The New Minimum Wage Policy

By Brooke Ehlert, Colorado Christian University Student

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President Obama recently pushing for a raise of the federal minimum wage laws, there has been a significant amount of debate on both sides on wage laws. Those who criticize the President’s plan state that this would discourage businesses from hiring. At a time a time when we need to encourage job growth, this is a serious concern, especially considering the fact that unemployment for those between eighteen and thirty is significantly higher than other groups. The fact that new minimum wage laws will apply government employee and contractors means that our taxes will be paying higher wages as well.

The minimum wage laws were enacted in 1938 by President Roosevelt. Since then, the rate and coverage has been increased significantly by Congress. While the states are allowed to set their own wage rates in accordance with federal laws, they are required to have some form of laws: either their own or the federal laws. According to the CATO Institute, these wage laws cover about 85% of the workforce. The goal of these laws was intended to help workers–particularly low skill workers, youth and minorities. Those who support these laws believe that they will help raise the standard of living for these people.

But what they neglect to consider is the impact on the economy and on business. On one hand, minimum wage laws were enacted as protectionist policies for unions and certain businesses. On the other, it was meant to help fight poverty. The basic model most people use is that the core components are a negatively sloped demand curve and a wage rate that clears the market and is not controlled by minimum wage. There are several flaws in this policy, however. Number one is that someone has to pay for this: minimum wage policy is a redistributive policy. And it has the tendency to increase unemployment because employers cannot afford to pay that much more to their workers, especially if they are a small business. Those who are hurt the most are the ones the policy is seeking to help.

But one of the major issues with the most current minimum wage laws is not the fact that it is simply a bad policy; it is the fact that President Obama is making this an executive order. In the past, this has been done by legislative action with support from both sides. With employees from certain places of employment seeking higher wages, and Democrats pushing for a raise in the minimum wage, Obama has decided to take matters in his own hands. Fox News suggests that President Obama brought this up in his State of the Union address to “avoid the appearance of being a lame duck President.” Whatever the President’s agenda, it is unprecedented to affect the minimum wage through an executive order, and those supporting it should reevaluate the impacts that minimum wages have had throughout history.

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CCU’s Faith and Economics Conference Breaks Down Walls

By Gabe Knipp, Colorado Christian University Marketing and Communicaitons

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April 14—Scott Moore, an expert on social enterprise and successful businessman, told the audience of over 300 his story. “God was teaching me that charity won’t end poverty,” he exclaimed. “But opportunity will.”

The event was The Greatest Good: Nil Sine Numine Conference, and it wasn’t your typical conference on economics and work.

The seeds were planted in the summer of 2013, when Colorado Christian University seniors Christian Schlenker and Gillian Foster were approached by Professor Greg Schaller to apply for a grant. The Values and Capitalism initiative of the American Enterprise Institute was giving out mini-grants to students who would explore the moral and material natures of a market economy.

After discussing the matter, and paring down their goals to something practical, Schlenker and Foster combined their passions of theology and economics with the goal of creating dialogue and educating others in the realm of social enterprise.

“We believe that for people to truly thrive they must have both spiritual and economic welfare,” notes Foster. “We wanted to explore that idea and communicate it to others.”

Their blog engaged CCU students and created awareness, but the culmination of their goal was an all-day conference combining students, local leaders, and experts in the realm of faith, work, and economics. With help from CCU’s School of Humanities and Sciences, the Values and Capitalism initiative, and Café 180—a local business practicing social enterprise—catering lunch, they gathered everyone together.

Again and again, panel speakers encouraged attendees to break down walls in their thinking. The morning’s session focused on the problematic break between faith and work. “The evangelical church is filled with dualists,” noted Dr. Don Payne of Denver Seminary. “We need to change how we talk about things like full-time ministry, because we’re all called to full-time ministry. Language shapes everything.”

Jeff Haanen, of the Denver Institute for Faith and Work, added that the question is, “What does it look like to bring Christ into all spaces?”

The panel also featured Brian Gray of Denver Seminary and Hugh Welchel, the executive director for the Institute of Faith, Work, and Economics.

