Posted by Kendall Harmon

“Bankruptcy? Repossession? Charge-offs? Buy the car YOU deserve,” says the banner at the top of the Washington Auto Credit website. A stock photo of a woman with a beaming smile is overlaid with the promise of “100% guaranteed credit approval”.

On Wall Street they are smiling too, salivating over the prospect of borrowers taking Washington Auto Credit up on its enticing offer of auto financing. Every car loan advanced to a high-risk, subprime borrower can be bundled into bonds that are then sold on to yield-hungry investors.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted October 28, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon




Filed under: * Culture-WatchDrugs/Drug AddictionHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

0 Comments
Posted October 23, 2014 at 5:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon



Watch it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceThe Banking System/Sector* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted October 16, 2014 at 10:36 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Births outside of marriage are increasing most among those without college degrees and in cohabiting couples – as well as for those in their twenties, as Isabel Sawhill and Joanna Venator correctly note. This trend is driven as much by economic as social change, and so requires economic and well as social solutions.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyPsychologyYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

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Posted October 15, 2014 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

They have health insurance, but still no peace of mind. Overall, 1 in 4 privately insured adults say they doubt they could pay for a major unexpected illness or injury.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research may help explain why President Barack Obama faces such strong headwinds in trying to persuade the public that his health care law is holding down costs.

The survey found the biggest financial worries among people with so-called high-deductible plans that require patients to pay a big chunk of their medical bills each year before insurance kicks in.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinancePolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted October 14, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The court, now entering its second decade under Mr Justice Brian McGovern, has shone a light into some dark recesses of Ireland’s financial and business world, exposing greed and human misery on a grand scale alongside some shoddy and dubious, accounting, auditing, banking, business, legal, regulatory and stockbroking practices.

It has heard of property and other deals involving misappropriation, forged signatures, deceit, lies and secret profits; suspect property and money transfers aimed at avoiding repayment; exorbitant expenses for senior bankers; and slipshod and questionable loans, investments and valuations.

It has also shown existing laws provide limited opportunity to penalise some of these practices and revealed gaps in legislation on corporate crime, including the absence of an offence of reckless lending.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsPersonal FinanceStock MarketThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--Ireland* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted October 8, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Students from affluent families are taking out loans for college at twice the rate of two decades ago, the fasting-growing borrower’s group.

Fifty percent of graduates in the class of 2012 whose parents had incomes of more than $125,700 left college with loans, up from 24 percent about 20 years earlier, according to a study released today by the Pew Research Center. For graduates whose parental income was below $44,000, the rate rose to 77 percent from 67 percent.

“Across the spectrum, student debt has become an important way to pay for college and even graduates from well-off families rely on debt,” Richard Fry, an economist and primary author of the study, said in an e-mail.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationMarriage & FamilyYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal Finance* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted October 8, 2014 at 5:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The theme of this week’s annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank is shared prosperity. In years gone by, the Washington consensus was all about opening up markets and cutting public spending. The new Washington consensus is the need to tackle inequality.

Everybody is getting in on the act. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, will share a platform with Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, and Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, next weekend to discuss how to make global capitalism more inclusive.

The World Economic Forum – the body that organises the Davos shindig – thinks it can go one better. It is angling to get the pope along for its annual meeting in January.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted October 6, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The policies available on the Obamacare exchanges are hastening this trend. Many enrollees are opting for the bronze and silver plans, which often carry deductibles upwards of $5,000 and $2,000, respectively.

“The bronze plans are scaring a lot of administrators because the patient liability is so large,” said Debra Lowe, administrative director of revenue cycle at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. “Patients are unaware they have this high deductible.”

Upfront payments aren’t usually required, but more hospitals are asking patients to settle the bill in advance. If patients can’t afford the charges, some hospitals place them into financial assistance programs, such as payment plans or low-interest loans. Others help them sign up for Medicaid or individual coverage on the Obamacare exchanges. Patients can still opt to wait until after the bill goes through their insurance.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

0 Comments
Posted September 30, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The “squeezed middle” is being forced to endure a lower standard of living more than a decade on from the credit crunch, keeping consumer spending growth below pre-crisis levels.

The EY Item Club predicts that real take-home pay in 2017 will still be below the rate in 2007 because of subdued wage growth.

The economic forecaster’s report will make for uneasy reading for George Osborne as he prepares to address the Conservative party conference today, and it is compounded by further evidence from a free market think-tank of the existence of a “cost of living crisis”.

Read it all (requires subscription).



Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinancePolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 29, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

With Atlantic City casino revenue in a steep decline, last year New Jersey began offering online gambling to its citizens. It didn't help much, so now the state wants to take a bigger step.

Gov. Chris Christie has given the go-ahead for casinos and racetracks to offer sports betting, despite a 1992 federal law that bans the practice in all but four states where it previously existed. A federal judge will hear Christie's argument on Oct. 6. If he's successful, online sports gambling will surely follow.

New Jersey is a prime example of how states are the worst offenders in the world of gambling. They are both addicts and pushers. They throw temper tantrums and upset settled policy when their fix of gambling revenue runs low. And rather than compensating for the effects, they encourage their own citizens to gamble more and in different ways.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGamblingPoverty* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinancePolitics in GeneralState Government* TheologyPastoral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 27, 2014 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Fewer than one in five adults worldwide can be considered thriving -- or strong and consistent -- in levels of purpose well-being, as measured by the inaugural Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index in 2013. Residents living in the Americas are the most likely to be thriving in this element (37%), while those in Asia and the Middle East and North Africa are the least likely (13%).

The Global Well-Being Index measures each of the five elements of well-being -- purpose, social, financial, community, and physical - through Gallup's World Poll. Purpose well-being, which is defined as people liking what they do each day and being motivated to achieve their goals, was the lowest performing element of the five elements of well-being. Global results of how people fare in 135 countries and areas in this element, as well as the four other elements, have been compiled in the State of Global Well-Being report.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenGlobalizationMarriage & FamilyPsychologySociology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* TheologyAnthropology

0 Comments
Posted September 26, 2014 at 7:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Having served in urban ministry for over 30 years, I see our attention shifting away from planting churches in areas of poverty. In a time of economic struggle many urban churches have had to close their doors—both front and side. It’s possible to conclude that our past efforts were ineffective and created dependency. But every pastor I know who has worked in such ministries talks about lives changed for the better and leaders who were nurtured because the church was there with open doors. I fear we are giving up on such places.

Some of the most creative church starts today are what we call emergent communities. The ones that get the most attention are doing wonderful and essential work, especially in reaching people who have felt alienated from the church. Yet many of these people are the disaffected children of the demographic we’ve always served. We need more of these communities, but we also need to take some of that out-of-the-box vision and focus it on addressing the prevailing poor-door reality of our church.

Whenever I visit our congregation’s vice president and her family of four, I sit on the chair facing the lower bunk of their bed; the space is so tight that our knees touch. The parents sleep on the bottom bunk and the daughters (in college and high school) share the top. They live in a building where families of Mexican immigrants are squeezed into single-room cubicles without kitchen or closet and use a bathroom in the corridor with dozens of other people. This building sits in the shadow of a gleaming high-rise where the penthouse sold for millions. When I say, “in the shadow,” I mean on the same block, in eyesight of public housing projects and rent-stabilized middle-income apartments.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchPovertyPsychologyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal Finance* TheologyAnthropologyChristologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 20, 2014 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Federal Reserve took two steps toward winding down the historic easy-money policies that have defined its response to the financial crisis, but stopped short of the move markets are awaiting most: signaling when interest rates will start to rise.

With the economy gradually improving, U.S. central-bank officials plan to end the bond-buying program known as quantitative easing after October, hoping to finally stop expanding a six-year experiment in monetary policy that has left the Fed holding more than $4 trillion of Treasury and mortgage bonds.

The Fed on Wednesday also detailed a new technical plan for how it will raise short-term interest rates, something most officials currently don't intend to do until next year. The central bank has kept the federal-funds rate near zero since December 2008 and offered assurances along the way about rates remaining low, another part of its varied efforts to boost the post-financial-crisis economy.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Banking System/SectorThe U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 18, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Having spent most of his youth as a drug addict in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Turkey’s capital, Can did not think he had much to lose when he was smuggled into Syria with 10 of his childhood friends to join the world’s most extreme jihadist group.

