One of the key words at Bill de Blasio’s inauguration as New York City’s mayor was “inequality.” The politics of income inequality were pervasive in the remarks of former President Bill Clinton, who swore de Blasio into office, as well as the prayer of the Rev. Fred Lucas, a Sanitation Department chaplain, who prayed during the invocation for New Yorkers to be emancipated from ‘the plantation called New York City.’

Income inequality as evidence of an unjust society may the be new platform position of the Democrats. Across the country it appears the party is moving away from the more centrist ideology of the Clintons to the more 1912 Progressive commitments of New York’s new mayor. Nevertheless, de Blasio continues to signal a new era of politics of the Big Apple,

Here are a few highlights from his inaugural address outlining his plan to improve New York City:
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SickoAs of Jan. 1, 2014, Obamacare – or the Affordable Health Care Act – is now law. Harking back to Nancy Pelosi’s now infamous remark, “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it away from the fog of the controversy,” we’ll now find out how it will work.

Given the incredibly rocky start, things don’t look good for the Health Care Act. One sign: documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (who usually loves all things Democratic) has said “Obamacare is awful.” In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, Moore gripes that Obamacare suffered from “clueless planning” and that it’s not affordable for many folks after all. (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, January 2, 2014
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I certainly like where Dr. Calder ends up, but I’m not quite so sure about the argumentation he uses to get there. This short video is worth checking out: “Breaking the Power of Money” (HT: ESN blog).

Breaking the Power of Money – Dr. Lendol Calder from InterVarsity twentyonehundred on Vimeo.

Is it because students have unconsciously divinized money that they can’t bring themselves to tear a dollar bill in half? Or is there an implicit bias against the seemingly purposeless destruction of value? Perhaps they need some convincing that destroying dollar bills is an exercise in good stewardship.

Money is something powerful, that’s for sure. And the love of it is the source of all kinds of evil. So the challenge is to keep our loves for temporal goods, including money, ordinate. As Calder puts it, we do that not by destroying money, but by putting it to responsible use. Maybe that’s “profaning” money in the sense that we are taking away the purported and idolatrous divinity we ascribe to it. But maybe that’s also by “redeeming” money for godly use.

contraceptive-mandateAs 2013 was coming to a close, federal courts issued rulings on three injunctions sought by religious non-profits challenging the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate rules:

• Preliminary injunctions had been awarded in 18 of the 20 similar cases, but the 10th Circuit denied relief to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns from Colorado. However, late in the evening on December 31, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction blocking enforcement, and ordered a response by the federal government by 10:00 am on Friday. Justice Sotomayor’s order applies to the nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and other Catholic nonprofit groups that use the same health plan, known as the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust.

• Earlier in December an Indiana federal district court rejected Notre Dame’s claim in University of Notre Dame v. Sebelius that its rights under Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the 1st Amendment are infringed by applying the accommodation in the final rules to its self-insured employee plan and its health insurance policies offered to students. On December 31, the 7th Circuit denied Notre Dame’s emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal, but ordered expedited briefing and oral argument.

• In Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services, the D.C. federal district ruled on December 19th that no substantial burden was placed on a pro-life group’s free exercise by requiring it to complete the self-certification form to opt into the accommodation for religious non-profits. But on December 31 the D.C. Circuit granted emergency motions for injunctions pending appeal filed by Priests for Life and by the various plaintiffs in the Catholic Archbishop of Washington case. The court also ordered the two cases consolidated for appeal.

Writing in The Detroit News, Rev. Robert A. Sirico looks at Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation, the “much talked about, but little-read” document titled “The Joy of the Gospel” with a special emphasis on how the pontiff understands the problem of poverty. The president and co-founder of the Acton Institute notes how Francis “speaks boldly through effective and moving gestures.” Excerpt:

It is no surprise that the man who took as his model and name the model of il poverello of Assisi would place the poor as a central concern of his pontificate: their dignity, their rights and their sustenance. Yet, the spontaneous gestures and the impromptu manner in which they are displayed ought not to beguile us into thinking this pope is offering a superficial dichotomy between left and right; between capitalism and socialism. To think that any pope, but especially this pope, is animated in his concern for the poor and vulnerable by a particular political ideology is to miss him completely.

While renouncing the notion that the market alone is sufficient to meet all human needs, Francis is also prepared to denounce a “welfare mentality” that creates a dependency on the part of the poor and reduces the Church to the role of being just another bureaucratic NGO. The complexity of his thought surprises some, on both the Right (some of whom worry, needlessly, that he is a liberation theologian) and the Left (who are already using his words to foment a political “Francis Revolution” in his name). Such tendencies reveal a rather anemic understanding of this man but also of Catholicism, which has historically been comfortable balancing the tensions of apparent paradoxes (Divine/human; Virgin/Mother; etc.). It is too facile a temptation to collapse 2,000 years of tradition, commentary and lived experience into four or five politically-correct hot button sound bites that are the priority, not of the Church, but of propagandists with an agenda.

Read “Pope Francis, without the politics” by Rev. Robert A. Sirico in The Detroit News.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, January 2, 2014
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Subsidiarity: Why is It Praised More than It is Practiced?
James Kalb, Crisis Magazine

Subsidiarity is a basic principle of Catholic social teaching. Like other such principles, it is praised more than practiced, because it is at cross purposes with the outlook that now governs our public life.

Attacks on religion, liberty
Robert P. George and Katrina Lantos Swett, Philadelphia Inquirer

What can we do to save Christian and other religious minorities?

New Egyptian constitution gives greater freedom to Christians
Carey Lodge, Christian Today

Barnabas Fund has given thanks in its prayer update for a new draft of the Egyptian constitution that grants additional rights to Christians and marks a significant move away from the fundamental Islamic laws that have dominated in the past

Limited Government Solves Constitutional Violations
Walter E. Williams, Investor’s Business Daily

The problem our nation faces is very much like a marriage in which one partner has an established pattern of ignoring and breaking the marital vows.

Blog author: jsunde
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
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????????????????????????????????????In a recent piece for the Wall Street Journal, Emory economics professor Paul H. Rubin makes an interesting argument about the way economists tend to over-elevate and/or misconstrue the role of competition in the flourishing of markets.

“Competition plays a supporting role,” he argues, but “cooperation makes markets thrive”:

The way we use the term competition instead of cooperation fosters anti-market bias. “Competition” carries a negative connotation because it implies winners and losers, and our minds naturally feel sympathy for the losers. But cooperation evokes a positive response: It’s a win-win situation with no losers. And in fact the word competition doesn’t depict market activity as aptly as the word cooperation. The “competitive economy” would be better described as the “cooperative economy.”

Consider the most basic economic unit, the transaction. A transaction is cooperative because both parties gain from a voluntary exchange. There is competition in markets, but it’s actually competition for the right to cooperate. Firms must compete for the privilege of selling to consumers—for the right to cooperate with consumers. Workers compete for the right to cooperate with employers. Competition matters because it ensures that the most efficient players will gain the right to cooperate on the best terms available. But competition plays a supporting role, while cooperation makes markets thrive. (more…)