When Policy Choices Become Moral Mandates

food-stamps

Two recent newspaper articles—one in the Catholic and the other in the secular press—illustrate the need to be skeptical about claims that particular public policy approaches are morally necessary. Both discussed recent federal legislative efforts: one to raise the minimum wage, the other to cut food stamp benefits (the legislation that ultimately passed did so slightly). Both involve helping the economically disadvantaged. Concern for the poor is certainly a Christian obligation. The universal destination of created goods and a just wage are basic principles of Catholic social teaching and the right to life and the means necessary for its development (such as food, shelter, medical care, etc.) is at the top of the list of human rights stressed by the popes. The problem is that policies cannot be made synonymous with a moral principle itself, or held to be essential to achieving it.

This confusion was made manifest right in the title of the Catholic press article, which was from the Catholic News Service and appeared in my diocesan newspaper: “Calls to Hike Minimum Wage Echo Long-Standing Catholic Social Teaching.” A Fordham University professor was quoted as suggesting that Catholics have to support a minimum wage increase. In truth, nowhere in the papal social encyclicals does it say that laws mandating a minimum wage are morally required. The article mentioned how the Church in the U.S. has long made this a legislative priority and while acknowledging that a minimum wage is not a living wage, nevertheless proceeded to discuss it as if it were. It virtually outright dismissed any arguments against the current proposed increase—to say nothing of the issue of whether minimum wage legislation generally is a good idea—by quoting a University of Illinois professor who is a political scientist and labor relations scholar and activist (and not an economist) that “‘there is no argument not to increase the minimum wage.’”

The other article talked about how physicians were warning that a cut in the food stamp program would certainly cause health problems for the poor and an increase in health care costs that would be borne by government. So, if the taxpayers did not ante up now they would have to do so later. It quoted two physicians, one who heads a children’s health advocacy organization and another a medical professor, who respectively called the proposal to cut food stamps “‘dumb’” and “‘sort of ridiculous.’”

Besides absolutizing policy approaches—basically suggesting that if these policies were not in place and, in fact, not expanded it would be immoral and damaging to people’s welfare—the articles illustrated several other problems with how public policy is thought about. First, of course, is the familiar tendency to shut down any opposing or different ideas about how to address the questions at hand and, more, to demonize anyone who dares do so (they are “dumb” or “ridiculous”). We even at times witness some orthodox Catholics who are quick to brand anyone who raises questions about a policy like the minimum wage as a “neoliberal” (with the implication that he’s a dissenter from Catholic social teaching). As is so often the case, neither article examined the question sufficiently. While the one on the minimum wage mentioned the argument that increases could lead to business closings and job loss, it quickly dismissed it. It never considered that that could also present a moral problem. It also failed to note that teenagers, students, and second wage earners in a family hold most minimum wage jobs.

The article’s suggestion that hiking the minimum wage will help alleviate poverty seems to have ignored the fact that two-thirds of those categorized as impoverished do not work at all, so a minimum wage increase ipso facto would not help them. It didn’t consider that the biggest beneficiaries might be suburban teenagers from better-off families in after-school jobs. For all of its attempt to make minimum wage laws look like an imperative of Catholic social teaching, the writer of the article seemed impervious to the fact that the country that did much to inspire the development of the Church’s modern social teaching, Germany, has no general minimum wage (though there is a vague legal provision prohibiting an “immoral wage”). Mostly, minimum wages there are set by collective bargaining agreements. In fact, several other countries also have alternatives to minimum wage laws.

One of the problems of Catholic activists and even spokesmen for the Church in the U.S. who promote something like minimum wage laws is that they seem to grab for it just because “that’s what’s out there.” They also have bought into the standard American mentality—especially pronounced on the left, of course—that there’s always a legislative solution to a problem. The issue is compounded here because they haven’t even defined sufficiently the problem they are trying to solve (as the article’s statements about poverty make clear). Indeed, if addressing poverty is what’s important, why did the article say nothing about the problems of single parenthood, illegitimacy, and family breakdown (that is, issues involving personal conduct)—which are major contributing factors to poverty? Before being so ready to embrace a legislative solution, did they reflect about the greatest example of a programmatic failure to solve the poverty problem, LBJ’s “War on Poverty” whose fiftieth anniversary we’re now celebrating? Do they devote any effort to other ways to build up what might be called a “just-wage culture,” such as by actively promoting sound business ethics?

