Everybody likes the pope.
Or at least nearly everybody. Time‘s newly minted Person of the Year is viewed favorably by 92 percent of American Catholics, according to a new ABC/Washington Post poll. The same poll found that 69 percent of all Americans view Francis favorably. And these numbers have been rising since Francis’s election in March. A new Wall Street Journal poll says that the pope’s popularity has nearly doubled since July. Francis is already at least as popular as Pope John Paul II was at his peak.
So when Pope Francis issued his World Day of Peace message on Thursday attacking the “widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs,” Americans listened. This is the same pope who in September criticized the global economic system for worshipping “a god called money” and said that “we want a just system that helps everyone.” It’s the same pope who denounced “trickle-down” economics and warned that the “idolatry of money” would lead to a “new tyranny.”
While the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in 2011 deserves credit for bringing income inequality to the political front-and-center, it’s Pope Francis who can actually keep it there.
A big part of the reason for that is his popularity. Occupy Wall Street never had anything like the pope’s approval numbers. A month after the movement began in fall 2011, more Americans approved of Occupy than disapproved by a slim margin, 39 percent to 35 percent.
But a vastly larger number of Americans supported the ideas behind the Occupy movement. A December 2011 Pew Research poll found that while Occupy at that point had just a 44 percent approval rating, 77 percent of Americans believed that “too much power in the hands of a few rich people and corporations,” and 61 percent believed that the U.S. economic system was unfair and favored the wealthy.
The ideas about inequality expressed by Occupy in 2011 and by Francis today are not uncommon among Americans. But the pope is an infinitely more powerful conduit to carry and champion them. And he can be that champion without suddenly ditching the papacy and accepting a policy gig at the White House. The pope, with his infallibility and his U.S. base of over 75 million American Catholics, is already standing atop one of history’s largest soapboxes.
It makes sense that, in a recent speech on economic fairness, President Obama quoted Francis, asking “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” It’s much more difficult to imagine the president quoting Occupy in that major speech on economic mobility — in no small part because it’d be kind of weird for Obama to just start waggling his fingers.
But as Obama tries to base the remainder of his presidency on mobility and inequality, he has few allies more powerful than the Vatican.
What We're Following See More »
As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
"The House voted Thursday to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security. The bipartisan measure passed easily by a vote of 386-41, with nine Republicans and 32 Democrats voting in opposition. If the bill makes it through the Senate, it would be the first-ever reauthorization of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since it was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." Among the provisions it contains is a mandate that the Senate confirm the Secret Service director. It also boosts funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative by $195 million per year.
In remarks scheduled to be delivered today at the American Federation of Teachers' summer conference, President Randi Weingarten "likens U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to a climate-change denier" and "says the Trump administration's school choice plans are secretly intended to starve funding from public schools. She calls taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, tuition tax credits and the like 'only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.'" The pro-voucher Center for Education Reform said teachers should "consider inviting Weingarten’s resignation."