Never met the guy —

Via Kevin Drum, this is pretty funny: Bush in January asserting that he and Chalabi are tight; then Bush in June pretending he doesn’t recognize the name “Chalabi”…

No matter how you cut it, Bush misspoke about the true beneficiaries of the tax cuts–Today’s Progress Report linked to this Center for Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of the Bush tax cuts. The report calculates the effects of two hypothetical scenarios for financing the tax cuts:

‘The first scenario assumes that each household pays an equal dollar amount each year to finance the tax cuts. Under this scenario, each household receives a direct tax cut based on the 2001 and 2003 legislation, but it also “pays” $1,520 per year in some combination of reductions in benefits from government spending or increases in other taxes to finance the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. Something close to this scenario could occur if the tax cuts were financed largely or entirely through spending cuts. We refer to this as the “equal dollar burden” scenario.

The second scenario assumes that each household pays the same percentage of income to finance the tax cuts. Under this scenario, each household receives a direct tax cut based on the 2001 and 2003 legislation, but it also pays 2.6 percent of its income each year. Something close to this scenario could occur if the tax cuts were financed through a combination of spending cuts and progressive tax increases. We refer to this as the “proportional burden” scenario.’

They find (among other things):

‘+On average, the bottom four-fifths of households — households with income below about $76,400 — would lose more than they gain from the tax cuts once the necessary financing is taken into account.

+Middle-income households would be worse off under both scenarios for financing the tax cuts, but would fare much worse if tax cuts are financed entirely on an equal dollar burden basis (such as could occur if the adjustment were largely or entirely undertaken through spending cuts).

+Low-income households would be worse off under either scenario, but face potentially enormous costs if the tax cuts are financed entirely on an equal dollar burden basis.

+Conversely, high-income households would be net winners, and the gains among the highest-income households would be large.

+The net transfer in resources from low- and middle-income households to high-income households would be sizable.

+Under both of the financing scenarios, more than three out of every four households would ultimately lose more than they gain from the tax cuts.’

And they conclude:

‘The tax cuts are often portrayed by their supporters as painless and simply “giving people their money back.” But the numbers presented above indicate that the substantial majority of American households ultimately will be made worse off by the tax cuts, because the tax cuts ultimately will have to be financed.’

A kinder, gentler pastoral letter —

A friend forwarded me this pastoral letter from Bishop John F. Kinney of the Diocese of St. Cloud (MN), addressing the issue of denying communion to parishioners who support positions or politicians that run counter to Catholic teachings. Will it get the same press play accorded Bishop Michael Sheridan’s (Diocese of Colorado Springs) “pastoral” letter threatening to withhold communion from renegade voters and politicians? Here’s Bishop Kinney’s letter:

May 27, 2004

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“Oh Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

Each of us prays those words at every Mass before receiving Holy Communion. In recent months, however, some Catholics have been asking whether some others are so “not worthy” that they should be denied the sacrament. It has been suggested, for example, that bishops refuse to offer Communion to pro-choice politicians, or to legislators who favor same-sex marriage, or cloning, or stem cell research, or capital punishment, or the war in Iraq, or… the list seems to grow longer every day. It has also been suggested that Catholics who vote for politicians who hold certain views on these issues should not present themselves for Communion.

In addition, bishops have been encouraged to deny Communion to members of groups known to oppose Church teaching on various matters of faith and morals. On the parish level, priests are sometimes urged to withhold the sacrament from individuals in the community who are rumored to be “living in sin.”

The question of who should and who should not receive Communion is not only on the minds of people in the pews. The bishops of the United States have established a task force to study what kind of response ought to be made to Catholic politicians who publicly oppose Church teachings. The Vatican has announced that the next Synod of Bishops will focus on the Eucharist, including the circumstances under which Communion should be denied. Thankfully, the task force will not conclude its work until after the general election in November and the synod does not convene until 2005, thereby avoiding accusations of political partisanship.

You may be wondering about my position on the question of denying Communion to various categories of people. I want you to know that I refuse to allow the Eucharistic liturgy to become politicized. What I mean is that I will not allow Holy Communion to be used as a weapon in ongoing political and ideological battles. For this reason, it is not my intention to reject anyone who comes forward in a respectful manner to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

At the same time, I uphold Church law which states that a Catholic who is conscious of grave sin may not receive Communion without previous sacramental confession, unless there is no opportunity to confess. The Church recognizes that it is for each individual to examine his or her own conscience in this regard, and I assume that those who come forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ have done so and honestly believe they are not in a state of grave sin.

I want to emphasize that no human is capable of judging someone else’s relationship with God. While I admire efforts to preserve the integrity of Holy Communion, I caution against allowing the Communion procession to become an occasion for pointing out the supposed sins of others.

I return to the prayer with which I began. Note that it says, “Oh Lord, I am not worthy.” It does not say, “Oh Lord, my neighbor is not worthy.”

+John F. Kinney

Bishop of Saint Cloud

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