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My Take: The religious roots of our political gridlock
December 5th, 2012
08:04 AM ET

My Take: The religious roots of our political gridlock

Editor's Note: Mark Osler is a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis.

By Mark Osler, Special to CNN

The divide between Democrats and Republicans that has frozen the mechanisms of American politics has many causes, but one of them is tangled up in the faith differences of our legislators. Faith, for many lawmakers on both sides, is the source of their outlook and principles, and faith has in part created the conditions for the current impasse about the fiscal cliff.

For many (though certainly not all) Republicans, the root of knowledge is a bedrock certainty about the inerrancy of a literal reading of the Bible. This provides them with clear, absolute answers that gay marriage is wrong, that modern science is suspect, and that much of what we see on earth is a struggle between good and evil.

When the 2012 Republican Party platform stated that we should “reaffirm that our rights come from God,” that reflected a sincere and genuine sense of bright-line natural law.

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That kind of certainty in faith, which so often draws good/evil lines on theological issues, very naturally supports a similar outlook on political issues that aren’t directly rooted in the Bible. Faith, after all, if it really is faith, structures the way we view and interact with the world.

It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that some American conservatives tend both to see their opponents as evil and to catastrophize potential political losses.

If the world is locked in a battle between good and evil, and our side is good, that leaves only one possibility for our opponents.

Bending to that other side becomes unthinkable. A loss or even a compromise is something terrible it is a victory for evil. When Rush Limbaugh tells his audience that Democrats “want to ruin America,” he knows how a significant part of his audience will receive that message, through the lens of a faith that offers certainty and bright lines.

Some Democrats, too, suffer from political disabilities that are formed by faith. Few of them have the absolutist outlook describe above, but their own New Testament-focused view of the Bible leads in a different problematic direction.

There, we see a Jesus who is anything but a capitalist. Instead, he urges others to give away all that they have to the poor, and often disparages the wealthy.

To the rich young ruler who has followed all the commandments, Jesus instructs that he must also sell everything he has and give the money to the poor, without regard to the people he will have to fire and the resulting poverty of his own family.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Many Democrats have taken this broad lesson of concern for the poor to heart, as we all do with core messages of faith. That quiet wind is always there.

This gets us to gridlock because it puts Democrats in the position of class warriors they favor the poor and disfavor the rich.

This is most clear in framing tax policy, which is at the heart of the gridlock we have seen around how to avoid the fiscal cliff. At times, the Democrats' certainty on these issues is the equal of what we see in Republicans.

So we end up in a deadlock. Now, we hear, that gridlock may be breaking up a bit.

On one side, the certainty is less certain as the “no increase in taxes” pledge is abandoned by some. On the other, there is an openness to cutting government spending.

Some will say this is simply political expediency, but I am more hopeful: This opening may be tinged with a blessed uncertainty, the faint hint that the complexity of politics may be as messy and glorious and private as the complexity of our faiths.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark Osler.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Church and state • Opinion • Politics

soundoff (1,027 Responses)
  1. High Way

    Historically if you look at the election cycles the Republicans have become extremists the last few election cycles while the moderate and compromising Democrats has had no choice than to stand their ground rather than let themselves be overrun from the extreme right. The problem with the Republicans ideology these days is that they believe they are on the side of GOD and its very dangerous for our democracy. Remember, absolute power corrupts and right now there is lots going around in Washington starting with the interest groups corrupting our politicians.

    December 5, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  2. Thinkstr8

    The problem is not who supports what and wether it is following the bible/religion or not. Capitalism is good for society since it provides people with ways to conduct a living. The real problem comes in to play when excessive greed takes over. It is and will always be a "company's" market and workers will be laid off or wages lowered when it cuts too deeply into profits. You can and probably will argue the point that Wall Street is what is wrong with capitalism. You have a lot of people that want to make money from an organization without putting a drop of blood or a tear into it. And when they don't get enough for their monetary investment then they put pressure on companies to increase profits any way they can. I will say that if you are a Christian and you begrudge people that are poor then you are not being Christian-like.

