Saturday, October 30, 2010

Voting the Facts | Bloomberg Businessweek Sets the Record Straight

…by a two-to-one margin, likely voters in the Nov. 2 midterm elections think taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk, and the billions lent to banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program won’t be recovered. 
 — Bloomberg Businessweek, 29 October, 2010
In fact, none of that is true.

Bloomberg Businessweek sets the record straight:
Fact: The Obama administration has cut taxes — largely for the middle class — by $240 billion since taking office on Jan. 20, 2009. 
Fact: The U.S. economy grew at a 2 percent annual rate in the third quarter as consumer spending climbed the most in almost four years.

Fact: In the past year, the economy has grown 3.1 percent.

Fact: The U.S. Treasury has recovered most of the $245 billion spent on the Wall Street bank part of the rescue, and expects to turn a $16 billion profit. 

Taxes have gone down not up, the economy is growing not shrinking, the TARP funds are mostly recovered; some at a respectable profit to the American people.

The One Campaign + the California Senate Race

The One Campaign asked California U.S. Senate candidates Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina:

How best can the US continue to tackle global disease, poverty, and hunger?

Their responses:
Senator Barbara Boxer: “I strongly believe that alleviating global disease, poverty and hunger is inextricably linked to making real progress in the world. Throughout my career, I have fought for women’s rights. And now I am proud to chair the first-ever Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee focused on improving the status of women and girls worldwide.

Studies have shown that when women and girls have opportunities they will make important contributions to their country’s economic and social progress. According to the World Bank, women and girls reinvest 90 percent of their income in their families, whereas men reinvest 30 to 40 percent. Educating women and girls is one of the most powerful development tools we have.

That is why I am so pleased that the United States has taken the lead in making the advancement of women a central element of its foreign policy. For example in April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the Secretary’s International Fund for Women and Girls—a partnership between the public and private sectors aimed at providing resources to those who are working to meet women’s needs worldwide.

The U.S. is not alone in recognizing that the status of women and girls is critical to uplifting a society. In July, the United Nations established U.N. Women—a new U.N. entity that is working to advance women’s rights around the globe.

We must continue to work with our international partners to give women and girls every opportunity to succeed because when women thrive, their societies thrive.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Government We Deserve | Beyond Cynicism V

I'm just about done explaining to friends who asked about my general approval for President Obama's performance during his first 20 months in office. This is not because I'm running out of things to say but because I suspect I have more answer than my friends had question and I don't want to be more obnoxious than I've already been. Throughout I've included links to supporting documentation, analysis and, where appropriate, financial figures. There's a thoughtful overview by Tom Dickinson in the October 28 issue of Rolling Stone.

Budgeting

With the Obama administration, we know where we stand financially.

Between 2001 and 2009, the Bush administration spent on the order of one trillion off-budget US dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (These expenditures were in addition to the $700ish billion in annual budgeted defense spending — Stiglitz + Bilmes now project the direct and indirect costs of prosecuting those wars will drive the ultimate financial cost to five trillion dollars, give or take a trillion).

Setting aside the question of whether those wars (either, neither or both) were justified, a trillion dollars committed outside the budget while at the same time acting to reduce revenues is a significant exercise in deficit spending for people who claim to be fiscal conservatives.

At the very least — and I think the news is considerably better than the very least — Mr. Obama’s budgeting is above-board; including good faith projections of costs nobody particularly wants to look at.

Some of my friends blamer the messenger for bad news about the deficit and steadfastly refuse to give him credit for substantive deficit reduction activities like the cost savings built into recent health care reforms.

In my view, fiscal conservatives could learn a thing or two about budget transparency from this president.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Old Youth Workers Never Die | Facebook

A Facebook exchange with a youth worker friend on the subject of Facebook

Hey there! I was wanting your thoughts on something, especially since you seem so connected to many youth pastors. I have heard a lot in the news lately about the problems coming up with teachers being "friends" with their students on facebook. Some schools are making it school policy that it is not allowed. We try to be so smart about appropriate behavior with students and often use teacher standards as a guideline.

