Category: Public Policy

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, April 29, 2013

“Anytime you are going to throw money up in the air,” says Abraham Carpenter Jr., a farmer in Grady, Arkansas, “you are going to have people acting crazy.” Although “throwing money up in the air” is increasingly one of the main functions of the federal government, Mr. Carpenter is referring to a specific case in which the Agriculture Department “opened the floodgates to fraud.”

The compensation effort sprang from a desire to redress what the government and a federal judge agreed was a painful legacy of bias against African-Americans by the Agriculture Department. But an examination by The New York Times shows that it became a runaway train, driven by racial politics, pressure from influential members of Congress and law firms that stand to gain more than $130 million in fees. In the past five years, it has grown to encompass a second group of African-Americans as well as Hispanic, female and Native American farmers. In all, more than 90,000 people have filed claims. The total cost could top $4.4 billion.

From the start, the claims process prompted allegations of widespread fraud and criticism that its very design encouraged people to lie: because relatively few records remained to verify accusations, claimants were not required to present documentary evidence that they had been unfairly treated or had even tried to farm. Agriculture Department reviewers found reams of suspicious claims, from nursery-school-age children and pockets of urban dwellers, sometimes in the same handwriting with nearly identical accounts of discrimination.

Yet those concerns were played down as the compensation effort grew. Though the government has started requiring more evidence to support some claims, even now people who say they were unfairly denied loans can collect up to $50,000 with little documentation.

Read more . . .

Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Friday, April 26, 2013

A recent CNBC article by Mark Koba notes the bleak outlook for 2013 college grads looking for work:

A survey released last week from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that businesses plan to hire only 2.1 percent more college graduates from the class of 2013 than they did from the class of 2012.

That’s way down from an earlier NACE projection of a 13 percent hiring rate for 2013 grads.

There is good reason for this bad news, however. As Koba notes, “One reason there may not be so many grads hired is that many employers don’t believe college graduates are trained properly.” He goes on: (more…)

Americans continue to be fed the false narrative that poverty causes crime rates to rise. While it is true that not having material needs met makes people vulnerable to do things like steal—even the Bible teaches that (Proverbs 30:8-9)—the ongoing reduction of morality and materiality is doing nothing but setting the stage for the failure of well-intended programs because we are missing core moral issues. One such idea is a New Haven, Connecticut plan to reduce crime rates by giving more welfare. The problems there were recently introduced in a New Haven News article:
(more…)

obamacareIn 2010, FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, attempted to debunk a rumor that the pending Obamacare legislation exempted members of Congress and their staffs from its provisions. They snarkily replied, “No. This twisted claim is based on misrepresentations of the House and Senate bills, neither of which exempts lawmakers.”

Members of Congress are subject to the legislation’s mandate to have insurance, and the plans available to them must meet the same minimum benefit standards that other insurance plans will have to meet. “All plans would have to follow those requirements by 2019,” Aaron Albright, press secretary for the House Committee on Education and Labor, told FactCheck.org. “People actually believe we wrote in the bill that Congress exempts itself from these requirements. That falsehood has been going around since the very beginning.”

You can almost hear the exasperation in Mr. Albright’s voice. How could anyone think that the same members of Congress who believed the legislation was good for America would exempt themselves from its provision? Do we think lawmakers and their staff are a bunch of hypocrites?

Well, yes. Yes we do.

Is anyone (other than Mr. Albright and the folks at FactCheck.org) really surprised that Congress is now trying to find a way to exempt themselves from the law they foisted on the rest of America?
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, April 24, 2013

If I grill a Porterhouse steak for dinner, eat half and then throw away the other half, I’m being wasteful but not necessarily immoral. But if I grill a steak and then, instead of eating it, throw it all in the garbage disposal, my wastefulness is morally problematic. God didn’t create cows or ranchers so I could toss steaks in the trash.

government-wasteA similar distinction can be made when it comes to government waste. Almost all areas of government contain inefficiencies that waste a valuable resource—the taxpayers money. But some waste is an inevitable result of the Fall, while other forms are the inexcusable result of a inept bureaucracy.