After 15 days at a training camp in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto headquarters of the group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the 27-year-old Can was assigned to a fighting unit. He said he shot two men and participated in a public execution. It was only after he buried a man alive that he was told he had become a full ISIS fighter.

“When you fight over there, it’s like being in a trance,” said Can, who asked to be referred to only by his middle name for fear of reprisal. “Everyone shouts, ‘God is the greatest,’ which gives you divine strength to kill the enemy without being fazed by blood or splattered guts,” he said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolenceYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeTurkeyMiddle East* Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 17, 2014 at 3:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If the nation’s economy is on the mend, the voters of 2014 aren’t feeling it.

Despite continued signs of a halting but persistent national comeback, midterm voters remain frustrated and unhappy with the state of the economy, according to the latest POLITICO poll of likely voters in 2014 battleground states. Many appear to blame President Barack Obama: 57 percent of these voters disapprove of his economic leadership.

By every measure in the survey, a gloomy mood still pervades the electorate when it comes to kitchen-table issues: Just 23 percent say their personal financial situation has improved over the past year, versus 30 percent who say it has gotten worse.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinancePolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted September 15, 2014 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

With oil and natural gas production soaring in the US, consumers might expect lower prices at the pump and on their electric bills.

But that’s not happening. The summer driving season was the fourth most expensive on record, and residential electricity costs ballooned in the first half of 2014.

Meanwhile, US oil and natural gas production surges, fueled by innovative drilling in states like Texas, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania. Today, the US is the world’s largest producer of natural gas, and oil production rivals energy giants like Russia and Saudi Arabia.

So why are American consumers paying more, even as the supply of American fuel expands?

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceEnergy, Natural Resources* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

4 Comments
Posted September 7, 2014 at 11:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Next year, even more corporate workers are likely to be offered high-deductible plans — sometimes known more benignly as consumer-directed plans — and at a rising share of large companies, it will be the only option remaining.

Just as employers replaced pensions with retirement savings plans, more large companies appear to be in a similar cost-sharing shift with health plans. Besides making workers responsible for more of their care, employers hope these plans will motivate employees to comparison-shop for medical services — an admirable goal but one that some say is hard to achieve.

Several big companies started offering consumer-driven plans as their only option in the last couple of years, including JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, General Electric and Honeywell, among others; it is the only choice for Bank of America employees earning more than $100,000.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

0 Comments
Posted September 6, 2014 at 8:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The gap between the richest and poorest Americans widened even as the U.S. economic recovery gained traction in the years after the recession, the Federal Reserve said.

Average, or mean, pretax income for the wealthiest 10% of U.S. families rose 10% in 2013 from 2010, but families in the bottom 40% saw their average inflation-adjusted income decline over that period, according to the Fed's Survey of Consumer Finances, which is conducted every three years.

The report showed little change in average take-home pay for middle- and upper-middle-class families, who "failed to recover the losses experienced between 2007 and 2010," it said.

Overall, average income rose 4% from the 2010 survey while median—the midpoint with half higher and half lower—income fell 5%, "consistent with increasing income concentration during this period," the report said. Median income fell for every income bracket except the top 10%.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceThe U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted September 4, 2014 at 3:59 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Florida Blue, the state’s largest health insurer, is increasing premiums by an average of 17.6 percent for its Affordable Care Act exchange plans next year, company officials say.

The nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliate blames higher health costs that are a result of attracting older adults this year who previously lacked coverage and are using more services than expected.

Florida insurance regulators plan to release rate information for all companies next week. The exchange plans cover individuals who are not covered by employer-based policies.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsPersonal FinancePolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted August 3, 2014 at 12:28 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Dr. Bob Russo is sure of it. He's a radiologist and he's also the president-elect of the Connecticut State Medical Society. He says that the low rates and administrative burdens that come along with the ACA could make it a financial loser.

"You get what you pay for," he says. "If you can't convince [doctors] that they're not losing money doing their job, it's a problem. And they haven't been able to convince people of that."

He, like Counihan, worries about creating a tiered health care system. Think about Medicaid, he says. Before a recent rise in rates, it paid doctors even less than Medicare, so many stopped accepting Medicaid patients.

"There's no question that Medicaid, under its old rates, wasn't working," he says. "So, have we just invented a new Medicaid that kind of slid the scale up a little more to make access a little more?"

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceThe U.S. Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted August 3, 2014 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The income gap between rich and poor nations is more severe than the more highly publicized disparities between the top and bottom of the U.S. income ladder, according to a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

“While not to diminish the ample income inequality in the U.S., a focus on absolute inequality would suggest income disparity among the world’s population is a far greater concern,” write Lowell Ricketts and Christopher Waller, economic researchers at the St. Louis Fed.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaAsiaEngland / UKEuropeSouth America* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted August 2, 2014 at 3:49 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As you plan — or even go — on your summer vacation, think about this: More and more Americans are no longer taking a few weeks off to suntan and sight see abroad. Instead they're working in orphanages, building schools and teaching English.

It's called volunteer tourism or "volunteerism." And it's one of the fastest growing trends in travel today. More than 1.6 million volunteer tourists are spending about $2 billion each year.

But some people who work in the industry are skeptical of volunteerism's rising popularity. They question whether some trips help young adults pad their resumes or college applications more than they help those in need.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchCharities/Non-Profit OrganizationsMarriage & FamilyPsychologyReligion & CultureTravel* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted July 31, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At a Vatican conference held July 29 to mark the World Day Against Trafficking, a U.S. diplomat said that the scourge of modern slavery will not be ended until the economic attitudes that lead to human trafficking are changed.

“One cannot simply protect the victims, and bring the victims into a place of safety, if one doesn’t do anything to change the underlying cultural assumptions that help create and foster this slavery, this exploitation, if one does not change the underlying economic assumptions that treat people as commodities,” Luis CdeBaca, the U.S. ambassador at large for trafficking in persons, said July 29 via video conference.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireReligion & CultureSexualityViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceThe Banking System/SectorForeign RelationsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted July 31, 2014 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The single biggest cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States isn't job loss or irresponsible use of credit. It's medical expenses.

An analysis this year by NerdWallet Health found that about 60% of all bankruptcies are health related. And a comprehensive study by Harvard researchers who examined a large sample of 2007 bankruptcy filings found that, "using a conservative definition, 62.1% of all bankruptcies … were medical." That research, published in the American Journal of Medicine, found that most of these "medical debtors were well educated, owned homes and had middle-class occupations."

And although access to health insurance can help stave off medical debt, it doesn't solve the problem. About 10 million insured Americans have medical bills they are unable to pay. The Harvard researchers found that three-quarters of the medical debtors they studied had health insurance.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted July 24, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

t's not exactly "The Golden Girls," but for Marcia Rosenfeld, it'll do.

Rosenfeld is among thousands of aging Americans taking part in home-sharing programs around the country that allow seniors to stay in their homes and save money while getting some much-needed companionship.

"It's a wonderful arrangement," said the white-haired Rosenfeld, who when asked her age will only say she's a senior citizen. "The way the rents are these days, I couldn't stay here without it."

She shares her two-bedroom, $1,000-a-month Brooklyn apartment with Carolyn Allen, a 69-year-old widow who has suffered two strokes and no longer wants to live alone.

Agencies that put such seniors together say the need appears to be growing as baby boomers age and struggle to deal with foreclosures, property taxes and rising rents. The typical situation involves an elderly woman, widowed or divorced, who has a house or an apartment with extra room and needs help with the upkeep.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the Elderly* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted July 23, 2014 at 3:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"As many as 1 in 5 of the people in the top half of the tax credit range might actually end up having income that puts them out of the tax credit range, which means whopping bills at tax time," Brandes said. "We're talking about millions of people here."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted July 21, 2014 at 3:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Rodney Durham stopped working in 1991, declared bankruptcy and lives on Social Security. Nonetheless, Wells Fargo lent him $15,197 to buy a used Mitsubishi sedan.

“I am not sure how I got the loan,” Mr. Durham, age 60, said.

Mr. Durham’s application said that he made $35,000 as a technician at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, N.Y., according to a copy of the loan document. But he says he told the dealer he hadn’t worked at the hospital for more than three decades. Now, after months of Wells Fargo pressing him over missed payments, the bank has repossessed his car.

