Posted by Kendall Harmon

Six years after candidate Barack Obama vowed to make working for government “cool again,” federal hiring of young people is instead tailing off and many millennials are heading for the door.

The share of the federal workforce under the age of 30 dropped to 7 percent this year, the lowest figure in nearly a decade, government figures show.

With agencies starved for digital expertise and thousands of federal jobs coming open because of a wave of baby-boomer retirements, top government officials, including at the White House, are growing increasingly distressed about the dwindling role played by young workers.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychologyYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe U.S. Government

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Posted December 16, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Disneyland has become a time capsule not of the romantic idea of 19th century Main Street or even the possibilities in Tomorrowland but of a time when Americans believed in a better future — and were willing to invest in it. A half-century ago, we put almost 1 percent of our economy into landing men on the moon, yet today we fall behind other countries in exploring space, supposedly because we cannot afford it.

We pay a huge price for our lack of investment and faith in the future of America. We pay for all the inefficiency of our decrepit infrastructure. We pay with minds that will never be fully developed and with scientific breakthroughs that will enrich other countries. And we pay with lives of daily grind and unpleasantness without hope of respite.

Would that as a people we thought like Walt Disney so we could make America into a happy place.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationHistoryTravel* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentBudget* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted December 14, 2014 at 3:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...my colleague may be a bit too optimistic regarding just how close the economy is to full employment. It is true that the unemployment rate, at 5.8%, is within hailing distance of the Fed's projected full-employment rate, of between 5.2% and 5.5%. But there are many margins along which the labour market can adjust in addition to the unemployment rate. Participation rates can and should rise. So too should hours, effort, and productivity. Given the slow growth in wages over the last year it is hard to conclude that the American economy is close to maxxing out its labour-force potential.

That apart, I think my colleague is exactly right and the Fed is close to making a big mistake. The wires are alive this morning with reports from Fed watchers, who are presumably taking their cues from Fed officials themselves, writing that the Fed will almost certainly adjust its language in a more hawkish fashion at the December or January meeting and is on track for an initial rate increase in the middle of 2015. I cannot fathom what the Fed is thinking.

Set aside potential downside risks (from a Russian financial crisis, or renewed euro-zone troubles, or a Chinese hard landing, or lord knows what else) and just focus on the dynamics within the American economy. Almost since the Fed announced that it was officially targeting an inflation rate of 2%, as measured by the price index for personal consumption expenditures, actual PCE inflation has run below the target, and often well below. It remains below target now. It is possible that tumbling oil prices could so augment household incomes that the economy roars forward and inflation jumps back to target. I do not think it is particularly likely, for a few reasons.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve

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Posted December 13, 2014 at 12:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The danger of stimulus-induced bubbles is starting to play out in the market for energy-company debt.

Since early 2010, energy producers have raised $550 billion of new bonds and loans as the Federal Reserve held borrowing costs near zero, according to Deutsche Bank AG. With oil prices plunging, investors are questioning the ability of some issuers to meet their debt obligations. Research firm CreditSights Inc. predicts the default rate for energy junk bonds will double to eight percent next year.

“Anything that becomes a mania -- it ends badly,” said Tim Gramatovich, who helps manage more than $800 million as chief investment officer of Santa Barbara, California-based Peritus Asset Management. “And this is a mania.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsThe Banking System/SectorThe U.S. GovernmentFederal ReserveEnergy, Natural Resources* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted December 12, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An exhaustive, five-year Senate investigation of the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects renders a strikingly bleak verdict of a program launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, describing levels of brutality, dishonesty and seemingly arbitrary violence that at times brought even agency employees to moments of anguish.

The report by the Senate Intelligence Committee delivers new allegations of cruelty in a program whose severe tactics have been abundantly documented, revealing that agency medical personnel voiced alarm that waterboarding methods had deteriorated to “a series of near drownings” [among many other things]...

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralSenate* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

50 Comments
Posted December 9, 2014 at 2:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The U.S. economy is on track for its strongest year of job creation since 1999, as employers last month ramped up hiring and wage growth posted a small—but potentially significant—pickup.

Nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 321,000 in November, the strongest month of hiring since January 2012, the Labor Department said Friday. Hiring was broad across industries, led by gains in the professional and business-services sector.

“The economy may not yet be a big mean jobs machine but it is just about there,” Joel Naroff, president and chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors Inc., said in a note to clients.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. Government* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 5, 2014 at 4:34 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Homeland security officials have issued their strongest warning yet that American service members may be targeted in the U.S. by the militant group ISIS, according to a report Monday.

A joint intelligence bulletin issued by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security said military personnel should review their social media accounts and remove anything that could draw the attention of “violent extremists,” specifically those from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), ABC News reports. The group has been targeted for months by a bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq, conducted by the U.S. and several other nations in the region.

“The FBI and DHS recommend that current and former members of the military review their online social media accounts for any information that might serve to attract the attention of ISIL [ISIS] and its supporters,” read the bulletin sent to law enforcement agencies. Some personnel said they had been urged to scrub their profiles by security officials in August.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMilitary / Armed ForcesViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted December 1, 2014 at 7:19 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Leading U.S. CEOs, angered by the Obama administration's challenge to certain "workplace wellness" programs, are threatening to side with anti-Obamacare forces unless the government backs off, according to people familiar with the matter.

Major U.S. corporations have broadly supported President Barack Obama's healthcare reform despite concerns over several of its elements, largely because it included provisions encouraging the wellness programs.

The programs aim to control healthcare costs by reducing smoking, obesity, hypertension and other risk factors that can lead to expensive illnesses. A bipartisan provision in the 2010 healthcare reform law allows employers to reward workers who participate and penalize those who don't.

Read it all.

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

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Posted November 29, 2014 at 1:58 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Every day all over America, postal workers complete their appointed rounds without much notice. But in one Midwest town, they turned into heroes.

Christy Perfetti has been delivering mail in East Peoria, Ill., for 23 years. Almost a decade along this same route.

For the most part, she says every day is like every other. Except for one day last year.

Perfetti was pulling into the post office parking lot when she saw an older man taking a young boy behind a shed. She had a gut instinct something was wrong.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireSexuality* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe U.S. Government* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted November 20, 2014 at 7:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Federal drug agents conducted surprise inspections of National Football League team medical staffs on Sunday as part of an ongoing investigation into prescription drug abuse in the league. The inspections, which entailed bag searches and questioning of team doctors by Drug Enforcement Administration agents, were based on the suspicion that NFL teams dispense drugs illegally to keep players on the field in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, according to a senior law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation.

The medical staffs were part of travel parties whose teams were playing at stadiums across the country. The law enforcement official said DEA agents, working in cooperation with the Transportation Security Administration, inspected multiple teams but would not specify which ones were inspected or where.

