Economy

QR Blog Editor 05-08-2012

Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities takes a look at the economic situation for The Huffington Post and asks:

"Why are advanced economies so seemingly immune to correct diagnosis and prescription? Why are we applying leeches instead of the contemporary medicine of combined monetary and fiscal stimulus in order to once and for all hit the escape velocity that's eluded us thus far?"

Take a look at his answers here

QR Blog Editor 05-03-2012

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Paul Krugman talks about his new book, and why fixing the economy is easier than we think:

Four years after the start of the Great Recession, nobody would mistake U.S. economy for a thrumming engine of growth, prosperity, and human flourishing. Sure, we're officially out of "recession." But the recovery is painfully slow and uneven, and 24 million Americans are still unemployed or underemployed. There's a lot of pain out there, and a lot of potential going to waste.

Read the interview here

Sandi Villarreal 04-26-2012

If the GOP presidential primaries have been any indication, voter turnout for November's election could be fairly dismal. Between the uber-polarization of the parties and nationwide trend toward the middle at a voter level, many may opt to stay at home.

The lack of enthusiasm is especially evident in the youngest voting bloc, age 18-24. According to the latest from Public Religion Research and Georgetown University's Berkley Center, young adults are not exactly excited about their prospects of either political persuasion. Further, while one in six of them are registered to vote, only 46 percent plan to cast theirs in November.

But apart from the state of public discourse and apathy concerns of the weary voter, another issue is creeping up that could pose a problem for potential turnout—money. 

According to The Atlantic Cities, some cities simply don't have the money—and have to cut elsewhere—to host an election. 

"… municipalities are scrambling to pay the costs associated with manning polling places. Some have said they'll put off road repairs while transit crews work on Election Day. Others may borrow workers from other departments to help count votes. In practice, this will likely mean fewer voting precincts, shorter hours and longer lines."

In a culture that is not known for its patience or attention span, how will this trend affect the public's motivation, or lack thereof, to hit the polls in November?

Joshua Witchger 04-18-2012

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.

Annalisa Musarra 03-27-2012
Giving basket, Suzanne Tucker, Shutterstock.com

Giving basket, Suzanne Tucker, Shutterstock.com

The recession and a sluggish recovery have made for a lighter collection plate in recent years, but a new study shows that giving to U.S. congregations bounced back in 2011 as the economy improved.

According to the fourth annual "State of the Plate" survey released on Tuesday, 51 percent of churches last year saw an increase in giving, up from 43 percent in 2010 and 36 percent in 2009.

The national survey, sponsored by MAXIMUM Generosity, Christianity Today and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), asked more than 1,360 congregations of different sizes to report on their donations and budgets.

Lisa Sharon Harper 03-12-2012
Fixing the Moral Deficit, YouTube.com screenshot, InterVarsity Press

Fixing the Moral Deficit, YouTube.com screenshot, InterVarsity Press

Rep. Paul Ryan’s (Chairman of House Budget Committee) FY2012 plan, A Roadmap for America’s Future, garnered princely praise in early April 2011, but it was quickly trailed by intense scrutiny when Ryan’s botched math and skewed priorities became apparent upon his budget’s review. Hailed as visionary and courageous upon submission, Ryan’s budget plan ultimately revealed his ideologically entrenched disregard for the poor.

A few weeks ago President Barack Obama announced his FY2013 Budget. Within a few weeks, Ryan will submit his FY2013 budget plan for review. Dr. Ronald J. Sider’s new book, Fixing the Moral Deficit (February 2012), comes just in time!

Sider has offered practical, balanced, and highly informed guidance for Christian engagement in the public sphere since publication of his first and seminal book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (1977). Sider draws from his Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America (Sider, 1999) to lay the philosophical foundation for this latest analysis in Fixing the Moral Deficit.

Sider starts with a simple premise: We have a deficit crisis. We also have a poverty crisis. Together these crises are producing a moral crisis in America.

LaVonne Neff 02-15-2012
Der Mammon und sein Sklave. Holzstich.via Wiki Commons, http://bit.ly/zom5Df.

Der Mammon und sein Sklave. Holzstich, 1896 via Wiki Commons, http://bit.ly/zom5Df.

Tuesday's New York Times carried a thought-provoking op-ed by David Brooks called "The Materialist Fallacy." I recommend that you read it: it's only 764 words long. Brooks argues that "in the half-century between 1962 and the present, America has become more prosperous, peaceful and fair, but the social fabric has deteriorated." This is not just because of job loss (the liberal explanation) or government intrusiveness (the libertarian explanation) or "the abandonment of traditional bourgeois norms" (the neo-conservative explanation).

