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The Ryan Creed

Marc A. Thiessen, a Washington Post columnist and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, has complained bitterly at Bishop Stephen Blaire's "attack" on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Thiessen defends Ryan as a "a faithful Catholic who says his budget work is informed and guided by the social teaching of the Church." And yet, in a letter to the House Agriculture Committee, Bishop Blaire had the effrontery to write that just solutions to the nation's fiscal problems "require shared sacrifice by all" -- and to suggest that Ryan's budget plan was not a just solution by this measure. Not much of an attack by Washington standards, but some conservatives may have forgotten how it feels to be criticized by a Catholic bishop, and so Thiessen has responded to this pastoral nudge as if it were a below-the-belt punch.

Thiessen notes that you will not find the phrase "shared sacrifice" in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and concludes that it is nothing more than "a reelection slogan for the Democratic Party." One might as well point out that you will not find the word "pro-life" in the Cathechism and conclude that its use by a Catholic bishop is therefore nothing more than Republican Party boilerplate. The Church's teaching about the importance of "shared sacrifice," otherwise known as solidarity, is no more in doubt than its condemnation of abortion. But Thiessen has a bad habit of dodging and redacting Catholic teachings that don't fit GOP dogma. Two years ago he wrote a book arguing that, while the Church may now oppose torture, nowhere does it say anything about "enhanced interrogation," which he went on to justify by abusing the principle of double effect.

If Thiessen had bothered to look into the matter, he would have found that the Catechism has some rather provocative things to say about the responsibilities of the state. "Certainly, it is the proper function of authority to arbitrate, in the name of the common good, between various particular interests; but it should make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on" (1908). Perhaps Thiessen would argue that here the phrase "make accessible" means no more than "allow people to sell," or that the term "authority" doesn't have to mean the state. But he would have to expand the scope of his imaginative re-interpretations to include other official church documents that make Catholic social teaching more explicit and harder to fudge. Some of the faculty at Georgetown University recently sent Paul Ryan the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church; maybe they still have a spare copy they could send to Thiessen.

But enough with Thiessen's argument-by-search-term. And let's pass over his stray remark that Bishop Blaire "has near-zero competence to judge what military spending is necessary or unnecessary." (If you want competence like that, you'd better talk to one of those nameless government bureaucrats Republicans are always complaining about, or at least to a former White House speechwriter.) And let's not worry about whether Ryan is, in Thiessen's words, "a good Catholic layman." I have no doubt Ryan goes to Mass every week, loves his wife and children, and is truly contrite about his recent enthusiasm for the works of Ayn Rand.

The problem isn't Ryan's personal piety; it's his policy priorities. Make that "priority." For all his grim talk about our national-debt emergency, Ryan's new budget, like his old budget, is really organized around the single imperative of reducing taxes, especially for the rich. It is very specific about this: it would bring down the top personal income-tax rate from 35 to 25 percent and reduce corporate taxes to the same rate. True, it promises to offset the effect of these lower rates by closing loopholes, but these loopholes are left unspecified (as loopholes almost always are). Ryan has specifically promised not to close one of the most egregious loopholes, the one that allows income on capital to be taxed at 15 percent. To make up for the revenue lost because of the tax cuts, Congress would have to find $700 billion worth of other loopholes to close. But don't worry: Ryan and the rest of the GOP congressional caucus will figure that out later.

If the national debt is really the looming catastrophe Ryan says it is -- a catastrophe in which "the poor would be hit the first and the worst," as Ryan put it in his recent speech at Georgetown -- then you might expect he'd at least be willing to consider raising tax rates, which are as low as they've been in fifty years. You would certainly not expect him to lower them still further. But it is possible that Ryan still believes, against all the available evidence, that cutting taxes will automatically lead to economic growth, which will in turn help bring down the deficit and benefit the poor. In which case he is not a Randian (Rand hated all superstition) but a practitioner of voodoo, bent on reanimating our inert economy by bleeding the federal government.

Even if Ryan's budget didn't hurt the poor -- indeed, even if it somehow helped them -- this would be no more than a happy accident. The point is not, and never has been, to help the poor. The point is to shrink the government and lower taxes. If this helps the poor, so much the better; if it doesn't, sauve qui peut.

Orwell thought one could tell a rotten political idea by the rotten language used to sell it. Ryan's plan does no better by that standard than it does by Bishop Blaire's. Ryan's rhetoric is stuffed with risible euphemisms: he and his supporters describe deep cuts in funding for Medicaid as "modernization"; they refer to his proposal for a privatized Medicare system as "patient-centered Medicare." In a particularly telling reformulation on his website, Ryan talks about "subsidiarity, solidarity, local control," which, on Ryan's simplistic account of subsidiarity, means something like "subsidiarity, solidarity, and did I mention subsidiarity?"

For Ryan and his defenders, subsidiarity is an exclusively political idea. Concentrated political power is always a toxin, paralyzing the wills of ordinary citizens, sapping their native resourcefulness. Concentrated, unregulated economic power, on the other hand, is what the holy spirit of democratic capitalism is all about. Market success is sufficient proof of righteousness, while government regulation is never a necessary correction, always a kind of meddling. When regulation fails because of the inanition of regulatory agencies -- as it did, spectacularly, during the housing bubble -- it proves not that regulators need more support or tougher rules to enforce but that they are essentially incompetent and so should be given less power, not more. This is about as sensible as claiming that a crime wave proves the pointlessness of law enforcement or the universal stupidity of police officers (though no doubt you would find some politician making that claim if bank robbers were as generous to politicians as bankers are).

As for the claim that, like it or not, the welfare state is no longer sustainable, this is an obvious case of wishful thinking passing itself off as lament. We have to cut entitlements to save them, alas. If we don't act soon, what's happening in Europe will happen here. See how they spoiled themselves with entitlements. They must have enjoyed it, but it could never last. Ryan and his defenders spend so much time warning us about the European syndrome that you'd think they would pay a bit more attention to what's actually happening in Europe. The European countries with the worst fiscal outlook are not the countries that spend the most on social programs (see here). And Ireland and Spain, two of the countries hit hardest by the recession, got into trouble by following our example and encouraging a housing bubble. Countries such as Germany that wisely prevented such a bubble by means of rigorous regulation have fared much better. Then there's Great Britain, whose coalition government has implemented the kind of austerity plan Ryan and Mitt Romney want to see in the states, the kind that is supposed to reassure the bond market and lead to strong economic growth. Last week it was announced that the British economy had slipped back into recession. If the Republicans have noticed, they are keeping it to themselves.

