Category: Public Policy

school-deskThe current problems with the school-to-prison pipeline often start with poor school discipline policies. Various school discipline policies and tactics have recently come under criticism for being overly harsh—often causing students to drop out of school. The frequent use of suspension and expulsion for minor offenses has become commonplace in many schools across the country.

Over the summer Gina Raimondo, the Democratic governor of Rhode Island, signed a bill into law making it harder for schools to suspend students for minor infractions. The law creates stricter guidelines for when students can be sent home from school in order to lower the number of suspensions. High suspension rates are just one of the contributing factors to the school-to-prison pipeline. A Febuary 2015 study by The Center for Civil Rights Remedies looked at some of the contributing factors to the problem and how the policies affect different parts of the population.

Data cited in the report found that most suspensions occur in secondary school and are rarely used in younger grades. Students who had a disability were suspended twice as much as non-disabled students in the 2009-10 school year. One out of 3 students with an emotional disturbance were suspended.
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airpollutionAir pollution is now the world’s fourth-leading fatal health risk, causing one in ten deaths in 2013. According to a new study by the World Bank, the premature deaths due to air pollution costs the global economy about $225 billion in lost labor income, or about $5.11 trillion in welfare losses worldwide. That is about the size of the gross domestic product of India, Canada, and Mexico combined, notes the report

While we tend to think of air pollution as occurring in the urban areas of the developed world, most of the deaths are due to poor air quality in rural and underdeveloped regions:
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Today at Public Orthodoxy, the blog of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center of Fordham University, I have an essay on the need for Orthodox theology to more seriously engage modern economic science. The argument would likely apply in some degree to other theological traditions as well.

I write,

Personal relationships and the monastic life have different norms than impersonal markets. This does not mean that markets have no norms, nor that the norms of markets should overrule any other concerns. But it does mean that if we wish for our economies to be more moral, whether we hail from the political right or left (or somewhere outside of that simplistic binary), we must first understand what they are and how they function.

In the article, I quote Peter Hill and John Lunn on this distinction, but it can be found in the work of Paul Heyne as well. For example, in his essay “Are Economists Basically Immoral?” citing a newspaper article about Mother Theresa (now officially recognized as a Roman Catholic saint as of this past Sunday), he wrote,

I shall conclude with two recent newspaper items. One is a short news item reporting that Mother Teresa was about to appeal to prevent the execution of a convicted California murderer. I don’t know whether she did appeal or not, but the newspaper said that she was going to call the Governor and say that this man should be forgiven because that is what Jesus would have done. Now I don’t want to get into the issue of capital punishment; I just want to point out that if Mother Teresa made that argument she was mixing different moralities. I choose Mother Teresa because I can’t think of a person for whom I have more respect; she is a far better person than I am. But forgiveness is appropriate only in face-to-face relations or for God. The criminal-justice system of the State of California is not God nor is it running a face-to-face society. A judge who forgives a convicted criminal is not a candidate for sainthood but for impeachment. The morality of large social spheres is simply different from the morality of face-to-face systems. Arguments against capital punishment must take those differences into account, and so must our arguments for revised economic policies.

This is a crucial distinction that I have come back to again and again, and one that I explore in more detail at Public Orthodoxy today. Read my full essay here.

Frank Borman, then-chairman of the Eastern Airlines, said that “capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without Hell.”

That’s one way to take Peter Heslam’s reflection on the closing of BHS in the UK, “Business with a Human Face.”

I would add that the purportedly impersonal nature of market exchange is also what attracts many of its supporters. Drones and automated checkout lines are increasingly allowing us not to see any faces at all.

And as Martin Luther would surely have also added, when we see the face of our neighbor, we are doing so before the face of God (coram Deo), and in our service to one another we are to be his agents, or “masks” (larvae Dei).

Today at The Stream I provide some analysis of Donald Trump’s speech earlier this week at the Detroit Economic Club. As I conclude, “The trouble for Trump’s promised future lies in the impossibility of reclaiming a bygone era.”

In Trump’s campaign there is a mix of both nostalgia and optimism, which bookend serious critiques of America’s more recent past and the legacy of his political opponents in particular. This approach is appealing to an important, and often overlooked segment of the American public. These are the new voters who Trump has promised to bring to the GOP, and who have sometimes embraced his campaign with a kind of religious fervor.

But the broader appeal of this vision is dubious. Trump’s larger economic vision certainly does bear some resemblance to Bernie Sanders’ agenda, as they emphasize nationalism, interventionist trade policy, and a revitalization of traditional manufacturing and labor sectors. It remains to be seen how many of Sanders’ supporters will migrate to the similarly nationalist approach of Donald Trump.

The real challenge for Trump is to express this hopeful vision about the future while simultaneously hearkening back to an idyllic past. If Clinton is “the candidate of the past,” it is the recent past, the last few decades of the Obama administration and bad trade deals like NAFTA. Trump, meanwhile, is both the candidate of the future as well as of the more remote, perhaps even mythic past, in which America was first: in jobs, manufacturing, global influence, leadership, and military strength.

As Trump put it in his Detroit speech, “Americanism, not globalism, will be our new credo.” Joseph Sunde pointed out the salient Christian critique of such a credo recently, and I also recommend Abraham Kuyper’s treatise Twofold Fatherland for a proper and penultimate valuation of the nation-state and national identity relative to Christian citizenship in God’s kingdom. Twofold Fatherland is included in the forthcoming On the Church volume of the Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology.
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Photo courtesy of Ariel Zambelich/NPR

Photo courtesy of Ariel Zambelich/NPR

Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan sat down with NPR to discuss, among other things, poverty. As the highest ranking member of the House, Ryan has a crucial opportunity to change the way the government addresses poverty. In his plans to confront this issue, Ryan keeps community efforts and local solutions central.

During the last four years, Ryan made visits to several poverty-stricken areas with community organizer Bob Woodson in order to better understand the challenges these struggling communities face. Through these visits, Ryan recognized the influence of community groups and the importance of supporting the efforts of those who have found and are implementing effective local programs. (more…)

shutterstock/cnnmoney

shutterstock/cnnmoney

Vox recently published an article claiming that Charles Koch is right and Bernie Sanders is wrong about how the economy is rigged. Both agree that there are laws that unfairly favor some financially over others. Sanders often claimed during his campaign that the rich have used their money to lobby for laws that favor their interests over those of everyone else.  Meanwhile, Charles Koch has condemned excessive regulation and restrictions on economic freedom that allow the few to bend laws in their financial favor against the many. In looking at the real problem in the economy, Charles Koch’s analysis of the problem comes closer to the truth.

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