Archived Posts 2013 - Page 5 of 167 | Acton PowerBlog

reich2In 2012, nearly $39 billion was spared to American givers via the charitable tax deduction, $33 billion of which went to the richest 20 percent of Americans. If that sounds like a lot, consider that it’s associated with roughly $316 billion in charitable donations.

Yet for Professor Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, much of this generosity is not devoted to, well, “real charities.” His beef has something to do with the wealthy’s obsession with “culture places” — the opera, the symphony, the museum — realms that, in Reich’s opinion, are undeserving of what should be an allocation to his own pet projects. “I’m all in favor of supporting fancy museums and elite schools,” he writes, “but face it: These aren’t really charities as most people understand the term.”

The picking and choosing follows in turn, descending farther and farther into the typical terrain of progressive materialism — focusing excessively on surface-level transfers of this particular dollar into that particular hand and lambasting those rebellious Makers and Givers for getting it all wrong. (more…)

money-shower-460_1208206cEvery year, Sen. Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.) sets out to uncover how our tax dollars get wasted every year by the government. His Wastebook 2013 is now available; brace yourself. Here are some “highlights:”

  • $400 million…to do nothing. During the government shutdown, non-essential government employees were paid $4000 daily for doing nothing.
  • The Army National Guard spent $10 million on an advertising campaign tied into the Superman: Man of Steel movie.

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52-Kids-innovationInequality in consumption used to be a matter of acreage. Throughout most of history, economic value was chiefly found in land or personal property. The divide between the rich and the poor was therefore between those who owned property and those who did not.

But the age of technology has changed that. “A billionaire and a member of the middle class have relatively equal portals to the wonders of the internet,” says John O. McGinnis, “certainly far more equal access than the rich and the rest of society would have had to the material goods that defined wealth in centuries past.” Nowadays, if we want to reduce inequality we need to focus on redistributing the benefits of ideas and innovations:
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catholics religionOn Monday, the Eastern District Court of New York State struck down a lower court’s decision that the Catholic Archdiocese of New York had to comply with the HHS mandate requiring all employers to provide artificial birth control, abortifacients and abortion coverage as part of employee health care. Here are 6 things you need to know about this decision.

  • There are a lot of cases out there against the HHS mandate. What makes this decision special?

This case is important…because it recognizes that even the act of having to claim the exemption is an unacceptable burden on religion…The Archdiocese of New York, and many other religious organizations, pointed out that the act of self-certifying is itself a violation of its religious beliefs and sued.

(more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
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Two Proven Ideas to Help the Poor
Richard Turnbull, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

In alleviating poverty, we often talk about the need for solutions on the local and individual level. But what does this look like in reality?

Common Core Sexualizes American School Children
Mary Jo Anderson, Crisis Magazine

Across the nation, in public and Catholic schools, parents and teachers have found sexually inappropriate materials in the exemplars recommended by Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

A few caveats for raising minimum wage
George F. Will, National Post

Liberals’ love of recycling extends to their ideas, one of which illustrates the miniaturization of Barack Obama’s presidency.

You Can Keep Your Republic … If You Like It
David Corbin and Matt Parks, The Federalist

What of the American republic of, by, and for the people today?

givingmoney“Do economic incentives help or hinder ‘business as mission’ (BAM) practitioners?” In a forthcoming study, Dr. Steven Rundle of Biola University explores the question through empirical research.

Unsatisfied with the evidence thus far, consisting mostly of case studies and anecdotes, Rundle conducted an anonymous survey of 119 “business as mission” practitioners, focusing on a variety of factors, including (1) “the source of their salary (does it come from the revenues of the business or from donors?),” and (2) “the outcomes of the business in terms of the four ‘bottom lines’ of economic, social, environmental and spiritual impact.”

The reason for focusing on such areas? “Many people in the ministry/missions world believe that donor support helps ensure that practitioners stay focused on the ministry goals.”

Rundle summarizes his findings as follows:

This study essentially found the exact opposite. It found that practitioners who are fully supported by the business tend to out-perform – sometimes significantly – donor-supported BAM practitioners, and are no less fruitful in terms of spiritual impact. This finding holds up even after controlling for things like geography, firm size, and firm type.

