Monthly Archives: December 2010

Elections Have Consequences – Tax Cut Edition

I’ll leave it up to others on the blog to discuss the merits of the compromise on taxes and unemployment benefits recently reached between President Obama and Congressional Republicans.  For what it’s worth, I’d probably vote for it were I a member of Congress (shudder), but I do think that the Republicans could have pushed a little harder on certain measures.

What fascinates me as a student of American history are some of the reactions, and also some of the reactions to the reactions.  First of all,  Congressional Democrats have rejected the measure in a non-binding caucus vote.  This has caused Jim Geraghty to ponder:

I understand the White House line is that today’s rejection is part of the “normal process.” Really? Is it normal for a majority of the president’s own party to vote against deals he makes?

Normal?  No.  But I think this is a positive development in a way. Continue reading

Tight Money is a Tax on the Unemployed

One argument commonly made by inflation hawks is that inflation is bad because it is a tax on savers. The idea being that since inflation erodes the purchasing power of a dollar, those who keep their money in a savings account will end up being able to buy less with that money down the road if there is inflation than if there is not. There is an element of truth to this idea, though if inflation is expected there are ways to deal with the problem, such as offering higher interest rates for savings accounts.

A propos of David’s post earlier to day, however, it occurs to me that there is a flip side to the inflation taxes savings argument, namely that disinflation (i.e. lower than expected inflation) functions as a tax on the unemployed. When a certain amount of inflation is expected over the coming years, this ends up getting built into people’s wage demands, contracts, loans, etc. If inflation is approximately 2-3% a year for several decades, then people will come to expect a raise of at least 2-3% a year to cover the increase in the cost of living, and they will get upset if this doesn’t happen, even if inflation is significantly below 2-3% (on election day I met a man who was angry he had been denied a cost of living raise in his Social Security for 2009, even though there was deflation that year).

If expected inflation doesn’t appear, there won’t be enough money for businesses to pay their workers and will have to cut either wages or employment. But since workers hate nominal wage cuts (even where these don’t translate into real wage cuts), employers tend to respond to this situation by laying people off rather than spreading the pain around. The result is that during inflationary or disinflationary periods real wages tend to increase (since prices are falling while wages remain constant in nominal terms) and so does unemployment. Functionally this acts as a kind of wealth transfer from the unemployed to those who still have jobs. Thus, tight money is a tax on the unemployed.

The “New Normal”

Guess what?  Unemployment is up again!  That’s right – even though Wall Street is swimming in cash and the Obama administration is declaring that “the recession is over”, the U.S. unemployment rate has gone even higher.  So are you enjoying the jobless recovery?  The truth is that there should not be any talk of a “recovery” as long as the “official” unemployment rate remains at around 10 percent and the “real” unemployment continues to hover around 17 percent.  There are millions and millions of American families that are living every day in deep pain because of the lack of jobs…

TO READ MORE – Jobless Recovery?: 25 Unemployment Statistics That Are Almost Too Depressing To Read

Leave it to Mel, the Beaver and the Shark

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From the only reliable source of news on the net, the Onion.  Wait, no, that’s not right!  The above video certainly seems like a creation from the warped minds at the Onion, but even they would have a hard time dreaming this one up:  Actor with alcohol, anger and fidelity “issues”, portrays deranged husband and father who gets back in touch with his family by using a beaver hand puppet.   It would take a heart of stone not to laugh endlessly at the sheer lunacy of it all.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the film makes a huge amount of money, at least from audiences who enjoy truly dark comedy and perhaps from the select few who love the irony of it all.