It has more to do with declining social context and social capital, says Brooks, who never met a financial capitalist he didn't like. He really likes Charles Murray's new book, however: Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. (If you're not up for the 416-page book, you might want to read Brooks's January 30 column in praise of it.) Both authors worry about nefarious social forces that are driving a wedge between rich and poor, productive and non-productive, law-abiding and outlaws.

Brooks is partly right, and so are his critics. Yes, there's a rip in our social fabric. Yes, it is caused or made worse by job loss, ill-advised government programs, and shifting (or abandoned) values. Yes, it diminishes social capital and impoverishes social context. But also, Mr Brooks, and perhaps fundamentally, our decaying social fabric is the direct result of our enthusiastic worship of Mammon--the love of money that is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

I don't need to remind anybody about rapacious financiers, bloated CEOs, unscrupulous lobbyists, and corrupt politicians. But there were plenty of those in the 1890s and the 1920s, and, as Brooks points out, the social fabric still stayed more or less intact back then. Even two World Wars and a Great Depression didn't unravel it. People still finished school, still got jobs, and still got married before having children, if not always before getting pregnant. Why did things start to break down in the 60s?

Bill McKibben 02-01-2012

There are many things they seemed to hold in common, not least an instinctive nonviolence, contrasting so sharply with the police, who so often let the logic of force drive their actions (they found out, as often in history, that the logic that works with criminals doesn’t really apply to idealists).

Timothy King 01-20-2012

Newt Gingrich now regularly refers to President Obama as the “Food Stamp President.” Why?

Since late 2007, caseloads for the program formerly known as Food Stamps (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- SNAP) have risen sharply.

These numbers are significant; about 14.2 million more people have started receiving benefits under President Obama. Still, this is just behind the record number of 14.7 million additional recipients added under President George W. Bush.

So, what’s the significance? President Obama has had a lot shorter time in office than President Bush did, should we be worried?

When I look at the numbers, I’m not concerned about the growth of SNAP under President Obama, I’m surprised at it’s growth under President Bush.

Timothy King 01-12-2012
Tim King is Sojourners' Communcations Director

Tim King is Sojourners' Communcations Director

If the GOP primaries were like Old Country Buffet, I’d be happy.

Think about it. There wouldn’t be so much money involved and we could pick only the stuff we liked and ignore  the rest.

And of course, everyone knows the basic rules of smorgasbord grazing, such as you can’t get decent sushi in the Midwest or proper social conservatives from Massachusetts.

At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, at least two members of the audience challenged Mitt Romney on the morality of America’s economic system and of the trickle-down theory of economics. Romney defended the concept that corporations are people and asked which country in the world has higher incomes than the United States.
   
Luxembourg.
   
And depending upon what measure one uses and which web site on consults, that list also includes the territory of Bermuda, the dependency of Jersey, Equatorial Guinea, United Arab Emirates, Norway and Switzerland.
   
It is true that the United States has the most powerful economy measured by Gross Domestic Product — nearly $15 trillion. China is number two with $10 trillion. But if we measure per capita income, the United States falls to number three behind Norway and Switzerland. (Norway: $43,400 Switzerland: $40, 680 U.S. $37,870)
   
According to the web site WiseGeek, Luxembourg has the highest income per capita in the world.

Wes Granberg-Michaelson. Photo courtesy of the author.

Wes Granberg-Michaelson. Photo courtesy of the author.

“Evangelical voters” have now been sized and squeezed into a homogeneous political block. These folks have views on the political right wing, trust in robust American military might, believe that wealth is a blessing to be protected by tax policy, want society to be inhospitable toward gays, oppose any form of abortion, feel that “big” government is always malevolent, and assert that American individualism is the divinely sanctioned cornerstone of the Republic. Apply the label “evangelical” to a voter and you can expect these political responses.

The problem is that it’s simply inaccurate. One size doesn’t fit all when in come to evangelicals. It distorts reality. But that’s just too inconvenient for pundits intent on predicting how various blocks will vote.

Jack Palmer 12-09-2011

Young, Hip Jews Leading a Makeover; EPA Finds Fracking Contaminated Drinking Water in Wyoming; Dick Durbin May Block Religious Freedom Commission’s Renewal Until Feds Buy His Favorite Prison; Against “Taking Things Back:” Rethinking the OWS Slogan; Rick Perry Anti-Gay Ad Puts Spotlight on GOP Consulting Class; Black, atheist and living in the South Benjamin; The New Evangelicals; Why Rick Perry’s New Ads Are Wrong On Religion–And Obama; Latinos Don't Vote On Faith Or Religion But On Economic Issues; Faith And Family Values At Issue In Republican Contest; Children Of Immigrants Ask For Halt To Deportation That Splits Families; Sesame Street Muppet Pitches Government Dependence: Free Food At School; Economic Experts Gather In DC To Explain Why Politics Has Doomed Us.