Minimum wage laws may indeed be necessary. I have not been an anti-minimum wage advocate. It’s a problem, however, when people don’t even want to debate such an issue, or dismiss out-of-hand serious questions raised about it, or implicitly insist that one thing is the only workable policy approach, or try to claim that this or any policy approach is an imperative of Catholic social teaching instead of acknowledging that it, despite its eighty-year history, is a matter of prudential judgment.

The article on cutting the food stamp program (by the Associated Press), besides making claims of consequences about which solid evidence of a clear cause-and-effect relationship might be hard to come by, similarly saw no other way to address an aspect of poverty. While mentioning private food banks—which it claimed were overstretched—this one federal program operating at a certain level seemed to be the only real solution. Again, there was no mention of single parenthood and the other problems that contribute to poverty. Nothing was said about personal conduct in any way being a factor. While talking a lot about the adverse effects on children, none of the spokesmen or activists quoted said anything about the increasing trend of young, able-bodied male adults to be on the food stamp rolls or about whether it might be problematical in some way that almost 50 million Americans are now on food stamps. The spiraling costs to the American taxpayer seemed to be a non-issue.

They seemed impervious to the conditions under which those categorized as impoverished in the U.S. are living: 80 percent have air conditioning, 92 percent have a microwave, 70 percent have a VCR, two-thirds have cable or satellite TV, more than half of “poor” families with children have a video game system, etc. Why could those with genuine food needs not be sufficiently helped by expanded private and charitable efforts? Do they know for sure that additional private funds are not available? Were efforts to help those truly in need of adequate food before the food stamp program was started under LBJ insufficient? It may have been the same as with health care for the poor. Great Society-era policymakers just assumed—without adequately researching it—that the poor needed a national program (Medicaid), when in fact there was an enormous amount of charity care available.

So the food stamp article also was a shallow examination of both that program and the broader topic of poverty that it’s part of and also showed a fixation on one kind of policy approach—carried out at the highest level, the federal government.

Having seen the problems of these two major public policies—and doubtless many other current economic and social welfare policies—is there an alternative? That obviously requires careful examination of the subject, giving heed to tough questions and uncomfortable facts, and engaging in sober-minded reflection and consideration of different courses of action—the very things I’ve said are not much being done. Ideology, perceptions, truisms, a sense of moral righteousness, and just a plain fixation on a certain way of thinking seem, rather, to rule. As a result, the contingent becomes the absolute, and mere policy choices are confused with moral truth.

Stephen M. Krason

By

Stephen M. Krason's "Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic" column appears monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) in Crisis Magazine. He is Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville and co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. His is the author of several books including The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic (Transaction Publishers, 2012), and most recently an edited volume entitled, Child Abuse, Family Rights, and the Child Protective System (Scarecrow Press, 2013).

  • lifeknight

    Thank you for another thought-provoking article. Obviously, throwing taxpayer dollars at the poor only serves to further breed the dependence we see rampant in our American system. Why work for minimum wage–or even above it– if you can enjoy food stamps, health care, and rental subsidies?

  • Don

    Great article highlighting the central tactic of the Left ~ demonize everyone with a critical thought to preclude a meaningful discussion of the issue. Unfortunately it is an easy and apparently tempting tactic because so many Catholics (including bishops) have slipped into a similar mode.

    • tom

      Bishops get no personal enjoyment helping a husband and wife with 1.7 kids decide whether to send Jr. to Notre Dame or Georgetown. they prefer poor Baptists and illegals who have real needs…even if their efforts undermine the rule of law and transfer wealth from their own flock to law breakers and rip-off artists of the Baptist persuasion in our urban ghettos. both groups hurt the Catholic-American worker, reducing his Dignity. The bishops need analysis.

