Century Marks

Century Marks

Watchdogs

Two-thirds of Americans surveyed believe news reports are often inaccurate; three-fourths believe news organizations tend to favor one side. Despite this negative perception of the news, 68 percent of Americans continue to believe in the news media’s watchdog role, saying it keeps government from doing things it shouldn’t. Republicans, Democrats and independents differ very little on this point. Public support for the watchdog role has risen 10 percent since 2011, perhaps the result of revelations about the IRS targeting Tea Party groups and the NSA surveillance program (Pew Research, August 8).

Just say no

Two Roman Catholic communities in central Kentucky have refused to participate in a plan to use their properties for an underground pipeline transporting pressurized natural gas. The Sisters of Loretto and the Abbey of Gethsemani, Thomas Merton’s monastery, have refused permission to let developers survey their property. A sister from Loretto said: “We’ve been on this property since 1824. We feel entrusted with this. It’s a gift. It’s not a commodity.” The developers maintain that through eminent domain law they could obtain easements through these properties (Courier-Journal, August 1).

Great expectations

When Thom Ranier pastored a church in St. Petersburg, Florida, he gave his deacons a list of 20 pastoral functions. He asked each deacon to put the minimum number of hours they expected him to devote to each function. When he averaged and tallied the results, it came out to a 114-hour workweek. Either he could put in 16 hours per day, seven days a week, or he could take one day off and put in 19 hours the other days—just to meet the minimal expectations (thomrainer.com, July 24).

Down and out

People tend to think of poverty in America as an urban or rural reality. Increasingly it has become a suburban one. From 2000 to 2010 the number of poor in suburbs increased by 53 percent. Many of these people were firmly middle class at the beginning of the new century. Because of wage stagnation, declining real estate values and the Great Recession, they have fallen below the poverty line. People who once donated to social service organizations in their communities are now themselves becoming dependent on them (from The End of the Sub­urbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving, excerpted in Salon, August 3).

Without a ladder

“Where you grow up matters,” says Harvard economist Nathaniel Hendren, author of a new study on economic mobility and geography. Location doesn’t matter much for the children of the well-to-do, who tend to do well regardless. But if you’re poor and from the Southeast or the industrial Midwest, your chances of climbing the economic ladder are poor, and especially low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indiana­polis, Cinncinnati and Columbus. Chances of climbing the economic ladder are best in the Northwest, Great Plains and the West, especially in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and much of California and Minnesota (BillMoyers.com, July 23).