The San Francisco 49ers confirmed they were inspected by federal agents following their game against the New York Giants in New Jersey but did not provide any details. “The San Francisco 49ers organization was asked to participate in a random inspection with representatives from the DEA Sunday night at MetLife Stadium,” team spokesman Bob Lange said in an e-mailed statement. “The 49ers medical staff complied and the team departed the stadium as scheduled.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDrugs/Drug AddictionLaw & Legal IssuesSports* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted November 17, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A federal court of appeals has rejected an atheist group’s lawsuit seeking to strike down a 60-year-old tax provision protecting ministers, notes the Becket Fund. The ruling allows ministers of all faiths to continue receiving housing allowances. “This is a great victory for separation of church and state,” said Luke Goodrich, Deputy General Counsel of the Becket Fund of Religious Liberty. “When a group of atheists tries to cajole the IRS into raising taxes on churches, it’s bound to raise some eyebrows. The court was right to send them packing.”

Aside from the question of constitutionality, the clergy exemption raises a question that many people — whether religious or not — are likely to be wondering: Why exactly do ministers receive a tax exemption for their housing allowance?

To answer the question we must first consider how taxation of church property, including clergy housing, has historically been considered.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedStewardship* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* Theology

0 Comments
Posted November 16, 2014 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A federal court of appeals rejected a case brought by an atheist organization that would have made tax-exempt clergy housing allowances – often a large chunk of a pastor’s compensation – illegal.

“This is a great victory for fair treatment of churches,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of pastors from several major denominations.

“When a group of atheists tries to cajole the IRS into raising taxes on churches, it’s bound to raise some eyebrows,” he said. “The court was right to send them packing.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. Government* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsAtheism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted November 14, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

You can find four pages of graphs here. There is also a very helpful interactive state by state map there. There are approximately 417,554 Veterans in South Carolina where I live (last year there were 421,500)--check the numbers for your state if they apply.

There is also a map to find Veterans Day events near where you live.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. Government

0 Comments
Posted November 11, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will hear the most serious challenge to the Affordable Care Act since the justices found it constitutional more than two years ago: a lawsuit targeting the federal subsidies that help millions of Americans buy health insurance.

More than 4 million people receive the subsidies, which the Obama administration contends are essential to the act by making insurance more affordable for low- and middle-income families.

But challengers say the administration is violating the plain language of the law. They are represented by the same conservative legal strategists who fell one vote short of convincing the court that the law was unconstitutional the last time around.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted November 8, 2014 at 10:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

if we look at just the 25-to-54 age group, which strips out most students and retirees, the employment-to-population ratio has been slowly improving since it bottomed out at 74.6% (not seasonally adjusted) in February 2011. Last month, 77.3% of all 25-to-54-year-olds were employed, which is well below the indicator’s pre-recession high in October 2006, when 80.7% of people in this age group were employed.

Then again, not all employment is created equal, either. During the Great Recession, the ranks of people working part-time either because they couldn’t find full-time work or because their hours were cut back because of slack demand soared from around 3% of all employed people pre-recession to 6.6% in March 2010. There are fewer such involuntary part-timers now, but last month they still accounted for 4.8% of all employed people (and 2.7% of the entire adult civilian non-institutional population).

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe U.S. Government* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted November 8, 2014 at 9:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Even as Americans' trust in government eroded in recent years, people kept faith in a handful of agencies and institutions admired for their steadiness in ensuring the country's protection.

To safeguard the president, there was the solidity of the Secret Service. To stand vigil against distant enemies, the U.S. nuclear missile corps was assumed to be on the job. And to ward off threats to public health, the nation counted on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now, in the space of just a few months, the reputations of all those agencies - as well as the Veterans Administration - have been tarred by scandal or tarnished by doubt. Maybe a public buffeted by partisan rhetoric and nonstop news should be used to this by now. But, with the CDC facing tough questions about its response to the Ebola outbreak, something feels different. Government is about doing collectively what citizens can't do alone, but its effectiveness is premised on trust.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted November 2, 2014 at 4:44 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I accept the doctors' conclusion -- mandatory quarantine is a bad idea -- but not the way they justify it. You don't have to be a cynic, a slanted term, to argue for "better safe than sorry." The calculus isn't simple, either. The crucial thing, though, is that the doctors' sensible conclusion doesn't rest solely on the science.

It requires a delicate judgment about many different risks and costs -- the risk of extra U.S. cases in the short run, the risk of discouraging health workers from traveling to West Africa so that the disease keeps spreading there, the cost in civil liberty of restricting people's movements, and so on. I agree with the doctors about where the balance lies, but the issue isn't easy and, in any event, it isn't just about the science of Ebola.

The doctors conclude, "We should be honoring, not quarantining, health care workers who put their lives at risk..." We should indeed be honoring them -- and, unless I'm mistaken, we are -- but that comment isn't science; it's pure politics. Forgive me for stating what should be obvious, but if the facts about the transmission of Ebola were different, one could imagine that mandatory quarantine would be justified; and if it were, the policy would imply no disrespect to the health professionals involved.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal IssuesMedia* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in General* Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The U.S. health care apparatus is so unprepared and short on resources to deal with the deadly Ebola virus that even small clusters of cases could overwhelm parts of the system, according to an Associated Press review of readiness at hospitals and other components of the emergency medical network.

Experts broadly agree that a widespread outbreak across the country is extremely unlikely, but they also concur that it is impossible to predict with certainty, since previous Ebola epidemics have been confined to remote areas of Africa. And Ebola is not the only possible danger that causes concern; experts say other deadly infectious diseases - ranging from airborne viruses such as SARS, to an unforeseen new strain of the flu, to more exotic plagues like Lassa fever - could crash the health care system.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

2 Comments
Posted October 30, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

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

Sometimes, though, another analogy makes more sense. In this story, the US is the first to climb a cliff. Other countries are tethered to the US by ropes. The overall pace of ascent depends on the burden of debt each country has to carry. One false move by the US will wreck the entire enterprise. Yet the US will only get to the top if the others also make steady progress. At the moment, they are more in danger of losing their footing, thereby dragging down the US.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted October 16, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Watch it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEuropean Central BankHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Europe* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted October 11, 2014 at 10:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Huge expansions in credit followed by crises and attempts to manage the aftermath have become a feature of the world economy. Today the US and UK may be escaping from the crises that hit seven years ago. But the eurozone is mired in post-crisis stagnation and China is struggling with the debt it built up in its attempt to offset the loss of export earnings after the crisis hit in 2008.

Without an unsustainable credit boom somewhere, the world economy seems incapable of generating growth in demand sufficient to absorb potential supply. It looks like a law of the conservation of credit booms. Consider the past quarter century: a credit boom in Japan that collapsed after 1990; a credit boom in Asian emerging economies that collapsed in 1997; a credit boom in the north Atlantic economies that collapsed after 2007; and finally in China. Each is greeted as a new era of prosperity, to collapse into crisis and post-crisis malaise.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeEuropean Central BankThe U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.AsiaChinaEurope

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One of the hardest things for us to do is to envision a future that is different from the present. For instance, we live in an age of paralyzed politics, so it is hard, in the here and now, to imagine what could change that. A second example: It is difficult to think of a scenario where federal gun legislation could be passed over the objections of the National Rifle Association. And a third: Income inequality has been the trend for some three decades; doesn’t it look as if it will always be that way?

What prompts these thoughts are two papers that landed on my desk recently. Although they tackle very different issues, they have one thing in common: They imagine a future that breaks from the present path.

