Monday, December 31, 2012

The truth about marriage and natural law and marriage redefinition in Illinois.

Is marriage a human construct or a relationship designed by God and rooted in our humanity?  That's the debate and question being raised in Illiniois where there are efforts underway to redefine marriage in that state's legislature.
Catholic Cardinal Francis George points out "Marriage comes to us from nature," Chicago's Cardinal Francis George said in a recent interview. "That's based on the complementarity of the two sexes in such a way that the love of a man and a woman joined in a marital union is open to life, and that's how families are created and society goes along. … It's not in our doctrine. It's not a matter of faith. It's a matter of reason and understanding the way nature operates."
 He points out it's not simply a doctrinal issue but one that's ultimately rooted in our humanity.

One argue we can decide for ourselves what marriage is and should be.
"On sexual ethics, nature is neutral," said Bernard Schlager, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. "We're moral beings. We may look to nature for some aspects of how we are in our lives, but we answer to a higher standard. Sexual behavior is an expression of human love."
 But if marriage is about procreation and the next generation and not just a relationship of friendship, then it's not neutral term.  It's an observable fact that you need a man and a woman to create a child.
Though some have argued that a basic tenet of natural law is equality, the Rev. Robert John Araujo, a law professor at Loyola University Chicago, said same-sex couples are not equal to heterosexual couples. Objective intelligence demonstrates that heterosexual couples have the capacity to populate the planet and same-gender couples do not, he said.

Some say natural law is still only a matter of interpretation.  While we certainly need to think and reason through the evidence, that doesn't negate the reality that there is a reality we can't simply wish a way.  And human history is littered with the debris of violating these laws of nature.  Look at the consequences of fatherless in the lives of children.  Those can't be wished away.
 Just like we can't avoid the consequences of ignoring the laws of gravity so we can't ignore the consequences of ignoring the laws of procreation, marriage and child rearing.  Even if the Illinois redefines marriage legally that doesn't change the reality of what marriage is or void the consequences of failing to abide by that reality.  If the legislature decided to start calling a cat a dog that wouldn't make it a dog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The real financial cliff.

Another sobering reminder of the real financial cliff facing our nation.  From the Weekly Standard, an article by Christopher Demuth on what we'll be facing in the not too distant future. And the advise of some is to go faster off the financial cliff.
It is remarkable that, in our current straits, and with the demographic clock running out on the graduated reforms to our entitlement programs that nonpartisan think tanks have been propounding for decades, the government has shifted its stimulus machinery into overdrive. With the economy still shaky, we are warned, now is not the time to begin consolidating our debts! With interest rates so low, we would be fools not to borrow trillions more while the getting is good! With the states $7 trillion in debt and maxed out on private borrowing, Washington needs to be doing more not less! This is what a pathological fiscal system sounds like when debt stimulus no longer stimulates and its options are running out.

The fiscal cliff will be avoided, or not. We face two other challenges that are much more serious and nearly as immediate. The first is to begin contingency planning for the coming debt crisis​—​which may arrive as early as next year, when California is the first of our bankrupt states to apply for a massive uploading of debt to the federal government. The second is to establish institutions of public finance with a fair chance of disciplining rather than placating the populist pressures of contemporary politics, and of right-sizing our middle-class welfare state to acceptable levels of middle-class taxation.

These institutional tasks can hope to succeed only after we have developed a new public rhetoric of fairness. It should be a matter of acute national embarrassment that our leaders can pretend to be redistributing from wealthy to average citizens when, in fact, they are redistributing in far greater measure from the young and unborn. Our rhetoric must teach that, although government borrowing is appropriate for certain purposes, the routine redistribution of wealth from future generations to ourselves is undemocratic, corrupting, and ultimately impoverishing. We don’t need to wait for a deadline or a crisis to take this intellectual leap.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Response to school massacre. Response? And when?

With the horrific massacre of 26 children and adults in Connecticut on Friday a lot is being said.  I thought John Stonestreet had a good response from the Christian side of the table.  He points out the juxtaposition to Christmas.
In the wake of the Aurora theatre shooting, I noted here on “BreakPoint” that there is a time to speak and there is a time not to speak. For example, Job’s friends were wonderful in how they dealt with his tragedy until they opened their mouth.  When they started to speak, they—according to God’s indictment several chapters later—spoke words without knowledge by trying to offer specific reasons for the evil Job was enduring.

