Category Archives: Front Page

Another Republican Attempt to Attack Healthcare

Another Republican Attempt to Attack Healthcare

Kaitlin Brown
July 2, 2018

Over the past few months, we have seen continued attacks and outright sabotage on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from the Trump administration. After last summer’s failed attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act through a bill sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the administration moved to try and end protections through the rule-making process in the department of Health and Human Services. While the implications of the new rules are serious, and will likely cause millions of people to lose or be priced out of healthcare coverage, there is a new legislative threat looming that is eerily similar to the Graham-Cassidy plan that we saw last summer.

This plan was introduced recently by the conservative Heritage Foundation and former Senator Rick Santorum and later presented to Republican leaders. Most of the plan is the same as what we saw last summer in the Graham-Cassidy proposal. It would undo protections for those with pre-existing conditions, include annual and lifetime limits, and exclude certain essential services in health insurance plans, including maternity and mental health services.1  Additionally, it would undo Medicaid expansion and convert Medicaid funding to a block grant to the states, making it less likely that low income people will be able to access affordable coverage.1

The good news is that this is still just an idea from a conservative think tank. However, as we have seen before, Republicans in the House are serious about taking away healthcare coverage and protections from the most vulnerable.

There is concern that if this horrible idea becomes a bill, it could move quickly this summer due to a process called budget reconciliation. In this process, the budget could include instructions that would allow for Congress to pass a bill with only 51 votes, instead of the normal 60 vote majority. This is what happened last summer when the “repeal and replace” bills nearly passed in the Senate.

As people of faith, we believe that healthcare is a human right. When proposals like this threaten to take away access to healthcare from the most vulnerable among us, we will fight to stop it. We will be monitoring this situation closely to ensure that this proposal does not become a bill. If it does become a bill, we will mobilize and act to prevent it taking healthcare away from millions.

  1. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/healthcare/reports/2018/06/19/452421/graham-cassidy-2-0/

Reflections on My Trip to the Border

Reflections on My Trip to the Border

First let me say that being on the border caused me to weep! Being present at the El Paso county courthouse across from the Federal Detention Facility and the Federal Courthouse in Texas painfully brought home to me how the Trump administration is using the law to inflict pain. As an attorney, it is very disturbing to experience law as oppression.

In El Paso a diverse delegation gathered for breakfast on the morning of June 26, 2018. The Associated Federation of Teachers (AFT) had convened their members, faith leaders, and members of other unions to witness to the trauma occurring to families on the border. I was honored to be in the midst of so many advocates (including Dolores Huerta, who told us she is 88 years old!) and concerned people.

Randi Weingarten, the President of AFT, was a wonderful hostess introducing all of us and helping us quickly build a community of shared purpose. She is trying to build the relationships of Unions with the faith community. Her wife, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, was one of the major faith voices. Sharon is the senior rabbi of a synagogue in NYC. Together, they have been working on this shared activism.

 

After breakfast and a bit of organizing, we drove in vans down to the County Courthouse which is across the street from the Federal Courthouse and the Federal Detention Facility. With a dozen cameras and various reporters we spoke out about the anguish of family separation and family detention. There were Texan Legislators, county officials, union representatives and faith leaders. But what got me in the extreme heat was the anguish in the block. At one point I had to walk away and weep for our nation and for our people.

I wasn’t scheduled to speak at the Courthouse, but Randi decided that we needed a faith voice there. I was honored that she called on me. My brief message was to acknowledge that I had had to walk away from the press conference to weep for our nation. But that my message for us was from Micah. What does God ask of us? “Act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly.” Our nation is failing this mandate. We are failing to act justly. We as a nation are not loving. Our leadership is not walking humbly. We must repent and change our course of action.

After an hour of public witness we boarded yellow school buses. These school buses were provided by the leadership of the local school district so that about 150 of us could go to Tornillo Children’s Detention Facility. We headed off with press cameras rolling.

Tornillo is a border crossing spot about 55 miles outside of El Paso. On the way we saw the border wall that is prominent on the landscape. Tornillo is a small agricultural village where there is high levels of arsenic in the water and no sewage treatment plant, sidewalks, street lights. There the border crossing includes a child detention facility.

