Disrupt   |  November 30, 2013

Pope shines light on income disparity

Rush Limbaugh recently said Pope Francis' view on trickle-down economics was “Marxism." E.J. Dionne joins Karen Finney to discuss.

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>>> so it's a fact that rush limbaugh now claims that not only is president obama a marxist, so is pope francis. yes, you heard me correctly. he says the pope is a marxist which, of course, is not a fact. seems he came across the pope's vision statement released this week and he just did not like what he read.

>> i have been numerous times to the vatican. it wouldn't exist without tons of money. but, regardless, what this is -- somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him. this is just pure marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope.

>> as usual, rush misses the point. the pope was denouncing trickle down economics as a policy, not confirmed by facts. he was calling for catholics everywhere to resist excessive capitalism and materialism reiterating the tyranny imposed by growing income equality and a need to focus on poverty and the pure. now, it's a fact that all these ideas are consistent with both catholic teaching and sound economic policy . it's a fact that catholic vs a long-held belief in the just wage and the connection between work and the one's dignyty and trickle down economics did not work. the bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 lowered rates for the wealthy. they increased the deficit and never produced the robust job growth that was promised. rush's comments said the pope's comments were pure political. you know, rush, i have a question for you. since whether is poverty political? here to help me answer that question is contributor and "the washington post " columnist ej dion. thank you for being with me.

>> thank you. if you had doubts about the pope before, i bet rush resolved those doubts for you.

>> i think rush probably helped the pope's numbers. he's got pretty strong numbers. i want to start with the concept of the manifesto and what he meant and it was so distorted and twisted by rush. he made the emphasis on social justice , caring for the poor and the idea that the church should be out doing the work, not just waiting for people to come in.

>> right. well, first of all, you are absolutely right. the catholic social teaching is critical of unregulated capitalism all the back to pope leo xiii and the pope isn't a marxist. he is a christian. he's not a materialist. he believes in the primacy of the spiritual. but what the pope is reminding us is that a christian view, love thy neighbor srks a fairly radical view. there's stuff in the document if you wrote it in your script your producer would say, isn't that a little too radical, karen? for example, today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of t the the fittest where the powerful feed on the powerless and masses of people are exclude excluded without work, possibilities or means of hope. he is saying if you are a serious christian, you're going to do something about the injustice of our economy.

>> but, you know, e.j. to me that doesn't sound so radical as a democrat and part of the reason i'm a democrat is because i'm a christian. you know, this's not a radical idea. it's reality of what's been happening. when we -- this idea, also, that, you know, the concept of a just wage, that's not a new idea in kath ol schism. "america" magazine wrote about this. this is a very common long-time, long-held tenet in terms of how we talk about work and just wages. this is not just the pope jumping on board the train of increasing the minimum wage for kicks.

>> no. absolutely right. the american catholic bishops put out a document which in many ways was a foundation of the new deal. in 1919 , they put out, their program of social reconstruction and they talked about a family wage. a wage to raise a family on. and a just wage. so you're quite right and it is not anti-capitalist as such to believe that working people should be compensated adequately for the work they do.

>> right.

>> i should say, you know, conservative catholics have been saying if you look at the document, the pope does reaffirm the church 's opposition to abortion and he does and what's interesting is he also leaks that back to the need for economic justice . and i think what you're seeing here is not a change in the church 's position on abortion. but a return to the priorities of the church , say, of 20 or 30 years ago where abortion was part of what the cardinal called the seamless garment . you better care about what happens to them after they're born.

>> right.

>> and he's -- go ahead.

>> to that point, i mean, talking about trickle down economics as part of that is, again, seems like part of it is a reality, i think it is a truth that it does not work. we have not seen it work and so to cast -- the pope was very -- it was very pointed. it was, you know -- which i loved seeing. but it was also obviously the point at which, you know, i think he'll get the most criticism from the right and he was very blunt saying, quote, some people continue to defend trickle down theories assuming that economic growth encouraged by a free market will succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. this opinion which has never been confirmed by the facts expresses a crude trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and the writings of the prevailing economic system and the excluded are still waiting . that is essentially what we have been seeing in this country. it's what we have been seeing in europe with the austerity measures and this idea that these -- trickle down and austerity measures are not working and we've got to reframe how we think about this because there are more and more poor people and the gap is growing.

>> right. and i'm glad you read that because i have right in front of me here those very same words and i think they're powerful because he is not -- he is saying this as a matter of fact. he is saying that if you look at what has actually happened, the idea that you make everybody better off by throwing money at rich people has just not been confirmed by the fact and the way he says it, he also underzoers the trickle down economics is really a way to make the powerful more powerful.

>> right.

>> and i think the other thing about the pope that's important to understand he is from argentina. he is from the global south and so he is giving us a perspective on these questions in the church that we haven't had before which is to say he's building on the existing tradition but he also looks at poverty from the perspective of some of the poorest people on earth.

>> right.

>> and when you think about the very, very poor in the world, it's a real call to responsibility to the rest of us, and that's what he's trying to do and what a pope ought to do, i think.

>> e.j. two more points to get in with you. one is the gop. right? because, you know, paul ryan considers himself, you know, a good catholic. we are, you know, awaiting, you know, this budget process , december 15th . i do not believe that it is going to be consistent with the kind of theory that the pope is talking about. and yet, you know, on the right over and over again they use the bible, they sort of throw it at democrats. they throw it out to justify a lot of things and for once i feel like here we have the pope actually backing up what we have been saying for a long time. again, as you say, throwing money at rich people does not solve the problem.

>> right. well, i really hope from's conservative catholics out there who do look at their conscious. as i always joke and proves i'm a catholic that the church 's job is to make all of us feel guilty about something. and that, you know, that the church calls us to account on abortion all the time. but it's not been as balanced as it is in this pope's teaching. he's also saying to conservatives, you really have to look again at your politics if you think that cutting spending on the poor, cutting food stamps for goodness sake, food for the poor , that that makes sense in light of being a christian. and so, i think maybe there will be some conservative catholics , i really hope so, who listen to the pope saying, maybe we better rethink some of this at least a little bit.

>> e.j. very quickly, you know, we have got "meet the press" tomorrow and he made a comment kind of walking back away from what i think many have felt very anti-gay sentiments coming from the church and one of the things he says, well, i think maybe we've been out-marketed sometimes. we have been caricatured as being anti-gay and as much as we'd say, wait a minute, we're pro marriage, pro traditional marriage and not anti-anybody and feels like to the point you were making before, the direction out of rome, focus on the poor, not necessarily as you say changing position on abortion, but also, when it comes to gay people , this to me represents a change in tone certainly to say, well, we are not trying to be anti-anybody. i think it's more complicated than being marketed or out-marketed if you will.

>> well, i think the pope really shocked everyone when he was asked about this a while back when he said, who am i to judge? i guess a lot of us thought judging is what a pope did for a living so it was astonishing thing to say. i think it's unfortunate he used out-marketed but i do welcome the softer tone and i think in keeping with where francis is going. i think what happened on gay marriage is people looked at it, fairly conservative people and have said that, you know, if we believe in fidelity and commitment, if we think fidelity and commitment should be promoted, should we really exclude a whole lot of brothers and sisters from that possibility? i actually think oddly the conservative case for gay marriage is probably the best case for gay marriage and i hope some day a long time from now probably the church starts thinking about that. but i don't expect that to happen any time soon.

>> we have to leave it there. e.j. thank you so much for joining me.

>> great to be with you. thank you.

>>> coming up, shehold it is card on a big election year decision. which she am i talking about? that's next