Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
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7figuresToday is tax day, the day when individual income tax returns are due to the federal government. Here are seven figures you should know about tax day:

1. The average federal tax rate for all households (tax liabilities divided by income, including government transfer payments) before taxes is 18.1 percent.

2. Households in the top quintile (including the top percentile) paid 68.8 percent of all federal taxes, households in the middle quintile paid 9.1 percent, and those in the bottom quintile paid 0.4 percent of federal taxes. (Quintiles — fifths — contain equal numbers of people.)

3. Social insurance taxes (e.g., Social Security, Medicare) account for the largest share of taxes paid by households in all but the top quintile.

4. The U.S. tax code is approximately 2,600 pages long (about 1.5 times longer than Tolstoy’s War and Peace and 2.5 times longer than Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged).

5. At midnight, the U.S. Treasury gets an extra $760 million. Taxpayers have three years to claim refunds, so the $760 million that is owed to 918,600 people will, by statute, go to the governments coffers tomorrow.

6. If you’re owed a refund, you won’t get in trouble if you miss the April 15 filing deadline. But if you’re wrong and you actually owe money, you’ll incur a maximum penalty of 5% for each month after the deadline. If you’re more than 60 days late, you’ll be fined $135, or 100% of the unpaid tax — whichever amount is smaller.

7. Examining 30 years of road crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, researchers found that fatal car crashes increase 6 percent on April 15.

Dorothy Sayers“If we put our neighbor first, we are putting man above God, and that is what we have been doing ever since we began to worship humanity and make man the measure of all things. Whenever man is made the center of things, he becomes the storm center of trouble – and that is precisely the catch about serving the community.” –Dorothy Sayers

In orienting our perspective on work and stewardship, one of the best starting points is Lester DeKoster’s view about work being service to neighbor and thus to God. And yet, even here, we ought to be attentive about the order of things, keeping in mind Samuel’s reminder that “to obey is better than sacrifice.”

It may seem overly picky, but it may be more accurate to say that our work is service to God, and thus to neighbor. For without obedience to God, service to neighbor will be severely limited at best, and wholly destructive at worst.

I was reminded of this when reading Dorothy Sayers’ popular essay, “Why Work?”, which she concludes by offering a strong warning against various calls to “serve the community” — a challenge she describes as “the most revolutionary of them all.”

“The only way to serve the community is to forget the community and serve the work,” she writes, meaning that only when we work for the glory of God can we hope for the flourishing of our neighbors (and selves). “The danger of ‘serving the community’ is that one is part of the community, and that in serving it one may only be serving a kind of communal egotism,” she continues. (more…)

Raphael Lemkin

Raphael Lemkin

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide – a systematic, murderous campaign carried out by the Ottoman Empire against its Armenian population, killing 1.5 million and leaving millions more displaced.

Though these atrocities have been verified through survivor accounts and historical records, to this day, not all countries have recognized the atrocities as “genocide” – the foremost being Turkey, along with others, including the United States.

In a Huffington Post article, “The United States Should Remember Raphael Lemkin’s Words and Formally Recognize the Armenian Genocide,” H.A. Goodman draws particular focus to Turkey’s animosity toward the genocide label, even threatening other countries that recognize the tragedy as genocide.

Most recently, Turkey’s resistance was displayed when Pope Francis referred to the slaughter as the “first genocide of the 20th century.” The Turkish government responded by recalling its ambassador to the Holy See.

But perhaps an even more shocking reality surrounding the Armenian Genocide is this: at the time the Ottoman Empire began exterminating the Armenians in 1915, its actions were not considered illegal. It would be another 33 years before genocide was named a crime under international law, through the United Nations’ adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948, after which the word “genocide” was created and used for the first time, only 4 years prior. For these two significant actions we have one man to thank, a largely unknown Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin.

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raise-minimum-wagejpg“I’m tired all the time.” That’s the lament of one of the working mothers in the video below (from The Guardian), as she describes her life working minimum wage jobs. She and the other women featured are all fighting for an increase in pay to $15 per hour (like Seattle’s recent mandate.)

I feel for them. I can’t imagine trying to raise a family on minimum wage salaries. But I have several issues with what I see in this video. (more…)

gravity-incomeWhen the city of Seattle recently voted to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, some critics (like me) snarked that if $15 would help workers why not raise it to $20, $25, or even $30 an hour.

Apparently, one CEO in Seattle didn’t realize we were joking. Dan Price of Gravity Payments recently announced that every one of his 120 employees would soon be making a minimum of $70,000 a year—a minimum wage of $33.65 an hour.

The media reaction to the story has been about as fawning and uncritical as you would expect. While Price is rightfully being praised for his generosity (he’s cutting his own pay from $1 million to $70,000 a year to fund the pay increase), few people have—so far—pointed out how his largess may soon put his employees out of a job. Here’s why.
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Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
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The Moral Bucket List
David Brooks, New York Times

It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace.

India’s preference for sons has created a nation of tiny people
Shelly Walia, Quartz

Indian children are among the shortest in the world, and the country’s preference for sons might be to blame.

