Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The effects of sequestration

Kathy Saile, the director of domestic social development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has co-authored an op-ed piece about the effects of sequestration on the most vulnerable members of our society.
It’s been more than 140 days since sequestration went into effect, cutting $84 billion across the board from government programs this year. It may be difficult to comprehend the effects of that number. However, it is not difficult to comprehend that a child who is undernourished this year could have learning difficulties for the rest of her life—which will hurt her ability to earn enough money to provide for herself and her future children. It is not difficult to comprehend that a father in South Sudan who needlessly dies from AIDS this year because of reduced access to treatments will leave his family in dire straits. It is not difficult to comprehend that an elderly person on a fixed income in the Midwest will sit hungry and cold in a dingy apartment next winter because of cuts to essential assistance.

For these reasons and more, over 5,000 Christian pastors and other faith leaders have written to President Barack Obama and key members of Congress who are working to reduce our national debt and annual deficits. In their pastoral letter, they ask lawmakers and the administration to form a circle of protection around effective programs that help hungry and poor people in our country and abroad. 
The pastoral letter was initiated by the Circle of Protection, an alliance of Christian leaders who have met with members of both parties and with President Obama, urging that the common good be pursued and that the budget not be balanced on the backs of hungry and poor people.
You can read more here.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Help Preserve Funding for Critical Housing Programs

Catholic Charities USA has sent out the following Urgent Action Alert:

Urgent Action Needed: Help Preserve Funding for Critical Housing Programs

WHAT: Both the Senate and the House are considering different proposals that would allocate FY2014 funding for Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD). The Senate is expected to take key votes on several amendments to its bill, S. 1243, as early as this evening. The House is expected to bring its proposal, H.R. 2610, to the floor for consideration tomorrow (Tuesday, July 30). This bill would drastically reduce funding for HUD programs that serve our nation’s most vulnerable populations. The proposed House funding levels are nearly $10 billion lower than the current Senate proposal, and would revert some programs back to the same funding levels appropriated in the 1970s.

What you can do:

Senate Action
Call your Senators now and ask them to oppose amendments that would reduce funding for the HOME Investment program and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), to exclude all federal funds from being counted as matching funds for McKinney grants, and to eliminate the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Urge them to support efforts to require HUD to submit a report to Congress on legislative options to modernize and improve targeting of CDBG allocation formulas.

House Action
Call your Representative and urge him to oppose passage of H.R. 2610, as it would drastically reduce funding for programs that help those living in the margins. Let them know that more than 630,000 people in this country are homeless on any given night—and in a nation of plenty this should not be. Urge them to provide full funding so that each individual has access to safe, decent, and affordable housing.

Additional Background Information The National Low-Income Housing Coalition has provided the following resources:

   - View NLIHC’s budget chart at:
   - View NLIHC’s comparison of FY13 and FY14 bills at:

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Monday, July 22, 2013

More on income inequality

Miles Corak, a professor of economics at the University of Ottawa, writes that, if the American dream means “being able to succeed regardless of the economic circumstances in which you were born,” we will have better luck achieving it in Canada and other countries with less economic inequality than in the USA.
A child’s prospects are actually more fluid elsewhere, not just in the most equal countries, like Denmark or Sweden, but even in countries like Canada that have moderate levels of inequality, as I demonstrate in a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.
American children raised at the top, and at the bottom, are more likely to land on the same rung of the income ladder as their fathers than their Canadian counterparts. More than one-quarter of sons raised by fathers in the top 10 percent stay in the top 10 percent as adults, and another quarter fall no further than the top third. Meanwhile, half of those raised by fathers in the bottom 10 percent remain at the bottom or rise no further than the bottom third. In Canada there is less stickiness at the top, and children raised in the bottom are more likely to rise to the top half in earnings.  
. . .  
The belief that talent is bred in the bone, and that opportunities are open to anyone with ambition and energy, also has a dangerous corollary. When the lens of public policy is focused on the plight of the poor, this belief can help revive the laissez-faire conception of the poor as “undeserving,” the authors of their own predicament. Yet we actually know a good deal about why children of the poor have a higher chance of being stuck in poverty as adults.  
The recipes for breaking this intergenerational trap are clear: a nurturing environment in the early years combined with accessible and high-quality health care and education promote the capacities of young children, heighten the development of their skills as they grow older, and ultimately raise their chances of upward mobility.  
Talent is nurtured and developed, and even genes are expressed differently depending upon environmental influences.  
It is not just demography and inbred entrepreneurial spirit that make the tie between parent and child incomes stronger in America than any other rich country to which it is commonly compared. Differences in public policies also play a role. Less inequality makes opportunity-enhancing policies that are of relatively larger benefit to lower-income families easier to introduce and sustain.
You can read more here.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Catholic college officials support immigration reform

The Washington Post reports that more than 90 Catholic university heads are urging fellow Catholic legislators to pass comprehensive immigration reform, saying that their faith "values the human dignity and worth of all immigrants."
In the letter, the university presidents called for a path to legalization for all undocumented immigrants. The group asked the lawmakers to resist pressure from "powerful interest groups" and said that as Catholics, they have a "serious responsibility to consider the moral dimensions" of policies.

