama’s mountain.

  • amelia45

    It is hard to even consider Ryan a Catholic. Oh, he meets the criteria on the issue of abortion and contraceptives. But he really misses it on caring for those Jesus said we must care for. I find that really odd, too, because Jesus said nothing about contraception and abortion, but quite a bit about the poor, marginalized, needy, and sick.

    It takes all kinds of Catholics, doesn’t it? Most of us Catholics are “cafeteria” Catholics on some issue or another.

  • soconnor2

    Has Representative Ryan read the Social Encyclicals from Rerum Novarum to the present century ?

  • persiflage

    Ryan’s authoritarian ideology and incipient narcissism are a perfect fit for Randian uber-capitalism and the official anti-reproductive rights position of the Vatican. Ryan is anti-abortion in every instance, including ‘forcible’ rape – something his pal Rep. Todd Akin tried unsuccessfully to articulate.

    Ryan seems to live in the same fiscal stratosphere as Mitt Romney, where both paid less than 15% on their taxable incomes the last couple of years. And they want to lower taxes even further for the rich, while gutting benefits across the board for everyone else. Ryan will resurrect the idea of privitizing social security from 2005 at the first chance. These guys should be making the rules for middle America?

    Well yes, according to GOP doctrine – they have it just right.

  • SpfldUser93

    I think he’s a fine Catholic. It is not important what government program he espouses for the poor. It is important what he does personally to help the poor.

  • SpfldUser93

    What you liberal Catholics miss, including the author of this article Mr. Jones, is that the Catholic teaching is not a call to government administered social programs. It is a call to personal responsibility to help the poor. Don’t abdicate this responsibility to your state or federal government agency. Particpate yourself. Catholic Charities does more for the social mission of the Church than any federally administered hand-out program.

  • DavidJ9

    You forget that Catholic Charities is subsidized through taxes and through direct service payments. They are just another of many groups that provides help that is heavily paid for by the government. You also forget that religious organizations often have blind spots about who needs help. Catholic Charities clearly does.

  • DavidJ9

    So you are reminding us that the RCC chose the Falange, the fascists, in the Spanish Civil War. Why would anyone think that such people qualify to provide ethical advice?

  • DavidJ9

    SpfldUser93 –

    Ryan is personally trying to destroy all government help for the poor. He could give half of his income to the poor and I would not have any respect for him when he uses his power in Congress to make life worse for the poor.

  • SpfldUser93

    I don’t forget any of that. Getting funding from the government is not obligatory however.
    I would rather them tax me less so that I can donate more directly to the organization rather than launder it needlessly through the feds who mostly waste it.

  • SpfldUser93

    I’d also like to know about these “blind spots”. That to me is laughable since any government organization is legally bound to have such blind spots. They cannot pick and choose which is part of the reason they are so ineffective. Local charity is always better than bureaucratic national charity.

  • SpfldUser93

    Your reliance on the government for helping the poor is where you are failing your faith.

  • mormonpatriot

    Well, I personally fail to see where it became government’s responsibility in the first place to care for the poor. It is a poor substitute, as has already been mentioned, for charity on the personal and religious institutional level. I understand that in order for this to work on the personal level, we will all have to reawaken our Christian and charitable morals, and put them into practice. But that is hardly a bad thing for the nation. I also understand the fear that most people probably feel when they hear that the government may not longer take care of charity on a national level anymore. But it was always an illusion that government was taking care of the problem. This is actually a good wake-up call. I just hope the average American actually wakes up to their duty. I would remind those who read this post that government was intended under the Constitution to take care of problems at the most local level possible. The further from the problem, the less efficient and adequate will the solution be. Only in a few instances should the federal government be called upon to solve social or economic problems, such as true interstate trade regulation.

  • Secular1

    SpfldUser93, how well did the private charity work out pre-1960s. If it was working as well as you seem to think the welfare safety net would never have been come about. Even back then folks like you fought nail and tooth. Go see how well any of non-western countries are handling their safety net relying entirely on the private charities. Enough of teh nonsense of your kind already.

  • nnguyenr

    What kind of conservatives are now in the current republican party? – traditional conservatives love our neighbors and have a strong desire to help our poor. These are not conservatives – just a bunch of self serving, self love selfish not worthy of being called American…

  • SpfldUser93

    This is not a political thing, it is a Christian conscience argument. Liberal Catholics think that simply by supporting socialist government programs they can say “well, I’ve done my part. My conscience is clean”.
    That is not the call of Christ nor is it the call of Rerum Novarum to accomplish the will of Christ through secular efforts within governments.

  • allamer1

    Politicians’ “outreach to Catholic Bishops”? Politicians are supposed to represent We the People, not organizations.


    Before voteing, know Ryan’s government history and what he stand for . Their is much to know.

  • bflorhodes

    The Christians had 2000 years to help the poor. I know conservatives don’t have a problem with failure – wherever they see failure, they embrace it and say it’s success!

    Government has helped more people in the last 50 years than all the churches combined in the 2000 preceding years.

    Not one dime of mine should go to these organizations – no tax breaks for this nonsense.

    And no Christian could vote for George W. Bush. If you voted for Bush in 2004, when he’d admitted three war crimes, you’re hellbound in all religions.

  • Chortling_Heel

    Ryan Budget At Odds with Catholics

  • davejSF

    Basilone, would that be the Mexico that Romney’s dad moved to.

  • Chortling_Heel

    Ryan Budget *Blueprint* At Odds with Catholics

  • Chortling_Heel

    Ryan Budget At Odds with Catholics

    Ryan’s budget is at odds with reality, too.