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Demographics: Churches and Schools Division

Tuesday, December 23, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Mark Steyn calls himself a demographics bore, but anyone who has read American Alone knows that demographics are indeed destiny.

And not just for countries and subcontinents, but also for congregations and school districts.

Today the Wall Street Journal ran a long story on the number of churches running into terrible financial difficulties and even foreclosure on their church buildings because of shrinking congregations and budgets.

This week as well the California Teachers Association announced a push for a new initiative to raise the sales tax by 1% to make up for budget shortfalls –this despite a declining school age population. I might actually vote for increased school funding via a dedicated sales tax, but first I have to be persuaded of the need, and simply shouting fire isn’t enough anymore.

Today’s program features Mike Regele, CEO of MissionInsite.com and DecisionInsite.com, two firms that deal with demographic forecasting for churches and school districts respectively. I have known Mike for 20 years, and believe with him in the power of demographics analysis completely. As a result, i am sympathetic to churches and school districts that have fallen on hard times, but I also have to wonder if the folks running them have taken the time to ask some basic questions, such as whether there are enough bodies in a community to fill the pews and whether there are too many schools for a particular community?

Only a couple of decades ago, a lot of informed guess work went into the decision of where to plant a church or build a school. These days with the programming and data at the fingertips of many extraordinary specialists, it is very hard to justify new taxes (or fund drives) without first seeing in black-and-white a demand analysis. One good effect of the recession may be to force public entities and not-for-profits into the 21rst century when it comes to planning.

If you have a question for Mike Regele, you can e-mail him at mregele@missioninsite.com or mregele@decisioninsite.com.

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November’s Housing Weakness; December’s Refinance Wave

Tuesday, December 23, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Headlines today will report that the housing market was awful in November. No surprise there. As October’s stock market sell-off rippled through the economy, home buyers froze and walked away in November.

Today’s Wall Street Journal also reports on the huge surge in mortgage refinacing in December, a massive rush reported on my show a couple of times in the past two weeks by Roger Schlessinger, and one that arrived after a lot of the mortgage business had laid off its loan officers and closing teams. But those that have stayed in the business through ups and downs like Roger are having one of the best months of their long careers, and, he points out, there are lots of purchases in the stack as savvy buyers –some of whom pulled the plug in October– sense a bottom and return to pick up very reasonably priced houses.

The president-elect’s team would be smart to build on this beginning of a recovery in housing by assuring long-term mortgages for new buyers and refinacing families. Given the rise in inter-generational transfer of houses –tax-driven in some places like California where a change in ownership from parents to children can save the latter hundreds of thousands in property taxes over their life in a house– perhaps Congress should be focused on encouraging 40 or even 50 year mortgages at today’s affordable rates.

If housing recovers quickly, the economy recovers quickly. Congress and the president-elect should stay focused on that very basic fact.

Quick: Where’s Guinea? Do We Care If There’s A Coup?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The life of the president, and the president-elect, is made up of such questions.

Scores of them. Often on the same day.

One of the reasons everyone should be welcoming Rick Warren to the inauguration –discussed in E.J. Dionne’s column this morning– is that the new president needs the prayers and support of the entire country in dealing with five thousand issues most Americans will never notice nor much care about but which will have life-and-death consequences in faraway places. There’s going to be a lot of space for political debates and tough battles over a host of policies over the next four years, but there is also that huge slice of the job that isn’t political –what to do about Guinea, if anything– that all Americans should hope the new president figures out quickly and acts with regard to wisely and expeditiously.

The relentless Bush-bashing b y the BDS-sufferers may tempt a lot of the right to go over to the offensive on the entire front from day one and to belittle and demean the president-elect as the left has tried to do to W for most of the past eight years. That’s a mistake for the country and for the conservative and Republican causes. It is also unfair to the world which needs an America that doesn’t politicize everything it touches, even faraway places.

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