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Terrific post, thank-you.I hope it's not piling on too much to reiterate that Ryan's notion of subsidiarity seems to miss entirely its linguistic and cultural roots. The "subsidium" was the reserve troops of the Roman Army. Thus, it was the "safety net" of the common defense of its day. Much of the New Deal---both its temporary programs like the CCC and WPA, and its more long-lasting programs like Social Security and AFDC---is an example of subsidiarity in this original Roman/Latin sense of the word. When the private sector retirement security system failed, when city and state welfare programs were "overrun", the federal government quite properly (from the perspective of Catholic social teaching) acted as the "subsidium".

@ Luke. Thank you for the origin of the word 'subsidiarity.' I have a different take on the New Deal, even if I arrive at the same conclusion. The New Deal was not a response to the failure of the private sector retirement and city and state welfare programs -- they were virtually non-existent at the time. The New Deal was an effort on the part of the United States federal government to respond to a near total collapse of the economic system. Social Security, for example, was designed to provide a very basic level of financial support to the elderly who could no longer support themselves, to ensure them a minimum level of personal income. It was not intended to be a retirement system by itself. It was, however, as a very smart political maneuver, created as a broad 'entitlement' program rather than a means tested welfare program to ensure long term buy-in. And, it worked. Even with the most dire projections, it will have been solvent for 100 years! I think, viewed this way, it fits even more with your definition of subsidiarity.

Agreed a great post about more Pr trying to defend Ryan's social justice approach to Catholicism.

Evidently, conservative American Catholics have not grown accustomed yet to hearing a Catholic bishop "attack" a Republican politician regarding Catholic social teaching.

Catholic progressives have convinced themselves that Paul Ryan represents a fundamental evil in the political system that must be overcome at all costs, and that his plan amounts to nothing more than a money-grab by some nefarious greed-mongering crowd. I fear some disappointment may be in store for them when Pres. Obama cuts a deal in his second term with Paul Ryan (bolstered by a Republican Senate) containing what Ryan proposes on both taxes and Medicare (see, e.g. Bowles-Simpson). Of course, Ryan agrees with the President that the corporate tax rates should be slashed (not that you hear Catholic progressives talking about the "unfairness" of the President's plan to slash such corporate tax rates). Supposedly Ryan has his eye on the chairmanship of Ways and Means, so you might get what you wish for with respect to fleshing out which exemptions he'd get rid of. And on Medicare Ryan (again) builds on bipartisan consensus reaching back to a proposal by Dem. Sens. John Breaux and Bob Kerrey, and on the work by Alice Rivlin, to tweak Medicare by shifting to a premium support system which allows participants under a certain age to choose one of various options, including (a recent change), the current Medicare structure. This is such a far-right, Randian, poor-hating proposal that it has attracted the support Ron Wyden, Democrat-Oregon, which is precisely one more Democratic vote than the President's non-existent plan has.Making Paul Ryan out to be an existential threat to Catholic social teaching may be a great exercise for the Catholic progressive id, particularly after some of them had to so dis-tastefully criticize the President recently. I fear long-term, however, it will prove futile (as it did with welfare reform in 1996).

I'm bridling at the widespread notion, inherited from the Protestant Reformation, that believing something and speaking one's mind are the keys to a good life. "Always speak your mind and a base man will avoid you." --- William Blake, Proverbs of Heaven and Hell Although pre-Reformation Catholicism had degenerated into self-centred buying of time off one's sentence in Purgatory -- paying for indulgences and chantry prayers for the soul, easy visits to nearby relics instead of the hardship of long pilgrimages, and so on -- the doctrine of works, despised by Protestants in favour of faith alone, was at least directed outwards, to helping others. For Protestants, good works were the fruit of Christian faith, the sign of its presence, not valuable in securing divine approval. Now that Christian belief has declined in Europe, and become something of a shell in the US, good works have become almost a political gesture, a civic virtue, a mere option. Without empathy, that is not enough to secure adequate provision, either through charity or the state.Protestantism has given our thought and our society many good things. It has emphasized parts of the Gospel which had been neglected, and brought them to the fore, applying them to life in the world. The Protestant application of natural law, for example, gave political liberty to all male citizens, then slaves, then women, then children, and now draws our attention to the natural world. These were not initially Catholic projects, except where Catholic citizens were excluded from the full range of political rights. Slavery was abolished for the Portuguese colonies in 1888. The quest for authenticity and the high status given to honesty, in theory if rarely in practice, seem to be echoes or descendants of the Protestant belief in faith alone. They don't feed or clothe anyone, which is why even the most brutally cost-cutting conservatives can believe that their policies are compatible with Catholic doctrine. US Catholicism has become Americanized, to a large extent, which means adopting a shallow kind of Protestantism, including a belief that God wants to give wealth and political power to the faithful. The Prosperity Gospel may contradict traditional Protestant providentialism (pace Weber) but it is only a caricature of American society as a whole.It should be unnecessary to provide a list of the acts of mercy to Catholics although, given the low level of familiarity with the Catechism and other basic documents it may not be, but they are not usually familiar to Protestants, so here they are. Paul Ryan should pay attention to them, now that we live in a society where neither individual nor institutional charity can reach into every deprived household. The Protestant (or ex-Protestant) countries of Europe have been rather better at supplying the deficit through state action, although the importation and diffusion of neo-liberal economics have done much damage. The Seven Works of Corporal Mercy (six from Luke, with burying the dead added from the Book of Tobit, one of my favourite apocryphal books) are these:--Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Shelter the homeless. Clothe the naked. Visit and ransom prisoners Visit the sick. Bury the dead. Of the Seven Works of Spiritual Mercy, the last four were directed to all, not just the learned and the clergy:--Instruct the uninformed. Counsel the doubtful.Admonish sinners.Bear wrongs patiently. Forgive offenses willingly. Comfort the afflicted.Pray for the living, the sick and the dead.

