Care About The Poor? Why Withdrawing From Paris Agreement Helps Those Most Vulnerable

3329557-eiffel-tower-2Are you truly concerned about the poor’s economic welfare? If so, you should be celebrating President Trump’s announcement that the United States will withdraw itself from the Paris Agreement.

The Paris climate accord, which was ratified last year, attempts to “brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.” Supporters of the agreement claim it is necessary to avert the disastrous consequences of climate change.

Regrettably, the plan’s supporters are committing the greatest economic fallacy, which Henry Hazlitt, the acclaimed economics writer, warned about in his most prominent work, Economics in One Lesson (1946):

“The bad economist sees only what immediately strikes the eye; the good economist also looks beyond. The bad economist sees only the direct consequences of the proposed course; the good economist looks also at the longer and indirect consequences.”

While laypeople, pundits, scientists, and economists have focused their attention on what Trump’s decision might mean for climate change, these groups have largely ignored the effect of the agreement on poorer American households. Here are three reasons why withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is good for the poor:

 

1. The Paris Agreement raises energy costs for hardworking American households.

Under the agreement, the United States pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below its 2005 level by 2025. This would be accomplished by transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy.

Although renewable energy will likely become the technology of the future, prematurely transitioning to “greener” sources creates a problem for Americans struggling to make ends meet.

Right now, these alternative sources of energy are far more expensive (and less reliable) than traditional sources. A study published last year found that “electricity from new wind and solar power is 2.5 to 5 times more expensive than electricity from existing coal and nuclear power.”

Until the cost of green energy declines through technological advances and increases in productivity, transitioning to renewable energy too hastily will necessarily cause energy prices to skyrocket. Rising energy prices disproportionately affect those who already have the hardest time affording energy.

Every additional dollar that lower-income families spend on lighting and heating their homes is a dollar that is now no longer available to pay for housing, food, clothes, and books. By raising energy prices, the Paris Agreement would make it harder for these families to afford the things they need.

 

2. Regulations promulgated under the aegis of the Paris Agreement increase prices and harm the economy.

The Paris Agreement saddles producers with burdensome regulations that increase the cost of doing business. Ultimately, these costs are either passed to consumers or are absorbed by businesses, resulting in lower employment and less investment for the capital goods necessary to produce the goods consumers need.

Furthermore, developed economies like the United States rely on affordable, accessible, and reliable energy. Machines on the assembly line and the trucks transporting goods alike require energy to produce and deliver products to consumers.

Most affected by onerous environmental regulations are energy, manufacturing, and shipping firms. Imagine the mom and pop machining shop that would have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to comply with increased regulations originating from the Paris accord. That’s tens of thousands of dollars that now cannot be used to raise wages for their workers, hire new employees, purchase more inventory, or invest in capital (think: technology and machines) to produce tomorrow’s goods.

In the long run, total production will decrease, employees will make less money in wages and benefits, and consumers will face higher prices at the market. There will be less wealth, less prosperity, and fewer opportunities, especially for those struggling to find jobs or climb the economic ladder.

 

3. The Paris Agreement redistributes wealth from American taxpayers to international corporations and less developed nations.

The Paris Agreement also initiates a massive redistribution of wealth from developed countries to less developed countries. This will be orchestrated through the United Nations Green Climate Fund, which seeks to help developing countries purchase and construct alternative energy infrastructure.

The Green Climate Fund is the worst form of crony capitalism, guaranteed to benefit politically connected firms, especially those that stand to make millions of dollars in selling green energy technology. Like all government infrastructure programs, it will likely be highly inefficient and rife with corruption.

To make matters worse, the Paris Agreement assures that a significant portion of the multibillion dollar budget for the Green Climate Fund will be financed by American taxpayers. Astoundingly, the agreement places American taxpayers on the hook for bankrolling pricey green energy technologies for other nations.

Where do supporters of the agreement think this money will come from? Have they forgotten that the United States is already $20 trillion in debt with unfunded liabilities (promises of future services) totaling over $200 trillion?

