The Common Good

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Millennials Find Distinction Between Personal Morality and Common Good

College-aged adults are not letting their moral beliefs on social issues filter into their politics.

According to the just released “Millennial Values Survey” by the Public Religion Research Institute and Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, adults age 18-24 are much less likely than their parents to cite social issues like abortion (22 percent) or same-sex marriage (22 percent) as critical.

While the group is split on social issues personally, they don't factor into the political reality. For example, while 51 percent believe abortion is morally wrong, 59 percent believe access to abortion should be legal. Likewise, 48 percent believe sex between members of the same gender is morally wrong, but 59 percent favor allowing same-sex couples to legally marry.

The gap is also evident in their religious affiliation. The percent of religiously unaffiliated jumped from 11 percent in childhood to 25 percent now.

Their attitudes toward Christianity paint a picture of possible motives behind the shift. Two-thirds say that Christianity can be described as “anti-gay,” and 62 percent believe present-day Christianity is “judgmental.”

The full survey will be released this morning at Georgetown University. Check back with Sojourners for more coverage of the findings.

Sandi Villarreal is Associate Web Editor for Sojourners. Follow Sandi on Twitter @Sandi.

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The Cost of the Military

Each year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) publishes a study on the amount world governments spend on their militaries. The 2011 report was released this week, showing that all countries together spent $1.7 trillion. The Guardian has a helpful country-by-country data page and interactive map. The top 5 in the world last year, totaling $1.05 trillion, were:

U. S.  - $711 billion

China - $143 billion 

Russia - $72 billion

Britain - $63 billion

France - $62 billion

In contrast, the budget for UN Peacekeeping operations for fiscal year July 2011-30 June 2012 is about $7.84 billion. That’s 0.5 percent of what the world spends on its militaries.

It’s a stark example of the world’s misguided priorities.

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Survey Shows Obama Lead Narrowing as Voters Focus on Economy

A new survey released today shows that President Barack Obama holds a narrow lead over Gov. Mitt Romney in economic issues among voters—a topic that eight in 10 voters believe to be very important.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports that on economic issues, 49 percent of voters favor Obama while 45 percent favor Romney. In these statistics, Romney holds a 53-point lead among white evangelicals and a 20-point lead among white Catholics, while Obama garners strong support from black Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated.

As voters head to the polls in November, numbers show that for many voters, issues of employment and the economy will take priority over social issues like gay marriage and abortion.

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Ryan Budget is a Present-Day 'Hunger Games'

Melissa Boteach of Half-in-Ten—the campaign to cut poverty in half in 10 years—is using the Katniss defense against the Ryan budget cuts.

The world that Suzanne Collins paints in the The Hunger Games is one in which only the strong survive. Those that can’t keep up are cut out, kind of like the Ryan budget.

One of the radical things about the ethical agenda that Jesus promoted was the place he offered to the sick, the weak and the weary. He flipped common understanding of who was “deserving” and who was “undeserving” upside down.

The Catholic Bishops have now come out with their concerns about the Ryan budget and how it abandons the poor and the hungry. Take a look at Melissa’s chart, what do you think?


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The Cold War is Over

From the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the Cold War ended. But U.S. policymakers apparently still haven’t gotten the news.

This meeting of the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, last weekend ended without  the usual official declaration because U.S. policy refuses to include Cuba, while a broad range of other governments in the Americas supports  an invitation. The final vote was 32-2 for Cuba’s inclusion in future meetings, with only the U.S. and Canada opposed.

Reuters  noted:  “U.S. insistence that Havana undertake democratic reforms before returning to the hemispheric family led to a clash with a united front of leftist and conservative governments that see Washington's policy toward Cuba as a relic of the Cold War.”

It’s long past time for the U.S. to realize that the Cold War is over, that Cuba exists, and that inclusion will foster change faster than exclusion.  Even the Vatican realizes that, as Pope Benedict’s recent trip to Cuba demonstrated.

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Emancipation Day

Today is a holiday in the District of Columbia, although primarily observed only by the D.C. government, and likely unknown to the rest of the country. But it’s a commemoration worth noting.

One-hundred and fifty years ago, April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the District of Columbia Emancipation Act, freeing more than 3,000 slaves within its borders. It predated the more famous Emancipation Proclamation, which came nearly 10 months later on January 1, 1863.

