Saturday, March 12, 2005

Topic of the Week - Faith-Based Initiative, Tort Reform & Bankruptcy Legislation

What has happened in Congress over the last 10 days? Unfortunately...

The House approved legislation permitting religious groups participating in job training programs to hire individuals based on their beliefs, a big step in adopting Bush's faith-based initiative. Another bill, legislation requiring large-scale, consumer class action suits to be filed in federal court, an important cog in Bush's tort reform agenda passed through the House and Senate and Bush already signed this bill into law. And finally, one other bill, Bankruptcy Reform, passed through the Senate and is now being voted on in the House...this bankruptcy reform legislation will make it more difficult for thousands of filers to protect their assets. The legislation likely will breeze through the House and land on Bush's desk within the next few weeks.

All bills have an underlying connection to the overall Bush agenda in transforming public policy in this country to a more conservative value system. Once again, these are slippery slope initiatives - let me explain further.

1. Faith-Based Initiative and the Hiring Process - President Bush believes, and now apparently the House of Representatives does as well, that regardless of whether government funds are involved that faith-based groups should retain legal rights to take their faith into account when making employment hiring or firing decisions. Again, this includes programs and organizations that are funded, or partially funded, by federal tax dollars. So basically this is taking our principle of separation of church and state and disregarding it...to a degree. While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 exempts religious organizations from adhering to the hiring practices of corporations based on race, sex, religion, etc., the exemption is intended for religious organizations that are privately funded, not publicly (government) funded. Question - does this legislation not open the door to potentially concentrate federally funded dollars to faith-based organizations hiring only "belief-minded" individuals (i.e. The Christian Right) who support the political agenda of the regime in power? One could argue this opens the door and could tear the door off its hinges in the future. Can you imagine a flow of money (or exchange of) where our government in power leverages its majority to fund selective faith-based organizations and where the faith-based organizations then fund those politicians who support their beliefs in kind? Sounds like religious organizations are overtly moving into the Lobbyist arena, we already know the influence and money The Christian Right spends in covertly in funding their politicians - not good. I am most interested in getting a counter argument, or an extended argument of my position on this issue from any of you - click on the link below if interested.

2. Class Action Lawsuits (tort reform) - specific to moving large-scale, consumer class action lawsuits to the Federal Courts to prevent lawyers to seek venues and locations that are sympathetic to consumers...while on the surface it seems to make sense, right? Why not limit class action law suits because there are too many lawyers meaning too many people are filing "bogus" lawsuits, right? Wrong - to both and here is why. This is indeed a slippery slope initiative - in fact, in Memphis on Friday our President stated in respect to tort reform, "There's more work to do." He's pushing for additional tort reform, looking to lawmakers to institute curbs on lawsuits filed against asbestos companies and limit pain-and-suffering awards in medical malpractice cases. Bush and the conservative politicians do not necessarily care about the lawsuits themselves, they are focused on getting rid of environmental, consumer and worker protections in general - this supports big business and big business tends to support/fund the Republican party. Question(s) - how do you feel about enacting limits on lawsuits to allow big business to actually budget annually for class action lawsuits? Leading to...how do you feel as a consumer to know that Ford Motor can now build a new Pinto Wagon (as in 1973) and cut costs once again on gas tank placement so when rear-ended, passengers in the car can be victims of an explosive vehicle realizing most likely in severe injury or death from this collision? Seriously, have you thought of this - how Big Business can calculate in advance the cost of paying victims and build into their budgets the cost of doing business? And how the Bush/Conservative agenda of tort reform can and possibly will affect your lives in multiple ways? I won't even get into examples all of the major corporations who will budget in lawsuits to aid them now in increasing their chemical burning, coal burning, nuclear power plant burning means - how do you think this is going to affect the air we breathe? Comments, Opinions? Click on the link below.

3. Personal Bankruptcy Reform - did you know that only five percent of all personal bankruptcies are not legitimate? And that approximately 50 percent of all personal bankruptcies are related to people who cannot pay their health care costs? Basically they have run out of money. Now, with the bankruptcy reform legislation, thousands of people will not be able to protect any of their assets and many will eventually move to poverty or even become homeless. Why do the conservatives want this? Basically, the conservative agenda includes supporting those with means more so than those without. Truly, this is the bottom line when it comes to conservatives. They believe social programs are immoral and remove the incentive to be disciplined. Thus, reforming bankruptcy removes the undisciplined people from receiving protection. Are there financially undisciplined people who abuse the system? Of course. But again, this is approximated at only five percent of all illegitimate bankruptcy claims. I guess its easy to support bankruptcy reform when you have the means to support yourself. I just wonder how many people who were once conservative and in support of bankruptcy reform, and then lost their job and were out of work for over a year (or longer) and realized what it feels like to lose almost everything you have worked for? Are these people now a bit more compassionate in their thinking and values? I would bet they are.

