Paul Nevins

Paul Nevins
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
October 29
Paul Nevins is the author of "The Politics of Selfishness: How John Locke’s Legacy Is Paralyzing America "(Greenwood /Praeger/ABC-CLIO). The central thesis of this important and unconventional work is that the United States has begun to experience a number of profound, interrelated problems that are caused, both directly and indirectly, by the country's dogmatic and often unconscious adherence, collectively as a political culture and individually as Americans, to the political philosophy of John Locke. That ideology, which is the bedrock upon which the American liberal democracy has been founded, asserts that human beings are by nature solitary, aggrandizing individuals. Hence, preoccupation with the self in all of its manifestations and attributes - as opposed to the whole, the public interest - has become the primary focus by which political, economic and societal decisions are made. Consequently, the preferred form of social and political relationships with others, including the state as the organized expression of political society, is solely contractual and is designed primarily to protect private property in all of its forms. "The Politics of Selfishness" provides compelling historic and contemporary evidence that U.S. institutions, at all levels, are failing because of the country's uncritical embrace of the anti-social individualism which is John Locke’s legacy. Paul Nevins has been a trial attorney in private practice since 1982. He concentrates in public and private sector employment law and litigation, related civil rights and constitutional law claims, and contract claims. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Paul Nevins taught in the Boston Public Schools. While teaching, Mr. Nevins served as a member of the Executive Board of the Boston Teachers Union, Local 66, AFT/AFL-CIO. Paul Nevins served as a conscript in the United States Army from 1968 to 1970. In 1969, he was a founder and the first chairman of GIs for Peace at Fort Bliss, Texas.This was the first organization of active duty soldiers who publicly opposed the Vietnam War. Mr. Nevins received an A.B. Degree from Suffolk University, a Master of Arts Degree from New York University, and a Juris Doctor Degree from Suffolk University Law School. He lives and works in Boston.


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APRIL 19, 2012 5:41PM

Congressman Ryan's Delusional Politics

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                                cross-posted at politics of

       In a recent interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Congressman Paul Ryan stated that, as a Catholic, the Church's "social magisterium" was the inspiration for his most recent House budget proposal. Ryan claimed that one essential goal of that teaching was to prevent the poor from staying poor and not becoming lifelong dependents of the government. Ryan further stated that, "A person's faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private." 
  Deutsch: Emblem des Pontifikats English: emble...
         After a series of biting criticisms from progressive Democrats who documented that the  spending cuts contained in Ryan's proposed  budget would savage the poor and advantage the  wealthy, Daniel Henninger, a right-wing opinion columnist for the Wall Street Journal,valiantly rose to Ryan's defense: He accused the Congressman's critics of "demolishing Paul Ryan" and distorting Ryan's commitment to the Catholic notion of "subsidiarity - i.e. a principle that holds that human affairs are best handled at the lowest possible level, closest to the affected persons.    
          The question that Henninger avoided asking, however, is whether, in fact, the values that Paul Ryan endorses are consonant with the tradition of Catholic social philosophy and whether they are, in fact, conservative at all? All of the evidence suggests the contrary.   

        The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a guide entitled "Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions." It emphasizes that "The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities--to one another, to our families, and to the larger society." As such, "Human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency - starting with food, shelter and clothing, employment, health care, and education. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities -- to one another, to our families, and to the larger society."

        Under a section entitled "Option for the Poor and Vulnerable," the guide proclaims: "A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first." Indeed, this option is a major barometer of one's commitment to social justice since "The moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. The poor have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of the nation. We are called to look at public policy decisions in terms of how they affect the poor. The 'option for the poor,' is not an adversarial slogan that pits one group or class against another. Rather it states that the deprivation and powerlessness of the poor wounds the whole community. The option for the poor is an essential part of society's effort to achieve the common good. A healthy community can be achieved only if its members give special attention to those with special needs, to those who are poor and on the margins of society."

