Category Archives: News Item

Advent 2020: Waiting for Tax Justice

Advent 2020: Waiting for Tax Justice

Colleen Ross
December 6, 2020

Last week, President-elect Biden announced several key members of his economic team, prompting the question, “What does a just national economy look like?” NETWORK often uses a phrase to describe how the government shapes a just, equitable economy: Reasonable revenue for responsible programs.

The Nuns on the Bus visit Hope Community Center in 2018.

There are many responsible programs in the U.S. that do a lot of good for individuals and for our nation as a whole.  Americans for Tax Fairness found every dollar that goes to families as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) returns $1.64 back to the economy. On the other hand, a dollar spent on tax cuts causes the economy to lose money. Outside of economic benefits, two programs that support low-income families, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, are linked to better school performance and higher rates of college attendance.

Funding these critical, life-giving and community-building programs that help individuals and families to thrive requires enough federal revenue to pay for them and invest in our shared future. The way we share these costs is through paying taxes; and yes, in a just tax system those with greater ability to pay contribute more than those with fewer financial resources. President Trump and Congressional Republicans rejected this concept of shared investment in our shared future when they passed the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Brookings Institute estimates that this legislation caused a loss of $275 billion for FY2018 in federal revenue in order to cut taxes for the wealthiest people and corporations.

This law is only the latest in a series of continuous tax cuts over the past few decades. From 1980 to 2018, taxes paid by billionaires in the U.S., measured as a percentage of their wealth, decreased 79%. Even now, during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the wealth of the 643 richest U.S. billionaires increased 29%, from $2.95 trillion to $3.8 trillion.

After this long period of decreasing federal revenues and fighting off budget cuts, we must find a way to repeal the 2017 Trump tax cuts for the long-term economic health of our nation. The movement towards “austerity” or “self-sufficiency” that always follows tax cuts is not morally neutral; it cuts to the heart of our social contract and rejects our sacred call to love one another. When we choose cuts breaks for the wealthy over tax justice, then we choose their comfort and their lives over the lives of the poor. As you can see from the economic data as well as stories we heard during the 2018 Nuns on the Bus Tax Justice Truth Tour, this policy will lead our nation to both financial and moral bankruptcy.

We must choose a different course. The tax code has the potential to be a powerful tool to reverse the evil of our persistent racial wealth and income gap and ever-growing economic inequality. As COVID-19 creates an increasingly stratified economy of haves and have-nots with millions of people out of work, it is more important than ever to rescue and reform our tax code.

Advent 2020: Waiting for Health Care Justice

Advent 2020: Waiting for Health Care Justice

Audrey Carroll
November 24, 2020

In the Catholic tradition, Advent is the sacred season of waiting. During Advent, we are called to reflect and hope for what new life may bring us. In this case, the newly elected Biden/Harris administration has created a world of opportunity for advancing policies that are needed to protect the common good.

We have been waiting four years for the Trump administration to atone for their attacks on our nation’s health care, but they have remained consistent in their efforts to strip vulnerable people of care, while encouraging the increasing profit margins of private insurance companies. President-elect Joe Biden has promised to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act and create a more accessible health care system. During this period of transition and season of waiting, we continue to hope for equitable health care for all.

After four years of undermining the Affordable Care Act, the Trump Administration has driven coverage rates into the ground while health care costs skyrocket. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of uninsured Americans rose by 2.3 million from 2016 to 2019, including 726,000 children. The rising number of uninsured people  is the result of actions taken to attack the ACA, like repealing the individual mandate and the Trump administration’s restrictions on Medicaid. The administration’s utter failure to control the COVID-19 pandemic has also led to rising uninsured numbers, as people lose their jobs and essential workers are left without benefits.

According to health economist Emily Gee, While the pandemic has depressed economic activity this year in most industries, insurance companies’ profitability to date has topped last year’s, “and they will continue to increase profit if Trump follows through on his executive order to shift more Medicare beneficiaries into private plans.” Despite the recent losses in coverage, Trump still managed to move forward with an ACA Repeal Lawsuit and push through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. It’s been made clear that the Trump Administration values the health of the market over the health of the people, and a lot of work must be done  to reverse the harm they have done.

President-elect Biden has made improving the nation’s health care system a priority for his incoming administration. He has promised to build on the Affordable Care Act by giving every American access to affordable health insurance, creating a more accessible and less complex system, lowering prescription drug costs, and emphasizing health care as a human right. Biden’s plan offers hope for the millions of vulnerable Americans and health care advocates who have been fighting for comprehensive, life-saving coverage.

According to the Pew Research Center, health care was the second-most important issue to voters in the 2020 election, and it’s essential for these healthcare voters to continue their advocacy during the Biden Administration. While Biden’s plan certainly seems like it will move the health care system in a forward-moving, positive direction, we must hold the new administration accountable to guarantee that while we increase access to care, we are also addressing  and eliminating health care disparities, especially in communities of color.

