Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

CBO report: Social Security to be bankrupt by 2030

From Investors Business Daily.

Full text, because this matters:

The $2.8 trillion Social Security Trust Fund is on track to be totally spent by 2030, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday.

That’s one year earlier than projected in 2013 and a decade earlier than the CBO estimated as recently as 2011.

The CBO delivered the warning in a gloomy long-term budget outlook that shows federal debt reaching 106% of GDP in 25 years, up from 74% now.

The rising debt would come despite revenue rising by 1.8 percent as share of GDP (from 17.6% to 19.4%)from 2014 to 2039 and despite spending other than health entitlements, Social Security and debt service shrinking by 2.5% of GDP (9.3% to 6.8%).

The challenge: Health care spending will rise by 3.1 percent of GDP (4.9% to 8%) and Social Security 1.4 points of GDP (4.9% to 6.3%), which will in turn push interest on the debt up to 4.7% of GDP from 1.3%.

Social Security’s cliff, now just 16 years away, is one that Washington would be crazy to approach. At that point, incoming revenue would be enough to pay less than 75% of scheduled benefits for all beneficiaries, whether just reaching retirement or 100 years old.

Up until the point of exhaustion, the trust fund provides legal authority — though no resources — for the government to pay all benefits despite Social Security’s burgeoning cash-flow deficit, which the CBO expects to reach $320 billion in 2024 alone.

The rapid deterioration in Social Security’s finances has a number of contributing factors. The drawn-out recovery from the deep recession and the extended period of low interest rates have sapped revenue and lowered the interest that Treasury pays to the trust fund based on program surpluses from 1984 to 2009.

On top of that, the CBO expects the underinvestment and long-term unemployment associated with the less-than-stellar recovery to have a lasting impact, boosting the natural rate of unemployment.

In February, the CBO significantly reined in its economic optimism, slashing its projection of the total amount of wages and salaries over the 2015-2023 period by about $3.2 trillion, or 3.6%.

Among the factors that the budget scorekeeper cited was ObamaCare’s work-diminishing effect, which the CBO now estimates to be three times as large as it supposed in 2010.

The CBO said that ObamaCare would reduce employment by 2 million full-time-equivalent workers in 2017, rising to 2.5 million in 2014.

This reduction would result in a decline in aggregate employee compensation averaging 1% from 2017 through 2024, or $1.05 trillion.

An IBD analysis pegged the revenue hit to Social Security from ObamaCare work disincentives at about $120 billion through 2024.

The reduced payroll-tax contributions into Social Security would, over time, result in modestly lower benefits for those who choose less work, but the cost savings from reduced benefits would offset only a portion of the lost revenue.

The nature of Affordable Care Act subsidies — they rise as income falls and decline as income rises — will make work “less attractive” by “creating an implicit tax on additional earnings,” the CBO said.

The work disincentive will lead some people to choose to work less, in part because subsidized health care will enable them to get by with less work.

In addition, the CBO expects ObamaCare to depress wages for lower earners when employers, over time, pass along the cost of the law’s employer-insurance mandate by holding back on wage increases. Lower wages, in turn, will provide another reason for some people to opt for less work, the CBO says.

While the CBO expects compensation to be lower “almost entirely” because people will choose to supply less work, the CBO also expects that some employers “will respond to the penalty by hiring fewer people at or just above the minimum wage.”

Another important factor clouding Social Security’s future: A greater share of earnings goes to those with income above the maximum subject to payroll taxes ($117,000 in 2014).

As a result, while rising longevity and the retirement of baby boomers will make benefits grow faster than the economy, Social Security’s tax revenue is expected only to keep pace with economic growth.

Look. I think there’s practical wisdom in this CBO report for Christians. We have to take into account data like this when making our life plans. And it’s not only Social Security we need to be scared of, Medicare is even MORE insolvent than Social Security. If you are under 40, these programs are not going to be there for you. You have to make other plans. You can’t be running your life plan as if these threats do not exist, because they do. Now I want to talk about how a defensive plan can be better than an offensive plan.