       Equally emphatic is the Catholic Church's rejection of those economic doctrines that have elevated the primacy of the markets and capitalism over basic human needs. "The economy must serve people, not the other way around. All workers have a right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, and to safe working conditions. They also have a fundamental right to organize and join unions. People have a right to economic initiative and private property, but these rights have limits. No one is allowed to amass excessive wealth when others lack the basic necessities of life."  Although "Catholic teaching opposes collectivist and statist economic approaches.... it also rejects the notion that a free market automatically produces justice. Distributive justice, for example, cannot be achieved by relying entirely on free market forces. Competition and free markets are useful elements of economic systems. However, markets must be kept within limits, because there are many needs and goods that cannot be satisfied by the market system. It is the task of the state and of all society to intervene and ensure that these needs are met."
        The section styled "The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers" expresses the Catholic Church's long-standing endorsement of unions and the need for government regulation of the economy in the public interest: "The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in Gods creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected--the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative." Consistent with this view, "All people have a right to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of society. It is a fundamental demand of justice and a requirement for human dignity that all people be assured a minimum level of participation in the community. It is wrong for a person or a group to be excluded unfairly or to be unable to participate in society."
       Catholic social doctrine insists upon the importance of government as a positive instrument to advance the public good. For that reason, the current assault that is being waged by Ryan and his Republican supporters upon government is impossible to square with historic Catholic social teaching. As the " Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions: Guide to Catholic Social Teaching" explains, "The state has a positive moral function. It is an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights, and build the common good. All people have a right and a responsibility to participate in political institutions so that government can achieve its proper goals. The principle of subsidiarity holds that the functions of government should be performed at the lowest level possible, as long as they can be performed adequately. When the needs in question cannot adequately be met at the lower level, then it is not only necessary, but imperative that higher levels of government intervene..."

       In his encyclical, Mater et Magister, Pope John XXIII emphasized the central role of the state in promoting social justice: "As for the State, its whole raison d'etre is the realization of the common good in the temporal order. It cannot, therefore, hold aloof from economic matters. On the contrary, it must do all in its power to promote the production of a sufficient supply of material goods, 'the use of which is necessary for the practice of virtue.' It has also the duty to protect the rights of all its people, and particularly of its weaker members, the workers, women and children. It can never be right for the State to shirk its obligation of working actively for the betterment of the condition of the workingman."  

          By contrast, Congressman Ryan has repeatedly expressed his admiration and enthusiasm for the writings of Ayn Rand and is reliably reported to have required that all of his staff read Rand's Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Rand extolled unbridled selfishness and condemned altruism as a misguided instinct. Given the legacy of antisocial individualism in this country, the gospel of selfishness has enjoyed  a long and venerable history long before "Objectivism" was touted as something new and fashionable. Particularly during times of economic crises when, as now, the social fabric has begun to fray, the advocates of selfishness have regularly reappeared to peddle their political philosophy as a nostrum that they claim will cure all that ails the country's body politic.  

        The kind of anti-government rhetoric advanced by Congressman Ryan is at loggerheads with the Catholic moral teaching that is an essential part of the conservative political tradition. Because that tradition traces its lineage from Aristotle, through Thomas Aquinas, to Catholic philosophers today, that authentically conservative tradition is fundamentally at odds with the kind of anti-social individualism that dominates current GOP political discourse. In stark contrast to Catholic social teaching, that discourse draws its values from the tradition of classical liberalism that emerged after the Protestant Reformation and was trumpeted by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, David Hume and Adam Smith, among other English thinkers.

        Part of the confusion over whether Ryan's proposed  budget reflects consistent Catholic social teaching is directly attributable to the confusion and timidity of the current U.S. Bishops. Obsessed by matters sexual and reproductive, blind to enormous scandal in their own midst, and chosen primarily because of their obsequious, unquestioning loyalty to an increasingly rigid and doctrinaire pontiff, they have chosen to mute their fidelity and responsibility to affirm historic Catholic teaching in a Faustian bargain not to offend the GOP politicians who agree with them solely on issues of contraception and reproductive rights. Although  the curent head of the U.S. Council of Bishops belateedly issued a crticism of Rynas' proposed budget today, the silence of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chief apologist for Ryan's 2011 budget,  remains defeaning and utterly indefensible. 

        Paul Ryan, as a right-wing libertarian, has never expressed a commitment to the idea of social justice, nor is he able to comprehend that the notion that the public interest is something different and distinct from a mere aggregation of self-interests. He also denies that the role of government, to use the words of A.D. Lindsey, is to "hinder the hindrances" - that is, to eliminate those impediments that stand in the way of a person's moral and civic development. For those reasons, Ryan, as is also true of his fellow GOP Catholics - Santorum, Gingrich ad Speaker Boehner - may be a Catholic in his theology, but his social philosophy and his politics are firmly rooted in the classical liberal politics  that emerged from the Protestant Reformation and are antithetical  to Catholic social teaching.

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Paul Ryan voted for: The big bank bailouts (TARP), the auto bailouts, No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, unemployment benefits, Section 8 housing vouchers, and making the Patriot Act permanent. Not to mention he voted for the ridiculous Bush spending, and now his budget cutting proposals are a joke.

Hmm. Turns out Paul Ryan is not a "right-wing libertarian."
"A person's faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private." And how does Pope Paul square that with the crew from C Street -- John Ensign, et al, or with David Vitter, Larry Craig and a host of sinners to be named later.