The continued issue aren't whether or not his recommendations follow Catholic teaching, but whether or not the teachings still make sense in this economy and if his proposals are helpful and "just.".I'v'e just read a new work of Arthur Brooks, devout Cathollic, whom I appreciated very much while he was at Syracuse University in his knowledge and assistance to non-profits, and who is now president of American Enterprise Insititute. I disagree with his interpretations and some of his data (fool that I am!), but find him challenging yet and worthwhile even as I kid with other former students of his that he has "gone over to the dark side." Ryan has some valuable points (except for his lying about his overt and denied change of opinion about Ayn Rand), but they are not in the common tradition of Catholic social justice thought. That doesn't make them wrong.

@Jeff Landry (5/1, 11: 55 am) Thanks for your comment. For what it's worth, I think you'd have a stronger case if it weren't stated so, well, strongly (in a different sense of the word). No doubt there are some "Catholic progressives" who fit your description, but after re-reading Mr. Boudway's post and the comments in this thread, I don't see them here.Speaking just for myself:1 - I don't think Paul Ryan "represents a fundamental evil" in US politics that "must be overcome at all costs".2 - I don't think Chairman Ryan is "an existential threat to Catholic social teaching".If, in fact, Pres. Obama gets re-elected and is facing Republican control of one or both houses of Congress, I fully expect him to make compromises with which progressives of all stripes disagree, and which Obama himself would prefer not to make. That's the nature of politics.However, if our subject is the Church's social teaching and how it applies in general to our current situation, and in particular to the recent words and actions of Rep. Ryan, then I see nothing in your comment that takes serious issue with the major points of Boudway's post, namely:*Thiessen's proof-texting approach to Catholic social teaching;*The priority Ryan places on low taxes (especially for the wealthy) over debt reduction;*Ryan's debt reduction proposals relying primarily on spending cuts that would affect the poor, the old and the sick;*Ryan's "secularized" notion of subsidiarity which lacks the robustness of a traditional Catholic understanding of the term;*The intellectual incoherence of the American right's approach to public discussion of the European crisis.If you (or others) have a critique of Boudway's post based on reason (and not on what you think "Catholic progressives" think) that others might find persuasive, I (for one) would welcome it to the discussion.

@Luke. Once again, I agree with your posting. I don't demonize Rep Ryan. But, if the devil is in the detail, Mr. Ryan's proposal is truly holy. There is no detail about how he will reform the tax code. Which tax expenditures (deductions) does he plan to eliminate? The largest is the home mortgage deduction, which does disproportionally favor the wealthy -- so is that his idea? He doesn't say. In addition, his budget plan does not balance the federal budget until 2025, even with his unspecified elimination of tax expenditures and his aggressive reforms of entitlements. This pretty much makes the case that some revenue enhancement is going to be required if we really believe deficit reduction is important...and bearing in mind that the Republican platform will call for increasing defense spending.

As for the history of "subsidiarity", I'm not convinced that looking to the original Latin usage is very helpful. Indeed, the use of etymology is not how linguists nowadays determine meaning. It is current usage that is the key.Among the Romans, the meaning rapidly broadened out, from denoting the third line of battle or auxiliary troops to any kind of aid, help, or subsidy. Thus, the government subsidies for grain, in time of hardship, were called "frumentaria subsidia rei rei publicae."The word "subsidy" came into English from Anglo-Norman, and described all manner of help and aid, including taxes on products and the occasional taxes granted to the Crown in time of war."Subsidiary" referred to help and aid, but also to the relation of the smaller or weaker to the greater. It was the weaker that was subsidiary to the greater. The weak were obliged to assist the greater, with arms or taxes. The little stream ran into the river. The lesser experiments assisted in securing the greater, on which the theory was to be built.The later verb, "to subsidize", meant to pay for the services of mercenaries, then to secure services by bribery, and finally our modern sense -- to pay for the needs of lesser institutions from government funds, whether local or national."Subsidiarity" is a recent import, coming from Pope Pius XI in "Rundschreiben ber die gesellschaftliche Ordnung" (1931). The doctrine of the Subsidiarity of Social Activities referred to the state keeping its hands out of the affairs of the Church. Pius XII extended this to relationships within the Church, "without prejudice to her hierarchical structure."Thus, the Catholic principle refers to the limits of the State and other high authorities, directing that action should be taken at the local level, if possible. It remains somewhat alien among English-speakers, leading to confusion when the European Union uses the term to refer to what should be done centrally.However, this vision of maximal decentralization fits neatly with the anti-federalist position which descends from Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans. They were concerned about the power that central government could acquire, thanks to the Necessary and Proper Clause.Today, the "dual federalism" position to which many conservatives adhere, when it suits them, aims to secure the narrowest possible interpretation of the Tenth Amendment, the Supremacy Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the Commerce Clause. The intention of politicians such as Paul Ryan and the strict constructionist lawyers is to limit the power of central government to precisely those powers enumerated in the Constitution, all else being reserved to the individual states.That is why Paul Ryan thinks his political position is in accord with the doctrine of subsidiarity.

Jeff Landry,Alice Rivlin does not approve of Paul Ryan's plans for Medicare. It was her intent always for traditional Medicare always to be available. Ryan phases it out. It was her intent for the Medicare premium supports to be an alternative to traditional Medicare, not replace it. It was also her intent that the premium supports increased proportional to GDP plus 1%. Ryan's plan is to have the premium supports increase with inflation (the CPI). As everyone knows, the cost of medical care and medical insurance increases much faster than the consumer price index. From 2000 to 2010, the CPI went up 26 percent, but medical costs rose 48 percent. What you have according to Ryan's plan is the end of traditional Medicare for those currently under 55, and their premium supports would not keep pace with the cost of medical care, resulting in an ever increasing amount of out-of-pocket costs. That is not "tweaking" Medicare. It is abolishing it for everyone under 55 and replacing it with something of ever-decreasing value.

Bishops are often accused of being partisan, or of serving partisan ends, or of not doing enough to counter the appearance of partisanship.Was Bishop Blaire guilty of any of these charges when he commented on the Ryan budget? He has also, like almost every other bishop, condemned the HHS mandate in very strong terms.Were his comments on the Ryan plan and the HHS mandate equally partisan? Or was one partisan and the other not? How does one tell when a comment is partisan? This would be a good opportunity to clarify the differences, if any, in the cases. Please explain - inquiring minds are eager to learn the subtleties.