The lives lost to COVID-19 and health care disparities in the U.S. show that we have waited far too long for health care justice. During this political transition period and Advent season, we must continue to hope and pray that the wait ends with the incoming administration. We can use this time to recharge and renew our spirits so that when the time comes, we are ready to keep fighting for equitable health care for all people.

President-elect Biden Leads with Catholic Social Justice Principles

President-elect Biden Leads with Catholic Social Justice Principles

Audrey Carroll
November 20, 2020

Then Vice President Joe Biden joins Sister Simone Campbell on the 2014 Nuns on the Bus tour. 

President-elect Joe Biden will be the second Catholic president of the United States. During the 40+ years of his political career, Biden has embraced and promoted Catholic Social Teaching, especially in the areas of economic inequality, health care, and immigration.

Biden embodies NETWORK’s Catholic Social Justice principles by taking a multi-issue approach to policy and justice issues.  The Catholic Social Justice tradition encompasses the written teachings of the Church (Catholic Social Teaching) but is also broader, including the witness of all Christians and people of faith committed to proclaiming the love of the Gospel and the justice of God’s kingdom in the public sphere.

We at NETWORK are inspired in a special way by the courageous commitment of Catholic sisters living out Gospel justice. Catholic Social Justice is not a theory or an intellectual exercise, but rather how people of faith are called to live the Gospel in a broken and suffering world. See NETWORK’s Catholic Social Justice principles here.

You may also download NETWORK’s Catholic Social Justice Principles as a PDF.

Supreme Court due to hear ACA Repeal Arguments on Nov. 10

Supreme Court due to hear ACA Repeal Arguments on Nov. 10

Audrey Carroll
November 9, 2020

On November 10, the Supreme Court is to hear oral arguments for California v. Texas, with California leading the defense of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) alongside other allies against the Repeal Lawsuit. The Trump Administration and state attorney generals from over 15 states are in support of the lawsuit which would repeal the ACA.

Our Catholic faith teaches us that access to quality, affordable health care for all is a fundamental human right. The ACA protects the most vulnerable among us. If the repeal lawsuits succeeds, more than 21 million people would lose health insurance, according to the Urban InstituteNot only would the Trump Administration’s use of the Supreme Court to destroy the ACA  be an abuse of power, but the decision to repeal the Affordable Care Act would risk many lives. Notably, the decision to overturn the ACA would affect the 133 million Americans who have a pre-existing healthcare condition. In the middle of a pandemic where 210,000 Americans lost their lives from COVID-19, the Trump Administration continues to dismantle affordable, accessible  health care.

In 2010, NETWORK joined tens of thousands of Catholic Sisters in their letter to Congress supporting healthcare legislation. In 2017, more than 7,000 Sisters signed NETWORK Lobby’s “Nun Letter” against the ACA Repeal. In the 2017 letter, NETWORK executive director Sister Simone Campbell, SSS,  wrote, “As Catholic Sisters, we stand by our belief that health is a universal right and urge Senators to vote no on the motion to proceed for any bill that would repeal the ACA and cut Medicaid.”

The Affordable Care Act is vital for our health care system, with patient protections and health benefits which have raised the quality of care for millions of people in the U.S. Its repeal would be detrimental. With President Trump failing to win his reelection campaign, we still face significant challenges in protecting legislation like the Affordable Care Act. That’s why NETWORK is holding a Post-Election Debrief webinar on Tuesday, November 10 at 4:00 PM Eastern/1:00 PM Pacific. Click here to register for the webinar and learn more about what to expect following the 2020 Election.

NETWORK Letter Urges “NO” Vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett

NETWORK Letter Urges “NO” Vote on Judge Amy Coney Barrett

Sister Quincy Howard, OP
October 9, 2020

NETWORK Lobby’s Government Relations team sent the following letter to  Senate Judiciary Committee staffers as they begin hearings on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination. NETWORK opposes the nomination because of both Judge Barrett’s judicial record and the rushed timing before the November 3rd election.

Read the letter below:

“Dear Senator:

We write today on behalf of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice (“NETWORK”) and our 90,000 supporters living throughout the United States to express strong opposition to the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court. NETWORK educates, organizes, and lobbies for economic and social transformation and has a 49-year record of accomplishment lobbying for critical federal programs that prioritize the common good and support those at the economic margins. Inspired by our founding Catholic Sisters and the leadership of the women who followed, we faithfully embody Gospel justice as we work for change. We believe that the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett would not be in the interest of the common good. Moreover, pursuing a rushed confirmation process at this particular time in our nation is misguided and recklessly undermines trust in our democratic institutions.