The first is a draft of a speech given earlier this month at TEDMED by Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. (TEDMED is associated with TED Talks.) The second is an article in the latest edition of the Harvard Business Review by Roger Martin, the former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesPsychologyViolence* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A little over three years ago, I wrote a column titled “The 2% Economy,” explaining how a recovery with only 2% GDP growth, no new middle-class jobs and stagnant wages wasn’t really a recovery after all. Like everyone, I hoped that once growth kicked up to about 3%, middle-class jobs and wages would finally revive.

But we’re now in a 3% economy, and I’m writing the same column. Only this time, the message is more disturbing. Growth is back. Unemployment is down. But only a fraction of the jobs lost during the Great Recession that pay more than $15 per hour have been found. And wage growth is still hovering near zero, where it’s been for the past decade. Something is very, very broken in our economy.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentFederal ReservePolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Should democratically elected leaders in more or less secular countries ever say that this or that religion is essentially good or essentially bad? The dilemma is especially acute, perhaps, if the religion that they want to speak about is one which they don't happen to practise, and presumably don't know about in any depth. But ever since September 2001, and especially over the last few weeks of intensifying conflict with Islamic State, it has been a question that Western heads of government cannot completely duck. The West is at war with an adversary which claims to be acting in the name of Islam. Does that mean that the West is, in any sense whatever, at war with Islam?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 29, 2014 at 3:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Gallup's Economic Confidence Index is the average of two components: Americans' views of current economic conditions and their opinions on whether the economy is getting better or worse. Last week, 18% of Americans said the economy was "excellent" or "good," while 35% said the economy was "poor," resulting in a current conditions index score of -17. Over the past four weeks, the current conditions index has fallen one point per week.

Meanwhile, 38% of Americans last week said the economy was "getting better," and 57% said it was "getting worse." This resulted in an economic outlook score of -19, down three points from the week before, but similar to several prior weeks.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. Government

0 Comments
Posted September 23, 2014 at 2:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The panel, which included doctors, nurses, insurers, religious leaders, lawyers and experts on aging, said Medicare and other insurers should create financial incentives for health care providers to have continuing conversations with patients on advance care planning, possibly starting as early as major teenage milestones like getting a driver’s license or going to college.

It called for a “major reorientation and restructuring of Medicare, Medicaid and other health care delivery programs” and the elimination of “perverse financial incentives” that encourage expensive hospital procedures when growing numbers of very sick and very old patients want low-tech services like home health care and pain management.

And it said that medical schools and groups that accredit and regulate health providers should greatly increase training in palliative care and set standards so that more clinicians know how to compassionately and effectively treat patients who want to be made comfortable but avoid extensive medical procedures.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal IssuesLife EthicsMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentMedicaidMedicarePolitics in General

0 Comments
Posted September 20, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The United States has made the same mistake in evaluating fighters from the Islamic State that it did in Vietnam — underestimating the enemy’s will, according to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence.

Clapper’s comments came in a telephone interview Wednesday, in which he summarized the elements of a new National Intelligence Strategy released this week. Clapper also answered some broader questions about intelligence issues confronting the country.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureScience & TechnologyViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 19, 2014 at 5:45 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

Americans' trust in each of the three branches of the federal government is at or near the lows in Gallup's trends, dating back to the early 1970s. Americans' trust in the legislative branch fell six percentage points this year to a new low of 28%. Trust in the executive branch dropped eight points, to 43%, and trust in the judicial branch, at 61%, is also the lowest measured to date.

The data are part of Gallup's annual update on trust in government, conducted in the Sept. 4-7 Governance poll. Gallup previously documented that Americans' trust in the federal government to handle both domestic and international problems slid to new lows this year.

Americans have generally had the least trust in the legislative branch, consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate, but never lower than the 28% who do so now. The prior low was the 31% measured in 2011, shortly after Congress and the president engaged in contentious debt-ceiling negotiations.

Trust in the legislative branch had recovered slightly during the previous two years, to 34%, but is down significantly this year....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralCity GovernmentHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenateState GovernmentSupreme Court* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 15, 2014 at 1:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A “Yes” vote for independence would be an economic mistake for Scotland and a geopolitical disaster for the west, senior US figures – including Alan Greenspan – tell the Financial Times as Washington wakes up to the chance that its closest ally could break up this week.

Having assumed for months that “No” would win comfortably, Washington has reacted with alarm to opinion polls showing that Thursday’s referendum is going down to the wire. “We have an interest in seeing the UK remain strong, robust and united,” said Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.England / UK--Scotland* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 15, 2014 at 11:25 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The story of how the Central Intelligence Agency came to operate a secretive program of rendition, detention, and interrogation under President George W. Bush has been made public by a number of investigations into the abuses that resulted. In 2007, the Red Cross detailed the methods used to interrogate suspects at CIA-run “black sites.” In 2010, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility strongly criticized the Bush administration lawyers who wrote the legal memos permitting the CIA to use torture. And last year, the Constitution Project Task Force on Detainee Treatment—a nonpartisan group that included a number of former military and intelligence personnel—analyzed what is known about mistreatment of detainees and the policy decisions that led to such ugly consequences.

Now a new report is expected from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is charged with overseeing the activities of the CIA.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications — a request the company believed was unconstitutional -- according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the NSA’s controversial PRISM program.

The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government’s demands. The company’s loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the National Security Agency extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted September 12, 2014 at 5:00 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

Social Security Act is signed into law, assuring retirement income for all working Americans. Payroll taxes...are set at 1% (Courtesy of Barry Ritholtz)

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentSocial Security

7 Comments
Posted August 14, 2014 at 7:02 am [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

Thousands of South Carolina residents who filed for Medicaid between October and mid-July are still waiting to find out if they qualify for the government's low-income health insurance program.

While most Medicaid applications are typically approved or denied within six days, the state agency responsible for processing the paperwork hasn't been able to keep pace with an influx from HealthCare.gov.

More than 43,000 South Carolina Medicaid applications were submitted through the new federal health insurance marketplace between Oct. 1 and July 13, but the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services has only managed to make its way through 25 percent of them.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentMedicaidPolitics in GeneralState Government* South Carolina

0 Comments
Posted July 29, 2014 at 8:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Here is one:
Your opinion, in “Repeal Prohibition, Again,” that marijuana should be legalized is based in part on an assumption that during Prohibition “people kept drinking.” Prohibition reduced the public’s alcohol intake considerably. The rate of alcohol-associated illness dropped in similar fashion. Prohibition was perhaps a political failure, but an impressive success from a public health standpoint.

Both alcohol and marijuana can lead to the chronic disease of addiction, directly affect the brain and negatively affect function. As more than 10 percent of our population has addictive disease, your statement that marijuana is “far less dangerous than alcohol” doesn’t reflect decades of research demonstrating risks associated with both of these drugs.

Why would we possibly wish to add to the alcohol- and tobacco-driven personal and public health catastrophe with yet another substance to which some people will become addicted?

Some people use marijuana currently. Legalize it, and more people will use more marijuana, leading to more addiction, lower productivity and higher societal costs....
Read them all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAlcohol/DrinkingAlcoholismDrugs/Drug AddictionHealth & MedicineHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireMedia* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted July 29, 2014 at 5:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.

Read it all from this past weekend.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchDrugs/Drug AddictionHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/Fire* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenateState Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted July 29, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Internal Revenue Service said it will monitor churches and other houses of worship for electioneering in a settlement reached with an atheist group.