Yet, while legal slavery is long gone, economic disparities are vast and growing. The income gap is one of the widest in the country, with a white per capita income more than triple that of African-Americans. The poverty rate is 20 percent, 30 percent for children,

Politically, all Washingtonians, regardless of race, remain disenfranchised – we have no elected voting representative in Congress, while Congress retains veto power over our budget. That leads to it using us to enact their pet ideas – repealing a variety of legislation duly passed by our City Council and Mayor.

For D.C. residents, today is a day to remember and celebrate the end of slavery, while renewing the struggle for economic justice and full representation as citizens of the United States.

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Number of African-American Baseball Players Declines

Yesterday was Jackie Robinson Day in major league baseball. Every player on every team wore the number 42 on their uniform in honor of his integrating baseball in 1947. In the 1950s and 60s, players such as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson, and many more followed.  All were giants of baseball. All are in the Hall of Fame. All are African-American.

This morning, USA Today released research results showing that the percentage of African-Americans in baseball is now down to 8 percent, the lowest since Robinson’s day. In 1975, it reached 27 percent; in 1995, it was 19 percent. There are a variety of reasons for the decline: basketball and football appear more glamorous to top athletes, the cost of equipment in baseball is prohibitive for many inner city schools and teams, and there is a lack of college scholarships in baseball. Some also cite the low number of African-Americans in leadership positions – out of 30 teams, there are only 2 general managers and 2 managers.

Whatever the reason, baseball is poorer for the absence. 

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Lobbyists Spend A Lot of Money to Make Your Taxes Confusing

I finished up my taxes last night. I didn’t think much of the hour I spent on the phone with my dad making sure I filed correctly. Taxes are always complicated, right?

Well, maybe that’s because the folks at Intuit (the publishers of TurboTax) want them to be.

Matt Stoller over at Republic Report pointed out that the ReadyReturn program in California sends tax payers a form showing how much they owe in taxes. Then they just sign it and send it back. It costs less for the state to process and it saves tax payers a lot of time.

During the 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama promised to implement something similar on the federal level. What happened?

Stoller also notes that since 2008, Intuit has spent a good $9 million on lobbying. And according to one of their investor reports, keeping taxes complicated is a top priority:

Our consumer tax business also faces significant competition from the public sector, where we face the risk of federal and state taxing authorities developing software or other systems to facilitate tax return preparation and electronic filing at no charge to taxpayers. These or similar programs may be introduced or expanded in the future, which may cause us to lose customers and revenue. For example, during tax season 2010, the federal government introduced a prepaid debit card program to facilitate the refund process. Our consumer and professional tax businesses provide this service as well.  

If that doesn’t make you mad, take a look at why you are probably paying $500 more a year for your cell phone then you should be.

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Catholic Leaders Say Rep. Paul Ryan Distorting Church Teaching

In response to Rep. Paul Ryan’s recent comments justifying the Republican budget plan on Catholic grounds, 60 prominent Catholic leaders today released a statement saying his claims “profoundly distort” Catholic teaching.

“Simply put, this budget is morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good,” the statement reads. “A budget that turns its back on the hungry, the elderly and the sick while giving more tax breaks to the wealthiest few can’t be justified in Christian terms.”

John Gehring, Catholic Outreach Coordinator at Faith in Public Life, believes Ryan’s beliefs are skewed.

“This budget turns centuries of Catholic social teaching on its head,” Gehring said in a news release. “These Catholic leaders and many Catholics in the pews are tired of faith being misused to bless an immoral agenda.”

Read the full statement and signatories HERE.

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Just Bring Them Home

George Masters, combat veteran and freelance writer, writes of driving behind a car with two 'Support Our Troops' ribbons. In his head, he responds:

I’m driving angry. I want to tell the guy in front of me: You want to support the troops? Get them the hell out of the line of fire. Or, if you think this war is so necessary, get over there yourself. If you’re too old, pull your kids or grandkids out of college and send them.

I’m driving sad. You want to support our troops? Give the man some space when he gets home. Give the woman a jo

After a vivid and harrowing description of his 1968 combat tour in Vietnam, he ends:

You want to do something for our troops? Bring them home.

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