Category: General

caremergencyYesterday I began a series of posts which attempts to explain why the working poor tend to make terrible financial decisions and how they think about money differently than other economic classes. In my initial post I wrote,

Imagine that instead of having to deal with consumption smoothing decisions, at most, several times a year, you had to deal with them several times a month, or even several times a week. Now also imagine there is no workable solution that will actually smooth the short-term consumption problem and the best that you can hoped for is a temporary fix that delays having to deal with the issue.
That is what it’s like to be the working poor.

Several people have asked me to explain more what I meant, so before moving on I wanted to provide a more in depth example.

Let’s again begin by looking at the decision-making process of the middle-class. Imagine that you want to buy a home. Your household income is $51,404 a year (the median household income in the U.S.) and the house you’re interested in is on the market for $152,000 (the avg. home price in the U.S.). At what point do you buy the house?

There are several ways the average American may answer, but the one response you will almost never hear is, “You should buy the house only after you’ve saved the $152,000 needed to pay for it.”

While most people would agree that it would be prudent to apply a down payment, the idea that you’d pay the entire amount at once – even if you had $152,000 in cash – would strike most people as peculiar if not absurd. Instead, we borrow money for a mortgage that will allow us to pay a set amount each month for 15 to 30 years. Because we are willing to spread our payments out into the future we will pay a lot more than the $152,000 (at 5% for 30 years, the total would be $293,748.79). But we consider that a reasonable accommodation for getting what we want right now.

That is an example of how most of us take the concept of consumption smoothing for granted.
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Blog author: dlohmeyer
posted by on Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Acton Now Accepts BitcoinOver the course of 2013 we’ve enabled new methods of giving including Dwolla and PayPal.  Additionally, recurring monthly donations are now possible via PayPal and credit card.

This week we’re introducing the ability to donate with Bitcoin, the popular digital currency.  Learn more about Bitcoin at Bitcoins.com or by reading Joe Carter’s posts (part 1, part 2, and part 3) here at the PowerBlog.  The option of donating anonymously with Bitcoin is also possible.

Click here to donate to Acton with Bitcoin.

military-draftHow can we fix all that has gone wrong in our nation’s capital? Mandate military service for all Americans, men and women alike, when they turn 18. At least that’s the provocative solution Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank proposed this weekend:

There is no better explanation for what has gone wrong in Washington in recent years than the tabulation done every two years of how many members of Congress served in the military.

[. . .]

Because so few serving in politics have worn their country’s uniform, they have collectively forgotten how to put country before party and self-interest. They have forgotten a “cause greater than self,” and they have lost the knowledge of how to make compromises for the good of the country. Without a history of sacrifice and service, they’ve turned politics into war.

Some pundits have called Milbank’s column the “worst argument in favor of the draft ever.” While I agree it’s bad, I’ve heard worse (see: any draft-related argument made by Rep. Charlie Rangel). All arguments for the draft ultimately fail, though, because they are inconsistent with a free society. They also overlook the way that markets in a free society allow us to serve and protect our country.

Chad W. Seagren, who earned a PhD in economics from George Mason University and holds the rank of Major in the Marine Corps, explains why participation in the division of labor serves society:
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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, November 26, 2013

burden-bearingOver the past year, public discussion about the Affordable Care Act has led many Christians to question the proper roles of government and business in providing healthcare. Too often, though, the question left unexamined is what role the church should have in responding to the medical needs of the community.

Throughout the history of the church, Christians have been actively involved in the provision and funding of health and medical resources. But for the past 50 years, these functions have been treated as political problems reserved for the state rather than matters to be addressed by the church.

Some Christians though, are beginning to reassert this biblically mandated role by participating in health care sharing ministries (HCSM). HCSMs are not insurance companies, but nonprofit religious organizations that help members pay for medical treatments.

As the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries explains, “A health care sharing ministry (HCSM) provides a health care cost sharing arrangement among persons of similar and sincerely held beliefs. HCSMs are not-for-profit religious organizations acting as a clearinghouse for those who have medical expenses and those who desire to share the burden of those medical expenses.”
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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, November 25, 2013

store-crowdWant to help the working poor this Christmas season? Nicole Gelinas has a free-market suggestion: Don’t shop on Thanksgiving.

More than half a decade on, we’re still missing 976,000 jobs — and we’re missing 12 million jobs if you figure that jobs should grow as the population grows.

But it’s one thing to be economically afraid. It’s another to be cut off from fully celebrating America’s all-race, all-religion family holiday because you and your fellow Americans are fearful economically.

That’s what’s happening to millions of retail workers who’ve had to work on Thanksgiving for the past half-decade.

Stores aren’t opening on Thanksgiving because they’re doing well. Just the opposite: They’ll open because they’re not doing well.