    December 5, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • Saraswati

      I agree that capitalism is a good economic model. The problem arises when people start to make it a religion rather than a rough outline to be tweaked. There is no "invisible hand" and yet "true believers" really think there is. We work with what we've got, but capitalism, like an idea, needs to be modified and adapted to suit the needs of society.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • lol??

      Think property rights. Rights can only be infringed and violated. OR defended.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • fintastic

      LOL = troll = ignore

      December 5, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • anthrogirl

      Eminent domain allows the govt to take your land; so there's no guarantee to private property.

      December 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Epinoia

      I have to doubt whether you actually know the difference between Capitalism and Mercantilism. Sorry, but like most people you are conflating the two, in my opinion.

      December 5, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  3. trahart

    There are two types of people in our world. There are those who care about other people and those who care only about "me and mine". This is the way that our political parties actually divide, rather than along lines of faith.

    December 5, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • { ! }

      "Me and mine" aligns quite well with survival of the fittest. It has nothing to do with the Word as expounded by Jesus. For example, "Do good to those who hate you.", " If someone demands your tunic, give him your cloak as well."

      December 5, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • Saraswati

      I think most people compare about a bit of both, and those dominated by one or the other perspective can be found in both parties; the difference is usually which party you think delivers more to you. If you have a lot already you will usually (no always) adopt an ideology, religious or secular, that justifies you keeping every penny you've got. If you haven't got a lot (usually less than the average income) you will adopt a slightly different idesology (religious or secular) that justifies a redistribution.

      A very few people will support a system which means they lose out. Usually to support a system in which you lose wealth, you have to already have it, so those folks will congregate more as democrats.

      But there's no great moral here...people are just being human and creating reality to defend their egos and money. That's what most people do and is likely what we've evolved to do. I'd be happy if even 20% of the population learned to see past this and understand why they believe what they believe.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • gladiatorgrl

      Republicans: "Are there no prisons are there no workhouses" (private of course) – Scrooge
      Democrats: "Mankind should have been my business" – Marley

      kinda sums up your point

      December 5, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • 4JULY1776

      Yes, you are correct in one sense.....there are two types of people in this world!

      They are the makers & the takers. The makers do all the work, the takers sit around thinking up ways to steal from the makers.....also known as "redistribution of wealth" by some.

      December 5, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      I shall cite Poe's Law on 4July1776

      December 5, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Maybe

      Because when poor ppl vote to protect medicare, medicaid and social security, they're doing it for others? Give me a break. Be intellectually honest, with yourself and others.

      December 5, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  4. JDD

    "For many (though certainly not all) Republicans, the root of knowledge is a bedrock certainty about the inerrancy of a literal reading of the Bible. This provides them with clear, absolute answers – that gay marriage is wrong, that modern science is suspect, and that much of what we see on earth is a struggle between good and evil. When the 2012 Republican Party platform stated that we should “reaffirm that our rights come from God,” that reflected a sincere and genuine sense of bright-line natural law."

    The author's broad stroke generalities here, painting all Christians into the caricature box provided by virtually every televised depiction of a fundamentalist Christian, should be the first sign of a flawed analysis. The degree to which he seems to misunderstand the relationship between natural law and the Christian's understanding of science is frankly astounding for a professor of law at a Catholic college. The Christian is unafraid to pursue and embrace science as it pertains to understanding the natural created world. I myself have happily followed that path as an engineer, and I have many friends in the sciences who have done likewise. Modern science is 'suspect' when it ventures into conclusions about metaphysics and proclaims a definitive dismissal of God.