The Apostle Paul was quite clear on what we are to do immediately in the face of tragedy when he said, “Mourn with those who mourn.” As Christians, we do have many answers that the outside world lacks—about the source and depth of human evil and the hope of new life in Christ—and when it is appropriate, we ought not be silent.  But only when it is appropriate.

There will be time to seek answers about tragedy—to probe the why questions of events like these, but Friday was not that time.  And Twitter and Facebook are not that place. And yet, far too predictably, in the face of great grief, tragedy, and hurt—people with an axe to grind immediately began grinding. And our social media tools allow us to do it from much more loudly and anonymously, from a completely detached place.

And too many Christians joined the noise by grinding their political, religious, and moral axes too loudly and too early.
 There will be a time to speak.
Look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t speak. We should. And, I am certainly not saying we shouldn’t speak our convictions argue for truth, sin, morality, and redemption. We should in time. But immediately lobbing our political or theological verbal bombs via Twitter or Facebook like “This is what happens when you take prayer out of schools” or “It’s not a gun problem, it's a sin problem” or “Here’s another reason to abandon the public schools” is just not something Jesus would have us do.

Speaking comfort, grace, mourning and prayer on Friday? Yes! And Twitter and Facebook might be appropriate places for that. But pontificating and posturing? No. And especially, not for the Christian.

Why do I think this?  Because of the Incarnation that we celebrate next week. God became flesh. God, the creator of all people and all things, invaded the deep depravity and brokenness of this world and our hearts. He did not just hand us a book to read or proclaim moral truths for us to observe. He came Himself.

God made Himself known in Christ as the God willing to enter the suffering of His Creation. And, thirty some years later this same God walking around enters into the suffering of Mary and Martha before raising their brother Lazarus from the dead. He weeps with them.

There is a reason we’re told about the Life of Jesus Christ and not just about his birth and death. His life teaches us that those made new by Christ are asked to do more than just speak this truth at the world. We are asked to, like our Savior, embody truth in the world. Escape is never an option for a Christ-follower.

And, you and I will have plenty of opportunities in this broken world—and not just from afar via social media, but from our own backyard. We may need to comfort a friend whose child has been diagnosed with cancer or grieve with a neighbor who lost mother or father or child or do the shopping for a family member at the bedside of her dying husband or drive an elderly acquaintance back and forth for medical treatment.

Christians alone are able to offer a compelling hope to the world in the midst of great tragedy, but it’s done with more than words. Especially poorly timed words.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Medical Marijuana in trouble with new political realignment? Interesting.

With the DFL taking control of the legislature and the governor's office, I expect to see a lot of controversial issues come to the fore.  One is medical marijuana which had some traction in the legislature when it was previously controlled by the DFL but ultimately didn't go anywhere because then Governor Pawlenty opposed it.

Now fast forward to 2013.  It looks like it will now have problems with Governor Dayton who says he won't sign it if it doesn't have law enforcement support.

According to the Star Tribune,
Supporters of medical marijuana face a tough road in Minnesota where Gov. Mark Dayton has said he won't sign anything relaxing the state's drug laws without the backing of law enforcement officials, who are showing no signs of budging.

"Our position is unchanged. We do not support the legalization of marijuana for any purpose," said Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. "It's illegal on the federal level and we're not going to support any legislation that would put us in conflict with ... federal law."

Proponents say they plan to push for legalized medical marijuana in 2013 anyway, arguing that medical decisions should be left to doctors rather than police. They say the public mood is shifting in their favor. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and Colorado and Washington recently legalized marijuana possession for adults with small amounts of the drug.
 Proponents say it will be tightly regulated but there will be easy access.  My translation is most anybody who wants it can get it.  As in other states some doctors will sign off on it with very few questions asked. 
Tom Lehman, a lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project, said Minnesota's proposal would have safeguards, including patient photo identification.