This is the face of the new subprime boom. Mr. Durham is one of millions of Americans with shoddy credit who are easily obtaining auto loans from used-car dealers, including some who fabricate or ignore borrowers’ abilities to repay.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted July 20, 2014 at 12:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ms. Yellen, in downplaying concerns about financial stability, said the economic recovery remained incomplete and the Fed’s help was necessary.

“Too many Americans remain unemployed, inflation remains below our longer-run objective and not all of the necessary financial reform initiatives have been completed,” Ms. Yellen told the Senate Banking Committee.

Ms. Yellen’s testimony is likely to reinforce a sense of complacency among investors who regard the Fed as convinced of its forecast and committed to its policy course. She reiterated the Fed’s view that the economy will continue to grow at a moderate pace, and that the Fed is in no hurry to start increasing short-term interest rates.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

0 Comments
Posted July 15, 2014 at 12:47 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The hole at the cemetery was dug. The flowers had arrived, family and friends had gathered, food was ready for the reception. All that was missing was the deceased. Doris Davis could not make her own funeral.

Ms. Davis, 92, was born here, died here and wanted to be buried here. But the island’s only funeral home had closed in January. Since then, the bodies of the dead have had to be shipped by ferry, a two-and-a-half hour ride across Nantucket Sound, to be embalmed at a funeral home on the Cape Cod mainland and then brought back by ferry for burial.

But on Feb. 14, the day of Ms. Davis’s funeral, New England was digging out from a huge snowstorm and bracing for the next. Foul weather forced the cancellation of the ferry that was to bring Ms. Davis home. Her body spent almost a month on the mainland at the funeral home, but suspended in what her daughter called a heartbreaking limbo.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureRural/Town Life* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal Finance* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted July 14, 2014 at 4:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Tonight we're about to take you to the place where hundreds of thousands come every year for a tempting bargain. But is it really worth it?

You're about to meet a woman who flew 6,000 milines to get what she really wants, but is it worth it? If plastic surgery had a Mecca, it would be the ritzy district of South Korea. Everywhere you look there are women seemingly trying to look like the plastic doll-like plastic people here.

Thousands travel to Korea from all over the globe to go under the knife. I think the results would be here in Korea because they know the asian face better. Reporter: The plastic surgeons in Korea are regarded as among the best in the world that attracts clients like this lady.

Read or watch it all (note the transcript link at the bottom of the page).

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineWomenYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryAsiaSouth Korea* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted July 12, 2014 at 1:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Church Commissioners for England are pleased to announce that their indirect investment exposure to Wonga in their venture capital portfolio has been removed. The Church Commissioners no longer have any financial or any other interest in Wonga.

The terms ensure that the Church Commissioners have not made any profit from their investment exposure to Wonga.

At no time have the Commissioners invested directly in Wonga or in other pay day lenders. The indirect exposure of the Commissioners through pooled funds represented considerably less than 0.01% of the value of Wonga.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceStock MarketThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted July 11, 2014 at 6:10 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Church of England has jettisoned its stake in the payday lender Wonga, finally distancing itself from the firm it accused of exploiting the poor.

The move by the Church’s financial arm, the Church Commissioners, represents a victory for the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby who has waged a high-profile campaign against high interest lenders.

He faced acute embarrassment last summer when, just a day after the publication of an interview in which he spoke of hoping to force Wonga out of business, it emerged that the Church’s financial arm, the Church Commissioners, had an indirect investment in the company....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 10, 2014 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For many members of the class of 2014 who borrowed money to attend college, the clock is ticking on what is likely to be their biggest expense after graduation.

They'll have to start paying back their federal student loans in November or December—as the six-month grace period that lenders give new grads comes to an end. But depending on their income—or lack of income, if they're still looking for work—some borrowers may be eligible for much lower payments than they'd anticipated.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationLaw & Legal IssuesYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinancePolitics in General

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Posted July 9, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Most Rev is on track-ish. But like many commentators and politicians, he has not done his segmentation analysis to A-grade standard. His focus is too much on the "what" and not enough on the "for whom", which is a marketing motherhood error.

The Archbishop's concern is mainly with the grip of poverty that forces the zero-income, deprived and desperate sections of society deeper into the darkness of debt. He is bringing his formidable intelligence and experience to bear in highlighting their plight and is contributing significantly to bringing them alternative and better support. To have an Anglican Primate showing the wit and will to do more than posture and politicise, is a refreshing novelty for the Church of England. His ideas around the Credit Champions Network and for using the churches as financial advisory centres for those in poverty are genuinely original. After all, when Jesus threw over the tables of money-changers in the temple of Jerusalem, he didn't specifically object to advisory-only services.

But, knowingly or not, The Archbishop is nonetheless grossly over simplifying the situation by claiming that the Credit Unions' "responsible credit and saving are real alternatives to the services currently provided by payday lenders".

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchPovertyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

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Posted July 8, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

U.S. food prices are on the rise, raising a sensitive question: When the cost of a hamburger patty soars, does it count as inflation?

It does to everyone who eats and especially poorer Americans, whose food costs absorb a larger portion of their income. But central bankers take a more nuanced view. They sometimes look past food-price increases that appear temporary or isolated while trying to control broad and long-term inflation trends, not blips that might soon reverse.

The Federal Reserve faces an especially important challenge now as it mulls the long-standing dilemma of what to make of the price of a pork chop.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDieting/Food/NutritionGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceThe U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve

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Posted July 7, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While Wonga may not be at the most aggressive end of the payday loan spectrum, its “in-your-face” approach has made it the face of the post-crisis explosion in high-cost consumer credit. The volume of payday loans, designed to tide the borrower over to the next pay cheque, more than tripled in the UK between 2007 and 2013 as the economy soured and mainstream banks withdrew from riskier areas of consumer credit.

The growth in such lending may be a classic post-bubble phenomenon, and the less well-off do sometimes need access to short-term credit to deal with unexpected shocks, but most people are made understandably uneasy by the idea of encouraging those of slender means to borrow expensively to finance elective consumption. Against this background, calls for tighter regulation have fallen on fertile ground.

As the sector’s most visible lender, Wonga has become a focus for public disapprobation. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has condemned Wonga for usurious practices and called for it to be competed “out of existence”....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceThe Banking System/Sector* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted July 3, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Traci Butler and her husband cut out vacations after the U.S. recession five years ago. This week, the couple is taking their two boys on a weeklong trip that includes a July 4th visit to the nation’s capital, just a few weeks after touring Italy on their own.

In the aftermath of the recession, “things were much tighter,” said Butler, a special education teacher from Washington, Illinois, whose husband works for construction machinery maker Caterpillar Inc. “We didn’t have bonuses for a while. The last two years have been better.”

About 34.8 million people plan to drive 50 miles or more from home during the five days ending July 6, up from 34.1 million last year and the most since 2007, AAA, the biggest U.S. motoring organization, said June 26. The travel recovery is boosting sales for hotels and attractions, a sign that consumer confidence and consumer spending are on the mend, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyTravel* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

1 Comments
Posted July 2, 2014 at 2:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a speech in Westminster, Welby pointed out that loan sharks sometimes turn up with baseball bats if customers do not pay. It now turns out that Wonga sends out menacing letters from non-existent solicitors if its customers miss their repayments.

And, herein lies the problem for the Church of England. Its Church Commissioners arm has a £100,000 stake in Wonga – albeit less than it was but a stake nonetheless, held through the Accel Partners investment vehicle which backed one of the payday lenders' funding rounds.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceStock MarketThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 27, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There have been a number of what I am going to rather rudely describe as - am I? I always get into trouble when I do this - challenges, I am not going to be so rude, challenges in the regulatory system and across the process. I want to pick up on three or four particularly. First of all, leverage and capital adequacy. Leverage is the very quick and dirty calculation of the amount of equity there is to the amount of debt there is in a bank. At one point in one of the major banks, RBS in early 2008, it had 2% of capital to 98% of debt. That means you make a very small mistake and you are bust; if you make a big mistake, you are very, very, very bust.

Lehman was geared at 1% to 99% when it failed. The Banking Standards Commission recommended 4%. The banking industry pushed very hard and the Government settled on 3%.