    December 5, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Saraswati

      The quote you mentioned was about republicans, not Christians as a whole. It is refereing to a large subset of Republican Christians and specifies that even in that specified context it does not refer to all.Both science-accepting and science-denying Christians exist. But the science denying are somewhat more likely to congregate in the Republican party. I know REpublican atheists, but they are less common.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Primewonk

      " The Christian is unafraid to pursue and embrace science as it pertains to understanding the natural created world"

      The earth was not created. The earth formed because of localized gravitational clumping of detritus in an accretion disk formed of material from earlier supernovas about 4.54 billion years ago.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • MarkinFL

      I have never seen nor heard of a scientific paper attempting to prove the non-existance of god. I would dare say that any such paper would not be scientific. I'm sure some scientists have proclaimed such things from time to time, but that is just a personal observation from the evidence at hand. Science as a function cares not whether there is a god or not. However, scientists would certainly be interested in measuring and describing any such god.
      The real problem arises when certain scientific findings do not correlate well with information found in religious texts or generally believed by people of various faiths. Its kind of funny how science is accepted until it goes against what someone wants to believe. (i.e. evolution, planetary motion, etc.). Even global warming is considered suspect only because people with a financial interest try to spread doubt. Smoking is another great non-religious example. Addicts will usually deny reality to get their fix. Its just human nature to want to deny any reality that is inconvenient. That is why science is so important. It is the only anti-dote to supersti.tion.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Primewonk

      " Modern science is 'suspect' when it ventures into conclusions about metaphysics and proclaims a definitive dismissal of God."

      Science only deals with the natural realm. Any god worth his or her salt claims supernatural powers. This means that this "god" is not falsifiable. Allowing answers like "goddidit " and 'poof, then another miracle occurs" is not science. As long as a god – any god – claims omnipotence and omniscience, science could care less about it, because that god is no longer falsifiable.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • JDD

      MarkinFL, You haven't then paid attention to Hawking. And I didn't mention scientific papers.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • JDD

      "The earth was not created. The earth formed because of localized gravitational clumping of detritus in an accretion disk formed of material from earlier supernovas about 4.54 billion years ago."

      Primewonk, you've now presented a current and plausible theory of 'how', which for myself as a Catholic, and for a great many Christians, doesn't really bother us and in fact is fascinating to us. I myself have a great interest in astronomy. You're not here addressing the question of God – as has been Stephen Hawking's mistake.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  5. AlfonsoRosa

    We're all defective. Thats the beauty of it all. Basing what we do on something we know nothing
    about. I believe you call that "faith". God will protect the good and punish the bad. Wake up. It's
    all BS. How many fathers and brothers and sisters and spouses were killed in Iraq? How many
    came back maimed? Without religion this planet would be a much much better place. And you could
    still have "faith" if so desired. In yourself!

    December 5, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  6. dnick47

    What slew me was the fact that these so-called Bible believeing Christians supported an acknowledged apostate and an athiest. Even the pastor at a Baptist church I attended would speak out of both sides of his mouth pointing out the moral and dogmatic errors of Mormonism then quote some idiotism he gleaned from Fox News supporting the man steeped in SDL! And this from the pulpit – I left that fellowship by the way – where he should have been speaking the gospel truth. The Republicaans just have not made sense in many election cycles. They preport Christ then act in the most un-Christ like manner imaginable. Then rather then repent of their sins (racism for instance) they blame others for their failure? Doesn't equate to me.

    December 5, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • lol??

      Ya gotta admit the chicago mob had the election covered. And they already had their Mormon in Reid. Mitt was up against a PC (Professional Campaigner) politician and only experienced in raping the business system. He needed better advisers.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • JDD

      Cound it be that many Christians didn't see the Administration's policies as too much in line with Christian teaching either, and simply considered Mr. Romney an acceptable alternative.

      But alas, you lost me at 'racism.'

      December 5, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Primewonk

      JDD – which "Christian" teachings?

      December 5, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  7. Jerrod Fishback

    What a dumb article. All it did was further religious stereotypes within politics, using them as "straw men" for the gridlock over taxes. No facts given, no surveys, no questioning of "faith" people and their support for/against tax reform, etc. Stereotypes may describe the approach of extreme segments of these groups, but it does nothing to really describe the true motivation or worldviews that are at play within the broader population of "faith" groups and their approach to the narrow issue of the fiscal cliff. And, the article does nothing to promote solutions or ways forward. It simply holds religious folks up as targets, when others are looking for reasons why we have political gridlock. It is much more complex than this editorial allows.