The neutral zone trap

Think of ice hockey and the neutral zone trap defense:

The defending team sets up so four players-usually both wings and both defense-remain in the neutral zone, while the center forechecks into the offensive zone. The center’s job is to block the passing lanes from the puck carrier, forcing him to carry the puck forward into the neutral zone. Once the puck carrier reaches the neutral zone, the center stays toward the center of the ice, forcing the puck carrier along the boards. Two of the other defending team’s players collapse in on the puck carrier, forcing him to dump the puck into their zone, forcing a turnover.

This plan allowed the New Jersey Devils to win the Stanley Cup against the high-powered Detroit Red Wings in 1995:

The following season, shortened by 34 games because of a lockout ordered by NHL owners, the Devils entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the conference, with only a 22-18-8 record. In the West, the Detroit Red Wings looked invincible, cruising to the Stanley Cup Finals behind a galaxy of offensive stars.

But that’s when Lemaire went to work, putting his Devils through daily lessons in the trap, preaching constantly about being in the right defensive position at all times. It was hard, but it worked. The Devils upset three higher seeded Eastern teams to get to the Stanley Cup Finals, but remained prohibitive underdogs against the Red Wings.

Many predicted a sweep – and that’s what happened. What nobody predicted was that it would be the Devils who did the sweeping, thanks to a stifling trap that limited Detroit to seven goals in four games.

“They frustrated the heck out of us,” former Red Wings defenseman Mike Ramsey told the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press. “You weren’t trying to beat one guy. You were trying to beat four. They had enough talent and size where they didn’t have to play that way. But they knew what they were doing. Every player was on the same page.”

When coaches across the NHL saw how Lemaire was able to totally shut down such a great offensive team, the trap began to be copied by almost everyone. Roger Neilson had implemented a form of the trap with the expansion Florida Panthers from 1993-95, and his successor, Doug MacLean, took it even further. The neutral zone became almost impossible to navigate against the Panthers in the 1996 playoffs, and Florida suddenly found itself in the Stanley Cup Finals against the offensive-minded Avalanche. Criticized by the media about the trap, MacLean responded, “I like boring”.

Yes, and he likes winning,too. Sometimes people who appear to be risk-averse seem “scared” to others… but what matters is the scoreboard.

I hate to see young people making life plans while ignoring real life obstacles. The national debt, the demographic crisis, fertility (for women), etc. are real problems. Let’s take these threats into account when we are planning our lives. It’s just unwise to think that we can do whatever we want and then count on God to bail us out. We need to be practical. We live in challenging times, and we need to have prosperity and stability in order to protect our faith from external threats which are so often the root of despair and apostasy. The score on the scoreboard is not related to who took the biggest chances and felt the most excitement, it’s related to who actually scored. I feel excited when I win.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , ,

Advice for Christian apologists from Blake Giunta (TreeSearch.org)

He has posted two rules for apologetics discussions on his new debating web site “TreeSearch“. It basically teaches you how to debate even if you have no idea how to debate, by modeling the most common arguments for and against the common things that Christian apologists get asked about.

Here’s the post for rule 1, which contains 3 tips.

I like this one:

Tip #3: Ensure your partner feels understood

This is an essential part of connecting and sympathizing. More importantly, it encourages your dialogue partner to reciprocate—this means they will try harder to understand you. Here are three tips:

1. Diagnose well. You should be deeply inquisitive, regularly asking clarifying questions. Show a desire to master comprehension of their point of view. This means tentatively repeating back their points, signaling for approval (“So you mean xyz?”), as well as using all the non-verbal cues possible that denote you are listening intently and carefully.