The settlement was reached Friday (July 18) in federal court in Madison, Wis., where the initial lawsuit was filed in 2012 by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist advocacy group that claims 20,000 members nationwide.

The suit alleged the IRS routinely ignored complaints by the FFRF and others about churches promoting political candidates, issues or proposed legislation. As part of their tax-exempt status, churches and other religious groups are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesChurch/State MattersReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General

3 Comments
Posted July 22, 2014 at 11:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Shaw Air Force Base was spared in this round of the Air Force’s budget cuts, losing no jobs, but Joint Base Charleston will have 19 positions eliminated.

The announced cuts were the first permanent jobs lost in South Carolina in what is expected to to be a deep reduction in the military following 13 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. State leaders are preparing to fight for the state’s seven installations, based mostly in Columbia, Charleston and Beaufort.

The installations and their missions, as well as a large National Guard, numerous defense contractors in the Upstate and a high number of retirees, especially on the coast, pump nearly $16 billion a year into the state’s economy, according to a study by the S.C. Department of Commerce.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetPolitics in GeneralState Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* South Carolina

0 Comments
Posted July 17, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The $2.8 trillion Social Security Trust Fund is on track to be totally spent by 2030, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday.

That's one year earlier than projected in 2013 and a decade earlier than the CBO estimated as recently as 2011.

The CBO delivered the warning in a gloomy long-term budget outlook that shows federal debt reaching 106% of GDP in 25 years, up from 74% now.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the Elderly* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetSocial SecurityThe National Deficit* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted July 15, 2014 at 3:24 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

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.

Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the Internet--Social NetworkingGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted July 7, 2014 at 8:00 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

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As lawmakers continue the call for answers into the troubled Veterans Affairs health care system, including South Carolina's Sen. Tim Scott, the White House released findings Friday describing "significant and chronic system failures," substantially verifying problems raised by whistleblowers and internal and congressional investigators.

A summary of the review, ordered by President Barack Obama and conducted by deputy White House chief of staff Rob Nabors, says the Veterans Health Administration must be restructured and that a "corrosive culture" has hurt morale and affected the timeliness of health care. The review also found that a 14-day standard for scheduling veterans' medical appointments is unrealistic and has been susceptible to manipulation.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* South Carolina* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 28, 2014 at 9:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For those who argue that marijuana is no more dangerous than tobacco and alcohol, [Nora] Volkow has two main answers: We don’t entirely know , and, simultaneously, that is precisely the point .

“Look at the evidence,” Volkow said in an interview on the National Institutes of Health campus, pointing to the harms already inflicted by tobacco and alcohol. “It’s not subtle — it’s huge. Legal drugs are the main problem that we have in our country as it relates to morbidity and mortality. By far. Many more people die of tobacco than all of the drugs together. Many more people die of alcohol than all of the illicit drugs together.

“And it’s not because they are more dangerous or addictive. Not at all — they are less dangerous. It’s because they are legal. . . . The legalization process generates a much greater exposure of people and hence of negative consequences that will emerge. And that’s why I always say, ‘Can we as a country afford to have a third legal drug? Can we?’ We know the costs already on health care, we know the costs on accidents, on lost productivity. I let the numbers speak for themselves.”

Read it all from Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchDrugs/Drug AddictionLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralCity GovernmentState Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The American people -- most of us, anyway -- did "choose" to provide first-class medical care for our veterans. But we didn't do it. We set up the Veterans Administration to do it. And the Veterans Administration -- or, more accurately, some of the people who work for and run the Veterans Administration -- had a stronger interest in other things. Things like fat bonuses, and low workloads in comfy offices.

Thus we find that, even though veterans were dying, and books were being cooked, every single VA senior executive received an evaluation of "fully successful" or better over a 4-year period. That's right. Every single one. Over four years. At least 65% of them received bonuses ("performance awards"). All while veterans around the country were suffering and dying because of delayed care. The executives got these bonuses, in part, because they cooked the books, because the bonuses were more important to them than the veterans' care.

It would be nice to believe that this sort of problem is limited to the VA, but there's no particular reason to think that it is. The problem with the VA is that, like every other government agency -- and every other human institution -- it's not a machine that runs itself. It's a collection of people. And people tend to act in their own self interest.

Read it all(emphasis is his).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. Government* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 24, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Four years ago, 6.8 million Americans were out of work for six months or longer. Half as many are now. That might sound like good news, but it isn't.

Nearly four-fifths of those who became long-term unemployed during the worst period of the downturn have since migrated to the fringes of the job market, a recent study shows, rarely seeking work, taking part-time posts or bouncing between unsteady jobs. Only one in five, according to the study, has returned to lasting full-time work since 2008.

The plight of these millions is now at the center of a contentious debate among top U.S. officials over how to spur jobs without stirring inflation.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalization* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 18, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The longer that Americans are unemployed, the more likely they are to report signs of poor psychological well-being. About one in five Americans who have been unemployed for a year or more say they currently have or are being treated for depression -- almost double the rate among those who have been unemployed for five weeks or less.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicinePsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted June 9, 2014 at 7:15 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

0 Comments
Posted June 8, 2014 at 11:04 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

• NCA currently maintains approximately 3.2 million gravesites at 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and Puerto Rico, as well as in 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites.

• Approximately 429,000 full-casket gravesites, 111,000 in-ground gravesites for cremated remains, and 147,000 columbarium niches are available in already developed acreage in our 131 national cemeteries.

• There are approximately 20,200 acres within established installations in NCA. Nearly 57 percent are undeveloped and – along with available gravesites in developed acreage – have the potential to provide approximately 6.8 million gravesites.

• Of the 131 national cemeteries, 72 are open to all interments; 18 can accommodate cremated remains and the remains of family members for interment in the same gravesite as a previously deceased family member; and 41 will perform only interments of family members in the same gravesite as a previously deceased family member.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. Government

0 Comments
Posted May 26, 2014 at 10:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Previous studies suggest that many people will use the new coverage to obtain medical care for conditions that went untreated while they were uninsured.

The new health law reduces special payments to hospitals serving large numbers of low-income patients, on the assumption that many of the uninsured will gain coverage through Medicaid.

But hospital executives are unsure that the savings will materialize. Dr. Campbell said the cuts could create serious financial problems for hospitals treating large numbers of Medicaid patients.

Recent research in other states has raised similar questions.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentMedicaidThe National DeficitPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 18, 2014 at 11:05 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

0 Comments
Posted May 13, 2014 at 5:16 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

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Some current and former Republican lawmakers from South Carolina say that climate change does pose a threat, but that more regulations aren't the solution.

"The assessment that came out today is another reminder that climate change is going to present real challenges for the Lowcountry, and the nation as a whole," said U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, South Carolina's former governor. "I've watched rising sea levels play out at our family farm in Beaufort over the last 50 years, and I think others in our area could also point to impacts they've seen.

"As Congress confronts these challenges, I think we should be searching for solutions that embrace free market principles, rather than increasing already burdensome government regulations," he said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentEnergy, Natural ResourcesPolitics in General* South Carolina* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 7, 2014 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The US government has inadvertently empowered warlords and nurtured corruption in Afghanistan, warns a strikingly candid new report from the Pentagon that offers a devastating window into worthy US intentions that ended in exorbitant waste.