Many of us on the Banking Standards Commission felt that was too low and continue to feel it is too low. Pressure from the banking industry in the European system within the Eurozone has overturned the recommendations in the Liikanen Report and again there has been a push back on the level of leverage. Banks in the UK at the moment are running at around 3.5%-4%. In the States they are talking about aiming for 5%-6%. The economic impact of that is obviously to restrict the banks’ appetite for lending. They have to have more capital. They can either do it by raising more capital, which is quite difficult, or by reducing their loan book. Those are the only two ways in which you do it. Reducing your loan book, if you have a fixed amount of capital that you have to have, you may as well make the most you can from it so necessarily you lend to the high-risk/high-return clients and particularly mortgages get squeezed. It is a conundrum.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 26, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The District of Columbia Council on Tuesday approved a "yoga tax" on gymnasiums and yoga classes that has angered fitness buffs in the U.S. capital.

The Democratic-controlled council voted 12-1 to give final approval to a $10.6 billion budget for 2015 that included a sales tax on gyms, yoga studios and other athletic businesses, a spokeswoman for Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said.

The budget also includes a substantial income tax cut that would be offset by expanding the existing 5.75 percent sales tax to such services as tanning salons, health clubs, car washes and bowling alleys. The move is expected to raise $5 million a year.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in GeneralCity Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 26, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Despite Americans being more secure in their jobs and more comfortable with their debt since the recession ended, their savings capacity remains weak even among those with highest-income household. Only 46% of those with annual income of $75,000 or above have enough savings to cover six months of expenses.

“People are not making progress. Incomes are stagnating and expenses are high,” said Greg McBride, Bankrate.com’s chief financial analyst. He said that many people are still struggling with payments from the past years and high household costs.

The report also indicates that the segment of the population aged between 30 and 49 are the most likely to have no emergency fund compared with younger people. “That is alarming because those are the people with a house, two cars and a dog but still with no emergency savings. You need emergency savings,” he added.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted June 25, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From a Christian point of view, within the context of the church, this drive that we feel to engage 16,000 parish churches and 8,500 full-time stipendiary clergy in this springs from our sense of our faith. There’s a story that Jesus tells of two debtors, one who owes a huge sum of money, one who owes a little. The one who owes a huge sum of money is summoned by his creditor, who says, 'You’re going to pay or you’re going to prison.’ The guy begs for forgiveness and gets it, and goes away and beats up the guy who owes him a little sum of money in order to get repaid, and Jesus points out the injustice of that.

There are a lot of meanings to that parable, but one of them is that debt is a form of slavery - and debt to a bad lender is a particularly unendurable form of slavery. The credit unions are trying to be the merciful lender, the one who has a clear system of values and ethics, and builds what they do around a value of the common good.

We’ve seen a huge increase in people’s knowledge about the existence of credit unions. In the past there have been three significant areas of challenge. First of all, as you know the regulatory system was virtually impossible for a credit union to make any money in in other words to pay its cost of capital and therefore to survive. They all needed subsidy – that can’t work, it’s not sustainable. Secondly, credit unions needed a lot of help and support in some of their systems and the way they worked. And thirdly, they weren’t known.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 12, 2014 at 5:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A rap song aimed at warning young people about the possible dangers of pay day lenders is released today.

Inspired by the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments on responsible lending, songwriter and music producer Charles Bailey approached the Church of England with the idea for the rap.

The song, called "We Need a Union on the Streets" by Charles Bailey, feat. Question Musiq and Delilah also features Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com and tells the stories of young people who get into debt because of payday loans with high interest rates. It aims to highlight credit unions as a better way to borrow.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchMusicReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

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Posted June 11, 2014 at 12:49 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Four armed men ransacked Antony Akatakpo’s home in front of his wife and two children in the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt, shot him in the leg and bundled him into the trunk of his Mitsubishi Endeavor.

Akatakpo, the 34-year-old breakfast show presenter at Wazobia FM who’s known as Diplomatic Akas Baba, was driven to a forest hideout and held blindfolded for a week, fed on plain bread and threatened with death unless his family paid a 10 million naira ($61,289) ransom. He said he was dumped on a city highway on March 20 after the gunmen received less than half the sum they demanded.

“I was praying and calling on God to help me, rescue me,” he said by phone from Port Harcourt, the hub of Africa’s biggest oil industry in southeastern Nigeria. “They wanted to collect their own share of the money I was making for my family.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyTeens / YouthViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 11, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Primate of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) and Bishop of Northern Zambia, the Most Revd Albert Chama explained the purpose of the workshop during the opening ceremony held June 6 at the Chamba Valley Exotic Hotel in Lusaka.

He said: "One of the things which the church in Africa grapples with has to do with the financial sustainability of the church. However, this workshop is not about lecturing but learning from what has been done somewhere."

Archbishop Chama challenged the participants to "open their hearts and minds" and learn from one another. He also emphasised that for the Church in Africa to be successful, there is need to learn from what other dioceses have successfully done and replicate it in their own areas.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryAfricaZambia* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

1 Comments
Posted June 10, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This artificial conception of money perhaps lies behind the pathological tendencies of high finance which are destructive of real wealth. Our governments and finance sectors are so often permitted to act in a criminal manner because we assume that money is amoral, disconnected from any right order, and thus open to manipulation by the masters of high finance. If we are to change this situation in a lasting way, we need to change the way we think about money, wealth and power.

We are not, of course, going to banish extortion or amoral instrumentalism just by having better metaphysics. Criminals, extortionist and abusers of power were as common and as powerful in the Middle Ages as they are today. Yet if we do not appreciate the relationship between the prevailing order of wealth and power and the metaphysical assumptions upon which they rest, we will be condemned to repeat the same cycle of inequity and instability.

The main game, indeed, is the struggle for our minds. Plato saw this most clearly. As long as we believe that illusions are reality, we are controlled by those who manipulate the collective illusions that structure the operational norms of the world as we know it.

How do we get money tied to the realities of real human life so that it becomes a fair function of the actual production and distribution of real wealth?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 10, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Book authors Mian and Sufi] argue that, rather than failing banks, the key culprits in the financial crisis were overly indebted households. Resurrecting arguments that go back at least to Irving Fisher and that were emphasised by Richard Koo in considering Japan’s stagnation, Mian and Sufi highlight how harsh leverage and debt can be – for example, when the price of a house purchased with a 10 per cent downpayment goes down by 10 per cent, all of the owner’s equity is lost. They demonstrate powerfully that spending fell much more in parts of the country where house prices fell fastest and where the most mortgage debt was attached to homes. So their story of the crisis blames excessive mortgage lending, which first inflated bubbles in the housing market and then left households with unmanageable debt burdens. These burdens in turn led to spending reductions and created an adverse economic and financial spiral that ultimately led financial institutions to the brink.

This interpretation resolves the anomalies that Mian and Sufi highlight. Households do not spend while they are still overly indebted, which precipitates slow growth even after banking is restored to health. Spending slowdowns are caused by household over-indebtedness, so of course they precede problems in the banking system. And, when consumers do not spend, businesses have less need to borrow to finance investment, inventories or receivables.

Their analysis, presented with far more depth and subtlety than I have been able to reflect here, is a major contribution that furthers our understanding of the crisis. It certainly affects what I will examine in trying to predict and forestall future crises. And it should influence policies aimed at crisis prevention by demonstrating the insufficiency of keeping financial institutions healthy and by making a case for macroprudential measures directed at preventing runaway growth in household debt.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentFederal ReserveTreasury Secretary Timothy Geithner* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 8, 2014 at 11:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The summer driving season is upon us, a time when road-trip dreams meet the open road. There’s just one thing standing in the way: the gas station.

Think filling up is expensive? It’s all relative. The cost of filling up the 39-gallon tank of a Chevrolet Suburban in [one country] is $381.81. In [another country], it’s just $1.56.

Read it all and try to guess your country's rank before you look. Note also that the % of an average daily wage for one gallon of gas is yet another difference across the globe.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceEnergy, Natural Resources* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted June 5, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

With five months to go until the Affordable Care Act’s 2015 open enrollment season, states that had troubled exchanges during the inaugural sign-up period are scrambling to either upgrade their sites or transition to the federal exchange—all on the taxpayer’s dime.

