Category archives: Economics

Introducing Lecture Me! - A New Podcast from FRC

by Family Research Council

October 15, 2019

We all need to be lectured sometimes.

Family Research Council’s new weekly-ish podcast Lecture Me! features selected talks by top thinkers from the archives of the FRC Speaker Series. Our podcast podium takes on tough issues like religious liberty, abortion, euthanasia, marriage, family, sexuality, public policy, and the culture—all from a biblical worldview.

Listen with us to the lecture, then stick around afterward as we help you digest the content with a discussion featuring FRC’s policy and government affairs experts.

The first three episodes are now available. They include:

  • Nancy Pearcey: Love Thy Body

FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview David Closson joins Lecture Me! to discuss Author Nancy Pearcey’s lecture about her book Love Thy Body, in which she fearlessly and compassionately makes the case that secularism denigrates the body and destroys the basis for human rights, and sets forth a holistic and humane alternative that embraces the dignity of the human body.

  • Military Mental Health Crisis

Currently, an average of 21 military veterans are taking their lives each day. FRC’s Deputy Director of State and Local Affairs Matt Carpenter joins the podcast to discuss Richard Glickstein’s lecture as he shares the compelling evidence that proves faith-based solutions reduce suicides, speed the recovery of PTSD, and build resiliency.

  • Repairers of the Breach

How can the conservative movement help restore America’s inner cities? FRC’s Coalitions Senior Research Fellow Chris Gacek joins the podcast to discuss Robert L. Woodson, Sr.’s lecture on how the conservative movement must identify, recognize, and support agents of individual and community uplift and provide the resources, expertise, and funding that can strengthen and expand their transformative work.

Lecture Me! is available at most places you listen to podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Castbox.

Christianity’s Blessings to Society

by Travis Weber

October 24, 2018

The new life of a believer in Christ motivates him or her to be a good citizen—to seek the well-being of the city or place in which they live. The latest example of this principle comes not from the United States, but from Nigeria.

A recent profile in The Economist, of all places, discusses the development of the “church-city” and the benefits it has brought with it.

Begun as a church, the plot of land north of Lagos, Nigeria now houses 12,000 people and covers more than 6,000 acres. That population will likely double by 2036.

As The Economist notes, “[m]ost African cities are messy, especially around the edges. Suburban roads are invariably crooked, unpaved and unsigned. Houses are plonked down wherever people can acquire land. Many homes are half-built . . .”

Yet in Redemption City, “[e]verything tends to work. Whereas Lagos hums with diesel generators, Redemption City has a steady electricity supply from a small gas-fired power station. It also has its own water supply. ‘We make life easy,’ says Pastor Fola Sanusi, the man in charge of Redemption City’s growth. The city also makes rules, of the kind that could never be enforced in the hurly-burly of Lagos. ‘No parking, no waiting, no trading, no hawking,’ reads one sign.”

‘If you wait for the government, it won’t get done,’” says Olaitan Olubiyi, one of the pastors. “So [Redemption City] relies on the government for very little – it builds its own roads, collects its own rubbish, and organises its own sewerage systems.” The Guardian reports that the government sometimes sends its own municipal experts to learn from Redemption City’s.

Though the properties are supposed to be kept within the community of Christians inhabiting the city, they seem to be making their way into the broader real estate market, being listed on some agencies’ websites.

Other churches in the surrounding area are currently building communities of their own. The Economist concludes: “Pentecostal Christianity has already remade many Africans’ spiritual lives. Now it is remaking their cities.”

While the concept is a bit unusual, this story reminds us that what one believes has direct consequences for society and the conditions in which we live. Our faith leads us to care for our surroundings, and religious organizations often have a widescale impact on the common good. While we are all imperfect, the Christian is (and should be) driven by principles which flow from a faith that seeks the good of our neighbor—and our cities.

How the New Tax Bill Helps Families

by Andrew Guernsey

January 4, 2018

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1 “TCJA”), signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 22, 2017, provides numerous provisions that benefit working families.

