Tuesday, April 19, 2011

United States Federal Budget, Congress, and Getting a Grip

Standard and Poor's (www.standardandpoors.com) has been around for more than a century and a half, and seem to know what they're doing:
"...With...a history that dates back more than 150 years, Standard & Poor's is known to investors worldwide as a leader of financial- market intelligence....

"...Most notably, we are known as an independent provider of credit ratings. In 2009, we published more than 870,000 new and revised credits ratings. Currently, we rate more than US$32 trillion in outstanding debt...."
("About Standard & Poor's," Standard & Poor's)

S & P in a Catholic Blog: WHY?

I've opined about being 'too heavenly minded to be any earthly good' before. My hat's off to folks who cut themselves off from the world, so that they can concentrate on a life of prayer and meditation. Which is not all there is to monastic life - and that's another topic. (See "Mother Teresa of Calcutta: She's No Princess Di" (May 8, 2009))

As a practicing Catholic, I have an obligation to be a good citizen - and I'll get back to that idea.

The Federal Budget is in the red, no news there. Congress likes to spend money - also no news. After a while, even Congress has to face reality - which is, I'll concede, an opinion.

Which is where the S & P rating for the Feds comes in. Up to now, the American government has been rated as "stable" By Standard & Poor's.

S & P changed the U.S. "stable" rating to "negative."

What's the big deal?

Congress Bankrupts America: So What?

In a way, Congress flying America's government into the ground won't make all that much difference. If this country's government goes bankrupt, the sun will still rise and set, rivers will continue to run - and eventually somebody will work out how to maintain roads.

Or - and I rather hope this doesn't happen - some of the folks who set up the 9/11 attacks will move in and reform this country. Despite my opinion of Congress, I think we'd be better off with the lot we've got.

Also, that's close to a worst-case scenario, and I'd like to believe that not even Congress would bungle so severely.

Debt in the Trillions of Dollars - and Congress Wants to Dig Us Deeper?!

From Sunday's news:
"...Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said congressional leaders told President Barack Obama last week that they will raise the federal debt ceiling when it reaches its limit, which is expected to happen sometime within the next 10 weeks.

" 'Congress will raise the debt ceiling,' Geithner told ABC's 'This Week' program. 'I sat there with them and they said, "We recognize we have to do this." '..."
When a private company's leadership blunders their way into debt that they can't repay, the company goes bankrupt - and/or gets bailed out by the Feds, and that's almost another topic.

What's different about the Federal government is that Congress can decide that they don't like the debt limits they've got, lower their standards, and keep on spending our money.

For what it's worth, I think both major political parties can share credit for digging America into this hole.

Maybe Congress really does need to lower their standards again.

I'm pretty sure that the folks in Washington could - and should - stop spending quite so much of the money I send them each year. Even if it means that favorite programs of mine, like the NASA budget, need to be trimmed.

Religion, Politics, and Getting a Grip

Aren't religious people supposed to stay away from politics?

As a practicing Catholic, I've got an obligation to engage in public life. It's 'in the rules.' I've discussed that before. Much more to the point, the Church has a few words to say on the subject:
That's just a start - but I think those links are a pretty good place to start, for learning what the Catholic Church teaches about people, government, and being citizens.

End Welfare? Good Idea, But - - -

Before getting into another controversial matter, my opinion about America's government social programs.

I don't think welfare was a good idea. I've never assumed that Social Security will be around when I reach retirement age - which is, in practical terms, now. I really don't think that paying people to stay unemployed is a good idea. At all.

That said, I think American bishops were right when they urged Congress to not 'balance the budget' by careless cutting of social programs. (February 18, 2011)

America has, for generations now, provided financial and other assistance to folks who are at the low end of the economic spectrum.

Like it or not, there are folks whose background makes them at least semi-dependent on Federal assistance programs. I don't think they're 'bad' people, and I certainly don't think that they and their children are all doomed to everlasting dependence on the dole.

I do, however, think that it'll take time to undo habits formed over generations - and that abruptly knocking down what's been supporting the very poor is a good idea.

Killing Babies Isn't Health Care

It's 'well known' in some circles that a woman has a right to kill her babies - as long as she gets the job done before they reach a certain age.

I think it's more a matter of the woman's boss/boyfriend/professor/significant other/whatever having the right to force his sex machine to get 'fixed,' and that's almost another topic, again.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has been getting downright uppity lately. From a recent press release:
"Bishops to Congress: At a Time of Painful Budget Cuts, Defunding Planned Parenthood 'Not One of Those Hard Choices' "
USCCB News Release, Office of Media Relations, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (April 14, 2011)

"In an April 13 letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston urged Congress to vote for a resolution to ban federal funding of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In the midst of a budget debate involving shared sacrifice and hard choices, Cardinal DiNardo wrote, 'Whether to fund the largest abortion network in the country is not one of those hard choices.'...

"...Cardinal DiNardo offered additional reasons for supporting H. Con. Res. 36:
  • " 'First, it is indisputable that Planned Parenthood Federation of America is by far the largest provider and promoter of abortions nationwide, performing about a third of all abortions (332,278 abortions in Fiscal Year 2008-9). Abortions also account for over a third of Planned Parenthood income. The organization has aborted over 5 million unborn children since 1970.'
  • " 'Second, the organization's involvement in abortion (now including chemical abortions using RU-486) has substantially increased in recent years, and its provision of other services such as prenatal care and adoption referrals has declined markedly. Now the national organization insists that all affiliates provide abortions by 2013, a mandatory policy that has led at least one affiliate to leave the organization.
  • " 'Third, the organization has led numerous legislative campaigns and litigation strategies to oppose any meaningful limits on abortion, including modest measures such as public funding bans, informed consent provisions, and parental notice requirements for abortions on unemancipated minors. One of Planned Parenthood's legislative priorities is to oppose conscience clauses (which it calls "refusal clauses"), so that hospitals, physicians and nurses will not be allowed to serve the health care needs of women without taking part in abortion.'
"Cardinal DiNardo wrote that some, in an effort to divert the discussion away from abortion, have tried to make the debate about women's access to basic health care. He noted that Catholic and other religiously affiliated health care providers generally do provide mammograms, prenatal and maternity care for women, while Planned Parenthood does not.

" 'To the extent that Planned Parenthood does provide any legitimate health services for women, however, those services can be provided by others, since H. Con. Res. 36 does not reduce funding for services by one cent,' Cardinal DiNardo wrote. 'Therefore the question at issue here is: When low-income women need these legitimate health care services, should the federal government insist that they receive them from the local abortion provider?'

"The full text of Cardinal DiNardo's letter is available online: www.usccb.org/prolife/DiNardo-HR1473.pdf"
(USCCB News Release)
In case the USCCB server is busy - or their webmaster moves Cardinal DiNardo's letter - I've made a duplicate copy available on another server: DiNardo-HR1473.pdf

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.