U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, in an article for www.mlive.com, discussed the recent charter expiration of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) and how that is a good first-step toward reducing the corporate welfare and crony capitalism that has infected American politics and economics:

If a man swipes your wallet, he’s a thief. We don’t ask whether the pickpocket ultimately spent the cash on a worthy cause. Yet, supporters of corporate welfare would have you believe that as long as the companies receiving welfare prosper, you shouldn’t care that the government snatched your money to make it happen.

The moral implications of cronyism are abundant. As public/private partnerships expand, the market system slowly transforms from free enterprise and competition driven by market forces to government control of who succeeds and fails based on loans or bailouts to favored groups and corporations. In an interview with the Acton Institute’s Religion & Liberty, Peter Schweizer discussed how cronyism is creating a moral crisis and how it is affecting the poor:

Our poverty programs get distorted by crony corporations. Just look at how the food stamp program has expanded over the years. Initially, it was a safety net to provide basic provisions, and most people agree basic safety nets are needed. The problem is that when the government started throwing around billions of dollars, the snack food and soft drink industry saw dollar signs. So they lobbied and got the regulations changed so that snack food and sodas are now covered by government assistance. It’s now a $10 billion industry for soft drink companies. Then it got expanded to include convenience stores, and now you’ve got the fast food industry lobbying lawmakers to let people use EBT cards at fast food establishments.

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htOne of the challenges that survivors of human trafficking face is that they often are unable to prove their identity. Traffickers take away driver’s licenses, visas, passports, even student I.D.s in order to control their victims.

In Australia, the Immigration Department is working to help trafficking victims by developing a special visa for trafficking victims (male and female) and their families who wish to remain in Australia. The old visa system, critics said, stigmatized victims.

Victims will now be able to stay on a temporary visa or a permanent witness protection visa, with an assistance notice from the Attorney-General’s Department, rather than a criminal justice stay certificate.
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Jenny Stanger, national manager of the Salvation Army’s Freedom Partnership, said the criminal justice stay visa had made it difficult for victims to find work, with some clients’ job interviews ending once they told their prospective employers the name of their visa. (more…)

1_123125_123090_2077062_2085126_030702_marriage.jpg.CROP.original-original“Why don’t we just get government completely out of the marriage business?”

For decades, if someone asked that question it would be a safe assumption it was coming from a libertarian. Shifting marriage to private contracts that didn’t require the government’s imprimatur has long been an issue championed by those who lean libertarian. But the rise of same-sex marriage—and it’s threats to religious liberty—have caused many others, especially Christian conservatives, to ask if that’s not the best solution to the problems that stem from state and federal government’s redefining of marriage.

The answer is no—privatizing marriage is a terrible idea. It’s rooted in the flawed assumption that marriage is essentially a religious institution, and that it should therefore be left in the hands of religious organizations. The belief is that by keeping government out of what is religious by nature prevents it from being politicized. What this perspective fails to realize is that marriage belongs to neither religion or the state. Marriage is both a pre-political and pre-religious institution that was instituted by God before any formal government or religious institutions were created.
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Blog author: bwalker
Thursday, July 23, 2015
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Ewart: Unholy alliances bolster the Pope’s climate change campaign
Stephen Ewart, Calgary Herald

You could, cynically, call it a marriage of convenience, but given the schism in their views of same-sex marriage — or issues such as birth control — it would add an awkwardness to the Pope’s two-day conference at the Vatican City with the select group of municipal politicians that concludes Wednesday. Cities including San Francisco and Vancouver — Mayor Gregor Robertson is the lone Canadian attending — have joined Francis even though they’re renowned for tolerance of lifestyle choices opposed by the Vatican.