2. Be overly charitable. Unskilled dialoguers habitually restate and/or critique their partner’s arguments in a weaker form. This is pointless. The “uncharitability” (making his/her argument appear less rational, and by extension him/her) will cost both of you time, and you will have only purchased annoyance. Instead, prove you can step in their shoes; flauntthe fact that you are struggling to see things their way. If you really want to win their love/respect, restate their own argument rhetorically and/or logically better than they did, eliciting a “yeah, yeah, exactly!” The goal is to foster a spirit of teamwork and discovery. Regardless, there should be no intense competitiveness or awkwardness, just a mutually welcoming curiosity and hard questions.

3. Avoid Psychoanalyzing. Skilled questioning can expose any overt “emotional problems” underlying an interlocutor’s resistence to Christianity. If emotional problems are not overt, then do not assume they exist at all. At least for the discussion, assume they are not lying about their disbelief or reasons for disbelief.

I actually disagree with the first tip in this post, which is “Do not act self-assured”. I think this is bad advice.

You want to let the other guy talk as much as he wants in a debate. Ignore all the insults and red herrings, and pick the one or two points that you can refute the most easily – e.g. – because they are self-refuting, break the laws of logic, contradict known science, or are not admitted by atheist scholars. Refute one or two points using the strongest authorities you can, and let the rest slide. Let your opponent continue. You should convey the attitude that you don’t care about winning, and that you are not really concerned by anything they are saying because you’ve heard it all before and it doesn’t bother you. As you study and debate more and more, that will actually be the case.

I think that Blake’s point might be to not act as if what you are saying is obviously true and that people are stupid to deny it. You have to argue for your side using powerful evidence, like citing atheist astronomer Martin Rees to substantiate the cosmic fine-tuning, or citing atheist historian Gerd Ludemann to get you the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. That way, you don’t have to say anything, the strength of the evidence speaks for itself – especially if your opponent doesn’t have any evidence.

Having said that, Blake has a footnote for that tip that I disagree with – he says this:

As an exception, if you are already regarded as mentor (usually having earned it by impressing them), you can take a confident educational tone in many statements, especially when elucidating that a particular position is an overwhelming majority or minority position in a field.

On to rule 2, which offers another 3 “unproductive topics”.

I like this one:

Unproductive Topic #3: Life-Benefits of one worldview over another.

The issue of whether the elimination or promotion of some worldview in a society would result in that society’s flourishing—or decline—is irrelevant to the question of whether the worldview in question istrue. Similarly, the would-be individual life-benefits of accepting or rejecting a worldview are also irrelevant. Unless you have reason to believe your interlocutor is too apathetic about the big questions in life to seek the truth, it is generally prudent to refrain from discussing the would-be affects of a worldview on society or the individual’s life.

If you are new to apologetics, and looking for some mentoring in tactics and flow, TreeSearch.org is a good place to start.

Filed under: Mentoring, , ,

Eight tips for talking to non-Christians about Christianity

From Stand to Reason – some excellent tactical advice from a master apologist.

Here’s the setup:

I overheard a conversation on the airplane coming back from my vacation in Wisconsin.  A Christian gentleman was vigorously sharing his faith with a gentleman in the seat directly behind me.  There are some things we can learn, both good and bad, from what I overheard and take his effort—which was a good one—and channel it in a little bit more constructive direction.

So I am going to give you eight points of application.

And here are my favorites from his list:

3.  Try to stay away from religious language, terminology, and religious affect. This person was very religious in his whole approach.  I think this is hard for us as Christians because we are brought up in a Christian environment and it’s natural for us to talk this way, but it sounds weird to people outside of that environment.  I think there are a lot of people who may be, in principle, interested in a bona fide, genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ but who are not interested in the Christian religion as they perceive it.  This is where I think a lot of the emergent guys have a legitimate bone to pick with Evangelicalism.  Let’s try not to sound like Bible-thumping fundamentalists if we can avoid it, even if that’s what we are, because there’s no need to sound that way if it puts people off.  Find another way to communicate the message.  Just talk in a straightforward manner.  Be conscious of using religious language the other person may not understand or may think is strange.  Avoid all of that so they can hear the message you’re trying to communicate.

