Category : Personal Finance

(LA Times) Home insurance and climate change have collided — and we’re all going to pay for it

As another legislative session draws to a close in Sacramento, the problem lawmakers failed to fix is one of the most urgent facing Californians: the slow-moving collapse of the property insurance market as costs from climate disasters mount.

It “is not even a yellow flag issue. This is a waving red flag issue,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday night when asked about the failure of the Legislature to act.

This year, multiple companies, including the state’s largest home insurer, State Farm, have announced they are no longer taking on new residential and commercial properties, citing wildfire risk. In fact, seven of the 12 insurance groups operating in California — together, responsible for about 85% of the market — have pulled back.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Climate Change, Weather, Consumer/consumer spending, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance

(USA Today) From food costs to holiday spending: Americans say they’re being pummeled by the economy in dire new poll

Inflation, interest rates, and GDP growth might be valuable historical economic statistics, but they don’t capture the voice of the American consumer in real time. This was the motivation for the Suffolk University Sawyer Business School/USA TODAY national survey of adults on kitchen table issues.

We opened the survey by asking respondents to summarize in a word the state of the economy today. A total of 22% used words like “excellent,” “good,” “growing,” “improving,” “getting better,” “fair,” “average,” and “fine.” That’s more than 1 in 5 feeling pretty good about the economy.

However, nearly 3 in 4 (72%) used words like “horrible,” “terrible,” awful,” “bad,” “poor,” “weak,” “sad,” “dismal,” “crashing,” “struggling,” “disastrous,” “shambles,” “chaotic,” “messy,” “confusing,” “unequal,” “expensive,” “inflation,” “unstable,” “volatile,” “unpredictable,” “anxiety,” “worried,” and “scary.” Those are their words, not ours, and they come from a wide range of demographics, including people at all income levels.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Personal Finance

(W Post) Drivers squeezed as auto insurance costs soar across the U.S.

Car insurance is a growing burden for Kalisa Hobbs.

Hobbs, who lives near the northern shore of Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain, said the cost of her auto coverage jumped almost 30 percent this year when State Farm added hundreds of dollars to her annual premium, raising it to $1,806. “I’m not going to go hungry or homeless, but like everybody else I live on a budget, and when that budget gets interrupted, it’s difficult,” said Hobbs, 56, who works as a communications manager at a paper mill. “It’s just on my credit card, and I’ll pay it off when I can.”

Hobbs has been swept up in a larger trend affecting hundreds of thousands of American drivers: soaring car insurance rates, with some states seeing increases above 50 percent in the past year.

Premiums have kept climbing even as other types of inflation have cooled. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, car insurance for U.S. drivers in July was 16 percent more expensive than in July 2022, and 70 percent more expensive than in 2013.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Personal Finance, Travel

(USA Today) Scarred by two years of high inflation, this is how many Americans are surviving

Two years of high inflation has many Americans shopping in places they wouldn’t normally, scouring for coupons and discounts and learning to do without.

The hit to the average budget is huge: The typical household spent $202 more in July than they did a year ago to buy the same goods and services, tweeted Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi. “And they spent $709 more (in July) than they did two years ago.”

People, especially those with annual earnings less than $100,000, are trying multiple strategies to stretch their dollars, according to the Dallas Fed – from delaying major purchases and medical treatment to decreasing the use of utilities and tapping charities.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Personal Finance, Personal Finance & Investing

(Church Times) David Westlake–Your online scammer could have been trafficked and tortured

We all receive scam messages — and I cannot be alone in noticing that they are becoming more frequent. Last month, several UK banks gave warnings about a sharp increase in online fraud.

It disturbs me that anyone will go to such lengths to steal my money; but what has chilled me to the core is learning that the person on the other end of a scam call or message could be a victim of human trafficking — forced into involvement in fraud by the threats of beatings and electrocution.

My colleagues at International Justice Mission (IJM) in Cambodia were some of the first people to respond to this sinister new form of modern slavery, forced scamming. Human traffickers are luring people with false job offers online, paying their transport costs, and then trapping them in heavily guarded compounds in places such as Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos.

Under the threat of extreme violence, the victims must scam people all around the world. Survivors whom we have helped have shown us bruises the size of watermelons caused by being beaten, and burns from electrocution — the result of not hitting their scamming targets.

