Tag Archives: Economics

Jim Wallis debates Jay Richards on Christianity and economics

In this post, I have the video of a debate on the topic of what Christians should think about economics and economic policies. In addition to the video, I summarized the two opening speeches and the two rebuttals, for those who prefer to read rather than watch. We’ll start with a short biography about each of the debaters.

The video recording:

The debaters

Jay Richards:

Jay Richards, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute where he directs the Center on Wealth, Poverty and Morality, and is a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. Most recently he is the co-author with James Robison of the best-selling Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late”.

In addition to writing many academic articles, books, and popular essays on a wide variety of subjects, he recently edited the new award winning anthology, God & Evolution: Protestants, Catholics and Jews Explore Darwin’s Challenge to Faith . His previous book was Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem (HarperOne, May 2009), for which he received a Templeton Enterprise Award in 2010.

[…]In recent years, he has been a Contributing Editor of The American at the American Enterprise Institute, a Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and a Research Fellow and Director of Acton Media at the Acton Institute. Richards has a B.A. with majors in Political Science and Religion, an M.Div. (Master of Divinity) and a Th.M. (Master of Theology), and a Ph.D. (with honors) in philosophy and theology from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Jim Wallis:

Jim Wallis (born June 4, 1948) is a Christian writer and political activist. He is best known as the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine and as the founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Christian community of the same name. Wallis is well known for his advocacy on issues of peace and social justice. […]He works as a spiritual advisor to President Barack Obama.

[…]In 2010, Wallis admitted to accepting money for Sojourners from philanthropist George Soros after initially denying having done so. […]In 2011, Wallis acknowledged that Sojourners had received another $150,000.00 from Soros’ Open Society Foundation.

Wallis just came out this month in favor of gay marriage. He is also a strong supporter of Barack Obama, who is radically pro-abortion. Some pro-lifers have argued that Barack Obama has the same views on abortion as Kermit Gosnell, because Obama voted twice to allow abortions on babies who were already born alive.

The format of the debate

  • 20 minute opening speeches
  • 10 minute rebuttals
  • 10 minutes of discussion
  • Q&A for the remainder

SUMMARY

I use italics below to denote my own observations.

Jim Wallis’ opening speech:

My goal is to spark a national conversation on the “common good”.

A story about my son who plays baseball.

The central goal of Christianity is to promote the “common good”.

Quotes “Catholic social teaching” which values “human flourishing”.

The “common good” is “human flourishing”.

Is the purpose of Christianity is to make sure that everyone has enough material stuff or to preach the gospel?

When Christians go on mission trips, it’s good that they focus on things like human trafficking.

Democrat John Lewis is the “conscience of the U.S. Congress”.

John Lewis gets a 0% rating from the American Conservative Union in 2012.

John Lewis gets a 8% rating from the American Conservative Union in 2011.

John Lewis gets a 2.29% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union.

Nothing is going well in Washington right now except comprehensive immigration reform.

Does he think that Christianity means giving 20-30 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, while skilled engineers cannot even get green cards, even though there is a shortage of them? Does he think that the other people in society who earn more than they receive from the government ought to be taxed more in order to provide more services and benefits to those who earn less than they take from the government?

Jay Richards’ opening speech:

Two topics: 1) what is the common good? 2) what should Christians do to promote the common good?

Catholicism defines the “common good” as “Indeed, the common good embraces the sum of those conditions of the social life whereby men, families and associations more adequately and readily may attain their own perfection.”

We have natural ends that we are supposed to be achieving and some places, like South Korea, are better for allowing that to happen.

The common good is broader and prior to any sort of political specification.

It’s not the political good or what the state is supposed to do.

It’s not about the communal good, as in Soviet Russia, where the communal good was above individual and familial good.

The common good is the social conditions that promote the things that we humans have in common as individuals and members of family.

The common good takes account of who we are as individuals and in associations with other individuals, e.g. – families.

Christians don’t have to be doing the same things to promote the common good, e.g. – pastors, entrepreneurs, etc.