Child Tax Credit

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) has a positive impact on individual families and the economy as a whole and helps parents bear the costs of raising their children.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increases the CTC for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it) by:

  • Increasing the CTC to $2,000 for children under 17;
  • Making the CTC refundable up to $1,400 (indexed for inflation) for low-income working families based on
    • 15 percent of earned income in excess of $2,500; or
    • (if greater) the amount of payroll taxes in excess of the earned income tax credit, for a taxpayer with three or more qualifying children;
  • Removing the CTC marriage penalty for the income phase-out, and increasing the income threshold to $200,000 for single filers and $400,000 for married couples filing jointly;
  • Providing a $500 non-refundable Family Care Credit credit for dependents who don’t receive the CTC; and
  • Requiring a qualifying child to have a Social Security Number for a taxpayer to claim the CTC

Obamacare’s Individual Mandate Penalty

Starting in 2019, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminates Obamacare’s individual mandate penalty. This helps many working families obtain relief from being forced into an Obamacare health insurance plan. Repealing the individual mandate penalty also allows individuals to forgo purchasing coverage if doing so violates their conscience. This is especially relevant for individuals who live in the states where there are few or no pro-life health insurance plans that exclude coverage of abortion.

Marriage Penalties

Marriage penalties exist in the tax code and also in welfare programs. The penalty generally applies in the tax code when a tax deduction or credit applies to single and married persons based on income, but a married couple is eliminated from receipt of the benefit making less than 200 percent of an eligible single person’s income.

Income Tax Brackets

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has no marriage penalties for five of seven tax income brackets for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it).

  • Marriage bonus in the 22 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent lower rate than single filers for the first $25,000 they make over $140,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $500 bonus, decreasing income taxes by up to 1.41 percent.
  • Small marriage penalty in the 32 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have an 8 percent higher income tax rate than single filers for the first $5,000 they make over $315,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $400 penalty, increasing income taxes by up to 0.61 percent.
  • Large marriage penalty in the 37 percent bracket. Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent higher income tax rate than single filers for the first $400,000 they make over $600,000 in taxable income. This is a maximum $8,000 penalty, increasing income taxes by up to 2.59 percent.

Alternative Minimum Tax

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduces marriage penalties for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it) by removing the marriage penalty for the AMT income phase-out ($500,000 for single filers and $1 million for married couples filing jointly). TCJA retains the marriage penalty for the AMT exemption ($70,300 for single filers and $109,400 for married couples filing jointly).

  • Due to the marriage penalty in the AMT exemption,
    • Married couples filing jointly are taxed at 26 percent higher rate than single filers for the first $31,200 they make over $109,400 in taxable income. This is a maximum $8,112 penalty, increasing the AMT by up to 22.19 percent.
    • Married couples filing jointly have a 2 percent higher AMT tax rate than single filers for the first $31,200 they make over $295,700 in taxable income. This is a maximium $624 penalty, increasing the AMT by up to 0.71 percent.

Other Marriage Penalty Provisions

  • Retains a marriage penalty for the $10,000 State and local income tax (SALT), property tax, and/or sales tax deduction, which is equal in amount for single filers and married couples filing jointly. This is a maximum $3,700 penalty.
  • Removes the marriage penalty in the Child Tax Credit phase-out ($200,000 for single filers, $400,000 for married couples filing jointly).
  • Fails to address the marriage penalty for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Alimony Deduction

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanently repeals the alimony deduction, which subsidizes divorce. A divorced couple can often achieve a better tax result by receiving a tax break for payments between them than a married couple can. Removing the alimony deduction restores equitable treatment for divorced and married couples’ expenses for child support.

529 Education Savings Accounts

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanently allows 529 education savings accounts to be used for up to $10,000 per year per child for K-12 tuition expenses at an elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school.

529 plan contributions have tax-free earnings and are exempt from the annual federal gift tax if under $14,000 for that year ($28,000 for married couples filing jointly). Contributions to 529 plans receive significant tax breaks in many states. Previously, the 529 plans were only allowed to be used for higher education related expenses.

