Category: Public Policy

history textWhat do these things have in common: Gloria Steinem, Yiddish theater, Gospel of Wealth, U.S. Fish Commission, the cult of domesticity and smallpox? They are all highlights of American history for Advanced Placement (AP) high school students. AP classes are typically for college-bound students, and considered to be “tougher” classes. The College Board administers AP classes in high schools, and is releasing its American history framework effective this fall.

Here are some things students won’t see: the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln (other than a brief mention of his Emancipation Proclamation), or the “Greatest Generation” of World War II. Instead, students will learn:

    • “European exploration and conquest were fueled by a desire for new sources of wealth, increased power and status, and converts to Christianity”
    • “With little experience dealing with people who were different from themselves, Spanish and Portuguese explorers poorly understood the native peoples they encountered in the Americas”
    • “The resulting [American] independence movement was fueled by established colonial elites”
    • “The idea of Manifest Destiny, which asserted U.S. power in the Western Hemisphere and supported U.S. expansion westward, was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority”

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    eparulesThe New York Times has a new articled titled “Religious Conservatives Embrace Proposed E.P.A. Rules” that raises the question: are the Times’ editors irredeemably biased or are they just not all that bright?

    Presumably, you have to be smart to work for the Times, right? So it must be another example of what my friend and former Get Religion boss Terry Mattingly calls “Kellerism.” Mattingly coined the term Kellerism in homage to former Times editor Bill Keller, who said that the basic rules of journalism no longer apply to coverage of religious, moral, and cultural issues.

    Unabashed Kellerism can be the only explanation for using a headline about religious conservatives embracing EPA rules on a story in which not a single religious conservative is quoted as supporting the proposed new EPA rules.

    Let’s look at who they try to pass off as “religious conservatives”:
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    Crucible of Poverty

    Stuart Ray, Donn Weinberg, and Anielka Munkel discuss solutions to poverty – July 17, 2014

    On July 17th, the Acton Institute hosted a panel discussion titled “The Crucible of Poverty: Perspectives from the Trenches.” The discussion examined the issue of poverty, with a focus on what strategies for poverty alleviation have worked, what strategies have failed, and how we can better help the most vulnerable among us.

    The panelists for the discussion were Mr. Stuart Ray, Executive Director of Guiding light Mission in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Mr. Donn Weinberg, Executive Vice President of The Harry and Jeanette Wienberg Foundation; and Ms. Anielka Munkel, Project Manager here at the Acton Institute, and a co-producer of the PovertyCure DVD series.

    The discussion ranged from analysis of the roots of poverty in west Michigan to questions of federal policy relating to poverty, and how foundations can ensure that grant recipients are actually pursuing the goals supported by foundations.

    The full discussion is available via the audio player below.

    Labor unions can be a force for good, especially in protecting the interest of workers against exploitation. But as with any human institution, unions can become harmful to the common good. That is particularly true with teachers unions, which often promote the self-interests of their members even when they are antithetical to the interests of students.

    In this 5 minute video, Terry Moe, Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, outlines the problem of teachers unions and offers solutions to how it can be fixed.

    immigration pledgeIn a commentary for the National Catholic Register, Acton’s Director of Research Sam Gregg considers the topic of immigration, specifically the current U.S. border crisis. Gregg views the border crisis through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching, which he says gives us a principled and thoughtful (as opposed to emotional) framework.

    We also have a rich tradition of teaching about political questions that embodies principles based upon the Gospel and the natural law: principles that lay Catholics have the primary responsibility, as Vatican II underscored, to apply to complex subjects such as immigration.

    Catholic teaching on immigration contains many exhortations to be merciful. Indeed, the commandment to love our neighbor often means we’re required to go beyond the strict demands of justice, albeit not in ways that violate justice. At the same time, the Church articulates a framework for thinking — rather than merely emoting — through the immigration issue in a manner consistent with Catholic concerns for liberty, justice, human flourishing and the common good. And part of this involves affirming that there is a right — albeit not an unlimited right — to migrate.

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    155150979_read_the_bill_postcard_xlarge“I’m still floored that it’s controversial or debatable to say that politicians should read and understand bills before voting them into law.”

    That quote, from a tweet by Washington Post writer Radley Balko, might provoke sympathetic nods of agreement or sneers of derision from Americans familiar with D.C. politics. But sadly, he’s right. It is controversial—and has been for at least a decade. In fact, you are more likely to hear people make the argument that they shouldn’t waste their time reading the bills they vote on.