We held our prayer vigil outside the gates of the border crossing/detention facility. My message there was from Pope Francis’ exhortation on holiness. There he calls on us to stand in the shoes of our immigrant brothers and sisters “who risk their lives to offer a future to their children. Can we not realize that this is exactly what Jesus demands of us?” I spoke directly to Speaker Ryan to pay heed to Pope Francis’ teaching.

After an hour-long vigil in the very hot sun, we attempted to deliver toys and books to the children at the facility. As expected, we were turned away without accomplishing our goal. But, our contribution will go to Annunciation House in El Paso. We heard that they had just received 32 parents released by ICE but still disconnected from their children. Most had not even talked to their children since they had been separated. But the expectation (dare I say hope or plan) is that the children will be reunited with them there.

We left the border and headed to the airport for the long journey home. Delayed planes only stretched out the time for reflection and absorbing the experience, the pain and the worry for our nation. I was grateful to have gone in this mixed delegation. It was doubly painful that the Muslim ban decision came out while we were at the Courthouse. But how good to stand together.

While this trip made me weep for our nation, it also caused me to think of what Walter Brueggemann says is the source of prophetic imagination. He calls us to touch the pain of the world as real…and in the process we will release an active experience of hope. So in the midst of the pain of the world that makes me weep, I pray that we might be a community strong enough to sustain each other. In that very process we together become the active hope…I pray to the Lord.

New Ways Ministry’s Work for LGBTQ Equality

New Ways Ministry’s Work for LGBTQ Equality

Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL
June 28, 2018

NETWORK is thrilled to celebrate Pride Month with New Ways Ministry. In the Catholic world, we often find that members of the LGBTQ+ community are not recognized or affirmed. We know that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities have human dignity and we are called to treat all with love and respect. We applaud New Ways Ministry and their work as a Catholic organization to “promote the acceptance of LGBT people as full and equal members of church and society.”


The Catholic movement for LGBT equality has reached a point I had never dreamed possible when I first became involved with the LGBT community almost 50 years ago.With Pope Francis’s examples of openness and dialogue, and his encouragement of pastoral accompaniment, I have seen many church leaders and institutions willing to welcome LGBT Catholics to their rightful place in the faith community.

New Ways Ministry has been cataloguing the development of LGBT-friendly Catholic parishes for about two decades. In the last year or so, we have seen a significant increase in the number of faith communities who have adopted some form of public affirmation of LGBT people. Some parishes even have full-blown LGBT ministries of education, spiritual development, and personal support.

On Catholic college campuses, the growth in LGBT equality has been even greater. Schools are establishing gender-neutral bathrooms and dorm policies. Courses in LGBT history, theology, and spirituality are increasing. LGBT faculty members are receiving employment benefits for their spouses. Most importantly, young students are leading the way with calls for greater inclusion for LGBT people.

This tremendous growth is certainly a blessing to be treasured, but we mustn’t be swayed to think that all the work has been done. New Ways Ministry has been involved in working to end the terrible scourge of unjust firings of LGBT people who work at Catholic institutions. We are encouraging parishes, schools, and religious congregations to adopt employment non-discrimination policies regarding sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status.

Internationally, we are involved in developing the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC), a coalition of Catholic LGBT organizations and ministries from around the world. At the top of the GNRC agenda is raising awareness about many countries around the globe that are adopting laws that criminalize LGBT people, who not only face arrests, imprisonment, and torture at the hands of government officials, but also experience violence and terror from their fellow citizens. New Ways Ministry and the GNRC are trying to get Catholic leaders to speak out against these horrendous human rights abuses.

Within our own church, New Ways Ministry is working to promote support for lesbian nuns and gay priests, brothers, and deacons. We have been sponsoring gatherings for these individuals with leaders of religious communities and with formation/vocation personnel.

Finally, although New Ways Ministry has had the support of thousands of Catholics over the last few decades, there have been none more generous, courageous, and consistent than the communities of women religious. It is not an exaggeration to say that we would not be in existence today if it were not for the support of the nuns.

Yes, the Catholic LGBT movement has come a long way, but we still have a long way to go!


Jeannine Gramick, SL is a Sister of Loretto and a co-founder of New Ways Ministry.