A new analysis from the Wall Street Journal finds that the cost for Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada and Oregon to overhaul their exchanges or transition to healthcare.gov will be as high as $240 million in total.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenateState Government* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 4, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When 83-year-old Maybell Prewette spent one night in an Eden, N.C., hospital a few years ago because she felt dizzy, she was stunned to find out that a couple puffs of allergy nasal spray cost her more than $600.

Medicare didn't cover the prescription because Prewette was never admitted as a patient at the hospital.

Instead, she was kept overnight for observation. The federal Medicare program doesn't cover the cost of drugs self-administered by "observation status" patients.

Prewette called her local pharmacy after she was discharged and discovered it charges $30 for the same nasal spray. The hospital marked the medicine up 2,000 percent.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceThe U.S. GovernmentMedicare* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted June 2, 2014 at 3:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The bond markets have grasped something that continues to elude many economists. We live in a confused world. Yet the underlying story is simple. The US middle continues to hollow out, even as the economy continues to grow.

But the latter’s upside is limited by the crisis in the former. Unless the middle class starts to post healthy income gains, we will be stuck in what has been annoyingly named the “new normal”.

Neither the Democratic nor the Republican party – nor most of their European counterparts – appears to have an answer. President Barack Obama pushes for a higher minimum wage, which would certainly help the poorest sections of the US labour force. But it would do nothing to fix the central problem. And Republicans keep arguing for lower taxes on the wealth creators. Ditto. They have argued each other to a standstill.

Both parties might find it instructive to look north to Canada, which has endured its harshest winter in 20 years.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceStock MarketThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 1, 2014 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Diocese of Gloucester has stepped in to help support the two remaining credit unions in Gloucestershire.

The diocese has given struggling Gloucestershire Credit Union £4,000 and is helping another to "grow capacity".

It follows the launch of the Church of England scheme to promote the use of credit unions over payday lenders.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 31, 2014 at 12:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A rebound in house prices and near-record-low interest rates are prompting homeowners to borrow against their properties, marking the return of a practice that was all the rage before the financial crisis.

Home-equity lines of credit, or Helocs, and home-equity loans jumped 8% in the first quarter from a year earlier, industry newsletter Inside Mortgage Finance said Thursday. The $13 billion extended was the most for the start of a year since 2009. Inside Mortgage Finance noted the bulk of the home-equity originations were Helocs.

While that is still far below the peak of $113 billion during the third quarter of 2006, this year's gains are the latest evidence that the tight credit conditions that have defined mortgage lending in recent years are starting to loosen. Some lenders are even reviving old loan products that haven't been seen in years in an attempt to gain market share.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 30, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is a privilege to be able to speak to you today on such an important topic.

Financial distress is one of the principle causes of social detriment. Archbishop Justin has emphasised that helping alleviate financial distress should be central to the Church's mission.

A few statistics to remind us why:

the debt of the average UK household, excluding mortgages, is now almost £13,000

7 million people are using high cost credit providers

1m payday loans are taken out each month

1.4 m people have no bank account

These statistics are in themselves justification for action, but for me, even more concerning is encountering the impact of financial distress at the personal level.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceThe Banking System/Sector* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 28, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

India, a giant economic mediocrity, is cursed by having too many economists. Its outgoing prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has a doctorate from Oxford, ran the central bank in the 1980s and led the liberalisation programme that India put in place in 1991 after a currency crisis. Yet as prime minister Mr Singh had little grip or public support, serving at the pleasure of Sonia Gandhi, the populist leader of the Congress party. By the end of his ten-year term he admitted he had failed. In August, as the rupee tumbled, he addressed a gathering of India’s policymaking elite at his house in Delhi. The economy faced “very difficult circumstances”, he whispered.

Mr Singh’s successor could not be more different. Narendra Modi’s economic views have been formed while running the business-friendly state of Gujarat for the past 12 years. Asked some time ago about his economic influences, he described his homespun framework, jotting diagrams on a pad as he spoke. He has studied Singapore and China, but thinks that “India is a democracy and has different requirements”. Striking a balance between farming, small firms and global companies is required, with limited but muscular administration and populist appeal: “Men, machines and money must work together.”

Having run Gujarat well, Mr Modi now faces the far harder task of running India. He has big advantages—administrative competence, control over his party and a majority in Parliament—that should ease decision-making. Unlike Mr Singh, he has also campaigned and won on a platform of aspiration and economic reform. India needs “less government and more governance”, he declared on the campaign trail.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaIndia* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 27, 2014 at 7:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The most important change in the world over the past 30 years has been the rise of China. The increase in its average annual GDP per head from around $300 to $6,750 over the period has not just brought previously unimagined prosperity to hundreds of millions of people, but has also remade the world economy and geopolitics.

India’s GDP per head was the same as China’s three decades ago. It is now less than a quarter of the size. Despite a couple of bouts of reform and spurts of growth, India’s economy has never achieved the momentum that has dragged much of East Asia out of poverty. The human cost, in terms of frustrated, underemployed, ill-educated, unhealthy, hungry people, has been immense.

Now, for the first time ever, India has a strong government whose priority is growth. Narendra Modi, who leads the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has won a tremendous victory on the strength of promising to make India’s economy work. Although we did not endorse him, because we believe that he has not atoned sufficiently for the massacre of Muslims that took place in Gujarat while he was chief minister, we wish him every success: an Indian growth miracle would be a great thing not just for Indians, but also for the world.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceForeign RelationsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsHinduismIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 23, 2014 at 6:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Obama administration has quietly adjusted key provisions of its signature healthcare law to potentially make billions of additional taxpayer dollars available to the insurance industry if companies providing coverage through the Affordable Care Act lose money.

The move was buried in hundreds of pages of new regulations issued late last week. It comes as part of an intensive administration effort to hold down premium increases for next year, a top priority for the White House as the rates will be announced ahead of this fall's congressional elections.

Administration officials for months have denied charges by opponents that they plan a "bailout" for insurance companies providing coverage under the healthcare law.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinancePolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology


Posted May 22, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Marina has it all. She has the job, she has the looks, and, depending on her mood, she has her choice of Frankie the acrobatic dancer, Harrison the revolutionary or Eric the actor.

Marina is using a service called Rent-A-Gent. Starting at $200 an hour, users can pick from a list of handsome, intelligent men listed on the service’s website to be their companion and either book online or call to reserve a “gent.” The men can serve as a date to an event, cook meals or even repair a sink.

But what they are not allowed to do is hook-up -- no kissing, and definitely no sex, while on the job.

Marina ended up choosing Eric, whose Rent-A-Gent profile described him as someone who “loves the outdoors, culture and also active and social causes,” for a rock-climbing date -- something she had never done before but always wanted to try.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMenWomenYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal Finance* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 21, 2014 at 5:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nearly 10 million U.S. households remain stuck in homes worth less than their mortgage and a similar number have so little equity they can't meet the expenses of selling a home, trends that help explain recent sluggishness in the housing recovery.

At the end of the first quarter, some 18.8% of U.S. homeowners with a mortgage—9.7 million households—were "underwater" on their mortgage, according to a report scheduled for release Tuesday by real-estate information site Zillow Inc. Z +3.48% While that is an improvement from 19.4% at the end of last year and a peak of 31.4% 2012, those figures understate the problem.

In addition to the homeowners who are underwater, roughly 10 million households have 20% or less equity in their homes, which makes it difficult for them to sell their homes without dipping into their savings.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 20, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Twenty percent of Americans name unemployment or jobs as the most important problem facing the country in May, up from 14% who mentioned these issues in April. Dysfunctional government (19%) and the economy in general (17%) also rank among the top problems.

Read it all

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

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Posted May 19, 2014 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Years before Narendra Modi won this month’s election that now allows him to become India’s next leader, the former tea-stall worker asked this question on behalf of the world’s second most-populous nation:

“It is often said that India does not dream big and that is the root cause of all our problems. Why can’t we dream like China, Europe or America?”

Note how Mr. Modi compares India to other continental powers. This reveals just how much today’s 1.25 billion Indians, who are digitally hitched to the global flow of ideas, have adopted new views of their capacity for progress – not only for India but for themselves.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceForeign RelationsPolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 19, 2014 at 5:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ali Husain is a prosperous young Indian Muslim businessman. He recently bought a Mercedes and lives in a suburban-style gated community that itself sits inside a ghetto.