  • Irene Mallin

    ”Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”. God doesn’t need your taxes but your neighbor might.

    • TheAbaum

      Then cut out the middleman and help your neighbor.

  • John O’Neill

    One of the basic problems with big government and big Charity(Catholic Charities included here) are that they do very little to help the people most in need. In fact these two entities take in billions of dollars and have little affect on the conditions of the poor. Indeed the leader of the corporate charity business pays its various ceos up to a million dollars per annum plus generous expense accounts. So your money donated to these charities is likely to wind up in the pockets of the local Mercedes Benz dealer or up scale real estate brokers who serve the wealthy charity rich. The government social justice mafia manages to spend much of the hundreds of millions of dollars they extort from the taxpayers into the upscale life style of government bureaucrats who manage these multifarious programs. Since the days of LBJ and his war on poverty the government has spent almost a trillion dollars on its programs and there are still more poor today than when they started. My wife and I prefer to donate to local charities where we see what is being done. The local food bank is a good place to start and to help out on any parish group that is serving our immediate neighbors in their time of need. There are some national charities that do a good job without paying out enormous salaries to their managers and Salvation Army is one of them to which we would donate. We have not donated to the Catholic Charities in a long time; it is obvious that the CC has a political agenda just like the USCCB and it is dubious whether they would help the real poor. I think that the Social Justice professors at the many Catholic Universities should hand over at least a tenth of their salary to support the organized charity cabal.

    • Diogenes71

      I thought the cost of the War on Poverty was more; something like three trillion. Also, handling the need at the lowest level, the Principle of Subsidiarity, is very effective. St. Vincent de Paul Society, parish food banks, etc., do outstanding work -with volunteers and donations. To think that governments are engaged in charity is silly. The overseas food programs to help the poor in foreign countries, really helped the producers here in the US. Fr. Robert Sirico in “Defending the Free Market” has an explanation of how this works.
      When the administration, or the CRS speaks about he;ping the poor, there is no mention of creating wealth. Of making the people truly independent. Private companies that let people have their products, “grub staking” them, to sell to their neighbors, then keep 50% or so of the total is a way of building wealth.
      I am very wary of any large charity because of the huge administrative costs (jobs programs) involved.

    • wraithby

      Catholic Charities is an adjunct of the almighty State. The State plays the tune and CCs tap dances.

  • AcceptingReality

    The “real” economists that I have read, like Freedman and Hayek, saw minimum wage laws as detrimental to a thriving economy. They can cause decreases in full time employment and price increases on consumer goods. Those “physicians” and “professors” you mentioned are not really interested in helping the poor. They are interested in social engineering and redistribution. If helping the poor were at the heart of their advocacy they wouldn’t ignore the fact that minimum wage increases don’t help those at the bottom. They are satisfied with it though, because they see such laws as taking away from those they think are wealthy. But minimum wage laws harm business owners in the middle class more than those at the top…….Catholics who think Church social teaching demands minimum wage laws and redistributive government programs have a murky understanding of Church Social Teaching and the real world. Sadly that includes a lot of men in mitres and collars. Most Catholics in general are not familiar enough with Rerum Novarum or Centesimus Anum. That also includes men in mitres and collars. If they were they would be more supportive of the free market and less support of big government.

    • Beak86

      Well said!

    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

      Which is why we need a maximum wage law. But where in Rerum Novarum Paragraph 20 do you find the right to pay people so little that they have to depend upon welfare to survive?

      • teapartydoc

        Saying someone said something they didn’t say is the same as lying. Who taught you to lie like that?

        • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

          I have no other interpretation for “minimum wage is immoral” when the current minimum wage is already so low that people have to depend upon welfare to survive.

          I see no lie in it at all.

  • tom

    The Church needs psychotherapy. it wants more illegals to undercut its own members around the world.
    Min. Wage? It encourages illegals who can work off the books hurting Catholic citizens..especially our young.
    Food Stamps? The federally financed cause of obesity, DM and heart disease.