Remember that every dollar taxed by government is a dollar that American families and businesses cannot use to purchase the things they need. Taxes divert money and resources from the private sector, where it is spent more efficiently and according to the needs of consumers, to the public sector, where it is spent inefficiently on programs (like green energy) deemed “worthy” by central planners (in this case, the international community) without concern for the needs of the people in these different countries.

The eventual result of increasing taxes will be less capital available to meet the future needs of producers and consumers. There will be fewer total goods produced and fewer jobs. Prices will rise, and families and small businesses will find it harder to get the credit they need for mortgages and small business loans.

 

Decades ago, Henry Hazlitt alerted his contemporaries about the error of ignoring unintended consequences when analyzing policies. His warning still rings true today:

“The long-run consequences of some economic policies may become evident in a few months. Others may not become evident for several years. Still others may not become evident for decades. But in every case those long-run consequences are contained in the policy as surely as the hen was in the egg, the flower in the seed.”

Regardless of the truthfulness of claims made by climate alarmists, it is important to look beyond good intentions to see how policies, like those springing from the Paris Agreement, would affect the most vulnerable people in society in unintended ways. It is tragic that government policies designed to alleviate one problem create further problems that end up harming people.

It is indisputable that the Paris Agreement would have negatively affected lower-income American families. Fortunately for them, the United States is no longer beholden to the agreement, and it can now pursue environmental policies it considers to be in the best interests of Americans.


This article was originally published by the Mises Institute: https://mises.org/blog/withdrawing-paris-agreement-helps-most-vulnerable.

4 Reasons Suicide Is Increasing Among Young Adults

13_Reasons_Why_Character_Poster_Jessica_DavisSuicide is back in the news again.

After seven of its students committed suicide, a Colorado school district last month temporarily pulled from its libraries 13 Reasons Why, the young adult fiction book turned Netflix television teen drama that critics say glamorizes suicide.

The book chronicles the suicide of Hannah Baker, a high school junior who leaves behind thirteen cassette tapes explaining her reasons for committing suicide.

Like Hannah Baker, many young adults are turning to suicide as an escape from the pressures of life. From 2000 to 2015, the suicide rate increased 27% among those aged 20 to 35 (the U.S. average suicide rate among all age groups increased by almost 21% during the same time period). Washington State’s suicide rate is 16% higher than the national average.

 

Two Factors That Fail To Explain The Increasing Suicide Rate

Many experts blame increased economic hardship and inadequate mental health services for the recent rise in suicide. However, these easy explanations misrepresent available data and fall short of adequately explaining the troubling trend.

From a material perspective, life on earth has never been better. Thanks to global trade and extraordinary technological advances, Americans today enjoy a higher standard of living, greater economic security, longer life expectancy, less crime, and more leisure than any other people throughout history. Even the poorest among us live far more prosperous lives than our richest grandparents could have imagined. And let us not forget that Americans living in poverty still boast a higher living standard than the average European.

Additionally, the recent increase in suicide cannot be blamed on undersupplied mental health services. Both federal and state governments have progressively increased mental health funding over recent decades (paradoxically, the inefficient and inflexible bureaucracy created to administer mental health programs and treatments may make it more difficult for those struggling with mental health conditions to receive the care they need).

In exclusively focusing on economic circumstances and mental health funding, we ignore profound cultural shifts that better explain rising suicide rates.

 

Four Reasons Suicide Is Increasing Among Young Adults

Here are four factors likely contributing to the significant increase in suicide among young Americans:

Delayed Marriage: More than ever before, young people are choosing to delay marriage or forgo it entirely. In 1960, the median age at first marriage was 22.8 for men and 20.3 for women, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Today, the median age at first marriage has increased to 29.5 for men and 27.4 for women. Almost half of 34-year-olds have never been married.

These unmarried millennials sacrifice the benefits that come with being united to a committed partner in marriage. A survey of scientific literature conducted by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute found that married individuals are healthier, happier, and more financially secure than their unmarried peers. They experience greater emotional and psychological well-being than those who are unmarried. Notably, married individuals are less likely to commit suicide.

Increased Worker Mobility: Americans move for work more often than Europeans. Although greater worker mobility boosts the economy and results in better matching of employees and jobs, it can also cause individuals to become detached from communities that help provide belonging, happiness, and emotional and financial support.