Assessment of Judge Amy Coney Barret

Judge Barrett is being touted as a “pro-life” nomination due to her commitment to overturning Roe vs. Wade. Yet Catholic Social Teaching has upheld the sacredness of all life, from conception to death, and Pope Francis has made clear that abortion is not the only issue that matters. Equally sacred are those already born, including the sick, disabled, and elderly; people and families on the economic margins; migrants and refugees; and those oppressed by racial and other forms of discrimination. Judge Barrett’s rulings and public statements have shown that she does not hold all life sacred.

Sick, Disabled, and Elderly: We hold equally sacred the lives of those who are vulnerable due to impaired health, many of whom do not have adequate access to health care. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Barrett is expected to be the deciding vote to strike down the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, depriving millions of people of their access to health care during a global pandemic that has killed 210,000 Americans. The ACA provides critical health care protections for people with pre-existing conditions and disabilities, ensures that young people under 26 can remain on their parents’ health insurance, removes caps on expensive medical treatments, and covers millions of Americans through Medicaid expansion. Yet Judge Barrett’s writings have indicated that she opposes the ACA. In 2017, she implied that the law was unconstitutional. She also signed a 2012 petition objecting to employer health plans including contraception coverage.

Economic Justice: Equally sacred are the lives of those living on the margins struggling to survive against economic injustice. This global pandemic has left millions of people without jobs, food security, housing, and childcare. Our most essential workers – many of whom are low-wage earners – have had to choose between their jobs and their health and safety. We need a Justice who will uphold worker protections, consumer safety, and protect the social safety net. Judge Barrett has instead stood with corporate interests, ruling that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act does not protect job applicants from policies that discriminate based on age and against a plaintiff who sought written verification of a debt she was said to have owed.

Migrants and Refugees: Catholic social teaching affirms the rights of all peoples to seek the best lives for themselves, and equally sacred are the lives of migrants and refugees who have endured immoral and cruel assaults on their humanity through the prohibition of asylum claims, separation of families, and forced hysterectomies. Judge Barrett has made her hostility toward immigrants evident in a number of cases that have come before her. In two separate instances, she sided with the Board of Immigration Appeals to deny asylum to Salvadorans under the Convention Against Torture and cast the deciding vote deporting a Mexican immigrant who had been a lawful permanent resident without having the opportunity to argue against his deportation in court. She dissented in Cook County v. Wolf, which temporarily barred the implementation of the public charge rule, supporting the administration’s interpretation of the law.

Racial and LGBTQ Discrimination: Equally sacred are the rights of all people to live their lives free from oppression in all forms. Following months of high-profile shootings of African Americans and subsequent national demonstrations concerning racial injustices, the United States can ill afford a Supreme Court Justice with a record of upholding discriminatory practices. In EEOC v. AutoZone, Barrett ruled against an African-American worker whose company assigned employees to certain stores based on their race, a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. She has also stated her opposition to federal law protecting LGBTQ marriage and including Transgender people as protected under Title IX.

For these reasons, we do not support the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court Justice. Justices are appointed for life and their decisions reverberate for generations.

Assessment of the Nomination Process

Aside from the merits of the nominee, NETWORK also strongly opposes a hasty confirmation process so close to a national election in which many Americans will have already cast their ballot. The timing disregards the voice of the electorate and undermines trust in our democratic institutions, which is already fragile. We are a nation traumatized by deep divisions, suffering and economic pain; the unnecessary coronavirus death toll of more than 200,000 people is one such example of this national trauma. There is a real cost to the public perception of a Congress and a president focused on expediting a Supreme Court nominee while failing to attend to the protracted national suffering.

During this fragile time in our nation, it is vital that our national leaders act with prudence rather than political posturing. Our democratic institutions are maintained by norms as much as strict law and order. There is no precedent for allowing a president to have such extraordinary influence over the outcome of an election, which he is already threatening to contest. The one at risk of facing judgment ought not to choose the judges.

A fast-tracked confirmation process of Judge Barrett is a clear abdication of the Senate’s constitutional advise-and-consent function. It jeopardizes the rights and lives of the most vulnerable among us and it undermines the integrity of our most basic democratic norms and institutions. For all of these reasons, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice urges you as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote against the rushed nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

You may also read a copy of NETWORK’s letter here.

NETWORK Responds to Week of Violence, Bigotry, and Anguish

NETWORK Responds to Week of Violence, Bigotry, and Anguish

NETWORK Staff
October 29, 2018

After a would-be assassin mailed pipe bombs to 14 prominent Democratic figures, including the families of 2 former Presidents; after a gunman tried to enter a Black Church in Kentucky intent on doing harm but was unable to gain access so walked to the nearest Kroger grocery store and killed two people instead; after all of that, there was the terrible mass shooting of Jewish worshippers at a Pennsylvania synagogue.  It was a devastating week and we are still reeling from it.