A Play Date to Oppose Family Separation

A Play Date to Oppose Family Separation

Daisy Pitkin
June 27, 2018

On June 13th, I and about 15 other parents and our children went to Representative McSally’s District Office in Tucson, Arizona to raise our deep concern over the separation of families at the border. Congress is in session, so Rep. McSally was not in her office. While waiting to see if we could speak with her by phone, we sang songs, read books, and ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches. We called our visit a “play-date,” and while we were there, some of the children filled out office-supplied opinion forms. Carter, who is ten, wrote: “Please make this stop it is realy [sic] wrong.”

We went to McSally’s office knowing that she would not be there, but after hearing about the suicide death of Marco Antonio Munñoz after CBP agents forcibly tore his three-year-old son from his arms, and after learning that hundreds of separated children are being held at shelters right here in Tucson, we felt it urgent to reach out to her in person. We are her constituents. She represents us in Congress. Isn’t this the way representative democracy is meant to work?

McSally issued a statement in response to our visit. It began, “It is most unfortunate that this group, organized by radical activists, broke into our office today to disrupt the workplace and prevent us from serving constituents…” She went on to claim that visits like ours “distract from the many issues our country faces.” Again, we are her constituents. We were there to speak with her about an urgent issue facing our country, happening to children and families in our community.

On the night after our play-date, my three-year-old son had a nightmare. I rushed to hold him and to quiet him so he wouldn’t wake his 9-month-old sister. He’d dreamed about a tiger scratching at his window, he said. “Tiger” has become a kind of stand-in for all sorts of unknowns, particularly sounds he doesn’t recognize. I asked if he could hear the branch scraping the window in the breeze. He nodded. I asked if that could that be the “tiger.” He nodded again, and after a few minutes, he fell back to sleep holding my hand. As I lay next to him, I wondered what a stranger might have said to him if he had awoken somewhere away from me. What would have happened if he had awoken to no one?

For me, and I imagine for many others who are outraged by the barbarity of separating families, this is the root of the issue: It is inhuman to make a child alone in the world, or to place her with strangers who aren’t supposed to touch or hold her, who don’t know how to comfort her.

More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents or guardians due to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. Hundreds of these children are being held at a shelter three miles from my home. It is possible that some of them will not see their families again. Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order to detain immigrant children in camps indefinitely, this time along with their parents.

These policies are monstrously cruel. They are an attack on things I hold very dear: family, the well-being of children, empathy, community, love. So I and my friends who are parents and our children will continue to raise this grave moral issue to Rep. McSally as well as to our senators, city councilpersons, mayor, governor, and anyone else in a position to create safe, compassionate, humane immigration policies. Play-date anyone?


Daisy Pitkin is an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona Honors College, where she teaches critical thinking and creative writing courses. She is the proud mama of two sweet children, ages 3 years and 9 months.

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Rachelle Wenger

Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Rachelle Wenger

Rachelle Wenger
June 25, 2018

How did you first learn about NETWORK?

I first learned about NETWORK through Dignity Health. Dignity Health is one of the largest healthcare systems in the nation. Its mission is to deliver compassionate, high quality, affordable health care service—especially to those who are poor and vulnerable. Advocacy is central to its mission, and NETWORK has been a longtime partner in helping the organization to advance its policy priorities. As the Director of Public Policy & Community Advocacy, I can’t imagine being able to do my work without our collaboration with NETWORK.

What inspired you to get involved and join NETWORK?

To sum it up, it’s the Sister-Spirit that inspires me and that continually draws me in. I’ve been so fortunate to grow up (and be raised by) incredible women religious. They’ve shaped my love for people and community since I was a little girl—through my formative years in elementary school and high school. And as I came to Dignity Health as a young mother and someone starting out in a career in Catholic healthcare, it was always the Sister-Spirit that moved me, made most sense to me, and gave me the reason for why and how I’m called to this work.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

Other than health and healthcare, I’m most passionate about immigration, equity issues (homelessness and poverty), and the environment. As an immigrant to this country from the Philippines at age of five, I have a deep understanding of what it means to be “the other,” to be displaced and to be indebted (this utang ng loob, literally translated in Tagalog means, “a debt of one’s inner self”). All this while continuing to practice what it means to be authentically one’s self, value this broader sense of being home, and give back to and cherish community. There is so much suffering in our neighborhoods, our nation, and our world today. I believe that our passions direct us to seek justice, build meaningful connections, and experience joy and love.

How are you engaging your community on important social justice issues?