    A prime example is an article Slate political correspondent John Dickerson wrote in 2009. The subhead of Dickerson’s piece says it all: “The case for not reading the legislation you’re voting on.” The gist of his rationale—which is shared by many people in the legislative branch—can be boiled down to these five points:
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    What just happened with Obamacarehealthcaregov site?

    In a two-to-one decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dealt a serious blow to Obamacare by ruling the government may not provide subsidies to encourage people to buy health insurance on the new marketplaces run by the federal government.

    What did the court decide?

    Section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code, enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) makes tax credits available as a form of subsidy to individuals who purchase health insurance through marketplaces—known as “American Health Benefit Exchanges,” or “Exchanges” for short.

    This provision authorized low-income Americans to receive tax credits for insurance purchased on an Exchange established by one of the fifty states or the District of Columbia. (The credits were for household incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line.) But the Internal Revenue Service interpreted the wording broadly to authorize the subsidy also for insurance purchased on an Exchange established by the federal government.

    The court ruled that a federal Exchange is not an “Exchange established by the State,” and section 36B does not authorize the IRS to provide tax credits for insurance purchased on federal Exchanges.

    Can you explain that without the legalese?
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    Blog author: jballor
    Tuesday, July 22, 2014
    By

    Idle RichOver at his blog, Peter Boettke writes, “The idle rich are never really idle in a free market economy.”

    Now while we might want to distinguish between the rich and their riches, could it be that even in their consumption, conspicuous or otherwise, the rich are contributing to a rising tide that lifts all boats? Wesley Gant makes that related case over at Values & Capitalism: “Is It Possible to Waste Money?”

    Gant seems to conclude that it isn’t possible to “waste” wealth. “Humans do not consume resources; they create and exchange them,” he says.

    One might argue, however, as John Mueller does, that humans create and exchange things, but that they also consume and distribute them. It’s a truncated and reductionist economism that doesn’t do justice to that fuller picture. A basic problem with this kind of view is that it cannot distinguish between types of consumption. Maybe we need “ethics” rather than “economics” proper to do so, but that just goes to show the limitations of the economic way of thinking.

    On Gant’s account, it would seem that there is no such thing as bad stewardship. Now it may be that consumption of luxuries is not always bad, or that such consumption often does have some redeeming virtues. But is it the case that such reasoning can justify any exchange or consumption? (As long as it doesn’t involve the government, of course!)

    Perhaps the guy who got the one talent and buried it in the ground should have just given the wealthy owner a basic lesson in such economics.

    Recently, the World Bank agreed to partner with Nicaragua to give the country 69 million U.S. dollars in aid. This poses the immediate question of whether or not this aid will be effective in producing its stated goal of decreasing poverty and increasing economic productivity. Should the World Bank continue to give money to the government of Nicaragua, which – especially of late – has been showing a decrease in political stability and democratic processes? History shows that international loans provide little help when countries suffer from decreases in stability and equality within their system.

    The World Bank justifies the money that Nicaragua receives: “Nicaragua has achieved a real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 5 percent in 2012 and 4.6 percent in 2013, returning to pre-crisis growth levels.” GDP, however, does not paint a complete picture of the country’s performance. Most of the wealth within Nicaragua is located among the upper class, making the GDP less accurate for the country as a whole. Gross Domestic Product in purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2012 was estimated at $20.04 billion USD, and GDP per capita in PPP at $3,300 USD, making Nicaragua the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
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    As a child, one of the more difficult decisions I had to make was what to have for lunch. Thankfully, my parents always helped out with that decision, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun to move towards taking that decision away from my parents and determining it on its own. Recently the FDA determined that it would begin to phase out artificial trans fats after it determined that artificial trans fat would no longer be listed as Generally Recognized as Safe. The proposal follows others made by Michelle Obama and the FDA to change the nutritional labels on food as part of the First Lady’s war on obesity. The problem with this is that the FDA does not have sufficient evidence or the legal authority to make this determination.

    There is a fine line between what is considered to be safe and what is healthy. Typically if an item is not safe then it would not be healthy to consume; however, the inverse is not always the case. It may not be healthy for individuals to eat fried chicken, but that does not mean it is unsafe. Webster’s medical dictionary defines safe as,

    Having a low incidence of adverse reactions and significant side effects when adequate instructions for use are given and having a low potential for harm under conditions of widespread availability.

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