Disturbingly, forced scamming is one of the most complex and fast-growing forms of modern slavery in the world.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Personal Finance, Police/Fire, Science & Technology, The Banking System/Sector

(Independent) William cites mother’s influence as he unveils drive to eradicate homelessness

The Prince of Wales has described how his mother’s influence helped shape his attitudes to homelessness as he revealed three UK locations where he hopes to eradicate the issue.

William visited three contrasting areas – Newport, South Wales, three neighbouring Dorset towns and the south London Borough of Lambeth – where his ambitious initiative Homewards aims to bring together business, charities and local authorities to tackle the problem.

During his tour of the UK, he warned: “It’s the young I’m particularly worried about, the sofa surfing and the hidden homeless, there’s a lot we don’t see and we have to try and get those who are lost.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, England / UK, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance, Politics in General

A Quite Amazing WSJ Article on the only Residential Community in the USA INSIDE a Disney Resort– Golden Oak, Florida

Janis Scaramucci’s bedroom is decorated with paintings of Disney castles. In her office, a recessed ceiling in the shape of a Mickey Mouse head is painted in black glitter. The feet of her dining room table are made from coffee mugs featuring Mickey and Winnie the Pooh. And in her closet hangs a series of colorful Disney outfits, including a red skirt appliquéd with characters from the movie “Ratatouille.”

Welcome to Golden Oak, the only residential community in the world located on Walt Disney Co. resort property.

Ms. Scaramucci, a divorced 63-year-old Disney enthusiast and art collector, bought a $2.52 million home in the Orlando, Fla., community a few years ago after feeling dissatisfied with life in her suburban neighborhood in Edmond, Okla. Now, she spends her days riding roller coasters, attending nature conservation programs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, and traveling to destinations such as Antarctica on Disney cruises…..

But Mr. [Kevin] Tupy said that, in his experience, politics doesn’t come up much when Golden Oak residents get together.

“Disney is more of a religion,” he said. “We worship the mouse.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Movies & Television, Personal Finance

(The Parliament Politics) Bp [of St. Albans] Alan Smith–Coroners currently do not need to record an opinion on the factors that may have caused a person to take their life this has to change

The industry makes most of its profits from those who are vulnerable, with 86% of online betting profits coming from 5% of customers. Most of thesepeople are already suffering from gambling–related harms or have been diagnosed as suffering from an addiction. Further, the statistics show that 35% of people with a gambling disorder receive daily incentives to gamble, compared to only 4% of those without. All too often there are reports in the media of people receiving offers of ‘free’ spins and the chance to be a ‘VIP customer’ when they have been trying to stop gambling.

Coroners currently do not need to record an opinion on the factors that may have caused a person to taketheir life. My Private Members Bill, the Coroners (Determination of Suicide) Bill aims to change that.

It is estimated that between 400 – 500 people take their lives each year in this country due to gambling. Yet when the House of Lords ministers answered my questions they claimed that there was no reliable statistics of the numbers of deaths caused by gambling. Furthermore, they showed little concern to find out.

If this bill comes into law, the requirement on coroners to record the ‘where, how and what’ questions associated with each suicide will remain unchanged. However, once this part of the inquesthas been concluded, each coroner will be required to record the co-morbidities of each suicide….

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Gambling, Personal Finance, Psychology, Stress, Suicide

(FT) Ordinary Americans are counting the cost of thriving

Economists will spend hours poring over US inflation data released on Tuesday. But their calculations mostly obscure the experience of American families trying to make ends meet.

In 1985, an American man working the typical full-time job could support a family of four on 40 weeks of income, and be able to afford a range of nutritious foods, a three-bedroom house, a comprehensive health insurance plan, a family car, even saving to put both kids through the state university. In 2022, paying for all that would require 62 weeks of his income, which is a problem, there being only 52 weeks in a year.

These figures come from the Cost-of-Thriving Index (Coti), which compares the rate at which wages are rising to the rate of cost increases for middle-class staples. They show starkly the effect on household budgets of a decades-long stretch in which housing prices, health insurance premiums, college tuition, and more skyrocketed much faster than wages.