To comment, discuss, debate and offer your opinion on all three issues, click on 'Comment' below.



12 Comments:

At 10:53 AM, Blogger commonwealth said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 5:54 PM, Blogger commonwealth said...

RE: They believe social programs are immoral and remove the incentive to be disciplined. Thus, reforming bankruptcy removes the undisciplined people from receiving protection.

Unfortunately only POOR or MIDDLE CLASS Americans are "undisciplined" enough to deserve punishment. Left in this new Loan Shark--excuse me--Bankruptcy Protection Act are loopholes for the rich. Individuals with enough means can still protect their holdings by means of asset trusts and homestead exemptions. So if you have failed" big time" as our VP might say you get to keep that $5million house and those asset trust funds to give yourself a helping hand to start over again. I saw that happen over and over in Texas during the big boom of the 1980's. Individuals would declare bankruptcy but go on living in style. Not so the lowly middle manager who lost his job and healthcare when the high roller's business failed. Of course, Enron was a repeat a decade or so later.

I read a wonderful definition yesterday about moral behavior written by David Tebaldi who is the director of the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities.
He said:

"Behaving morally is a matter of paying due regard, in all our deliberate acts, to the well-being if others."

The "deliberate acts" done the past few days by self-dubbed "compassionate conservatives" fails this standard completely. This standard is, however, the underlying tenet of Liberalism: respect and acknowledgment of the dignity and well-being of others.

Once upon a time Republicans did pay due regard to the well-being of others. I respected their reluctance to have government overstep and become be a "nanny state" as long as their policies tried to balance the needs of all.
Religious conservatives also had my respect for the fortitude they needed to lead such disciplined lives in the face of the challenging social environment they found themselves in. But this changed when both groups stopped paying "due regard . . .to the well-being of others.

 
At 7:43 AM, Blogger PWB said...

John from Austrailia, who follows the media and politcs in the U.S. as diligently as anyone I have come across, pointed out a factual error in my statement that 75 percent of bankruptcies are related to not being able to pay for health care costs. I took this figure from an interview on Thursday on CNBC and did not thoroughly fact check it like I should have - with John's alert to me, I cannot find a backup for this statement and want to thank John for pointing this out.

Here are the figures I can backup:

- A 2001 Marketwatch study found that 50 percent of all bankruptcies are attributed to not being able to pay for health care costs and 75.3 percent who file actually have health insurance.

- Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law Professor, co-authored a study which found that over 50 percent of bankruptcies are attributed to not being able to pay for health care costs. In addition, Warren found that the "big three" events triggered 87 perccent of bankruptcy filings; Loss of Job, Medical Problem, Divorce or Separation.

If anyone can find other studies to challenge the two studies acknowledged here, please post them on the Blog.

Note - I do realize that there is abuse of the bankruptcy filings by people who run-up credit card debt by choice with no intention of paying-off the debt, but I will claim that this is a small percentage (under 5%) and when Congress reforms the bankruptcy code, one must take in consideration how this will affect those in true need of protection.

 
At 7:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What the Liberals don't understand is that Christianity is the dominant religion in the U.S. and the fact that it is the majority, to align with our government leaders is both moral and just. When this Blog attacks Faith-Based Initiatives, the person who wrote this does not get it - Faith-Based Initiatives' organizations give more to the poor, homeless and downtrodden than other charities. To attack this is not very Christian and this is a program that does make sense on a public-private partnership.

 
At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Adelphi said...

Anonymous, you are the one who doesn't "get it"! what if you are not a Christian and you are refused job training from an agency that accepts public funds, because you don't believe what the organization that is providing the training believes? Is that right? Tax dollars that are given to charitable organizations should be available to ALL people, regardless of their religious beliefs. For example, the Salvation Army refuses employment to homosexuals. But, they accept public funds. They are discriminating based on their religious beliefs. If they cannot, because of their beliefs, hire or train that person, then they must not accept public funding. I cannot earmark my tax dollars to be used for specific designations that I support, therefore publicly funded organizations may not use those funds to discriminate. And bottom line it is Unchristian. One of the basic teachings of Christ is love one another as you love yourselves! NOT love another if they believe like you. Another thought, we are NOT a government of the Majority, but rather the minority. That is why America is so large and so great. We are a country that protects all people's rights and this kind of thinking will eventually lead to losing that ideal.

