b-sandersWith the New York presidential primary only a few days away, most candidates are canvassing the state to drum up votes. But Bernie Sanders has taken a peculiar detour — to Rome. (Not Rome, NY. The one in Italy.)

Sanders is delivering a 10-minute speech this morning at a Vatican conference hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Saint John Paul II’s encyclical, Centesimus Annus. Sander’s will be speaking on economy and social justice.

In The Detroit News, Acton’s research director Samuel Gregg considers what Bernie might learn at the Vatican:
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Leighblackall-76202405Andrew Biggs of AEI has a piece up today at Forbes addressing the gender pay gap and provides a neat solution: “forbid women from staying at home with their children.” As Biggs points out, such a policy would address perhaps the greatest root cause of gender pay inequality: varied work experience attributable to choices women make. “Most mothers who stay at home or work only part-time are doing what they wish to do and what they view as best for their kids,” writes Biggs. This results in gaps in pay when those women re-enter the work force or increase their labor participation.

Biggs’ proposal to “make staying at home with kids illegal, just like child labor is illegal” would have another benefit favored by many: it would be a boon to GDP. As I point out in a review essay in the latest issue of Christian Scholar’s Review, the work that stay-at-home parents do is not counted toward GDP. When those parents pay someone to take care of their children as part of a business transaction, however, as in the case of day care centers, then that exchange does count towards GDP.

My piece, “Affluence Agonistes–A Review Essay,” takes a look at the book The Poverty of Nations by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus, in addition to a couple of other recent publications. The CSR essay expands upon a review of the Grudem/Asmus book I wrote for Public Discourse, “Life to the Full: The Dangers of Material Wealth and Spiritual Poverty.” As Grudem and Asmus put it simply, to combat poverty “the goal must be to increase a nation’s GDP.”

So not only are stay-at-home moms a major source of wage inequality, they are also “a drag on GDP.” As one press report put it, “With female participation stagnating, potential growth isn’t rising as quickly.”

Biggs’ proposal to ban stay-at-home mothers should logically be embraced by both anti-gender inequality progressives as well as GDP growth fundamentalists. As I argue in the essay, “If a nation were to pursue GDP growth as its highest goal, it would probably institute policies and incentives to induce women to work outside the home and professionalize child care. GDP incentivizes specialization and the division of labor, since such transactions are the only things taken into account.”

But the Grove City College economist Shawn Ritenour rightly concludes, “We ought not give into the temptation that all of human welfare is encapsulated in GDP.” Another way of putting it is that men, women, and children do not “live on GDP per capita alone.”

Update: For those readers who might not bother to read Biggs’ piece, he does not (and neither do I, for that matter) actually advocate for this policy.

Blog author: etrancik
Friday, April 15, 2016
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pope-415This year marks the 125th anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum and the beginning of the modern Catholic social encyclical tradition. In this landmark text, Leo courageously set out to examine the “new things” of his time, especially the changes associated with the Industrial Revolution. These included the emergence of an urbanized working class, the breakdown of old social hierarchies, and the rise of capitalism as well as ideologies such as socialism, liberalism, communism, and corporatism.

On April 20, 2016, Acton Institute is holding a free conference in Rome exploring similar themes. This conference on Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time will take place in Rome, Italy from 14:00-19:30 (GMT +2) at the Centro Congressi Roma Eventi – Fontana di Trevi. Remote participation is also possible through the online Live Broadcast. Among the speakers will be Rev. Prof. Wojciech Giertych, OP, Professor and Theologian of the Papal Household. For more information about this event or to register, visit www.acton.org/Rome2016.

Acton Institute’s director of research, Dr. Samuel Gregg, recently authored an article in Crisis Magazine which highlighted the radical character of Leo XIII’s attempt to engage the modern economic world:
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Blog author: jcarter
Friday, April 15, 2016
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The Fed ‘is a god that has failed’
George Gilder, CNBC

Why does Wall Street keep recovering after recessions but the economy seemingly never does?

The Sanders-Pope Francis ‘moral economy’ could hurt the income inequality fight
Charles Lane, Washington Post

Democratic socialist presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will depart soon for the Vatican, where he’ll speak at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, a previously obscure body whose ideological leanings are implied by the invitations it extended to Sanders and two other headliners, the left-wing populist presidents of Bolivia and Ecuador.

Pope backs conscientious objection rights for Christians
Crux

Pope Francis on Tuesday warned against an “educated persecution” of Christians today, saying Christians are not only under threat by those trying to kill them, but also by those who want to limit their freedom and their right to conscientious objection.