Nevertheless, we join the country in offering our most heartfelt and sincere condolences to the family and friends of those 11 people who were killed in Pennsylvania and the 2 people in Kentucky.  No words can express how profoundly we grieve with you in your time of need.  We stand together as the nation mourns your, and our, loss.

At the same time, we condemn, in the strongest possible language, these senseless murders of 13 ordinary people, worshipping at Tree of Life Synagogue and buying groceries at the local Kroger store.  They were simply going about their day until two white men, fueled by anti-Semitism and racial animus, attacked them.  These innocent people lost their lives to hate and fear in a country founded on freedom, opportunity and religious values.

But our Catholic faith tells us that we are all created in the image and likeness of God.  No exceptions.  And as a result, every human being is imbued with an essential dignity that must be honored, respected and protected.  The hate-filled actions of the gunmen belie that fundamental truth.   Whether or not you are religious or have some faith-based beliefs, there is something profoundly wrong in society when people turn to violence against others simply because they belong to a different religious tradition or have a different skin color.  We condemn every action based on hatred, bigotry and violence.

Sadly, this is not the first time we have witnessed, endured and decried the presence and menace of such evil in our midst.  But this can be the last.  This is a time when the whole country can stand up and speak out against it.  This is a time when we must demand of our leaders and each other the guarantee of civility, respect and safety for everyone.  For our sake.  For our children’s sake.  For the sake of our country’s future.  We must not let this hatred, violence and division defeat us.  The only question is:  will we do it?  Or will we once again pay a terrible price for our silence?  People are fond of saying “we are better than this.”  Now is the time to prove it.

May God grant eternal rest to those who were slain.  May God shower peace and consolation on all those who mourn.  And may God have mercy on all of us if we fail to stand up to this moment in history.

Sister Kathy Flynn: Don’t Assume the Poor and Hungry Aren’t Working

Don’t Assume the Poor and Hungry Aren’t Working

Sister Kathy Flynn
August 19, 2018

I’m a native Iowan and a Catholic Dominican Sister. I minister at Opening Doors, a program in Dubuque that welcomes women who experience homelessness and who seek our help as they rebuild their lives.

We work with them to find employment, pursue educational goals, and develop other life skills.

The women I work with can’t become self-sufficient if access to food is taken away from them and their children. That is why I am urging U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst to reject the House version of the Farm Bill, which cuts access to nutritional food.

In September 2018, the Farm Bill, which funds Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), expires and will need to be reauthorized. Both the House and Senate have created new versions of the Farm Bill, and now they have to reconcile them.

While the partisan House bill hurts families by cutting SNAP, the bipartisan Senate bill keeps SNAP safe and ensures that the women I work with will be able to eat and feed their children.

Sen. Ernst was appointed as one of a small number of Senate conferees on the bill, and she has the power and responsibility to make sure the Senate provisions in the nutrition title are upheld.

I see the “on-the-ground” ramifications of our food policies every day. I see women who desperately want to provide nourishing, healthy meals to their children but often can’t, due to limited resources or other barriers.

I see women without transportation or child care walking a mile to a grocery store and back, or taking an hour-long bus trip with children in tow. Being poor and without resources is simply exhausting!

It is a myth that people in poverty do not work. The vast majority of women who move through transitional housing live at or below the federal poverty threshold and are working — sometimes at two jobs while raising children — consistently trying to overcome barriers that are invisible to many of us.

Low unemployment rates mask the reality that most of the jobs available are low-wage and unpredictable. More than two in five Iowa households receiving SNAP include children. Options for child care and transportation are limited at best. Healing from trauma takes a lot of energy.

Sen. Ernst said the Senate Farm Bill lacked harsh work requirements and “missed an opportunity to help able-bodied SNAP recipients rise up out of poverty.”

Senator, you are wrong.

Most SNAP recipients who can work, already do work. In Iowa, 84 percent of SNAP families have at least one working member. If the 2018 Farm Bill makes it harder for people to eat, it certainly isn’t providing opportunities.

Expanding work requirements and adding unnecessary burdens to access nutrition assistance means more discouraging red tape for millions of Americans already struggling to get by. Insecurity and hardship takes a toll.

These are some of the most resilient people I have been blessed to know, but they deserve help to not go hungry.

The Dominicans are a mendicant order, meaning that for over 800 years we’ve begged — particularly when a just cause is at stake. And so I’m begging Sen. Ernst for a Farm Bill that does not make hunger and poverty worse in this country. Please look to the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill as the right path forward.

The author is a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa, Wis., who is an education/employment case manager at Opening Doors in Dubuque, which ministers to women experiencing homelessness.


Sister Kathy Flynn’s Op-Ed was originally published in the Telegraph Herald. View the original here.