Cuba, Dec. 8, 2008. Image via Wylio: http://bit.ly/tQNsK3

Cuba, Dec. 8, 2008. Image via Wylio: http://bit.ly/tQNsK3

Earlier this month, Sojourners board member and former General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America, Wes Granberg-Michaelson, journeyed to Cuba with a delegation of religious leaders from the National Council of Churches.

Their visit culminated in a joint declaration celebrating signs of unity between the U.S. and Cuban churches. Sixteen representatives of U.S. National Council of Churches member communions were in Cuba November 28 through December 2 meeting with Cuban church and political leaders, including President Raúl Castro.

The delegation, which Cuban church leaders said was the highest ranking U.S. church group to visit the island in their memory, was led by the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC general secretary. The joint statement by the churches declared that normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba would be in the best interest of both nations, and the leaders called for the resolution of three humanitarian issues “which cause unjustifiable human misunderstanding and suffering.” Foremost among the issues is the 53-year-old U.S. economic embargo of Cuba that dates back to the administration of President John F. Kennedy.

Read a series of dispatches from Granberg-Michaelson inside God's Politics.

 

Bill McKibben 11-29-2011
Sign Seen at Occupy Wall Street in October (Image by Mike Fleshman via flickr)

Sign Seen at Occupy Wall Street in October (Image by Mike Fleshman via flickr)

I was also struck by their refusal to simply announce a set of demands. Occupiers aren’t dumb—they’ve read and heard the many calls from the media and politicians that they simply say what they want. It would be easy enough—but in some sense it would detract from the greatest usefulness of the campaign, which has been to articulate a sense of despair bordering on rage. Because they didn’t quickly say “we want this bill passed,” commentators have had to grapple with the actual message of many Occupiers: Our economy is unfair. It gives too much power to corporations who abuse that power for their own ends. They’ve not just cheated us financially; they’ve cheated us of our democracy.

Duane Shank 11-23-2011

Rather than the opinions of individual pundits, here’s a roundup of what the editors of some of the nation’s largest newspapers had to say this week about the failure of the “Supercommittee.” 

Some blame Republicans, some blame Democrats, and most blame both.

Washington Post: “What next, now that the congressional supercommittee has failed? Depressingly, the answer is: not much, at least in the short term. Absent some intervening, cataclysmic event, the debt-reduction can has been kicked once again — this time, until after the election.”

The Independent (London): “The failure of the comically mis-named "super-committee" of Congress to come up with even the modest debt reduction package required of it has been a racing certainty for weeks in Washington. Nonetheless, Monday evening's admission of that failure – the latest proof of the dysfunctionality of America's political system – is not only shameful. It is also dangerous.”

Jack Palmer 11-21-2011

Obama At Church: The Tricky, Exciting, Distracting Business Of Worshipping With A President. OpEd: Should A President Be Intelligent? Archbishop Rowan Williams Backs Revolt Against Coalition's Welfare Cuts. Taking It To The Streets. Are Christians To Blame For White House Shooter Linking Obama, Antichrist? Voices Of The Near Poor. What Occupy Harvard Should Tell Liberal Elite Parents On Thanksgiving. Democrats To Protest Immigration Crackdowns. And Hispanic Churches Fight Alabama Crackdown On Immigration.

Jack Palmer 11-14-2011

 Cain: God Convinced Me To Run For President. OpEd: Whatever Happened To Discipline And Hard Work? Bob Jones III Unplugged. GOP Candidates Hammer Obama On His Iran Policy During South Carolina Debate. Jon Huntsman Blasts "Sound-Bite Campaigning." OpEd: Christian Politics Create Unholy Alliances. Would Cracking Down On Illegal Immigration Really Cut Unemployment? And the Poor Are With Us, However You Count Them.

Timothy King 11-10-2011

Low-income people are likely to spend additional income on food and basic consumer products. This is good for sales. When sales go up, so does hiring.

We don’t have to make a choice between helping low income people and helping small businesses. We can do both.

We all benefit when parents are able to feed and clothe their children.

Jack Palmer 11-09-2011
The morning news

The morning news

New regulations increase accountability and boost quality in Head Start programs. Economic statements from the GOP presidential contenders. "Occupy" groups plan march from New York City to Washington, D.C. Our expensive, expanding nuclear weapons complex. Evangelicals call for nuclear cutbacks. Mississippi rejects abortion amendment. Ohio repeals anti-union law. And is Occupy Wall Street overshadowing itself?

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