The initial US focus on defeating the Taliban and Al Qaeda created mutually dependent relationships between the US government and Afghan warlords “that empowered these warlords” and “expanded their opportunities for financial gain,” according to the study, which was produced by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s “lessons learned” department.

This was caused in large part by a “deluge” of military spending that “overwhelmed” the Afghan government’s ability to absorb it and later encouraged spending habits and graft that impeded the US war effort, the report concludes.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralWar in Afghanistan* International News & CommentaryAsiaAfghanistan* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted May 1, 2014 at 5:45 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

We start with this reality: Social Security and Medicare are practically sacrosanct. Nearly nine-in-ten Americans say they're good for the country. That's an amazing number. But the popularity of these programs really isn't all that surprising. People love them because they do what they were created to do. They ease many of the frets and dreads of old age – a blessing not just for seniors but for everyone who loves, supports and depends on seniors. Which is to say, everyone.

But the status quo is unsustainable. Some 10,000 Baby Boomers will be going on Social Security and Medicare every single day between now and 2030. By the time everyone in this big pig-in-the-python generation is drawing benefits, we’ll have just two workers per beneficiary – down from three-to-one now, five-to-one in 1960 and more than forty-to-one in 1945, shortly after Social Security first started supporting beneficiaries.

The math of the 20th century simply won’t work in the 21st. Today's young are paying taxes to support a level of benefits for today's old that they have no realistic chance of receiving when they become old. And they know it – just 6% of Millennials say they expect to receive full benefits from Social Security when they retire. Fully half believe they’ll get nothing.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted April 22, 2014 at 11:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Efforts to fix the notorious Heartbleed bug threaten to cause major disruptions to the Internet over the next several weeks as companies scramble to repair encryption systems on hundreds of thousands of Web sites at the same time, security experts say.

Estimates of the severity of the bug’s damage have mounted almost daily since researchers announced the discovery of Heartbleed last week. What initially seemed like an inconvenient matter of changing passwords for protection now appears much more serious. New revelations suggest that skilled hackers can use the bug to create fake Web sites that mimic legitimate ones to trick consumers into handing over valuable personal information.

The sheer scale of the work required to fix this aspect of the bug — which makes it possible to steal the “security certificates” that verify that a Web site is authentic — could overwhelm the systems designed to keep the Internet trustworthy.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted April 15, 2014 at 5:10 pm [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

“A Journey to Waco,” [Clive] Doyle’s memoir, is an account of what it means to be a religious radical—to worship on the fringes of contemporary Christianity. Doyle takes the story from his childhood in Australia through the extraordinary events of 1993, when some eighty armed agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms raided the Mount Carmel community, in an effort to serve a search and arrest warrant on Koresh, on suspicion of violating federal firearms rules. “I want you all to go back to your rooms and stay calm,” Doyle recalls Koresh saying, as federal agents descended on Mount Carmel. Doyle goes on, “I could hear David’s steps going down the hall toward the front door. . . . Then all of a sudden I heard David say: ‘Hey, wait a minute! There are women and children in here!’ Then all hell broke loose—just a barrage of shots from outside coming in. It sounded like a bloodbath.”

In the resulting gun battle, four A.T.F. agents and six Davidians were killed. The F.B.I. was called in. The Davidian property was surrounded. An army of trained negotiators were flown to the scene, and for the next fifty-one days the two sides talked day and night—arguing, lecturing, bargaining—with the highlights of their conversations repeated at press conferences and broadcasts around the world. The Waco standoff was one of the most public conversations in the history of American law enforcement, and the question Doyle poses in his memoir, with genuine puzzlement, is how a religious community could go to such lengths to explain itself to such little effect....

The F.B.I. agent expected that the Davidians, like a fragile cult, would turn paranoid and defensive in the presence of a threat. He didn’t grasp that he was dealing with a very different kind of group—the sort whose idea of a good evening’s fun was a six-hour Bible study wrestling with a tricky passage of Revelation. It was a crucial misunderstanding, and would feed directly into the tragedy that was to come.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. Government* TheologyAnthropologyEschatologyTheology: Scripture

2 Comments
Posted April 9, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ah, ah, ah--you need to guess before you look. Check it out from Forbes.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe U.S. GovernmentCensus/Census DataPolitics in GeneralCity Government

0 Comments
Posted April 5, 2014 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

South Carolina was home to all three of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas on the Atlantic Coast in 2013, new Census Bureau estimates say.

Greater Charleston is the largest of those metro areas, and it has accounted for nearly a third of the state's population growth since the last census in 2010.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchUrban/City Life and Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentCensus/Census Data* South Carolina

0 Comments
Posted March 27, 2014 at 2:00 pm [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

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In March 1965, [Daniel Patrick] Moynihan, then 37 and assistant secretary of labor, wrote that “the center of the tangle of pathology” in inner cities — this was five months before the Watts riots — was the fact that 23.6 percent of black children were born to single women, compared with just 3.07 percent of white children. He was accused of racism, blaming the victims, etc.

Forty-nine years later, 41 percent of all American children are born out of wedlock; almost half of all first births are to unmarried women, as are 54 percent and 72 percent of all Hispanic and black births, respectively. Is there anyone not blinkered by ideology or invincibly ignorant of social science who disagrees with this:

The family is the primary transmitter of social capital — the values and character traits that enable people to seize opportunities. Family structure is a primary predictor of an individual’s life chances, and family disintegration is the principal cause of the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyPoverty* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted March 23, 2014 at 11:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

About 4.2 million people have signed up for health plans on Obamacare exchanges through the end of February, making it unlikely that the Obama administration will hit lowered enrollment estimates in the program’s first year.

Whatever momentum was building in January appeared to drop off in February, as the number of sign ups fell below the administration's expectations. The numbers -- which were released a day before Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on the Hill -- also show young people aren't enrolling at rates officials had predicted. That group is key because they are generally presumed to be healthier and less costly.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted March 11, 2014 at 3:08 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The economy finished 2013 on a weaker footing than first thought, the government said on Friday, heightening concern that the United States is in the midst of another of the periodic slow patches that have dogged the recovery over the last five years.

The Commerce Department now estimates the economy grew at an annual pace of 2.4 percent in October, November and December, down from an initial estimate of 3.2 percent. The revised figure also represents a substantial slowing from the pace of growth in the third quarter, which totaled 4.1 percent. The department is scheduled to provide one more estimate of growth during the fourth quarter on March 27.

The downward revision comes after new data showing lackluster retail sales, inventory adjustments and a slightly less impressive trade balance late last year. Disappointing reports on job creation in December and January have also prompted fear of continued weakness into the spring of 2014.

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--The U.S. Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted March 1, 2014 at 8:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For healthcare reform to mature unimpeded, the debates surrounding the Affordable Care Act require concentrated, nonpartisan attention. And for reform to succeed, we also need hospitals to flourish, especially in places with few options.

Every hospital has a story to tell. Lower Oconee Community Hospital will not keep the nation's attention for long, but its absence and that of other hospitals that close will certainly leave profound voids throughout their communities. Rather than ignore these continuing cracks in the foundation of our evolving healthcare system, there is much to be learned from these now-defunct facilities. We would do well to address the underlying problems behind the closures.