…. The moral of the story is that economic incentives matter. Contrary to the mission community’s concern that self-support will take one’s attention away from the ministry goals, the truth is that only by creating a successful business can a practitioner hope to have a meaningful and holistic impact on a community. (more…)

61-kids-expensiveAs any parent can attest, kids are expensive. They take up space (increasing the cost of housing), eat everything in your kitchen (increasing the grocery bill), never remember to turn off lights (increasing the cost of utilities), and find dozens of other ways to drain your banking account. From birth to high school graduation, the average cost to raise a kid is $241,080.

The high cost is often proffered as an explanation for why families today are much smaller than in the past. But as Bryan Caplan explains having kids was never a paying venture:

One popular story about the decline in family size over the last two centuries goes like this: Back in the old days, having kids paid. Children started working when they were quite young, and provided for their parents in their old age. Then industrialization and/or the welfare state came along and changed everything. Young children ceased to contribute much economically to their families, and once Social Security, Medicare, and so on were in place, people stopped supporting their aging parents.

It turns out that this story is only half true. Yes, in the modern era, people give little financial assistance to their elders; even in late adulthood, old-to-young transfers remain larger than young-to-old transfers. The flaw in the story is the assumption that things used to be different. In an eye-opening 1996 JEL piece, Ted Bergstrom summarizes evidence showing that even in pre-modern societies, kids did not pay.

Caplan also adds this intriguing question, “If parents in 1850 were willing to support five or six kids with a negative financial return, why aren’t we?”

Sadly, because unlike most people in 1850, we measure the worth of children in financial terms. Theologian Al Mohler noted this a few years ago:
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Blog author: johnteevan
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
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Artemisia tridentata wyomingensis (5042178398)When we think of our freedoms and how they are basic to our society yet freedoms seem to be out of control in so many ways since the 1960s, we probably need to pull back and consider those freedoms from a new perspective. So let’s consider playing the piano. I am free to play the piano in that pianos are available, piano teachers are available, and there is no regulation or social stigma that prevents me from acquiring or learning the piano.

I have liberty when it comes to pianos. However, I am not currently free to play the piano well nor can I demonstrate any such ability nor can I know the joys of learning, memorizing, and playing a piece such as I heard at a Second Sunday concert this month. I have two liberties here: the freedom to acquire a piano and the freedom to do the hard work of learning to play it well. I must not confuse the two liberties.

As for American freedoms I must not think that because I have the liberty to get a job I should be paid as if I were already trained and experienced or just because I have endless freedoms in moral areas that I can choose any path and still have satisfying relationships at home, with friends, or at work.

By the way: almost 80% of 493,000 pianos made in 2012 were low-end Chinese ones. Chopin and Debussy’s pianos were made by Pleyel a French company that is going out of business this month.

headacheWe were told we could keep our insurance plans, our doctors, all the stuff we liked about our old plans. Not so fast, says Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner. Here are 5 things you CAN’T keep under Obamacare.

  • Your health insurance plan, even if you really, really liked it. In theory, you were supposed to be able to keep it, but now, well…

Millions of Americans have received notices canceling their existing health plans because they did not meet the requirements of the health care law, which forced insurers to include one-size-fits-all benefit packages in all plans.

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Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
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Power Tends to Corrupt
Christopher Lazarski, Liberty Law Blog

In this podcast, Lazarski underscores Lord Acton’s historical quest to find the conditions of liberty, as well as his formal understanding of what constituted liberty.

Pope Francis’ Missionary Church
James V. Schall, S.J., Catholic World Report

The Pontiff’s focus (and impatience) is “this-worldly,” but it is not “utopian” or modernist.

Beyond Social Work: Reflections on Poverty Alleviation
Greg Lane, Patheos

How should Christians approach poverty alleviation? By following Scriptural commands for helping the poor, and by working with families, churches, businesses, and government to effect lasting change.

What Can George Bailey, Jerry Maguire, and Gordon Gekko Teach Us About Entrepreneurship and Evangelism?
Hugh Whelchel, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

What follows is an entertaining history of entrepreneurship as seen through the eyes of movie and television writers, including everyone from Ralph Kramden of The Honeymooners to the creators of the current reality show Shark Tank.