Michael Novak, a scholar in residence at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC, defended Republican Rep. Paul Ryan from attacks by Georgetown University professors and priests in an address at the Catholic Information Center. The CIC is operated by Opus Dei.
Georgetown University faculty and staff, including Jesuit priest Thomas J. Reese of the Woodstock Theological Center, and Democrat stalwart E.J. Dionne Jr, sent Congressman Ryan, a Catholic, a letter on April 24 which assailed his budget plan. The letter claims that the budget “decimates food programs … radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick” and “gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few.” The scholars also found that Ryan has been “profoundly misreading Church teaching,” and argued the bill reflected “the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Along with the letter, the signatories sent along a copy of The Compendium of Social Doctrine of the Church, commissioned by Pope John Paul II.
Novak, who is a scholar of Catholic teachings, argued that the federal government programs Ryan’s budget limits, which are a part of the “war on poverty,” serves to actually impoverish people. “The poverty problem is not a monetary problem,” he explained, “but a behavioral problem of dependency.” He described welfare as “a honey pot,” which grows addictive. “If you complete high school, if you work 50 weeks a year, and if you get married and stay married … you have a 97 percent chance of not being poor,” Novak said. Novak referred to economist Thomas Sowell’s book Basic Economics, said, “It’s a very inefficient way of curing poverty by building up a large bureaucracy. … You end up feeding the sparrows by feeding the horses … and the horses eat it up.”
“Every poverty program should have a study to judge its impact” before it is enacted, Novak argued. “The Jesuit suggestion” in the Georgetown letter, would encourage Congressman Ryan to “overlook the fact that poverty is increased by the federal government,” Novak said. He also spoke about the importance played by communities in relieving the poor. “It starts with families,” Novak explained, “politics in the family, politics in the neighborhood, politics in the community.” Men and women value the respect of the significant people in their lives, Novak said. “The greatest weapon in the whole world,” he argued, “is the raised eyebrow.” Novak decried the “people with taste, with manners, and with good habits are afraid to insist on them.”
Once a Democrat, Novak said, “I always hoped the Democratic Party would change, but it’s getting worse and worse and worse,” he said.