 
At 11:16 AM, Anonymous common sense guy said...

Just a quick comment to all of you liberals out there regarding your problem with faith based initiative programs receiving federal funding. Now you know how us conservatives feel when we see our tax dollars going to NPR (National Public Radio) for those of you who don't know what NPR means. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.............

 
At 9:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our government has supported faith-based organizations for years like the Catholic Charities, but funds were clearly designated to be used only for the services provided and a clear wall separated religious activities from the services provided.
At the same time churches on their own have been offering programs steeped in religion which have at times been effective.
The problem with the Bush administrations efforts is two fold. First, state-supported religious activity is unconstitutional and these programs are moving in that direction. The second problem is faith-based programs have not proven to be any more effective than existing social programs and the uneven and irratic nature of their distribution makes them worse.
We can not outsource social programs in this manner. We are no longer a country of small towns where the church ladies can take care of the poor and needy.

 
At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just curious...........What is it about God, religion and church that scares all of you liberals so much ??? It seems like the mention of the word "God" to you guys generates the same type of reaction you get when Dracula gets holy water tossed on him !! Please enlighten me..........

 
At 11:19 AM, Anonymous San Fran said...

In response to Anonymous who is curious on why liberals have such a strong reaction to "God," you ask a legitimate question. Let me try and explain my view and it may be inclusive of many liberals.

There is by no means an adversity to God, a higher-power, Christianity, Spirituality on a whole. The primary reason we get concerned is when relgiion (God) is mixed into politics. I/we have a strong sense of history and how dangerous combining religion and politics - strong belief systems and nationalism - can be using religion many times as the underpin and tool to further a political agenda, and how this tends to have a superiority element attached to it. Conservatives and The Religios Right tend to scoff when we use historic examples such as Mussolini in the 20's, Germany in the 30's, even Islamic fundamentalism as an example of how religion and politics is dangerous. But we are very sensative and wary when our political leaders in America use religion as a tool to further their agenda and tap into the deepest beliefs (and fears at times) of the people. We have seen this religious movement accellerate in the last 10 years, especially the last four years with the Bush regime in combining certain aspects of politics and religion in our country. Our firm belief is that separation of church and state is one of our core guiding principles of our country is the basis of our reaction to the religious right and its alliance with the conservative Republican leaders.

Again with history demonstrating at times how this religious/ political movement has had very adverse effects globally, we are most concerned that the momentum of this religious/political movement is slowed down and puts religion into its appropriate realm - private institutions, households and communities - all separate from politics. Hope this helps explains my view and the view of many liberals when it comes to God and politics.

 
At 5:14 PM, Anonymous SteveB said...

In response to 'Common Sense Guy,' I have to say that your common sense is nonsense. NPR is not a religious organization...your comparison in public funds granted to NPR compared to public funds granted to religious organizations is irrelevant. I know the conservative mantra is that NPR is a liberal voice and the conservative talking heads have done a good job of supporting this ridiculous rhetoric. However,'Common Sense Guy' have you ever actually listened to NPR for more than a minute or two? Have you actually taken time during a one week period and really listened? Each time I ask a conservative this they sheepishly admit that they have not. NPR is a very objective, in-depth, informative voice of domestic and world news events - you should listen to it sometime 'Commons Sense Guy' and then give us an educated opinion.

 
At 6:37 PM, Anonymous common sense guy said...

In response to Steveb. Sorry you missed the boat my friend. My common sense comment is not nonsense. The only point that I was trying to make is that so many of our tax dollars are spent so many different ways. Some we agree with and others we don't. I wasn't comparing apples to oranges by all means. I simply threw out a sample of government spending that our side doesn't agree with just like your side doesn't agree with on the topic of faith based initiatives. As for listening to NPR. I do and quite frequently at that. This is why I can see your description of NPR is a lob sided liberal one. Just to prove that I listen to NPR, one of my favorite listening times is the BBC broadcast at night. Sorry to let you down on the listening to NPR thing steveb...............

 
At 7:17 AM, Anonymous SteveB said...

OK 'Common Sense Guy,' good to hear you are a regular listener of NPR. You certainly are an exeption to my experience when speaking with any conservatives who attack NPR - almost all have not even listened to NPR to form an objective opinion. Being a regular listener, I assume then you support public funds attributed to NPR? And I still contest your correlation between funds allocated to religious institutions in contrast to funds attributed to other programs (i.e. NPR) is not a good comparison. Do you not agree that separation of church and state is a must and an absolute line must be drawn here? I am interested in your response. And if not, why?

 

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