The church, as the church, has as its primary goal making disciples of all nations.

But even in that capacity, the church should be interested in more than just conversions and saving souls.

We also have to care about God’s created reality including things like physics, education, etc.

How should Christians promote the common good in politics?

Question: when is coercion warranted?

In Romans 13, Paul says that the state does have power to coerce to achieve certain ends, like justice.

Most Christians think that there are some things where the state can use coercion, for example, to prevent/punish murder.

It is OK for the police to use coercive force to maintain public order and the rule of law.

But we need to ask whether other things are legitimate areas for the state to use coercive force.

We should only give the state power to coerce when there is no other way to achieve a goal.

We need to leverage the science of economics in order to know how to achieve the common good.

Jay Richards' main point in the debate
Jay Richards’ main point in the debate

Henry Hazlitt: “The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”

For example, what happens if we raise the federal minimum wage to $50. What happens next for all groups? That’s what we need to ask in order to know which policies achieve the common good.

When it comes to economics a lot of things have been tried in other places and times.

We can know what works and doesn’t work by studying what was tried before and in other places.

Many things are counter-intuitive – things that sound good don’t work, things that sound bad do work.

Principle: “We are our brother’s keeper”. Christians have an obligation to care for their neighbors.

We all agree on the goal. But how do we do things that will achieve that goal?

We have to distinguish aspirations from principles and prudential judgment.

Principle: We should provide for the material needs of the poor.

Prudence: Seeing the world as it is, and acting accordingly.

Example policies: which minimum wage is best? None? $10? $20?

We decide based on seeing how different economic policies achieve the goal of helping the poor.

Jim Wallis’ first rebuttal:

Jesus commanded us to “care for the poor and help to end poverty”.

Actually, Jesus thought that acknowledging him and giving him sacrificial worship was more important than giving money to the poor, see Matthew 26:6-13:

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 

a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 

“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 

11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 

12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 

13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

It’s not clear to me whether Jim Wallis thinks that preaching is more important than redistributing wealth to address material inequality.

I like what Jesus said in a TV series, even though it’s not in the Bible when an actor playing Jesus said to “change the world”.

Jesus never said to “change the world” in the Bible. Should we be concerned that he is quoting a TV actor playing Jesus instead of Jesus.

Here is a terrific story about Bill Bright.

I love Catholic social teaching.

Quote: “All are responsible for all”.

I go to the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland every year. I spoke once at 7 AM on the 4th floor.

It’s a funny place for a Christian to be if they care about the poor – rubbing shoulders with leftist elites. He must have named a dozen high-profile people that he spoke with during the debate, as if he could win the debate by some sort of argument from name-dropping. He mentioned the Davos thing several times!

The greatest beneficiary of government actions to deal with the economic crisis was Wall Street banks.

I’m going to tell you a story about what a Washington lawyer says to Jesus.

I’ve had conversations with business leaders where I tell them to integrate moral truths.

I talk about the Good Samaritan parable.

Quote: “Do you love your undocumented neighbor?”

Quote: “Do you love your Muslim neighbor?”

Jay Richards’ first rebuttal:

Who is responsible for your own children? Who knows the most about them?

Parents should have more discretion over their children because they have more knowledge about their child and what’s best for them.

The Good Samaritan doesn’t show that government should confiscate wealth through taxation and redistribute it.

The Good Samaritan emphasizes voluntarily charity to help people who are not necessarily your immediate neighbor.

Some of the things we do should be for the good of other people in other countries.

But then we are back to leveraging economics to know what policies are good for those other people in other countries.

The principle of subsidiarity: if a problem can be addressed by a lower level of society (family) then we shouldn’t make higher levels (government) address it.

The best place to take care of children is within the family.

Only if the family fails should wider and wider spheres get involved.

Although we want to think of the common good in a global sense, we don’t want to lose sight of the fact

The financial crisis: we need to integrate moral truths, but also economic truths.

