I recently listened to a captivating podcast about the Book of Job. There was a lot of good stuff in it, but one thing that jumped out at me as relevant to the tragedies going on in Ferguson (and elsewhere) was the discussion of Job's friends. When Job is in the depths of anger and frustration at the horrible things happening to him, his "comforters" set him straight: no, it isn't possible that Job didn't bring this malady upon himself via sin--God only punishes the wicked! God blesses the righteous--that's an axiom found throughout scripture! Job, you need to repent and admit you've done wrong!
Being dependent isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's an integral part of life. It's unavoidable, inescapable, and all-around normal. There are associated ailments that are rightly looked down upon, but dependency, in and of itself, shouldn't be. Let me explain by exploring a question: who is dependent?
This is the fourth in our five-part series titled "Mormonism, Agency, and Politics." In the first post we discussed the importance of agency in Mormon doctrine. In the second we addressed Satan's strategy of limiting our agency. In the third, we addressed the view that agency can be restricted simply by restricting freedom. In the fourth, we will examine the idea that agency can be restricted by removing differences between good and evil and explore its political implications.
Like we've said before, we don't believe that force in any way restricts agency. As one person put it,
The way I understand agency, you could put me in a dungeon in a straightjacket and blindfold/gag me, and I'd still have agency. I wouldn't have a lot of freedom, but I would still be able to choose between good and evil.
So, if force doesn't limit or restrict our agency, how was Satan going to go about limiting our agency while here on earth? His plan was to remove agency by erasing the difference between good and evil: if we don't have moral alternatives, we don't have agency. There are certainly many ways to do this, but we'll just look at two possibilities:Read more
Note: this post kicks off a new series titled "Think of the Family," in which we explore ways to strengthen (or at least stop hurting) the family.
Yesterday's Super Bowl blackout drew attention to the nation's less-than-stellar energy infrastructure. We'd like to draw some attention to a different problem in the same state: Louisiana recently announced that they would be cutting aid money to its poor, sick, and elderly. While some might blame the poor for their circumstance, we disagree: as we've argued before, the free market does not always reward hard work. Some might say argue these families will just get those services from the free market. We wish this were the case, but the politicians who made this decision even admit this will not happen in every circumstance:
Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein said he targeted programs that were duplicative, costly and optional under the state’s participation in the state-federal Medicaid program.
Greenstein said in many instances, people can get the care they’re losing through other government-funded programs. But he acknowledged that won’t happen in every case, meaning some people will simply lose the services or receive reduced services. [...]
Jan Moller heads the Louisiana Budget Project, which advocates for low- to moderate-income families. Moller said he’s most distressed by the cut to the Nurse-Family Partnership Program.
The health department is eliminating the portion of the program that offers at-home visits to low-income women who are pregnant with their first child. Registered nurses visit the women early in their pregnancy and until their children’s second birthday, offering advice on preventive health care, diet and nutrition, smoking cessation and other child developmental issues. [...]
“What the Nurse-Family Partnership does goes above and beyond what a good obstetrician does,” Moller said. “It’s really about teaching life-skills to at-risk moms to make them better parents and make them better able to care for their children, and it’s been proven to work.”
As Sy Mukherjee at ThinkProgress points out, this means that families will be left high and dry in the state.
The cuts — as well as Jindal’s proposals to raise taxes on the poor while slashing public education and other health care funding — are meant to plug a midyear budget deficit. But they are more likely to raise health care costs and poverty levels in a state that already ranks among America’s least-insured and poorest locales by pushing people poor people into finding services that they will no longer be able to afford.
If there is one thing people on all sides of the aisle can agree with it's this: parents do incredibly important work. While not everyone wants or needs to be parents, there's no doubt that LDS Church leaders regularly preach the centrality of parenthood to the family, society, and eternity.
Parents of the world, we here at MormonLiberals offer you a big THANK YOU.
And, in the American economic market, that's basically all you're getting.Read more
Well, yesterday we learned pretty much nothing new about Mitt Romney. Well, we learned that Harry Reid wasn't so far off when he questioned Mr. Romney's tax history (although we still haven't seen convincing evidence that Romney didn't paid any taxes in recent years). We learned that Mr. Romney's vast wealth is still mostly untouched by taxes. We also learned a new acronym, the one for the special vehicle into which Romney put quite a bit of financial resources: the Charitable Remainder Unitrust, or CRUT.
For those of you who don't know what a CRUT is, join the club. Even after this Bloomberg article on the Romneys' CRUT, I still don't quite understand what it is, other than a way that really rich people are able to basically stash their money in a charity and yet keep on earning tax free interest on it, and often--but not always--leaving a little something for the charity. In this case, Mr. Romney stashed his funds in the LDS Church, and it's looking like somewhere between 0% and 8% of the original value will be left over for the Church after Romney officially turns it over to them. But, in all honesty, and other than the CRUT details, we've known that all before today.
This is a helpful reminder of the reason we have taxes in the first place, and the reason we need them. Remember, conservatives always argue that if we just had lower taxes on the wealthy, those wealthy would be able to spend that money on some wise charitable project. The idea that if the rich (or 'job creators') had more money then they'd create more jobs, also flies in the face of the fact that Wall-Street has completely recovered under Obama. The more people complain about unemployment under Obama, during which time Wall-Street performed exceptionally well, the more they prove that 'trickle-down' economics are simply a thinly veiled excuse to benefit the rich at the expense of the poor. Lower taxes on the rich doesn't produce more jobs or give a dramatic increase in charity. Mitt Romney is a master at lowering his own taxes--legally, of course--and it doesn't really seem like the conservative prediction held true. Instead, with his pocketed tax dollars, he purchased a couple of Cadillacs, three houses valued at around $20 million, and a car elevator.
Now, let me be clear here. I'm not criticizing those purchases. I've certainly spent money on personal stuff that I could have given to charity, and I think most of us have. And the Book of Mormon teaches that we should help people achieve their wants as well as their needs (Mosiah 18:29, D&C 51:3, Alma 35:9, and D&C 82:17). I have no business criticizing their wants (just like conservatives have no business criticizing the wants of the poor among us). I'm just pointing out that the conservative prediction--lower their taxes and they'll be able to give more money to charity--doesn't seem to hold.
In this sense, it doesn't matter what the Romney's money went to, just that it didn't go to charity. And it clearly didn't. And, in fact, some of what did go to charity didn't really. It's hidden in a CRUT, which I will work into this post as many times as I can because it is such a delightful acronym. Again, I only learned of CRUTs recently, but the whole idea of tax havens just seems a little out of sync with the brunt of Mormon scriptural teachings about wealth. There's Jacob 2:17, for example:
Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
And Doctrine and Covenants 49:20:
But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.
And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.
Finally, it seems that some like to argue something along the lines of "Mr. Romney is just a harder worker and a smarter man than the rest, so it follows that he's richer than they are." This line of argument bothers me as well, because lifting the rich onto a high pedestal is roundly discouraged in the Book of Mormon. For example, in Helaman 7:26, Helaman's son Nephi denounces such a practice:
Yea, wo shall come unto you because of that pride which ye have suffered to enter your hearts, which has lifted you up beyond that which is good because of your exceedingly great riches!
You can also see Jacob 2:13, Mosiah 4:17, and 3 Nephi 6:12 on the dangers of thinking that the rich are better than the poor in some way (for summaries of contemporary conservatives making this "richer=better" argument, see here, here, and here). But back to CRUTs and Mr. Romney. Here's the extent of the response from the Romney camp:
“The trust has operated in accordance with the law,” Michele Davis, a campaign spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted. (Jacob 2:19)