Daily Archives: December 24, 2009

The Homeownership Gap

From the New York Federal Reserve:

After rising for a decade, the U.S. homeownership rate peaked at 69 percent in the third quarter of 2006. Over the next two and a half years, as home prices fell in many parts of the country and the unemployment rate rose sharply, the homeownership rate declined by 1.7 percentage points. An important question is, how much more will this rate decline over the current economic downturn? To address this question, we propose the concept of the “homeownership gap” as a gauge of downward pressure on the homeownership rate. We define the homeownership gap as the difference between the “official” homeownership rate and a recomputed rate that excludes owners who are in a negative equity position, meaning that the value of their houses is less than their outstanding mortgage balance. Our estimate of this gap suggests that the official homeownership rate will likely experience significant downward pressure in the coming years.

(Follow the link for a link to the full paper).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Lowcountry S.C. Charities see demand hit record levels as those who once gave now seek help

“The tenor of the calls has changed,” said Barry Waldman, vice president of communications for Trident United Way. “Two years ago, it was all people who were chronically poor and didn’t know how to go about getting help. And now we get calls from people who had a job, are desperate to get work again and can’t believe they are in this situation.”

Waldman said it has become a conundrum for nonprofits across the Lowcountry and the nation: The need for their services is reaching record levels while many of the people who once donated to these charities are unable to do so and now need help themselves.

With the state’s unemployment rate over 12 percent, more people are struggling to make the rent, pay their utilities and even buy groceries. The Lowcountry Food Bank, which distributes food to many other charitable organizations, has sent out 40 percent more food than it did last year.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Poverty, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

South Carolina Undergoes growth spurt

New census data shows that South Carolina’s population grew by more than half a million people during the past nine years, a nearly 14 percent increase with important political implications in the next decade.

The numbers are the last to be released before the 2010 census, which among other things will determine how many U.S. House seats each state gets.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * South Carolina, House of Representatives, Politics in General, State Government

Latino leaders use churches in census bid

Fearing that millions of illegal immigrants may not be counted in the 2010 census, Latino leaders are mobilizing a nationwide drive to urge Hispanics to participate in the survey, including an intense push this week in evangelical Christian churches.

Latino groups contend that there was an undercount of nearly one million Latinos in the 2000 census, affecting the drawing of Congressional districts and the distribution of federal money. Hispanic organizations are far better organized for next year’s census, but they say that if illegal immigrants — an estimated eight million of whom are Latino — are not included, the undercount could be much greater.

One study suggests that Congressional delegations in eight states with large Hispanic populations could grow if all Latinos — the nation’s largest minority at some 47 million — are counted.

But the obstacles to an accurate count are significant. Many illegal immigrants are likely to be reluctant to fill out a government form that asks for their names, birthdates and telephone numbers. And the count comes three years into an immigration crackdown that was initiated by President George W. Bush but has continued apace, though less visibly, under President Obama.

Read it all from the front page of yesterday’s New York Times

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Economy, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, The U.S. Government

Senate passes healthcare reform bill, as expected

The final vote was 60-39 and came along party lines (as did each of the first five procedural votes that took place earlier this week).

Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) was the lone Senator not to vote.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Senate

A (London) Times Editorial: A Time for Tolerance

The lack of tolerance is increasingly evident even in the spiritual life. In this past year, divisions have hardened in churches and religious communities alike. The Anglican Communion has been brought almost to the point of schism by arguments on women bishops and gay clergy, by differing interpretations of scriptural truth and by ideological assertions of separate national tradition. The bonds of fellowship that once linked 38 Churches around the world have practically broken. Traditionalists, liberals and evangelicals speak of each other more in terms of anathema than love. The fragile truce brokered at the Lambeth Conference last year has shattered, and Africa, America and the Churches of the Southern Cone seek to go their own way.

The Roman Catholic Church has fared little better. Attempts to reassert the authority and primacy of Rome have led to division and pain. The Pope has reached out to all those whom he would like to see reintegrated with mainstream Catholicism. But the cost has been an abrupt halt in ecumenical rapprochement, a growing gulf between the Vatican and both Anglicanism and Eastern Orthodoxy, and with a clumsy and mistaken signal that accommodation is possible with those who hold extreme or anti-Semitic views.

