ObamaCare & Marriage

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Source: John Goodman’s Health Policy Blog.

By Devon Herrick Filed under  on November 8, 2013 with 11 comments

Consider two young people living together, each earning 200% of the FPL (about $22,980 annually). If that same couple were to marry, their combined household income would rise from 200% of the poverty level (individually) to 296% for a family of two. As individuals, the ObamaCare exchange would cap their premiums at no more than 6.3% of income; but as a couple their premiums would be capped at 9.4%. Their marriage penalty is $1,421 annually.

See additional estimates in the chart below.

 

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Are Secular Democracy & Symphonia At Odds?

Marc DeGirolami at Mirror of Justice writes that “Constitutions serve several functions, but …, I’m interested in one in particular: to entrench the idea that there is a law above the state’s law — a law that cannot be changed by ordinary legislation.” He then asks “Could one say this about established religions in constitutional states?”

If I’ve understood his argument, the First Amendment’s prohibition against an established religion is less about religion or the relationship between church and state and more an acknowledgment of the limits of the State. An established Church–as for example the Anglican Church in England or the Orthodox Church in Greece or Russia–makes a far reaching claim about the power of the State, specifically that the State is sacred and that through its legislators or executive it has the right to pass judgment on the truth claims of religion. Or as DeGirolami puts it “Establishments of religion sacralize the state.”

But a sacred State is also a State, again as DeGirolami argues, that claims that it is “above its ordinary law, and … thereby control and restrain (the reach of) ordinary law.”

The First Amendment of the US Constitution, however, makes a radically different claim. “It enshrines limits on the ordinary power of government, and … even subordinate the ordinary acts of government to higher law.” While DeGirolami is concerned in his post with religion, his argument is I think equally applicable to the other rights enumerated in the amendment: “the freedom of speech, … of the press; … the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In each of these rights an argument is being made that there are vast areas of human society which, like religion, are “remove[d] from the purview of ordinary law.”

The American Experiment, as I said yesterday (here), is based on certain anthropological presuppositions chief of which is that the human person is a creature and so is necessarily a religious being. But while persons are religious, governments are not. There is a higher law to which event a secular government is accountable. On this point, I think, the American Experiment and the Orthodox notion of the symphonia of Church and Empire are in anthropological agreement even if they diverge practically.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Book Review: A Field Guide for the Hero’s Journey-Part 2

So Who Wants To Be A Hero?

Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, $10.00.

Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, $10.00.

My last post ended with a question (here). What does what A Field Guide for the Hero’s Journey by Jeff Sandefer and Fr Robert Sirico have to do with freedom and wealth, with democracy and the free market?
Recent events in the cultural, economic and political spheres have demonstrated that the pursuit of freedom and wealth as ends in themselves is corrosive to democracy and the free market. Cut off from their moorings in a sound anthropology and a clear moral vision the pursuit of freedom and wealth is nothing more or less than the pursuit of power and control. In such a corrupt and corrupting moral universe democracy and the free market are increasingly impossible and the political, material and spiritual benefits that they foster just melt away.

But as I said this a raises a challenge that is both pedagogical and cultural —how are we teach the young (and in many cases, the not so young) how to live a life of sacrificial love when many of them don’t even know such a life is possible much less desirable? Continue reading

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Book Review: A Field Guide for the Hero’s Journey-Part 1

Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, $10.00.

The Pursuit of Freedom & Wealth. Though both are good neither freedom nor wealth are morally sufficient ends in themselves for the human family. Like freedom, wealth is for something. Actually strictly speaking wealth and freedom are both in the service of human flourishing. In the Christian tradition this means that both human freedom and all the myriad forms that wealth takes are only fully realized in love and love is always necessarily sacrificial. We strive to be free and wealth so that we are able to love fully and without reservation or compromise.

Too often freedom and love are seen as sui generis, as almost Platonic ideals that are simply “there.” My own ministry as a priest has taught me to be wary whenever conversations about practical matters turn theoretical.  Freedom and wealth, their morally legitimate uses, the conditions that foster or obstruct their realization and growth, are all matters of prudence. When we try and discuss prudential matters as if they were simply a matter of principle, our conversation quickly becomes a source of conflict and degenerate into mere posturing. While there is no guarantee that of practical agreement, understanding that freedom and wealth are at the service of love offers both critics and apologists of democracy and the free market a potential more fruitful foundation for their discussions and even their disagreements.

But this brings us to a challenge that is both pedagogical and cultural. Continue reading

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It’s An Ill Wind That Blows No Good

Economist John Baden writes:

“Happy New Year” may seem an inappropriate cry as America balances on the edge of governments’ financial cliffs. We’ve been edging toward this danger for two generations. The reason is simple; politicians have strong incentives to provide current benefits and promise payments in some distant future. That future is ever closer.

The politics of this financial process are complex and uncertain but a few things are clear. First, governments have diminished financial flexibility as past promises come due. This means they lack sufficient funds to address new and current social and environmental problems.

This situation strongly implies that social entrepreneurs, individuals operating in the voluntary sector, will become increasingly important. America’s economic and social problems will surely grow while governments face ever-tighter constraints. Bankrupt cities and states near default have little discretion to implement new programs and difficulty funding existing ones.

People of strong conscience and good will increasingly look toward innovative solutions. We face tighter limits on governments, increased skepticism as to their efficacy, and greater knowledge of favoritism toward special interests. I predict we will see greater interest in and respect for social entrepreneurs.

He continues and says that

If we are fortunate over the next few years, and probably decades thereafter, the contributions of such creative individuals will be increasingly important. The primary reason is clear; governments will be ever more limited in their capacities to address problems. Here’s why.

America’s governments at every level are facing tighter financial constraints as bills, bonds, and promised benefits come due. Concurrently, accretions of dysfunctional regulations limit adaptive responses. Further, we see erosion of civic and cultural capital, especially among the former working class. Parasitic and opportunistic behavior follows.

Among socially responsible citizens conscience compels actions. However, the above problems strongly imply a shift toward the voluntary sector. The reasons, governments have diminished capacity and people have less confidence in them.

The conclusion Baden draws from this is interesting. He challenges his readers and asks that

As you consider your New Year’s resolutions please recognize the value of organizations created by social entrepreneurs. Then become a financial supporter or volunteer. You have many opportunities among a large number of organizations.

The successful social entrepreneur creates roads down which people deliver their good intentions.

(You can read the whole of Baden’s essay here.)

One of the (justified in my view) complaints of those who advocate a limited government is that as government has expanded it has (among other things) crowded out churches and other religious and fraternal communities who historically in America have worked to meet a wide range of human needs.

Any advocate of the free market will tell you, your competitors loss of market share is potentially good news for you. As government at all levels faces the loss of financial resources this frees up, as Baden points out, the philanthropic market place for religious and non religious social entrepreneurs. While the economic hardship and human needs are real Christians especially shouldn’t be blinded to the equal real opportunity we have to re-assert ourselves in education, philanthropy, health care and other areas where historically the Church has offered evidence for the truth of the Gospel.

The question now is whether we are will to take the opportunity offered us by divine grace and the economic situation. A willing and generous “Yes!” is especially important to hear from those Christians who (as I said above) have advocated for the smaller government that the economy will likely bring us.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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