Category : Economy

(Economist) Women alone are driving a recovery in workforce participation in the USA Economy

If there were a list of common complaints about America’s economy, the fact that too few people work would be near the top. Though unemployment is low—only 4.3% in July—the figure does not include those who are jobless either by choice, or because they have given up looking for work. The proportion of those aged between 25 and 54 in work is 79%—lower than in France, where the unemployment rate is more than twice as high. So it is a relief that over the past two years, as the labour market has improved, Americans aged 25 to 54 (prime-age, in the jargon) have been joining the labour force in greater numbers. What is remarkable, however, is that this turnaround has been driven almost entirely by women.

When people think about America’s hidden reserves of labour, they usually point to prime-age men, who have participated in the labour market at ever-lower rates since the 1960s. Things have been particularly bad for less educated men, who have suffered as technological progress and trade have killed off manufacturing jobs. More than one in five prime-age men with a high-school diploma does not work, compared with fewer than one in 11 men with a bachelor’s degree….the top end of the labour market is increasingly promising for women. Even in 2010, America’s working women were about as likely to be managers as men; elsewhere, they were only half as likely. They were also more likely than men to be professionals. Women are now a majority among new college graduates, make up more than half of law students, and are equally represented among freshmen at medical schools. Women in their late 20s and early 30s are responsible for nearly 40% of labour-force growth since prime-age participation bottomed out in August 2015.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Theology, Women

(Telegraph) Marijuana company buys entire California town for ‘hospitality destination’

One of the largest marijuana companies in the US has bought a California desert town, promising to turn it into a “cannabis-friendly hospitality destination.”

American Green Inc. said it is buying all 80 acres of Nipton, which includes its Old West-style hotel, a handful of houses, an RV park and a coffee shop.

The town’s current owner, Roxanne Lang, said the sale is still in escrow, but confirmed American Green is the buyer.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Housing/Real Estate Market, Rural/Town Life

(NYT) In Ukraine, Could a Malware Expert Blow the Whistle on Russian Hacking?

The hacker, known only by his online alias “Profexer,” kept a low profile. He wrote computer code alone in an apartment and quietly sold his handiwork on the anonymous portion of the internet known as the dark web. Last winter, he suddenly went dark entirely.

Profexer’s posts, already accessible only to a small band of fellow hackers and cybercriminals looking for software tips, blinked out in January — just days after American intelligence agencies publicly identified a program he had written as one tool used in Russian hacking in the United States. American intelligence agencies have determined Russian hackers were behind the electronic break-in of the Democratic National Committee.

But while Profexer’s online persona vanished, a flesh-and-blood person has emerged: a fearful man who the Ukrainian police said turned himself in early this year, and has now become a witness for the F.B.I.

“I don’t know what will happen,” he wrote in one of his last messages posted on a restricted-access website before going to the police. “It won’t be pleasant. But I’m still alive.”

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Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Europe, Science & Technology, The U.S. Government, Ukraine

(PA) C of E Bishops call for new approach from Government over benefits freeze

Bishops have called on the Government to urgently review its benefits freeze after a “deeply disturbing” report found poor working parents did not have the cash needed to look after children.

Low paid families are taking a “double hit” because earnings are failing to keep up with inflation and many welfare payments have been frozen, the Bishop of Gloucester said.

The struggles faced by parents on the national living wage have been laid out in a report by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

Families working full time are 13% or £59 a week short of the amount needed to provide their children with a minimum standard of living, according to the report.

The Cost Of A Child 2017 found the shortfall for lone and out-of-work of parents was even starker.

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Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

([London] Sunday Times) Isis uses companies in Wales to finance terrorist attacks against the West

Isis used a network of companies operating out of an office in Cardiff to ship military-grade equipment to Spain and to finance terror plots against the West, FBI documents seen by The Sunday Times disclose.

The surveillance technology dispatched to Spain — where 14 people were killed last week in the latest Isis-inspired atrocities — is understood to be linked to the development by the terrorist group of weaponised drones. The FBI says it was capable of identifying “target locations”.

An affiliated firm was used to transfer thousands of pounds in cash to an American extremist in Maryland who later told how he dreamt of carrying out a gun massacre in a church.

