By Fr. James Farfaglia
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) – Tom Pauken is a Catholic layman who headed a federal agency in the Reagan administration and served as Republican Texas State Chairman in the mid-90s during a time when the Republicans became the majority party in that state. His new book BRINGING AMERICA HOME, How America Lost Her Way and How We Can Find Our Way Back not only explains what happened to our nation in the post-Reagan period of American politics but also lays out a roadmap for how our founding principles can be applied to address the serious problems facing our nation.
Pauken makes the point that, no matter what we do to address economic and foreign policy issues, if we don’t fix the culture, he argues, everything will be for naught. Pauken highlights the insights of the great Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who says that the West, which once was the bastion of Christianity, is running the risk of falling prey to the flawed philosophy of secular fundamentalism. The Russian author points out that “Men have forgotten God” and there are consequences of that.
Tom Pauken is the Chairman of the Texas Work Force Commission. He currently resides in Port Aransas, Texas and has granted Father James Farfaglia, a contributing writer for Catholic Online, this exclusive interview.
Father James: Election Day 2010 is rapidly approaching. Early voting has started already. What do you think is going to happen?
Tom Pauken: Clearly, the Republicans are going to make major gains in Congress on November 2nd. The question is whether those victories will be sufficient to give the Republicans majority control of Congress. I believe that the majority of Americans have turned against the Obama administration’s policies and want to block any additional legislation that will advance the President’s liberal agenda.
Father James: Based on your long experience in politics, what do you think is going to happen in 2012? Do you think that President Obama will seek re-election? What about Hillary Clinton? Who do you think the Republicans will run for president and vice-president?
Tom Pauken: If it turns out to be a huge defeat for the Democratic Party in November, I think it is possible that President Obama might face a primary challenge from Hillary Clinton in 2012, or might even choose not to run for re-election that year. Many of President Obama’s major policy advisors have bailed out on him and already have left his administration. I am sure many others will leave after the mid-term elections. That is not a good sign for his future prospects. I just don’t think President Obama is up to the job in dealing with the serious problems facing our nation. As for the Republicans, my sense is that Mitt Romney is the front runner at this time in the battle for the Republican nomination. Having said that, I would point out that (in my judgment) Romney’s nomination would mean that the Republicans would be back to a “business as usual” brand of politics similar to what caused the American people to reject the Republicans in 2008 and put Barrack Obama in the White House.
It would perpetuate in power the Wall St. crowd and the political elite who have controlled the Republican Party machinery since George Herbert Walker Bush was President. Mitt Romney is neither a social nor an economic conservative. When he ran for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, he was to the left of Teddy Kennedy on the issues of abortion and homosexual rights. As Governor of Massachusetts, he promoted a mandatory health care plan which was the model for Obamacare. The Republicans need to nominate in 2012 someone who is not afraid to stand up for our traditional family values, particularly the right to life of the unborn, and who will represent the concerns of the “forgotten Americans” (middle class taxpayers who don’t have a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. and who aren’t looking for loopholes in the law) instead of the “too big to fail” financial institutions that exercise way too much influence over the American economy.
Father James: The Tea Party movement has been an amazing force since Barack Obama became president. What do you think about this movement and what influence will this movement have in the future of American politics?
Tom Pauken: I believe that the Tea Party movement is the reflection of the frustrations that many Americans share about the direction our country is going and the failure of the “political elite” to respond to the concerns of the average citizen. The Tea Party movement is a powerful grassroots movement which, if harnessed properly, could help our nation find its way back to its founding principles.
Father James: Turning to our Catholic Faith, a principle of Catholic social teaching is the principle of subsidiarity. How can this principle influence the health care debate?
Tom Pauken: Speaking of founding principles, federalism was one of the original precepts of our American Constitutional system. Federalism means that – wherever possible – power should be devolved from the national government to the states, local communities, and to the people themselves. That really is a reflection of the principle of subsidiarity which seeks to keep power closest to the people as opposed to the centralizing of control which describes our government today. The principle of subsidiarity could provide a pathway to deliver better health care in the U.S. at a lower cost to consumers. Under the current system – which has been in place since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt – the federal government sets the prices for the delivery of health care services and then all of the affected parties figure out how to “game” the system. Obama healthcare simply expands the federal government’s dominance over healthcare. I predict this will result in a system that will cost more while providing fewer services. In a recent book entitled Toward a Truly Free Market, John Médaille points out that the Obamacare solution “adds thirty million new customers for health insurance without adding any new doctors, hospital beds, or clinics. The increased pressures on the supply side are likely to push prices up even higher.” Médaille makes an excellent case in his book for how the principle of subsidiarity can be applied to provide better health care at a lower cost.
Father James: I am not quite sure that the Catholic Church in America has adequately explained and defended the principle of subsidiarity within the health care debate. Are my concerns legitimate and what do you suggest as a solution?