We don’t want to assume policies based on intuitions, we want to check our intuitions using economic principles.

Why did we have a financial crisis in mortgages, but not in commodities futures or technology, etc.?

Greed is a contributing factor in all areas of business.

Something more was going on in the mortgage markets than just greed.

There were specific policies that caused the mortgage lending crisis.

The root cause of the problem were “affordable housing policies” that lowered lending restrictions on low income people.

The policy ended up degrading the underwriting standards on loans.

Government intruded into the market and undermined the normal ways of

People were getting massive loans with no income, no jobs, no assets and no down payment.

The federal government created a market for risk loans by guaranteeing

There was a government imposed quota on mortgage lenders such that 50% of their loans had to be given to high-risk borrowers.

That is what led to the financial crisis. Not the free market, but intrusions into the free market.

These policies were well-meaning and implemented by people from both parties. But they had bad effects.

Who is better on health care? Republicans (Ted Cruz) or Democrats (Bernie Sanders)?

I noticed that the Democrats are trying to focus on health care in the 2018 mid-terms, so I thought I would re-post a debate on health care between Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders. I think debates are always a good idea, because you have to listen to both sides. If you can’t watch the full debate, there’s a good article summarizing the main points further down.

Here is the full video:

It’s 90 minutes long. No commercials. This was basically a debate of similar substance to the William Lane Craig debates, where actual economic evidence was continuously produced in order to show who was telling the truth, and who was just trying to be popular by saying what people who are uneducated at economics want to hear. In short: there was a clear winner and loser in this debate, and it was clear all the way through, and was reinforced over and over every time evidence was produced. The person producing the evidence would turn his back on the camera, and return to his podium to get the evidence. That person won the debate by being grounded in reality.

Also, the questions were excellent, especially from the small business owners who were impacted by Obamacare. The moderators were biased towards Sanders, but not excessively.

For those who cannot watch, there is an article at the Daily Signal.

Full text:

In a prime-time debate on CNN this week, Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, discussed “The Future of Obamacare” in America. Cruz, a leading critic of the law, used the moment to outline the law’s failures.

Here are four things Cruz said about Obamacare:

1) “Now, nobody thinks we’re done once Obamacare is repealed. Once Obamacare is repealed, we need commonsense reform that increases competition, that empowers patients, that gives you more choices, that puts you in charge of your health care, rather than empowering government bureaucrats to get in the way. And these have been commonsense ideas.”

2) “Indeed, I don’t know if the cameras can see this, but in 70 percent of the counties in America, on Obamacare exchanges, you have a choice of one or two health insurance plans, that’s it … It’s interesting. You look at this map, this also very much looks like the electoral map that elected Donald Trump. It’s really quite striking that the communities that have been hammered by this disaster of a law said enough already.”

During one of the more powerful moments in the debate, Cruz held up aHeritage Foundation chart showing viewers how many counties in the U.S. have access to only one or two insurers under Obamacare. Additionally, only 11 percent of counties have access to four or more insurance providers.

3) “Whenever you put government in charge of health care, what it means is they ration. They decide you get care and you don’t. I don’t think the government has any business telling you you’re not entitled to receive health care.”

The U.S. should not envy other health care systems, especially Canada and the United Kingdom, Cruz said. He referred to a governor from Canada who came to the U.S. specifically to have heart surgery.

4) “That’s why I think the answer is not more of Obamacare, more government control, more of what got us in this mess. Rather, the answer is empower you. Give you choices. Lower prices. Lower premiums. Lower deductibles. Empower you and put you back in charge of your health care.”

Obamacare is burdening Americans. The average deductible for a family on a bronze plan is $12,393, according to a HealthPocket analysis. According to aneHealth report, the average nationwide premium increase for individuals is 99 percent and 140 percent for families from 2013-2017.