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Posted in --Wales, Economy, Terrorism

(WSJ) Mene Ukueberuwa: The Acton Institute’s Moral Capital

When the Acton Institute was founded in 1990, America was in a heyday of harmonious thinking about capitalism and Christian values. Catholic intellectuals such as Michael Novak, Richard John Neuhaus and George Weigel gained renown for defending economic freedom. Novak described the ideal Christian economic creed as “ordered liberty”: a system that acknowledges the risks of consumerism and competition and mitigates them with a moral culture rather than state regulation.

This cohort influenced Acton Institute co-founder and president Father Robert Sirico. His ordination as a Catholic priest in 1989 followed his conversion from the leftism that marked his early career as a Pentecostal minister and political activist. One year after the think tank opened, Pope John Paul II published his encyclical “Centesimus Annus.” The document rejected socialism and embraced private property. Father Sirico calls it a limited but explicit blessing of the union between faith and economic freedom.

This school of economic thought transformed politics in the coming years. Jack Kemp, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 1996, argued that limited government would help lift up poor Americans, a direct appeal to the needy largely missing from the middle-class orientations of the Reagan and Bush administrations. In the same year, Congress enacted welfare reform that brought millions of Americans back to the work, guided by the premise that there is more dignity in a job than an endless stream of checks.

Two decades later, the capitalist consensus has begun to crumble.

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Posted in Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) David Bornstein–When Families Lead Themselves Out of Poverty

DB: Where did the war on poverty go wrong?

MLM: The war on poverty was about movements at the beginning; then it became about programs and institutions. And that has created a listening gap. All these poverty conferences we go to — the families we’re talking about are never there except as examples of a successful social service program. They’re never there to represent themselves, their own successes. They always represent programs. And their stories are told to get more funding for the programs.

DB: What’s wrong with programs?

MLM: I ran a program for 20 years. But I wouldn’t want my own family to use my own services, even though they were among the best in the country. Once I had money, I saw that the system for people with money runs very different than the social service system. When I get my kids tutors at Sylvan Learning Center, they ask, “Do you want tutors in the evening or afternoon? What works for you?” When I offered tutoring through my program, families had to take what I gave them, and I had to do what the funders required. But if the person who comes in for help isn’t making the choices themselves, they don’t hold themselves accountable. And there are very limited choices offered to people who can’t pay.

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Posted in Economy, Marriage & Family, Poverty

(Bloomberg) The Church of England Takes on Climate Change—and Generates a 17 Percent Return

Over the Exxon board’s objections, almost two-thirds of shareholders voted for a proposal asking the company to provide a detailed report on how curbing climate change could affect its business. Leading the charge was the giant New York State Common Retirement Fund, which manages $192 billion and is a veteran activist. Its partner was a far smaller and lower-profile newcomer taking one of its first public stands in the U.S.: the Church of England.

Through a £7.9 billion ($10 billion) fund that finances the church’s mission activities, cathedral costs, and clergy pensions, the church has been quietly—and successfully—engaging with European companies in the energy and mining industries for the past few years. BP, BHP Billiton, and Royal Dutch Shell have all voluntarily adopted similar climate change steps to those sought at Exxon.

“We see ourselves as active, rather than activist,” says ­Edward Mason, head of responsible investment at Church Commissioners for England, as the fund is formally known. The Church of England, also known as the Anglican Church, is the state church of England. Christianity came to the country during Roman times, but the church split from Rome in the 16th century under King Henry VIII. Like many socially responsible investors, the church today prefers to engage collaboratively with companies rather than resort to a public brawl.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Stewardship, Stock Market

(Church Times) Class divide at church must be addressed, new study suggests

The Church in the UK is dominated by the middle class, who must eschew superior attitudes and empower working-class culture if the dearth of working-class people in their congregations is to be reversed.

This is the message of A Church for the Poor (David C. Cook), a new book whose authors, Martin Charlesworth and Natalie Williams, straddle the class divide.

“If the poor or working-class are uncomfortable in our churches, we don’t need to convert them to our middle-class ways,” the authors write. “We need to move out of our comfort zones and accept them as they are.”