Were his comments on the Ryan plan and the HHS mandate equally partisan?Patrick Molloy,I think partisan is the wrong word to describe the bishops. I think they don't like Obama. That causes them to look at times like they are taking sides in the upcoming election, but that's not partisanship. It's opposition to Obama. It's not because he is a Democrat. It's because he is Obama. Opposition to Obama does not rule out making statements against the Ryan budget. It seems to me it is very common for people on the left to embrace the bishops as nearly infallible when they speak in favor of things the left holds dear and as a bunch of old, out-of-touch men when they speak against things the left holds dear. But of course when the bishops speak out and the right likes what they say, the bishops speak with great authority, but when the right doesn't like what the bishops say, they are of course giving mere opinions on prudential matters and it is not binding.

For a completely secular, political take on (and takedown of) Paul Ryan, there's this "New York" magazine article by Jonathan Chait. http://nymag.com/news/features/paul-ryan-2012-5/Some highlights:"The basic elements of Ryans plan are this: The tax code would be collapsed into two rates, with the top rate dropping to 25 percent, but eliminating unspecified tax deductions would keep tax revenues at the current level, as set by the Bush tax cuts. Medicare would remain untouched for those 55 years old and older, but those under would be given vouchers at a capped rate. Given that the Medicare savings would not begin to take effect for more than a decade, that taxes would stay level (at best), and that military spending would increase, Ryan would achieve his short-term deficit reduction by focusing overwhelmingly on programs targeted to the poor (which account for about a fifth of the federal budget, but absorb 62 percent of Ryans cuts over the next decade). The budget repeals Obamacare, thereby uninsuring some 30 million Americans about to become insured. It would then take insurance away from another 14 to 27 million people, by cutting Medicaid and childrens health-insurance funding. This is not a moderate plan.""Ryan is specific about two policies: massive cuts to income-tax rates, and very large cuts to government programs that aid the poor and medically vulnerable. You could call all this a deficit-reduction plan, but it would be more accurate to call it a plan to cut tax rates and spending on the poor and sick. Aside from a handful of exasperated commentators, like Paul Krugman, nobody does.""In reality, Ryan was a staunch ally in Bushs profligacy, dissenting only to urge Bush to jack up the deficit even more.We noticed that the green-eyeshade, austerity wing of the party was afraid of class warfare, Ryan said during Bushs first term. They fear increases in the debt, and they were overlooking issues of growth, opportunity, and free markets. For those uninitiated in the tribal lingo of Beltway conservatives, this may sound like gibberish. But those inside the conservative subculture invest these buzzwords with deep meaning. Green eyeshade is a term of abuse appropriated by the supply-siders to describe Republicans who still cared more about deficit control than cutting taxes. Growth and opportunity mean tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the rich, and class warfare means any criticism thereof. Ryans centrist admirers hear his frequent confessions that both parties have failed as an ideological concession. What he means is that Republicans were insufficiently fanatical in their devotion to cutting taxes for the rich.""In 2001, Ryan led a coterie of conservatives who complained that George W. Bushs $1.2 trillion tax cut was too small, and too focused on the middle class. In 2003, he lobbied Republicans to pass Bushs deficit-financed prescription-drug benefit, which bestowed huge profits on the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. In 2005, when Bush campaigned to introduce private accounts into Social Security, Ryan fervently crusaded for the concept. He was the sponsor in the House of a bill to create new private accounts funded entirely by borrowing, with no benefit cuts. Ryans plan was so staggeringly profligate, entailing more than $2 trillion in new debt over the first decade alone, that even the Bush administration opposed it as irresponsible."(Regarding the issue of government subsidies for banks issuing student loans for college: "Among the staunchest advocates of those government-subsidized banks was Paul Ryan, who fought to protect bank subsidies that many of his fellow Republicans deemed too outrageous to defend. In 2009, Obama finally eliminated the guaranteed-lending racket. It could save the government an estimated $62 billion, according to the CBO.Not everything in Ryans career, and possibly nothing at all, is quite so undeniably venal. You could pluck any other single example out of Ryans long history of strident conservatism and he would be able to defend it, at the very least, on ideological grounds. A tax cut for the rich, a hike in military spendingall those could be explained as a blow for the cause of Reaganism. This was an almost astonishingly unlucky break, an instance where he lacked even ideological coverstanding up for higher spending at the behest of a powerful lobby lacking any plausible rationale for its subsidy."

"I think partisan is the wrong word to describe the bishops. I think they dont like Obama. "I think this is right, although I think that if the President were pro-life, they'd like him a lot more.

"If the national debt is really the looming catastrophe Ryan says it is a catastrophe in which the poor would be hit the first and the worst, as Ryan put it in his recent speech at Georgetown then you might expect hed at least be willing to consider raising tax rates, which are as low as theyve been in fifty years. You would certainly not expect him to lower them still further. But it is possible that Ryan still believes, against all the available evidence, that cutting taxes will automatically lead to economic growth, which will in turn help bring down the deficit and benefit the poor."I think you might expect him to lower them still further. Here is a pretty good explanation of the rationale:http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterferrara/2012/03/29/washington-post-misl...

That summary is quite devastating. Is this the Kansas-thing that he is garnering this much attention and some support? I don't believe he is interntionally venal. Is he just deluded? Has this kind of proposal evr worked?

This issue is a startling example of Jesus' seemingly enigmatic description of the perplexed response of those who aid or do not aid the disadvantaged. Matthew 15:36-41. Even those who helped were surprised that they did while those who did not were equally baffled. My take is that when one is greedy one can never have enough and that when one is generous one can never give enough.

Correction. Matthew 25:36-41

"Alice Rivlin does not approve of Paul Ryans plans for Medicare. It was her intent always for traditional Medicare always to be available. Ryan phases it out."Actually, this is factually incorrect; he doesn't "phase out" Medicare. You need to look at the latest proposal - which garnered the support of Ron Wyden. He keeps it as an alternative that can be chosen. You are partially right re: Alice Rivlin; she was critical of his first proposal on the grounds that she thought the size of the individual subsidy each recipient would get wasn't robust enough to grow with inflation. BUT, I didn't say she was a supporter of his, only that he HAS worked with her in the past, and that she is a Democratic suppoter of the larger concept that Ryan has advanced: premium support.