I really recommend you watch this debate, because it these things were done on a weekly or monthly basis, then people would be able to think critically about what they are presented with from the mainstream media, Hollywood elites and liberal academics.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez explains how she will pay for $40 trillion in new spending

Young people seem to think that implementing socialism in the United States won’t cost them a thing. The truth is, the rich don’t have enough money to cover all the spending that socialists want to do. It’s going to be young people who are stuck with the bill, and they’ll have to scale their lives down to third world levels to pay for what they voted for.

Here’s a socialist (former bartender) to explain how she would pay for $40 trillion in new spending, over 10 years:

The Daily Wire reports:

TAPPER: “Right. I get that. But the price tag for everything that you laid out in your campaign is $40 trillion over the next 10 years. I understand that Medicare for all would cost more to some wealthier people and to the government and to taxpayers, while also reducing individual health care expenditures. But I am talking about the overall package. You say it’s not pie in the sky but $40 trillion is quite a bit of money. And the taxes that you talked about raising to pay for this, to pay for your agenda, only count for two [trillion dollars]. We’re going by left-leaning analysts.”

OCASIO-CORTEZ: “Right. When you look again at how our health care works, currently we pay — much of these costs go into the private sector. So, what we see, for example, is, you know, a year ago I was working downtown in a restaurant. I went around and I asked how many of you folks have health insurance? Not a single person did. They’re paying — they would have had to pay $200 a month for a payment for insurance that had an $8,000 deductible. What these represent are lower cost overall for these programs. Additionally, what this is, it’s a broader agenda. We do know and acknowledge that there are political realities. They don’t always happen with just a wave of a wand but we can work to make these things happen. In fact, when you look at the economic activity that it spurs — for example, if you look at my generation, millennials, the amount of economic activity that we do not engage in. The fact that we delay purchasing homes, that we don’t participate in the economy as purchasing cars as fully as fully as possible is a cost. It is an externality, if you will, of unprecedented amount of student loan debt.”

TAPPER: “I am assuming I won’t get an answer for the other $38 trillion. We’ll have you back and go over that.”

Some people are going to vote for her just because she’s young, female, and sounds so passionate. But let’s take a look at some numbers so we can understand how feasible her plans are.

First, the rich don’t earn enough money to be able to pay for trillions of dollars in spending.

In 2012, John Stossel wrote this in Forbes:

If the IRS grabbed 100 percent of income over $1 million, the take would be just $616 billion.

In 2011, the Tax Foundation explained that even if you taxed ALL THE DISPOSABLE INCOME from all the people who make $200,000 or more, you would only raise $1.53 trillion dollars:

There’s simply not enough wealth in the community of the rich to erase this country’s problems by waving some magic tax wand.

[…]After everyone making more than $200,000/year has paid taxes, the IRS would need to take every single penny of disposable income they have left. Such an act would raise approximately $1.53 trillion. It may be economically ruinous, but at least this proposal would actually solve the problem.

Socialists want to spend $40 trillion more over 10 years, or about $4 trillion per year. Taking most of what the wealthy earn would make up less than half of that spending.

Anyway, we’re not in a position to be doing any spending, because the costs of our existing socialist programs will be increasing going forward.

Pretty soon, our mandatory expenses will consume all of our tax revenues
Pretty soon, our mandatory expenses will consume all of our tax revenues

USA Today explains:

After averaging 35 percent of national income from the mid-1950s through 2008, the national debt has surged to 78 percent today and is projected to reach 100 percent within a decade, and 200 percent by 2050. Even these scary estimates rest on rosy assumptions — no new military or economic crises and creditors willing to accept record-low interest rates from a government heading towards a debt crisis.

Just to be clear, he’s talking about the debt-to-gdp ratio. When ours gets too high, interest on the debt will rise, be ause lenders aren’t sure they’ll be getting their money back. This will put us into a debt death spiral.

More:

The cause of this coming debt deluge is no mystery: Social Security and Medicare are projected to run a staggering $82 trillion cash deficit over the next 30 years. We are adding 74 million retiring baby boomers to a system that provides Medicare recipients with benefits three times as large as their lifetime contributions and pays Social Security benefits typically exceeding lifetime contributions (even accounting for inflation and interest on the contributions).