"We want it very tightly controlled. We want it very tightly regulated. And we want easy access at the same time," Lehman said. "There are no secret agendas here."
 But law enforcement isn't on board.
"As long as they oppose it, I just don't see any possibility that it will pass in Minnesota," said Charlie Weaver, former Department of Public Safety commissioner under Gov. Jesse Ventura and former chief of staff to Gov. Tim Pawlenty — who vetoed a medical marijuana bill in 2009, citing opposition from law enforcement.
 The record in other states shows it creates problems.
Law enforcement leaders say marijuana is an addictive gateway drug that is associated with violent crime and can lead to use of other illicit drugs. They also say states that have legalized marijuana have enforcement problems. They point to California, where federal authorities are cracking down on dispensaries. Flaherty says anyone there can get a buyer's card for just about any reason.
 Ultimately, medical marijuana is merely a stepping stone, in my opinion, to broader legalization.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Push for more gambling after stadium bill passed. No surprise. What will it mean? More and more gambling.

It looks like the money source for the new stadium, electronic pulltabs isn't very successful.  Only a handful of bars, 85 out of 6,000, have introduced the electronic pulltabs.
The sluggish pace of electronic pulltab sales has the state looking at fresh venues to entice gamblers -- including the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The devices are supposed to pay the state's share of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium. But so far, only 85 of the state's more than 6,000 bars have installed the devices. That has led to revenues that are 51 percent below projection, forcing the state to downgrade its revenue estimates by millions of dollars for the coming year.

Gov. Mark Dayton met with state gambling and revenue officials Wednesday for a briefing on e-pulltab sales. Charities have been slow to embrace the new technology, but Dayton predicted the problem will solve itself as the devices catch on and new vendors are licensed by the state...

"We kind of walked into it gingerly, because it's gambling and we're Minnesotans. Would we become another Las Vegas?" Vaughn said with a laugh. "But it's people sitting with iPods, playing games. ... It seems like it's going to work."
 From the governor's comments, it doesn't look like he'd be concerned if we did start looking more like a gambling center.
After his briefing, Dayton said he is not worried about the long-term prospects for Minnesota's pioneering effort on electronic pulltabs. The state is the first to use e-pulltabs to benefit charities and capital investment projects like the stadium.

"I don't think there is any reason to be concerned," Dayton said. "Any time a conceptual projection impacts with the real world, things change."

When the news of the lackluster forecast broke last week, Dayton briefly speculated that the devices could someday be installed in grocery stores.
I remember when the bill was being pushed, the charitable gambling folks didn't think it would work out, because the state was taking so much of the revenue.  Wasn't enough for the bars to make it profitable for them.  With that knowledge out there, why was the legislation still jammed through?  To get the Vikings stadium bill through the legislature.  They'd worry about redoing the stadium bill later.

I thought then and do now, that the stadium would lead to a push for a further expansion of gambling to make up the deficit.  Looks like that's just what is happening.

Republicans power grows in the states.

A bit old news, if you've already read it, but I found it very interesting that Republicans expanded their control of state governments to their biggest levels in 60 years.  They now control 24 state governments, meaning they hold the governor's office and both houses in their legislature.  Democrats control 13 state governments, including of course Minnesota.

You'd think from the loss of the presidency, Republicans were on their way out.  Steven Hayward describes it as a flanking maneuver on liberal Washington DC.  States have always been the incubator of new ideas.  Something that's needed more than ever with our federal government on the road to bankruptcy.

Hayward notes:

I’ve been meaning to bring up the following New York Times graphic since it was published last month, as it shows that Republicans are at their highest level of control of state governments in 60 years.  Not bad for a party supposedly in deep trouble and on death’s door.  (Notice, by the way, that Republicans controlled exactly zero states after the 1976 election.)