Death Tax

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act doubles the tax exclusion from the estate tax, also known as the “death tax,” thereby shielding from taxation the first $11.2 million (indexed for inflation) of bequeathed assets. This provision applies for 2018 through the end of 2025 (unless Congress renews it).

The death tax is double taxation that handicaps families, and particularly family-owned businesses, by imposing heavy and burdensome taxes on bequeathed assets. Families often work as a unit to build their small businesses, but when a parent dies with the intention of leaving his or her small business to the children who helped build it, that transfer of assets is often taxed at such high rates that the business cannot continue operating and pay the government, causing the grieving family to close the business’s doors.

Adoption Tax Credit

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act retains the adoption tax credit in current law, which is currently a $13,570 non-refundable credit per eligible child (with a phase out for wealthier individuals). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, in 2015 over 111,000 children were waiting to be adopted. Maintaining the adoption tax credit in current law helps adoptive children find loving families.

Standard Deduction and Charitable Giving

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act repeals the deduction for personal exemptions, including the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse, and any dependents. The legislation consolidates the personal exemption for the taxpayer and taxpayer’s spouse into a larger standard deduction. The standard deduction is substantially increased from $6,300 to $12,000 for individuals and from $12,700 to $24,000 for married couples (and surviving spouses), giving working parents more take-home pay to provide for their families. The legislation consolidates the personal exemption for children and dependents into the expanded child tax credit and a new family tax credit to care for non-child dependents. However, increasing the standard deduction could harm charitable giving, including to nonprofits and churches, since fewer people will likely itemize.

Increasing the Child Tax Credit: Good for Families, Good for the Economy

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 30, 2015

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have introduced a pro-growth economic plan that includes an increase in the child care tax credit, and the Wall Street Journal isn’t happy about it. In fact, the normally prudent Journal even goes so far as to assert that the child tax credit “does nothing for economic growth.”

Oh, c’mon: Let’s assume that the money retained by families through an expanded credit, per Rubio-Lee, in fact does not foster immediate growth. This is a dubious argument. Personal income tax cuts spur growth just as do corporate income tax cuts.

However, let us agree, for the sake of argument, that the child tax credit is deficient in animating the kind of sustained growth serious people want for the economy. It has another, more profound benefit that the Journal ignores completely: It strengthens families. And strong families mean a stronger economy.

Productivity increases when an adequate number of people are employed using their skills, capacities, and know-how to provide quality and affordable goods and services. Development of these capacities comes heavily from personal formation within the family. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker argued, healthy, educated, and emotionally stable children are essential to economic growth.

So, in targeting family formation through enabling mothers and fathers to better provide for their children and also to bear and raise more children, something demonstrably needed for the economy of the United States given our looming demographic deficit, the Rubio-Lee proposal would substantially abet growth in coming decades. Its facilitation of growth over time is an investment that will bear fruit in a steadily more robust economy.

The immediate costs of child-rearing are such that extra money to help families pay for the enhancement of their most fundamental “investments” – their boys and girls – is laudable.

Regrettably, the Journal has shown a considerable lack of economic common sense in attacking a proposal that would bolster our human capital capacity. FRC applauds Sens. Rubio and Lee for their foresight and justified consideration of family well-being.

Earlier in his career, Schwarzwalder was Director of Corporate Communications at the National Association of Manufacturers.

Does Obama’s Middle-Class Economics “Work”?

by Christina J. Daniels

February 19, 2015

In the 2015 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama made the argument that middle-class economics “works.” He defined middle-class economics as, “the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” But does middle-class economics “work?”

Historically, the idea of a fair chance combined with hard work is at the core of the American Dream. Opportunity, integrity, diligence and effort have combined to make America extraordinarily prosperous. Yet what does Mr. Obama mean by “fair share?”

Apparently he believes this share should include taking money from one segment of the population and transferring it to another – specifically, to those who wish to attend community college. It’s to this end that the President says he wants to make attending community college cost-free.