Tom Pauken: Father James, you are right. The current, top-down health care system is very costly, particularly for those without insurance coverage. Obamacare will make a bad situation worse. Major reform is needed, and John Médaille explains how the principle of subsidiarity can be applied to make the doctor-patient relationship the central focus of our health care system again.
Father James: You have been actively involved in politics and public service since your return from Vietnam. You have also been an active voice in the conservative movement. As a faithful Catholic layman, what influence in politics have you noticed from other Catholic laymen? In our personal conversations you have spoken to me about the Catholics within the Reagan Administration and the fact that Brent Bozell, Jr. wrote Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative.
Tom Pauken: Catholics exercised significant influence in the early years of the modern conservative movement and in the Reagan administration, but Catholics had very little influence during the Bush presidencies. Particularly in the first Reagan term, there was a significant Catholic presence. Richard Allen and William Clark headed the National Security Council (NSC) at various junctures. Bill Casey was Director of the CIA and Gen. Vernon Walters worked closely with him. Ray Donovan was Secretary of Labor. Don Devine was Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and I headed the ACTION agency. Bob Searby was an Ambassador at the Department of Labor who served as the liaison to Lech Walesa and the Solidarity forces in Communist Poland. Frank Shakespeare was U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, and many other Catholics served in key positions throughout the Reagan administration. William F. Buckley, Jr. who was close to President Reagan was the Editor of National Review and a Catholic. In those days many of the key figures at National Review – which was an intellectual voice for American conservatism – were Catholics. That is not the case any longer.
Father James: Would you agree that more than conservatism, what America really needs is Catholicism?
Tom Pauken: No matter what we do to get our economy moving again and straighten out our foreign policy, if we don’t return our culture to one guided by the principles of Christianity and the Judeo-Christian ethic, everything will be for naught. Fr. John McCloskey has it right when he says that Catholics need to lead the way in restoring our culture to one guided by the recognition that the family is the cornerstone of a free society. Pope Benedict XVI aptly warns of “the dictatorship of relativism” when God is abolished from the public square. Our challenge is to reverse the tides of “secular fundamentalism” and a Hollywood Culture at odds with our Christian faith.
Father James: But, we already have a large Catholic presence in Congress and many of our fellow Catholics do not vote with Catholic principles in mind. Case in point is the abortion issue. Moreover, Catholic Bishops seem reluctant to sanction pro-abortion Catholic politicians.
Tom Pauken: Just like we have Republicans in name only (RINOs) in Congress, so too do we have a lot of Catholics in name only. I call them “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose what beliefs they chose to follow. They are proud to call themselves Catholic in order to appeal to Catholic voters in an election cycle but then go along with the pro-abortion anti-family policies being promoted by the political elite who have been increasingly secularized over the past half century.
Father James: In your new book you are quite critical of the Bush administration. Briefly, what mistakes do you think President George Bush made?
Tom Pauken: The specifics are spelled out in detail in my book, Bringing America Home. Here is a very brief synopsis: In foreign policy, the George W. Bush administration bought into the neoconservative, utopian vision that you could use American military force to impose democracy in the Middle East. On the spending front, Bush officials saw big government as fine so long as their folks were in charge of it. They even had a name for this policy, “big government conservatism”. (In my book, I have a chapter titled “Big Government Conservatism is an Oxymoron”.) When the bubble burst from the credit excesses of the Wall St. crowd, the Bush response (engineered by Secretary of the Treasury – Henry Paulson, a former CEO of Goldman, Sachs) was to bail out at taxpayers’ expense the “too big to fail” financial institutions. On the cultural issues, the overall Bush approach was one of “benign neglect”. While the two Supreme Court appointments were good, the only reason we got Samuel Alito instead of Harriet Miers on the Court was because of a grassroots conservative revolt against Miers.
Father James: You were young when you got involved in politics. What advice do you have for any young people who wish to get involved in American politics?
Tom Pauken: Don’t compromise your principles for political gain. What good does it to you to gain the whole world and lose your soul?
Father James: Finally, despite all of the challenges that we face as a nation, do you feel optimistic about America’s future?
Tom Pauken: We need men and women willing to step forward to help meet this challenge. The leaders are out there all across this great country of ours. Let’s just hope that, with God’s grace, they will come together and respond in time for the good of the country.Finally, if we turn back to God and end the taking of the lives of 1,500 unborn babies every day, then everything else will fall in place for the restoration of America as that Good Society bequeathed us by our Founding Fathers.
Father James Farfaglia, the Happy Priest, is the pastor of Saint Helena of the True Cross of Jesus Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas. Father has a hard hitting blog called Illegitimi non carborundum. He has also published a book called Man to Man: A Real Priest Speaks to Real Men about Marriage, Sexuality and Family Life. You can contact Father at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article originally appeared in Catholic Online at the following address: http://www.catholic.org/politics/story.php?id=38902&page=1