Traditional measures of inflation miss this fact. When inflation-adjusted figures report that a 2022 earner could afford roughly what a 1985 earner could, that assumes the 2022 earner still wants to drive a 1985 car, live in a 1985 house, watch a 1985 television, and receive 1985 medical care — and that we would call that “middle class”. 

Think about healthcare, where economists (rightly) celebrate extraordinary but costly breakthroughs in medical technology while families (also rightly) notice that insurance premiums keep eating a larger share of their salary.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, History, Marriage & Family, Personal Finance

(BBC) Nigeria’s cost-of-living crisis sparks exodus of doctors

Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, is in the process of introducing new banknotes for the first time in more than 20 years. The move is an attempt to reignite confidence in the currency, the naira, which is under severe pressure. With inflation at more than 20%, people are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living. It is leading to the largest exodus of young professionals in years.

“Imagine going to the grocery store one day, and everything has tripled in price? How do you even cope? You have a family at home. What do you cut out of the budget?” Oroma Cookey Gam tells me by Zoom, her face incredulous.

The fashion designer left Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos, with her young family a year ago for the UK capital, London. Her husband and business partner Osione, an artist, was granted a Global Talent visa, which enables leaders in academia, arts and culture, as well as digital technology to work in the UK.

She says it had become too expensive to raise their young family in Lagos. “Our money was buying us less and less. We weren’t able to pay our bills, we weren’t able to do normal things that we were doing.”

Oroma studied law at the UK’s University of Northumbria and moved back to Nigeria almost 20 years ago, keen to use her degree to help develop her country. Along with Osione, she eventually set up This Is Us, a sustainable fashion and lifestyle brand that uses local materials and artisans, including cotton grown and dyed in northern Nigeria.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Nigeria, Personal Finance

(NYT) Brussels Court Orders Three Tied to Qatar Bribery Case to Remain in Detention

A court in Belgium ruled on Wednesday that two suspects in a case linking current and former European lawmakers to alleged bribery by Qatar should remain in prison until trial and that a third should wear an electronic monitor, as the snowballing scandal continued to rock European Union institutions.

Four people, including Eva Kaili, a former vice president of the European Parliament who is from Greece, were charged last week with corruption, money laundering and participation in suspected bribes from Qatar, in what may be the biggest scandal in the history of the Parliament.

A court hearing for Ms. Kaili was postponed until Dec. 22, the office of the Belgian federal prosecutor said on Wednesday, so she remains imprisoned outside Brussels. Parliamentary lawmakers also stripped Ms. Kaili of her title as vice president during a plenary session in France.

Court documents seen by The New York Times identified the other suspects as Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former member of Parliament; Francesco Giorgi, Ms. Kaili’s partner and an assistant to a current European lawmaker; and Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, secretary general of a Brussels-based charity. Mr. Panzeri and Mr. Giorgi were ordered to remain detained until trial, and Mr. Figa-Talamanca was ordered to be placed under electronic monitoring.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Belgium, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Greece, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Qatar

(BBC) UK faces biggest fall in living standards on record

The UK faces its biggest drop in living standards on record as the surging cost of living eats into people’s wages.

The government’s forecaster said that household incomes – once rising prices were taken into account – would dive by 7% in the next few years.

It also expects the number of people who are unemployed to rise by more than 500,000.

It came as the chancellor said the UK was already in recession and set to shrink further next year.

But Jeremy Hunt said his Autumn Statement – which unveiled £55bn of tax rises and spending cuts – would lead to a “shallower downturn” with fewer jobs lost.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, England / UK, Personal Finance

(CNBC) 60% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck heading into the peak shopping season

Just as the holiday shopping season gets into full swing, families are finding less slack in their budgets than before.

As of October, 60% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck, according to a recent LendingClub report. A year ago, the number of adults who felt stretched too thin was closer to 56%.

“More consumers who have historically managed their budgets comfortably are feeling the financial strain, which will impact their spending behavior as we head into the holiday shopping season,” said Anuj Nayar, LendingClub’s financial health officer.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Personal Finance

(Church Times) C of E Pensions Board joins fight to force VW to open its books on climate lobbying

The Church of England Pensions Board has joined five other pension funds to bring legal action against Volkswagen AG (VW), after it refused repeated attempts to reveal crucial information on its corporate climate-lobbying activities.