We can’t afford the spending we’re already committed to right now:

Politicians promise changes to avoid cuts in Social Security and Medicare, but their alternatives are plainly insufficient. Democrats favor tax hikes on the rich, but even doubling the highest two tax brackets to 70 and 74 percent would close just one-fifth of these programs’ shortfalls — and even that assumes people keep working at 90 percent tax rates when including state and payroll taxes. Slashing defense spending to European levels would close just one-seventh of the gap. Single-payer healthcare proposals are projected by even liberal economists to increase the debt. Republicans favor cuts in antipoverty and social spending, but even the unimaginable elimination of all anti-poverty spending would close barely half of the shortfall.

So, who’s going to pay for all this? It will be the people who have to work and pay income taxes for the next 30 years. The very same young Americans who are voting for socialists today. They’re the ones who are going to have to survive on a fraction of what their parents earned.

But there’s more. The truth is that raising taxes on the wealthy will cause enormous damage to job creators. If you look at socialist countries, the unemployment rate among young people is astronomical compared to the USA today. Why? Because these other countries have taxed and regulated businesses so much that they simply don’t have money to hire people, and if they do hire people, they pay them less than what they can earn for the same work in America.

Reuters explains:

Last December, the most recent full figures available, 25 million of the EU’s workforce of 240 million were unemployed and actively looking for jobs, producing an unemployment rate of 11 percent.

An additional 11 million were unemployed but had stopped looking or were not immediately available to start work, and were therefore not classified as unemployed. Adding them to the total would bump the jobless rate up to 15 percent.

Then there were more than 9 million part-time workers who wanted to work more hours but had no opportunity to do so – they were counted as employed but felt underemployed.

And finally there were those who were overqualified for their jobs and might well have been making more money elsewhere if they had found the right match for their skills.

European socialism is a kind of hybrid of socialism and capitalism, so it’s not too bad.  In places like Cuba, and Venezuela, you get the real thing. I doubt that most young people really understand what is going on right now on the streets of Cuba and Venezuela. If they did, maybe they wouldn’t be voting for socialism here.

Jennifer Roback Morse lectures on sex and sexuality at Harvard University

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Morse delivers a talk based on her book “Smart Sex” at Harvard University.

The MP3 file is here. (21 Mb) (Link in case that doesn’t work)

Topics:

  • the hook-up culture and its effects on men and women
  • cohabitation and its effect on marriage stability
  • balancing marriage, family and career
  • single motherhood by choice and IVF
  • donor-conceived children
  • modern sex: a sterile, recreation activity
  • the real purposes of sex: procreation and spousal unity
  • the hormone oxytocin: when it is secreted and what it does
  • the hormone vassopressin: when it is secreted and what it does
  • the sexual revolution and the commoditization of sex
  • the consumer view of sex vs the organic view of sex
  • fatherlessness and multi-partner fertility
  • how the “sex-without-relationship” view harms children

52 minutes of lecture, 33 minutes of Q&A from the Harvard students. The Q&A is worth listening to – the first question is from a gay student, and Dr. Morse pulls a William Lane Craig to defeat her objection. It was awesome! I never get tired of listening to her talk, and especially on the topics of marriage and family.

Under “racist” Trump, black unemployment plunges to record low

In the 2016 presidential election, about 90% of black voters voted for higher taxes, more government spending, more regulations, and more government. President Trump slashed the individual and corporate tax rates, and greatly reduced regulations on job creators. Fortunately for black voters, they didn’t get the bad economic policies they voted for.

The Daily Caller explains:

Friday’s economic numbers were very good for America.

The numbers reveal that the U.S. economy is booming and many key indicators of economic health are trending in the right direction. According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate is 3.8 percent, the lowest in nearly two decades.

