“You are a slow learner, Winston.”
“How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”
“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.” – George Orwell, 1984

In a calculation that surely qualifies as “new math,” the government has created an equation in which $29,000 is equal to $69,000. Within the current welfare structure a single mother is better off making $29,000 per year in income and subsequent welfare benefits, than she is making $69,000 per year in income alone. This perverse incentive is what perpetuates the cycle of poverty and condemns impoverished moms to dependence on a paternalistic state. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and SNAP (food stamps) are all larger than ever before with no subsequent reversal in the level or scope of poverty.

The “Welfare Cliff,” an economic model developed by Gary Alexander, the Secretary of Public Welfare in Pennsylvania, shows the amount of net income a person would need to receive in order to match their current net income plus welfare benefits. This is called a cliff, as there are drastic drop-offs in welfare benefits as one increases their income. In this graph, “the single mom is better off earning gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income and benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income & benefits of $57,045.” In fact, if a single mother were to raise her income from $29,000 to just $30,000, she would lose nearly $10,000 in welfare benefits per year.

The incentives provided under this system replace the desire for individual development with the maintenance of the status quo.  A single mother is highly unlikely to spend the time, effort, or capital in order to gain skills that result in receiving a lower disposable income. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Thursday, July 24, 2014

Raise Your Voice for Religious Liberty
Jennifer A. Marshall, The Gospel Coalition

The backlash against simply participating in civil discourse about an important topic of public concern is alarming.

Making Kids Count
Mark Gordon, Aleteia

How does your state measure up in addressing children’s economic well being, healthcare and education?

The Perils Of Kleptocracy
John Hayward, The Federalist

Using government force to take what you want from others leads to conflict.

Professor Wins Lawsuit Protecting His Religious Freedom
The Keating Center

After seven years, Mike Adams won his lawsuit against University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). Professor Mike Adams, a criminology professor, sued UNCW in 2007 after he was discriminated against because of his conservative, Christian views.

SR-culture-index-2014-Scorecard_Poverty-and-Dependence.The Heritage Foundation has released their 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity, the first annual report that tells how social and economic factors relate to the success of individuals, families, opportunity, and freedom. Through charts that track changes, and commentary that explains the trends, the Index shows the current state of some key features of American society and tells whether specific indicators are improving or getting off track.

Here are a few highlights from the report:
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None of the prominent liberation theologians influential in Latin America had significant training in or exposure to the discipline of economics, says Carroll Ríos de Rodríguez in this week’s Acton Commentary.

This was odd given that their concern for the material well-being demanded at least some attempt to provide an economic explanation of underdevelopment and mass poverty. Instead of engaging in such economic reflection, many liberation theologians effectively married their theology to various renderings of what was then the fashionable dependency theory, which holds that that resources flow from a “periphery” of poor and underdeveloped states to a “core” of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former.

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

john-blundellThe Acton Institute lost a dear friend this week. Historian John Blundell passed away on Tuesday. According to the Atlas Network (where Blundell had served as past president and board member), he will be remembered for his writing.

[Blundell] followed his own Margaret Thatcher: A Portrait of the Iron Lady (2008) with an edited collection, Remembering Margaret Thatcher: Commemorations, Tributes and Assessments (2013). He wrote Ladies For Liberty: Women Who Made a Difference in American History (2nd expanded edition 2013) to also showcase American women that contributed to individual freedom.

One of his greatest written contributions is a slender volume, Waging the War of Ideas (most recently published in 2007 in its third expanded edition), that has served as a primer for audiences around the world looking for cost-effective ways to affect social change in the direction of greater liberty.

Mr. Blundell shared his intellectual work and wit with the Acton Institute. Most recently, he spoke at a 2013 Acton Lecture Series on “Ladies For Liberty.” He is survived by his wife Christine and two sons. The Acton Institute has been asked to organize Mr. Blundell’s public memorial; details will be forthcoming.

