The Saints Among Us Are Under Siege

From “We Are All Nuns,” Nicholas D. Kristof, NYT:

“Catholic nuns are not the prissy traditionalists of caricature.  No, nuns rock!

“They were the first feminists, earning Ph.D.’s or working as surgeons long before it was fashionable for women to hold jobs.  As managers of hospitals, schools and complex bureaucracies, they were the first female C.E.O.’s.

“They are also among the bravest, toughest and most admirable people in the world.  In my travels, I’ve seen heroic nuns defy warlords, pimps and bandits.  Even as bishops have disgraced the church by covering up the rape of children, nuns have redeemed it with their humble work on behalf of the neediest.

“So, Pope Benedict, all I can say is:  You are crazy to mess with nuns.

The Vatican issued a stinging reprimand of American nuns this month and ordered a bishop to oversee a makeover of the organization that represents 80 percent of them.  In effect, the Vatican accused the nuns of worrying too  much about the poor and not enough about abortion and gay marriage.

“What Bible did that come from?  Jesus in the Gospels repeatedly talks about poverty and social justice, yet never explicitly mentions either abortion or homosexuality.  If you look at who has more closely emulated Jesus’s life, Pope Benedict or your average nun, it’s the nun hands down.”  Emphasis added.

Update on Heating Oil Story

I went online to find a phone number for the heating oil company in the NYT story so I could call them tomorrow, and I discovered a lot of people have already called.  The Sun Journal of Maine is reporting* that Hometown Energy in Dixfield, Maine got calls from all over the country on Saturday, pledging donations that totaled almost six figures in just one day.  They are setting up a trust fund for the Hartfords and others like them.

Our government may suck, but we are still good people.

*”‘America has a heartbeart:’  Donations pour in for home heat,” by Erin Cox

A Story That Cuts to the Heart

To me, the “big story” this weekend was not the Super Bowl, but a front-page article in Saturday’s NYT, “In Fuel Oil Country, Cold That Cuts to the Heart,” by Dan Barry, which begins:

“With the darkening approach of another ice-hard Saturday night in western Maine, the man on the phone was pleading for help, again.  His tank was nearly dry, and he and his disabled wife needed precious heating oil to keep warm.  Could Ike help out?  Again?

“Ike Libby, the co-owner of a small oil company called Hometown Energy, ached for his customer, Robert Hartford.  He knew what winter in Maine meant, especially for a retired couple living in a wood-frame house built in the 19th century.  But he also knew that the Hartfords already owed him more than $700 for two earlier deliveries.

“The oil man said he was very sorry.  The customer said he understood.  And each was left to grapple with a matter so mundane in Maine, and so vital:  the need for heat.”

The story goes on to talk about the effects of cuts in the federal energy-assistance program — 65,000 families are affected just in Maine.  While heating oil costs 40 cents a gallon more than last year, the average allotment has been cut almost in half, from $804 to $483.  This is inexcusably cruel.

People like Mr. Hartford, a 68-year-old retired stonemason, and his 71-year-old wheelchair-bound wife are suffering.  This year is worse for them than last year, and I believe if Mitt Romney wins, next year will be worse than this year, assuming they are still alive.  Because Mitt says he’s going to balance the budget without raising taxes.  God forbid he and his private equity friends should lose their 15% “carried interest” loophole and pay the normal rate of 35%.

Despite the Great Recession, we are still a rich country.  A very, very rich country.  We can afford to get the Hartfords (and their dog and four cats) through another winter.


More on Mitt and the Poor

As I posted earlier, Mitt said today that he isn’t concerned about the poor, he’s concerned about the middle class.

My sense is that he’s so out of touch with normal Americans that he doesn’t realize how many people have fallen out of the middle class and become poor since the Great Recession began.  Some of those people had been middle class all their lives and never known poverty, others had succeeded in reaching the middle class, only to fall back down.  The line between poor and middle class has become blurred.  People who used to write checks to their local food banks are now getting groceries there.

Does Mitt have some sort of cut off in mind?  Will he help you if you were middle class on some date in 2007?  He definitely seems to think that there are some hopeless poor people unworthy of his time and attention, who should get what they need to survive, but not the opportunity to do better.  He’s writing some people off as too stupid or lazy or fond of alcohol and drugs to reach the middle class.

Mitt is bringing back the concept of the “undeserving poor” from Victorian England.

Mitt’s not just fomenting the class warfare the GOP falsely accuses President Obama of doing, he’s clearly taken sides.  And it’s not the side that will win in November.

Is the GOP Really Going to Nominate This Guy?

Mitt the Tone Deaf told CNN, “I’m not concerned about the very poor.”

Given a chance to walk that back, he doubled down!  “I said I’m not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them.  You can choose where to focus.  You can focus on the rich.  That’s not my focus.  You can focus on the very poor.  That’s not my focus.  My focus is on middle income Americans….”

So he’s saying the poor can just stay where they are and remain at their subsistence level, he has no interest in helping them move into the middle class.  This is completely antithetical to everything that America means and stands for.  We don’t believe in a permanent underclass, we believe in upward mobility.  We are the country where you were a guy with a cart selling pickles on the Lower East Side, but your son became a judge or a surgeon.

It is also the rap that the GOP likes to lay on the Dems — that the Dems don’t really care about the poor as they profess to, that they like to keep them dependent on their public housing and food stamps and Medicaid so the Dems have a built-in voting block they can rely on.

Poor people were never going to vote for Mitt.  But better-off people who care about the poor, maybe because they or their parents or their grandparents used to be poor, won’t either.  That’s a voting bloc the GOP can’t afford to lose.

For all the GOP’s garbage that Obama is the “Other” who doesn’t understand and believe in America, it’s their guy Mitt who can’t open his silver-spoon-clogged mouth without revealing that he really is the “Other.”

The Romney campaign may be celebrating their Florida victory, but the GOP should be in panic mode.  You’re saddled with a big loser.

Will You Vote for Incompetent or Insensitive?

The news that the number of Americans in poverty is at the highest level since they started keeping track 52 years ago, and that median household income is back down to where it was in 1997, only increases our sense of urgency to stop digging and get this country out of its hole.

But what are our options?  We have a choice between the party that “feels our pain,” but seems incapable of finding the Advil, and the party that couldn’t care less about our pain and is obsessed with keeping the Advil hidden.

So the choice is between Incompetent Tweedledum and Insensitive Tweedledee.  Whoever wins, it feels as if the rest of us will keep losing ground.