So while all eyes are on Washington and the fiscal cliff, outside of Washington a determined counterattack against liberalism is under way, and looks to have some good chances of success.  First, several states have announced they are going to refuse to set up Obamacare insurance exchanges, heeding Michael Greve’s always well thought out advice that states actively assert their constitutional prerogatives to “interpose” themselves between Washington and the people:
[S]tate interposition—meaning a refusal to cooperate in Medicaid or exchanges—may yet produce an Obamacare crash-and-burn within the President’s term in office. Moreover, and more importantly , it may produce a collapse on constitutional terms, provided someone can articulate them. . .
The Madisonian precept gains special force and constitutional dignity in the context of federal programs that require, or rather imperiously demand, the states’ active cooperation. A state failure to do the feds’ bidding is not an ugly outbreak of neo-Calhounism. The power to interpose comes from a form of government that the Constitution permits but, unmistakably, treats as deeply suspect: a government over governments. States have been complicit in that scheme for far too long. Saying “no” to a further extension—for partisan reasons, fiscal reasons, or no reason at all—is an implicit embrace of a constitutional proposition: the feds have their sphere, and we (the states) have ours. If the feds insist on their scheme, let them do so with their money and their officers: they have the power. If they want to work through us, we interpose. The Constitution contemplates it; allows it; and very nearly demands it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Powerful intellectual defense of marriage. Knocks out the equality argument used by same sex "marriage" supporters.

Here's a powerful, intellectual defense of marriage between a man and a woman.  It knocks down the "equality" slogan  used by proponents of same sex "marriage" and points out the consequences of redefining marriage.

The authors point out equality isn't the issue.
We can't move one inch toward an answer simply by appealing to equality. Every marriage policy draws lines, leaving out some types of relationships. Equality forbids arbitrary line-drawing. But we cannot know which lines are arbitrary without answering two questions: What is marriage, and why does it matter for policy?

The conjugal and revisionist views are two rival answers; neither is morally neutral. Each is supported by some religious and secular worldviews but rejected by others. Nothing in the Constitution bans or favors either. The Supreme Court therefore has no basis to impose either view of marriage. So voters must decide: Which view is right

As we argue in our book "What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense," marriage is a uniquely comprehensive union. It involves a union of hearts and minds; but also—and distinctively—a bodily union made possible by sexual-reproductive complementarity. Hence marriage is inherently extended and enriched by procreation and family life and objectively calls for similarly all-encompassing commitment, permanent and exclusive.
The insights about marriage aren't limited to Christian and Jewish thinkers but also those uninfluenced by their thinking, e.g. Aristotle, Plato and so forth.
These insights require no particular theology. Ancient thinkers untouched by Judaism or Christianity—including Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Musonius Rufus, Xenophanes and Plutarch—also distinguished conjugal unions from all others. Nor did animus against any group produce this conclusion, which arose everywhere quite apart from debates about same-sex unions. The conjugal view best fits our social practices and judgments about what marriage is.
Redefining marriage will lead to other, definite consequences.
After all, if two men can marry, or two women, then what sets marriage apart from other bonds must be emotional intensity or priority. But nothing about emotional union requires it to be permanent. Or limited to two. Or sexual, much less sexually exclusive. Or inherently oriented to family life and shaped by its demands. Yet as most people see, bonds that lack these features aren't marriages.

Far from being "slippery slope" predictions, these points show that the revisionist view gets marriage wrong: It conflates marriage and companionship, an obviously broader category. That conflation has consequences. Marriage law shapes behavior by promoting a vision of what marriage is and requires. Redefinition will deepen the social distortion of marriage—and consequent harms—begun by policies such as "no-fault" divorce. As marital norms make less sense, adherence to them erodes.
True compassion is found in man/woman marriage.
True compassion means extending authentic community to everyone, especially the marginalized, while using marriage law for the social goal that it serves best: to ensure that children know the committed love of the mother and father whose union brought them into being. Indeed, only that goal justifies regulating such intimate bonds in the first place.

Just as compassion for those attracted to the same sex doesn't require redefining marriage, neither does preserving the conjugal view mean blaming them for its erosion. What separated the various goods that conjugal marriage joins—sex, commitment, family life—was a sexual revolution among opposite-sex partners, with harmful rises in extramarital sex and nonmarital childbearing, pornography and easy divorce.
Redefining marriage will lead to more government and more government intrusion into people's lives.
That debate certainly isn't about legalizing (or criminalizing) anything. In all 50 states, two men or women may have a wedding and share a life. Their employers and religious communities may recognize their unions. At issue here is whether government will effectively coerce other actors in the public square to do the same.

Also at issue is government expansion. Marital norms serve children, spouses, and hence our whole economy, especially the poor. Family breakdown thrusts the state into roles for which it is ill-suited: provider and discipliner to the orphaned and neglected, and arbiter of custody and paternity disputes.