Do you think it is appropriate for youth pastors to be "friends" with their students? Should they create a youth group page and strictly communicate through that one? Or are both too risky and should youth pastors stay away from it altogether?

I hope you are doing well Jim :) Tell that lovely wife of yours hello for me.

Hey Meg! I certainly think a group page is appropriate and I have no problem with youth workers friending students as long as they're clear what that means, including clear boundaries.

IMHO FB is no more dangerous than phones, text messages, email or letter-writing — and may be a good deal less dangerous if updates are kept in the open. I think exceptions may be made when an appropriate level of confidentiality is required to respond to sensitive questions. At which point I think additional safeguards and accountability should come into play between youth workers, spouses and bosses and that those standards and practices should be common knowledge throughout the community.

That's a quick answer. Does it make sense?

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Government We Deserve | Beyond Cynicism IV




I've been asked by friends to explain my general approval for President Obama's performance during his first 20 months in office. I'll honor those requests over the next few days, one element at a time. I'll include links you can follow to the supporting documentation and, where appropriate, financial figures. And there's a thoughtful overview by Tom Dickinson in the October 28 issue of Rolling Stone.


Auto Industry Bailout

I had my doubts, but the plan to rescue the Big Three US auto companies initiated with TARP funds by President Bush at the end of his administration and refined and sustained by President Obama in the opening months of 2009 now looks far more like an investment than a bailout. 

E.J. Dionne's piece for NPR in August 2010 covers the story reasonably well. 

And here's the March 2009 White House Fact Sheet outlining the plan.

In addition to a million US jobs saved and tens of thousands of new jobs created or restored as the auto companies began to regain stability, as of September 30 2010 Chrysler and GM had paid back $11 billion of the $80 billion disbursed from the Troubled Asset Relief Program with profit to the American people of $2.6 billion.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Stephen Colbert Walks Off The View...

...and then comes back and talks about faith (a little). I totally missed this the other day. You?




The Government We Deserve | Beyond Cynicism III



I've been asked by friends to explain my general approval for President Obama's performance during his first 20 months in office. I'll honor those requests over the next few days, one element at a time. I'll include links you can follow to the supporting documentation and, where appropriate, financial figures. And there's a thoughtful overview by Tom Dickinson in the October 28 issue of 
Rolling Stone.

Fair Pay

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act ensures that our wives, daughters, nieces and neighbors cannot be paid unfairly for their contributions to the businesses and economies in which they work. 

That outcome alone promotes justice. The Ledbetter Act is, however, part of a bigger picture, as President Obama noted at the signing: 

But equal pay is by no means just a women’s issue – it’s a family issue. It’s about parents who find themselves with less money for tuition or child care; couples who wind up with less to retire on; households where, when one breadwinner is paid less than she deserves, that’s the difference between affording the mortgage – or not; between keeping the heat on, or paying the doctor’s bills – or not. And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month’s paycheck to simple discrimination.
Promoting equal pay for equal contribution is precisely the sort of change I expected when I cast my vote for Mr. Obama.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Government We Deserve | Beyond Cynicism II


I've been asked by friends to explain my general approval for President Obama's performance during his first 20 months in office. I'll honor those requests over the next few days, one element at a time. I'll include links you can follow to the supporting financial figures. And there's a thoughtful overview by Tom Dickinson in the October 28 issue of Rolling Stone.

Credit Card Reform

The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009 embodies real protection for borrowers with clear limits on what lenders may do that could take advantage of the unwary.

If you have credit cards from Amex, MasterCard or Visa you've already seen the new plain language/plain sight disclosures on your monthly statement.

The Act bans retroactive interest increases; ends late fee traps (such as moving due dates); prohibits "double-cycle" billing; restricts predatory practices aimed at college students; requires opt-in to trigger over-limit fees, and a whole lot more. 

You can moralize about extending and using credit till the cows come home. But the plain fact is, we are where we are, and the CARD Act levels the field so that people who wish or need to use plastic are not easily tricked by usurious lenders (Wikipedia article, accessed 10.18.10).