4.  Focus on the truth, not personal benefits of Christianity. I appreciated the gentleman’s approach in that he kept talking about truth.  One person he was talking to said he liked reincarnation.  The Christian man said that even if he liked reincarnation that that didn’t make it true if it’s not true.  Liking something is not going to change reality.  That’s a great point.  He was focusing on the truth claims of Jesus.  He wasn’t giving a bunch of promises.  He wasn’t saying, “Jesus is my ice cream.  He’s a great flavor.  Try him to see if you like him, too.”  Or, “Try Jesus because he’ll make your life so wonderful.”  Focus on truth and not personal benefits.

5.  Give evidence. This gentleman was giving all kinds of evidence for his seatmates to consider.  Good for him!  You should too.  You know why?  Because people in the Bible did, too.  Jesus, Paul, Peter, all the Apostles.  If you look at the details of how they communicated their faith they gave evidence for the truth of what they were saying about Jesus.  In fact, if you want to get the content of the Gospel, one of the most famous passages for the articulation of the Gospel is the beginning of 1 Corinthian 15.  Paul gives all kinds of evidence.  It’s all right there as he is explaining the Gospel.  We see that all through the New Testament.  So give evidences.  It’s appropriate.  People do respond to that even in a postmodern age.

I remember that I was once working in Chicago, and after a particular good apologetics discussion with a team of engineers, I apologized to them all for being so exclusive and a fundamentalist. These guys all had MS and PhD degrees in computer science from top schools like Stanford, Purdue, U of I, NIU and Northwestern. They said “you’re not a fundamentalist”. And I said, “but I am ultra-conservative in my theology!”. And they said “That’s ok – as long as you have considered different points of view and you have objective evidence, then somehow it doesn’t sound fundamentalist”.

I think that’s something that we need to work on. When Christianity is about truth, it’s open to investigation using public evidence. At work, I have explained the structure of DNA molecules in the office and had people rolling their chairs out of their cubicles to come and see me draw amino acid chains on a white board, and calculate the probabilities with a calculator. You can be a fundamentalist, without sounding like a fundamentalist. You just have to focus on public, testable evidence.

Look here:

Make religion about truth – not personal preferences. They respect that way of talking – as long as you bring the science and the history.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brian Auten interviews Jim Wallace of Please Convince Me

I spotted this on Apologetics 315.

The MP3 file is here. (43 minutes)

Details from Brian’s post:

Today’s interview is with Jim Wallace of PleaseConvinceMe.com and host of the PleaseConvinceMe Podcast. As a cold case detective, Jim brings a unique perspective to his approach to apologetics and a very down-to-earth logical style. In this interview, Jim talks about his approach to the evidence (inference to the best explanation), Tactics and apologetics, debate vs. dialogue, pitfalls to apologists, and more.

Topics:

  • Jim’s background as an Catholic-raised atheist, and cold-case detective
  • Jim believed in the progress of science to answer all the unresolved questions
  • How did Jim become an atheist?
  • Why didn’t Jim respond to Christians witnessing to him without evidence?
  • What approach worked to start him thinking about becoming a Christian?
  • What did Jim do to grow as a Christian?
  • How did Jim’s police training help him to investigate Christianity?
  • What investigative approach is used in his police work?
  • Does “abductive reasoning” also work for investigating Christianity?
  • What sort of activities did Jim get involved in in his community?
  • How Jim’s experience as a youth pastor convinced him of the value of apologetics
  • How young people learn best by training for engagement with opponents
  • How Jim takes his youth on mission trips to UC Berkeley to engage the students
  • Is it possible to run an apologetics ministry part-time while keeping a day job?
  • Do you have to be an expert in order to have an apologetics ministry?
  • What books would Jim recommend to beginning apologists?
  • How the popular apologist can have an even bigger impact than the scholar
  • How the tactical approach is different for debates and conversations
  • Jim’s advice for Christians who are interested in learning apologetics
  • How Christian apologist need to make sure they remain humble and open-minded
  • How your audience determines how much you need to know from study

Jim’s reason for becoming an atheist, (his mother was excluded from the Catholic church after her divorce), is one I have heard before. Without saying anything about the Catholic church’s policy. I like the way he eventually came back to Christianity. No big emotional crisis, just taking a sober second look at the evidence by himself, and talking with his Christian friends. I’m impressed with the way he has such a productive ministry, as well.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Eight tips for talking to non-Christians about Christianity

From Stand to Reason – some excellent tactical advice from a master apologist.