I think you might expect him to lower them (taxes) still further. Here is a pretty good explanation of the rationale:http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterferrara/2012/03/29/washington-post-misl...

Good explanation; bad rationale. This is classic Laffer curve economics. It has never worked. There is a world glut of investment capital that capitalists are already holding back. The problem isn't supply of capital. It's effective demand, which Ryan wants to both lower and reverse.

Shouldnt the New Deal be interpreted in its global and national context? After studying it in as much detail as time allows, I would consider FDR saved capitalism, not diminished it. America and increasingly, the rest of the globalized world, has been enjoying a long period of continuous prosperity since WWII thanks to the foundations built by FDR and his revolving team.But competitive capitalism is under threat by sauvage capitalism. Judge Lewis Powell Memorandum is bearing fruit. Its long gestation period, since the Nixon era, is delivering an incredibly high rate of return to those who have persevered on achieving this un'American goals. Perhaps, however, taxes are not the major concern; what is hidden in Ryans budget is the wholesale elimination of the regulatory environment keeping our children safe, our water potable and our financial institutions less dishonest. Echoing Judge Powells displeasure with the controls on his beloved tobacco industry, the overall regulatory ecosystem will be starved to death, no funds authorized or solely authorized to guarantee a death by starvation. That is where the major money will be made by Powells acolytes.May the Good Lord bless the Catholic Leaders with the intestinal fortitude to speak for the poor in this increasingly hostile environment, because theirs will be the kingdom of heaven.

"If you (or others) have a critique of Boudways post based on reason (and not on what you think Catholic progressives think) that others might find persuasive, I (for one) would welcome it to the discussion."Luke, I appreciate the attempted thoughtfulness of your response. The analysis of Ryan's proposals here reminds me of an observation the ever-wise Rick Garnett made recently on Mirror of Justice on the very topic of Ryan: "People assume that those who disagree with them are, at least in part, motivated by something undisclosed, or by ideological precommitments that overdetermine the content of their claims, while they themselves are candid and transparent, and able to transcend ideology in order to identify what the right answer really is." He also observed: "People are sensitive to the important truth that there is (this side of Heaven) almost always room for reasonable disagreement among intelligent, faithful, reasonable people about how best to apply principles, standards, and rules to those facts that are known; and also to the reality that such people will also often disagree about what the "facts" (which include, I suppose, predictions about the effects of particular interventions or omissions) . . . except when they aren't." I've generally found that to be the case in attempting to discuss various parts of Ryan's proposals here. I tried in my comment, for example, to point out two ways in which I think Ryan's plan fits within the broad, bi-partisan consensus on taxes and entitlement reform (albeit on the right side of that consensus), contrary to the asssertion in the original post that Ryan's plan amounts to nothing more than a far-right money-grab. Based on the consistently irrational reactions to Ryan's plan here, I believe no amount of "dialogue" with respect to Catholic social teaching will convince you that SOME of Ryan's proposals fit within the broad spectrum of Catholic social teaching. My comment was intended to poke at the image that Ryan has become for many Catholic progressives that prevents them from dispassionately and (at times) charitably analyzing his proposals.

Actually, this is factually incorrect; he doesnt phase out Medicare. You need to look at the latest proposal which garnered the support of Ron Wyden. He keeps it as an alternative that can be chosen.Jeff Landry,You are correct. I was relying on information that was a year out of date. (I am still not used to this being 2012.) Apologies.

Luke - I suppose the shorter version of my response to your comment is that I view the assertions made against Ryan's plan (and him personally) by many here in precisely the same light. Sorry if it's too "strongly" stated, but, well I feel the same about some of the stuff I read about Ryan here.

Luke and jbruns --As I understand it, the New Deal was one big Keynesian plan which aimed to affect a whole cluster of inter=related parts. Thus Social Security was not simply a means to help grandma survive, and the CCC was not just to give jobs to healthy young men. Both those programs were also means of pumping more federal money into the economy thus stimulating business activity. The CCC also got some work done on expanding needed infrastructure such as roads. Felipe ==I agree that FDR saved capitalism, in spite of the fact that his contemporaries called him a socialist and a communist as well. (In the old days we knew that not all socialists were Communists.) History does sometimes repeat itself -- Obama has pushed for a unified but complex economic plan, and he's being called a socialist too simply because he'd make the very rich pay more taxes. Will the Republicans never learn that low taxes alone cannot save a depressed economy?

No problem Jeff. Your partisanship remains a constant.

If one studies the Ryan budget proposal one quickly comes to the conclusion he is a Flim Flam Artist. In essence his plan would take money, for example, from the poor ie food stamps for children and hand it to the Pentagon. It does nothing to balance the budget. Furthermore he would "privatize' Medicare by issuing vouchers to Seniors so they can negotiate premiums with insurance companies. One can just imagine an eighty year old with Alzheimers trying to purchase individual health coverage from a private insurance company. This is supposed to reduce costs by fostering competition. The insurance industry will do what they do best ie cherry pick by providing coverage for young healthy clients and those with pre existing conditions will just have to go without. What Ryan and the rest of the Republicans want while gorging themselves at the trough is keep their benies while Seniors pay the freight. What this amounts to is a default by the Federal Government on its promises. So much for the good faith and credit of the US. Of course these same politicians would never dare do such a thing to bond holders or heaven forbid raise taxes on their wealthy friends.If Ryan and his Republican gang are serious about killing SS then they should return the money which I paid for more than 40 years in FICA payroll deductions.

@ Ann OliverAt one time FDR claimed that some of his best friends were Communists. On another occasion he characterized Uncle Joe (Stalin), the biggest mass murderer in modern times, a Christian gentleman. In my book that makes him a crypto Communist.

What is so disgraceful is that hundreds of millions a year is spent on lobbyists so that banks and the 1 percent can profit while causing a second depression while so many blame the poor for our problems. How many of those lobbyists inhabit these dotcoms.