    Articles like this only encourage division and the us vs. them mentality, which is exactly why we have gridlock and lack of compromise at the political levels - our politicians are only reflecting us!

    How does CNN vet these types of editorials anyway?

    December 5, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Epinoia

      The article sort of suggests that Democrats are more literal followers of Jesus' dictums, while Republicans are more fire-and-brimstone "Am I my brother's Keeper?" Old Testament believers. Yet that doesn't explain why Jews as a group are overwhelmingly Democrat, rather than Republican. The analysis is flawed.

      December 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  8. Tom

    Just yesterday the majority of Republicans in the Senate voted against ratifying a UN treaty protecting the rights of the disabled yet these Republicans claim to be guided by their Christ who healed the sick, made the lame to walk and opened the eyes of the blind. A lot of the "religion" being pedaled these days in nothing but hate with a thin veil of religiosity thrown over it and if the people pushing religion were not making money while doing it, they would be in a different line of work to bilk the gullible. Our founding fathers knew first hand what mixing religion and government created and the long, financially ruinous religious wars among corrupt rulers, abetted by an equally corrupt papacy were not the only thing they were trying to avoid here.

    December 5, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Saraswati

      Apparently they were afraid that the perceived costs would cause countries to force people to have abortions (yes, really). Of course, since few countries get into this business, and the policies would make raising a disabled child cheaper and easier, it would almost certainly do the exact opposite...but they likely had other financial motications that were really driving things.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • lol??

      Monroe Doctrine anyone? It might just work.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • fintastic

      LOL = troll = ignore

      December 5, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  9. Gaunt

    You lunatic Zealots are in for a huge surprise when you finally die, and find yourself before the Allfather Odin, who will cast you out of Valhalla and into hel because you did not die in battle surrounded by your slain enemies.

    December 5, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Der Fenstergucker

      good one, Gaunt. Add to it my personal savior, the Spaghetti Momma, if you don't love schpagetti, she will cast you into hot tomato sauce, for eternity.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  10. imABeliever

    They should rename this blog to the "Unbelief Blog". Pretty much all the authors that I've read have been biased against religion and Christianity in particular.

    December 5, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Gaunt

      Not even close to true. If there is a bias at all, its against the right wing conservative perversion of Christianisty which ignores the teachings of the Bible on just about every single thing, except those select, cherry picked clauses that allow you to hate according to your preexisting bigotries.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Saraswati

      I don't know this guy's religion, but he's a professor at a Catholic college so they hardly pulled him out of a directory of the anti-religious.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Rynomite

      Interesting comment considering the author merely talked about the Xtian views of Republicans and how those views considied with the outlook the Xtian democrats took. I didn't see any mention of "unbelievers" in the article at all. I was kinda cheesed about it too! I wanted to know how this dude was going to categorize an economic conservative, social liberal atheist like myself, but he never got around to it.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Epinoia

      One thing that strikes me as odd about the author's analysis is that it doesn't explain why Jews, who have no veneration of the New Testament or Jesus, still vote overwhelmingly Democrat. If the Republicans are generally Old Testament fire and brimstone, while Democrats are Jesus-focused "turn the other cheek" and "give away all your riches to the poor", then why aren't Jews overwhelmingly Republican instead of overwhelmingly Democrat?

      December 5, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  11. srichey321

    "Faith" in absolutely nothing real is a terrific political tool Not much overhead, male dominated - the perfect thing for a power broker.

    December 5, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  12. The Court

    Get it off the MONEY seperate church and state
    Have DNA tested by National Geographic.
    Find out what side you are from.

    December 5, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Chick-a-dee

      @The Court:

      "Have DNA tested by National Geographic. Find out what side you are from."