223,000 jobs were created and the May increase in payroll was bullish, surprising economists, according to NPR.  However, the most historic data points seem to be centered around black unemployment. The unemployment rate for African-Americans plunged to 5.9 percent in May. That is a record low. Interestingly, the gap between white ad black unemployment has shrunk to the smallest since these numbers have been recorded. The white unemployment (3.5%) and black unemployment (5.9%) is the smallest gap since the release of these numbers, beginning in the early 1970s.

If you looked at who black voters tend to vote for, you would think that they favored gay rights, gay marriage, abortion through all 9 months of pregnancy, the destruction of the traditional family, and eradicating Christianity from the public square. Although there are a handful of black conservatives who connect their voting with their values, most black voters don’t.

It doesn’t make any difference if blacks identify as Christians. When the chips are down, most of them vote for abortion, gay rights and gay marriage:

Which Religions Voted for Obama in 2008?
Which Religions Voted for Obama in 2008?

If you include black voters who don’t identify as Protestants, the number voting for Democrats is even higher, if you can believe that. Black “Protestants” vote for Democrats at about the same rates as atheists. As a non-white Evangelical Christian, I am apparently in the minority because I vote pro-life and pro-marriage.

Should we expect black voters to know that Democrat policies do not work? Well, we should certainly expect the ones living in the largest American cities to know.

Do blacks do well when they get what they vote for?

The big cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Baltimore, etc. that are so awful for law-abiding blacks to live in have been run by Democrats for decades.

Investors Business Daily explains:

America is awash with troubled, dysfunctional cities that have been electing Democratic mayors for decades.

  • Detroit last elected a Republican mayor in 1957. It is now the model of urban failure — it’s recognized more for its poverty, crime, rot and bankruptcy than the great cars that it turned out into the early 1970s. It is the poorest big city in the nation, with almost 40% of the population living below the poverty line. The website Law Street actually ranks Detroit ahead of Flint as the country’s most dangerous city. Either way, it’s clear that both cities have institutionalized crime problems.

Detroit is also a pit of political corruption. Just in recent years, one mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, was convicted of corruption and sent to federal prison for 28 years, while building inspectors have been indicted on federal felony bribery charges and a former city council member was investigated in a bribery and kickback scandal.

  • Chicago’s last GOP mayor was elected in 1927. The nation’s third-largest city is home to some of the worst inner-city violence imaginable. More than 2,300 people were shot there last year, and nearly 400 lost their lives to homicides.

Its finances are just as grim. “Chicago is so broke,” IBD contributor Stephen Moore explained months ago, “that its bonds are junk status, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel had to go hat in hand last week to the state capital, Springfield, for bailout money to pay the bills.” Things have been rotten enough, Moore said, to send “a record number of people … fleeing Cook County, home to Chicago.” Only a little more than half of the city’s pension liabilities are funded.

  • St. Louis has been electing Democratic mayors since 1949. The Gateway to the West has become the gateway for crime. Law Street says that it’s the fourth most dangerous city in the country, Forbes says it’s the second. It had the sixth-highest poverty rate among big cities in 2014.
  • The last GOP mayor of Philadelphia left office in 1952. A few years ago, Moore identified it as a favorite to follow Detroit into bankruptcy.
  • Both Baltimore and Oakland had Republican mayors as late as the 1960s. In the era of Democratic rule, both are now more well known for their crime and poverty problems than for their charm and character.
  • Newark, N.J., hasn’t had a GOP mayor in more than a century. It was ranked as the fifth-worst city to live in in 2015. Detroit, of course, was first.

When Democrats are in control, cities tend to go soft on crime, reward cronies with public funds, establish hostile business environments, heavily tax the most productive citizens and set up fat pensions for their union friends. Simply put, theirs is a Blue State blueprint for disaster.

If you want to blame someone for the failure of the black community to get ahead, blame Democrats. They are the ones who are running things in the cities where we see all this rioting. Their policies are the cause of the poverty. You don’t get job creation when you punish the job creators with high taxes and onerous regulations. You don’t get fathers in the homes when you reward single motherhood by choice with welfare checks.