Why is it important to look at the Acton Institute? Besides the fact they claim to be a Religious Institute they also call themselves ECUMENICAL Think Tank, translation worldwide Think Tank and when you add in all their associates who have nothing but political agendas, the Acton Institute is nothing more than a Political Think Tank of the GOP and/or Libertarian Party. For one it is always important to look at those who are running things behind the scene and fundamentally there is something dangerous about people who use religion not to improve one’s own life, but to use religion to further the agenda of ones own Political Party. The Acton group is involved in shaping political policy and has had the ear of our Presidents listening to them. The Acton Institute, represents a lot of Conservatives like the Koch brothers, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas who attended events and were speakers at, they also represent and makes the same stand with other Conservatives who like school vouchers and school choice; and are against scientific claims of climate changes, etc. The Acton Institute for all its talk of the importance in Religion is nothing more than Conservatives Stand-in on GOP issues. In other words when you see Republican politicians in the media disagree with the President or Democrats just because they are Democrats, you also get the same response from the Acton Institute. In others words the Acton Institute will do a lot more splitting hairs if it is necessary to represent the GOP Party. In some instances the Acton Institure seem to walk back and forth on what they support. In some instances they sound like they are for something and othertimes they sound like they are against. I guess all that splitting hairs in trying to represent those Conservative donors.
From the Acton Institute Website:
About the Acton Institute
“With its commitment to pursue a society that is free and virtuous, the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty is a leading voice in the national environmental and social policy debate. The Acton Institute is uniquely positioned to comment on the sound economic and moral foundations necessary to sustain humane environmental and social policies.”
“The Acton Institute is a nonprofit, ecumenical think tank located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Institute works internationally to “promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.” For more on the Acton Institute, please visit http://www.acton.org.”
Here is an Acton Institute Blog discussing the recent debt talks
So Americans purportedly want thriftier government, but still want benefits? What gives? Part of the problem, according to James Kwak, is “the idea that there is one thing called ‘government’–and that you can measure it by looking at total spending–makes no sense.”
What Kwak means is that total expenditure is a misleading measure of the “size” of government. He presents this example:
The number of dollars collected and spent by the government doesn’t tell you how big the government is in any meaningful sense. Most government policies can be accomplished at least three different ways: spending, tax credits, and regulation. For example, let’s say we want to help low-income people afford rental housing. We can pay for housing vouchers; we can provide tax credits to developers to build affordable housing; or we can have a regulation saying that some percentage of new units must be affordably priced. The first increases the amount of cash flowing in and out of the government; the second decreases it; and the third leaves it the same. Yet all increase government’s impact on society.”
So increased spending (or decreasing it) does not necessarily mean the “size” of government has grown (or shrunk). Think how regulation is synonymous with big government, but it does not involve a tax or direct spending of any kind.
In fact, “big” government is often viewed through the lens of regulation, rather than cost. For instance, Kwak explains:
When people say government is too big, they often have in mind something like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau–a regulatory agency that tells businesses what they can and can’t do…the CFPA’s budget is about $300 million, or less than one-hundredth of one percent of federal government spending.”Again the divergence between cost and “bigness” is seen. The CFPA may be viewed as “big,” intrusive, and unnecessary but it is not large in terms o€f cost like Social Security and Defense spending.
Kwak states, “popular antipathy toward the regulatory state has been translated into an attack on popular entitlement programs.” Many people dislike certain government regulations and, due to the budget debate, dislike of regulation, the amount of government spending, and specific government programs may have become accidentally intertwined.
Here is part of an Article by Acton on climate change:
The fraudulent scare based on nonexistent climate refugees has no bearing whatsoever on the question of whether the Earth’s atmosphere is warming, what may cause the warming, or what we should do about it. It speaks rather to too many religious groups’ gullibility for theories that line up with their anti-market economics, which undergird their blind faith in environmental doom. This is the “eco-justice” school of thought, which sees the market as “asserting the supremacy of economy over nature.” When people are factored in to this ideology, they are always helpless victims, not creators of economic wealth that has the potential of wide benefits.
Because of these shrill and unfounded warnings of ecological collapse, religious leaders and those who look to them for guidance are increasingly tuning out on the climate change scare. A new survey of Protestant pastors shows that 60 percent disagree with the statement that global warming is real and manmade, up from 48 percent two years ago. These results are in line with an October 2010 Pew Research Center poll which showed that belief in human-caused global warming had declined to 59 percent, down from 79 percent in 2006. Cry wolf often enough and you’ll find yourself alone at the next climate refugee conference.
