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The Budget: The Progressive Approach

Despite the false hopes expressed by lawmakers based solely on a reduced unemployment rate, Rhode Island families are hurting. The Ocean State suffers under the worst business climate, and 48th rank on our Center’s Job’s & Opportunity Index. Furthermore, Rhode Island was the only state in New England to see its labor force decline in size in recent years, as hundreds of thousands of people have chosen to leave our state since 2004. This is not a recovery.

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Who Do We Think We Are?

In a CNA article by Elise Harris, Associate Professor of Ethics at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross Father Robert Gahl gets at a key distinction that brings the transgender issue right to the heart of our cultural and even existential differences (emphasis added):

Instead, he voiced his belief that most of the pushing is being done by people with “a good intention” who are truly convinced it is for the betterment of humanity. “I see it as being rooted in a view of the human being …  that comes out of post-modern philosophy,” he said.

This notion, the priest said, is what Benedict XVI described as “a nihilistic understanding of freedom, such that we are each our own creator.” In this view, God is replaced and we can each create ourselves in the image of whatever we would like to be, rather than receiving our nature from another as a given.

What’s really horrible about this is it means we have no intrinsic dignity. No one has intrinsic dignity, no one should be respected for who they are, but they should be respected for who they think they are,” Fr. Gahl said.

That’s a key distinction.  Of course, there are surgeries and other things people can do, but reality is reality.  You are who you are, and the world will interact with you accordingly.  Not only will people naturally respond to others based on their intrinsic qualities, but the physical world is what it is.  You can believe you’re tall, but if you’re short, there are things you just won’t be able to reach that a tall person could.

Attempting to force the world to accept a reality that isn’t real, but rather is asserted, quickly becomes the opposite of tolerance.  We can mandate that everything that a tall person can reach must be accessible by a short person, but not only will tall people find the world more difficult (and dangerous), but we’ll all be poorer for not taking advantage of some of our members’ height.

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Allowing the Jihadist Cloud Darken the Age

Writing on the terrorist attack in Manchester, Mark Steyn reflects on a suggested course of action that we’ve been hearing in this country since 9/11:

“Carrying on exactly as before”, as The Independent advises, will not be possible. A few months ago, I was in Toulouse, where Jewish life has vanished from public visibility and is conducted only behind the prison-like walls of a fortress schoolhouse and a centralized synagogue that requires 24/7 protection by French soldiers; I went to Amsterdam, which is markedly less gay than it used to be; I walked through Molenbeek after dark, where unaccompanied women dare not go. You can carry on, you can stagger on, but life is not exactly as it was before. Inch by inch, it’s smaller and more constrained.

To put the best spin possible on the West’s reaction to Islamism’s attacks, we’ve been trying to find the balance between security and respect for others’ rights.  That would be a more successful strategy if it weren’t for the stultifying political correctness with which we’re currently infected.  Questioning the actual wisdom of “coexist” stickers even just a little would mean we get to maintain more liberties and need less-strenuous security.

I share Steyn’s pessimism about the future.  Little by little, as people change their decisions in response to perceived risks, our society will change — not because our children have been persuaded that teenage diva-pop really isn’t worth their time, but because parents aren’t willing to sacrifice them for enjoyment of such fluff.

The politically correct fantasy is fluff, too, and we shouldn’t be willing to sacrifice our society for its enjoyment.  We’ll only get to carry on as before if we shed those indulgences of self-loathing that we’ve permitted to fester.  Not only our children, but our society is worth defending, and we should start acting like it.

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Avoiding Unions for Innovation and Prudent Decisions

Wall Street Journal editorialist Allysia Finley conveys the perspective of Braidy Industries CEO Craig Bouchard, who is opening an aluminum mill in right-to-work Kentucky.  Regarding an earlier company, experience with which soured Bouchard on organized labor:

They sold it for $1.2 billion to the Russian steelmaker Severstal in 2008, shortly before the stock market and steel industry crashed. Thousands of workers subsequently lost their jobs. Mr. Bouchard blames the United Steelworkers. He had first tried to sell a partnership stake in Esmark to the Indian company Essar Steel. But the United Steelworkers sought to force a sale to Severstal, which the union perceived as more labor-friendly. Had the Essar deal been consummated, Mr. Bouchard says, “every one of those people would have their jobs today” because all of the company’s debt would have been paid off.