    William Buckley suggested FREE FOOD in each supermarket for those in need.: Dry milk, beans, margarine, rice, flour, yeast etc. It’d be cheaper, no red-tape and of more nutritional without our welfare wards taking up 2 seats on the bus..

    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

      I like that idea. In addition, for food produced below cost anyway thanks to American farm subsidies, we need a formula for pricing based on nutrition to calories ratios. Maybe we could end the scandal of the fat person starving to death for lack of vitamins and minerals and fiber.

      • tom

        The late William F. Buckley gets the credit for broadcasting the idea some 20 years ago. Food for thought!

        • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

          And I’ve been advocating it ever since I heard it from him. Didn’t stop me from making the wrong calculation in my food choices though.

  • tamsin

    American society has grown so affluent we have lost perspective.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    “In truth, nowhere in the papal social encyclicals does it say that laws mandating a minimum wage are morally required.”

    Rerum Novarum Paragraph 20, I suggest you read it. It doesn’t have to be done by law, but any employer cheating the poor of just wages is certainly committing a sin against both Man and God, one that Cries out to Heaven for Vengeance. Therefore I say, those who oppose minimum wage laws and oppose a living wage for married men, are indeed contributing to a great social injustice. One that has, in our day, encouraged sexual immorality, contraception, and abortion- their profit is built on the dead bodies of children.

    • Bernadette

      The point of Mr. Krason’s article is that, while it is a sin to cheat the poor of their just wages, a law mandating a minimum wage is not necessarily the best way to ensure that justice is done. The Church does not teach that we must support a minimum wage law, as indeed, you admit.

      • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

        Then Mr. Krason has failed to notice that most employers in America are atheists who ARE currently cheating their workers of a Just Wage, who will only be influenced by a law for a just wage.

        Including, I suspect, many people Mr. Krason looks up to as being materially successful human beings. Most wealth in America is built off of cheating either labor or customers.

        • Art Deco

          If they are not deceiving their workforce about the compensation rates, they are not ‘cheating’ anyone.

          • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

            They are cheating the taxpayer- and are guilty of welfare fraud.

            If you have told somebody that you want them to work full time, you should pay them enough so that they can live off of the wages earned from the job. If they can’t, and have to go on welfare, then you are guilty of welfare fraud.

            • Art Deco

              They are not cheating the taxpayer either, Theodore. They have no understandings with any taxpayer. Their understanding is with the worker and that is to perform tasks for wages.

              Your answer does indicate what some of the troublesome elements of Rerum Novarum are: they assume a set of social relations which do not in fact exist anymore: master-apprentice relationships and the ecclesiastical stipend economy.

              • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

                “They have no understandings with any taxpayer.”

                The standard social contract in the United States is that if you are an employer of people working full time, you WILL provide wages equivalent to full time work.

                “Your answer does indicate what some of the troublesome elements of Rerum Novarum are: they assume a set of social relations which do not in fact exist anymore: master-apprentice relationships and the ecclesiastical stipend economy.”

                The fact that those relations have ceased to exist is a form of fraudulent behavior in and of itself- and should be the shame of anybody who claims that the free market is moral.

                • Art Deco

                  The standard social contract in the United States is that if you are an employer of people working full time, you WILL provide wages equivalent to full time work.

                  Have no idea what you fancy you are referring to. There is no generalized expectation in this country that you pay part-time employees as if they were full-time employees.

                  The fact that those relations have ceased to exist is a public scandal in and of itself- and should be the shame of anybody who claims that the free market is moral.

                  Very few people have ever subsisted within a donations-and-stipends economy. As for the remainder, extant public pressure to revive statutes governing apprenticeships = nil.

                  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

                    “Have no idea what you fancy you are referring to. There is no generalized expectation in this country that you pay part-time employees as if they were full-time employees.”

                    I’m not talking about part time people. I’m talking about people who work a 40 hour week, and are still not paid enough to eat.