The funds, four Swedish and one Danish in addition to the C of E board, are all part of the Institutional Investment Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) and the Climate Action’s 100+ initiative. These have asked the company repeatedly to clarify its lobbying position. VW discloses trade association memberships, but does not disclose how the goals of these associations align with its own climate goals.

The boards wanted to table an agenda item at VW’s AGM, seeking publication of a report setting out how the company’s lobbying of policy-makers matched its stated ambition to support the Paris Agreement goals by becoming a net-zero company. VW refused to table the item.

The investors say that they tried over several years to get information before tabling the amendment. The case, supported by the legal charity ClientEarth, will test whether VW has the right to refuse the agenda item.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, Pensions, Science & Technology, Stock Market

(BBC) Bristol warm places scheme welcomes first residents

New mothers and the elderly are among the first to take advantage of a warm spaces scheme to help people struggling to afford to heat their own homes.

Cafes, churches and libraries across Bristol are opening their doors as energy prices rise this winter.

The city council asked businesses and public buildings to join the scheme in the summer.

As well as warmth, many of the spaces are offering services like financial advice and homework support.

A cafe in the Wellspring Settlement community centre in Barton Hill is taking part in the initiative twice a week and is also providing food.

People are only asked to pay what they can afford, with the rest subsidised by the council.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England, Energy, Natural Resources, Housing/Real Estate Market, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Personal Finance, Stewardship

(FT) ‘A self-inflicted lockdown’: how the global the cost of living crisis puts lives on hold

When Sarah, a 29-year-old North American, quit her job in the film industry and came to study law in London, she hoped to put her life on a firmer financial footing. Two years on, that goal seems further away than ever.

Interest payments on a bank loan have gone up; she has lost weight having cut back on groceries; and feels isolated because going out costs too much. A soaring energy bill has forced her to move out of her previous flat-share.

And with earnings as a research assistant working out at £6.65 an hour, Sarah says it is “impossible to imagine” planning for the future.

“I’m fixing the problem directly in front of me, not building a long-term game plan,” she says. “Every relationship and facet of my life has been impacted . . . It’s as if you’re climbing a staircase and you don’t know if the next step is going to be there [or] if you’re going to fall through.”

Sarah is one of countless casualties of a global cost of living crisis that is forcing people around the world to put their lives on hold — forgoing social lives, scrapping house moves and weddings, hesitating to start a family or delaying retirement because of the financial pressures caused by high inflation.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance, Psychology

(Local paper front page) Huge rent increases have CharlestonSC-area residents questioning if they should move

Two years of huge rent increases in the already-expensive Charleston area have caused some tenants to take extra jobs, consider relocating to the rural edges of the suburbs or leave altogether for more affordable cities.

Stress-inducing monthly rates have radiated out from the pricey Charleston peninsula and Mount Pleasant to once-affordable places such as West Ashley, North Charleston and Summerville.

In September, according to Apartment List, the median yearly rent for an apartment in Ladson — some 20 miles from downtown Charleston — was $5,292 higher than it was two years earlier.

“I went in (to the rental office) today in tears,” said the Rev. Jo Anna Fallaw, a disabled single mother on leave from her work as a Methodist pastor. “I can see how someone could end up on the street.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Housing/Real Estate Market, Personal Finance

(Barrons) Even as Altruism Grows Around the World, Charitable Giving Remains Flat

Charitable giving—including only monetary donations and the value of time donated —remained flat, at just under 3% of global GDP in 2021 despite an increase in altruistic attitudes and behaviors across the globe, according to a Citi report released Tuesday.

On average, prosocial behaviors like the acts of donating, volunteering, and helping strangers all increased by nearly 25% last year compared to pre-pandemic levels. Yet, charitable giving did not rise in most countries, and even fell in inflation-adjusted terms in some countries, according to the report, “Philanthropy and the Global Economy.”

“We were sort of hoping that after the pandemic that donations would continue in the trajectory and they really, for the most part, did not,” says Karen Kardos, head of philanthropic advisory at Citi Private Bank and a co-author of the report.

Global inflation and uncertainties in financial markets may create further headwinds for charitable giving. Globally, 55% of donors expect to give the same amount in 2022 as they did in 2021. In the U.S., the country with the most monetary donations, more than 60% of donors planned to be more cautious in 2022 as recession risks weigh on their confidence, survey data show.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Economy, Globalization, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(Economist) Financial markets are in trouble. Where will the cracks appear?