It is not only Christianity that has rediscovered medieval notions of heresy. Islam is still in the throes of a global struggle between those who would take the faith back to a simplistic view of its past and those who insist that it must accommodate its tenets to the modern world. And in this struggle, there is no room for compromise or tolerance.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Globalization, Religion & Culture

Washington Post: Senate poised to pass health-care bill

Thursday’s vote — which comes on the first Senate session on Dec. 24 in more than five decades — will bring Democrats closer than ever to realizing their 70-year-old goal of universal health coverage.

For the first time, most Americans would be required to obtain health insurance, either through their employer or via new, government-regulated exchanges. Those who can’t afford insurance plans would receive federal subsidies. And Medicaid would be vastly expanded to reach millions of low-income children and adults.

Difficult issues must be still resolved in final negotiations with the House, which has passed more liberal health-care reform legislation, and those talks could stretch through January and perhaps into February, Democratic leaders said. But Democrats are increasingly confident that President Obama would sign a bill into law in early 2010.

“Health care reform is not a matter of ‘if,’ ” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters Wednesday. “Health care reform now is a matter of ‘when.’ ”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared after Wednesday’s vote that: “We stand on the doorstep of history.” But he declined to speculate about negotiations with the House.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

–Galatians 3:23-29 (RSV)

Posted in Theology, Theology: Scripture

Der Spiegel Interviews Anglican Leader and HSBC Chairman Stephen Green

SPIEGEL: Mr. Green, when was the last time you were ashamed to be a banker?

Green: I haven’t felt ashamed when it comes to my own work. However, over the past few years there has been a portion of the global business that was simply unacceptable. Some financial products were much too complicated and not transparent enough. Moreover, they were sold to people who often had no idea what they were buying. This sort of business was very successful for a few years, but it resulted in catastrophe. In this respect, it was disgraceful for all of us.

SPIEGEL: You are not just the group chairman of Britain’s HSBC, the world’s largest private bank. In your free time, you also serve as a lay preacher in the Anglican Church. Have you ever prayed: “Please God, rescue capitalism”?

Green: Well, I was certainly never at a point at which I felt that it was so diabolical that it ought to be abolished. All economic systems have their faults and capitalism is the best of a bad bunch — that is even though, only a year ago”¦

SPIEGEL: … shortly after the Lehman bankruptcy…

Green: …it was truly on the brink.

SPIEGEL: When did you last give a sermon?

Green: Last Sunday. My sermon was about the gospel and the financial crisis.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

ENS: Community is the key following Copenhagen's 'disappointing' result, faith leaders say

In the California office of Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) on Dec. 18, staff members were reluctant to leave their desks, reported founder the Rev. Canon Sally Bingham. Instead they stayed glued to their computers, following the deliberations in Hall Tycho Brahe, Copenhagen, where on Dec. 19 at 4 a.m. local time, in the middle of a long winter’s night, nations continued to debate the proposed accord of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15).

When agreement was finally reached, Bingham could only say that she found the result “extremely disappointing” because of the lack of binding commitments for the nations to act.

The Rev. Jeff Golliher, program associate for the environment and sustainable development in the Office of the Anglican Observer at the United Nations, home from leading a delegation to Copenhagen, agreed that the outcome of the official Conference of the Parties was not promising. He noted that there were positive signs, in that China is taking some steps to slow greenhouse gas emissions, and the United States seems to be facing the scientific facts about climate change.

Golliher’s hope, though, of seeing developing countries involved in the solution to global warming, was not met. He pointed out that developing nations were looking for both financial assistance to mitigate the effects of changing climates and some technical help with sustainable development.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Climate Change, Weather, Denmark, Energy, Natural Resources, Europe, Globalization, Religion & Culture

Telegraph–A Religion Preview for 2010

1. May 15th: Ordination of [one of two] junior bishop[s] in the Diocese of Los Angeles, likely to be the Rev Canon Mary Glasspool…..