Dr. Wayne Grudem, the plenary speaker, piggybacked on the morning’s panel as he shifted to address systemic issues of poverty. He, too, stressed the need for humanizing and value-giving work, while laying out political, cultural, and economic conditions necessary for such work to occur. “The problem is not inequality,” he asserted. “The problem is poverty. Do poor people have the opportunity to get ahead?”

The conference closed with a panel of social enterprise experts—Chelsie Antos of Trades of Hope, Chris Horst of HOPE International, Sarah Lesyinski of Café 180, and Scott Moore. Moore told stories of how he learned to break down thought-barriers and combine for-profit business with non-profit ideals—social enterprise in a nutshell. He described a business he runs in Colorado Springs that practices reverse-discrimination, only hiring ex-convicts and addicts, because they are discriminated against elsewhere.

Sarah Lesyinski agreed. The local café allows patrons to set their own prices for the food they buy, and offers the opportunity to work if people cannot pay. “It allows people to work with dignity, because everyone has something to give.”

The Greatest Good: Nil Sine Numine Conference combines the social enterprise concept of “the greater good” with Colorado’s state motto, translated as “Nothing without the Deity,” as it explores spiritual and economic welfare. For more, visit nilsinenumine.org.

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Watch Our Conference!

Today’s the day!

Starting at 9:30am MST, we kick off our conference in Denver.  For more details, check out the event page here.

If you’re unable to attend, check out this link for the live stream. Click the image below for an overview of our schedule.

See you there!

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Seeking Success in a Slum: Mathare Valley

By Nick Sands, Colorado Christian University Student

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Mathare Valley (Missions of Hope)

Missions of Hope International (MHI) is a non-profit organization that works in a slum of Nairobi, Kenya called Mathare Valley. In Mathare Valley, everyone lives in shacks constructed of tin sheets and about one-third of the population is HIV positive.

Mary and Wallace Kamau started MHI in 2000. After visiting Mathare Valley, they could not turn their backs on the needs of the community. Many children have no parents, home, or education. Mary and Wallace began renting a tiny two-room house where they could hold a school for children. Community leaders helped identify children in need, and MHI had 50 four-and five-year-old children come to the school the first day they were open.

MHI reports, “In addition to educating the children, Mary was making home visits to each and every family.” This was just the beginning. In 2004, MHI gained official status as a Non-Governmental Organization in Kenya. By 2005, God provided the land and money to allow MHI to create a boarding house for older children. This allows the children to stay in a safe environment at a vulnerable age in their life.

In 2006, MHI raised enough money to open the Pangani Center. The Center was created to hold the growing number of children that were in need of an education and could not afford one. Through this process, 470 children were sponsored to go to school. MHI partners with many organizations to better the lives of people in Kenya’s slums. One of these partnerships is Christian Ministry Fellowship (CMF). They manage the sponsorship program within MHI by persistently seeking out sponsors for children.

MHI started with education and has expanded into Community Health Evangelism/Education (CME) and microfinance loans. CME is used to educate the local community and teaches them how to properly deal with health issues within their community. MHI trains leaders who go back to their community to implement what they have learned and to educate other people. Some things that these groups have done are built community toilets, created community child care, and started Bible studies.

Lastly, MHI works with the community by giving out microfinance loans. These loans are given in order for individuals to provide for their family and be self-employed. As a person pays back their loan, those funds are used to provide another person with a microfinance loan. Evangelism, education, health, and employment are ways that MHI supports the poorest of the poor. MHI has impacted the lives of many people. According to MHI website, “Missions of Hope International provides quality Christian education, medical care, meals, love and encouragement to nearly 6,500 children in 14 centers. CHE is active and growing in 11 different communities.” MHI is an incredible example of meeting a community’s dire needs and then transitioning into supporting economic independence and opportunity.

To find out more information about MHI, go to www.mohiafrica.org.

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Education Savings Accounts: Empowering Parents and Improving Minds

By Brandon Hershey, Colorado Christian University Student

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The month of March holds a historic moment for the school choice movement in America. Arizona’s Supreme Court chose to uphold the state’s education savings account (ESAs) program as constitutional. In Arizona, education savings accounts have been empowering parents and improving minds in the state for the past three years.