I get to wake up to the best job in the world. I wouldn’t even call it work, except that I actually get paid for doing something I love. At Dignity Health, I get to live out my passions, work on social justice issues at both the legislative/regulatory policy and community levels, mobilize grassroots advocacy efforts, and partner with so many amazing organizations, businesses, and leaders of all sorts of shapes, sizes, and backgrounds.

How has your advocacy for social justice shaped your view of the world?

I’m often on a plane these days and I never seem to tire looking out of the window—the view still takes my breath away. The sun sometimes gets too bright or the darkness too mysterious and I have to put the window cover down. And so I close my eyes to reflect and pray. Life is so precious. Every day that we get to have to be in it, to be a part of it, and do our part for it—makes me feel so blessed. Advocacy is more than just seeking social justice; it’s actually experiencing this incredible gift in the world called humanity.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

Faith is all things quite alive in and around me, and is also in those things in between that seem like contradictions—that in the moment can’t get quite pinned down by time. In a word, faith is everything to me. Faith lets me know that the work I do to advance justice matters—that it’s meaningful and that there’s more work still to be done.

Who is your role model?

Wow, to pick one would be impossible for me. Every day, at every turn, there is someone or even something that inspires me and that I want to practice to become. Like my dad, who is recovering from a stroke and who I see fighting his way back from paralysis to walk again; like Sister Regina Ann, who I got to know during a break at a NETWORK Board retreat while we sat under a dogwood tree as if the chaos of time stopped for a moment so we could enjoy the beautiful spring afternoon; like my children, Keana Sky and Tristan Blue, who show me the resilience and unbreakable bond of love.

Is there any quote that motivates or nourishes you that you would like to share?

I recently gave a TedTalk style presentation at the closing plenary session of a CleanMed conference, since titled “Finding Your Voice in the Climate Story.” And there was this one quote from Nigerian storyteller Chimanda Ngozi Adichie that I included: “The single story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story…The consequence of the single story is this: … It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult.”

It’s just such a powerful way of recognizing what harm we do to ourselves and each other when we fall for the single story. How truly precious everyone’s voice is and how our own story contributes to the greater story of what is humanity.

What social movement has inspired you?

There are lessons to be gained from all the modern day social movements. The one I’m most interested in right now is how our country will continue to grapple with healthcare so that it is accessible and affordable to all. We’ve been able to make gains, but we’ve also made some steps backwards. What inspires me most are the many women and men that work day in and day out to care for others—despite the political winds, despite the brokenness still of our nation’s healthcare system, despite the long road ahead to one day get to a place where we no longer look at healthcare solely as a human right, but as something everyone can depend on during their time of need.

Not a Page in Your Handbook

Not a Page in Your Handbook

Garrison Mays
July 21, 2018

A few weeks ago, I took it upon myself to binge watch the second season of Dear White People, a series on Netflix. There was an episode where one of the supporting characters Lionel, a gay Black man, goes on a little adventure to find the right gay network where he can thrive and be himself. He goes through all the gay stereotype crowds: the Black gays, the theater gays, the overly sexual gays, etc. After his party hopping, he finds out that none of them accept him, regardless of the fact that they all share similar sexual identities. It should have worked out, right? Very wrong. Some people didn’t like Lionel because he wasn’t “gay enough,” others because he wasn’t “Black enough.” The list goes on as to why Lionel doesn’t fit other’s ideas of what he should be.

Like Lionel, I went to a Predominately White Institution (PWI) as an openly gay Black man.  However, unlike Lionel who had some sort of base network, I had a hard time finding a group  that understood and supported the three important attributes – my sexual orientation, my race, and my gender – that make me who I am.  In some groups, I got dumb questions about my blackness, and in others I got dumber questions about my gayness to the point where they weren’t inquisitive, but disrespectful.

Throughout my four years in college, it has been very difficult to feel 100% comfortable at this PWI. I have always bounced around from one white group to another, straight and gay groups alike, to better understand my place.  Lionel’s main network is made of thoughtful, smart, and decent Black people who don’t judge him by his gayness or his awkward blackness, but by his actions and the way he communicates. As my time was wrapping up at this PWI, I found a space that was judgement free with different types of people: straight, gay, Black, Latinx/Mexican, trans–all thoughtful and thought-provoking individuals that care about being inclusive and inquisitive about things that are unfamiliar.

