In general you get a lot of head-nodding when you suggest that many persons, especially those of faith, believe we should be our brothers and sisters keepers. The concept is easy to acknowledge. It's the methodology of getting there that produces the conflict.
With the selection last week of Congressman Paul Ryan as the side-kick to GOP Presidential contender Mitt Romney, the two have opened up a can of worms over taking care off the less fortunate in our midst.
The Romney-Ryan road map includes very little government.
The Obama-Biden route includes lots.
Let the debate begin on who is right.
In an attempt to shore up his wobbly support among staunch conservatives and Tea Party stalwarts in his own party, the Romney choice did just that. "It's a home run" trumpeted one conservative faction.
Funny thing. The Democrats thought exactly the same thing. They foam at the mouth over the chance to paint Mr. Ryan and his partner as taking away government benefits from those who receive them.
Front and center is the debate over turning the Medicare system into a voucher program administered by Mr. and Mrs. America rather than the federal government.
And even though that is a national issue, you could see the Democrats trying to gain traction with it at the state legislative level as well. It happened once before.
Years ago when then House GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich was messing around with social security, Michigan Democrats actually ran commercials against state house GOP candidates linking them to the Newtster's gambit even though those candidates had nothing to do with social security.
So now comes the Ryan Medicare voucher suggestion and the D's could try the same strategy.
But back to the brother's keepers debate.
Mr. Ryan, a practicing Catholic, is in hot water with his church on his budget plans. In April, the U.S. Conference of Bishops wrote a critical letter denouncing Mr. Ryan for disproportionately cutting programs that "serve the poor and vulnerable people." The reference in this instance was the slicing of food stamps.
In an appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Mr. Ryan suggested that he used his "Catholic faith" to shape the very budget the Bishops did not like. He asserts the needy would actually be helped by his efforts to reduce the mushrooming federal deficit and he felt his approach was consistent with the teachings of the church. Good thing he's not running for Bishop.
He believes "government is not responsible for lifting citizens out of poverty. That's the obligation of the citizens themselves."
You can hear the Democratic commercials using that line. Ryan and Romney are telling the needy, we've made our money, now you go make yours.
So not only is Mr. Ryan at odds with his church leaders, his spot on the ticket could cost Mr. Romney some votes with other segments of the electorate that are not nearly as conservative as the GOP base. And Mr. Romney needs more than the base to win because there are not enough Republicans to whisk him into the White House.
Researchers suggest that white suburban independent women will decide this election. The question is, how many now get government benefits or know someone who does?
The math on that could well determine the winner and resolve once and for all the debate over government's role in helping those who need it.