                    “Very few people have ever subsisted within a donations-and-stipends economy. As for the remainder, extant public pressure to revive statutes governing apprenticeships = nil.”

                    It worked for a thousand years before the mercantilists took over.

                    • Art Deco

                      It worked for a thousand years before the mercantilists took over.

                      That’s an absolutely bizarre multilayered non sequitur. ‘Mercantilism’ refers to a complex of regulatory practices which favor particular industries and (in the early modern period) were undertaken toward efforts to ensure trade surpluses. Pretty irrelevant to such matters as guild regulation, the indenture of youths, &c. which antedated and post-dated early modern mercantilism.

                      Medieval historians have only the sketchiest idea of social relations during the early medieval period, so you’re talking out of your a$$.

                    • Art Deco

                      I’m talking about people who work a 40 hour week, and are still not paid enough to eat.

                      They must be working interesting places. Mean per capita expenditures on groceries amount to around about $2,900 per annum. In my home town, you can find a two bedroom apartment for around about $420 per tenant per month. A bus pass will set you back about $60 per month. Add in an increment for social security taxes and it sums to $780 per month. Mean monthly work time for f/t employees comes to around 155 hours. So, you’re being paid $5.20 per hour in nominal terms, or, in real terms, a quantum which has been below the statutory minimum for more than 60 years.

                      That aside, you’re contending that no one can hire someone without assuming responsibility for his domestic life, which might have made some sense when you had apprentices living in your loft. It goes against the very nature of the sort of partial and contingent economic relations people have (and injures people who benefit from partial and contingent relations).

                    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

                      Where do you live where you can find an apartment for HALF the cost of Portland?

                      The only people who benefit from “partial and contingent economic relations” are those who use those relations to keep dictatorial power in the workplace.

                    • Art Deco

                      It’s called getting a roommate, theodore.

                    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

                      And you take care of a family with a roommate exactly how, since we’re all obviously pro-life and want another generation to be born?

                    • Theodore

                      Art Deco, do you live on a minimum wage? Do you live on anything close to a minimum wage? Have you EVER had to try to live on just the minimum wage for some indefinite and lengthy period?? If not, then you have no clue what you are talking about.
                      .
                      In general, the phenomenon of those who earn many times the minimum wage making claims about how easy it is to live on a minimum wage is scandalous and outrageous. It is the epitome of arrogant complacency and judgmentalness.

                    • Art Deco

                      Theodore Seeber made some precise claims about characteristics of the current labor market and levels of nutrition which are untrue. No amount of bluster on your part changes that.

                    • Theodore

                      Art Deco,
                      .
                      First a question: What is your annual salary?
                      .
                      Then, a news flash: Poor people (i.e., those who work full time for minimum wage) may be able to afford enough calories, but the food they eat is necessarily low quality and of poor nutritional value, since they cannot afford nutritious food.
                      .
                      Poor people may be able to rent an apartment – barely – but when winter heating bills climb through the roof, they must choose between feeding their families, heating their apartment, and/or paying the rent.
                      .
                      They are powerless over their conditions of employment, as the likes of Walmart can easily afford to fire them and hire someone in their place, should they complain about routine forms of exploitation such as having to work overtime for no pay at all.
                      .
                      Forget about healthcare if they get sick – which is very likely given the high levels of chronic stress associated with living under such conditions. Of course, they have no health insurance and cannot afford to pay a doctor out of pocket. So they just learn to deal with the miseries associated with their chronic stress, chronic ill-health, etc.,etc.
                      .
                      THAT is the reality for millions upon millions of working poor in this country. Yet you and so many others who post here are complacently, arrogantly, and hypocritically clueless – as though being able to afford a TV and (possibly) a beat-up, unreliable old car on a minimum wage salary somehow proves that the working poor are in reality wealthy and have it easy.
                      .
                      The studied cluelessness of so many on this site who are so quick to moralize about abortion, birth control, etc., yet who are so quick to judge the working poor in the most callous, amoral way is a disgusting spectacle to behold.
                      .
                      If there is any justice in the world, then you yourself and the likes of you on this website – including Dr. Krason – will soon find yourselves in this sort of situation of quiet desperation that the working poor undergo year-in, year-out also. (It may well happen, given that industrial economies are all currently undergoing a protracted process of collapse). Such an experience would hopefully humble you all in a way that you are all sorely in spiritual need of.

