Posts tagged with: Social Issues

Rate-map-3-27-40-67Forbes has just released its 49-state analysis of Obamacare and the cost of insurance premiums. The findings?

In the average state, Obamacare will increase underlying premiums by 41 percent. As we have long expected, the steepest hikes will be imposed on the healthy, the young, and the male. And Obamacare’s taxpayer-funded subsidies will primarily benefit those nearing retirement—people who, unlike the young, have had their whole lives to save for their health-care needs.

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Babel-2000In a recent review of Christena Cleveland’s Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart, Paul Louis Metzger wonders, “What leads people to associate with those who are similar, while distancing themselves from diverse others? What causes us to categorize other groups in distorted ways?”

I remember reading H. Richard Niebuhr’s The Social Sources of Denominationalism early in my seminary career, and Niebuhr’s analysis made a very strong impression on my admittedly impressionable sensibilities. It was clear to me then, and still is now, that much of what constitutes disunity in the Christian church is imported from the broader culture and has nothing to do with a people in which there is “neither Greek nor Jew.” These concerns for principled ecumenical unity are in large part what animated my later book Ecumenical Babel.

And yet in denouncing the tribalism that is an endemic temptation for all forms of fallen human community, we must be careful not to embrace a simplistic, milquetoast version of Christianity that papers over our real differences, and our uniqueness as individual persons created in the image of God, each one of us with our own perspectives, callings, hopes, fears, and trials.

We need to embrace an understanding of diversity without falling into disunity, a diversity within unity that mirrors in our own creaturely way the call to unity expressed in Jesus’ high priestly prayer.
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Professor Oliver O'Donovan

In a recent event co-sponsored by Christian’s Library Press, professor Oliver O’Donovan engaged in a robust conversation with Matthew Lee Anderson and Ken Myers on the topic of the Gospel and public engagement. The audio is now available via Mars Hill Audio. Sign-up is required, but is both simple and free.

Anyone who has read O’Donovan is familiar with the weight and depth he brings to such matters. As was to be expected, this is a conversation filled with richness, nuance, and the types of rabbit trails that, to one’s great delight, end up not being rabbit trails after all.

The discussion is worth listening to in full, but O’Donovan’s kick-off discussion of “the secular” is of particular relevance to our discussions about economic, cultural, and political transformation. For O’Donovan, modernity has wielded a peculiar influence on the way Christians view “common life” in the “common world” — one that has led to a problematic approach to what we now think of as “the secular.”

It used to mean something quite different:

Historically, the word secular meant to do with the affairs of this world – i.e., it was the life of creation extended into history as distinct from the intervention into this world and the work in this world of redeeming it and saving it. So every Christian lived a secular life and a spiritual life, in that a Christian is engaged, has tasks, has a life to live within the common terms of a common world, and at the same time an awareness and response to the work of God in saving it. (more…)

HEADQUARTERS OF U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICESCornerstone University, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Christian university, has joined the myriad of lawsuits against the HHS mandate requiring abortion-inducing drugs as part of employee insurance coverage.

This filing is first and foremost an effort to preserve and protect our religious freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Cornerstone President Joseph Stowell wrote in an email Wednesday to donors and alumni. “Given our conviction that life begins at conception and our commitment to the sanctity of life, we find the mandate to provide our faculty, staff, and students with insurance that provides access to abortion-inducing pills unacceptable. The government should not be able to force us to buy or provide insurance that gives access to morally objectionable drugs, devices, and services that violate our biblical convictions.”

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tomsWhen proposing a solution to an economic problem the first question that should be asked is, “Is the solution likely to fix the problem?”

While that may seem too obvious to mention, it’s surprising how many times that question is not given serious consideration. In the past this has been particularly true of poverty-reduction measures. Too often the solutions were judged mainly on motives and emotions rather than effectiveness. If the solution was proposed in a spirit of goodwill and generosity or if it made both the giver and receiver feel good, then why not try it?

Over the past few years, though, there has a been promising shift within poverty-fighting circles. A prime example is TOMS Shoes rethinking of its ‘buy one, give one’ model of helping the needy. The California-based company’s model of giving a pair of shoes to a child in need for ever pair bought by it’s customers has spawned copy-cats in various industries — from baby goods to solar panels. Yet as PRI notes,
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img6While many Americans are struggling to navigate healthcare.gov and some are fighting against the Affordable Care Act’s threat to religious liberty, an estimated 100,000 people are exempt from the legislation as members of a health care sharing ministry (HCSM); these organizations offer the opportunity for individuals with similar beliefs to share their health care costs.