Researchers have discovered a link between residential mobility and suicide. “Indeed, residential mobility can be associated with higher levels of stress, crime, poor health, and what sociologists call ‘social disorganization,’” writes Ryan McMaken for the Mises Institute.

Decreased Religiosity: Young Americans have increasingly disconnected from religious institutions over the last few decades, choosing instead to live according to their own “personalized spirituality” or rejecting religion entirely.

A Pew Research Center study published two years ago found that only 28% of millennials born between 1981 and 1996 attend religious services weekly, significantly less than 51% of the Silent Generation (those born between 1928 and 1945). Younger millennials are also less likely to believe in God (80%) and consider religion to be an important part of their lives (38%).

Unfortunately, by eschewing involvement in religious communities, millennials sacrifice the kinship and solidarity those communities provide. Religion helps provide meaning to life, and religious communities equip individuals with the relationships and support necessary to withstand life’s treacherous seas.

Unsurprisingly, religiously unaffiliated individuals had “significantly more lifetime suicide attempts” than their religiously affiliated peers, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The study’s authors also concluded that “subjects with no religious affiliation perceived fewer reasons for living, particularly fewer moral objections to suicide.”

Postmodernism: Millennials attain higher levels of education than previous generations. This makes them more susceptible to postmodernism, the prevailing worldview taught in higher education.

Postmodernism posits that reality is unknowable and meaningless. In attempting to overthrow traditional values, postmodernism dispenses with objective and transcendent truths that provide individuals with a realistic framework through which to perceive the world. Postmodernists sort everyone into one of two groups: the oppressors and the victims, the latter of which suffer from systemic societal and cultural oppression at the hands of the former.

Survey data indicate a considerable number of millennials have bought into the postmodern worldview propagated by their colleges and universities. Only 40% of those under age 35 believe “right and wrong never change,” and just 4% of millennials hold to a biblical worldview.

Philosopher Richard M. Weaver observed decades ago that “ideas have consequences.” Teaching the next generation that life is meaningless, truth is unknowable, and that tradition and conventional wisdom must be discarded yields predictable results. Such a corrosive worldview will only produce rotting fruit.

 

There Is No Easy Fix

Suicide is increasing because our culture has lost its moorings. We need to acknowledge that the exploding suicide rate among Americans and Washingtonians will not be solved through a growing economy or greater mental health funding. As long as individuals continue to disconnect from the relationships, communities, and truth that provide meaning to life, suicide will continue becoming more prevalent.

There is no easy fix. Reversing the trend depends on effectively confronting the lies accepted by culture and society fueling hopelessness and social disorganization. We must also work to ensure our communities can successfully provide for the material, emotional, and spiritual needs of their members.


This article was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington.

Religious Liberty Advocates Conflicted About Executive Order

donald-trump-libertyAffirming that our liberties are a gift of God that no government can rightfully take away, President Donald Trump today signed the long-awaited executive order on religious liberty.

The executive order has two main components. First, it directs government officials to consider changing regulations to allow conscience-based objections to the contraceptive mandate, which requires insurance plans to cover contraceptives and abortifacients.

Second, it instructs federal agencies to avoid penalizing tax-exempt organizations, including churches, that “speak about moral or political issues from a religious perspective.”

Speaking to the press in the White House Rose Garden before signing the executive order, the president reiterated his belief that “for too long, the federal government has used the power of the state as a weapon against people of faith, bullying and even punishing Americans for following their religious beliefs.”

While there is hope that today’s executive order will be a first step to restoring religious liberty, there remain grave threats to the fundamental freedom to live according to the dictates of one’s faith and conscience.

Joseph Backholm, President of FPIW, says he is “cautiously optimistic” about the executive order, calling it “a step in the right direction.”

Backholm hopes the executive order will be used by federal agencies to “develop comprehensive rules protecting religious liberties.”

Some religious liberty advocates, including the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson, expressed their concern that the executive order fails to make substantive reforms protecting religious liberty. In a press release today, Alliance Defending Freedom President Michael Ferris said the executive order amounts to “vague instructions to federal agencies [that] simply leaves them wiggle room to ignore [the] gesture.”