With a warning against “an attitude of superiority”, they cite sermons that disparage Sun readers, and social-media postings by Christians who argued for an IQ test before people could vote in the EU referendum. Churches must “consciously empower the sub-culture of the incoming group”, they argue.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance, Religion & Culture

Phil Ashey takes an in depth dive into the recent TEC Bp Jon Bruno decision and what it tells us: Questions about the corruption of a diocese

The Hearing Panel stated unequivocally that prior review and approval of the sale of church property by the Standing Committee “is a crucial part of the fabric and polity of the Church.” (Report at 57). And yet the specific findings recited in the Hearing Panel’s Report show that the Standing Committee did little, if anything, to investigate the legal ownership of St. James, to review any legal documentation for the sale, and to refer to its own minutes in doing so. If they had, they presumably would have discovered that the only properties transferred to Corp Sole were back in 2009, and did not include St. James. They would have discovered that a purported May 2014 quitclaim deed by the Diocese to Corp Sole was without any review by the Standing Committee. If they had followed Bishop Glasspool’s advice and consulted with another diocesan chancellor, they might have intervened and halted the sale. Nevertheless, they did not

These detailed findings in the Hearing Panel’s Report are troubling in the extreme, to say the least. Viewed as a whole, the findings strongly suggest that corruption and greed were systemic. They were not limited to Bishop Bruno himself. Key staff and leaders at the highest levels appear from the Report to have been complicit. The Standing Committee appears to have failed to properly review, let alone check, these problematic actions. Both laity and clergy close to the bishop were apparently involved.

How could the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles end up with so many people in positions of leadership who had lost their moral compass?

If the statement of the Diocesan spokesman and its webpage are any signs, the absence of conviction, humility and repentance is not promising.

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Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles

Irwin Stelzer–The Opioid Crisis Is Creating a Labor Crisis

If you wonder what is supposed to happen when the demand for labor outruns the available supply, take a look at the picture below. It’s a Starbucks plea for baristas-the usually young people who make your latte, americano, or coconut milk mocha macchiato every morning. True, this particular branch is located in small-town Colorado, a state in which the unemployment rate is around 2 percent, far below the approximately 6 percent considered “full employment” when I was teaching this stuff. Still, even after recent increases in hourly wage rates, and introduction of an attractive benefits package that includes free college tuition and health care, and free access to Spotify, which I am told is some sort of music app, Starbucks is having trouble filling its ranks.

The Seattle-based chain is not the only employer struggling to find staff. The problem is widespread. One construction executive told me he cannot find roofers, those who left the trade during the Great Recession having found easier and steadier work driving UPS and FedEx vans. A property developer with a $1 billion annual budget has the land on which to build to houses, but can’t find workers, skilled and unskilled, to build them. Amazon, which needs 50,000 workers to fill new positions, 40,000 of them full-time, many with starting salaries of about $13 an hour, will be holding a job fair next week and expects to face difficulties finding suitable candidates. Employers uniformly tell me that higher wages would not attract the workers they need. Before responding, “They would say that, wouldn’t they?” consider opioids.

As Fed chair Janet Yellen told a Senate committee recently, the opioid epidemic is contributing to the labor shortage. Opioids are just the thing to kill the pain of a tooth extraction. For two or three days. And a blessing for the terminally ill. But they are a bane for those who abuse them, and a factor to be considered when analyzing the labor market. Yellen testified, “We’ve had many decades of declining labor force participation by prime-age men. … We’ve seen now unfortunately that it is likely tied to the opioid crisis. … I don’t know if it’s causal, or it’s a symptom of long-running economic maladies that have affected these communities.” One iteration of the now-failed Senate health care bill included $45 billion to combat opioid abuse.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market

Irwin Stelzer–Time to Break Up Amazon? Americans have a schizophrenic attitude toward successful big businesses

“The trusts are hijous monsters. On the one hand they must be crushed underfoot; on the other hand not so fast.” So spake Mr. Dooley, the fictitious Irish bartender and font of wisdom created by Finley Peter Dunne in the late 19th century. Trusts were the form monopolies took at the time. Dooley captured Americans’ schizophrenic attitude toward successful big businesses. We make them big and successful by buying their products-J.D. Rockefeller’s petrol, Andrew Carnegie’s steel, J.P. Morgan’s loans, Ma Bell’s telephone network, American Tobacco’s cigarettes-then worry that they have too much power and call in the trust busters.