Vatican Conference of Worldwide Mayors Overwhelmingly Backs Climate Change Science
Diane Montagna, Aleteia: Seekers of Truth

Equally troubling to some is the firm line the common declaration takes on climate change. It emphatically states: “Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality.” This appears to contradict statements in Laudato si’ , that the Church is not fully backing the science. The encyclical, which has a chapter dedicated to the “human roots of the ecological crisis,” clearly accepts the science of anthropogenic climate change — the first such papal document to so overtly endorse the science. But at the same time, it says the Church has “no reason to offer a definitive opinion,” knowing that “honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views” (n. 61).

Filipino Bishops Back Laudato Si’ With Statement
Zenit News Agency

The bishops of the Philippines on Monday released a statement on climate change, called “Stewards, Not Owners.” In the statement, the bishops commit to educating the faithful on the issues of climate change, and recall that “Laudato Si teaches us that the core of the matter of climate change is justice.” Here is the full text of their statement:

Pope: Encyclical Is More Than ‘Green’
Zenit News Agency

The culture of care of the environment is not only a “green” attitude, it’s “much more,” said the Pope. Therefore, he specified that to look after the environment is to have an attitude of human ecology. Ecology “is total, it is human,” he said. The Holy Father went on to explain that in the encyclical Laudato Si’, he pointed out “that man cannot be separated from the rest.”

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Blog author: ehilton
Thursday, July 23, 2015
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benevolence farmsIn today’s American, nearly a quarter million women are incarcerated, primarily for drug-related or non-violent crimes. That’s roughly an 800 percent increase in the past 30 years. And female felons don’t have any easier a time finding work than their male counterparts. Typically, about half of those released from prison have no stable home, no transportation … and few legal job skills. Many of these people struggle with addiction and/or mental health issues as well.

One woman, a social worker-turned-entrepreneur in North Carolina, has found a way to join her passion for fresh food with her passion for helping these women. Tanya Jisa now oversees Benevolence Farm,

nestled in pastoral lands west of Durham, N.C., which will serve as a transitional living program for just released female ex-convicts. For a period of six months to two years, these women will learn about how to operate the farm, growing their own food along with produce to be sold at farm stands, farmers markets, and local grocery stores.

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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, July 23, 2015
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Meet the 40 Companies That Donate Directly to Planned Parenthood
Melissa Quinn, The Daily Signal

In the wake of two videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of aborted fetal body parts, Republicans in Congress are working to ensure that Planned Parenthood is stripped of its federal funding.

A Marine Veteran Offers 13 Reasons Why We Should NOT Arm Military Recruiters
Joe Carter, The Stream

They told us in recruiter’s school that recruiting duty was, outside of combat, the most stressful job in the Marine Corps. Yet I believe, and have absolutely no doubt, that having recruiters carry sidearms would simply make the job even more difficult.

Can Obama Really Raise Wages for Millions of People So Easily
David Henderson, EconLog

The regulations don’t magically make employees more productive. So what would employers do? One or more of three things. I list them in order of what I think is increasing probability.

How Free Markets Lead to Higher Life Expectancy in One Chart
Opportunity Lives

Advances in medicine as the chart below from Max Roser shows. Not coincidentally, the spike in life expectancy occurred as the world began to embrace the ideas of capitalism and free markets at the beginning of the 19th century.

ssn-gunsThe Obama administration is pushing to ban Social Security beneficiaries from owning guns if they lack the mental capacity to manage their own financial affairs.

When I first heard this claim, I assumed it must be a false rumor circulating on social media and less-than-reputable websites. Instead, it turns out, if the L.A. Times can be trusted, to be true account of the White House’s intentions.

The push is intended to bring the Social Security Administration in line with laws regulating who gets reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, which is used to prevent gun sales to felons, drug addicts, immigrants in the country illegally and others.

A potentially large group within Social Security are people who, in the language of federal gun laws, are unable to manage their own affairs due to “marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.”

There is no simple way to identify that group, but a strategy used by the Department of Veterans Affairs since the creation of the background check system is reporting anyone who has been declared incompetent to manage pension or disability payments and assigned a fiduciary.

