Category: Economics

minimum wagaeFast food workers have been calling for a raise in the minimum wage, and politicians are touting it. There’s even a website devoted to it (“Rebuilding an economy that works for all of us.”) But would raising the minimum wage really help the working poor?

Economist David R. Henderson says no, it won’t. In a piece for the National Center for Policy Analysis, Henderson says there are two myths here. (more…)

I’ve just returned from Bangalore, where I attended a conference on “Bounds of Ethics in a Globalized World” at Christ University, which is run by the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, the first Catholic religious order started in India. The headline attraction on the opening day was the appearance of the Dalai Lama and his remarks promoting “secular ethics.” This may seem surprising coming from one of the world’s most famous religious leaders (and a monk, at that), but like his counterpart in Rome, the Dalai Lama has a talent for speaking to the irreligious in a way that challenges and flatters democratic prejudices at the same time.

Being completely ignorant in Buddhism, I will refrain from evaluating the orthodoxy of his adoption of secular rather than religious ethics. The Dalai Lama knows how to poke fun at seemingly pious people by highlighting their hypocrisy. He preaches using liberal concepts like compassion and equality that are pleasing to the ears of the audience; in fact, he makes living with compassion by renouncing oneself the key to happiness. He goes even further by stressing that the world would be better off with perfect equality and no leaders to pose as authorities. And he does it all so easily, with a smile and joking asides that make him seem like your not-completely-all-there grandfather, which is all this one would be if he wasn’t the 14th incarnation of a great Tibetian leader, feared and exiled as a boy by communist China.  The Chinese would prefer to see him renounce his leadership as well.

In spite of his treatment by the Chinese government, the Dalai Lama called himself a “social and economic Marxist” during his talk, saying that capitalism is only about “money, money, money.” He said this while also speaking well of George W. Bush, the United States, and even suggested that NATO headquarters should be moved to Moscow in order to spiritually disarm the Russians. Listening to him makes you think that human pride could simply be shamed out of existence. It would be too easy to call his ideas contradictory and utopian. (more…)

“Today’s welfare state is largely the construction of decades of liberal political activism,” writes James C. Capretta. “If it is failing, and there is strong evidence that it is in many ways, then that is a stinging indictment of the liberal governing philosophy more than anything else.” He argues for more conservative activism on the poverty problem, particularly in education.

An effective conservative critique of existing policies starts with the acknowledgement that a strong social safety net is a must in a modern, market-based economy, and that the safety net built here in the United States, though flawed, has contributed substantially to improving the conditions for the poor. The official measure of the poverty rate is completely misleading in this regard because it does not include transfer programs or the taxes people pay in the measure of income. So, in a very real sense, no matter how much the government spends, the official poverty rate remains unchanged.

But when tax and transfer programs are factored into the assessment, and when the consumption patterns of the poor are examined and not just their cash incomes, the picture changes quite dramatically. The panoply of governmental support programs—Medicaid, Food Stamps, the earned income tax credit, housing vouchers, school lunch programs, and many more—substantially raise the living standards of those who otherwise have very low incomes. (more…)

RedistributionofWealthAre you a fan of redistribution? Do you think those with more money should willingly or unwillingly spread the wealth? Do you believe the government should step in and help with the redistribution process? Well, economist Donald Boudreaux has a few questions for you.

    • Do you teach your children to envy what other children have? Do you encourage your children to form gangs with their playmates to “redistribute” toys away from richer kids on the schoolyard toward kids not so rich? If not, what reason have you to suppose that envy and “redistribution” become acceptable when carried out on a large scale by government?

    (more…)

    Senator Jeff Sessions (R. – Ala.) is frustrated with the latest job report, saying more people are leaving the workforce than joining it:

    Today’s jobs report underscores a deeper problem facing our economy: a large and growing block of people who are chronically jobless and completely outside the workforce. In December, the economy added only 74,000 jobs – not nearly enough to keep up with population growth –and 347,000 left the workforce. That means for every one job added, nearly 5 people left the workforce entirely. There are now nearly 92 million Americans outside the workforce, resulting in the lowest participation rate in 36 years.

    This chart illustrates the December report, and includes figures on those who are unemployed yet still looking for work, and those who’ve given up searching. (more…)

    68-wimpyIn a comment last month on the proposed federal budget deal, Sen. Rand Paul quoted one of the foremost economic thinkers of the twentieth century. “There is a recurring theme in Washington budget negotiations. It’s I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. I think it’s a huge mistake to trade sequester cuts now, for the promise of cuts later,” Sen. Paul said.