Yet education funded by redistribution cannot meet the requirements of the real-world job market. In 2009, Time Magazine equated a college degree to a driver’s license, due to its availability. CNN noted that “41% of college graduates from the last two years are stuck in jobs that don’t require a degree.” In March 2014, the liberal news source ThinkProgess also noted that “half a Million People with college degrees are working for (the) minimum wage.” The Huffington Post wrote an article giving seven reasons not to go to college and stated, “The people who sent us down the path of higher education clearly don’t understand basic economics and the law of supply and demand.” Currently, jobs that were once for low-skilled workers are crowded with college students.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 19% of high school graduates cannot read, 14% of Americans cannot read and 21% of Americans read below a 5th grade level. By proposing policies such as free community college, the President is ignoring facts in favor of untenable proposals. As the Huffington Post notes, “The U.S. Illiteracy Rate Hasn’t changed in 10 Years:”

According to the Department of Justice, the link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” The stats back up this claim: 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and over 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.

In addition, Begin to Read compiled statistics showing, “two out of three children that do not learn to read by the fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare”. The article further stated, “Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help.” Illiteracy and prison rates plague the poor and are factors which, as Dr. Patrick Fagan of Marriage and Religion Research Institute documents, further heighten the problem of fatherlessness in America.

So, it’s clear that middle-class economics, as defined by the President, do not “work.” Providing free community college will further devalue education and hurt the poor. When disadvantaged individuals are locked out of society, they do not have a “fair shot,” they cannot do their “fair share,” and they are not playing by the “same set of rules.” To ensure that disadvantaged families have a “fair shot,” liberal politicians must address our nation’s illiteracy problem and its roots – fatherlessness and family breakdown. We should be focusing on helping children that fail kindergarten, families that are locked in multigenerational illiteracy and government dependency and college students struggling to read.

The use of school choice and reforming public housing policy are steps toward making change possible. Giving parents the freedom to choose the school and neighborhood they desire will help alleviate the negative impact of centralized poverty. In high poverty areas, schools and neighborhoods are disproportionately filled with single mothers and peers from less educated households.[i] As Star Parker from the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) states, we must “bust up” the “ghettos” that public schools and government housing have created. With education and housing choice, we can be sure that everyone is playing by the “same rules” and receives a “fair shot.”

And there is no substitute for a strong, two-parent family in which a mom and a dad get married, stay married, and worship weekly with their children. No community college can ever provide that kind of security, opportunity or love.



[i] Fram, M. S., J. E. Miller-Cribbs, and L. Van Horn. “Poverty, Race, and the Contexts of Achievement: Examining Educational Experiences of Children in the U.S. South.” Social Work 52, no. 4 (2007): 309-19.South

Congressmen Defend Federal Role in Blocking D.C. Marijuana Legalization

by Nick Frase

December 17, 2014

Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) has been blacklisted from a local Washington D.C. bike shop, at least according to the sign in their window reading “Andy Harris Not Welcome.” For those planning to visit who want to avoid a similar fate, the cautionary tale here is don’t expect to uphold federal marijuana laws in the District if you want to get your derailleur adjusted.

Earlier this month, Rep. Harris successfully attached bipartisan language to the omnibus spending deal designed to block enactment of a marijuana legalization initiative that the District passed in November. Pot activists have decried the action as an example of an outsider meddling in local affairs. “You don’t serve us, we don’t serve you” is the tagline to their blacklist sign, a reference to the fact that Rep. Harris’ district is in Maryland and not in D.C.

What’s going on, aren’t Republican’s for self-government and local control?

It’s a fair question to ask and one that Rep. Harris along with Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) have addressed in a Washington Post op-ed. I won’t attempt to repeat it here but the thrust of the argument is: yes, Republicans are the party of self-government and local control, but they’re also the party of the Constitution and respect for the rule of law.