Consider, for example, how the Federal government spent $890,000 on nothing. And by nothing I mean, quite literally, nothing:
(more…)

Blog author: bwalker
posted by on Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Finding solutions for feeding the world’s poorest is about as non-controversial a mission as you could imagine for someone pursuing a religious vocation. Yet, the investors belonging to the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility put politicized science ahead of that mission in their opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The ICCR’s approach to GMOs leans more toward anti-business political activism than any concern for producing plentiful crops that are resilient against pests, diseases and extreme weather events such as drought or excessive precipitation, which, in turn, would benefit those endeavoring to provide inexpensive foodstuffs to the economically and ecologically disadvantaged.

Judging from ICCR proxy shareholder literature, feeding more people less expensively is secondary to a politicized agenda. This from the ICCR’s “The Right Solutions to Hunger:”

“In recent years, several weeds have built up resistance to the herbicides used on GE [genetically engineered] crops, driving the use of more, and multiple industrialized herbicides to kill them. Who is looking long-term, for the protection of the consumer and the food system and who will bear the risk?” asked Margaret Weber of the Congregation of St. Basil. “These issues are critical and it is apparent that the regulatory system is not adequately addressing them,” she continued.

And this: (more…)

This past weekend, I had the privilege to attend and present a paper at the 2013 Kuyper Center for Public Theology conference at Princeton Seminary. The conference was on the subject of “Church and Academy” and focused not only on the relationship between the institutions of the Church and the university, but also on questions such as whether theology still has a place in the academy and what place that might be. The discussion raised a number of important questions that I would like to reflect on briefly here.

In the first place, I was impressed by Dr. Gordon Graham’s lecture on the idea of the Christian scholar. He began by exploring a distinction made by Abraham Kuyper in his work Wisdom & Wonder. Kuyper writes (in 1905),
(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, April 19, 2013

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) was one of the key architects of Obamacare and one of the legislation’s greatest champions. But now he fears a “train wreck” as the Obama administration implements its signature healthcare law. In a recent hearing he asked Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for details about how the Health Department will explain the law and raise awareness of its provisions, which are supposed to take effect in just a matter of months:

(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Friday, April 19, 2013

What does it mean to see like a State? “In short, to see like the state is to be myopic,” says Brian Dijkema. “This myopia views geography, people, their customs and traditions in a way that “severely brackets all variables except those bearing directly” on the state’s interests of revenue, security, and order.”

An example from the institutional point of view of schools illustrates the point well. Education, and the shape of the schools that provide it, is one of the most contentious issues in Canadian and American public debate. While there are notable—and hopeful—examples to the contrary, both countries tend to view education, and therefore schools, as being in the service of the state and its goals. Both tend to see schools as being at the service of the economy and the state. Don’t believe me? Listen to recent Canadian debates about education in the trades, or consider the size of Harvard’s endowments and the culture that has grown up around America’s elite schools. It is a rare occurrence indeed to hear a politician speak of schools as places of character formation or of the deepening of wisdom. Instead, they are training grounds for the modern economy. Where deeper questions about the purpose of education are asked, they too are posed with a view to the interests of the state. Where Canadian schools—usually religious schools—attempt to maintain their freedom from central state schemes, they have faced the full brunt of the coercive power of the state. The same fate has befallen other religious institutions that attempted to work outside of the directives of the state in America.

Read more . . .

New research suggests that school vouchers have a greater impact on whether black students attend college than small class sizes or effective teachers:

Matthew M. Chingos of the Brookings Institution and Paul E. Peterson, director of Harvard’s program on education policy and governance, tracked college enrollment information for students who participated in the School Choice Scholarship program, which began in 1997. They were able to get college enrollment information on 2,637 of the 2,666 students in the original cohort.

The researchers compared the outcome for 1,358 students who received a voucher offer and a control group of 1,279 students who did not. They found that 26 percent of black students in the control group attended college full-time for some period of time within three years of expected high school graduation, while 33 percent of those who received vouchers did.

Read more . . .