For all these reasons, conservatives would be ill-advised to abandon support for conjugal marriage even if it hadn't won more support than Mitt Romney in every state where marriage was on the ballot. And they remind us that redefinition of marriage isn't inevitable.

They certainly shouldn't be duped into surrender by the circular argument that they've already lost. The ash-heap of history is filled with "inevitabilities." Conservatives—triumphant against once-unstoppable social tides like Marxism—should know this best. "History" has no mind. The future isn't fixed. It's chosen. The Supreme Court should let the people choose; and we should choose marriage, conjugal marriage.
Losing the marriage amendment here in Minnesota was one battle of many to come.  The struggle to protect marriage goes deeper than our laws and constitution.  What's at stake is the soul of our culture.

George and his coauthors provide the intellectual firepower necessary to defend the truth of marriage.  The challenge for pro-marriage supporters is to translate these ideas into messages and stories which can move the hearts and minds of Minnesotans and the rest of the nation.  I believe that can and will be done.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The power of marriage and singleness, politically speaking.

Here's an interesting article on the impact of marriage and singleness in terms of political involvement.
There was a lot of talk about the numbers of women who voted for President Obama.  A closer look reveals marriage women voted for Governor Romney in similar numbers.  In other words, being married or single played role in how people voted.

You don’t hear nearly as much about the rise of single voters, despite the fact that they represent a much more significant trend. Only a few analysts, such as Ruy Teixera, James Carville, and Stanley Greenberg, have emphasized how important singletons were to President Obama’s reelection. Properly understood, there is far less of a “gender” gap in American politics than people think. Yes, President Obama won “women” by 11 points (55 percent to 44 percent). But Mitt Romney won married women by the exact same margin. To get a sense of how powerful the marriage effect is, not just for women but for men, too, look at the exit polls by marital status. Among nonmarried voters​—​people who are single and have never married, are living with a partner, or are divorced​—​Obama beat Romney 62-35. Among married voters Romney won the vote handily, 56-42.
 Marriage is more significant than gender in voting patterns.
Far more significant than the gender gap is the marriage gap. And what was made clear in the 2012 election was that the cohorts of unmarried women and men are now at historic highs​—​and are still increasing. This marriage gap​—​and its implications for our political, economic, and cultural future​—​is only dimly understood.
While one can look at marriage from a political perspective, it's certainly much more than this.
As Robert George put it after the election, limited government “cannot be maintained where the marriage culture collapses and families fail to form or easily dissolve. Where these things happen, the health, education, and welfare functions of the family will have to be undertaken by someone, or some institution, and that will sooner or later be the government.” Marriage is what makes the entire Western project​—​liberalism, the dignity of the human person, the free market, and the limited, democratic state​—​possible. George continues, “The two greatest institutions ever devised for lifting people out of poverty and enabling them to live in dignity are the market economy and the institution of marriage. These institutions will, in the end, stand or fall together.”

Instead of trying to bribe single America into voting Republican, Republicans might do better by making the argument​—​to all Americans​—​that marriage is a pillar of both freedom and liberalism. That it is an arrangement which ought to be celebrated, nurtured, and defended because its health is integral to the success of our grand national experiment. And that Julia and her boyfriend ought to go ahead and tie the knot. 
 The well-being of society is dependent on Americans' beliefs and practices regarding marriage.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Welfare spending versus typical family budget.

A while back I mentioned that if you added up the money spent on by welfare programs and divided it by the number of household classified as living in poverty it would come to over $60,000 per household.

Another way of looking at is the amount spent per day on households in poverty is $168 versus $137 spent by the median income family.  And of course the $168 amount isn't taxed.