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Media, Religion & Culture

From the FT–Faith and finance: Of greed and creed

Vicars in the capital’s financial district have been reporting steadily swelling numbers of worshippers for months now ”“ anecdotal proof, seemingly, that some of the bankers who contributed to the crisis of the past two years are seeking salvation or at least an understanding of their place in the world. “Most people want to do a good job,” says the Rev Oliver Ross, dean of the City of London and vicar at St Olave’s, one of the capital’s few remaining mediaeval churches. “The church is growing. There is an increased desire among a lot of City workers to look at the ethics of what they do. People want to talk about it, to question it.”

Some of those questions are purely personal ”“ with hundreds of thousands already made redundant over the past two years, how secure is anyone’s job and will praying help to keep it? Other questions are more profound ”“ why did financial capitalism become synonymous with crazy risk-taking, with the passing off of toxic investments to unwitting counterparties and the earning of multi-million pound bonuses, regardless of merit?

Amid all the doubt, one thing is clear: the fragility of financial capitalism, and the moral bankruptcy of some of it, have been exposed. It is striking that even big-name bankers have been looking back at the crisis through a religious prism. Stephen Green, chairman of HSBC and an ordained Church of England minister, has said there was no consideration of the “rightness of what was done”. He has charted the history of global finance and offered up a new moral code for bankers everywhere in an ambitious book, Good Value.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Stock Market, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology

Religious Intelligence: Bishop backs credit unions

The Anglican Bishop of Salisbury has backed a move aimed at supporting mutuals and credit unions.

The Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies and Credit Unions Bill introduced in the House of Lords by Labour peer Lord Tomlinson would reform the regulations governing the sector.

Bishop David Stancliffe said: “The reality is that there is a big gulf between those who have access to credit and those who do not. We need to support this timely Bill.

“With the mainstream banking sector in some disrepute, customers need a reliable and honest home for their money.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Economy, England / UK, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

Transcript: NPR Interview With President Obama on the Health Care Bill

[Robert] SIEGEL: Mr. President, some people have faulted this whole process for not focusing enough on how medicine is practiced in the U.S. and our appetite for lots of tests and the like. I want to ask about a recent, coincidental event, which would be the new guidelines on mammography. They suggested that we’ve been testing too much and it would be better to get tested less. There was an outcry. Your own secretary of HHS backed away from the new recommendations. What does that say to you about how best practices can actually be instituted in the country?

{President] OBAMA: Well, I think what it says, No. 1, is that we still have a tendency to think that more medicine is often ”” is automatically better medicine. And that’s just not the case. Inside this reform bill that I’m pushing is a provision that has a panel of experts ”” doctors, medical experts ”” who are going to look at all these practices to start changing how we think about medicine.

SIEGEL: Will politicians defer to their judgments ”” to their scientific judgments?

OBAMA: Well, one of my goals is to make sure that doctors and scientists are giving the best information possible to other doctors who are seeing patients. Look, if you talk to most health care economists right now, they will tell you that every good idea out there, when it comes to improving quality of care and reducing costs of care, are embedded in this bill. It’s not going to happen overnight because we’re going to have to change both how doctors think about health care and how patients think about health care.

And there are going to be millions of small decisions all across the country and interactions between doctors and patients that, over time, change the trajectory of our health care system. The important point is that we’re getting started in this process. And I’m actually very confident that the average person is going to say to themselves, if, right now, I’m taking and paying for five tests and my doctor tells me that I only need one, that person’s going to want to take one ”” save some money and save some time. But they need some validation. They need somebody who’s giving them the better information. And we have set up a system where, year after year, best practices are going to get disseminated across the country.

Read or listen to it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, --The 2009 American Health Care Reform Debate, Health & Medicine, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Senate

Thou shalt steal: But only if desperate: Police condemn priest's advice in sermon as 'irresponsible'

A[n] [Anglican] priest from York has been criticised by police for “highly irresponsible” comments in a sermon advising desperate people to shoplift.Father Tim Jones, 41, claimed on Sunday that stealing from large national chains was sometimes the best option open to vulnerable people.

He added that it was far better for people desperate during the recession to shoplift than turn to “prostitution, mugging or burglary”….

Delivering his Nativity message at St Lawrence C of E Church in York, Father Jones told the congregation: “My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift.

“I would ask that they do not steal from small family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices.

Read it all and there is more there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anglican Provinces, Church of England (CoE), Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Poverty, Preaching / Homiletics, Religion & Culture, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, Theology