Obviously, this is one side of that story, but the moral from the CEO’s point of view is that business decisions should be left to business owners.  That includes other pitfalls of unionization, like work rules that constrain activities beyond what the employer and employee would accept if left to their own and other costs, like pensions.

The key part of the op-ed, though, may be the bigger picture.  Bouchard’s new company is built on innovation in the metallurgical sciences.  Our broader tax and regulatory regime slows down that sort of innovation.  Another culprit is an unhealthy aversion (across the ideological spectrum) to allowing “creative destruction” to usher out old technologies and ways of doing things and ushering in the new.

A society should provide leverage for workers as the capitalism charges forward, but labor unions, protectionism, and regulation don’t appear to be sufficiently effective.  What we need is something broader, more cultural — dare I say, more spiritual — that allows us to make individual decisions and negotiations within a framework of mutual respect and support.

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The Budget: RI Government Seeks To Grow Itself, Not the Economy

Should the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of Rhode Island families be limited by an arbitrary, politically-driven budget number at the bottom of a spreadsheet? Unfortunately, our state is now suffering the consequences of such an approach, fueled by the progressive-left’s big-spending agenda.

Kathryn Jean Lopez - Love and Faith in the Time of Trump

Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review To Speak In RI on “Love and Faith in the Time of Trump”

Sweet William F. Buckley Jr.’s ghost! Kathryn Jean Lopez, senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review, will be speaking this week in the Ocean State. She will deliver her lecture, “Love and Faith in the Time of Trump” to  St. Pius V Young Adults and members of the general public. This lecture will address the complicated political, cultural, and social environment resulting from the election of President Donald J. Trump.

Despite the common perceptions of millennials in Rhode Island, St. Pius V Young Adults is a thriving community of young adults who, by their very existence, stand in opposition to the goals of the dominant progressive-secular culture. Their weekly, Thursday night meetings, often attract upwards of fifty Catholic millennials who are working to live their faith. They take on the deep theological and ethical questions that relate to the lives of young people through guest speakers, followed by lively discussion during fellowship sessions.

St. Pius V Young Adults is a Catholic community open to millennials in their twenties and thirties. According to their mission, they are dedicated to the sanctification of the young adult community in the parish and Diocese of Providence. They seek to achieve this goal through fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church, prayer, Sacramental life, community, personal faith formation, charity, and apostolic initiative.

Kathryn Jean Lopez - Love and Faith in the Time of Trump

Image Credit: Katie Scheu

Lopez is a stalwart defender of marriage and family issues from the Catholic perspective. She writes about a broad array of topics including bioethics, religion, feminism, pro-life issues, education, and politics.

With Rhode Island ranking 45th in 2017 on the Family Prosperity Index (FPI), it is critical for new counter-status quo voices to be heard. The FPI created by the American Conservative Union, gives lawmakers, civic leaders, and citizens a more holistic and accurate image of the economy than other measures by considering how social factors play a role in impacting the economic vitality of communities.

From the Facebook invitation:

During this Easter season, we must remember that we are not the ones we have been waiting for. The Gospel tells us that it’s the life of virtue that makes for greatness, not political and worldly power. This event is hosted by St. Pius V Young Adults, and is open to the entire St. Pius parish community.

This event will be held this Thursday, May 18, 2017 from 8:00pm to 9:00pm. It will be hosted at St. Pius V at 55 Elmhurst Ave., Providence, Rhode Island, 02909 in the church hall. This event is open to the public of all ages, and attendance is encouraged by the parish community.

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The Corporate Welfare Strategy Has Failed

The massive budget shortfall is proof that the state government’s corporate welfare strategy has failed. Rhode Island’s current corporate tax-credit economic development strategy is highly inefficient as it creates relatively few jobs at an extremely high cost per job to taxpayers. This targeted ‘advanced industry’ approach does little if anything to improve the overall business climate, which is necessary if organic entrepreneurial growth is to occur on its own. A 3.0% sales tax would disproportionately help low-income families.

