29taxes.2-500In an attempt to trap Jesus, some Pharisees and Herodians asked him, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” In response, Jesus said,

“Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

The Pharisees and Herodians “marveled” at Jesus answer, but had they asked an agent of the Roman IRS they likely would have been given a similar answer.

Governments have always had to contend with citizens who make what are considered “frivolous tax arguments” to avoid complying with tax laws. Such arguments rarely work (it’s usually not effective to try to present a creative interpretation of tax law to the people who interpret tax laws) but people keep trying.

The IRS has an entire list of responses to the most common frivolous tax arguments. Here are four of my favorites:
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A failed charter school and someone looking to start a charter school in Kansas can only look to Kansas City, Mo., and wonder what impact high-performing public charter schools may have for kids in the state.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7figures[Note: '7 Figures' is a new, occasional series highlighting data and information from a variety of surveys and reports.]

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).
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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11

jeremiah29

Jeremiah 29:11 is a popular verse among many of today’s Christians, as Evan Koons humorously points out in a new article at Q Ideas.

Christians love this verse,” he writes. “It has all the ideas and values we crave: prosperity, safety, security, hope, longevity. It’s the verse we most associate with the book of Jeremiah.”

Yet, as Koons is quick to remind us, the “bigger picture” of Jeremiah 29 is far less rosy. Jeremiah is writing to a displaced people living in a strange land, struggling to understand how they might live peacefully and fruitfully in the here and now while keeping their sights and spirits focused on the not yet.

“Somehow, we’ve forgotten that Jeremiah 29:11 is written in the midst of unspeakable calamity,” Koons writes, and perhaps it’s because “we fail to recognize that all of Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles, not just Jeremiah 29:11, still applies to us today.” (more…)

scholarshipChristian’s Library Press has just released a new translation of Abraham Kuyper’s Scholastica I and II, two convocation addresses delivered to Vrije Universiteit (Free University) during his two years as rector (first in 1889, and then again in 1900).

The addresses are published under the title Scholarshipand demonstrate Kuyper’s core belief that “knowledge (curriculum) and behavior (pedagogy) are embedded in our core beliefs about the nature of God, humanity, and the world,” as summarized by translator Nelson Kloosterman.

To celebrate the release, CLP will be giving away three copies of the book. To enter, use the interface below. There are three ways to enter, and each will increase your odds. The contest will end Thursday night at 11:59 p.m.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: Winners who live outside of the United States will be awarded an ebook version of the book only.

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lesson For April 15: Why Government Can’t Replace Charity
Howard Husock, Forbes

Maybe it’s because of the impending tax filing deadline, but we are seeing a sudden spate of muscular defenses of a government safety net against the alleged conservative view that private charity could assist those in need—and replace government

Christian Magnanimity
Bryan Wandel, Humane Pursuits

Christian magnanimity is an overflow of grace to bear with the immaturities and shortcomings of people around us – for their benefit.

Catholic Schools Pressed to Give Up Morality
Anne Hendershott, Crisis Magazine

After decades of well-documented dissent on many Catholic college campuses over Church teachings on abortion, contraception, and same sex marriage, a new front in the Catholic culture wars has opened on Catholic K-12 campuses as increasing numbers of gay and lesbian teachers and administrators at these schools are lobbying for the right to marry their same sex partners—and keep their jobs.

Playgrounds, Religion, and Regulation
Brian Baugus, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

A long list of man-made rules restricts creativity and the ability to pursue opportunities in a society. It is man, seeking to steal God’s role – whether it be as priest or as king— that lays all the extra rules on top of God’s law and stifles flourishing.

l_20121213-school-reform-145-600-300If you really care about income inequality, notes John Goodman, you need only focus on one thing — the inequality of educational opportunity:

The topic du jour on the left these days is inequality. But why does the left care about inequality? Do they really want to lift those at the bottom of the income ladder? Or are they just looking for one more reason to increase the power of government?