A draft of the executive order released in February included far greater protections for religious liberty. That draft protected the rights of those—including federal employees, religious organizations, and some businesses—who believe in traditional marriage and the traditional conception of two genders, male and female. These protections were not included in the executive order signed today.

“Our founding fathers believed that religious liberty was so fundamental that they enshrined it in the very first amendment of our great and beloved constitution,” President Trump said in the Rose Garden press conference today. “No American should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenets of their faith.”

On that, Mr. President, we wholeheartedly agree.


This was originally written for Family Policy Institute of Washington.

Washington Human Trafficking Sting Highlights Importance of New State Law

WSPA recent human trafficking sting in Washington State led to the arrest of 12 men, all of whom are being accused of trying to sexually exploit children.

The charges include attempted child rape, communication with a minor for immoral purposes, and commercial sex abuse of a minor.

The sting, which was conducted in Pierce County by Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children’s Task Force, involved officers posting and responding to sexual ads online, according to the Tacoma News Tribune. The officers impersonated “preteens or parents offering their children for sex.”

Officers say they rescued two children during the latest sting. Detective Sergeant Carlos Rodriguez, who runs the task force, told the Tacoma News Tribune that suspects who unknowingly meet with undercover officers often bring along children.

The recent sting highlights the need for recently passed legislation that helps protect those who are trafficked for sexual exploitation.

In addition to experiencing inconceivable trauma, victims of sex trafficking often find themselves with criminal records after being convicted of engaging in prostitution and other crimes.

Thankfully, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation earlier this week that allows victims of sex trafficking to petition the court to vacate their convictions stemming from their time being trafficked.

The new law empowers victims of sexual exploitation to begin the arduous process of rebuilding their lives free the criminal records resulting from their time as sex slaves.

Although most Americans mistakenly assume that slavery has been eradicated in the United States and throughout most of the world, “sex trafficking in the U.S. a ‘problem of epidemic proportion,’” according to an FBI law enforcement bulletin quoted in the Washington Times.

Human trafficking victims are often prostituted or forced to participate in pornographic videos distributed online. It is believed that there exists an “inseparable link” between porn and sex slavery:

“The truth is, there is no way for [viewers of pornography] to tell if what they are watching was made illegally or if all parties are there willingly. And even if they’re there willingly, performing on camera, were they coerced or threatened into agreement? For this reason, clicking porn directly fuels the demand for sex traffickers to make money by selling video of their sex slaves to porn sites.”

Washingtonians need to be aware that human trafficking for sexual exploitation is occurring in their communities. Any progress against human trafficking in our beloved state will need to come through a concerted effort by law enforcement, legislators, and concerned citizens to prevent exploitation, punish traffickers, and protect victims.


This article was originally written for Family Policy Institute of Washington.

North Carolina Caves to Moneyed Interests, Abandons Women and Children

Carolina_DukeNorth Carolina legislators approved legislation repealing parts of HB2 yesterday.

HB2 was a common sense law that protected the privacy rights of women and children in schools and other government buildings by requiring that individuals use only restrooms and changing facilities consistent with their biological sex.

The repeal legislation, which is the result of a compromise between Democratic and Republican legislators, is designed to appease the NCAA, who threatened to prevent the state from hosting college sports championships unless the state repealed the contentious law.

In a press statement released after the passage of the legislation, NC Values Coalition President Tami Fitzgerald blamed state leaders for “letting down” North Carolinians:

“The truth remains, no basketball game, corporation, or entertainment event is worth even one little girl losing her privacy and dignity to a boy in the locker room, or being harmed or frightened in a bathroom.

“I hope that our state will learn from this and stand stronger in the future against the bullying and intimidation tactics of groups like the NCAA, the NBA, and billion dollar corporations who care more about their political, hypocritical agendas than the well-being and dignity of the people in our great state.”

The legislation passed yesterday repeals HB2’s prohibitions on individuals using the bathroom, changing facilities, and showers of their choice, regardless of biological sex.