      What the frig does THAT mean?

      December 5, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Saraswati

      I believe National Geographic was encouraging testing to help track the migration history of humans. I don't know which company they were using to do this or why this poster is referencing it.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Shootmyownfood

      Are you purporting to have a theory regarding genetics and wealth or the lack thereof, or perhaps genetic tendencies to various political affiliations? Do tell.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Shootmyownfood,

      I don't know what the OP was talking about, but if you're interested in the possible link between politics and genetics there's some interesting twins research by McDermott and others.

      December 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  13. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    This pretty much sums up the article:
    Republicans claim to be Christian, but follow the teachings of the Old Testament and Paul's epistles.
    Democrats claim to be Secular, but follow the teachings of Jesus.
    Got it?

    December 5, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • JDD

      That's an extraordinary claim.

      The primary Scripture used by Democrats to justify their positions is Matthew 25:45. I mentioned the Matthew 25 passage is because it is cited virtually every time a Democratic politician wants to solicit the Christian vote, while simultaneously openly promoting policies at odds with Christian teaching. On a side note, I've always wanted to have some reporter follow up with the question, "If you're comfortable citing this Bible verse as a driver of your policy, are you now okay with other Christians quoting other verses in support of theirs?" Because Democratic politicians talk all the time about how faith is supposed to be kept private, out of public decisions – when it's a Republican position. When they want to get the Christian vote they cite Matthew 25 as if that settles it and somehow endorses the Democratic Party platform.

      And the dichotomy of Old vs. New Testament is a false one for the Christian. Are you saying that Jesus would dismiss Psalm 139:15, for example, when it came to speaking about taking a life in the womb?

      December 5, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • lol??

      Israel is the proper name of the body of Christ. It's got nothing to do with a Beasty definition of race......"Act 17:26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;".......

      December 5, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Which God?

      @lol. IF there was a body of christ, which there wasn't, btw, it would be rotted and now dust. Get over your delusions, lol, we are lol at your falsehoods, LOL.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Primewonk

      JDD, the religious right (oxymoron) frequently trot out Leviticus 20:13 as an example of why they should be able to force gay folks to be second class citizens not eligible for the same civil rights as the rest of us. But when I ask them how many gay folks they have personally murdered, as required by their god, they refuse to answer, or simply damn me to hell.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • lol??

      Wonk, "Mat 22:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God."

      December 5, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • fintastic

      LOL?? = troll = ignore

      December 5, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  14. Which God?

    Basing national policies, whether it be national defense, health care, social security, etc, should NOT be based on a wwjd type of mentality. Cold hard facts and working policies are needed, as well as revamping systems that don't work. The government also has to stop raiding funds from other departments to run others, and borrowing, with out putting the money back. This is the REAL reson SS is broke, among other policies, like medicaid. They "rob peter to pay Paul," so to speak, but Peter never gets his money back. One has to remember this; those on SS are recieving a pension that they saved for. When businesses go under, so does that pension you relied on. Allowing them to keep your funds was wrong. The banks did the same thing, kept the money, and folks were stuck. SS only pays about $1200.00 a month. Fact. I've watched those of my age forced to contunue working. They cannot retire now, their money was taken from them, and the beaurocracies involved are not forthcoming with any meaningful help.

    December 5, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • heliocracy

      Oh but Peter does get his money back. He has money to invest, and his investment income is taxed at a much lower effective rate than is ordinary income of those who actually work. The government doesn't need to help those who have a lot of extra money to throw around, they're always going to get theirs, even if it means laying working people off in order to get it. Their argument, in part, is that they could afford to hire a few more underpaid workers if only their own taxes were lower and they didn't have to pay so much to support Social Security. Peter, who is already in the driver's seat because he has money to invest, still wants more of the burden placed on the poor and middle classes so he can ostensibly be free to employ more of them without paying more out of pocket...and he does everything he possibly can to pay those people he hires as little as possible in cash and benefits. It used to be that businesses expanded by putting their profits back into the business. Now they raise prices and cut pay so that they can expand without cutting into their current profit margin, and those profits most certainly aren't going to those who live paycheck-to-paycheck (in fact that money is effectively coming FROM those people). Capitalism at work.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Which God?