Most poor families don't receive $168 a day.  A significant amount of that is eaten up by government bureaucracy which shows what happens when the government attempts to take over an activity outside it's area of competency.
The amount of money spent on welfare programs equals, when converted to cash payments, about "$168 per day for every household in poverty," the minority side of the Senate Budget Committee finds. Here's a chart detailing the committee's findings:

According to the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee, welfare spending per day per household in poverty is $168, which is higher than the $137 median income per day. When broken down per hour, welfare spending per hour per household in poverty is $30.60, which is higher than the $25.03 median income per hour.
"Based on data from the Congressional Research Service, cumulative spending on means-tested federal welfare programs, if converted into cash, would equal $167.65 per day per household living below the poverty level," writes the minority side of the Senate Budget Committee. "By comparison, the median household income in 2011 of $50,054 equals $137.13 per day. Additionally, spending on federal welfare benefits, if converted into cash payments, equals enough to provide $30.60 per hour, 40 hours per week, to each household living below poverty. The median household hourly wage is $25.03. After accounting for federal taxes, the median hourly wage drops to between $21.50 and $23.45, depending on a household’s deductions and filing status. State and local taxes further reduce the median household’s hourly earnings. By contrast, welfare benefits are not taxed."
The problem with the whole welfare, poverty debate is suggesting that welfare spending needs to be cut, results in immediate bludgeoning for being insensitive and not caring about the poor.  However, if this area of spending is not tackled, the cutbacks later maybe even more significant.  The above information is important because it points out the current spending levels suggest a socialism (equalization of incomes) versus truly helping the destitute and vulnerable goal.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Governor pushes discrimination with inclusion of domestic partner benefits in state contracts.

Now that the state legislature is no longer controlled by Republicans, Governor Dayton is intent on pushing domestic partner benefits for state employees.  While I haven't seen the contract language I presume it's predicated on a sexual relationship, e.g. just for gay and lesbians.  If so, he's clearly discriminating against other people who care for one another who aren't married.  This would include parent and adult child, siblings, non-homosexual friends who live in the same home, etc.  The goal isn't to address all people who might care for another person but push for recognition of only homosexual couples.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Disabilities treaty implicating parental rights, abortion, and US sovereignty defeated in US Senate

Efforts to pass a treaty dealing with disabilities was defeated in the US Senate by a 61 to 36 vote.  They needed 67 votes to pass it.  Concerns were raised over abortion, parental rights and US sovereignty.
The U.S. Senate has voted down a treaty that opponents warned could widen acceptance of abortion, deny the parents of special needs children their rights, and compromise U.S. sovereignty.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) failed to be ratified after a 61-38 vote.

“Today’s vote was a victory for human rights and for American sovereignty,” said Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, an organization that testified against the treaty.

Article 25 of the CRPD called on nations to furnish the disabled “free or affordable health care…including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes.” Pro-life leaders warned that language could be interpreted to include abortion, as it has in the case of other UN treaties.

“The irony of including abortion in this treaty is that abortion especially targets the disabled in the womb,” Josh Craddock, international representative for Personhood USA, said in a statement e-mailed to “Persons with disabilities should not be exposed to violence and discrimination, either before or after birth.”
Whenever a UN treaty comes up for ratification I'm always concerned about the broader ramifications.  This proposed treaty is another case in point.

The reality of Obamacare. Layoffs, cut hours, dropping health insurance.

This story from one company highlights the inherent problems Obamacare is bringing on the business community and people's health care.  
When Mary Miller, CEO of Cincinnati’s Jancoa Janitorial Services, testified July 10 before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, her message was clear: The federal healthcare law would force her and her husband “to choose between several impossible options in order to remain in business.” The options: either increase premiums for her 320 full-time employees, cease coverage and pay a more than $600,000 penalty, or downgrade workers to part-time status.

So far, the company hasn’t had layoffs and can operate until 2014 without incurring penalties. But other companies, especially larger companies, are taking preemptive steps to avoid the impact of the healthcare law. 

The law requires employers to provide health insurance for employees working more than 30 hours a week. So grocery retailer Kroger, with more than 350,000 employees, said it will limit part-time employees to 28 hours per week. Darden Restaurants—which employs 185,000 people at Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, and other chains—said it will experiment with “limiting the hours of some of its workers to avoid health care requirements under the Affordable Care Act.” John Schnatter, founder and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, said the new law would cost Papa John’s between $5 million and $8 million annually. Customers and employees will bear most of these costs, he said.