Police again pick up ‘free-range’ kids, take them straight to child services
Stephanie Talmadge, The Week

Sparking a national conversation about free-range parenting earlier this year, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv are again under scrutiny after their children were picked up by police for the second time in four months on Sunday.

The Day Lincoln Was Shot: A Visual FAQ
Justin Taylor , The Gospel Coalition

Today is the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (April 14, 1865). Here is an FAQ on some aspects and background of the tragic murder.

Millennial-Entrepreneurs-Infographic-1024x793Millennials are obsessed with entrepreneurship, says Elise Amyx. Some are attracted to entrepreneurship out of necessity, while others want the freedom that comes with building their own business. And some Christian Millennials want to redeem free enterprise:

In part, redeeming capitalism means doing more than just making a profit. Consider Chick-fil-A’s decision to bring chicken sandwiches and waffle fries to people stranded in their cars during a snow storm. Or Whole Foods’ decision to donate 5 percent of its profits to a philanthropy. Or Warby Parker: when someone buys a pair of the company’s eyeglass frames, it donates a pair to someone in need.

Millennials admire socially conscious business models. And many are starting their own. One place you might find the Christian-hipster-entrepreneur type is the annual Q conference, where attendees pitch their startup ideas with Praxis. Founded in 2010, Praxis is focused “on equipping and resourcing a growing portfolio of faith-motivated entrepreneurs who have committed their lives to cultural and social impact, renewing the spirit of our age one organization at a time.” It’s a Christian entrepreneur-training hotbed for nonprofit and business startups alike. Kammock, which creates high-quality outdoor products, Man Crates, which packs and delivers gifts for men, and Jonas Paul Eyewear, which provides functional eyewear for children, all participated in the program during their infancy.

Read more . . .

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), the humanitarian relief agency for Orthodox Churches in the United States, is working with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East to provide emergency medical assistance, hygiene kits, and personal care items to displaced Idlib families who have fled to the Syrian port city of Lattakia. Idlib, in northwestern Syria, was captured by Al-Qaida’s local branch of Islamist fighters in late March. Now there are reports of the Syrian government using chemical weapons on the Islamist rebels. The situation is grim for those fleeing the fighting.

According to [IOCC] staff on the ground, approximately 300 of the nearly 5,000 displaced people fleeing Idlib arrived in Lattakia with injuries, many related to flying shrapnel. Some of them arrived alone knowing nothing about the rest of their families, while others managed to get out with their families intact. “I escaped with all of my 14 family members,” said Fadi, a displaced Idlib resident. “We barely fit in the small car which was our only transportation. Many cars around us crashed as they tried to flee, because they were shot by a sniper while trying to escape the city.”

Rami, who also fled Idlib, said he and his 9-year-old daughter made it out through the city’s sewage channels to avoid snipers. They walked all night to reach safety, but he now faces new fears for his family. “My daughter is in complete shock from what she witnessed, and I can’t stop thinking about my parents who are still trapped in Idlib.” IOCC/GOPA is helping traumatized parents like Rami through counseling that will equip them and their children with the coping skills they need to deal with such difficult experiences. (more…)

Meeting with world faith leaders at the Vatican, December 2014

Meeting with world faith leaders at the Vatican, December 2014

The Pontifical Science Academies has created a website to both educate and fight human trafficking. (Pontifical Academies are academic honor societies that work under the direction of the Holy See and the bishop of Rome, the Pope.)

The new website, www.endslavery.va, is one outcome of Pope Francis’ ecumenical Global Freedom Network held last year. This meeting included a joint declaration against trafficking, signed by Pope Francis and leaders of different faith communities. The website, #EndSlavery, will include Catholic and Anglican resources, according to Vatican News. The homepage features this statement from Pope Francis:

I urgently appeal to all men and women of good will, and all those near or far, including the highest levels of civil institutions, who witness the scourge of contemporary slavery, not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, who are deprived of their freedom and dignity. Instead, may we have the courage to touch the suffering flesh of Christ, revealed in the faces of those countless persons whom he calls “the least of these my brethren” (Mt 25:40, 45).

Visit #EndSlavery here.

school-choice-justiceSocial justice is a term and concept frequently associated with the political Left, and too often used to champion views that are destructive for society and antithetical to justice. Yet for Christians the term is too valuable to be abandoned. Conservatives need to rescue it from the Left and restore it’s true meaning. True social justice is obtained, as my colleague Dylan Pahman has helpfully explained, “when each member, group, and sphere of society gives to every other what is due.”

A key sphere of society in which social justice is in desperate need of restoration is education. The poor deserve the same freedom to obtain a quality education that is too often reserved for those wealthy enough to rescue their children from failing schools. For this reason school choice should be considered a matter of social justice.

As Archbishop Charles J. Chaput says, lack of a quality education is a common thread among persons in severe poverty. And once stuck in deep poverty it’s very hard for anyone to escape due to the lack of skills needed to secure and hold employment:
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