As any medical practitioner will tell you, it is wiser to treat the cause today than alleviate the symptoms tomorrow.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralCity GovernmentState Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 27, 2014 at 6:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Defense Department on Monday proposed cutting the Army to its smallest size in 74 years, slashing a class of attack jets and rolling back personnel costs in an effort to adjust a department buoyed by a decade of war to an era of leaner budgets.

The five-year budget blueprint outlined by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reflects a willingness by the Pentagon to make deep cuts to personnel strength to invest in technology and equipment as it eases off a war footing.

“The development and proliferation of more advanced military technologies by other nations mean that we are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies and in space can no longer be taken for granted,” Hagel told reporters at an afternoon news conference.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudget* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 25, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Americans are known risk-takers when it comes to their personal finances. While consumer spending has traditionally been one of the great engines of the U.S. economy, it also helped get the country into the Great Recession. So after five years of economic turmoil we’ve presumably become a little better at keeping track of our debts, right?

Not really. Data released Tuesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York show that at $11.52 trillion, overall consumer debt is higher than it has been since 2011. And more unsettling, debt is rising at rapid levels. Americans’ debt—that includes mortgages, auto loans, student loans and credit card debt—increased by 2.1%, or $241 billion in the last three months of 2013, the greatest margin of increase since the third quarter of 2007, shortly before the U.S. spiraled into recession.

And on an individual level, many Americans are in a precarious financial position.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifePersonal FinanceThe Banking System/SectorThe U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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

Posted by Kendall Harmon

50% of GDP comes from orange areas, 50% from blue.

Look at the map and read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchRural/Town LifeUrban/City Life and Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe U.S. Government* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

2 Comments
Posted February 19, 2014 at 3:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Is Edward Snowden a hero for revealing government wrongdoing, or a traitor for leaking classified information? “I don’t think anybody acts and says to themselves, ‘What I’m doing is immoral, but I’m going to do it.’ People always rationalize,” according to former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow. Correspondent Lucky Severson reports on the debate over the morality of Snowden’s actions.

Read or watch and listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 16, 2014 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While the Treasury and the IRS seek greater clarity by further restricting the types of permissible political activity of tax-exempt organizations, the commission would achieve greater clarity by allowing more freedom for tax-exempt organizations to engage in political speech – while simultaneously preserving the long-held public policy of not allowing tax-exempt funds to be expended for political purposes.

Dan Busby, president of ECFA, offered four key comments on the proposed guidance:

“The Treasury and the IRS should proceed with great caution in applying the proposed ‘candidate-related political activity’ test to 501(c)(3) organizations.”
“Replacing the ‘facts and circumstances’ approach with a clear-cut definition of political activity would benefit charities and the IRS.”
“The proposed ‘candidate-related political activity’ test would silence charities from speaking out on issues with political significance.”
“The Commission’s recommendations strike a necessary balance of permitting charities to engage in communications that are relevant to their exempt purposes while ensuring that they expend funds in a manner consistent with their tax-exempt purposes.”

Most concerning to ECFA is the further chilling effect that the proposed “candidate-related political activity” test would have on issue-oriented communications from churches and nonprofits. While this has been a problem for some time even under existing rules and the IRS’s approach to administering the law, the proposed regulations would compound the concern.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 15, 2014 at 10:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

President Obama gave a lovely speech at the recent National Prayer Breakfast - and one is reluctant to criticize....

[but]...many in the audience were reaching for their own jaws when Obama got to the liberty section of his speech, according to several people who attended the breakfast. Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, summed up the general reaction of many with whom he spoke: "Stunned."

"Several people said afterward how encouraged they would have been by President Obama's remarks if only his acts reflected what he said," Cromartie told me.

One table was applauding only out of politeness, according to Jerry Pattengale, who was sitting with Steve Green - president of the Hobby Lobby stores that have challenged Obamacare's contraceptive mandate. Pattengale described the experience as "surrealistic."

Read it all.

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

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHealth & Medicine--The 2009 American Health Care Reform DebateLaw & Legal IssuesLife EthicsReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted February 11, 2014 at 7:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew warned Congress on Wednesday that the government would most likely exhaust its ability to borrow in late February, setting up yet another fiscal showdown with Republicans, and this time earlier than congressional leaders had anticipated.

In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner and the other top three congressional leaders, Mr. Lew said a surge of February spending, mainly tax refunds for 2013, would leave the Treasury with little room to maneuver after the official debt limit is reached on Feb. 7.

The letter amounts to an early alarm bell, coming just weeks after Congress passed its first bipartisan budget and comprehensive spending bill in years. Those bills were supposed to serve as a cease-fire in the budget wars that have rattled the country and the economy since Republicans took control of the House in 2011.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetFederal ReserveMedicaidMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitThe United States Currency (Dollar etc)Politics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

6 Comments
Posted January 23, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Sixty-five percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the nation's system of government and how well it works, the highest percentage in Gallup's trend since 2001. Dissatisfaction is up five points since last year, and has edged above the previous high from 2012 (64%).

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General

0 Comments
Posted January 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

More than five years later, there is still no answer to perhaps the most critical question raised by the man-made disaster: How much did it all cost?

In July, three economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Tyler Atkinson, David Luttrell and Harvey Rosenblum, gave it a shot, at least as far as the United States economy goes.

...their examination offers a panoramic view of the variety of ways in which the financial crisis diminished the nation’s standard of living. At a bare minimum the crisis cost nearly $20,000 for each American. Adding in broader impacts on workers’ well-being — an admittedly speculative exercise — could raise the price tag to as much as $120,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States. With this kind of money we could pay back the federal debt or pay for a top-notch college education for everyone.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryMarriage & FamilyPovertyPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentFederal ReserveThe National DeficitPolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

5 Comments
Posted January 22, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

True to their "live to work" reputation, some baby boomers are digging in their heels at the workplace as they approach the traditional retirement age of 65. While the average age at which U.S. retirees say they retired has risen steadily from 57 to 61 in the past two decades, boomers -- the youngest of whom will turn 50 this year -- will likely extend it even further. Nearly half (49%) of boomers still working say they don't expect to retire until they are 66 or older, including one in 10 who predict they will never retire.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyMarriage & FamilyMiddle AgePsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinancePensionsStock MarketThe U.S. GovernmentMedicareSocial SecurityPolitics in General* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 21, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The US Federal Reserve was being complacent by planning for years of below-target inflation, warned Minneapolis Fed President in a clarion call for more economic stimulus.
“We’re running the risk of being content with inflation running consistently below our target. That’s inappropriate,” said Narayana Kocherlakota, who votes on Fed monetary policy this year, in an interview with the Financial Times. “Right now we’re sitting with an outlook for inflation that even by 2016 . . . is not getting back to 2 per cent.”

Mr Kocherlakota’s remarks illustrate the growing anxiety about low global inflation that led Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, to warn this week that “rising risks of deflation” could be disastrous for the world’s economic recovery – calling it the “ogre that must be fought decisively”.

Read it all.

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

0 Comments
Posted January 17, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks.

While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials.

The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers. In some cases, they are sent to a briefcase-size relay station that intelligence agencies can set up miles away from the target.

