Presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been working hard to deflect criticism that he is refusing to release his tax statements like politicians normally do at this point in the cycle. Unwilling to share whatever information is hidden in there, the former Massachusetts governor has attempted to distract the media with a new ad decrying President Barack Obama’s position on welfare. Considered mean-spirted by some, and outright race-baiting by others, Romney accuses Obama of wanting those on welfare to live endlessly on the government dime.
The add backfired spectacularly (unless race-baiting was in fact his intention, in which case it was a total success). To cleanse the palate and distract voters from his distraction, Romney put out yet another ad, this time wrapping himself in religious liberty and claiming the President has declared a War on Religion.
It’s obvious that now Romney ready to engage his religious right base and see if he can motivate those religious leaders to get their folks to the polls. But it’s less clear if religious leaders themselves are willing to play along. We’ve already seen “nuns on a bus” tour the country speaking out against draconian cuts to the social safety net proposed by congressional Republicans. Now, the Friars are getting politically involved, too. According to the Huffington Post, FAN — the Franciscan Action Network — is chastising Romney for his callous use of the poor for political gain.
FAN spokesman Lonnie Ellis told The Huffington Post that what Romney is doing is “worse than ignoring” poor people. He said Romney is essentially criticizing President Barack Obama for helping out low-income individuals. “It’s saying look, ‘President Obama is actually supporting poor people too much, or he’s just giving a free ride to poor people,’” Ellis said. “So it’s actually using poor people in a really bad way.”
FAN’s criticism, however, goes beyond the Romney campaign’s rhetoric on welfare by condemning cuts to Pell Grants, Medicaid and Head Start programs put forth in the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and supported by Romney.
“With the political conversation now on ensuring that low-income people are working, the most blatant affront is that the Romney-Ryan Budget actually cuts job training programs for low-income people,” FAN Executive Director Patrick Carolan said in a statement.
They aren’t the only people of faith bothered by Romney’s actions. Bryan Cone at USCatholic.org writes:
This targeting of the poor–in the House budget, even in bipartisan long-term deficit reduction–is the absolute opposite of the requirements of Catholic social teaching, which over and over demands that public policy should keep as its first priority the needs of the poor and vulnerable. I find the president’s meager proposals unsatisfactory; Romney’s I find morally offensive.
Are social issues really enough to garner Romney the vote of those of faith? Not likely, if he doesn’t bother to consider caring for the most vulnerable a social issue.