Here’s the setup:

I overheard a conversation on the airplane coming back from my vacation in Wisconsin.  A Christian gentleman was vigorously sharing his faith with a gentleman in the seat directly behind me.  There are some things we can learn, both good and bad, from what I overheard and take his effort—which was a good one—and channel it in a little bit more constructive direction.

So I am going to give you eight points of application.

And here are my favorites from his list:

3.  Try to stay away from religious language, terminology, and religious affect. This person was very religious in his whole approach.  I think this is hard for us as Christians because we are brought up in a Christian environment and it’s natural for us to talk this way, but it sounds weird to people outside of that environment.  I think there are a lot of people who may be, in principle, interested in a bona fide, genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ but who are not interested in the Christian religion as they perceive it.  This is where I think a lot of the emergent guys have a legitimate bone to pick with Evangelicalism.  Let’s try not to sound like Bible-thumping fundamentalists if we can avoid it, even if that’s what we are, because there’s no need to sound that way if it puts people off.  Find another way to communicate the message.  Just talk in a straightforward manner.  Be conscious of using religious language the other person may not understand or may think is strange.  Avoid all of that so they can hear the message you’re trying to communicate.

4.  Focus on the truth, not personal benefits of Christianity. I appreciated the gentleman’s approach in that he kept talking about truth.  One person he was talking to said he liked reincarnation.  The Christian man said that even if he liked reincarnation that that didn’t make it true if it’s not true.  Liking something is not going to change reality.  That’s a great point.  He was focusing on the truth claims of Jesus.  He wasn’t giving a bunch of promises.  He wasn’t saying, “Jesus is my ice cream.  He’s a great flavor.  Try him to see if you like him, too.”  Or, “Try Jesus because he’ll make your life so wonderful.”  Focus on truth and not personal benefits.

5.  Give evidence. This gentleman was giving all kinds of evidence for his seatmates to consider.  Good for him!  You should too.  You know why?  Because people in the Bible did, too.  Jesus, Paul, Peter, all the Apostles.  If you look at the details of how they communicated their faith they gave evidence for the truth of what they were saying about Jesus.  In fact, if you want to get the content of the Gospel, one of the most famous passages for the articulation of the Gospel is the beginning of 1 Corinthian 15.  Paul gives all kinds of evidence.  It’s all right there as he is explaining the Gospel.  We see that all through the New Testament.  So give evidences.  It’s appropriate.  People do respond to that even in a postmodern age.

I remember that I was once working in Chicago, and after a particular good apologetics discussion with a team of engineers, I apologized to them all for being so exclusive and a fundamentalist. These guys all had MS and PhD degrees in computer science from top schools like Stanford, Purdue, U of I, NIU and Northwestern. They said “you’re not a fundamentalist”. And I said, “but I am ultra-conservative in my theology!”. And they said “That’s ok – as long as you have considered different points of view and you have objective evidence, then somehow it doesn’t sound fundamentalist”.

I think that’s something that we need to work on. When Christianity is about truth, it’s open to investigation using public evidence. At work, I have explained the structure of DNA molecules in the office and had people rolling their chairs out of their cubicles to come and see me draw amino acid chains on a white board, and calculate the probabilities with a calculator. You can be a fundamentalist, without sounding like a fundamentalist. You just have to focus on public, testable evidence.

Look here:

Make religion about truth – not personal preferences. They respect that way of talking – as long as you bring the science and the history.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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