In Gujarat, it is so difficult for Muslims to buy property in areas dominated by Hindus even the community's fast-growing urban middle class is confined to cramped and decrepit corners of cities.

Husain embodies the paradox of Gujarat: the state's pro-business leadership has created opportunities for entrepreneurs of all creeds; yet religious prejudice and segregation are deeply, and even legally, engrained.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesPsychologyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryAsiaIndia* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsHinduismIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 18, 2014 at 5:08 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Danielle Wagasky, a stay-at-home wife and mother of two, has managed to stretch $14,000 a year to cover her family’s needs for the past five years. That’s less than a third of the $50,000 median household income in the U.S.

And, perhaps a little surprisingly, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wagasky, 29, lives with her husband Jason, 32, and their two young children ages 9 and 7, in a three-bedroom family home in Henderson, Nevada. While Jason, a member of the U.S. Army, has been completing his undergraduate studies, the family’s only source of income is the $14,000 annual cost of living allowance he receives under the G.I. Bill.

Despite all odds, the family has barely any credit debt, no car payment, and no mortgage to speak of.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetChildrenMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyPersonal Finance

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Posted May 18, 2014 at 3:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Robert] Putnam has spent much of his academic life as America’s chief chronicler of declining social institutions — a dour task, cheerfully performed. In the 1990s, he began drawing together the disparate evidence of declining attendance at bowling leagues, church services and Moose lodges. His data points included the falloff in yearly picnic attendance and a rise in the incidence of drivers giving each other the finger.

It was the composite image of one of the most powerful forces of modernity: a rising individualism that “liberates” people from social commitments that make their lives orderly and pleasant.

Even worse, the extent of this trend is not distributed equally in society. Putnam’s recent work — to be summarized in a forthcoming book called “Our Kids” — focuses on how the consequences of institutional decline are felt disproportionately among the working class, leaving vast numbers of youths disconnected from the promise of American life.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureSociology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 17, 2014 at 9:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Narendra Modi, the man most likely to become India’s next prime minister, has a wicked turn of phrase. In one of his most memorable remarks, he subverted his strong association with Hindu asceticism by declaring his support for “toilets before temples”. The same phrase, spoken by a Congress party cabinet minister, had provoked outrage from the Bharatiya Janata party of which Mr Modi is head. The BJP said the remark threatened to “destroy the fine fabric of religion and faith”. But the party hierarchy, knowing that its fate depends on the so-called “Modi wave”, barely demurred when its candidate adopted the slogan as his own.

The BJP leader is quite right to declare that India should spend less money on devotion and more on sanitation. According to 2011 census data, nearly half of households have no access to a toilet, forcing inhabitants to defecate in the open. More Indians own a mobile phone than a lavatory of their own. Poor hygiene, not lack of food, is the main reason that 40 per cent of children are malnourished. Much of Mr Modi’s appeal, which has swept through India like a brush fire, lies in his promise to conjure the growth that will eradicate such dire conditions and set his supporters on the road to a middle-class life.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinancePolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAsiaIndia* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsHinduism* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 14, 2014 at 6:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Americans made more progress in repairing their postrecession finances and have increased their overall borrowing, yet they are also showing an aversion to credit cards and new mortgages that could hinder the economic recovery.

Household debt—including mortgages, credit cards, auto loans and student loans—rose $129 billion between January and March to $11.65 trillion, new figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed Tuesday. That was the third consecutive quarterly increase.

Behind the uptick: Mortgage balances—which make up the bulk of U.S. household debt—rose $116 billion to $8.2 trillion, thanks in part to fewer people going into foreclosure, which drags down mortgage debt. Auto-loan balances grew $12 billion to $875 billion. Student-loan balances increased $31 billion to $1.1 trillion, maintaining its place as the fastest-growing debt category.

Read it all and the picture of the incredible graph on student loan explosion is there.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineMarriage & FamilyPsychologyStress* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 14, 2014 at 8:08 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the first large-scale study to directly measure wasteful spending in Medicare, researchers found that Medicare spent $1.9 billion in 2009 for patients to receive any of 26 tests and procedures that have been shown by empirical studies to offer little or no health benefit.

By analyzing Medicare claims data, researchers in the Harvard Medical School Department of Health Care Policy found that at least one in four Medicare recipients received one or more of these services in 2009. What’s more, those 26 services are just a small sample of the hundreds of services that are known to provide little or no medical value to patients in many circumstances.

“We suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said study author J. Michael McWilliams, associate professor of health care policy. The study appears today in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareThe National DeficitPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 13, 2014 at 5:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The freeway exits around here are dotted with people asking for money, holding cardboard signs to tell their stories. The details vary only slightly and almost invariably include: Laid off. Need food. Young children.

Mary Carmen Acosta often passes the silent beggars as she enters parking lots to sell homemade ice pops, known as paletas, in an effort to make enough money to get food for her family of four. On a good day she can make $100, about double what she spends on ingredients. On a really good day, she pockets $120, the extra money offering some assurance that she will be able to pay the $800 monthly rent for her family’s three-bedroom apartment. Sometimes, usually on mornings too cold to sell icy treats, she imagines what it would be like to stand on an exit ramp herself.

“Everyone here knows they might have to be like that,” said Ms. Acosta, 40, neatly dressed in slacks and a chiffon blouse, as she waited for help from a local charity in this city an hour’s drive east of Los Angeles. Both she and her husband, Sebastian Plancarte, lost their jobs nearly three years ago. “Each time I see them I thank God for what we do have. We used to have a different kind of life, where we had nice things and did nice things. Now we just worry.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 11, 2014 at 4:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nearly 2.5 million children are living in families struggling with "problem debt", according to a report.

The Children's Society and StepChange debt charity say many families are in an "extremely precarious" position and taking out loans to pay for the basics.

The stress of keeping up with repayments leads to arguments, emotional distress for children and even bullying, the charities say.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)Archbishop of York John Sentamu* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyPoverty* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK

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Posted May 8, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Breakthroughs in IVF could ‘threaten our humanity’ by prompting parents to demand designer babies, Robert Winston has warned.

The fertility pioneer said that he feared a time when the rich could alter the appearance and ability of children by tinkering with their genes.

And he claimed a ‘toxic’ climate had been created by the desperation of childless couples and the pace of scientific developments in the booming IVF industry.

Warning of a resurgence in eugenics, the broadcaster and Labour peer said there was a ‘real risk that we could see that kind of attitude in our humanity occurring again’.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal IssuesLife EthicsMarriage & FamilyScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 8, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If realized, the larger move to marketplace coverage would shift more of the cost and responsibility for employee health insurance to workers themselves.

"Once a few notable companies start to depart form their traditional approach to health care benefits, it's likely that a substantial number of firms could quickly follow suit," the report noted. "The result would be a dramatic departure from the legacy employer/employee payroll deduction benefit provision relationship, and could quickly be the modern day equivalent of companies moving from defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution programs."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe U.S. Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 7, 2014 at 5:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Premature withdrawals from retirement accounts have become America’s new piggy bank, cracked open in record amounts during lean times by people like Cindy Cromie, who needed the money to rent a U-Haul and start a new life.

Her employer, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, had outsourced Cromie’s medical transcription work. Cromie said the move cut her income by as much as 60 percent, at times leaving her with minimum-wage pay.

So, last year, at age 56, she moved about 90 miles from her home in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, into her mother’s basement. To make ends meet as she moved and then quit the job, Cromie pulled out $2,767 from her retirement savings.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinancePensions* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the Elderly* Economics, PoliticsEconomyHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

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Posted May 5, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Consider Monica (not her real name), the African American mother of two daughters. An immigrant from Cote d’Ivoire, she is an American success story, gaining her citizenship and raising two daughters on her own. One is a college junior, the other a high school senior trying to decide between colleges.

Before getting married in July, Monica’s income made her eligible for financial aid which brought her yearly tuition liability to $15,000. If she had not got married, her per-student tuition liability would have likely remained the same, so she would have been responsible for $30,000 a year for both of her daughters combined.

Instead, her daughter’s university wants her to contribute $25,000 for each child because of her new husband’s income. This increase happened even though Monica’s new husband is not the biological or legal father of her daughters, and he has children of his own to support.