Read more . . .

get-your-hands-dirtyAt the Values & Capitalism blog, Jacqueline Otto Isaacs reviews Jordan Ballor’s Get Your Hands Dirty. Isaacs explains how Ballor articulates a vision for the proper orientation for our lives:

In his recent release, “Get Your Hands Dirty,” Jordan Ballor of the Acton Institute lays out a clear case for why Christians ought to have rightly ordered lives and what that might look like. While the book took shape around a collection of essays, this message was as hard to miss as the bright orange cover itself. Having a rightly ordered, God-centered life allows us to be more efficient in our work and more effective as “salt and light” in our world. The title is derived from this call to “get involved deeply and meaningfully in the messiness of the world,” and also probably from Ballor’s affinity for quoting Mike Rowe of the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs, whose thoughts about work make several appearances throughout the book.

Ballor describes an ordinate life as one that is “rightly ordered relative to other loves, regards, and interests” (62). He illustrates in great depth the perspective that this type of life will give us in regard to our vocations. He also speaks about how institutions—namely the government— can have a negative effect on our work when they are out of their rightly ordered positions in our lives. “We need to put politics and political life in its proper place,” he says. “That is, we need to properly relate the political to everything else (culture, business, family, charity, church)” (206).

Read more . . .

One of the profound realities of theology and ecclesiastical enclaves in which American Christians live is each tribal subculture views the world as if Christianity begins and ends with their tribe. Evangelicals are a great example of this trend. Some evangelicals write as if they are the only Christians doing God’s work in the world.

For example, Joy Allmond recently wrote a perplexing article about New York City asking “Is New York City on the Brink of a Great Awakening?” Allmond, a web writer for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, lives in Charlotte, NC, and after reading her article one is left wondering if Ms. Allmond is at all familiar with the religious and Christian landscape of New York City. The narrative she constructs for readers is that change is coming to New York City because evangelicals have arrived. The article begins with a factual impossibility:

20 years ago, Eric Metaxas knew practically every born again believer in Manhattan. “It was like a spiritual ghost town,” the cultural commentator, thought leader and author recalled. Yet, over the recent decades—particularly this last one—New York has seen a surge in evangelicalism. Some cultural experts believe the Big Apple to be on the brink of another ‘Great Awakening.’

I am not writing as an expert on Christianity in New York City, but there is no way Metaxas “practically” knew the thousands of “born again” believers in the Manhattan, especially among the black churches in Harlem and the Dominican churches in Washington Heights, and so on, in 1993. It is unclear why Allmond would make such a fanciful claim but it speaks to the tribal blind spot that some evangelicals have about their own importance. Allmond mentions several evidences of this hoped-for awakening, including the presence of Socrates In The City, The King’s College (where I’m employed), Redeemer Presbyterian Church, and Brooklyn Tabernacle, to name a few. While these do signal increased institutional movements in recent years among evangelicals, they do not suggest that anything spectacular is happening in America’s largest city. Are evangelicals really that important? Here’s why I say this: there have been Christians in this city faithfully preaching the Truth in word and deed for centuries before any church or institution named in Allmond’s article arrived.
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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gettysburg AddressToday marks the 150 year anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Here are five facts about one of history’s most famous — and famously brief — speeches:

1. The Gettysburg Address was not written on the back of an envelope. Despite the popular legend that Lincoln wrote the speech on the train while traveling to Pennsylvania, he probably wrote about half of it before leaving the White House on November 18.

2. Much of the language and thematic content of the speech had been used by Lincoln before. The radical aspect of the speech was Lincoln’s assertion that the Declaration of Independence — and not the Constitution — was the true expression of the founding fathers’ intentions for their new nation.

3. There are five different versions of the speech. The most widely quoted one is the oldest.

4. Now regarded as one of the great speeches of history, the address was initially greeted with criticism by many newspapers. The Democratic Chicago Times called the address “a perversion of history so flagrant that the extended charity cannot regard it as otherwise than willful.”

5. “God” is the only proper name mentioned in the speech. The name of the battle is not mentioned.

calhoun-heinleinJohn C. Calhoun was a 19th century American vice president who supported slavery and championed state’s rights. Robert A. Heinlein was a 20th century American science-fiction writer who opposed racism and championed space policy. The pair aren’t often mentioned together, but Breitbart’s pseudonymous “Hamilton” claims they represent two kinds of libertarianism.

Today in America, we see two kinds of libertarianism, which we might call “Calhounian” and “Heinleinian.” Both kinds believe in freedom, but they are very different in their emphasis—and in their politics.

I have a soft spot for brash, big-picture claims (like this one) even when they are probably mostly wrong (like this one). One aspect of the essay that is spot on, however, is the assessment of the “elite libertarian synthesis” in mainstream political culture:
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Untitled 3What’s the deal with actuaries?

Whenever a new list of the best jobs is compiled—like the rankings by Career Cast—they are always near the top of the list. What could really be so great about interpreting statistics to determine probabilities of accidents, sickness, and death, and loss of property from theft and natural disasters?

And why have I never actually met an actuary? Are their jobs so exceedingly awesome that they don’t take time to associate with non-actuaries?

Anyway, here are the top ten jobs for 2013 according to Career Cast. Notice any patterns?
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