                    • Art Deco

                      My suggestion is that you return when you are ready to discuss the issues. I am not your therapist or your wife and have no interest in wading through your rants.

                    • Theodore

                      The issue is simple: You and your ilk lack understanding and empathy for those in poverty. You moralize on a narrow band of select issues (abortion, euthanasia, etc.) to make yourself feel “moral and noble,” but hypocritically and callously cast aside all moral values when it comes to your declamations about poverty, the minimum/just wage, etc.
                      .
                      You and your ilk are sorry excuses for the morally principled persons of faith as which you posture. And believe me, the unbelievers of this world take notice of such things. As such, your hypocrisy and callousness towards the poor is a scandal upon the Cross of our Savior.

                    • Art Deco

                      No. We have a rough understanding of how markets work and the implications of employing price floors. You raise the minimum wage, and a small corps of employees get a raise and another corps of potential hires are locked out of the market. Actual improvement in the living conditions at that end of the social scale = diddly/squat.

                      You moralize on a narrow band of select issues (abortion, euthanasia,
                      etc.) to make yourself feel “moral and noble,” but hypocritically and
                      callously cast aside all moral values when it comes to your declamations
                      about poverty, the minimum/just wage, etc.

                      You’re projecting “Theodore”.

    • DD

      So, there is no moral mandate to support any particular law on this matter in 2014 in the USA. Got it.

      • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

        Really? When McDonalds and WalMart pay their people so little that they are taking our food stamp money to support THEIR workers, you can say that?

        Major failure to understand Rerum Novarum Paragraph 20.

        • DD

          Huh? That is your evidence for supporting some partisan political position? Hardly.

          • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

            Partisan political positions are always about the misdeeds of secularists. They’re never about anything else.

    • http://www.windsofchange.net/ Joe Katzman

      Let’s start where we agree. Cheating the poor is a sin, people need to be able to support themselves with a full day’s work, and we want as many people working as possible for both economic and moral/personal reasons (and yeah, the food industry is a scandal – topic for another day).

      Now, the hard part: to DO good, not just feel good while knifing the people next to us.

      If your minimum wage proposal causes many people making the current minimum wage to become unemployed, *you* are cheating the poor of just wages, in order to obtain a false form of personal satisfaction. File under “sin against man and God….”

      For that matter, why not make the minimum wage $100,000 – then we could all be rich! But if that wouldn’t work… why not? And how might that apply to your specific standalone proposal?

      If it was as simple as you believe, Mr. Seeber, this problem wouldn’t exist. We need to tackle this, but you won’t find a definitive answer in Scripture or church teachings, any more than you’ll find the plans for an iPad in Rerum Novarum. We have to craft an answer in light of our spiritual AND secular understanding, debating to uncover weaknesses. You stopped short by saying the problem didn’t have to be solved by law, but failure to consider that there may be other angles on solving the problem besides “minimum wage” is dangerous ground: practically, morally, and even spiritually if you’re tying in Church teachings.

      • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

        The key is to realize that the specific value of money is fungible and does not matter. Make it $15/hr, make it $100,000/hr, you’re going to have to change it next month or next year again anyway- because the problem isn’t solved by a minimum wage, you’re right.

        The real problem is far, far deeper- the real problem is Original Sin, and how to teach it to people who do not have the light of our spiritual understanding at all.

        I have no other possible angle on doing that other than punishing the unjust use of wages.

        • http://www.windsofchange.net/ Joe Katzman

          “… the real problem is Original Sin, and how to teach it to people who do
          not have the light of our spiritual understanding at all.”