@ Felipe P. Manteiga The first nation to institute a universal health as well as worker retirement plan was Germany under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck in 1871 long before FDR made the scene. It has served Germany well in all the years to the present.

@ Bill Mazzella What you must realize is that the 1% would have the US return to the Guilded Age. What the 1% do not understand is that once the 99% come to realize that their interests are no longer being satisfied by the sytem society becomes unstable. The 1% may think they can seek security behind the walls surrounding their gated communities but in the end they will be brought down just the same.

Incidentally Paul Ryan who is an admirer of Ayn Rand, an atheist, and makes his staff read her nonsense yet claims to be a practicing Catholic is a fraud. Rand was also a fraud. In her old age she lived on SS and made use of Medicare despite of her philosophy.

Re: Ryan and his fellow travelers:The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy: that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." -- John Kenneth GalbraithThe actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts. (Misattributed to James Joyce) -- John Locke, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), Book I, Chapter II, paragraph 3

@Jeff Landry (5/1, 6:56 & 7:06 pm) Thanks for your kind, honest and thoughtful responses.Speaking just for myself, the more Paul Ryan is willing to be part of "the broad, bi-partisan consensus on taxes and entitlement reform", the better. However, after watching him from afar over the past decade, it strikes me that Jonathan Chait is onto something in his article cited above. Ryan has a great talent for the rhetoric of "broad, bi-partisan consensus". However, when it comes to his actions...not so much.In fact, there is currently no "broad, bi-partisan consensus on taxes and entitlement reform". *No Republicans voted for the ACA which, according to CBO projections, will significantly reduce deficits over the next 20 years if implemented (and includes $500 billion in Medicare savings over its first decade). *House Republicans refused any new revenues as part of the unprecedented 2011 deficit reduction deal that was tied to their support for raising the debt ceiling. *Last fall all Republican presidential candidates publicly stated their opposition to a deficit reduction plan that consisted of 90% spending cuts and 10% tax increases---and it wasn't because the tax revenue was too low.Now, it's not necessarily a bad thing for a party to have a clearly defined platform and the discipline to stick to it. However it does mean, almost by definition, that we're not dealings with issues on which there is a "bi-partisan consensus". (Note: there may be a bi-partisan consensus between Jeff Landry and Luke Hill---as we've both noted in the past---but that's of no consequence to what's happening in Washington right now.)So again, Paul Ryan does not represent a "fundamental moral evil" or an "existential threat to Catholic social teaching" (at least in my view). He does represent---and play a key leadership role in---a political party that, to quote Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, "has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition." http://masscommons.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/an-insurgent-outlier-in-amer...

"So again, Paul Ryan does not represent a fundamental moral evil or an existential threat to Catholic social teaching (at least in my view). He does representand play a key leadership role ina political party that, to quote Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. http://masscommons.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/an-insurgent-outlier-in-amer..."I do think there is some - some - truth in this characterization of the GOP, and of conservatism more generally. I'd also like to call attention to this Joe Klein piece, which makes similar points, and adds a necessary sprinkle of a-pox-on-both-their-houses. http://swampland.time.com/2012/05/01/republicans-against-markets/Here is my point of view: today, Paul Ryan chairs the House Budget Committee, so no budget can come to be unless it can be reported out of his committee. Next year, regardless of who occupies the White House, it's extremely likely that Ryan will continue to chair either the Budget Committee or the Ways and Means Committee, and so the same constraint applies. If Paul Ryan doesn't want President Obama's budget proposal to see the light of day, it won't. The only budget proposal that will ever survive is one that Paul Ryan approves of. Not cutting a deal with Ryan isn't an option. I'd suggest that any tearing down of Ryan's budget or his person or his political philosophy needs to be done bearing this in mind: at the end of the day, the only way to get something done is through him, so approach him with the attitude that you need to make a deal. A scorched-earth campaign is an excellent way to ensure that nothing changes. And Republicans have demonstrated that they will gladly shut down the federal government and fire torpedoes into the world economy rather than extend the status quo.By the same token, regardless of whether Democrats retain a slim majority in the Senate or Republicans achieve a slim majority in the Senate, Senate rules ensure that Senate Democrats will be able to block any legislation they wish.Gridlock has its uses, but gridlock requires that both parties be committed to good-faith governance. There have been some bipartisan accomplishments in the current Congress, but it seems that on the a variety of substantive and neuralgic issues, we're stuck. Cf the spat over student-loan interest rates, which is not an issue that prevents the earth from spinning on its access, but is one that illustrates that the parties can't agree even when they agree.President Obama is pretty darned centrist. If I were a progressive, I'd probably be angry and disheartened over the evolution of his presidency. He wears a sandwich board that says, "Make me an offer." On the cluster of financial issues, he's ready to deal. He just needs a partner.In politics, as in most things in life, there is such a thing as succession planning. President Clinton put his in place before he even won his first term as president, when he chose Al Gore as his running mate. When Clinton's presidency wound down, Gore was a credible national candidate. President GW Bush failed, utterly, to plan beyond the end of his own presidency. He chose an unelectable VP, and left the GOP on its own to figure out 2008 and beyond. And the national GOP has been dysfunctional ever since then. The Tea Party filled the vacuum of ideological and political leadership since the 2008 electoral debacle, and the internecine warfare within the GOP has meant that little unites it beyond Obama Derangement Syndrome. So maybe it really is Bush's fault!