I say all of this to say that Pride Month is a time for celebrating who you are. I for one bask in and appreciate this month so much as I try to find my place in this world that is just now coming around to the idea of the LGBTQ+ community. Nevertheless, this is an ongoing experience for me. I always try and fight the urge not to exclude a person because they don’t abide by the textbook or the website definition of what a queer person is. I’m not for everyone and vice versa–I understand that. But everyone deserves a chance to try and be comfortable in their surroundings. Happy Pride Month!

Garrison is a young chocolate smart-alec, who shares his opinion and wants to hear yours. He graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH in the spring of 2018 with a bachelor’s in marketing. He is excited to explore the opportunities that present themselves to him moving forward. He loves Beyoncé more than most, his favorite movies are The Incredibles and Reservoir Dogs, and you can find him lying in his hammock listening to the podcast The Read to decompress from people.

Juneteenth: A Celebration and Call for Freedom

Juneteenth: A Celebration and Call for Freedom

Jeremiah Pennebaker
June 19, 2018

“In its spread across the country and gradual supplanting of other emancipation celebrations, Juneteenth has always retained that sense of belatedness. It is the observance of a victory delayed, of foot-dragging and desperate resistance by white supremacy against the tide of human rights, and of a legal freedom trampled by the might of state violence. As the belated emancipation embedded in the holiday foretold generations of black codes, forced labor, racial terror, police brutality, and a century-long regime of Jim Crow, it also imbued the holiday with a sense of a Sisyphean prospect of an abridged liberty, with full citizenship always taunting and tantalizing, but just one more protest down the road.” – Vann R. Newkirk II, “The Quintessential Americanness of Juneteenth”

“What’s Juneteenth again?” I ask myself in my head because I did not want to admit out loud in front of my fellow interns that I didn’t know the meaning behind it. We were trying to figure out how to better integrate racial justice themes into our summer service locations. For the longest time my only connection to Juneteenth was an obscure Boondocks reference. Luckily for me there was another Black student in our intern small group who was able to explain what it was. “Juneteenth is the celebration of coming freedom,” she said.

“Coming freedom” tells us that freedom exists, but it is not here yet. The Emancipation Proclamation — the legislation that freed all enslaved Black women and men on U.S. soil — was signed into law on January 1, 1863. But like many things concerning the freedom and civil rights of Black individuals, the process was delayed. Juneteenth was established two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger issued Order #3 in the district of Galveston, Texas informing the residents that slavery was abolished and that the freed people should now operate under an employer/ employee relationship.

Over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, news of liberation finally reached slaves in the southernmost parts of the country. Despite this, enslavement and mistreatment of Black people continued as slave owners took their slaves to the yet-to-be-unionized New Orleans, where emancipation was just folklore. There was no relief or instant jubilation as many might imagine; instead, some faced consequences if they celebrated too openly or tried to run away. This is evident in the account of former slave Susan Merritt in Leon Litwack’s book, Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery: “Those who acted on the news did so at their peril. You could see lots of niggers hangin’ to trees in Sabine bottom right after freedom, ’cause they cotch ’em swimmin’ ‘cross Sabine River and shoot ’em.’”[1] Although slaves were free in theory, they were not free in practice.

Coming freedom is the Black American Dream–the idea that we will be free one day as it has already been proclaimed. Growing up in the church I imagined that freedom was something similar to the idea of kingdom come. As my father would say, we stand on tiptoe anticipation for the day that we can lay our burdens down and rejoice in the presence of the Lord. But what I’ve also learned about kingdom come and coming freedom is that obstacles still lie between us and the freedom. Lynch mobs and police units still lie between us and the coming freedom. Protests and assassinations still lie between us the coming freedom. Colorblind classmates, coworkers, and Members of Congress still lie between us and coming freedom. But the hope within coming freedom and the jubilation of Juneteenth lies within the fact that regardless of what lie between us and coming freedom, it is still coming.

[1] What Is Juneteenth?

Questions to Ask Yourself for the 2018 Primaries

Questions to Ask Yourself for the 2018 Primaries

Mary Cunningham
June 14, 2018

With midterm elections rapidly approaching, it is time to start thinking about primaries. While certain state primaries have already passed, there are some that are just around the corner! Primaries are preliminary elections used to determine which candidates will face off for the general election scheduled for November 6, 2018. With a surge of new candidates on the ballots, particularly women, it is important to ascertain whether or not these candidates will implement the policies you care about if elected to office. So with all that in mind, what are the important questions you should ask yourself before voting in your state’s primary?