According to the LAT, the policy change would affect about 4.2 million adults who receive monthly benefits that are managed by “representative payees.”

The first question the Obama administration should have asked before implementing the “solution” was “Is there a problem?” Are there currently a lot of Social Security recipients who pose a threat to themselves and others by owing a firearm?” The second question they needed to ask was if incompetency in financial matters is the standard, must they also take guns away from everyone in Congress?
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acton-commentary-blogimage“Public money is used for a multitude of things that many Americans find objectionable,” says Zack Pruitt in this week’s Acton Commentary. “When standards for congressional spending become virtually obsolete, the financial door swings wide-open for potential abuse.”

Planned Parenthood receives over $500 million each year from American taxpayers, which comprises over 40 percent of its budget. It was recently shown on video ostensibly seeking to profit from the sale of aborted baby parts (as opposed to being reimbursed for tissue donation), perhaps in violation of federal law. Make no mistake, the big picture story here is not congressional overspending; it is the Senior Director of Medical Services at Planned Parenthood graphically describing her efforts to “not crush” vital organs when performing abortions in an effort to preserve them and recoup “between $30 and $100 per specimen.” In another video, the President of Planned Parenthood’s Medical Directors Council indicates a profit-motive for aborted parts by negotiating for higher prices and haggling over the cost of “intact tissue.” When a system allows for unfettered spending, taxpayers can wind up paying not only for unnecessary services, but ones that straddle the line between genocide and the commercialization of human body parts.

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

Blog author: bwalker
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
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Pope Francis Asked for Help on Economics
Michael Novak, Patheos

The great possibility for our generation is to lift out of poverty every poor man and woman on this globe. In the future, the poor ought to enjoy ever-higher standards of living. Malthusian pessimists have been proven wrong, while those like St. John Paul II, moved by hope and respect for human and divine creativity, have so far been correct.

Pope laments ‘meaningless lives’ in tying human trafficking to climate change
Stephanie Kirchgaessner, The Guardian

Pope Francis said he had “great hopes” that a fundamental agreement to tackle climate change would be reached in Paris later this year and he believed the United Nations needed to play a central role in the fight against global warming. “The UN really needs to take a very strong position on this issue, particularly the trafficking of human beings … [a problem] that has been created by climate change,” the pope said.

World mayors at Vatican seek ‘bold climate agreement’
Joe Torres, WABC-TV

“Climate change has an effect on creation and creation, from the church perspective, was made by God. And we need to respect what God gave us. So that’s where he’s coming from,” said Ines San Martin, a Boston Globe Correspondent. Mayor Bill de Blasio is one of 65 mayors from across the globe who attended the conference. He gave a 10-minute speech urging his colleagues to enact legislation that protects the environment and in turn benefits the poor.

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child traffickingAt first blush, the issues of same-sex marriage and surrogacy don’t seem to have too great a connection. However, in Ireland, a public debate illustrates how closely these issues are related, and it isn’t good.

In May, same-sex marriage became legal in Ireland by public vote. In the days before the vote, major news sources noted that “fears” of surrogacy would sink the vote for same-sex marriage, even though surrogacy is not legal in Ireland. The question raised is: Do people have a right to procreate or, more importantly, have children? Christopher White explains:

The confusion can be traced back to a 1991 case, Murray v. Ireland, in which the high court effectively held that there is a constitutional right to procreate. While many on both sides of the referendum argued that this decision was referring to natural procreation, the decision has already been used to promote donor conception. It’s understandable, then, that many were fearful that a “yes” vote would open the floodgates to a practice that many Irish voters do not support. Mothers and Fathers Matter—the leading civic group opposing the same-sex marriage referendum—launched a campaign that papered the country with ads and posters of a young, concerned toddler with the following slogan: “Surrogacy?: She Needs Her Mother For Life, Not Just For Nine Months. Vote No.”

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