"He does representand play a key leadership role ina political party that, to quote Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. "And you critcized my comment for being too "strongly" worded?!?As for your characterization of the "bipartisan consensus", I must note that none of the items you mentioned addresses the proposals I have in mind - Bowles-Simpson, etc. When viewed in light of those proposals, I believe (strongly) that Ryan falls within that consensus, albeit on the right side. I also believe (strongly) that the President agrees with many of those proposals (and, even, with some of Ryan's points), but i remain disappointed to see the President not proposing a single item from those proposals. Yet where is the criticism? Finally, since both Barney Frank and Howard Dean have recently been critical of the ACA recently, I'm not sure you can describe it as representing a bipartisan consensus.I'm afrad we're going to have to agree to disagree; in Ryan, you see nothing less than the destruction of the social welfare constructs that (for you) represents the closest approximation to the demands of justice by CST, whereas I see in his proposals the possibility of altering and saving social commitments, albeit with a conservative bent. Moreover, by adding (as David Nickol admitted above) the option of electing the current medicare structure (and capping the growth of medicare at exactly the same rate as the President's budget), he has shown a willingness to compromise and adapt that I haven't seen from others.Finally, I would just circle back to the original post by saying that while I agree with much of the criticism of Thissen's piece, I haven't yet seen a single critic quibble with the numbers, namely:"To put that into perspective, Jeff Rosen, a former official in the Bush administrations Office of Management and Budget, points out the final budgets submitted by President George W. Bush projected spending of $3.22 trillion in 2012 and $3.34 trillion in 2013. Ryans budget, by contrast, calls for spending of $3.6 trillion in 2012 and $3.53 trillion in 2013. So Ryans budget is higher than Bushs projections for 2012 and for 2013. In fact, since actual spending in 2008 was $2.98 trillion, Ryans budget represents a 20 percent increase in spending in 2012 higher than inflation from 2008 to 2012."

@Jeff Landry (5/2, 11:19 am) I'm sorry if Mann and Ornstein's words are too strongly worded. I quoted them precisely because they are both long-time centrist political and policy analysts, particularly of the Congress. If people like Mann and Ornstein are writing like that about today's Republican Party (and I think the op-ed is either an excerpt or a summary of some of the key points in their new book), then it suggests to me that Ryan and his colleagues don't fall within a "bi-partisan consensus" on many issues, including on issues of taxes, spending and federal debt.To clarify, I didn't mention the ACA as an example of "bi-partisan consensus". I mentioned it as an example of how extreme today's Republican Party has become. A market-oriented health care bill that is based on policy work done originally by the Heritage Foundation, and on state legislation signed by the Republican Party's presidential nominee, and that reduces federal deficits, and saves hundreds of billions of dollars on Medicare spending over the next decade---and it got not a single Republican vote. This year Paul Ryan has been clear about two things in his budget plan: wanting 1) lower tax rates, and 2) spending cuts that primarily affect the poor and the sick. He has not, to my knowledge, been clear about a single specific revenue raising measure he supports. (Note: that's not surprising; it fact it's consistent with his voting record throughout his career.)Based on his record, Ryan cares more about cutting taxes, particularly for the wealthy, than he does about cutting deficits. Based on his record, Ryan cares more spending for the benefit of the military than he does about spending for the benefit of the poor and the sick.As for Rosen's 2012 budget numbers, given the catastrophic economic impact of the global financial panic of 2008 and of the Great Recession, I'm not at all surprised that the 2012 and 2013 federal budgets are higher than the projections made by Pres. Bush's OMB in early 2008. (Heck, if in some alternate universe Al Gore was the outgoing president in 2008, I expect his budget projections for 2013 would have been way off too.)I think Jim Pauwels is right (5/2, 9:44 am). "Not cutting a deal with Ryan isnt an option." Not as long as Republicans control the House (and I agree it's likely they will in 2013-16). And I agree that "Republicans have demonstrated that they will gladly shut down the federal government and fire torpedoes into the world economy rather than extend the status quo." Some may consider that a sign of a party willing and eager to be part of a "bi-partisan consensus". I find myself more in Mann and Ornstein's camp (not my usual dwelling).I'm not sure what to do in a two-party democracy when one party takes that approach. I think a minimal first step is to face the fact that that is what the Republican Party is today---an extremist party that prefers confrontation to compromise. (Note: it was not ever thus. To take one example, the budget surpluses of the late 1990s likely would not have existed without the Bush-Mitchell budget compromise of 1991.)Finally, it's worth noting, as Kevin Drum does (http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/05/democrats-have-moved-right...), that over the last 20 years, in their efforts at reaching and maintaining "bi-partisan consensus", Democrats have moved to the right on a whole host of issues, including health care, taxation and budgets, only to find that Republicans don't want (for whatever reasons) to compromise.P.S. I'm glad we have agreement with much of the substance of the original post and its criticism of Thiessen's column.

The House, as required by the Constitution, must initiate all government spending. The rules of the House allow the Chairman of the House Budget Committee by his fiat to prevent any action being taken on a budget. Thus one representative is allowed, by House rules, to shut down the operations of the U. S. Government. This is a dictatorship.Paul Ryan is not the most basic problem. The House rules and the cowardly representatives who won't change the rules to rid themselves of Dictator Ryan are the basic problems. There IS an alternative to this gridlock. Change the rules.

@Ann Olivier (5/2, 2:14 pm) Even if the House changed its rules, as long as Republicans are in the majority, they'll be able to pass a budget that reflects their priorities. There's every reason to think that Chairman Ryan, in proposing a budget that would cut tax rates, especially for the wealthy, and make the majority of its spending cuts in programs that benefit the poor and the sick, is both acting on his own long-demonstrated policy priorities, as well as those of the current House majority.There's a stronger case to be made (I think) for the importance of changing Senate Rule 22, which allows a minority effectively to block action by the majority in the Senate---as Republicans have done to an unprecedented degree since 2009.More broadly, as Mann and Ornstein point out, combining the party discipline of a traditional parliamentary government, with the constitutional structure of a presidential/divided powers government, is a recipe for political paralysis.

Again, Luke Hill, I'm afraid it's best to simply say "agree to disagree." Where you see tyrannical Republican despotism, and far-right ideas, I see work that represents bi-partisan consensus. At the same time, I look across the aisle and see a Democrat-controlled Senate that has refused to bring a budget to a vote in over some-1,000 days; I see a President who failed to lead on the issue of deficits in a way that could have forged bipartisan consensus, opting instead to ignore the issue, and now proposes gimmicks that he himself knows will not only not solve the fiscal problems, but make them worse. You see Ryan trying to destroy the social compact; I see him trying to move forward a necessary conversation that we must have at some point if we are to save the social compact. You see drastic, cuts that will harm the poor, the sick, the elderly; I see talk about a budget that, as Thissen points out (and which remains undisputed by you) still proposes to spend more in 2012 and 2013 than even Pres. Bush proposed (who, as you noted, can't exactly be described as a spend-thrift). You see rational criticism of a budget that (you assert) is a pretense for enriching the rich in the name of deficit reduction, I see irrational attempts at de-legitimizing Ryan while ignoring the problem, etc., etc., etc. I suppose the only solution is a prayer for greater openness on all sides.