Arizona’s program is rightly called the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts because that is exactly what the program does – empowers parents and improves the education of children across the state. The structure of the ESA idea is simple. Every parent that is qualified to receive an ESA is given up to 90 percent of the funding that the state would have spent on their child in the public school system. The money is transferred to a restricted use debit card that the parent then uses to purchase pre-approved education options through a variety of ways such as home-school curriculum, private school tuition, tutors, and physical therapy. The parent is given the reins to provide the best education possible for their child.

ESAs do not just empower parents, but also change the lives of children who would have fallen through the cracks at public school. Lynn and Tim McMurray, a family in Arizona, have three adopted children. Two of the children, Uriah and Valerie, were not receiving the education they needed at the local public school. With the help of the ESAs, the McMurrays are able to homeschool their children and hire private tutors that are helping them to grow in leaps and bounds. Alecia, the third child, is able to attend therapy and speech lessons more frequently with the help of the ESA. In a conversation with the Heritage, Lynn said, “The freedom ESAs give our family is the biggest blessing ever.”

School choice improves the lives of children using the innovative program, but it also improves the lives of their peers still attending public school. School choice is a free market idea that is “is a rising tide to lift all boats.” The evidence that school choice creates market accountability and improves public school systems is overwhelming. In Florida, the McKay Scholarship Program for special needs students has an enormous impact on the public schools. Only 16% of those eligible for the program use the scholarships to attend private schools because of the drastic improvement in the public schools for special needs education. In a recent joint letter published on National Review, some of the leading scholars on school choice championed the ability of school choice options to “spur quality.” Twenty-two out of twenty-three empirical studies showed that academic performance in public school students improved as a result of increased competition created by school choice. When public and private schools begin competing for parents’ choice, those schools become better.

Arizona’s Supreme Court upheld the rights of parents across the nation this month. The historical decision to uphold the ESA program as constitutional will benefit children for decades. When thinking about education. this nation should be concerned about providing the best outcome for the child–and that is exactly what the education savings accounts provide.

Why does this matter? Because education is historically proven to be a crucial cornerstone in human flourishing. Educational choice means that students can begin their mental and academic development with the best possible option for them—and start their lives on the right track.

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Brandon Hershey is a student at Colorado Christian University studying Political Science with a Global Studies minor. He is currently experiencing the political life – rubbing shoulders with the rich n’ famous – while interning in Washington, DC.

 

 

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The Dalai Lama and…Capitalism?

By Robyn Fambrough, Colorado Christian University Student

REUTERS/Gary Cameron

REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Poverty. It’s beyond the comprehension of most people living in first-world countries, including myself. It’s easy to be disconnected when my only worry for breakfast is whether or not I want my pop tart toasted. My concept of extreme poverty comes from heart-wrenching pictures on TV and in magazines: the distended bellies of African children, the bones poking through sagging skin, and the compacted homes that look like collages of trash.

Many have advocated for more equal distribution of wealth in order to solve this problem. But are they missing a crucial point? Aid is sent by the billions to developing countries, but they only seem to be sinking deeper into severe conditions.

Just recently, AEI’s President, Arthur Brooks, invited one of the world’s most influential religious figures to talk about why economic systems are morally important. On the morning of February 20th, the Dalai Lama joined Arthur Brooks and a panel of speakers in a discussion called “Happiness, Free Enterprise, and Human Flourishing.” The Dalai Lama, a Marxist, was willing to engage in dialogue, consideration, and criticism of capitalism. He did this because he believes in educating himself and others to seek truth in matters of humanity–I think that each of us should take on that humility and realize that we still have much to learn.

The speakers found common ground by first recognizing that our humanity serves as a basis for spreading blessings to one another. Both Brooks and the Dalai Lama concluded that the free enterprise system is a blessing, but this blessing comes with a responsibility that requires moral living from each of us. Morality, from their view, is a practice that we live out through compassion for our fellow mankind. They agree that faith, family, community, and work (as earned success) are ingredients for a healthy state of living.