It is hard not to feel a sense of foreboding. As the Federal Reserve has tightened policy, asset prices have plunged. Stocks, as measured by the Wilshire 5000 all-cap index, have shed $12trn of market capitalisation since January. Another $7trn has been wiped off bonds, which have lost 14% of their value. Some $2trn of crypto market-cap has vanished over the past year. House prices adjust more slowly, but are falling. Mortgage rates have hit 7%, up from 3% last year. And this is all in America—one of the world’s strongest economies.

Rising rates will slow the American economy and should break the back of inflation. But what else will they break? Since the Federal Reserve raised rates again on September 22nd, global markets have been in turmoil. When the British government announced unfunded tax cuts a day later, fire-sales by pension funds caused the yield on government bonds (or “gilts”) to spiral out of control. Contagion then spread to the American Treasury market, which is as volatile and illiquid as it was at the start of covid-19. The cost to insure against the default of Credit Suisse, a global bank, has risen sharply. These ructions indicate the world is entering a new phase, in which financial markets no longer just reflect the pain of adjusting to the new economic context—pricing in higher rates and lower growth—but now also spread pain of their own.

The most catastrophic pain is felt when financial institutions fail. There are two ways they do so: illiquidity or insolvency. Tighter monetary policy is likely to prompt or reveal both.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Euro, European Central Bank, Federal Reserve, Globalization, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance, Stock Market

(NYT) In an Unequal Economy, the Poor Face Inflation Now and Job Loss Later

For Theresa Clarke, a retiree in New Canaan, Conn., the rising cost of living means not buying Goldfish crackers for her disabled daughter because a carton costs $11.99 at her local Stop & Shop. It means showering at the YMCA to save on her hot water bill. And it means watching her bank account dwindle to $50 because, as someone on a fixed income who never made much money to start with, there aren’t many other places she can trim her spending as prices rise.

“There is nothing to cut back on,” she said.

Jordan Trevino, 28, who recently took a better paying job in advertising in Los Angeles with a $100,000 salary, is economizing in little ways — ordering a cheaper entree when out to dinner, for example. But he is still planning a wedding next year and a honeymoon in Italy.

And David Schoenfeld, who made about $250,000 in retirement income and consulting fees last year and has about $5 million in savings, hasn’t pared back his spending. He has just returned from a vacation in Greece, with his daughter and two of his grandchildren.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Personal Finance

(NYT) Get Ready for Another Energy Price Spike: High Electric Bills

Already frustrated and angry about high gasoline prices, many Americans are being hit by rapidly rising electricity bills, compounding inflation’s financial toll on people and businesses.

The national average residential electricity rate was up 8 percent in January from a year earlier, the biggest annual increase in more than a decade. The latest figures, from February, show an almost 4 percent annual rise, reaching the highest level for that month and approaching summer rates, which are generally the most expensive.

In Florida, Hawaii, Illinois and New York, rates are up about 15 percent, according to the Energy Department’s latest figures. Combined with a seasonal increase in the use of electricity as people turn on air-conditioners, the higher rates will leave many people paying a lot more for power this summer than they did last year.

The immediate reason for the jump in electric rates is that the war in Ukraine has driven up the already high cost of natural gas, which is burned to produce about 40 percent of America’s electricity. And supply chain chaos has made routine grid maintenance and upgrades more expensive.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Personal Finance

(WSJ) Food Banks Are Serving More People Again as Inflation Squeezes Budgets

Food banks are straining to meet growing demand caused by rising food prices, which are pinching budgets for households and the organizations themselves.

Forgotten Harvest, which serves the metro Detroit area, said demand increased 25% to 45% since December in different areas it serves. In March alone, demand rose 30% compared with the previous month.

Christopher Ivey, a spokesman for the food rescue, says metro Detroit is at the front of the bell curve, experiencing economic ripples before they hit other parts of the U.S.

“The need is growing quickly, as gas prices are continuing to rise,” he said. “As you know, there are shortages in the grocery store and the costs of the commodity goods are going up and up and up,” he said, adding that the organization is challenged by the increased demand but is still able to fulfill the needs of the public.

