'Nuns on the Bus' Attack Ryan Budget Plan During Iowa Visit

By James Q. Lynch, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – They weren't carrying rulers, but a group of Catholic nuns is touring Iowa this week to rap the knuckles of politicians who support budget changes they say would hurt the poor an vulnerable.

The primary target of the so-called "nuns on the bus" is Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the author of the "Ryan budget," which has been approved by the Republican-controlled U.S. House.

It's not just his budget plan, which Sister Simone Campbell, executive editor of Network, a liberal social justice lobby in Washington said would decimate the social safety net by cutting federal spending by $5 trillion over 10 years while adding $4 trillion in tax cuts.

"The part that really got us going was Ryan saying his Catholic faith informed his budget," Campbell told The Gazette Editorial Board. "My astute political analysis was 'liar, liar pants on fire.'"

So the Catholic sisters have launched a nine-state bus tour from Des Moines to highlight their work and bring attention to Ryan's "immoral" budget priorities. They'll take their message to Dubuque June 19, stopping at Dubuque Food Pantry, 1598 Jackson St., at 9:30 a.m.

Her understanding of Catholic moral teaching is far different that Ryan's, Campbell said. "He wants us to think it's only about the individual and promoting the individual."

The Catholic church does teach individual responsibility, "but always in the context of community," she said.

"You can only have individual responsibility if you know how we are in community together," Campbell said. "That means I'm as aware of your needs as you are of mine."

Ryan has not responded directly to the nuns' bus tour, but has defended his budget as an attempt to strengthen a safety net "stretched to the breaking point in recent years, failing the very citizens who need help the most."

His budget, Ryan wrote in an opinion piece, "ends welfare for those who don't need it, but strengthens welfare programs for those who do."

It's not just the budget cuts that worry the nuns.

"To be responsible, we need to raise revenue," Campbell said. She wants Congress to let the Bush tax cuts to expire and then re-institute the most effective, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit that benefits the working poor.

Wealth disparity also must be addressed, the nuns said. It contributes to individualism.

"When you get stuff you get protective and you lose perspective about how we're in this together," she said.

Rather than simply cutting budget and taxes, Campbell said the nation must invest in the future like the previous generations invested in public infrastructure and public programs.

The nuns hope their tour will start a conversation that will get people of differing viewpoints talking.

"Can we find a bridge?" Campbell said. "I don't know how to build a bridge, but I would start with a few little pillars that we agree on and work our way to the middle."

To follow the "nuns on the bus" tour, visit www.nunsonthebus.org or #NunsOnTheBus.
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