  1. How will the candidates lived experience and background contribute to a more nuanced and diverse Congress?

When you see photos of most Members of Congress you will notice a striking pattern: they are typically white, middle-aged men. Imagine what it would be like to have more diverse voices in our offices– people of different genders, races, and religious affiliations. Take women as an example: according to Vox, women currently constitute less than 20% of Congress. That boils down to just 22 female senators and 83 female representatives in a Congress made up of 535 people total. It’s even more discouraging when you look at the number of women of color in Congress. According to Axios, 30 states have never elected a woman of color to Congress. Instead of leaving it up to the men to decide, we need female perspectives on issues such as paid-family leave and childcare. There is hope in the fact that more women are running for Congress, but that hope will only be realized if we take the extra step and vote for them!

  1. What is the candidate’s approach to the importance of human dignity for all in local, state, and federal policies?

As Catholics we hold dear the belief that all people have an inherent dignity: rich or poor, citizen or noncitizen.  We do not get to decide whether or not someone is not worthy of love. In Pope Francis’s new apostolic exhortation he calls us to value the life of migrants as we would any other life. Multiple candidates for the midterm elections have come out with flagrant anti-immigrant agendas. There is no place for these egregious mindsets in Congress. We need elected officials who recognize that there is value in every human being and who will enact policies that allow all to reach their full potential. This means recognizing the plight of those who cross the border and the dignity of all people, not making unsubstantiated assumptions about them!

  1. How will the candidate respond to the most vulnerable members of their community?

Back in November, the Republican tax bill passed, promising tax cuts for the wealthy largely at the expense of the poor. The new law is estimated to increase the United States debt by over $1 trillion.  Almost immediately after its passage, Republicans pivoted and took aim at safety net programs. This can be seen in the recent efforts to introduce Medicaid work requirements, SNAP work requirements, and harsh policies imposed on those who receive federal housing subsidies.

In another blatant show of hypocrisy, several House Representatives voting for stricter work requirements and SNAP restrictions in the Farm Bill are themselves benefitting from the federal farm subsidies they will pocket if the bill passes. It’s one thing to claim to support the needs of your constituents, but it’s another to fight for policies that actually help them. Without access to federal assistance programs, many families will not be able to stay afloat. When casting your vote, ask yourself: can you rely on that candidate to protect the needs of people who are marginalized?

When voting for a candidate, it is important to be informed about their platform. Furthermore, as Catholics, it is important to make sure that the people we elect to office represent our closest held values—whether that be dignity of life, care for the poor, or others After all, these are the people that will be representing you and all you stand for over the next few years. That should not be taken lightly!

Researching Representatives in Favor of HR2 Reveals a Hall of GOP Hypocrites

Researching Representatives in Favor of HR2 Reveals a Hall of GOP Hypocrites

Mackenzie Kuhl
June 13, 2018

The 2018 House Farm Bill, also known as H.R. 2, failed a vote in the House on Friday, May 18, by a vote of 198 to 213. This bill, which put to shame the historically bipartisan process of Agriculture and Nutrition special interests working together on a compromise, severely failed NETWORK’s principles to protect and prioritize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Despite the bill’s failure a few weeks ago, the House is predicted to vote again on or around June 22.  At NETWORK, we have and continue to call representatives to vote “No” to this bill.

In the past, farm bills have been largely bipartisan. However, this year’s $867 billion Farm Bill has sparked controversy not only because of its proposals to cut SNAP benefits by $21 billion and add mandatory work requirements, but also because of its ongoing ties to immigration negotiations. To make matters worse, many of the Republican representatives advocating for cuts to SNAP and tougher work requirements could reap extreme financial benefits from federal farm subsidies if the bill becomes law.