The Dalai Lama acknowledged that the free-enterprise system can be coherent with morality if the individual takes their morality and their self-care and turns them into a blessing for others. He addressed the moral issues of greed and selfishness:

Best thing for your future is taking care about other. Basically, we are social animal. One individual’s future depends on the community. Community now [exists in a] modern time. The community’s future depends on the nation. This individual nation’s future depends on humanity… We are selfish. It’s very important for our own survival. Without self-care, we cannot survive. So therefore – but that selfish should be wise selfish, rather than foolish selfish.[1]

The Dalai Lama might be looking at this from Marxist lenses, but you can look at this from a free-enterprise point of view too. The basic principle that exists in a free-market system is when you take care of yourself, whether that is being innovative and starting a business or supporting a business as a consumer, you take care of others in the nation as a whole.

The cure to poverty is wealth, and wealth is attained for most individuals in a nation that supports their right to being innovative in a free-market system. The chains of government oppression, foreign aid, and inescapable poverty hold human beings down. Hungry faces need the gift of entrepreneurship, not degrading dependence. People enslaved to poverty are only existing, and opportunity in the free-enterprise system can bring them to a state of living. Giving these people a chance to build their lives, I think, is the higher moral ground.

The Dalai Lama sees the drawbacks of capitalism and shies away from it because of deep-seated moral convictions. However, he does see the catastrophic failure of centralized government as the wrong way to go: “So therefore, I think we – and whole world witness centralized economy, no matter how much the effort, fail – former Soviet Union and then also the Republic of China.” With this in mind, freedom from poverty would be impossible.

If this is the common ground between the Marxist Dalai Lama and the Capitalist Arthur Brooks, then there may be hope for humanity after all.

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[1] The American Enterprise Institute, Event Transcript http://www.aei.org/files/2014/02/21/-moral-free-enterprise-hhdl_152712729106.pdf

 

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Sevenly: Socially Conscious Shirts

By Andrew Wolsfield, Colorado Christian University Student

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A Sevenly shirt supporting adoption

Sevenly is an organization whose overall purpose is driven by a concept from Matthew 22:

“Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Sevenly is a for-profit, online, cause-oriented marketplace located in Costa Mesa, California that donates a major percentage of its revenue to charitable causes. Sevenly is a unique and inspiring organization because it works with many different kinds of charities around the world. Its innovative business strategy was thought up by CEO Dale Patridge and cofounder Aaron Chavez. In June 2011, Patridge’s dream of creating awareness and funding for charities which by themselves do not get very much attention became reality. It has since expanded across the globe.

Sevenly focuses its business model around the number seven. The cofounders broke down which types of non-profits they work with into seven different categories:

  • human trafficking and slavery prevention,
  • poverty relief,
  • disaster assistance,
  • medical causes,
  • hunger solutions,
  • access to potable water
  • a general aid category including suicide assistance and homelessness.

Each week Sevenly choses a new non-profit organization that fits into one of these categories. The non-profit must go through a vetting process which includes legal agreements on how the organization will use the money raised. Sevenly custom designs t-shirts, hoodies, and other products for each week’s chosen non-profit. These items are sold for seven days through Sevenly’s website to raise awareness for the non-profit, and seven dollars of each item purchased goes directly to support the organization. The clothing sold is both sustainable and WRAP certified.

Sevenly is often asked why it “only” donates $7 of each sale. According to Sevenly’s website, the official answer is,

$7.00 per sale is more than 25% of our total revenue (all products combined) which is extremely high for a for-profit company. It’s actually so high, that the IRS didn’t even have a category for for-profit companies that give at this rate. Lastly…we give $7.00 for every product sold. Not 6.99. Not $7.00 minus expenses. We give $7.00 cash, every time.

The rest of sales income go towards operating expenses and expanding the company. Sevenly has expenses like any other company, and handling those appropriately is crucial to Sevenly’s mission. As co-founder Dale Patridge puts it,  “Giving is critical to our success and we love doing it, but if we don’t remain profitable while doing so, we will be unable to give in the future, and people will suffer.”

In Sevenly’s two and a half year history, it has raised over 3 million dollars for charities and has helped over 1 million people in the process. They have truly made a difference and are continuing to do so. By buying Sevenly’s great products, individual people can be a part of this great campaign.


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