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Suicide Demands More than Generic “More Services” Answers

I suppose Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner deserves credit for mentioning non-government organizations when answering a question about young-adult suicide, but his “solemn” answer still elides something important:

A student from Barrington High School said suicide is the third-leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24 in Rhode Island. What can the schools do to help students with mental illness?

Wagner grew solemn. He said he had lost a close friend to suicide when he was young. That was one of the reasons he became a school psychologist. The schools have to invest in mental-health services, he said. But they also have to partner with mental-health organizations, with churches and temples, to get the word out, to publicize the warning signs.

Let’s start by acknowledging that the numbers are, thankfully, relatively small.  According to the WISQARS database of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the number of suicides among Rhode Islanders 19 and younger was 26.  That’s 26 horrible tragedies, but in light of the fact that there are more than 140,000 students enrolled in Rhode Island public schools, it’s a very small percentage, which suggests that the answer is more cultural than representative of a systemic problem that government services can solve.

The disappointing omission in Wagner’s generic, albeit heartfelt, answer is that this isn’t a demographically even group.  In the age group that the Barrington student mentioned (10-24), 80% of suicides are boys and young men.  If we look only at boys, defined as teens and pre-teens, the percentage is 73%.  That goes up to 77% if we just look at 2014 and 2015, meaning that the gender disparity is getting worse.

If teenage suicide is a problem in Rhode Island, it’s overwhelmingly a problem among boys.  Yet, Wagner’s boss, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo, hosts an annual “Governor for a Day” writing contest that is only open to girls.

If we look only at Rhode Islanders aged 20-24, 88% of the 32 suicides over five years were young men.  These guys don’t need government services.  They need opportunity and a strong, healthy culture that encourages marriage and families.  In short, they need everything that the progressive agenda discourages.

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Adulting Is About Responsibility

An essay in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Senator Ben Sasse (R, Nebraska) is worth reading for some tips on raising children capable of becoming adults, as well as for the encouragement to even try.  This paragraph stood out for me, echoing my experience as a carpenter:

I don’t mean to suggest that there are no hard workers among young people now. But “work” is more than advancement in school. Our children need to appreciate not just the privilege they enjoy in being free from the demands of physical labor but also—especially—their own capacity to fix the messes that life will throw at them.

It was a revelatory moment for me, in my development as a builder, when I realized that I was the guy folks might call to fix the sorts of mistakes I might make.  Yes, a mistake would cost time and maybe some additional materials, but I wasn’t going to fall into some spiral of error falling into an irreparable catastrophe.  A novelist could even put a truism in the mouth of a wizened old tradesman:  “Well, if we break it, we’ll just have to fix it.”

As Sasse points out, that principle applies to life generally.  You’re an adult when you realize that you’re the person who can and should fix things, keep things orderly, take care of things.  It doesn’t require perfection, and it does sometimes lead to hardship, but “adulting,” as the kids are calling it, means we take responsibility for resolving the problems of life, because there’s nobody else.

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Universal Pre-K, Another Way Government Makes Business for Itself

Susan L.M. Goldberg writes on PJMedia:

A scathing report, highlighted in the UK Daily Mail, details the findings of the Institute of Economic Affairs regarding Britain’s universal free childcare program. The bottom line: researchers have concluded that a government-funded, government-mandated universal daycare and pre-K program has done nothing more than bankrupt the middle class while failing to serve the country’s poor. What’s worse, government involvement has led to excessive regulation that not only drives up programming costs, but limits parental choice when it comes to how they would like to care for and educate their own children.

Goldberg suggests that universal pre-K plans have “everything to do with providing glorified daycare services so that parents can go to work.”  That’s only partly true.  Such programs also have to do with creating more unionized jobs that rely on government mandates and subsidies.