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Government We Deserve | Beyond Cynicism

I've been asked by friends to explain my general approval for President Obama's performance during his first 20 months in office. I'll honor those requests over the next few days, one element at a time. I'll include links you can follow to the supporting financial figures. And there's a thoughtful overview by Tom Dickinson in the October 28 issue of Rolling Stone.

Health Care Reform
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 increases protection for patients against poor care and overcharging and reduces the actual cost of care throughout the system right down to the individual patient.


By the end the decade the health care act will ensure that 95 percent of Americans have health coverage AND it will reduce the federal deficit by $143 billion.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Raising Adults for Nook

Raising Adults is now available for the Nook eBook reader at Barnes & Noble at a price that will make you wonder how you can afford not to own it today.

My favorite parenting book is also available for iPad/iPhone users, Kindle readers and as a good old fashioned PDF from Youth Specialties.

If your idea of "good old fashioned" runs to books made of paper and printed with ink, I have a few dozen copies of the first edition — contact me directly and I'll make you a deal.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Economic Growth or Quick Profits: Pick One

Do you want jobs growth and healthy medium-to-long term economic growth or do you want to see high quarterly profits on Wall Street and hefty bonuses for financial players?
Pay on Wall Street is on pace to break a record high for a second consecutive year, according to a study conducted by The Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street journal says about three dozen Wall Street securities and investment firms are set to pay a record $144 Billion in compensation and benefits this year. 

Meanwhile, the minority party in the U.S. Senate employs back room tactics to stall and stop sensible measures to improve the business climate for small businesses (full disclosure: I operate a small business), create short, medium and longterm jobs, reward the efforts of entrepreneurs, increase revenues to benefit the common good at the local, state and national level, hold cheats and lawbreakers accountable for the damage they do to taxpayers and wind down the payments we make for energy to greedy and/or hostile foreign entities.

If we put more Republicans in the US House and Senate, they have, as a class, promised to do much more of many of the things that got us into this mess. If we increase the number of Democrats in the House and Senate, they have promised to get on with the painstaking, longterm work of rebuilding a sustainable economy for the American people. That's not a tough choice for me.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Where Are The Christians?

Question: Am I a Christian citizen if I don't insist my fellow citizens be treated as I want to be treated?


School officials choose to confront "bullying" without addressing the issue of homophobia

Thursday, October 07, 2010

In the Shelter of Each Other the People Live | Jars of Clay

This week, The Sheltera new collection of songs from Jars of Clay — catches my attention for a couple of reasons. 

1. I had the good fortune to interview the band for EdgeTV a few months after they released their first album in 1993. We hit it off and stayed in touch. 

2. This new collection reflects what Jars are thinking about how much we all need each other and then plays that out through lovely duets with friends (among them David Crowder, Audrey Assad, Amy Grant, Brandon Heath, Leigh Nash…) and a whole chorus of mates whose collective voices hint at how wonderful many of these songs will sound when we sing them together wherever we gather to worship and spur each other on toward love and good deeds.

And…

3. A handful of friends (Sara Groves, Anne Jackson, David Dark, Nate Larkin, Padraig Otuama) wrote brief essays inspired by the central theme of The Shelter: 

In the shelter of each other the people live.

Here’s my contribution:
Killing time at the Art Institute of Chicago I view renaissance paintings of Jesus—all quite remarkable without seeming quite right.
Eventually it occurs to me the not-quite-rightness of those images is this: There’s not a Jew among them. I see Spanish-Jesus, Italian- and Dutch-Jesus; but not Palestinian-Jesus. 
Later, at a church in Houston’s Greater Third Ward I encounter East African-Jesus—which reminds me of Indonesia and Southeast-Asian-Jesus.
Of course none of these is accurate. I know this from my childhood Bible featuring Anglo-American-Jesus. 
I’m no genius, but a pattern’s a pattern.

— RANTS + REFLECTIONS ON THE COMMON GOOD —

[mostly]