acton-commentary-blogimage“Sociological determinism informs our public policy,” says Ismael Hernandez in this week’s Acton Commentary. “Those with a stake in the maintenance and expansion of government bureaucracies feed upon pathology and find a willing constituency among those who perceive the world in terms of victims and perpetrators.”

If men are not free, they are not responsible for their misdeeds and ought instead to be treated with pity for falling prey to tragic misfortunes. They are to be healed by those who understand their powerlessness. Such enabling has produced a host of psychotherapeutic terms and treatments attempting to explain every human condition and every degrading act.

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

coal_power_plant

What just happened?

On Tuesday the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the Obama administration’s effort to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants. The vote was 5-to-4, with the court’s four liberal members dissenting, to put a temporary halt on the implementation of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule change.

Why is this significant?

As the New York Times notes, the Supreme Court had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before review by a federal appeals court:

“It’s a stunning development,” Jody Freeman, a Harvard law professor and former environmental legal counsel to the Obama administration, said in an email. She added that “the order certainly indicates a high degree of initial judicial skepticism from five justices on the court,” and that the ruling would raise serious questions from nations that signed on to the landmark Paris climate change pact in December.

In negotiating that deal, which requires every country to enact policies to lower emissions, Mr. Obama pointed to the power plant rule as evidence that the United States would take ambitious action, and that other countries should follow.

What was the EPA rule change?

In June 2014, the EPA issued a proposed rule change on “emission guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to address greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units.”

Specifically, the EPA is proposing state-specific rate-based goals for carbon-dioxide emissions from energy producers (mostly from 600 coal-fired power plants) and setting guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to achieve new state-specific goals.

Is this is an important change?
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Church-Social-Responsibility“Evangelicals are starting to believe in institutions again — and not a moment too soon.”

So begins Jordan Ballor and Robert Joustra’s introduction to a new collection of essays, The Church’s Social Responsibility: Reflections on Evangelicalism and Social Justice, which ponders the role of the church and the shape of its social witness.

Organized religion, long the object of derision by authenticity-addicted millennials and prophets of the new atheism alike, is losing its boogeyman status among younger generations,” they continue. “Thus has begun a minor renaissance in thinking about the church, less as a gathering of hierarchy-allergic spiritualists and more as a brick and mortar institution — something with tradition and weight and history.”

But what does such a renaissance imply for the church’s social responsibility? Historically, the church has started schools and hospitals and charities. It has taken up and transformed a range of areas and institutions. It has spoken out on injustice, launched political movements, and influenced public policy.

But why is the institutional church so powerful? How should it go about these matters in the current cultural and civilizational landscape? Who ought to speak on its behalf and how?

These questions are at the center of the exploration, including contributing voices such as Carl F.H. Henry, Richard J. Mouw, Vincent Bacote, Jessica Driesenga, David T. Koyzis, Stephanie Summers, and more. Together, they provide a rich portrait to inform and invigorate the social imagination of the church. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
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Is Africa paving a road out of poverty?
Robert Mattes, Boniface Dulani and E. Gyimah-Boadi, Washington Post

Based on face-to-face interviews with more than 52,700 citizens in 33 countries in 2014-2015, Afrobarometer reports that in two-thirds of those countries, “lived poverty” has decreased compared to the previous survey round in 2011-2013.

Inside America’s lottery addiction
The Week

The nation was recently in a frenzy over a $1 billion Powerball jackpot. But are lotteries just a tax in disguise? Here’s everything you need to know.

Social Justice: According to whom? Which kind?
Scot McKnight, Jesus Creed

One of the most notable features of American evangelicalism in the last generation has been a powerful surge toward “social justice.” At times it is no different than the old-fashioned social gospel, at times it simply catches up to mainline Protestantism — and most of the time evangelicals have completely ignored the rigorous and comprehensive thinking on “social justice” on the part of Roman Catholics.

An Abandoned White Middle Class
R.R. Reno, First Things

Historically, our nearly all-white leadership class has carefully cultivated white middle class voters. Why the shift toward a more critical, even antagonistic attitude?

fy2017-budgetWhat is the President’s budget?

Technically, it’s only a budget request—a proposal telling Congress how much money the President believes should be spent on the various Cabinet-level federal functions, like agriculture, defense, education, etc. (A PDF of the 182 page document can be found here.)

Why does the President submit a budget to Congress?

The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 requires that the President of the United States submit to Congress, on or before the first Monday in February of each year, a detailed budget request for the coming federal fiscal year, which begins on October 1.

What is the function of the President’s budget request?

The President’s annual budget request serves three functions:
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Conservatives are known for arguing about the ill effects of over-regulation, reminding us how it stifles innovation, cramps entrepreneurship, and harms small businesses. Where we’re less effective is connecting this reality to the more fundamental abuses it wields on human dignity in general and the poor and vulnerable in particular.

In a 45-minute talk given at Heritage Action, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska offers a detailed critique of over-regulation in America.

Pointing first to the proper scope of regulatory policies, Sasse proceeds to note the increasing overreach of the federal government and the range of reasons to oppose it. Watch an excerpt here:

Although arguments about over-regulation and taxation are bound to involve in depth discussions about numbers and econometrics, Sasse reminds us that our focus must remain on the preservation of freedom and human dignity. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
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Evidence Mounts: Minimum Wage Hikes Cost Jobs
The American Interest

The evidence continues to mount that minimum wage hikes have economic costs: A Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco review paper recently found that minimum wages had “directly reduced the number of jobs nationally by about 100,000 to 200,000.”

For poverty, work is more important than wages, but only half of American adults work full-time
Angela Rachidi, AEI Ideas

Although the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) remains the go-to source for employment-related data (such as that released today), each month Gallup reports the “Gallup Good Job” metric. It reflects the percentage of adults aged 18 or older who work full-time (more than 30 hours per week) for an employer.

Republicans Prefer Blunt Talk About Islamic Extremism, Democrats Favor Caution
Pew Research

Most Americans say religion doesn’t cause violence, but rather that violent people use religion to justify their actions.

How Should Christians Approach Social Entrepreneurship?
Baylee Malloy, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

According to some, “social entrepreneurship” is a redundant term because all businesses are “social.” Businesses create jobs, goods, and services, and thus contribute to overall social prosperity.