January 03, 2007

The New "Buzz" Word: Common.

Common: general, widespread (Webster's New World Dictionary 3rd edition)

The word common will be widespread in the next two years. Used in conjunction with a politicians newly favorite phrases: common good, common goals, common ground, common agenda etc.. Also, in its other forms: community, communal, commonweal, commune, commonality, communicant etc..

Common: belonging too or shared by each or all, public (Webster's New World Dictionary 3rd edition)

Why? and Why now?

Politicians have figured out that the middle-ground wins them elections. Coming down too hard on "wedge-issues" like abortion and gay-marriage does not seem to help them win. However, talking about "kitchen table" issues like THE WAR, pensions collapsing, the lack of affordable health insurance, and a just wage are issues MOST people can embrace, they aren't too controversial and they appear to cut across religious and partisan lines, right?

To help and encourage the politician on their road to communism (er, sorry, commonality), we see groups forming like the Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good was formed in 2004, just in time to really gather steam before the 2008 elections (oh, did I say that? meow). The Executive Director used to be a religious advisor for John Kerry. You remember, Senator Kerry, the communicant, who votes according to his "strong" Catholic faith?

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good is a strong ally of Pax Christi USA and Center of Concern. Both of which are "progressive" Catholic organizations founded in the 1970's. All of which are consistently anti-war, anti-military, anti-defense under any circumstances. Pax Christi is the group that sends protesters out to Alliant Techsystems in Edina, MN, on a regular basis to harass a person just trying to make a legal living and support their family. They also encourage conscientious objection and they advise parents to get their children to sign up for it because they may end up actually having to fight for their country. To which I say: there's a freighter leaving New York Harbor in 30 minutes, be on it.

Early indications are that this strategy of commonality is working. Both Democrats and Republicans are starting to speak the word more frequently. Why, just yesterday, our newly sworn Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty ("rising star in the Republican party") was throwing the word common around like it was, well, common.

It's true that Catholic Social teaching talks about the common good. However, I think it is bad Catholicism to lean too heavily on one portion of our faith's teachings and little to nothing of the rest of it. How frequently do you hear a Catholic, who is a strong proponent of social justice, talk about being properly disposed to receive Communion? Or waxing rhapsodically about the gifts of Confession or Adoration? Or talking about how sexual relations outside of marriage is sinful?

Let us not worry our pretty heads over such "hateful" devisive issues like gay marriage, illegal immigration and abortion. After all, not everyone, in common, can agree on those issues. We all want to be buddies, no squabbling. But, I bet most, if not all of us, can agree that something should be done about the lack health care coverage for some, the low minimum wage, pension erosion, global warming, renewable energy and corporate scandals. After all, even the Catholic Church gets behind those issues right? So as good Catholics, we can and should too!

Some of the common good "issues" are very noble sounding. However, where's the money going to come for all this? That's right, taxes. If not a tax on you and your household, it will be a tax on your employer, your jurisdiction, or a tax on a business you frequent. All of which will eventually be passed onto you in the form of higher costs or a reduction in your salary. How does it help us, in common, if you raise the minimum wage on one hand and take it away with the other?

Hard to say really because none of these issues has been studied with regard to cost--it just sounds good. I've been musing lately: How many of the uninsured are in a "domestic partnership" situation? How much has or will it cost us to expand health care coverage and pensions to not only a gay "partner" but also a domestic partner (meaning an unmarried opposite sex individual)? Some states and jurisdictions already mandate benefits coverage for domestic partners (in most cases, but not all, that means a gay partner). I've yet to see serious studies on the cost impact of those mandates. Those are local levels, imagine the federal level which would mean the huge federal agencies (USPS, SSA among others). Some individual federal agencies have limited domestic partner benefits now but not much in the way of "equitable" coverage. The federal government is the nations largest employer: with about 3 million employees.

But, let us not worry about the money. After all, Catholic social teaching asks us to "dig deep" into our pockets and help our less fortunate brothers and sisters. I predict we are going to hear a lot of parables, beautitudes, catechism paragraphs and encyclicals taken way out of context in the coming year.

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good wants to reduce the number of abortions (Voting for the Common Good flyer). Not eliminate: reduce. They want to reduce the number of factors that would incite a woman to "choose" abortion. Never mind the fact that a study done by researchers of the Guttmacher Institute[1] (not exactly a bastion of social conservatism) says that the #1 reason women "choose" abortion is:

Having a baby would dramatically change my life 74% (ya, think?)

Subreasons:
Would interfere with education 38%
Would interfere with job/employment/career 38%
Have other children or dependents 32%

I don't hear social injustice in those reasons, do you?

[1] Finer et al., "Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives" Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2005, 37(3):110–118

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