Every so often the Business Roundtable and the right-wing ‘think tank’ the Maxim Institute bring overseas speakers to the country to tell us that free market capitalism is a wonderful thing.
What’s more they preach ‘we’ should dismantle the few social democratic institutions that remain in this country – specifically the welfare system.
The latest speaker to arrive on our shores preaching this familiar dreary message is American fundamentalist preacher Father Robert Sirico – who is so right wing that he thinks George Bush is too moderate and the Catholic Church is too liberal.
Sirico started off as a pentacostalist and, after moving to Los Angeles in the 1970s, he served as the executive director of what is now the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Centre ( he now says homosexuality is ‘a sin’).
Sirico refers to this as his ‘soft Marxist’ period. But then he discovered Ayn Rand and became a hard right ‘libertarian’. Around about this time he returned to the Catholicism of his childhood.
Through his Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which he formed in 1990, Sirico has been campaigning for the destruction of the welfare state and replaced by a system of charity with social programmes moved to religious organizations – presumably run by people like Sirico.
According to Sirico it’s the poor own fault that they are poor because the welfare state not only allows people to stay on benefits but also neglects the ‘spiritual help’ that people need as well as financial help.
The implication is that if a person is out of work then there must be something wrong with them – and its not the fault of an economic system that doesn’t require their services and dumped them in the ‘reserve army of labour’.
Similarly Siricio’s thinks that his brand of right wing Christianity should be rammed down the throat of the unfortunate poor –whether they like it or not.
It's bigoted anti-working class ideology - but with a religious twist.
It’s not the welfare state that has failed to lift the poor out of poverty but the capitalist economic system that Sirico lauds.
Sirico is just another cheap merchant of the ‘blame the victim’ philosophy, a philosophy that sees poverty as the fault of the poor individuals rather than wider social injustices that are thrown up by a venal economic system.
Not surprisingly, Sirico is a well known defender of big business and its sctivities and regularly clashes with corporate responsibility and environmental activists.
In 2002, for example, he was invited to give a brief pep talk to the corporate leaders and shareholders of ExxonMobil.
At that meeting he said that ExxonMobil stakeholders needed to disregard the "religious activism" directed against the company because "it stems from the desire of certain religious activists to force what is clearly a left-wing economic and political agenda on ExxonMobil specifically and society in general."
Not coincidentally, Sirico denies that climate change is occurring.
What makes Sirico’s ideology even more dangerous is that he wants to force feed the poor his right wing fundamentalist Christianity – a Christianity that directly contradicts the basic tenets of a Catholic faith he professes to follow.
Fortunately Sirico appears to be preaching to converted.
A few cursory media stories about his visit have been published but the only discussions of his extreme politics have, so far, only occurred on right wing talkback radio. Both talkback hosts Michaels Laws and Danny Watson thought Sirico had something to offer – which was the opportunity for their listeners to engage in some beneficiary bashing.
Over in the United States, Sirico – like other right-wing ringleaders – is finding that his influence is waning as the star of Barack Obama rises.