Read it all

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 16, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The U6 unemployment rate tabulates not only people without work who are seeking full-time employment but also counts "marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons."

Please take the time to study this graph of U-6 at the top and look carefully at the other numbers. What do you see? Seasonally adjusted U-6 unemployment is now
still higher than it was in November of 2008, over 5 years ago. While there has been improvement from the worst levels of the great recession, it is hardly anywhere near what could be called healthy.

Those of you who are data hounds (like yours truly) will perhaps appreciate the table here; there is much more material at the BLS website--KSH.

Filed under: * By Kendall* Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. Government

0 Comments
Posted January 10, 2014 at 4:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Do higher living standards for the poor mean that the war on poverty has succeeded? No. To judge the effort, consider LBJ's original aim. He sought to give poor Americans "opportunity not doles," planning to shrink welfare dependence not expand it. In his vision, the war on poverty would strengthen poor Americans' capacity to support themselves, transforming "taxeaters" into "taxpayers." It would attack not just the symptoms of poverty but, more important, remove the causes.

By that standard, the war on poverty has been a catastrophe. The root "causes" of poverty have not shrunk but expanded as family structure disintegrated and labor-force participation among men dropped. A large segment of the population is now less capable of self-sufficiency than when the war on poverty began.

The collapse of marriage in low-income communities has played a substantial role in the declining capacity for self-support. In 1963, 6% of American children were born out of wedlock. Today the number stands at 41%. As benefits swelled, welfare increasingly served as a substitute for a bread-winning husband in the home.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHistoryMarriage & FamilyPoverty* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentSenate* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted January 10, 2014 at 11:06 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Glenn] Greenwald was the first but not the only journalist that Snowden reached out to. The Post’s Barton Gellman had also connected with him. Now, collaborating with documentary filmmaker and Snowden confidante Laura Poitras, he was going to extend the story to Silicon Valley. Gellman wanted to be the first to expose a top-secret NSA program called Prism. Snowden’s files indicated that some of the biggest companies on the web had granted the NSA and FBI direct access to their servers, giving the agencies the ability to grab a person’s audio, video, photos, emails, and documents. The government urged Gellman not to identify the firms involved, but Gellman thought it was important. “Naming those companies is what would make it real to Americans,” he says. Now a team of Post reporters was reaching out to those companies for comment.

It would be the start of a chain reaction that threatened the foundations of the industry. The subject would dominate headlines for months and become the prime topic of conversation in tech circles. For years, the tech companies’ key policy issue had been negotiating the delicate balance between maintaining customers’ privacy and providing them benefits based on their personal data. It was new and contro­versial territory, sometimes eclipsing the substance of current law, but over time the companies had achieved a rough equilibrium that allowed them to push forward. The instant those phone calls from reporters came in, that balance was destabilized, as the tech world found itself ensnared in a fight far bigger than the ones involving oversharing on Facebook or ads on Gmail. Over the coming months, they would find themselves at war with their own government, in a fight for the very future of the Internet.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 7, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As interments of veterans and their dependents climb to a record level, the Department of Veterans Affairs is rushing to add burial space at the fastest rate since the Civil War.

The project is adding thousands of burial sites and vault spaces across the country. But a Nevada congresswoman is pressing the VA to add more national cemeteries, especially in Western states that now have few cemeteries but whose senior populations are growing.

"The prestige of being buried in a national cemetery is something every veteran is entitled to," said Rep. Dina Titus, a Democrat, who has been prodding the VA to open more such cemeteries in places like Nevada. It is among about a dozen U.S. states that lack a federally funded and operated national cemetery, and rely mostly on veterans' cemeteries run by states or Native American tribal governments.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & Family* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryEconomyThe U.S. Government* TheologyEschatologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

2 Comments
Posted December 23, 2013 at 5:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Although the Fed expects to keep reducing the program "in measured steps" next year, the timing and the course isn't preset. "Continued progress [in the economy] is by no means certain," Mr. [Ben] Bernanke said. "The steps that we take will be data-dependent."

If the Fed proceeds at the pace he set out, it would complete the bond-buying program toward the end of 2014 with holdings of nearly $4.5 trillion in bonds, loans and other assets, nearly six times as large as the Fed's total holdings when the financial crisis started in 2008.

Still, officials—worried that investors would quake at the thought of less Fed support—went to lengths to demonstrate that they would keep interest rates low for years to come, even after the bond-buying program ends.
Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsCurrency MarketsHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceStock MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetFederal ReserveThe National DeficitPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted December 19, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Seventy-two percent of Americans say big government is a greater threat to the U.S. in the future than is big business or big labor, a record high in the nearly 50-year history of this question. The prior high for big government was 65% in 1999 and 2000. Big government has always topped big business and big labor, including in the initial asking in 1965, but just 35% named it at that time.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

0 Comments
Posted December 19, 2013 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While plenty of baby boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, have become affluent and many elderly around the U.S. face financial hardship, the wealth disparity of this father and daughter is emblematic of a broad shift occurring around the country. A rising tide of graying baby boomers is less secure financially and has a lower standard of living than their aged parents.

The median net worth for U.S. households headed by boomers aged 55 to 64 was almost 8 percent lower, at $143,964, than those 75 and older in 2011, according to Census Bureau data. Boomers lost more than other groups in the stock market and housing bust of 2008, and many also lost their jobs in the aftermath at a critical point in their productive years.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyChildrenMarriage & FamilyMiddle AgePsychology* Economics, PoliticsEconomyHousing/Real Estate MarketLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinancePensionsStock MarketThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentMedicareSocial Security

0 Comments
Posted December 18, 2013 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

But there’s a problem. [Charles] Lindblom’s common-sense insight has a giant exception: crises. Change, forced by outside events, then happens by “leaps and bounds.” The recent financial crisis caused Congress and two presidents to embrace measures (the rescue of big banks, General Motors and Chrysler) that were unthinkable a few months earlier. In the 1960s, civil rights demonstrations pushed Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that, in outlawing most public racial discrimination, wasn’t “incremental.” History offers other examples, including the Civil War, the New Deal and both World Wars. Small changes won’t suffice when big changes are required.

On the budget, muddling through comes with a crucial assumption. It is that continuous deficits won’t provoke a crisis that compels political leaders to take harsh steps that they would otherwise not take. This optimism may be justified. For decades, “experts” have warned of the dire consequences of unchecked deficits. Yet no great crisis has occurred. But this conviction also could be complacency. Government debt is in territory that, except for wartime debt, is unprecedented. We don’t know the consequences. Someday, we may no longer have the luxury of muddling through.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaSenate* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 17, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

House and Senate negotiators have reached agreement on an $85 billion package to fund the government past Jan. 15, avoid another federal shutdown and end the cycle of budget crises that have dominated Washington for much of the past three years.

The deal did not include a key priority of House Democrats who wanted an extension of long-term benefits for the unemployed. But Democrats said they would continue to press Republicans on the issue in hopes of preventing more than 1 million people from losing their unemployment checks at the end of the month.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetThe National DeficitPolitics in GeneralHouse of RepresentativesSenate

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Posted December 10, 2013 at 6:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Healthcare.gov seems to be working better for consumers, relatively, but it is not clear that it works for insurers (in which case it doesn’t work for consumers either, as they are trying to buy insurance). Insurers have long said that they are receiving botched enrolment forms, or 834s, if they receive them at all. On December 2nd health officials said they had fixed a problem that accounted for 80% of the glitches with 834s. But they would not confirm what share of 834s were being bungled, so it is hard to know the fix’s importance.