The letter comes as Congress has been grappling with proposals for a sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration laws. Last month, the Senate passed a bipartisan measure that would give illegal immigrants a chance to become U.S. citizens, step up border security and increase visas for legal and skilled immigrants.

The House of Representatives, however, is sharply divided on the issue, and conservative leaders want to break it into smaller individual bills addressing border security, legal immigration, employment and illegal immigration. Supporters of immigration reform say this would effectively kill any chance of meaningful change.

In a conference call with journalists Thursday, the presidents of the University of Notre Dame, the Catholic University of America and other leading Catholic educators called on Congress to end what they called the abuse and exploitation of illegal immigrants and to enact legislation that would take a humane approach to the issue.
You can read more here.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A conservative discusses food stamps

Conservative columnist, David Brooks recently appeared on television and discussed a column he was planning to write about the food stamp program:
And I was going to do a column, because the Republican critics are correct that the number of people on food stamps has exploded. And so I was going to do a column, this is wasteful, it's probably going up the income streams to people who don't really need the food stamps. And so, this was going to be a great column, would get my readers really mad at me, I would love it, it would be fun.  
But then I did some research and found out who was actually getting the food stamps. And the people who deserve to get it are getting. That was the basic conclusion I came to. So I think it has expanded. That's true. But that's because the structure of poverty has expanded in the country.
You can read the transcript here.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Deacon works to ease veterans’ pain

Deacon Gerald Ladouceur, a retired U.S. Navy commander who served three tours in the Middle East, ministers to veterans at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center and The Community Hospice. His work was the subject of an article in the most recent issue of The Evangelist.
"Nine out of 10 people don't even know we're at war," laments Deacon Gerald Ladouceur. "These guys come back broken and [civilians are] like, 'Don't remind me there's a war going on.'"

Deacon Ladouceur encounters living reminders every day through his ministry to veterans at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center and The Community Hospice. He said civilians should take note of veterans' struggles - whether those veterans are young men returning home to a sour job market and a slow benefits system or senior citizens still grappling with the effects of war.

"When I meet with a vet [at the VA], I don't know what that need is going to be," the deacon said. His responsibilities range from counseling and pastoral care to patient advocacy; sometimes he even finds veterans a place to live when they're discharged from the hospital.

"I consider the work sacred. I see it as a very big responsibility that, for whatever reasons, this [person] is in front of me and needs my help," he added.
You can read more here.

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Monday, July 08, 2013

Is it getting harder for the poor to move up?

Matthew O'Brien, an associate editor at The Atlantic who covers business and economics, has written an important article about why the poor have a hard time moving up in American society today. In short, the growing income inequality in our society breeds more income inequality, or, as one of the people he quotes in his article puts it, “it's harder to climb our social ladder when the rungs are further apart.”
. . . It's a story about paychecks, marriage, and homework. Now, it's not entirely clear why the top 1 percent have pulled so far away from everyone else, but there's a long list of suspects. Technology has let winners take, if not all, at least most, in fields like music; deregulation has set Wall Street free to make big bonuses off big bets (and leave taxpayers with the bill when they go bad); globalization and the decline of unions have left labor with far less leverage and share of income; and falling top-end tax rates have exacerbated it all. But high-earners aren't just earning more today; they're also marrying each other more. It's what economists romantically call "assortative mating" -- and Christine Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, estimates inequality would be 25 to 30 percent lower if not for it. 
Marriage is widening inequality today, and keeping it wide tomorrow. Well-off couples get married more, stay together more, read to their children more, and otherwise have more time and money to spend on their children's education. As the New York Times points out, economists Richard Murname and Greg Duncan have found that high-income couples have poured resources into the educational arms race at a prodigious pace the past generation. For one, the amount of time college-educated parents spend with their kids has grown at double the rate of others since 1975; for another, high-income households invested 150 percent more in "enrichment activities" for their kids from 1972 to 2006, compared to a 57 percent increase for low-income households.
There is much more to read, and suggestions about what can be done, here.

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