Religious leaders should celebrate Earth Day 2011 by showing more humility in the face of the exceedingly complex scientific, public policy, and political questions bound up in environmental stewardship. A good start would be to drop any attempt at interpreting deep climatological data, which like complex policy or economic questions, is outside the usual competency of seminary training. Instead, religious leaders should focus on advancing an understanding of environmental stewardship that has a place both for productive economic activity and the beauty of God’s creation — without the Manichean split.
Funding for faith-based organizations in the U.S. centers allows for churches to play a bigger role in human services programs. Such programs as mentoring children of prisoners, and providing drug and alcohol treat programs are just some examples of some of the programs some churches get funding for.
In 2000 Bush proposed the church communities could be allowed federal funding. When President Obama took office he said he would help extend the program. This is how the Acton Institute responded to when George Bush 43 did it and Obama did it.
Acton Institute when Bush allowed for the Federal Government to provide funds for the Faith Base Initiative:
“The real change in the Bush administration policy is better illustrated by two initiatives getting far less attention. The first permits taxpayers to deduct charitable gifts whether or not they itemize their deductions. This permits a far greater range of taxpayers to use their money in a charitable way without added fuss and, without being penalized. Because more than two-thirds of taxpayers do not itemize, this change could have a huge impact.
The second initiative instructs federal agencies to review ways in which regulations have a negative impact on the delivery of private charitable services. That information will be collected and the Bush administration will call for specific exemptions that allow people to be served without jumping through the thousands of bureaucratic hoops that are currently in place.
One thinks of the cumbersome food and drug regulations, disabilities laws, labor laws, housing codes and many other restrictions, Strict enforcement of these laws creates unneeded headaches and has sometimes forced charities to close their doors. A thorough review of these regulations is in order.
But the real change in the Bush initiative is philosophical. It represents a move from ineffective and centralized government programs to effective and decentralized private ones.
Government programs concentrate mainly on income and benefit maintenance. The downside is that this promotes dependency and creates an unintended incentive to stay on the programs. These programs are also expensive, and middle-income taxpayers resent the degree to which they are involuntarily taxed to support them,
Now that suites have imposed strict time limits on benefits, the poor find that they are being cut off or shoved into job training programs while underlying problems that bring about poverty, including family dissolution and hopelessness, are left unaddressed”.
Acton Institute when Obama said he would increase support for the Faith Base Initiative:
“This is why I have never been a supporter of the Bush administration’s Faith-Based Initiative that makes religious charities eligible for federal funding. Charities with a religious mission shouldn’t be getting mixed up in all that bureaucracy, all those regulations, and all those rules concerning their own internal management. Nor should they become dependent on taxpayers. Doing so skews the institutional mission of the charity. It just isn’t worth it.”
I also worry about the public backlash that the history of church-state intermingling suggests is inevitable. It is a normal facet of public life that taxpayers don’t look entirely kindly on institutions that are living off the proceeds of the tax state. When Catholic schools took government money in the late 19th century, it prompted a wicked public reaction that unleashed hatred against Catholics that lasted for many decades. Or think of the way people react when a local newspaper reports on evangelical efforts at a charter school.
Now to the reason I’m back on this topic. Barack Obama has announced that he likes President Bush’s program of public funding for religious charities. In fact, he wants to expand the program. Interestingly, he seems happy to employ the language of conservatives: “I know there are some who bristle at the notion that faith has a place in the public square. But the fact is, leaders in both parties have recognized the value of a partnership between the White House and faith-based groups.”
“The fact that Obama intends to expand government funding (and control) to religious charities should not be surprising, however, because it falls in line with his philosophy on the role of government. In his article, Rev. Sirico elaborates on this:
In some ways, we shouldn’t be surprised that Obama is warm to this idea. It is part of his intellectual apparatus and part of the party he will represent in the election. He believes in government and all its pomps, and never misses a chance to say that something good should be subsidized by the public sector. This accords with his philosophy.”
It doesn’t sound like the Acton Institute was overly concerned about taxes and the government funding under George Bush.
Here is a look at Acton Institute coming up with a view point that supports the Bush TAX Cuts in a blog they wrote in March 2011 call A Response to ‘What Would Jesus Cut?’”