      @heliocracy. Point taken, heh,heh.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  15. kevobx

    Jacob used deception against his father Isaac to receive firstborn blessings birthrights? But Remember, Esau sold his birthrights away to Jacob. Did the world forget, the pharaoh / king said all firstborn must die. Cain and Esau are elders in the biblical scriptures. (Deuteronomy 32:7) Jacob and his sons were punished for disobedience by the Most High, and thrown into slavery, even upon slave ships as a curse in Egypt. Our heritage was took from us, & replaced with mankind's culture. *(Deuteronomy 28:68)*

    December 5, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • fintastic

      Harry Potter;

      "It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew – and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents – that there was all the difference in the world."

      December 5, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  16. Saraswati

    While I agree that opportunities were easier for whites and males, it wasn't a strict limit. And there were hundreds of Catholic insti’tutions in existence in 1950. Georgetown and Notre Dame to name a few of the more obvious ones. Hell, I know a catholic woman who graduated medical school in the early 1950s, so it wasn’t exactly a dark age ruled by the iron fist of protestant man.

    But my point was financial. We can't sit around surprised that we have to spend more to send people to college now when we're sending more. Of course that costs more. Yes, it doesn't account for all the increase, but it accounts for a lot. I've seen the students who attend some of our second and third tier public colleges and in some cases it isn't pretty. Sure, some of the students care about learning, but a lot of them, white males included, spend class discussing the latest football game. These kids would be better out learning a trade, saving the government millions of dollars, and doing something that contributes to society. It's our fault as a society that we've allowed credentialing to get out of hand. And advanced degree for ... everything.

    A great example is the new requirement that nurse pract’itioners have a doctorate instead of a master's. No one complained about the quality of care from nurse pract’itioners at the master's level and the nursing folks spent millions on PR and research to prove their quality of care. But now they have announced they will require a doctorate for this position (with classes still about the same as a master's level PA) pushing up schooling costs, keeping anyone not rich out of the field, and driving up medical costs as they inevitably demand more money.

    Other fields are the same. An undergrad 'business' degree pretty much qualifies someone to be a glorified Admin. But you have to have it, because those are the new social rules.

    December 5, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  17. Chick-a-dee

    The 1950's and '60's weren't all that bad...pretty full employment, fairly high GNP, possibilities for climbing the socio-economic ladder and all with a 75% tax rate on the highest tax bracket, high rates of participation in labor unions, relatively inexpensive state university tuitions. hmmm....

    December 5, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Saraswati

      Keep in mind that the percentage of the population earching a bachelors degree also quadrupled since 1950. That means 4 times the pull on the taxpayers. And far more start college without completing it or earn associates degrees. The first step in controlling the costs is determining which degrees on which students are paying off, because a lot of college students these days are just taking up space and don't care about learning – they are just told they need a degree to participate.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Those opportunities only existed for white male protestants.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Chick-a-dee

      @ Doc: "white male protestants" were the managers. You're forgetting all the while male Catholics that ran the trades (carpentry, masonry, painting ect), and all the blacks that moved up to the rust belt from the deep south who made Detroit and its feeder cities hum, all the women factory workers (remember the tune "Look for the union label, when you are buying a coat, dress, or blouse....), and all the sons and daughters who were able to go to college with the help of the GI bill their WWII parents had. Yes, there are more opportunities for more people today...but all was not bleak then.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Which God?

      Hmmm. I remember those times. All went down hill after the gas crisis in the mid 70's. I do remember making $3.45 an hour then, raising a family, home and doing OK.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Saraswati

      While I agree that opportunities were easier for whites and males, it wasn't a strict limit. And there were hundreds of Catholic insti’tutions in existence in 1950. Georgetown and Notre Dame to name a few of the more obvious ones. Hell, I know a catholic woman who graduated medical school in the early 1950s, so it wasn’t exactly a dark age ruled by the iron fist of protestant man.

