One of the more interesting aspects of the recent GOP presidential debates has been the astounding exhortation of extreme individualism, the notion that every person is in it for him or herself, and that government should not provide any sort of safety net or assistance to those in need (there is another debate tonight in Florida sponsored by Fox News and Google) . From Social Security to healthcare to workers' rights to taxes, most of the Republican field eschews any affirmation of policies and programs that benefit public welfare. Anything the government does that may assist individuals is deemed socialist and un-American.
As the economy continues to stutter, the narrative of extreme individualism has become dominant, and talk of commonweal is sidelined. Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic notes that even Democrats try to frame their debate around raising taxes not in terms of something good for the whole, but as a mathematical equation:
This idea that every person is in it for him or herself should offend, or at least concern, Catholic sensibilities. The history of Catholic social teaching offers an abundance of resources about the need to develop societies that care for the least among us. While the church does not necessarily endorse any one way of doing this over another, its teaching is clear: we are all in this together.
With both the current political climate and background of Catholic teaching in mind, the video below of Elizabeth Warren, a candidate for the US Senate from Massachusetts running for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Scott Brown, is refreshing. Warren offers an impassioned defense of progressive taxation, reminding her audience that individual human beings are intricately connected to one another in a society, and as such, that we have certain obligations to one another: