Inside the A section today, Washington Post reporters Jonathan Weisman (economics beat) and Alan Cooperman (religion beat) combine to publicize the latest stunt by religious leftist Jim Wallis. The story is headlined: "A Religious Protest Largely From the Left: Conservative Christians Say Fighting Cuts in Poverty Programs Is Not a Priority." Give the headline writer a thimble of credit for at least using "Left" in the headline, although it may seem required for contrast. But the Post makes the typical liberal Wallis assumption: that the Christian imperative to help the poor is completely synonymous with favoring government welfare programs. Christians apparently must give at the office, instead of giving from their own wallets and hearts.
The article begins: "When hundreds of religious activists try to get arrested today to protest cutting programs for the poor, prominent conservatives such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell will not be among them. That is a great relief to Republican leaders, who have dismissed the burgeoning protests as the work of liberals." It's a little odd for the reporters to sniff that Republicans dismissed the protests as liberal, and then properly identify the protest organizer, Jim Wallis, as "editor of the liberal Christian journal Sojourners and an organizer of today's protest." (Besides, most conservatives aren't into the showy rebel habit of getting arrested by the coppers as a protest tactic. I imagine Jerry Falwell's arrest record is pretty scant.) Wallis is labeled as a liberal, but his protesting cohort is not as they oppose budget cuts and tax cuts:
To mainline Protestant groups and some evangelical activists, the twin measures are an affront, especially during the Christmas season. Leaders of five denominations -- the United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church USA and United Church of Christ -- issued a joint statement last week calling on Congress to go back to the drawing board and come up with a budget that brings "good news to the poor."
Around 300 religious activists have vowed to kneel in prayer this morning at the Cannon House Office Building and remain there until they are arrested. Wallis said that as they are led off, they will chant a phrase from Isaiah: "Woe to you legislators of infamous laws . . . who refuse justice to the unfortunate, who cheat the poor among my people of their rights, who make widows their prey and rob the orphan."
But Weisman and Cooperman are incredibly vague about how the "poor" are being shafted by Congress. They report "a House-passed budget-cutting measure that would save $50 billion over five years by trimming food stamp rolls, imposing new fees on Medicaid recipients, squeezing student lenders, cutting child-support enforcement funds and paring agriculture programs. House negotiators are trying to reach accord with senators who passed a more modest $35 billion bill that largely spares programs for the poor." Typically, they make no attempt to compare this "budget-cutting" measure to the enormous size of the entire federal budget over that five years. For the Republican take on these measures, see the Republican Study Committee docs here. Wallis and his fellow protesters are never asked if the "War on Poverty" was actually a help to the poor, or if it trapped people in a web of dependency.
Christian conservative policy wonks are allowed to make their case. "Janice Crouse, a senior fellow at the Christian group Concerned Women for America, said religious conservatives 'know that the government is not really capable of love. You look to the government for justice, and you look to the church and individuals for mercy.'" Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council says putting the biblical mandate to help the poor into the federal budget is a "shifting" of responsibility. But this story, like many Post stories, makes liberal publicity events the focus, and makes conservatives respond to attacks. It rarely works the other way around.
UPDATE: I was unable to open the RSC docs at my home computer (it usually helps to blame me first, not the computer). But look at how the Republicans are trying to limit spending by trying to prevent Medicaid fraud by the rich (!) and other punitive provisions:
– Ensures that illegal immigrants are ineligible for Medicaid
– Lengthens the waiting period for non-citizen immigrants to gain eligibility for food stamps
– Closes a loophole in the law in order to prohibit someone from owning a $5 million house and still qualifying for Medicaid
– Requires greater scrutiny of past financial records before an individual can qualify for Medicaid
– Increases the penalty for those who play the system by transferring assets in order to appear poor and qualify for Medicaid
– Tightens the current welfare law to require recipients to work a 40-hours per week
– Requires individuals receiving welfare assistance to undergo drug testing if the state has reason to believe he or she has unlawfully used drugs, and suspends cash benefits if test results are positive.