      But my point was financial. We can't sit around surprised that we have to spend more to send people to college now when we're sending more. Of course that costs more. Yes, it doesn't account for all the increase, but it accounts for a lot. I've seen the students who attend some of our second and third tier public colleges and in some cases it isn't pretty. Sure, some of the students care about learning, but a lot of them, white males included, spend class discussing the latest football game. These kids would be better out learning a trade, saving the government millions of dollars, and doing something that contributes to society. It's our fault as a society that we've allowed credentialing to get out of hand. And advanced degree for ... everything.

      A great example is the new requirement that nurse pract’itioners have a doctorate instead of a master's. No one complained about the quality of care from nurse pract’itioners at the master's level and the nursing folks spent millions on PR and research to prove their quality of care. But now they have announced they will require a doctorate for this position (with classes still about the same as a master's level PA) pushing up schooling costs, keeping anyone not rich out of the field, and driving up medical costs as they inevitably demand more money.

      Other fields are the same. An undergrad 'business' degree pretty much qualifies someone to be a glorified Admin. But you have to have it, because those are the new social rules.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Chick-a-dee

      @ Saraswati: For crying out loud...that's because you need a bachelor's degree today to prove that you can read & write. There was a time when a grade school education resulted in a person who could think, compose and properly present an idea ( I have letters written by great-grandparents dated in the 1920's). Then a high school diploma was sufficient to be recognized as "educated" as well as being functional (my mother was a VP at a utility company in the 1970's without a college degree). Today, I have newly minted MBA's who cannot compose a coherent memo and still need a college drop-out (me) to explain how Oracle generates our business papers and the accounting theories that drive them. By the time my child graduates, you'll need a PhD to proof you can tie your shoes...and all because no one is held to any standard, no one is bounced out of the academic track for not being able to keep up and taught a trade, and, heaven-forbid, no one is invited to dig ditches for a living without a high school diploma if all they want to do is disrupt everyone else.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Chick-a-dee

      @ Saraswati: We were both writing at the same time...and it doesn't seem we are so far apart after all.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Chick-a-dee

      @ Which God?: "All went down hill after the gas crisis in the mid 70's." Yeah. Right afterward...when the GOP recruited the southern Christians and took over.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Chick-a-dee,

      While the test scores of high school graduates have dropped, that's only due to having a larger number in school than the quality of education. Comparing generation to generation, students are actually improving in most areas, with children exceeding their grandparents on standardized tests.

      There are plenty of ways, then, to determine who has made the cut in high school and who hasn't. The most obvious is to have exit exams or topic specific exams like the A-levels. It is far more cost effective to pay for a high school education in high school than to unnecessarily 'educate' millions of peoples at thousands of extra dollars per student.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Saraswati

      Yep, our posts are crossing.

      I don't know what will happen...at some point in the near future this expensive system will crash hard.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  18. Primewonk

    What the religious right (oxymoron) fails to understand is that not only is the US not a theocracy, we are not Christian nation.

    Not only that, but they (like a majority of Americans) purposefully chose to be ignorant about science. 46% of all adults believe god created humans in their present form less than 10,000 years ago. A majority of the rest believe god directed evolution. Only 15% of adults understand that humans evolved from earlier hominid species over millions of years with no intervention from any magical sky daddy. Only 5% of republicans understand this.

    Most of the world's problems are not solvable except with science. And when you have republicans like Paul Broun and Lamar Smith, who do not believe in science, being appointed to the House Science, Space, and Technology committee, we don't stand a freaking chance.

    December 5, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Chick-a-dee

      Get your percentages right. Only the evan-fundie crowd hold to that new-earth business and they aren't 46% of the adults. Catholics and Jews have no problem with science and we're a pretty big chunk of the population.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Primewonk

      Do you think I just make this shit up?