In fact, schizophrenia is something of a misdiagnosis. Bigness alone has never been considered by the courts to be an evil. In the language of the Supreme Court, monopoly power that is the result of “a superior product, business acumen, or historic accident” in unobjectionable. So why, then, are some hedge funds shorting the stock of Amazon in anticipation of a government move to break up Jeff Bezos’ creation or somehow restrain its growth? And why do we see articles in the New York Times headlined ” Amazon’s Growing Monopoly Bite” and ” Is it Time to Break Up Google?” And why is the Wall Street Journal warning that “Tech Companies Spread Their Tentacles” thus “concentrating power and wealth in the hands of a few companies in a way not seen since the Gilded Age.” Not to be outdone by the Economist, which leads with “A giant problem” and goes on to what for it is a near-hysterical statement, “The rise of the corporate colossus threatens both competition and the legitimacy of business … using the dark arts of management to stay ahead.”

Let’s start with some facts, using Amazon as the poster boy for a possible new documentary, The Company That Ate the U.S. Economy. Statistics about the company are hard to come by, so we must rely on probably the best guesses available, those of Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP). Amazon Prime, the offering that provides “free” shipping, exclusive access to movies, television shows, photo storage and a host of other goodies, costs $99 per year, counts as members some 80 million U.S. households, about two out of every three in the country, up from 58 million only one year ago. That certainly is a lot of customers.,,,

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Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues

(OC Register) Episcopal panel recommends suspension for L.A. Bishop J. Jon Bruno, return of Newport Beach church to locked-out congregants

A panel of officials from the national Episcopal Church issued its recommendation on misconduct charges against J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, on Friday, July 21, nearly ending a two-year battle during which he tried to sell the St. James the Great church in Newport Beach and displaced its congregants.

Panel members voted 4-1 to suspend Bruno for three years, restore the congregation and halt efforts to sell the 40,000-square-foot building and surrounding property at 3209 Via Lido, which includes a rose garden where the ashes of 12 former parishioners are buried.

The decision comes after panel members presided over a three-day disciplinary hearing in March.

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Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Pastoral Theology, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts: Los Angeles

(FT) Netflix looks to become world’s entertainer as it hits milestone, passing 100m subscribers

2007 was a vintage year for technology. While there has been plenty of coverage of the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, the same year also saw Netflix, best known then for renting DVDs by post, launch another novel product: online movie streaming. At the time, some Netflix investors fretted about the expected $40m cost of launching its streaming service during its first year.

A decade later, Netflix’s share price performance has far exceeded even Apple’s 700 per cent increase since 2007, with the internet TV group’s stock skyrocketing by more than 6,000 per cent in the same period. This week added another 15 per cent to those gains, after second-quarter results showed its total subscribers had reached 104m, shooting through Wall Street forecasts.

Netflix described the symbolic milestone of exceeding 100m members as “a good start”. 

“We connect people with stories,” its recently redrawn mission statement says. “Someday, we hope to entertain everyone.”

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Entertainment, Movies & Television

Supportive Housing Coming to Former Delaware Episcopal Church in Union City

A unique adaptive reuse project is currently underway in a Hudson County community.

The St. John’s Episcopal Church was incorporated in 1846 in what is now known as Union City, and operated as a parish for 165 years, before being converted into a mission church in 2011. A few years later, during the 140th Annual Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark in 2014, it was decided that St. John’s would be closed altogether, according to the Diocese. This was despite efforts by some community members to save the congregation. Now, the former church, which has stood in the same building for over a century in what was once known as West Hoboken at 1514 and 1516-1518 Palisade Avenue, at the southeast corner of 16th Street, is in the process of being converted into new use.

The Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corporation (GSECDC), of Jersey City, is rehabilitating the church, along with a neighboring vacant two-story building, “to provide supportive housing for homeless families and individuals,” according to the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.

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Posted in Episcopal Church (TEC), Housing/Real Estate Market