However, it maintains HB2’s ban disallowing local governments from passing their own policies regarding private areas for three years.

HB2 was made necessary after the Charlotte City Council approved an ordinance forcing all businesses, schools, churches, and government buildings to allow individuals to use the bathroom, locker room, or changing facility of their choice, regardless of biological sex.

Ironically, the repeal legislation was opposed by both pro-family and liberal groups. Pro-family organizations view the deal as selling out the privacy of women and children to appease big business.

Liberal organizations like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and the Human Rights Campaign oppose the compromise because it maintains the three-year prohibition preventing local governments from setting their own policies.

Some companies and organizations threatened to leave the state and encouraged a boycott after the passage of HB2 last March.

Despite the boycott, tourism is “thriving” and business is “booming” in North Carolina, according to the Washington Times. The paper claims that North Carolina’s economy was generally unharmed by threats of boycotts and desertions.


This article was originally written for Family Policy Institute of Washington.

New York’s War on Parents

NYAmericans have traditionally understood that parents, not the state, have been delegated the responsibility to raise their children. But government officials in the Big Apple state are not afraid of running roughshod over parental rights, especially when it comes to a parent’s decisions about their children’s education.

Last week, the story of Kiarre Harris gained national attention. Harris, a single mother, felt her two children weren’t experiencing success in the Buffalo Public Schools they attended. Like many parents concerned about their children’s education, she decided to exercise her right to homeschool.

Harris filed paperwork to unenroll her children from public school, complying with the notoriously burdensome rules governing homeschooling families in New York. Working with a homeschool coordinator, Harris successfully completed the process on December 7, 2016.

A week after obtaining confirmation that she had successfully withdrawn her kids from public school, Harris received a phone call from a Child Protective Services representative, demanding to know why her children had been absent from school. She informed the CPS official that her children were now being homeschooled and offered to furnish copies of the paperwork that had been filed with the school district.

Harris thought the issue had been resolved – that is, until one month later, when CPS officials and police came to her home with a court order to remove her children, accusing her of “educational neglect.” When she refused to comply, police arrested her for obstruction. She was jailed and has been unable to see her children, who are now in foster care, for weeks.

Harris blames Buffalo Public Schools for not properly processing the paperwork unenrolling her children.

Buffalo Public Schools denies Harris’ claim. The district alleges that Harris had an encounter with CPS before making the decision to homeschool her kids. Their statement also implies that Harris did not have full custody of her kids, which is a requirement for parents making the decision to homeschool, but Harris contends that she does in fact have full legal custody.

“As we learn more, we realize [what has happened to Harris and her children] is happening a lot more than we realized,” said Samuel L. Radford, president of the District Parents Coordinating Council.

Unfortunately, Radford’s analysis seems to be right. According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, New York has earned a reputation for “their systematic mistreatment of homeschooling families.”

HSLDA is a non-profit advocacy organization that provides homeschooling families with legal services. It is suing New York City on behalf of Tanya Acevedo, a homeschooling mom. Like Harris, Acevedo was accused of “educational neglect” and was subjected to an invasive CPS investigation after New York City failed to properly process her paperwork withdrawing her son from his public school.

Jim Mason, HSLDA’s Vice President of Litigation, worked with Tanya as she battled CPS and New York City to exercise her right to homeschool her child. He published the following statement on December 5, 2016:

“After Tanya [Acevedo’s] situation was resolved, I asked other NYC homeschooling families for their stories. What I found appalled me.

“Family after family have found themselves in legal limbo because [New York City’s Central Office of Homeschooling] simply cannot or will not follow the timelines in the regulation. More than one homeschooling family told me they had been turned over to CPS because of the office’s delayed handling of the homeschooling paperwork.

“The injustice against homeschooling families in New York City can no longer be tolerated. On December 5, HSLDA filed a civil rights lawsuit against New York City public schools over their systematic mistreatment of homeschooling families. We are asking for money damages and for a court to order the New York City bureaucracy to simply follow New York’s homeschooling regulation.”