      From the Gallup poll in June of this year – from the Gallup website -

      Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. The prevalence of this creationist view of the origin of humans is essentially unchanged from 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question. About a third of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God's guidance; 15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • Chick-a-dee

      I don't think you made it up. I think people play with the pollsters. I do. Or, I should say that I have. They don't seem to ring my phone much nowadays. :-D

      December 5, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Prime, I don't think you made it up either, but I'm very skeptical about the stats. The previous year only 30% said they believed in a literal interpretation of the bible...what the heck are the other 16% talking about. No remotely bright person I know gives these people the personal info, such as household income, they want, so you're already skewing the odds to the less savvy folks who would answer such a survey. Not that I don't think these surveys should be done, but you have to treat them with reasonable skepticism. I've lived all around the US and no way did even 10% of the people I've met believe this young earth business. Sure, a lot believed in some sort of guiding hand to evolution, and yes, these folks do exist, but 46%...no way; I'm not buying that it's more than 30% tops.

      December 5, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • Primewonk

      Did you miss the part where the Gallup folks stated that these results have held for 30 years?

      And do you not think that groups like Gallup have methodologies in place to look at consistency and accuracy?

      December 5, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • lol??

      What's the problem? Science has proven itself in the art of killing. Advancements occur all the time.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Prime, I know they have policies in place to ensure representation from various groups. The problem is that even if you have certain groups (say vased on education level, you still aren't guaranteed that those samples are truly representative.

      For instance, let's say you class people based on education level. 2,000 in your study say they have master's degrees. But people with a master's in Biochemistry vs an MBA are likely to have far different political and religious beliefs, yet there is no accounting for this difference in the balancing done by Gallup...they don't ask questions on most surveys to that level of detail. It's just education level and/or income. Yet at every income level (a group like $100,000 to $120,000), there's a big difference between the top and bottom range. If the bottom range answers more frequently than the top, you get a different view. If people with master's degrees with IQ of 120 are more likely to answer than those with IQs of 150 you also get different answers. Same for those in different fields. People with certain jobs and social incinations are more likely to answer surveys. There's just no practical way to work around that.

      I have a lot of respect for Gallup and I would never say the stats mean nothing. I think they are as good as we can get, and do give us reason to be a bit scared. But to assume they're a perfectreflection of reality is going too far.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  19. Saraswati

    The root of the problem is the normal human reaction to adopt a belief system that supports both ones sense of self-worth and one's 'right' to as much or more of the pie than one currently holds. This goes for all people in all situations and classes. Sometimes it is a religion that supports that view, sometimes another spiritual or secular system. But as long as people don't question the reasons that it benefits them to hold a certain belief, we'll be stuck without understanding.

    The other very simple reason for gridlock is structure – the very design of our voting system. Unless we radically rewrite the way the we elect representatives (ranked balloting to allow multiple party elections to work) we will be stuck with a two party tug of war.

    December 5, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  20. Reality

    Getting rid of religion's roots, saving "souls" and balancing the budget all at once thereby ending the gridlock:

    In order to pay down our $16 trillion debt, we need to redirect money used to support religions especially the christian and islamic cons and put it towards paying off our debt.

    To wit:

    Redirecting our funds and saving a lot of "souls":

    Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:
    There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror LIKE 9/11.

    - One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

    - Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

    - Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

    Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
    There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!

    - The Mormon ti-the empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

    - the faith-based federal projects supported by both Bush and Obama will be eliminated saving $385 million/yr and another $2 billion/yr in grants.

    - the ~$ 100 billion/yr donated mostly to the Jesus-con religions will now go to something useful.

    - Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
    Abraham and Moses never existed.

    - Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

    - All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

    Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a YouTube,Twitter and FaceBook campaign

    December 5, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Agrees with Reality

      Here, here! I agree whole heatedly with this comment. Gods and goddesses do not exist. They are the creation of man to explain things they did not understand and utilized by men in power to maintain their power.

      December 5, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.