We’ve reached the point that government is acting entirely as a self-interested business, using its metastasizing ability to tell people what to do and how to live (backed by its authority to tax, jail, and kill) to generate business for itself, in a cycle of kickbacks and political quid pro quo.  In the name of doing good, by providing services that it insists people need, too-big government is undermining the very things that define good in life, from freedom to family.

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Esolen to Leave Providence College

Rhode Island liberals like to think of themselves as open minded in the spirit of Providence founder Roger Williams, but they aren’t.  So averse to diversity are they that the state’s most-prominent Catholic institution of higher education has driven out a well-respected professor for being too, well, Catholic:

Anthony Esolen, the prolific Catholic scholar and author known for his distinctly Catholic worldview and translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, has accepted a teaching position at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, severing his ties with Providence College, where he held a tenured professorship and waged a long battle for its Catholic identity. …

Esolen told the National Catholic Register that the turning point for him came after Providence’s president, Dominican Father Brian Shanley, allegedly refused to meet with a small group of Catholic professors intent on resolving the conflict and persuaded the Dominican provincial not to meet with them either.

Esolen explained that he could have lived with a “somewhat Catholic school that was really committed to the humanities” or “an unreservedly Catholic school where the humanities needed shoring up.” However, he concluded Providence offered neither of these options: The campus had become “highly politicized,” and the administrative decisions, to him, appeared “basically secular in their inspiration and their aim.”

Rhode Island’s cultural leaders are open minded to ideas that they already find congenial.  Like the Massachusetts Puritans who drove out Roger Williams, to the extent they’re aware of Esolen, they’ll likely receive the news of his departure with relief that he won’t be drawing attention to the hypocrisy of Leftist secularism.

The conclusion of his controversies with the college ought, instead, to inspire self reflection.  What does it say of a state and a college when a professor will give up tenure to escape it?

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Boom! Wine & Spirits Sales Increased 21.4% After Sales Tax Cut

Imagine the parking lots of Rhode Island retailers filled with cars with Massachusetts license plates. New research from the Center, based on government data, shows that it is very possible. In the two years following the removal of sales tax on wine and spirits, the same level of economic stimulus, as projected by the Center by cutting the state’s overall sales tax, actually occurred! Now, there can be no doubt of our findings. The new research one-pager proves that Rhode Island would experience an ECONOMIC BOOM under a 3.0% sales tax.

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One Way the Left Gets Turned Around on Misanthropy

David Harsanyi finds the ghoulish worldview of self-styled “science guy” Bill Nye objectionable.  This particular paragraph of Harsanyi’s, though, allows for an interesting tangent into how the Left and Right think:

We live in a world where Ehrlich protege John Holdren — who, like his mentor, made a career of offering memorably erroneous predictions (not out of the ordinary for alarmists) — was able to become a science czar in the Obama administration. Holdren co-authored a book in late 1970s called “Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment,” which waded into theoretical talk about mass sterilizations and forced abortions in an effort to save hundreds of millions from sure death. Nye is a fellow denier of one of the most irrefutable facts about mankind: Human ingenuity overcomes demand.

This is just a single example of progressives’ comfort with concepts like forced sterilizations and forced abortions.  Harsanyi also quotes progressive Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as saying, “Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”  Other examples would easily be found.

What comes immediately to mind for a contrast is the Left’s reaction to Charles Murray.  Anybody who has read Murray’s original flash-point for controversy, The Bell Curve, would know that the book…

  • acknowledged differences in intelligence,
  • reported that in current circumstances, these differences do relate statistically (although not inevitably) to racial groups, and
  • warned about the future consequences of allowing such trends to develop.

Murray and co-author Richard Herrnstein were concerned about the development of a “cognitive elite” in proverbial gated communities lording it over everybody else.  In order to avoid that in the future, they said, we must honestly address the data and answer thorny questions of culture and political philosophy.

Think about that.  Murray is attacked as a “white supremacist” by the Left for arguing that we’re headed toward a divided, dystopian future that we should strive to avoid.  Meanwhile, voices on the Left are lauded despite their openness to divisive, dystopian policies in the present.

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