Democrats need to get into the game, the faith game. They should be calling the bluff of right-wing Republicans and social conservatives. Everywhere in The Bible and in most established religions it is outreach programs that speak most eloquently about message and mission. By your works shall you be known not your words – – deeds before dogma. It isn’t by accident that the adage “actions speak louder than words” has continued to resonate over time.
Matthew 6:19-20 instructs followers: “lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…” Do those on the right take such words seriously? Somehow Republican legislation that favors the wealthy and shortchanges the poor seems at odds with values expressed in The Bible. From The Good Samaritan, who showed true compassion, to Jesus feeding the multitudes the focus is on caring for and about ordinary people. How have simple, straightforward biblical imperatives become so compromised that many conservative religious leaders and their followers seem to spend most of their time stoking the fires of politically divisive issues? No-one, for example, is forced to have an abortion if they feel it is wrong. And what proof exists that gay coupling has threatened or ended heterosexual unions? It is curious that such matters frame much of the national debate while the health and well being of ordinary Americans continues to be neglected.
A caller to the Washington Journal the other day suggested that the best thing that could happen for Terri Schiavo would be for her to become a widow and, on Friday, a man was arrested for offering a $250,000 bounty for the murder of Terri’s husband. It is hard to imagine anything further from moral or religious principles. Yet these people and the politicians they elect have embraced a rigidity that favors rejection rather than inclusion and is unforgiving of all who do not fall under the umbrella of their dogma. One can say all one wants about “love the sinner hate the sin”, but too often the hatred trumps everything else. Conservatives shouldn’t be allowed to pretend their support for keeping Terri Schaivo attached to a feeding tube symbolizes pro-life values and those who feel otherwise are ‘pro death.’ Political grandstanding about the sanctity of life while sidestepping concerns about health care and poverty is the highest form of hypocrisy.
And going all stern and fatherly, as Senator Grassley did recently in discussing the Bankruptcy bill was still more infuriating posturing. No-one, he said, should expect to be let off the hook by credit card companies. Never mind that these companies have a habit of raising rates precisely when customers are most in danger of falling into serious debt – rates sometimes rising to as much as 20% even 30% so that, under the terms of the new legislation, it would become almost impossible to retire such debt.
In fact most bankruptcies are caused by sudden catastrophes, not profligate spending, and medical expenses can outstrip even careful insurance planning. Only the wealthiest Americans can save enough to absorb the financial shock of extra-ordinary medical treatment these days. How many people, after all, have an extra two or three hundred thousand socked away? Are politicians like Senator Grassley out of touch, uninformed or simply uncaring? Or are they perhaps influenced ever so slightly by the huge campaign contributions these companies make?
Sadly too, Medicaid and Medicare programs have become giant shell games with uncertain futures. In cases where they had effectively negotiated drug prices, for example, states are now being forced to accept federal guidelines which are less advantageous and include insidious “clawback” provisions. Since the prescription drug bill specifically forbade negotiations with pharmaceutical companies at the time of its passage there are few incentives for price restraint in the federal plan.
In the final analysis, concepts of ethics and morality have always been at the heart of healthy societies and good government. Democrats should not step back from discussions about such things. One doesn’t have to carry a bible in one’s pocket to speak to the issues of the day in terms of morality and the human concerns basic to all belief systems.

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