Obamacare doesn’t just hit low-wage retail and fast-food employees. Medical device manufacturers, who typically hire high-wage, technically trained workers, also take a hit from the mandated medical device tax. Welch Allyn, a New York manufacturer of medical diagnostic equipment, announced in September it would lay off 275 employees, or roughly 10 percent of its workforce, over the next three years. The conservative group FreedomWorks said at least 10 medical device companies have announced more than 5,000 job cuts since passage of the Affordable Care Act. Boston Scientific plans 1,200 to 1,400 job cuts, but spokesman Steven Campanini told WORLD the job cuts are “not related to Obamacare. We are going through a re-structuring plan. We’re aligning our business to the markets we serve.” Campanini acknowledged, though, that Boston Scientific has worked to repeal the medical device tax, which he called an “innovation tax.”

And that may be the most significant long-term cost of Obamacare: that it stifles innovation and entrepreneurship. Jancoa’s Mary Miller said her company started a “Dream Manager” program that allowed her mostly low-wage employees to achieve long-term goals such as purchasing a home and starting a business. “Our mantra has been to take the ‘dead-end’ out of ‘dead-end jobs’ and let our employees grow.” Federal healthcare, she said, will likely force her to “put an end to our very successful Dream Manager program. Regrettably, for me and my employees, the new health care law is a ‘dream killer.’”

In the name of universal health care coverage, Obamacare intends to put the government further in charge of our health care system.  That will only mean higher costs and rationing.  It's not a pretty picture.  The answer?  Restoring a consumer centered health care system in which individuals are able to buy their own health care insurance in a fully operational, free market system.  And help the truly needy who can't afford health care.  Imbedding the government more fully in the health care system will only make matters worse.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Minnesota Lottery preying on Minnesotans.

The Minnesota Lottery is working to take more money from Minnesota's problem gamblers.  They're doing this by starting a pilot program placing lottery tickets at ATMs and gas pumps.  The reason this initiative targets problem gamblers is they disproportionately account for a large majority of sales.  It's estimated that 10% of gamblers account for 70 to 80% of video gambling/ lottery sales.
Lottery jackpots are growing bigger more quickly, and ticket sales are soaring all over the country.

Now Minnesota is the first state to make buying tickets even faster, at gas pumps and ATMs.

With a debit card, driver's license and cellphone number, buyers can try their luck at a touch screen. The system is being piloted at nine gas stations and 19 ATMs in the Twin Cities, allowing people to buy quick-pick Powerball and Mega Millions tickets without going inside to a counter. Since October, about $5,260 worth of Powerball tickets have been sold that way.

"People are always in a hurry nowadays," said Minnesota Lottery Executive Director Ed Van Petten. "The thought is it takes 10 to 15 seconds to go through the process, and I think people would say, 'Why not. I'll give it a shot.' "

Andrew Anderson, who works at the BP station at Calhoun Beach in Minneapolis, said in the days leading up to last week's record Powerball drawing, many patrons avoided convenience store counters.

"A lot of people just want to pay at the pump now," Anderson said....

Lottery buyers insert their debit card into the slot used to pay for gasoline. They then select a prompt to buy tickets, choose how many, and after entering a cellphone number and other identification information, a ticket is dispensed with their numbers. A $1 fee is charged for each transaction, and the minimum is three Powerball or five Mega Millions tickets. A text message also is sent to a cellphone with a link to the numbers....
The convenient way of buying a lottery ticket arrives when sales in Minnesota already are at an all-time high. Sales for the 2012 fiscal year, which ended June 30, topped $520 million, an increase of $15.6 million from the previous year.

Minnesota was one of at least two dozen states to post record sales over the past year.

For last week's big Powerball jackpot, 130,000 tickets a minute were being sold nationally — about six times the volume two weeks ago.

The large jackpots often cause sales to skyrocket, which means higher revenue for participating states....
Andrea Davis, 23, of Minneapolis, was one of them. She only occasionally buys lottery tickets, but the new technology may change that.

"I'd be more apt to buy one if I don't have to come inside," she said. "I usually pay with my debit card at the pump."
Traditionally, a problem gambler had to venture out to casino or go up to a window to buy tickets, now they can do it when they get cash from an ATM or buy gas.


Monday, December 3, 2012

It's the children, stupid.

The 1992 Clinton Campaign made famous the phrase, "It's the economy stupid". It was his theme for defeating President George Bush Sr.

I think a modified phrase, "It's the children stupid" applies to an analysis of the future well-being of our society.

