Category: Public Policy

Because jobs can serve the needs of our neighbors and lead to human flourishing both for the individual and communities, they are the most important part of a morally functioning economy. Workers dropping out of the labor force because they’ve grown discouraged is therefore one of the most pressing moral and economic issues in America today. Sadly, it is also one of the most overlooked.

Today, the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee released some stats showing the shocking decline in the male participation in the labor force, particularly men between the ages of 25-54:

Record 1 In 8 American Men In Their Prime Working Years Are Not In The Labor Force_0.preview

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According to the committee members:

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vergara-californiaNine California kids are suing their state over substandard teaching at their public schools. Campbell Brown explains why this case—which few people have ever heard of—may have a huge impact on education:

Win or lose, these students are reminding us of the activism that is born out of the inaction of our leaders and the frustration driven by inequity in education. Children and parents have resorted to acting on their own, finding inspiration in desperation.

Their fight stems from a basic belief that access to highly qualified teachers should be fair and widespread, that classroom safety is paramount, and that equity remains essential.

Vergara v. California takes aim at laws that go directly to the heart of a good education: the ability to have, keep, and respect good teachers and dismiss utterly failing ones. Specifically, the suit challenges California laws that create three sets of problems, all of them undermining a school’s ability to act in the best interest of students.

Read more . . .

Kevin Allen, host of a weekly call-in show on Ancient Faith Radio, interviewed Fr. Michael Butler over the weekend “about how we might address the environmental issues that confront us today by appealing to the authentic Orthodox Tradition.” Fr. Michael is the author, with Prof. Andrew Morriss, of the 2013 Acton monograph Creation and the Heart of Man: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Environmentalism.

In their April 23 commentary “Christian Environmentalism and the Temptation of Faux Asceticism” the authors note:

The ascetical tradition of the Orthodox Church includes many practices: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, keeping vigil, inter alia. They are the active part of the spiritual life, our voluntary cooperation with the grace of God. As such, it is important that we not be tempted to use the ascetical practices of the Church for ends they were not designed to serve. Thus, we need to be careful of “environmental consciousness” masquerading as authentic spiritual practice. Moreover, we must keep in mind that it is the believer’s practice of asceticism, not asceticism qua asceticism, that is important. (more…)

When it comes to environmental science, we can’t avoid tough science and policy questions by simply arguing from Scripture or Tradition, says Rev. Gregory Jensen in the first of this week’s Acton Commentary.

Yes theology and science “have different points of departure and different goals, tasks and methodologies” but they “can come in touch and overlap.” For this convergence to be fruitful we must resist “the temptation to view science as a realm completely independent of moral principles.” Science can, and often does, serve as “a natural instrument for building life on earth” (Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox ChurchXIV.1). However when we limit ourselves merely to the findings of the natural, social and human sciences, we risk confusing expediency with prudence and diluting the Church’s witness.

The full text of the essay can be found here. Subscribe to the free, weekly Acton News & Commentary and other publications here.

VA-Medical-Center-jpgWhat is the VA and what does it do?

VA is the acronym for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a cabinet-level organization whose primary function is to support Veterans in their time after service by providing benefits and support. The benefits provided include such items as pension, education, home loans, life insurance, vocational rehabilitation, burial benefits, and healthcare. It is the federal government’s second largest department, after the Department of Defense. The VA’s health-care wing, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), is the largest health-care system in the country, with more than 53,000 independent licensed health-care practitioners and 8.3 million veterans served each year.

What is the current scandal involving the VA?

The VA requires its hospitals to provide care to patients in a timely manner, typically within 14 to 30 days. But last month, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, said that as many as forty VA hospital patients in Phoenix, Arizona may have died while awaiting medical care. Miller also claimed that the Phoenix VA Health Care System was keeping two sets of records to conceal prolonged waits that patients must endure for ¬doctor appointments and treatment.

According to internal VA emails obtained by CNN, the secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by top-level VA managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor. The process involved shredding evidence to hide the long list of veterans waiting for appointments and care, and the head of the office even instructed staff to not actually make doctor’s appointments for veterans within the computer system. This allowed the VA executives in Phoenix to be able to “verify” that patients were being treated in a timely manner

Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said similar scandals have surfaced in at least 10 states. The American Legion has documented those cases in the following infographic (click to enlarge).
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raphaelsanzio_healingofthelameman - CopyJohn Teevan’s recent profile of Bob Woodson and the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE) reminded me of a profoundly impactful tour I took of George Wythe High School in Richmond, Va., which was led by Mr. Woodson as a case study of CNE success.

The tour was part of a seminar with the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, and was intended to showcase effective solutions to social problems. In this, it greatly succeeded, highlighting that any such solutions can only be effective insofar as they take into account the full needs and dreams of the human person.

The school had recently emerged from a season of heavy violence and crime, due in large part to its partnership with CNE’s Violence-Free Zone Initiative, which seeks to restore peace and trust to broken communities by equipping local schools with on-the-ground “Youth Advisors” and partnering with local organizations, churches, and law enforcement.