Cohabitation without marriage pays.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenEducationMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted May 2, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The U.S. economy slowed in the first quarter to one of the weakest paces of the five-year recovery as the frigid winter appeared to have curtailed business investment and weakness overseas hurt exports.

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, advanced at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.1% in the first quarter, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast growth at a 1.1% pace for the quarter.

The broad slowdown to start the year halted what had been improving economic momentum during much of 2013. In the second half of last year, the economy expanded at a 3.4% pace. The first quarter reading fell far below even the lackluster average annual gain of near 2% since the recession ended.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

1 Comments
Posted April 30, 2014 at 7:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An increase in the cost of funerals has left many families under "huge strain" to pay for them, according to a report.

The Church of Scotland's report showed that in some areas charges have increased by almost 300% in five years.

The average increase was found to be 62% from five years ago, with a 36% rise in the past three years.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--Scotland* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted April 29, 2014 at 5:46 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...there’s a difference between consumer-driven clutter and the hoarding of HGTV that stems from deep psychological trauma. But truth be told, as 2014 began, I’d begun to feel as if moss were gradually growing over my life, the rooms around me narrowed by the presence of things that burdened rather than blessed my existence.

As Easter approached, a pledge formed. I promised myself that day by day, I’d say goodbye to at least one book no longer read, or shirt no longer worn, or tool no longer used. My inspiration came from the writer Elizabeth Bishop, who famously urged her readers in a poem called “One Art” to “lose something every day.”

Bishop’s poem is about a great many things, including the maturity that comes from deep loss. But on one level, it can be read as a hymn to traveling light. What Bishop seems to say is that losing what we own can be a form of liberation, allowing us to move more freely toward fresh possibilities. It’s an idea as old as the Scriptures, at the heart of Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden,” and as topical as the latest blog post about simple living.

But like any ideal, household economy is easier embraced than achieved, as I quickly discovered during my 40-Days-to-a-Thinner-House Plan.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal Finance* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 29, 2014 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"While the economy is recovering and families are beginning to have more financial flexibility, they are still very cautious when making major purchases. If they can spend less, but still get something very tasteful and befitting their loved one, a family may choose that option," says Jessica Koth, spokeswoman for the National Funeral Directors Association.

And if any movement is changing the monument business most, it is the huge rise in cremations.

Today, about 43 percent of people are cremated. Compare that to 2000 when only one in four people were cremated. In 1970, fewer than 5 percent of people were cremated.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* South Carolina* TheologyAnthropologyEschatology

1 Comments
Posted April 28, 2014 at 3:12 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Johnsons both work, earning $90,000 between them, not a princely sum but one that places the couple squarely in the middle of household incomes for the Washington region. But for the Johnsons and many other American families, being middle class means living paycheck to paycheck.

The couple’s retirement savings are meager. The college fund? Nonexistent.

The Johnsons, whose blended family includes three children under 18, are part of a drawn-out, disquieting shift that is recasting what it means to be middle class in America.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted April 27, 2014 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mortgage lending declined to the lowest level in 14 years in the first quarter as homeowners pulled back sharply from refinancing and house hunters showed little appetite for new loans, the latest sign of how rising interest rates have dented the housing recovery.

Lenders originated $235 billion in mortgage loans during the January-March quarter, down 58% from the same period a year ago and down 23% from the fourth quarter of 2013, according to industry newsletter Inside Mortgage Finance.

The decline shows how the mortgage market is experiencing its largest shift in more than a decade as an era of generally falling interest rates that began in 2000 appears to have run its course.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

4 Comments
Posted April 25, 2014 at 12:55 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The recent economic downturn and the increasing use of high-deductible insurance plans "has driven patients to want to put off paying their bills," Michael explains. Whether it's for a hip replacement or a broken bone, he frequently sees patients on the hook for a $3,000 to $5,000 deductible.

"We have to be able to be the creditor," says Michael. "We're essentially a bank at that point."

Between 2008 and 2012, multi-specialty practices saw their bad debt go up 14 percent, according to a survey by the , a trade organization for doctor practices. That's money that practices were owed but couldn't collect. Some of them have begun to change their billing strategies to combat those debts, says , a principal consultant with the MGMA Health Care Consulting Group.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal Finance

0 Comments
Posted April 25, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The people who really suffer from the marriage penalty are lower-income families with young children — you know, those people constantly scolded by the Family Values Police for eschewing the bonds of holy matrimony or for being too lazy to work.

Consider a family in which the husband earns $25,000 and the wife stays home to care for their children. (Women are more often the more marginal earners, both because they earn lower wages and because they are more likely to be primary caregivers.) This family would face a series of painful “marriage penalties” if the mother decides to join the paid labor force.

If she takes on a $25,000 job, the family would lose the entirety of their earned-income tax credit — about $5,000 — and pay an additional $6,000 in payroll and federal income taxes, according to calculations from a recent report by the Hamilton Project, a nonpartisan think tank. This family would also lose access to about $2,600 worth of food stamp benefits, as well as other means-tested benefits, such as Medicaid. (The exact amount of lost benefits depends on which state they live in.)

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceTaxesPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 24, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction.

While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades.

After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans.

Read it all from the front page of today's NY Times.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 23, 2014 at 11:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At a time when the still sluggish economy has sent a flood of jobless young adults back home, older people are quietly moving in with their parents at twice the rate of their younger counterparts.

For seven years through 2012, the number of Californians aged 50 to 64 who live in their parents' homes swelled 67.6% to about 194,000, according to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development.

The jump is almost exclusively the result of financial hardship caused by the recession rather than for other reasons, such as the need to care for aging parents, said Steven P. Wallace, a UCLA professor of public health who crunched the data.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyMiddle Age* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 23, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Apartment vacancy rates have dropped so low that forecasters at Capital Economics, a research firm, said rents could rise, on average, as much as 4 percent this year, compared with 2.8 percent last year. But rents are rising faster than that in many cities even as overall inflation is running at little more than 1 percent annually.

One of the most expensive cities for renters is Miami, where rents, on average, consume 43 percent of the typical household income, up from a historical average of just over a quarter.

Stella Santamaria, a divorced 40-year-old math teacher, has been looking for an apartment in Miami for more than six months. “We’re kind of sick of talking about it,” she said of herself and fellow teachers in the same boat. “It’s like, are you still living with your mom? Yeah, are you? Yeah.” After 11 years as a teacher, Ms. Santamaria makes $41,000, considerably less than the city’s median income, which is $48,000, according to Zillow.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchUrban/City Life and Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 16, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Weighing in at more than $1 trillion, student loan debt is now larger than total credit card debt. Morning Edition recently asked young adults about their biggest concerns, and more than two-thirds of respondents mentioned college debt. Many say they have put off marriage or buying a home because of the financial burden they took on as students.

William Elliott, director of the Assets and Education Initiative at the University of Kansas, says the burden of student loans isn't just a personal, short-term problem for individuals. Loans now make up too large a part of financial aid packages, he tells NPR's David Greene, "and they're too big of a part of how we finance college."

As a result, Elliott says, too many young people are spending years on loan repayment, instead of growing personal wealth through investments like real estate and retirement accounts. In the long-term, he adds, that can be a drag on the economy — and create a wealth divide between people who have student debt and those who don't.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyPersonal FinanceThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 11, 2014 at 6:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The daughter of a 92-year-old priest who is paying interest on a loan agreed with the Church of England Pensions Board at 8.6 per cent - more than twice the cur-rent average - has questioned the morality of the scheme.

In 1985, the Revd Eric Quin took out a shared-equity loan in order to purchase a three-bedroom cottage in Cheshire for £45,750. With his wife, he paid £20,750 to put down a 45-per-cent deposit. The Pensions Board paid the remainder, £26,500, on the understanding that it would be entitled to 55 per cent of the final sale price.

The initial interest rate was three per cent - much lower than the 12-per-cent mortgage rate at the time. This rate was gradually increased in line with the pensions of all the fund's members. Mr Quin is now paying interest at a rate of 8.6 per cent. The property has risen in value to £200,000.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinancePensionsStock MarketThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 4, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When smoking first swept the United States in the early decades of the 20th century, it took hold among the well-to-do. Cigarettes were high-society symbols of elegance and class, puffed by doctors and movie stars. By the 1960s, smoking had exploded, helped by the distribution of cigarettes to soldiers in World War II. Half of all men and a third of women smoked.