Harris and Acevedo’s regrettable experiences shed light on the difficulties homeschooling families face. Despite the Supreme Court’s recognition that parents have a fundamental right to “establish a home and bring up children” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 1923), some elitist bureaucrats feel they can make better decisions than parents about what is best for children .

The family is society’s first and most important institution, and the parent-child relationship is sacrosanct. Parents are ultimately responsible for the education and well-being of their children. As long as parents comply with reasonable expectations, government shouldn’t interfere with this sacred relationship unless the child’s health or safety is at risk.

At present, Harris’ kids are still in foster care. New York officials should wise up, realize they aren’t the parents, and stop violating the rights of those who are.


This article was originally written for Family Policy Institute of Washington.

Is the Idea of a Christian Nation Heretical?

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Highlighting our nation’s Christian heritage, “In God We Trust” is inscribed on the wall behind the Speaker’s chair in the U.S. Capitol Building House Chamber.

Is it wrong for Christians to celebrate a nation’s godly heritage?

The answer is yes, at least according to an editorial published today in the Washington Post.

In his opinion piece, multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens asserts that Christians engage in “heresy” when they “declare the United States a Christian nation.”

As a matter of historical fact, the United States was indeed founded as a Christian nation.

From our nation’s earliest beginnings, Americans recognized God’s authority and sought to recreate society in accordance with His design. The Pilgrims and Puritans who first disembarked on American shores understood themselves to be “New Israelites” settling a “New Israel,” and later generations of American colonists explicitly expressed in government documents their belief that their communities were in covenant with God.

Our corporate reliance on God and affirmation of His truth was also evident throughout the American War for Independence. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams affirmed that “the general principles on which the [founding] fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.”

The revered Declaration of Independence, our first act as an independent nation, contains four references to God, extolling His role as humanity’s Creator, the Author of natural law and divine revelation, the Supreme Judge of the Universe, and the sovereign and providential disposer of people, nations, and history.

Even the Supreme Court formally declared America to be a Christian nation, legally and historically speaking, in Holy Trinity Church v. U.S. (1892).

Sufjan Stevens’ argument is predicated on his implied belief that it is wrong for Christians to celebrate a nation’s faithfulness to God, His natural and revealed law, and His Gospel. “You cannot pledge allegiance to a nation state and its flag and the name of God,” he writes, “for God has no political boundary.”

It goes without saying that God has no political boundary. Jesus was not crucified as a substitutional, atoning sacrifice and resurrected from the dead to give salvation to only one nation or people – He died for all people, of all races and ethnicities (Galatians 3:28). No individual should put faith in their nationality as the basis for their salvation.

However, George Washington would have disagreed with Stevens as to whether it is heretical for Christians to celebrate their nation’s godly heritage and give thanks for all that God has done for them. In his 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation, our first president wrote, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.”

President Washington’s sentiment comports with biblical truth: “The nations who forget God shall be turned into Hell” (Psalm 9:17). Thankfully, our nation was built on the firm foundation of the Judeo-Christian worldview. As a Christian, I pray that we recommit ourselves to that firm foundation. After all, although the Psalmist tells us that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 33:12), he also warns, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).

Ironically, while Sufjan Stevens’ editorial accuses others of heresy, he flirts with heresy himself.

First, Stevens denies that Christians should be loyal and patriotic citizens, contradicting the Bible’s teachings (Jeremiah 29:7, Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17, Titus 3:1-2) and thousands of years of Christian tradition. If the Apostle Paul claimed his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:22-29), why shouldn’t Christians all the more happily claim their American citizenship?

Second, by writing that Jesus “acknowledged [government] as a necessary evil,” Stevens mischaracterizes Matthew 22:21. The Bible and Christian tradition tell us that government isn’t a necessary evil. Instead, government is part of God’s design for ordering human life in a fallen world. Lest we forget, God created the nations of the world (Acts 17:26). When acting within their legitimately delegated sphere of influence, government officials are “God’s servants” for the good of their citizens (Romans 13:4).

Our nation was founded on the revealed truth of the Judeo-Christian Almighty God. Not only should Christians rejoice, but we should also recognize and assume the additional responsibility that accompanies the blessings and favor God has shown our nation by walking in obedience and working for justice in society and the world.