    “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today,” was a catchphrase made famous by J. Wellington Wimpy, a character in the comic strip Popeye. But it also describes, with slight modification, the attitude of Americans to funding government: “I’ll begrudgingly pay you in the future for services provided today.”

    Several years ago economist Steve Landsburg made an astute observation about our nonsensical idea about tax relief:

    (more…)

    Blog author: jcarter
    Thursday, January 9, 2014
    By

    Putting ourselves and our children further in debt, notes Timothy Dalrymple, is not the way to help the poor:

    One of the great difficulties of this issue, for Christians, is that the morality of spending and debt has been so thoroughly demagogued that it’s impossible to advocate cuts in government spending without being accused of hatred for the poor and needy. A group calling itself the “Circle of Protection” recently promoted a statement on “Why We Need to Protect Programs for the Poor.” But we don’t need to protect the programs. We need to protect the poor. Indeed, sometimes we need to protect the poor from the programs. Too many anti-poverty programs are beneficial for the politicians that pass them, and veritable boondoggles for the government bureaucracy that administers them, but they actually serve to rob the poor of their dignity and their initiative, they undermine the family structures that help the poor build prosperous lives, and ultimately mire the poor in poverty for generations. Does anyone actually believe that the welfare state has served the poor well?

    Read more . . .

    The Washington Examiner has published a chart that clearly lays out the difference between Obamacare versus private sector health care. Using Walmart as an example (despite the employer’s much-disparaged employee benefits), Elliot Smilowitz at the Examiner shows that the private sector is able to offer comparable health care at much less expense than Obamacare. (more…)

    Untitled 4Even when we agree on what Biblical principles should guide our political choices, evangelicals from the left and right rarely agree on policy solutions. But there is one area where there appears to be an increasingly significant level of agreement: the immorality of our national debt.

    At Christianity Today, David P. Gushee — an ethicist and politically progressive evangelical — explains why the $17 trillion national debt is both immoral and unwise:

    Most progressive evangelicals who address government spending focus on compassion issues. They connect God’s care for the poor to U.S. government spending priorities. This often seems to mean by default that all cuts to social welfare spending are bad, and that all increases are good.

    I agree with my progressive evangelical allies that our government—which projects spending $3.77 trillion in fiscal 2014—seems to have sufficient resources to provide for the sick, the aged, the poor, and the uninsured. I agree with an overall reading of the Bible that prioritizes physical human needs over most other priorities. But I protest a too-easy move from “God cares for the poor and calls Christians to do the same” to “God wants the secular government of the United States to spend x on social welfare.” Translating a sacred text into a political ethic is not that easy.

    Still, we have a moral problem on our hands: While our nation budgets $3.77 trillion for spending in fiscal 2014, it forecasts revenue of $744 billion less than that. If a nation does that for long enough, it ends up with a debt of $17 trillion—and rising.

    A government that develops a pattern of spending considerably more than it raises behaves immorally. But its immorality is not simply the immorality-as-immediate-hardheartedness-to-the-poor, so often decried by my friends.

    Read more . . .

    poverty-in-america-300x300In addition to reading Joe Carter’s striking by-the-numbers piece on the War on Poverty, and in keeping with Sam Gregg’s reflections on the deeper social and cultural forces at work, I heartily recommend taking in Josh Good’s excellent retrospective in AEI’s The American.

    Leveraging a lengthy quote from Herman Bavinck’s The Christian Family, one I’ve put to use myself, Good notes the “inverse impact of changing family structure on productive work and a flourishing economy”:

    The fact is, poverty is not merely a material problem. A half-century after the dawn of the War on Poverty, we would be well-served if President Obama addressed the American public on the cultural aspects of poverty…Americans truly interested in serving the poor more effectively will do well to recall this insight, from the late theologian Herman Bavinck:

    “For children are the glory of marriage, the treasure of parents, the wealth of family life. They develop within their parents an entire cluster of virtues, such as … devotion and self-denial, care for the future, involvement in society, the art of nurturing. With their parents, children place restraints upon ambition [and] as with living mirrors they show their parents their own virtues and faults, force them to reform themselves, mitigating their criticisms and teaching them how hard it is to govern a person. The family exerts a reforming power upon the parents … [transforming] ambition into service, miserliness into munificence, the weak into strong, cowards into heroes, coarse fathers into mild lambs, tenderhearted mothers into ferocious lionesses.” (more…)