But as evidence of smoking’s deadly consequences has accumulated, the broad patterns of use by class have shifted: Smoking, the leading cause of preventable death in the country, is now increasingly a habit of the poor and the working class.

While previous data established that pattern, a new analysis of federal smoking data released on Monday shows that the disparity is increasing. The national smoking rate has declined steadily, but there is a deep geographic divide. In the affluent suburbs of Washington, only about one in 10 people smoke, according to the analysis, by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. But in impoverished places like this — Clay County, in eastern Kentucky — nearly four in 10 do.

Read it all (from the front page of the paper copy of today's New York Times).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicinePoverty* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal Finance

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Posted March 25, 2014 at 11:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

....with less than 10 days left in the 2014 window to apply for coverage with policies through the federal marketplace, lots of people still don’t understand the penalties. Who pays? Who doesn’t? How do you pay? How do you avoid paying?

Toni McKinnon of Columbia stopped by Richland Library’s main branch on Assembly Street last week to find out about the health insurance marketplace because she was worried about having to pay a penalty.

“When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you can’t afford insurance,” McKinnon said, “and you sure can’t afford to pay some kind of penalty.”

She left the library slightly confused and very disappointed.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralState Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 25, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There have long been stark economic differences between Fairfax County and McDowell. But as their fortunes have diverged even further over the past generation, their life expectancies have diverged, too. In McDowell, women’s life expectancy has actually fallen by two years since 1985; it grew five years in Fairfax.

“Poverty is a thief,” said Michael Reisch, a professor of social justice at the University of Maryland, testifying before a Senate panel on the issue. “Poverty not only diminishes a person’s life chances, it steals years from one’s life.”

That reality is playing out across the country. For the upper half of the income spectrum, men who reach the age of 65 are living about six years longer than they did in the late 1970s. Men in the lower half are living just 1.3 years longer.

This life-expectancy gap has started to surface in discussions among researchers, public health officials and Washington policy makers.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPovertyPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--Politics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 20, 2014 at 3:09 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Health industry officials say ObamaCare-related premiums will double in some parts of the country, countering claims recently made by the administration.

The expected rate hikes will be announced in the coming months amid an intense election year, when control of the Senate is up for grabs. The sticker shock would likely bolster the GOP’s prospects in November and hamper ObamaCare insurance enrollment efforts in 2015.

The industry complaints come less than a week after Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sought to downplay concerns about rising premiums in the healthcare sector. She told lawmakers rates would increase in 2015 but grow more slowly than in the past.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinancePolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 20, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Surging prices for food staples from coffee to meat to vegetables are driving up the cost of groceries in the U.S., pinching consumers and companies that are still grappling with a sluggish economic recovery.

Federal forecasters estimate retail food prices will rise as much as 3.5% this year, the biggest annual increase in three years, as drought in parts of the U.S. and other producing regions drives up prices for many agricultural goods. The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Tuesday reported that food prices gained 0.4% in February from the previous month, the biggest increase since September 2011, as prices rose for meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs.

Globally, food inflation has been tame, but economists are watching for any signs of tighter supplies of key commodities such as wheat and rice that could push prices higher.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDieting/Food/Nutrition* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* General InterestWeather

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Posted March 18, 2014 at 5:09 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The articles are entitled Employment of young workers has plunged as older workers remain in entry-level jobs and A Dead End--few leaving stepping-stone jobs. Read them both.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--* South Carolina* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 15, 2014 at 9:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Jeffery Ward's story illustrates a growing problem for cancer care in the United States, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology's inaugural report, "The State of Cancer Care in America," which was released Tuesday.

Nearly two-thirds of the small oncology practices surveyed said they were likely to merge, sell or close in the upcoming year. And as community practices disappear, patients are paying more and traveling farther for quality care, an issue compounded by physician shortages and a rapidly aging population.

"If you can't get care, you can't get good care," said American Society of Clinical Oncology President Dr. Clifford Hudis, chief of Breast Cancer Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a professor at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 11, 2014 at 5:46 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The share of new homes being built as rental apartments is at the highest level in at least four decades, as an improving jobs picture spurs younger Americans to form their own households but tighter lending standards make it more difficult to buy.

Residential construction—a pillar of the economy and employment—is starting to ramp up again overall, but in previous years the growth was driven by single-family homes. Last year, according to census data, construction was started on a little less than one million new residential units, and about one in three of those was a rental in a multifamily building, the highest share since data began in the mid-1970s. Single-family homes accounted for about two-thirds of housing starts last year, down from their peak of 87% in 1993 and about 80% in the years leading up to the recession, the census data showed.

The move toward apartment construction reflects the convergence of several trends. Mortgage credit is still tight. Also, Americans have seen muted wage gains, and others have high student-debt loads, forcing people who otherwise would have bought homes to rent instead.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

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Posted March 10, 2014 at 3:09 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Canadians are in a funk. Things are better than ever, but people are feeling worse. “The trend lines are disturbing,” EKOS pollster Frank Graves wrote recently, reporting that public pessimism is deepening. “… Only around 10 per cent of Canadians and Americans think the next generation will enjoy a better quality of life.”

Well, maybe they will or maybe they won’t. Meantime, this generation is doing pretty well. Despite recessions, globalization and the inexorable rise of the robots, most of us never had it so good. In 2011, the median real income for Canadian two-parent families with two earners was $100,000 – $13,000 higher than in 2000. The annual average unemployment rate is down to 7 per cent. Despite the soaring cost of housing, nearly 70 per cent of us have an ownership stake in our own homes.

So what’s our problem?...

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenGlobalizationMarriage & FamilyPsychologyScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryCanada* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 6, 2014 at 3:34 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If the number of awards scooped up by George Marsden's 2003 biography of Jonathan Edwards is taken as the index of achievement, Marsden stands as the dean of living interpreters of American religion. With The Twilight of the American Enlightenment, he offers another compelling study, one that relates more to his own life and times than to a life from the past.

In six artfully crafted chapters, Marsden sketches the tectonic shifts set in motion in the years immediately following World War II. He looks at common assumptions held by the leading cultural analysts of the age, intellectuals writing for middlebrow Americans. The protagonists were mostly white, male, well educated (especially at Harvard, Yale, and Columbia), centered in New York City, and descended from old-stock Protestant culture. Alongside these were a fair number of Jews, many of them émigrés from Nazi Europe. Leading figures included journalist Walter Lippmann, poet Archibald MacLeish, historian Arthur Schlesinger, magazine tycoon Henry Luce, culture critic Hannah Arendt, and especially sociologists Vance Packard, Erich Fromm, and David Reisman. Taken together, their views constituted what might be called the liberal mainline consensus.

The two books bear important similarities. Both are beautifully written and reveal imposing erudition. But they also bear important differences. While Jonathan Edwards is long, richly detailed, and largely descriptive, American Enlightenment is short, elegantly interpretative, and strongly argued. Another difference concerns the reaction from readers and critics. The Edwards biography won virtually unanimous praise. This latest offering likely will provoke both sustained praise and spirited debate (sometimes both at once).

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBooksEducationHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal Finance* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 5, 2014 at 8:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Americans who have at least one child under the age of 18 report spending $29 more daily, on average, than those without younger children. Parents with younger children across all age and income groups report higher spending levels.

These results are based on 2013 Gallup Daily tracking, which asks Americans about the amount of money they spent on purchases "yesterday," excluding normal household bills and major purchases. Americans without children under 18 reported average daily spending of $79, while Americans with children reported a $108 daily average.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingPersonal Finance* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted March 4, 2014 at 7:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A critical shortage of affordable housing affects the long-term economic health of the region and strains the budgets of many homeowners and renters, according to a new study.

Some 33 percent of homeowners and 50 percent of renters are living in housing they can not afford. Those affected include teachers, police officers and others in the tri-county's largely service-based economy, says the report released by the Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester Council of Governments.

"Housing affordability greatly impacts the ability to retain existing businesses and attract new industries," it says.

Read it all from the local paper.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal Finance* South Carolina

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Posted March 4, 2014 at 3:19 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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