"...the ACA which, according to CBO projections, will significantly reduce deficits over the next 20 years if implemented (and includes $500 billion in Medicare savings over its first decade)."I believe Rep. Ryan did not support the PPACA, among other reasons, because he uses the term "deficits" for future federal budget deficits differently than the CBO does. The CBO uses the term to refer to projections of future deficits calculated against a theoretical baseline using the scoring rules given them. Rep. Ryan takes a more legalistic approach to the calculation of future budget deficits conforming more to current law. The result of the differing definitions is a material difference in the calculation of future deficits.

@Jeff Landry (5/2, 5:13 pm) I'm fine with agreeing to disagree. However, just so there's some greater clarity about the disagreement:1 - I don't see "tyrannical Republican despotism", and I'm pretty sure I haven't said that I did.2 - As for Thiessen's comment about the size of the 2013 budget, it not only doesn't "remain undisputed" by me; I specifically responded to it by saying it doesn't surprise me at all that early 2008 projections for the 2013 federal budget by Pres. Bush's OMB turned out to be too low. (By the way, given the then-record deficits he ran up after inheriting record surpluses, it's at least debatable whether Bush can be characterized as a "spendthrift"...but that's another discussion.)3 - I take it that we agree that something in the neighborhood of 60% of the spending cuts in Ryan's budget are directed towards the poor and the sick. (Whether that will harm them or help them is another question.)4 - I also take it that we agree that Ryan proposes lowering tax rates, and has thus far refused to identify a single specific measure to reduce tax expenditures that he would support. (Whether that's a pretense for enriching the rich, a belief that the Laffer curve applies in our current situation, or something else is, again, another issue.)5 - Finally I take it we agree that given the choice among tax cuts, military spending cuts, and deficit reduction, Ryan's public record so far is that deficit reduction is less a priority than cutting taxes and preserving/increasing military spending. (That's not to say Ryan doesn't care about deficit reduction. It's also not to say he doesn't have arguments for why cutting taxes and increasing military spending are important. It's just an observation that deficit reduction has generally been a lower priority for him throughout his career than the other two policies.)6 - You and I have agreed in the past, and I hope still agree today, that some combination of economic growth, tax increases and spending cuts are needed to control (and hopefully reduce) the nation's long-term debt.

@MAT (5/2, 5:26 pm) What is the "more legalistic" approach to the calculation of future federal deficits that Chairman Ryan uses? Given that one of the main reasons for the CBO's existence is to provide professional, technical and nonpartisan calculations of the fiscal impact of proposed budgets and other laws (e.g., the ACA), why is the House Budget Chairman not using their numbers?

"Given that one of the main reasons for the CBOs existence is to provide professional, technical and nonpartisan calculations of the fiscal impact of proposed budgets and other laws (e.g., the ACA), why is the House Budget Chairman not using their numbers?"I never said he was not using their numbers. In fact, I imagine he would stipulate that they were accurate and lawfully produced using the scoring conventions given to them. They are however not relevant to his budget plan given the different usage of the term deficit. "What is the more legalistic approach to the calculation of future federal deficits that Chairman Ryan uses?"Among other things, unlike the CBO, Rep. Ryan is not constrained in his calculation approach by 2 U.S.C. 907 (b) (3).

Luke --As I understand it, though there are not a majority of Republicans who want to raise taxes, there are a very considerable number. Those together with the Democrats should be able to get a majority. Bipartisanhip can work, but not when there are dictator committee chairmen. (And I don't say that Ryan is the only one. The *system* is outrageous.

@Ann Olivier (5/2, 8:42 pm) What's the basis for your understanding that there are a "very considerable number" of congressional Republicans who "want to" (or even are willing to) raise taxes? (By the way, I hope you're right.) One of the more disappointing, and troubling in my view, turns of recent years has been the decision by moderate Republicans to, when push comes to shove, vote the party line. If they had instead been willing to cut deals with moderate Democrats, they could have had a major and positive impact on legislation in a number of policy areas (e.g., health care, energy, fiscal policy).Even someone as powerful as the Speaker has proved unable to forge compromises that the Republican caucus (not just committee chairmen) would go along with.

@MAT (5/2, 8:05 pm) Thanks for your reply. What is 2 U.S.C. 907-b-3? And what makes Ryan's approach "more legalistic" if he's not constrained by the law?Also, what, if any, is the value added to the public debate (and ultimately to the commonwealth) by a committee chairman coming up with his own definition of "deficit"?

@Luke Hill: "You and I have agreed in the past, and I hope still agree today, that some combination of economic growth, tax increases and spending cuts are needed to control (and hopefully reduce) the nations long-term debt."I suppose we do agree, but my feeling after going round and round re: Ryan is that the characterization of Ryan in an attempt to de-legitimize him frustrates that agreement, e.g. harping on his past record as an indication of his "unseriousness" and/or him being labelled a "dictator", etc. And by the way, Ann, the House has always operated by means of "dictator House chairmen." If anything, the Republicans have significantly weakened the power of chairmen, first by adopting term limits after the 1994 takeover, and most recently by removing things like earmarks, etc. which were used by chairmen to get the votes in line. The majority in the House (from Tip O'Neill to Newt Gingrich) has always wielded a heavy hand through the committees; it's the way the place works. It could argued that by weakening the hand of the chairmen, the House has become less effective.

@Luke Hill: sorry to keep beating this horse, but another analogy for my feelings about the commentary re: Ryan occurred to me. I have for some time agreed with progressive pro-life Catholics who have been critical of some more conservative pro-life Catholic rhetoric re: abortion as "murder", and the harsh descriptions of Catholic politicians who do not vote to re-criminalize abortion as, among other things, essentially assisting murder. Now, with respect to Ryan and his proposal, I think it's time for some Catholic progressives to take a dose of their own medicine. The descriptions of Ryan's plans, motives - both personal and policy, and commitments (to my ears) has been just as deeply uncharitable, unfair and unhelpful as some of the stuff the right has said with respect to the abortion issue. I think if we're going to take the view that we need to engage, and cajole on one issue, we need to do the same on the other. But I don't see it playing out that way, unfortunately.

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