Rep. Steve Southerland, who also joined the tour, wrote a brief account of the trip, which includes a good summary of the initiative and how it’s benefited George Wythe:

This violence-reduction and high-risk student mentoring program prepares students to learn by equipping them through relationships with the skills and knowledge necessary to overcome violence. The Richmond public schools system has worked in conjunction with CNE to create the Violence-Free Zone. Youth advisors who are affiliated with the Richmond Outreach Center, a local church, and who have overcome similar challenges, work as hall monitors, mediators, character coaches, and trusted friends.  For the 2009-2010 school year, George Wythe reported a 26% decrease in fighting, a 68% decrease in truancy, and a 63% reduction in dropouts since the inception of the Violence-Free Zone program. (emphasis added)

Led by Woodson, we able to interact with several Youth Advisers and local pastors, each of whom poured out their hearts, telling numerous stories of reconciliation and restoration with students and explaining how, thanks to the people and programs now in place, many conflicts are being promptly defused while students see greater and greater levels of success and empowerment—spiritually, socially, academically, and beyond. (more…)

322904-thumbnailThe Center for Neighborhood Enterprise in Washington is led by Robert Woodson who founded it in 1981 to help neighborhoods where what he calls “the poverty industry” doesn’t seem to help much. He’s torqued that many fellow African Americans have abandoned their poor brothers except to exploit them noting that 70 cents of every welfare dollar goes to social workers, counselors and others. His organization has trained 2,500 field workers in 39 states. He believes that instead of more government programs there is a need for investment in cities.

His alternative method is to find the 30 percent of homes in a neighborhood where there are moms and dads and to work with them to start businesses. His method is not to sue banks or insurance companies, but to arrange meetings to get people to see each other and to hear about proposals such as new housing citing one such project in Detroit.

It’s worked not only in housing, but with tree trimmers, barbers, cab drivers, and locksmiths who have been helped through the maze of regulations that block their entry into the small business market. He’s also a fan of faith-based help to “former drug attics and criminals, who tell you that prison couldn’t change them and a psychiatrist couldn’t change them but a spiritual experience did.” It works!

After a farmer in Australia had a change of heart about keeping his chickens in battery cages, he freed all 752 hens. The video below (via Rod Dreher) shows the chickens taking their first steps on soil, and feeling sunshine for the first time.

What is your initial reaction on seeing the video? Did you roll your eyes at the liberal-leaning, anti-business, vegetarian-loving motive that surely inspired the clip? Did you automatically assume the “animal rights” nuts (the video was created by Animals Australia, a group founded by the evil-promoting bioethicist Peter Singer) are off on one of their Quixotic crusades again? Or did it make you sad — like it did me — that an atheistically inspired movement appears to be more concerned about God’s creatures than are many of our fellow Christians?

If a poll were taken on the question of which group has the most care and concern for the welfare of animals, Christians—whether Catholic, Orthodox, evangelical, etc.—would invariably be near the bottom of the list. How did we lose our status as stewards of creation? After all, animal welfare was once considered the province of Christians. In fact, one of the first organized movements for animal welfare dates back to 1824, when William Wilberforce‚ the British politician who worked to abolish the slave trade‚ and other evangelicals helped establish the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

Catholics too have a long and rich history of concern for God’s creatures that dates back at least as far as St. Francis, the patron saint of animals. Theoretically, the Church’s position hasn’t changed. In an interview given before he became pontiff, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger said that animals must be respected as our “companions in creation.” He acknowledged that while it is acceptable to use them for food,
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Creation and the Heart of Man by Fr. Michael Butler and Andrew Morriss

Creation and the Heart of Man by Fr. Michael Butler and Andrew Morriss

Is global warming irrational? Is it bad science? Yes, to both says Nigel Lawson, a member of the U.K. House of Lords and chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. However, Lawson takes it one step further; he calls global-warming alarmism “wicked.”

In a lengthy piece at National Review Online, Lawson first details being threatened by those who insist on the “facts” of global-warming. However, he insists that – at least professionally – he has nothing to lose at this point, so he proceeds to disassemble the arguments for global-warming. Is there climate change? Indeed, says Lawson, there is:

The climate changes all the time, in different and unpredictable (certainly unpredicted) ways, and indeed often in different ways in different parts of the world. It always has done this and no doubt it always will. The issue is whether that is a cause for alarm — and not just moderate alarm. According to the alarmists it is the greatest threat facing humankind today: far worse than any of the manifold evils we see around the globe that stem from what the pope called “man’s inhumanity to man.”

He calls global-warming a “belief system” and evaluates it as such. He tackles the greenhouse effect, the question of increased CO2 in the atmosphere, whether or not the planet really is warmer (and if so, is that a problem?) and the question of whether or not we can legitimately do anything about global-warming, if it indeed exists. (more…)

keep-calm-and-expect-the-unexpected-18Today at Bloomberg we find this unexpected news about unemployment:

Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed to a nine-week high, underscoring the difficulty adjusting the data for seasonal variations such as the Easter holiday and spring recess at schools.

Jobless claims rose by 14,000 to 344,000 in the period ended April 26, the highest level since Feb. 22, Labor Department data showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 320,000.

There are two things the media never expects: (1) The Spanish Inquisition and (2) increases in jobless claims. Over the past five years, in 30 of the past 60 months,  the media has considered it “unexpected” when jobless claims increase:

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