HCSMs are not insurance companies, but nonprofit religious organizations that receive no government funding. Andrea Miller, the medical director for Medi-Share, one HCSM in the U.S., explained in a recent interview with NPR how the ministry works:
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moving_to_franceFor those of us on this side of the pond, France conjures up images of baguettes, beautiful women and lush countryside. For the French, the image conjured up might be taxes, taxes and more taxes.

More than 70 per cent of the French feel taxes are “excessive”, and 80 per cent believe the president’s economic policy is “misguided” and “inefficient”. This goes far beyond the tax exiles such as Gérard Depardieu, members of the Peugeot family or Chanel’s owners. Worse, after decades of living in one of the most redistributive systems in western Europe, 54 per cent of the French believe that taxes – of which there have been 84 new ones in the past two years, rising from 42 per cent of GDP in 2009 to 46.3 per cent this year – now widen social inequalities instead of reducing them.

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In a recent interview in the Wall Street Journal, billionaire Stan Druckenmiller discusses his recent university tour sounding the alarm on intergenerational theft. The article paraphrases his case:

[W]hile today’s 65-year-olds will receive on average net lifetime benefits of $327,400, children born now will suffer net lifetime losses of $420,600 as they struggle to pay the bills of aging Americans.

It goes on:

When the former money manager visited Stanford University, the audience included older folks as well as students. Some of the oldsters questioned why many of his dire forecasts assume that federal tax collections will stay at their traditional 18.5% of GDP. They asked why taxes should not rise to fulfill the promises already made.

Mr. Druckenmiller’s response: “Oh, so you’ve paid 18.5% for your 40 years and now you want the next generation of workers to pay 30% to finance your largess?” He added that if 18.5% was “so immoral, why don’t you give back some of your ill-gotten gains of the last 40 years?”

He has a similar argument for those on the left who say entitlements can be fixed with an eventual increase in payroll taxes. “Oh, I see,” he says. “So I get to pay a 12% payroll tax now until I’m 65 and then I don’t pay. But the next generation—instead of me paying 15% or having my benefits slightly reduced—they’re going to pay 17% in 2033. That’s why we’re waiting—so we can shift even more to the future than to now?”

In my recent commentary, I examined the recent projections of the Congressional Budget Office: (more…)

Blog author: jcouretas
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
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From Australia’s SBS Television: Greeks with Australian citizenship are returning here in the hope of finding jobs and a better life, away from the instability crippling Greece’s economy.

Which is why so many Greeks left home and family behind for the American Dream in the early 20th Century:

Greeks began to settle in America at the end of the 19th century and the influx of migrants continued up until the 1920s. Around 400,000 Greeks migrated to America at that time, primarily from the Peloponnese and the rest of southern Greece. Three quarters of the immigrants settled permanently in America, in large urban centers such as Chicago, New York and tens of smaller cities scattered across the country reaching as far as California. They engaged in various forms of employment such as street vendors and shop owners. Many were restaurateurs while others worked in more manual jobs such as cotton mills, coalmines, or on the railways.

Australia’s ranking on the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom: 3

Greece’s ranking on the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom: 117

The United States’ ranking on the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom: 10

There are at least six “self made” Greek-American billionaires on the Forbes 400 list.

Economics in Christian Perspective: Theory, Policy and Life Choices

Economics in Christian Perspective: Theory, Policy and Life Choices

There is considerable debate in the public square these days about a number of issues that have significant economic components. Globalization, environmental protection, and aiding the poor are just a few. Decisions we make in our personal lives are influenced by our assumptions about economic realities as well. So how might mainstream economics connect with Christian values and principles?

money health careAccording to Fox News, Debbie and Larry Underkoffler, owners of North Georgia Staffing, are considering paying government-imposed penalties rather than offering Obamacare to temporary employees. The couple offers excellent health care to their full-time staff, but with hundreds of temporary employees, the cost of offering health insurance could sink their business.

[U]nder ObamaCare, the Georgia company now faces a tough choice — cover all of its temporary workers as well, or pay a hefty fine.

Aside from its full-time staff, the company also manages about 400 temporary workers, and is hoping to add another 200 in the next year. Those employees can buy into a separate health insurance program North Georgia Staffing signed up with. Under new ObamaCare rules, many of those “temps” will count toward the Underkoffler’s full-time staff.  Larry Underkoffler calculates their full-time employee count will instantly surge from 18 to around 200. They will go from boutique operation to “major employer” overnight. (more…)