With inflation at a four-decade high, American households are feeling the pinch of higher prices across a range of products and services. The price of food at grocery stores in March was 10% higher than a year earlier, while food prices at restaurants were 6.9% higher than in March 2021, according to the Labor Department’s most recent consumer-price index.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Personal Finance, Poverty

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–The huge Proliferation of Gambling in America is the Symptom of a Deeper Cultural Malaise

….in rationalizing our gambling regime by making it ever more universal, we’re following the same misguided principle that we’ve followed in other cases. With pornography, for instance, where the difficulty of identifying a perfectly consistent rule that would allow the publication of “Lolita” but not Penthouse has led to a world where online porn doubles as sex education and it’s assumed that the internet will always be a sewer and we just have to live with it. Or now with marijuana, where the injustice and hypocrisy of the drug war made a good case for partial decriminalization, but stopping at decriminalization may be impossible when the consistent logic of commercialization beckons.

The reliability of this process doesn’t mean that it can never be questioned or reversed. Part of what we’re witnessing from #MeToo-era feminism, for instance, is a backlash against the ruthless logic of an unregulated sexual marketplace, and a quest for some organic form of social regulation, some new set of imperfect-but-still-useful scruples and taboos.

But it’s a lot easier to tear down an inconsistent but workable system than it is to build a new one up from scratch — and the impulse to rebuild usually becomes powerful only once you’ve reached the bottom of consistency’s long slope.

I’m not sure where we are with gambling’s cultural trajectory. But every time this playoff season served up another ad for Caesars Sportsbook, it felt like a sign that we’ve accelerated downward, with a long way yet to fall.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Gambling, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance, Pornography, Sports, Supreme Court

Investors hold mining companies to account following Church of England intervention

A memorial event at which families of those killed in the devastating Brumadinho disaster shared testimonies and prayers, has catalysed investors to take further steps in recognition of the profound risks caused by tailings facilities.

Following the memorial event, Responsible Investor magazine contacted unresponsive companies named, during the event, resulting in further disclosure about tailings from ArcelorMittal. The Church of England Pensions Board has called on the company to publish its support of the global industry standard, and continue to make relevant disclosures for their facilities.

The event marked the third anniversary of the Brumadinho disaster. During the event the Church of England Pensions Board together with the United Nations Environment Programme provided an update on the implementation of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management (GISTM).

The £3.5/$4.7 billion Church of England Pensions Board, which set up and leads the 100 strong coalition of investors representing USD $20 trillion under management that form the Investor Mining and Tailings Safety Initiative, also announced that they will vote against the chairs of company boards at companies in which they invest that have not confirmed their intention to implement the Industry Standard.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pensions, Stock Market

(Bloomberg) American families are feeling the financial squeeze of soaring inflation

American families are feeling the financial squeeze of soaring inflation and a persistent pandemic as fractious Democrats return to Washington this week no closer to a deal on a tax and spending bill party leaders hoped would by now provide relief.

Despite gangbusters growth at a 6.9% annual rate during the final quarter of 2021, other economic measures tell a very different story. Average wages are falling behind inflation and consumer sentiment plummeted in January to the lowest in more than a decade.

More Americans are having trouble paying their bills than at any time since last March, shortly before the Biden administration began distributing stimulus checks and other relief measures. Hunger is rising again.

It’s an ominous start to a midterm election year for Democrats struggling to hold on to razor-thin majorities in Congress. President Joe Biden began his term with ambitions to address long-festering economic inequalities and lift prospects for the poor and middle class but an intra-party rift has halted progress on his centerpiece tax and social spending plan.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Personal Finance

(Church Times) Pensions Board puts pressure on mining companies to adopt global safety standards

On the third anniversary of the mining disaster that killed 270 people in Brumadinho, in Brazil, the Church of England Pensions Board has stepped up the pressure on companies to adopt new global safety standards.

The disaster happened when a mine-waste facility, a tailings dam, collapsed. The new Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management was developed in response by a coalition of investors led by the Pensions Board and the Council on Ethics of the Swedish AP Funds…. Now, they have published the names of the companies that have committed themselves to the new measures.

Seventy-nine mining companies — one third of those employing tailings dams — have either made a commitment to the new Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management or are still assessing their compliance. The list includes several of the largest companies, including BHP, Anglo, Glencore, Rio Tinto, and Vale.