According to CNN, “Since 2002, Congress has added in multiple means-testing for federal farm subsidies to prevent them from going to the hands of wealthy farm-owners. But, tucked away in Sec. 1603 of the new bill, is an exemption for ‘pass-through’ businesses from the means testing requirements.” With some basic accounting adjustments, millionaires and billionaires could collect their farm subsidies once again from this Farm Bill. Even Daren Bakst of the Heritage Foundation (a conservative think tank) calls it “basic cronyism.” Essentially, these congressional leaders are prioritizing their own financial gains over the very communities they are supposed to be protecting—including children and those most vulnerable to hypocritical acts like this one.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) pulled together data to investigate the top 16 GOP members who would benefit from farm subsidies. This includes Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-1) who raked in more than 1.7 million in subsidies from 1995-2013 for his shares in the DSL LaMalfa Family Partnership, and Rep. Vicky Hartzler (MO -4), who collected more than $986,000 from 1995 to 2016 for her shares in Hartzler Family Farms Inc.

Overall, the EWG reports that 60% of farm subsidies go to the top 10% of farmers.  Additionally, The Heritage Foundation exposes some myths surrounding the subsidies that “’Family Farms’ do not necessarily mean ‘small farms’.”

To put this in perspective, NETWORK researched the number of households that receive SNAP benefits in each representative’s district.  We divided the total number of households per district by the households that participate in SNAP to see what percentage of households would be affected by cuts to SNAP while their representative reaped financial gain.

The comparisons were stark. Rep. Ralph Abraham (LA-5) received more than $386,000 in subsidies from 2001-2009, and while 20.8% of his district participated in SNAP.  Rep. David Valadao (CA-21), who abstained from the first round of voting on H.R.2, received more than $478,000 within 10 years (2006-2016) while 24.7% of his district participated in SNAP.

So how much do these representatives serve to gain from the subsidies? Enough to pay for thousands upon thousands of SNAP meals.

Each SNAP recipient receives an average of $1.40 per meal.  Since the issue at hand is to determine whether members of Congress were voting for their own personal enrichment while jeopardizing the food security of their constituents, NETWORK calculated how many meals each subsidy amount would pay for. The results and the vote of the members on H.R. 2 are in the chart below.

And, here’s the ultimate hypocrisy: Not only have they voted for a bill that would allow them to personally benefit while hurting their constituents, many of these very representatives have spoken out against “fraud, waste, and increased spending” for government assistance programs.

Rep. Frank Lucas said during a 2011 subcommittee hearing, “I’m concerned that the broad-based categorical eligibility increases opportunities for waste, fraud, and abuse.”  Rep. Kristi Noem, who received the third-largest amount of subsidies, has said, “Loopholes and fraud in the current program have led to federal spending on SNAP to increase by 270 percent over the past ten years.”

What do we make of all of this? Many GOP representatives in favor of H.R. 2 are choosing personal profit over the most vulnerable people in society. These elitist, hypocritical actions directly contradict the values which people of faith live by. If this bill comes up for a vote again, these Members of Congress must vote no.

Mackenzie Kuhl is a summer intern with the NETWORK Government Relations Team.

NETWORK Celebrates Pride

NETWORK Celebrates Pride

NETWORK Communications Team
June 13, 2018

Happy Pride Month! Our faith teaches us that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities have human dignity, and that is surely something to celebrate!

At NETWORK, we acknowledge that too often members of the LGBTQ+ community are not recognized to extent that they should be. This is true in all of society – but it is especially true in Catholic and other religious settings.

Of course, NETWORK has ‘Catholic’ in our name, which means that very often people hear that word and draw conclusions (not entirely unwarranted) about what our positions may be on issues like LGBTQ+ equality. Especially this month, as the LGBTQ+ community celebrates Pride, and moving forward, NETWORK wants to make it clear that we welcome and affirm all members of the LGBTQ+ community. We are actively working so that all justice-seekers can find a home in NETWORK, when other religious corners of the country (or of the internet) can feel particularly polarizing. NETWORK was founded by Catholic Sisters, is motivated by Catholic Social Justice, and is open to all who share our passion.

NETWORK and our society (including those of us who are allies) need to do a better job of acknowledging the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community in our shared work for justice. We recognize that many members of the LGBTQ+ community can experience injustices when they shop, where they work, and beyond. We also know that many members of the LGBTQ+ community are working alongside us on all justice issues. As we look forward at mending the gaps in our society with an intersectional focus, we promise to do our best to recognize the many identities our justice-seekers have.

To all LGBTQ+ members of the NETWORK community: Happy Pride Month! We see you, we affirm you, and we are grateful for all that you do to make the world a more just place.