I know folks on the left love to trumpet children to expand spending on social programs though many of the initiatives are often anti-children, e.g. pro-abortion policies and funding kill unborn children, birth control advocacy results in fewer children, and gay "marriage" intentionally denies what children need most - both their mom and their dad in their lives.

Ross Douthat conservative columnist with the New York Times has an interesting article on the declining birth rates in the US, "More Babies, Please."

First, the US's birth rate has geopolitical implications.
In the eternally recurring debates about whether some rival great power will knock the United States off its global perch, there has always been one excellent reason to bet on a second American century: We have more babies than the competition.

It’s a near-universal law that modernity reduces fertility. But compared with the swiftly aging nations of East Asia and Western Europe, the American birthrate has proved consistently resilient, hovering around the level required to keep a population stable or growing over the long run.

America’s demographic edge has a variety of sources: our famous religiosity, our vast interior and wide-open spaces (and the four-bedroom detached houses they make possible), our willingness to welcome immigrants (who tend to have higher birthrates than the native-born).
It implicates economic growth.

And it clearly is an edge. Today’s babies are tomorrow’s taxpayers and workers and entrepreneurs, and relatively youthful populations speed economic growth and keep spending commitments affordable. Thanks to our relative demographic dynamism, the America of 50 years hence may not only have more workers per retiree than countries like Japan and Germany, but also have more than emerging powers like China and Brazil.
 But now it's dropping dramatically.
If, that is, our dynamism persists. But that’s no longer a sure thing. American fertility plunged with the stock market in 2008, and it hasn’t recovered. Last week, the Pew Research Center reported that U.S. birthrates hit the lowest rate ever recorded in 2011, with just 63 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age. (The rate was 71 per 1,000 in 1990.) For the first time in recent memory, Americans are having fewer babies than the French or British.

The plunge might be temporary. American fertility plummeted during the Great Depression, and more recent downturns have produced modest dips as well. This time, the birthrate has fallen fastest among foreign-born Americans, and particularly among Hispanics, who saw huge amounts of wealth evaporate with the housing bust. Many people may simply be postponing childbearing until better times return, and a few years of swift growth could produce a miniature baby boom.
 Immigrants won't fill the gap.
But deeper forces than the financial crisis may keep American fertility rates depressed. Foreign-born birthrates will probably gradually recover from their current nadir, but with fertility in decline across Mexico and Latin America, it isn’t clear that the United States can continue to rely heavily on immigrant birthrates to help drive population growth.

Among the native-born working class, meanwhile, there was a retreat from child rearing even before the Great Recession hit. For Americans without college degrees, economic instability and a shortage of marriageable men seem to be furthering two trends in tandem: more women are having children out of wedlock, and fewer are raising families at all.
 Then he discusses why it's happening.
Finally, there’s been a broader cultural shift away from a child-centric understanding of romance and marriage. In 1990, 65 percent of Americans told Pew that children were “very important” to a successful marriage; in 2007, just before the current baby bust, only 41 percent agreed. (That trend goes a long way toward explaining why gay marriage, which formally severs wedlock from sex differences and procreation, has gone from a nonstarter to a no-brainer for so many people.)
 What can be done to change it, by the government?  Some things but the problem goes much deeper.
Government’s power over fertility rates is limited, but not nonexistent. America has no real family policy to speak of at the moment, and the evidence from countries like Sweden and France suggests that reducing the ever-rising cost of having kids can help fertility rates rebound. Whether this means a more family-friendly tax code, a push for more flexible work hours, or an effort to reduce the cost of college, there’s clearly room for creative policy to make some difference.
  Then he points out that low birth rates are a symptom of -- decadence.
More broadly, a more secure economic foundation beneath working-class Americans would presumably help promote childbearing as well. Stable families are crucial to prosperity and mobility, but the reverse is also true, and policies that made it easier to climb the economic ladder would make it easier to raise a family as well.
Beneath these policy debates, though, lie cultural forces that no legislator can really hope to change. The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.
Such decadence need not be permanent, but neither can it be undone by political willpower alone. It can only be reversed by the slow accumulation of individual choices, which is how all social and cultural recoveries are ultimately made. 
 Strong words but it's important we face these developments square on.