If you care about those at the bottom then you are wasting your time and everyone else’s time unless you focus on one and only one phenomenon: the inequality of educational opportunity. Poor kids are almost always enrolled in bad schools. Rich kids are almost always in good schools.

So what does the left have to say about the public school system? Almost nothing. Nothing? That’s right. Nothing. I can’t remember ever seeing an editorial by Paul Krugman on how to reform the public schools. So I Googled to see if I have missed something. The only thing I found was a negative post about vouchers. And Krugman is not alone.

You almost never see anything written by left-of-center folks on reforming the public schools. And I have noticed on TV talk shows that it’s almost impossible to get liberals to agree to the most modest of all reform ideas: getting rid of bad teachers and making sure we keep the good ones.

(Via: AEI Ideas)

pants on fireRoss Douthat of The New York Times (and plenary speaker at Acton University 2014) talks about diversity and dishonesty, focusing on the recent resignation of Brendan Eich at Mozilla and the decision by Brandeis University to withdraw an honorary degree from human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Douthat’s problem isn’t so much that these things happened; it’s that those charged with publicly discussing the issues seem so bent on lying.

In both cases, Mozilla and Brandeis, there was a striking difference between the clarity of what had actually happened and the evasiveness of the official responses to the events. Eich stepped down rather than recant his past support for the view that one man and one woman makes a marriage; Hirsi Ali’s invitation was withdrawn because of her sweeping criticisms of Islamic culture. But neither the phrase “marriage” nor the word “Islam” appeared in the initial statements Mozilla and Brandeis released.

Instead, the Mozilla statement rambled in the language of inclusion: “Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. … Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions. …”

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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, April 14, 2014

holyweekWhat is Holy Week?

Holy Week is the week before Easter, a period which includes the religious holidays of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Holy week does not include Easter Sunday.

When did Holy Week get started?

The first recording of a Holy Week observance was made by Egeria, a Gallic woman who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land about 381-384. In an account of her travels she wrote for a group of women back in Spain, Egeria describes the Palm Sunday she observed in Jerusalem:

. . . all the children who are [gathered at the top of the Mount of Olives], including those who are not yet able to walk because they are too young and therefore are carried on their parents’ shoulders, all of them bear branches, some carrying palms, others, olive branches. And the bishop is led in the same manner as the Lord once was led.

What is Palm Sunday?

Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. In many Christian churches, Palm Sunday includes a procession of the assembled worshipers carrying palms, representing the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem. Because of the difficulty in some parts of the world of procuring palms for Palm Sunday, leaves from yew, willow, olive, or other native trees are frequently used. The Sunday was often designated by the names of these trees, as Yew Sunday, or by the general term Branch Sunday.

What is Spy Wednesday?

An archaic and infrequently used name for the Wednesday before Easter is “Spy Wednesday”, named for Judas’ becoming a spy for the Sanhedrin.

What is Maundy Thursday?
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Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, April 14, 2014

Trade, Not Aid, Could Protect 100,000 Children in Africa
Ryan Olson, The Foundry

One of these good policies would be free trade. According to a new report from the European Commission, nearly 30 countries on the continent still maintain tariffs on mosquito nets of up to 20 percent.

Diversity and Dishonesty
Ross Douthat, New York Times

This refusal, this self-deception, means that we have far too many powerful communities (corporate, academic, journalistic) that are simultaneously dogmatic and dishonest about it.

Mozilla and the Prophet Isaiah
Peter Wehner, Commentary

At the core of what’s driving this effort by some supporters of gay marriage is the belief that holding traditional views on marriage is akin to being an anti-Semite and a racist.

Stewardship Doesn’t Occur in a Vacuum
Anne Bradley, Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics

God calls us into community with one another to serve each other. In our modern world, we do not have to worry about how to build fires. We purchase matches or lighters or better yet, central heat. We get up every day and use products, and we are completely ignorant of their design, production, and origin.