 

pettigrewAt any given time in the U.S., there are about half a million children in foster care. Many of these children are in crisis situations, and will be in foster care for only a short time, returning home or to live with a family member when the crisis has been resolved. Other children, however, remain in the system. The lucky ones will remain in one home, loved and nurtured, possibly even adopted (although for most that can take up to 4 years.) Unfortunately, most children in foster care will have to live in at least 3 different placements, and every year, 300,000 children “age out” of the system, meaning they turn 18 and no longer receive support services.

Most foster parents try their best to provide stable, loving environments for the children in their care. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the U.S. foster care system is becoming a “pipeline” for human trafficking. In an interview with NPR, Malika Saada Saar of Rights4Girls discusses this issue:

If we really look at this issue of child trafficking in America, it’s another lens through which to understand how broken our foster care system is. Many of these girls, especially, have been put into multiple placements, and many of these girls in those different placements have been abused. So one survivor leader whom we work with who was trafficked from the age of 10 to 17 – all through California, Nevada, Washington state – she talks about how, for her, foster care was the training ground to being trafficked. She understood that she was attached to a check. And what she points out is that at least the pimp told her that he loved her, and she never heard that in any of her foster care placements.

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Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Giotto di Bondone - No. 27 Scenes from the Life of Christ - 11. Expulsion of the Money-changers from the Temple - WGA09209Last month the New York Times hosted a discussion on the question, “Has Capitalism Become Incompatible With Christianity?” There’s lots to be said about the “Room for Debate” feature, including a note on the caption for the lead image in the introduction.

The image is a rendering of the classic scene from the Gospels, Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. The NYT caption reads thus: “Jesus comes down hard on the bankers of his day.” Perhaps that’s a bit of ideological balance for the phrasing of the debate question itself, which supposes that at least at one time that “capitalism” and Christianity were compatible, even if they are no longer.

Occasioned by the NYT feature, although not a direct response, is a piece today over at Think Christian, in which I introduce what I consider to be some important distinctions to keep in mind when thinking about the Christian faith and economics.
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Detroit WaterAs I was poring over the morning news the other day, it seemed to me that every few days there is another water crisis somewhere; whether it’s California’s drought, or more recently the controversial decision in which the Detroit water companies shut off the water supply to over 15,000 customers. But are we really looking at water regulation, appropriation, and the morality of shutting water off in the correct light?

Let’s start with some of the basics: Water is essential for survival. Water needs to be purified. But, how is this done? In most cities water companies or public utilities offer the service of collecting the water, filtering the water, and pumping it to our homes. How should a service like this be supported in a market? It should be supported by rewarding the provider of that service with a profit, so that they have an incentive to efficiently use their resources, and make it available to the widest range of people possible. To not pay, would be stealing from the water companies. (more…)

Economy of LoveFor today and today only, you can watch Episode 2 of For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles for FREE over at Flannel.org.

Produced by the Acton Institute and spread across seven episodes, the series seeks to examine the bigger picture of Christianity’s role in culture, society, and the world. Episode 2 focuses specifically on the Economy of Love, and the grand mystery we find therein.

As host Evan Koons concludes: “Family is the first and foundational ‘yes’ to society because it is the first and foundational ‘yes’ to our nature, to pour ourselves out like Christ, to be gifts, and to love.”

Stream the full episode here for the rest of the day (July 23).

Watch the trailer for the series below, and purchase it here.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Line Crossed in the Middle East
Mark Movsesian, First Things

What the end of Christianity in Mosul means for Christians everywhere.

Hobby Lobby and Employment Discrimination
USCCB, Crisis Magazine

To dismiss concerns about religious freedom in a misguided attempt to address unjust discrimination in the workplace is not to advance justice and tolerance. Instead, it stands as an affront to basic human rights and the importance of religion in society.

The Nation’s $100 Billion Regulations Tab
Sam Batkins, The Federalist

President Obama’s pen-and-phone regulations are costing ordinary Americans hundreds of dollars every year, largely through extra costs to businesses.

Less US economic growth means fewer American babies — and then even less economic growth
James Pethokoukis, AEI Ideas

Interesting piece by WaPo reporter Todd Frankel on US fertility rates and the bad economy. Here is the hed: “They want a baby. The economy won’t play along: America’s birth rates are still near a historic low. One couple’s lesson in the new economics of having a child.”