Mel said that he took an axe to his marriage, so perhaps this is all some bizarre attempt at redemption in the eyes of the public at least, if not in the eyes of his ex-wife and kids.  What this film does establish beyond question is that Mel Gibson truly is one strange character.  I say this as someone who enjoyed most of his films dating back to his road warrior days, and who defended him on blogs for years, especially against the shameful charge that his masterpiece, The Passion of the Christ, was, in any way, anti-Semitic.  Alas, someone can be a fine artist, and still be a man with massive flaws and that is the case with Mel.  Through  alcohol abuse, adultery, and out of control rants, the actor many Catholics pointed to with pride, revealed himself to have very common Hollywood failings. Continue reading

Seminarians make a music video …

It all started in Dr. Blosser’s philosophy class …:

It all started with an off-hand remark I made at the beginning of the semester this fall while talking about the challenges of reading Aristotle and St. Thomas. Students today might find it preferable, I joked lamely, if somebody could come up with a different medium for communicating metaphysics, like, say, a MUSIC VIDEO!

The students politely laughed. But two of them approached me after class with the idea of undertaking precisely such a project. For a moment, I wasn’t sure whether they were joking or serious. They were serious. [more].

Top Stories on ThePulp.it This Past Week

Here are the most popular stories this past week on ThePulp.it, A Digest of the Best Punditry in the Catholic Blogosphere:

1. Dissident Catholic Newspaper Gets New Columnist! – Father John Zuhlsdorf, WDTPRS?

2. Protesters Criticize New Archbishop of Seattle – Michael Martinez, CNN International

3. A “Catholic” College Girl’s Lament – Emmy Cecilia, Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer

4. The Origin of Ave Maria – Jeffrey Tucker, The Chant Café

5. Saved By Christ Not By Rules – Mark P. Shea, Catholic Exchange

If you liked what you found and you want more for the latest punditry updated twice daily, go to ThePulp.it!

Class and Marriage: A Reverse

It’s long been a trope of the “culture war” that the rich as social and religious libertines while the stolid middle class cling to traditional values. Or, as another portion of America sees it, that the educated elite have moved beyond the primative and prejudices social mores of the past while the uneducated cling to their guns and their religion. I would venture to say that for many of us reading here this may also to a stereotype which fits with our lived experience.

However, a report out from the Institute for American Values stands this set of stereotypes somewhat on its head, showing a educated elite which is going to church more and sleeping around less, while the broad middle class is going to church less, having more children out of wedlock and getting divorced more often.
Continue reading

Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum

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AD DIEM ILLUM LAETISSIMUM
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS X
ON THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
TO THE PATRIARCHS, PRIMATES, ARCHBISHOPS,
BISHOPS, AND OTHER ORDINARIES
IN PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH THE APOSTOLIC SEE.
Venerable Brethren,
Health and the Apostolic Blessing.

An interval of a few months will again bring round that most happy day on which, fifty years ago, Our Predecessor Pius IX., Pontiff of holy memory, surrounded by a noble crown of Cardinals and Bishops, pronounced and promulgated with the authority of the infallible magisterium as a truth revealed by God that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary in the first instant of her conception was free from all stain of original sin. All the world knows the feelings with which the faithful of all the nations of the earth received this proclamation and the manifestations of public satisfaction and joy which greeted it, for truly there has not been in the memory of man any more universal or more harmonious expression of sentiment shown towards the august Mother of God or the Vicar of Jesus Christ. Continue reading

TAC Bowl Pick’Em Contest

The bowl selections are out, and it will be Auburn v. Oregon in the BCS Title game. This is irrelevant, because the two biggest fan bases on this site will be meeting in Jerryworld on January 7th (that long. Seriously?) in the Cotton Bowl. I would talk trash about the Aggies, but there’s no need. Any school willing to be bought off by their biggest rival really isn’t worth the effort.

Ok, so in order to continue the college discussion at TAC, we’re doing a bowl pick’em game. There would be a prize but we have no money (unless you’d like to chip in…). You will get honor and glory…and perhaps the right to write a guest post on any college football topic of the winner’s choosing (I’ll work out the details and let you know if that’s happening).

The method is simple. We’re picking every bowl. The bowl begin on December 18th and to be consider you must have turned in your entry by the beginning of the New Mexico bowl, which is at 1 pm on the 18th. The list of all the bowls can be found here. Next week (hopefully on Monday), all the rankers here at TAC will put out their picks with their reasons.