Why Soviet Refugees Aren’t Buying Sanders’s Socialism
Olga Khazan, The Atlantic

The ultra-conservative views of many in the Russian Jewish community are driven by memories of life in the USSR.

cleancoallead2Electric cars are not a new invention, nor are they as popular as they once were. (They debuted in 1890 and by 1900 electric cars accounted for around a third of all vehicles on the road.) But over the past decade, thanks to Elon Musk and Tesla Motors, electric cars have become much more interesting.

Tesla rolled out the first fully electric sports car in 2008 and a fully electric luxury sedan in 2012. And earlier this month they unveiled the Model 3, a premium sedan for $35,000.

The Model 3 won’t be produced until 2017 but it’s already something of a success. You can “reserve” a Model 3 for $1,000, and so far the company has over 325,000 reservations. As Tesla brags, this corresponds to about $14 billion in implied future sales, making this “the single biggest one-week launch of any product ever.”

I confess that if I had $35k I’d gladly trade in my 2004 Toyota Prius for a car that goes 0 To 60 MPH in under 4 seconds. But as a conservationist and a conservative the idea of driving a car powered by coal and subsidized by the government gives me pause.

What’s that? You didn’t realize electric cars were powered by coal? That’s not surprising since you won’t find it mentioned in Tesla’s brochures. But it’s true that they are “fueled” by electricity that is created by coal or other fossil fuels (at least mostly in some states, exclusively in others). And it’s also true the government will, in the name of protecting the environment, give you a tax break for buying a car that runs on coal.

Tesla’s electric cars are beautiful, but they aren’t necessarily better for the environment. As environmental economist Bjorn Lomborg explains in this video, electric cars aren’t necessarily greener than conventional gasoline cars.

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Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, April 14, 2016
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Minimum Wage: Is Job Loss Acceptable?
Ryan Young, RealClearPolicy

Finally, some minimum-wage advocates are acknowledging the policy’s tradeoffs. New School economics professor David Howell recently asked the Washington Post, “Why shouldn’t we in fact accept job loss?” He calls for a “living wage” mandate for some, even if it hurts others.

Sanders ties advocacy for a ‘moral economy’ to Pope Francis
Crux

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders invoked the name of Pope Francis Saturday during a campaign appearance at which he touted his own advocacy of a “moral economy” and challenged Hillary Clinton to endorse his plan to expand Social Security benefits by raising taxes on the wealthy.

Why More States Are Requiring Work Requirements for Food Stamps
Elisabeth Zenger, The Daily Signal

Since 2009, nearly all states have been able to waive the modest food stamp work requirement. But these waivers have gradually been expiring, and as of April 1, more states are once again required to enforce the modest food stamp work requirement.

EITC Expansion Backed By Obama and Ryan Could Penalize Marriage For Many Low-Income Workers
C. Eugene Steuerle, The Government We Deserve

President Barack Obama and Speaker Paul Ryan have proposed similar expansions of the earned income tax credit (EITC) for low-income workers without children. Their goal is laudable: to provide some modest additional income support for low-income workers currently excluded from the EITC. But as designed, their proposals would penalize many low-income workers who choose to marry or are married. Taking that step would not only provide a disincentive to marriage, it would be unfair to many married couples and erode support for the credit itself and for wage subsidies more broadly.

Allergan_LogoOn its website, Trinity Health trumpets its shareholder activism. Based in Livonia, Mich., the Catholic health care provider boasts operations in 21 states, which includes 90 hospitals and 120 long-term care facilities. For this last, Trinity should be lauded.

For the first, however, your writer is left shaking his head.

Among Trinity’s list of five shareholder advocacy priorities, two stand out:

• uphold the dignity of the human person.
• enable access to health care.

In other words, issues any reasonable Catholic could get behind. However, Trinity is the lead filer on a proxy resolution that will be voted on next month at the Allergan, Inc., annual shareholders meeting. The cause? Read for yourself:

*RESOLVED*, the stockholders of Allergan request the preparation of a report, updated annually, disclosing:

1. Company policy and procedures governing lobbying, both direct and indirect, and grassroots lobbying communications.

2. Payments by Allergan used for (a) direct or indirect lobbying or (b) grassroots lobbying communications, in each case including the amount of the payment and the recipient.

3. Allergan’s membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation.

Your writer fails to understand how any of the above reconciles with Trinity’s five priorities listed above, and Trinity’s rationale doesn’t get any less murky: (more…)