The Acton Institute explaining away those tax cuts
As I look over what Wallis wrote, I see several things worth noting. For example, he complains that some Republicans want to cut domestic spending and international aid, while they support an increase in military spending. The implication is that this is obviously a sub-Christian position. But is it? Probably the most essential purpose of government is to protect the life and freedom of citizens. The government achieves this goal through military means. Unless one takes the position that Christianity implies corporate pacificism, then it is unclear the Republicans have blundered according to Christian ethics. Now, match the question of military spending versus international aid and/or domestic spending. Are the latter obviously superior to the former? No. It depends on not only what the stated objective is for the different types of spending, but whether they actually achieve their purposes. To simply state that the Republicans want to bolster military spending while cutting international aid and domestic spending is to achieve nothing at all by way of an indictment.
Here’s another example. Wallis complains bitterly that tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans add billions to the deficit. He is referring to the extension of George W. Bush’s cuts in the marginal tax rates that existed under Bill Clinton. The first question I have is how does Jim Wallis know that the level of taxation was just to begin with? And why take Bill Clinton’s tax levels as the Platonic form of taxation? Maybe they were too high or too low. The highest marginal tax rates have fluctuated drastically in the United States during the last century. John F. Kennedy made a big cut, with impressive economic effects, as did Ronald Reagan. Is Wallis sure that by cutting taxes those men robbed the poor and gave to the rich? Maybe a lot of poor people got jobs because of them. And we aren’t even getting into the question of whether rich people actually have an enhanced duty to pay taxes. If there is a community need, is it righteous to grab a rich person and employ the power of legal coercion to extract the needed funds?
Still another problem with this redistributionist attitude about taxes and spending is that it assumes a zero sum state of affairs. For example, one could assume that the most people would be better off under a system like the old Soviet Union that spread resources out to citizens in a way that prized equality of rations. The United States system didn’t do that nearly as much, not nearly at all. But which of the two systems provided a better life for people? The answer is easy. The United States and its emphasis on liberty did. Why? A more free economic system produces far more wealth than an unfree one.
Here is an example of one of many of the Acton Institute talking about School Choice:
“Thus, the pluralist ideal survived but in a deformed shape. The right of parents to direct their children’s education was recognized in theory, but in practice every citizen was compelled to pay for the government school system. The result was an arrangement unjust at its core. Parents devoted to a particular form of education for religious or other reasons might choose to sacrifice other goods to fund their children’s education outside of the government system. For wealthy families, the choice might come easily; for most, the decision was difficult. The incentive to participate in the government system was strong, and genuine freedom in education remained an elusive ideal.
We have thus come to the present, a hybrid system of private schools increasingly off-limits to the working and even middle classes and state schools plagued by inefficiencies, inequities, and in some cases, abject failure. By no means does this generalization denigrate the good work that thousands of educators in both private and public systems do every day. Some religious schools strive ardently to keep open the prospect of a first-rate education for students of poor parents and challenging backgrounds. Some public schools provide outstanding academic and extracurricular opportunities for their students. Yet, too many students are, despite political rhetoric and flawed legislation, “left behind.”
Conscientious parents naturally assert their freedom whenever given the opportunity. School district choice among public systems is extremely popular. Private school spots available through vouchers in locales such as Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C., have been grasped as quickly as they appear. Charter schools have exhibited some widely publicized hazards, but on the whole they have been successful, an affordable alternative to traditional public schools. ”
The Cornwall Alliance’s pseudo-documentary is titled “Resisting the Green Dragon.” Marketed on DVD, it features national Religious Right leaders who claim that global warming is a hoax and that environmentalism is a religion in competition with Christianity. They describe environmentalism as “the cult of the green dragon.”
Several of the organizations represented in the video production have been supported by the DeVos and Prince families. The Cornwall Alliance is headed by Calvin Beisner, a fellow of the Acton Institute (DeVos/Koch/Scaife-funded). Betsy DeVos has served on the Acton board and Dick DeVos was given the institute’s Faith and Freedom Award in 2010. Acton’s fellows also include other signers of the proclamation to end public schools, including Marvin Olasky.
Noted religious historian Randall Balmer describes the Acton Institute as part of a “powerful coalition to oppose environmental protection” that combines the Dominion Theology of the Religious Right and the wise use ideology of some corporate and business leaders. Dominion Theology is the belief that Christians should take authority or dominion over society and government. Acton has sponsored dominionist conferences including American Vision’s Worldview Super Conference 2010.
Religious Right groups are often portrayed as only concerned with social issues like opposing gay rights and women’s reproductive rights. But “Biblical Capitalism” or the belief that laissez-faire economics is biblically mandated, has been growing in popularity for more than two decades. Although the merry band of libertarians and the dominionists may have little in common, the anti-environmental, anti-union, anti-regulatory agenda of each is empowering the other. The combined front has become a formidable force for radical free market fundamentalism and the eradication of the public sector.