So how do you turn in your picks? You can post them here in the comment section or you can post it on the wall of our facebook group (look for The American Catholic if you haven’t liked us yet). I suppose you could theoretically tweet it to TheAmCatholic, but that would probably be annoying. And by probably I mean definitely.

I’ll allow changes up until the the New Mexico Bowl, but if you do it in a different forum make sure I can identify you.

So send in your picks, and we’ll start the discussions and debates right away!

Google eBookstore

You are all probably aware of Google Books, but were you aware that the Google eBookstore has finally launched this week!

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Read seamlessly on your device – Access all your ebooks wirelessly, no matter where you go. Google eBooks stores your library in the digital cloud, so you can read all of your favorite books using just about any device with an Internet connection. Google eBooks is compatible with Android phones, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, web browsers and many supported eReaders. Whenever you open one of your books, we’ll pick up right where you left off.

Cost, flexibility & freedom are just a few of the reasons why Google will dominate the ebook market starting now. Amazon Kindle domination of the ebook market is over. The epic battle is between Apple vs. Google. Google will win. Google is a software based platform versus Apple which is a fixed/locked hardware one. Amazon Kindle and Apple are similar in this regard. They are both trying to capture and hold their market(s), but this attempt to do so will fail. People will always choose freedom if given the choice to do so. Various computer manufactures and book publishers prefer the open format of Google as well.

Google (and Sony) are linked into the national public library system where you can get ebooks and audiobooks for free…

Inside the Belly of the Beast

I have managed to come upon a fund-raising letter sent out by Planned Parenthood.  It is a fascinating look inside an insidious organization, and it’s quite revealing.  It is a paper copy, so I unfortunately can’t link to it (if only my PDF-making and linking skills were superior).  The intro is quite unintentionally hilarious in its over-the-top rhetoric.

Dear Friend,

Let’s be clear about what we’re facing in America today.  Over the past year, the divisions in this country have grown sharper, uglier, and increasingly dangerous.

Anti-choice, anti-women rhetoric that once was considered wildly extreme has seeped into the mainstream.  And, following the November 2nd elections, the national anti-choice movement is not just a potent lobbying force on Capitol Hill – anti-choice members have increased their ranks in Congress itself – a Congress soon to be led by a virulently anti-choice Speaker of the House.

Already, some of the Congressional opponents of women’s health [ed: I simply love this part.  We've managed to go from anti-choice to anti-woman, and now, anti- women's health.  I wonder if this includes female opponents of abortion - whoops, I said the a-word.  But more on that in a moment.] are organizing to defund Planned Parenthood.  Their goal: make it virtually impossible for Planned Parenthood to play the critical role we have in millions of women’s lives.  [Of course we're talking about federal funding of Planned Parenthood.  How many other organizations get to enjoy the comforts of tax-payer subsidies?  I mean if what they do is so critical and vital to women's "health," I'm sure they'd be able to survive solely off of the generosity of their millions of supporters, not to mention the fees paid by its victims clients.]

These developments threaten to undermine the work we do every day.  And they make it absolutely essential that you make Planned Parenthood a high priority in your personal year-end giving.  [Yes, certainly Planned Parenthood has got to be at the top of anyone's list for Holiday-season giving.  Tricycle for little Bernadette?  Check.  Gifts for all my nieces and nephews?  Check.  A little extra for the Church?  Check.  Money to fund the murder of unborn children?  Triple check!!!]

And it goes on and on and on.  It’s actually quite predictable that Planned Parenthood would rely on scare-mongering to rally the base and solicit funds for . . . what exactly is it soliciting funds for?  Let’s look at some of the language used in the remainder of this lovely letter.

Continue reading

Quote of the Week

So I’ve been reading Fintan O’Toole’s Enough is Enough: How to Build a New Republic on my Kindle recently. I know what you’re thinking: why would someone read a book about how to make Irish politics more left-wing when he is neither 1) Irish nor 2) left-wing? And it’s true, I have a problem; I need help.