The Brumadinho disaster of 2019 is not an isolated incident. Another 12 such collapses have been reported in the past three years. In three instances — two of which took place in Myanmar and one in Peru — workers were killed. The collapses also cause significant environmental damage.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Brazil, Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Myanmar/Burma, Pensions, Stock Market

([London] Times) A Chance for Christians to put their faith in wealth creation

Some Christians may think that the words “faith” and “wealth creation” are incompatible, but Matt Bird isn’t one of them. Last year the social entrepreneur called on Britain’s churches to start businesses and to encourage their parishioners to do the same. Now Bird, founder and chief executive of Nayba, the Christian charity, wants them to go a step further.

“A food parcel can sustain a person and their family for a few days, but a small business can sustain it indefinitely,” he said. “The Church often over-spiritualises and underplays practical answers to community needs. I believe that the ability to start a business is a God-given gift and that we should encourage the Church to do this as a way of serving the community.”

He wrote his column in The Times in January 2021 — headlined “It’s time for faith-driven entrepreneurs to emerge” — expecting to be “shot down in flames” for suggesting that the Church should get involved in profit-making. Instead, he has been inundated with inquiries from churches nationwide eager to help people to become entrepreneurs. He rapidly formulated his ideas into a book and a month later published The Spirit of Enterprise: Helping entrepreneurs transform neighbourhoods on Amazon.

Read it all (subscription required).

Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture

(Chronicle Live) ‘The exact opposite of levelling up’ – North East groups including the Bp of Durham call for Universal Credit uplift to be kept

An unprecedented coalition of groups in the North East – including business leaders, unions, charities and the Bishop of Durham – have come together to condemn the Government’s planned cut to universal credit as ‘the exact opposite of levelling up’.

Groups including the North East Child Poverty Commission, Children North East and the North East England Chamber of Commerce have signed the letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak opposing the ending of the Government’s £20 universal credit uplift.

The benefit increase came into force at the beginning of the pandemic but ministers have confirmed that it will phased out over the coming months, despite opposition from across the policital spectrum and from a number of charities.

A total of 17 North East organisations have signed the letter, as has Bishop of Durham the Rt Rev Paul Butler, who takes responsibility for child poverty for the Church of England.

It points out that the cut in benefits will take £5m a week from the regional economy and make it harder for the North East to recover from the Covid crisis.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT Dealbook) Rescue Package Includes $86 Billion Bailout for Failing Pensions

Tucked inside the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that cleared the Senate on Saturday is an $86 billion aid package that has nothing to do with the pandemic.

Rather, the $86 billion is a taxpayer bailout for about 185 union pension plans that are so close to collapse that without the rescue, more than a million retired truck drivers, retail clerks, builders and others could be forced to forgo retirement income.

The bailout targets multiemployer pension plans, which bring groups of companies together with a union to provide guaranteed benefits. All told, about 1,400 of the plans cover about 10.7 million active and retired workers, often in fields like construction or entertainment where the workers move from job to job. As the work force ages, an alarming number of the plans are running out of money. The trend predated the pandemic and is a result of fading unions, serial bankruptcies and the misplaced hope that investment income would foot most of the bill so that employers and workers wouldn’t have to.

Both the House and Senate stimulus measures would give the weakest plans enough money to pay hundreds of thousands of retirees — a number that will grow in the future — their full pensions for the next 30 years. The provision does not require the plans to pay back the bailout, freeze accruals or to end the practices that led to their current distress, which means their troubles could recur. Nor does it explain what will happen when the taxpayer money runs out 30 years from now.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pensions, Politics in General, Senate, The U.S. Government

(Forbes) 49% Of Americans Who Lost Pay In Covid Pandemic Still Have not Returned to Their Previous Income Level

Nearly half of all U.S. adults who took pay cuts during the Covid-19 pandemic still have not returned to their previous incomes, according to a Pew Research Center report released Friday, indicating the pandemic’s lasting impact on many Americans’ finances.

Some 44% of American adults told Pew in a late January poll that somebody in their household has either lost a job or endured a pay cut since February 2020.

Among Americans who took a pay cut in the last year, 49% say they still make less money than they did prior to the pandemic, compared to 34% who earn roughly the same amount as before and 16% whose pay has increased.

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Posted in Economy, Health & Medicine, Personal Finance