Federal law is explicit, under the Controlled Substances Act it is unlawful to manufacture, distribute or possess marijuana. Furthermore, Article I, § 8, cl. 17I of the Constitution grants Congress the power to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever” over the District of Columbia. The charge that Congress is somehow treating the District unfairly or in a way they would not treat another city ignores the fact that the District is unlike any other city.

Every year, the Appropriations Committee, on which Rep. Harris sits, provides federal payments to the tune of $500,000,000 to the District of Columbia for the cost of judges, court personnel and defendant representation. They provide payments for programs in areas like education and security. The Department of Justice provides payment for federal attorneys to prosecute local crimes and house prisoners. Federal taxpayers do not fund similar activities in any other city.

As Reps. Harris and Pitts rightly point out in their op-ed, if marijuana laws aren’t confusing enough, nearly a quarter of the District is federal park land and is policed by 26 different enforcement agencies—places and personnel that would still answer to federal law, not D.C. legalization.

Congress has a direct responsibility over the District of Columbia. One that apparently gets you kicked out of bike shops.

To the business community: Religious freedom and you - perfect together

by Travis Weber

December 1, 2014

Writing at the Berkley Center’s Religious Freedom Project blog, Samuel Gregg explores the idea – and idea for which new evidence is consistently emerging – that religious freedom is good for business.

Gregg begins by noting historically that as certain religious groups have been marginalized in political life, they have turned their energies toward commerce – and prospered. In other cases, certain groups have been marginalized in their nation’s financial life – thus handicapping the economy. This isn’t good for growth, obviously. Gregg then focuses his attention on the more recently discovered correlation between economic growth and religious freedom:

[T]here is growing evidence that respect for religious freedom tends to correlate with greater economic and business development. One recent academic article, for instance, found (1) a positive relationship between global economic competitiveness and religious freedom, and (2) that religious restrictions and hostilities tended to be detrimental to economic growth.”

Moreover, other rights and freedoms are not entirely unaffected:

[T]he strongest interest that business has in being attentive to the religious freedom of individuals and groups is the fact that substantive infringements upon one form of freedom often have significant and negative implications for other expressions of human liberty. If, for instance, governments can substantially nullify religious liberty, then they are surely capable of repressing any other civil liberty. This included rights with particular economic significance, such as the right to economic initiative and creativity, property rights, and the freedom of businesses to organize themselves in ways they deem necessary to (1) make a profit and (2) treat employees in ways consistent with the owner’s religious beliefs.”

He concludes by noting that, nevertheless:

[M]ore work needs to be done in this area. Correlation is not causation. While there do seem to be significant correlations between restrictions on religious liberty and the economic freedom of individuals and corporate bodies, the case for causation requires further elaboration.”

But, businesses take note!

If … the various forms of liberty are as interdependent as they seem to be, business surely has at least a high degree of self-interest in seeing substantive conceptions of religious liberty and the rights and protections associated with religious freedom prevail.”

Businesses take note, indeed.

Recognizing Family Decline as a Driver for Income Inequality

by Chris Gacek

April 30, 2014

Income inequality has become a hot political topic recently, so I welcome a Wall Street Journal article by Robert Maranto and Michael Crouch. Maranto and Crouch express surprise that the current public and academic debate largely ignores a powerful factor driving income inequality: the rise of single-parent families during the past half-century. The article goes on to describe the indisputable advantages of two-parent families and concludes observing that there are no “quick fixes”:

Welfare reform beginning in the mid-1990s offered only modest marriage incentives and has been insufficient to change entrenched cultural practices. The change must come from long-term societal transformation on this subject, led by political, educational and entertainment elites, similar to the decades-long movements against racism, sexism — and smoking.

The Maranto-Crouch / WSJ article has received some positive notice in other media. On Monday evening Professor Maranto was interviewed by John Batchelor on WABC Radio. (Use this link and begin listening at 31:00 on the player’s counter.)

Maranto has a humorous bio indicating that he is a professor in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas where Mr. Crouch is a researcher. Apparently, the professor is highly adept at writing very boring books.

Archives