If the site is working better for consumers, as it seems to be, shoppers may rush to sign up for insurance before Mr Obama’s deadline of December 23rd. They will expect coverage to kick in just a few days later, on January 1st. That gives insurers little time to process 834s, even if they are sent without problems, let alone deal with garbled forms. Mr Obama’s goals for health reform have always been laudable. But the gruelling, technical job of enrolment will be the big story for some time yet.

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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 DebateLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology


Posted December 5, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Children raised in single-parent households in the U.S. are far more likely to live in poverty than children with both parents present, according to Census figures released Monday. As a result, far more black and Hispanic children are raised in poverty than white kids.

Among all children living only with their mother, nearly half — or 45% — live below the poverty line, the Census Bureau said. For those living with just the father, about 21% lived in poverty. By comparison, only about 13% of children with both parents present in the household live below the poverty line.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyPoverty* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentCensus/Census Data* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 25, 2013 at 6:53 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

According to CT sister resource Managing Your Church, the average base salary of a full-time senior pastor in 2012-2013 ranges from $33,000 to $70,000. Eighty-four percent of senior pastors surveyed said they also receive a housing allowance, which accounts for $20,000 to $38,000 in added compensation. The Joint Committee on Taxation calculates the exemption amounted to $700 million in recent years, notes Peter Reilly of Forbes.

CT previously reported how the threat to pastor parsonages lost its legal legs but was revived again, and examined debate over whether or not Congress should change the rules on pastor housing allowances. CT also noted the quirky reasoning that recently allowed one prominent pastor to claim two parsonages.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceTaxesThe U.S. Government* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 25, 2013 at 7:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

You can find the actual ruling here and the Wisconsin State Journal article about it there. The Wisconsin State Journal article begins as follows:
A federal judge has found unconstitutional a law that lets clergy members avoid paying income taxes on compensation that is designated part of a housing allowance.

The decision Friday by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb could have far-reaching financial ramifications for pastors, who currently can use the untaxed income to pay rental housing costs or the costs of home ownership, including mortgage payments and property taxes.
You should read it all as well as the Religion News Service article there.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedStewardship* Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTaxesThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 25, 2013 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

WHAT if America were to scrap all its anti-poverty programmes—welfare, food stamps, unemployment benefits, the works—and replace them with an unconditional basic income (UBI) for everybody? Even in a Congress beset by less extraordinary levels of dysfunction, the idea would have little chance of becoming law. It’s fun to theorise, though. And if Switzerland approves a referendum to send all of its citizens $2,800 a month, the debate will have a fascinating new reference point.

Annie Lowrey’s article in the New York Times Magazine explains that both the left and the right have reason to favour a basic income. Liberals support the idea because it would elevate 50m Americans above the poverty line overnight. Some on the right, like Charles Murray, are keen to eliminate rent-seeking—and much of the federal bureaucracy—with a UBI that gives everyone the same government benefit. “A single father with two jobs and two children would no longer have to worry about the hassle of visiting a bunch of offices to receive benefits,” Ms Lowrey writes. “And giving him a single lump sum might help him use his federal dollars better. Housing vouchers have to be spent on housing, food stamps on food. Those dollars would be more valuable—both to the recipient and the economy at large—if they were fungible.”

The economic effects of a basic income are debatable. Some economists think a UBI would disincentivise work; others argue that it would enhance entrepreneurialism by easing the path to start a small business or switch careers.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPoverty* Economics, PoliticsEconomyLabor/Labor Unions/Labor MarketPersonal FinanceThe U.S. GovernmentPolitics in General* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Terry Dehko and his daughter Sandy Thomas (pictured) run a grocery store in Fraser, Michigan. It sells everything from bread to hand-made sausages. Fairly often, someone takes cash from the till and puts it in the bank across the street. Deposits are nearly always less than $10,000, because the insurance covers the theft of cash only up to that sum.

In January, without warning, the government seized all the money in the shop account: more than $35,000. The charge was that the Dehkos had violated federal money-laundering rules, which forbid people to “structure” their bank deposits so as to avoid the $10,000 threshold that triggers banks to report a transaction to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Prosecutors offered no evidence that the Dehkos were laundering money or dodging tax. Indeed, the IRS gave their business a clean bill of health last year. But still, the Dehkos cannot get their cash back.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyCorporations/Corporate LifeThe U.S. Government

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Posted November 8, 2013 at 9:35 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

..before realtors get too confident about the future, it is worth looking at some sobering research from the International Monetary Fund, buried deep inside this autumn’s Global Financial Stability Report. This analysis, which looks at mortgage real estate investment trusts (M-Reits) – which invest in packages of mortgage bonds – did not make headlines when the IMF met last month, because M-Reits are a fairly specialist sector. That is a pity, given that the IMF says the rapidly expanding world of M-Reits has the potential to deliver nasty surprises if, or when, US interest rates rise.

Most notably, even a modest increase in rates could spark fire sales of mortgage-backed bonds, which would raise mortgage interest rates sharply for consumers. And that could not just hurt housing markets but produce knock-on waves of instability in other areas of finance.

“Rapid M-Reit deleveraging has important spillover implications,” the IMF report warns.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationHistory* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingCorporations/Corporate LifeCredit MarketsHousing/Real Estate MarketStock MarketThe Banking System/SectorThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. GovernmentFederal Reserve* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted November 8, 2013 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

No one wants to be against Grandma, who — as portrayed in the media — is kindly, often suffering from some condition, usually financially precarious and somehow needy. But projecting this sympathetic portrait onto the entire 65-plus population is an exercise in make-believe and, frequently, political propaganda. The St. Louis Fed study refutes the stereotype. Examining different age groups, it found that since the financial crisis, incomes have risen for the elderly while they’ve dropped for the young and middle-aged.

The numbers are instructive. From 2007, the year before the financial crisis, to 2010, median income for the families under 40 dropped 12.4 percent to $39,644. For the middle-aged from 40 to 61, the comparable decline was 11.9 percent to $56,924. Meanwhile, those aged 62 to 69 gained 12.3 percent to $50,825. For Americans 70-plus, the increase was 15.6 percent to $31,512. (All figures adjust for inflation and are in 2010 “constant” dollars. The “median income” is the midpoint of incomes and is often considered “typical.”)

There has been a historic shift in favor of today’s elderly. To put this in perspective, recall that many family expenses drop with age. Mortgages are paid off; work costs vanish; children leave. Recall also that incomes typically follow a “life cycle”: They start low in workers’ 20s, peak in their 50s, and then decline in retirement, as wages give way to government transfers and savings. Against these realities, the long-term gains of the elderly and losses of the young are astonishing. From 1989 to 2010, median income increased 60 percent for those aged 62 to 69 while falling 6 percent for those under 40 and 2 percent for those 40 to 61.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyHealth & Medicine* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentBudgetMedicareSocial SecurityThe National DeficitPolitics in General

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Posted November 4, 2013 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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