"a principle that holds that human affairs are best handled at the lowest possible level, closest to the affected persons" and how does Ryan square that with having a Pope and the rest of Catholic hierarchy?

It sickens me when the Catholic Church pontificates -- literally -- about protecting the poor and the vulnerable, while protecting the prerogatives of the hierarchy, covering up pedophile priests, and doing everything in its power to destroy the practitioners of Liberation Theology.

Peddle it in South America or elsewhere, Mr Ryan, you won't find many on either side of the political divide in this country, who are any longer buying "compassionate conservatism".
His numbers are delusional, too. The bulk of Medicaid spending goes to the blind and disabled. Based on real data, Health Economist Aaron Carroll at TheIncidentalEconomist blog says this:

"Let me put it another way. If we cut 1 million elderly from the Medicaid rolls, we reduce Medicaid spending by about 5%. If we cut 1 million adults, however, we reduce Medicaid spending by only 1%. We need to cut 5 times as many adults. If we want to cut Medicaid spending by 10% (which is far less than some propose), we’d need to drop more than 10 million adults from Medicaid. That’s almost three-quarters of all of them. If we want to cut overall Medicaid spending by 20%, then we’d need to drop all non-elderly adults, including all pregnant women, as well as about 10 million kids, or more than a third of them.

So what will we do? Should we cut some of their benefits instead? Again, look how little we already spend on children and adults. If we cut spending on every child and every non-elderly adult by 25%, that will reduce overall Medicaid spending by less than 8%.

Or do you want to go after the money we spend on the blind and disabled? Women with breast cancer or colon cancer? The elderly? Until I hear some specifics, I’ll continue to look at the idea with skepticism and dismay."

Note: Ryan wants to cut Medicaid by 22%. The data makes it clear that to make these cuts work, the blind, the elderly, the disabled and the cancer patients have to find jobs that cover their high health care costs and, let's face it, that isn't going to happen.

In short, if Ryan's plan is enacted we'll get a return to that wonderful feature of Reaganism: swelling homeless populations sleeping and begging on the streets of every city.
Actually, on further thought, we'll probably just get cost shifting. The newly uninsured will end up in the emergency room, increasing costs for everyone else.
I rated this because it does an excellent job of exposing the problem of religionists in government. Their religion corrupts government and being politicians corrupts them. Religion is a plague on human progress, and the Founders recognized that religion has no place in government. Any "representative" who uses religion to justify his policies should be removed from office immediately. I know I'm in a minority with that view, which is the problem.
First, Thank you for the explanation of the Roman Catholic doctrine- it is important that the stance of the various beliefs on the poor, the honest working man, the "regular guy" as well as those born tested by disease, disrupted families, handicaps (all supported by the Social security Ryan detests- how will vouchers help them?}

What effort has Ryan and cohorts made to create jobs for the poor? oh they supported Grover Norquist and his Maldives slave labor camps getting a twofor in both eliminating urban jobs "look for the union label" and they certainly help Appallachia in ripping the top of their mountains off providing a good decade of work but actual effort to create jobs in the poverty centers?

It was the Romans who crucified Yeshua but its been the Christians who continue to crucify his teachings.
As Jack Nicholson said to the religious housekeeper in "As Good As It Gets," "sell crazy somewhere else, we're all stocked up here." That is what I have to say to Rep. Ryan.
His logic seems to resemble that of the great theological "explainers" of the 20th Century who thought they could prove the existence of God with logic. Contortionists, all.
You have absolutely demolished Paul Ryan here, and you've done it with research and facts. Excellent work.
I saw them put John Boehner on the spot about this the other day and he said, after a hesitation, that the Catholic Bishops had a moral argument but that they should take another look. He didn't seem to comfortable with being asked to answer for his positions.

Perhaps we should believe every crock of shit they give us so that Boehner can feel comfortable. or not!
This should have wide circulation, it's the kind of analysis that doesn't appear in the msm and should - if it would do its job.

Ryan & his ilk depend on the ignorance and emotion of voters to succeed. The slightest hint of analytical thought reveals clearly that Catholic social policy and Ayn Rand are antithetical but the minute Ryan claims religion, many lose the capacity for rational thought.

Matthew 23:27 : Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
Paul Ryan is such a socialist! Where is HIS birth certificate?

We REAL conservatives know that the federal government must be eliminated. Who needs it? Bring back the Articles of Confederation and get rid of that liberal Constitution. Privatize the military! Get the government out of Medicare! Close the colleges! Get rid of that science stuff! Yes America, Paul Ryan is way to liberal for many of us! We need a conservative alternative!