But leave that aside for now. I’m currently on a section in which O’Toole rails against the large place the Catholic Church has in providing health care in Ireland. It seems that the Irish bishops have actually had the temerity to oppose increased government involvement in health care, as this would interfere with the Church’s role. For example, in 1948 the Bishops opposed a government plan to provide free health care to children and new mothers. O’Toole quotes Bishop Cornelius Lucey of Cork laying out the Church’s view on the part the state should play in health care:

What should we expect from the State? Help to enable us to help ourselves. Thus, instead of providing directly through its own agencies free housing for all, free health services for all, free school meals for all, etc., it should rather see to it that these are available and that people can afford to pay for them. Thus the real answer to the problem of the man who cannot afford medical care for his wife and children is not a free mother and child service for all, but a rise in wages – or cut in taxes – sufficient to enable him to pay.

Milton Friedman couldn’t have said it better himself.

I note this because you sometimes hear it said that American political culture is fundamentally protestant, and that Catholics who believe in limited government are somehow buying into protestant individualist notions. Correct me if I’m wrong, though, but my impression is that Ireland circa 1948 was pretty Catholic.

69 Years Ago

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My sainted father was 8 years old on December 7, 1941.  He told me how the next day men and older boys, ranging in age from 60-16, gathered in long lines in front of the recruiting offices in Paris, Illinois to sign up to fight.  I think those of us who weren’t alive at that time have difficulty grasping the impact Pearl Harbor had on the nation, as it launched the country on a crusade to break the power of the Empire of Japan and Nazi Germany. Continue reading

At The Dawn of 2011, Despite Bumps In the Road Catholic Orthodoxy Marches Onward

It seems every time a kerfuffle pops up in the Catholic Church, many in engage in hand wringing and doom and gloom scenarios. The latest occurred with Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks on condoms, which were wildly taken out of context in his interview with Peter Seewald turned book Light of the World. Following these remarks, some of us have probably been peppered with questions from family and friends as to what this means, and if the Church has changed her teachings in the arena of birth control. Those of us who have welcomed the new orthodoxy taking place within in the Church during the last ten or twenty years, probably have wished this latest kerfuffle had never taken place. However, this in no way shape of form means the orthodoxy movement has stalled. Oddly, I received some gleeful e-mails from some who surprisingly seemed ecstatic to point out that my book; The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism couldn’t possibly be correct. Hopefully, this article will point out that Catholic orthodoxy is alive, well and here to stay.

Church liberals who had long pilloried Pope Benedict XVI even before he was a cardinal, a simple university professor in the famed German town of Tubingen, seemed perplexed on how to treat the latest uproar. Some felt that he was moving in the right (or in their case left direction.) However, the more cynical among them knew that the Holy Father hadn’t changed a thing. They in turn left posts at the National Catholic Reporter decrying the German pontiff’s lack of pastoral ministry. Though I don’t know which saint said it, I am sure someone who was canonized uttered something along these lines; “God please save your Church from these overly pastoral pastors.”

The Holy Father was merely engaging in an abstract theological conversation much like a bunch of guys at a sports bar might conjecture what would happen if modern team x played historical team y for a mythical championship. Yet, the mainstream media along with some in the Catholic media went into a frenzy. The Holy Father was changing nothing in the Church’s teachings concerning birth control. The fault lie with those in the Vatican’s Public Relations Department in making sure the ubiquitous editor Giovanni Vian didn’t somehow put the Holy Father’s abstract scenarios into an excerpt for the L’Osservatore Romano. The comedy of errors in the Vatican could make one’s hair fallout.

Yet, I remember the words of a priest who once spent a considerable amount of time at the Holy See. He told me that the amount of miracles and jaw dropping examples of God’s Grace, that he personally witnessed behind the Vatican’s walls, still amazes him to this day. However, on the flip side the amount of sinister almost demonic style attacks amazes him to this day as well. The evil one knows where his primary target is located and he does his best to cause mayhem. Continue reading

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