          Forced viewings of The Office? :-)

          • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

            More Office Space, but that doesn’t solve the problem of the people who want to be Bill. :-)

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    In Casti Conubii (1930) Pope Pius XI wrote, ” it is obvious how great a peril can arise to the public security and to the welfare and very life of civil society itself when such men are reduced to that condition of desperation that, having nothing which they fear to lose, they are emboldened to hope for chance advantage from the upheaval of the state and of established order.

    Wherefore, those who have the care of the State and of the public good cannot neglect the needs of married people and their families, without bringing great harm upon the State and on the common welfare. Hence, in making the laws and in disposing of public funds they must do their utmost to relieve the needs of the poor, considering such a task as one of the most important of their administrative duties.”

  • Ita Scripta Est

    We even at times witness some orthodox Catholics who are quick to brand anyone who raises questions about a policy like the minimum wage as a “neoliberal” (with the implication that he’s a dissenter from Catholic social teaching).

    Orthodox Catholics like Pope Francis?

    • Augustus

      So, Pope Francis believes American critics of the minimum wage are “neoliberals” who dissent from Catholic social teaching? Care to provide evidence?

      • Ita Scripta Est

        No. Pope Francis has criticized neo-liberalism though.

        • Art Deco

          Can you define ‘neo-liberalism’ and indicate which of Francis’ statements could ever be applied by a policy-maker?

          • Ita Scripta Est

            So you are you actually denying that Francis has criticized liberalism?

            • Art Deco

              No, I am asking you to show your work.

              • Ita Scripta Est

                I cite his recent Apostolic Exhortation for Francis criticizing the central aspects of CST. There is no ambiguity.

                • Art Deco

                  No, you made a vague reference to what he said, not a citation. No clue what you refer to here when you say “CST”. Neither have you defined ‘neo-liberalism’ or offered any statements by Francis which could be applied by a policy-maker.

                  • Ita Scripta Est

                    Yeah Art I guess you knew what I meant to say better than I do. If you think Pope Francis hasn’t criticized neo-liberalism (neo-liberalism defined under any reasonable definition) than you are delusional.Either way discussions with you are a waste of time.

                    • Art Deco

                      You’ve been asked for a definition, a citation, and an application. It’s not that difficult, even if you fancy it a ‘waste of time’.

                    • Ita Scripta Est

                      Yawn..more meaningless words.

                    • Art Deco

                      And another evasion.

                    • Ita Scripta Est

                      No evasion. You’re just delusional.

                    • Art Deco

                      Now evasions topped with random insults.

                • Arriero

                  Luther and Calvin also hated and misread the Pope’s word.

                  Always keep in mind that ROME DOES NOT PAY TRAITORS.

              • TheAbaum

                That presumes there’s work to show.

        • Arriero

          Pope Francis has rightfully criticized the utterly nihilist pseudo-calvinist wings within that already many times prostituted concept that is capitalism.

          Pope Francis knows that there is only one fair, balanced and good capitalism: that which was beautifully discussed and developed by those great Counter-Reformation Catholic theologians and intellectuals – especially Father Juan de Mariana and the School of Salamanca – in their attempt to placate the protestant evil, which was not only religious, but political and economical.

          It’s worth saying that everything regarding liberalism has already been said. Those who think that the Pope is going to talk – or has been talking – about minimum wages and other «details» about the economy, have misread this Pope. There is no better enemy that one from within your house!

          PD- Pope Francis, by the way, wrote the word «derrame» in his last Exhortation (which is incredibly wise and beautiful, even more if read in the original in spanish), and someone wrongly translated it to the english as «trickle-down». This is like translating pear for apple.

          • Ita Scripta Est

            Arriero, I take it you consider yourself an Austrian then? Suffice it to say I have not found their appropriation of the of the School of Salamanca to be not that convincing. Still supposing the Salamanca are somehow proto-Austrians- then Salamanca was wrong.

            • Arriero

              - «I take it you consider yourself an Austrian then?»

              Catholic, only. And I’m not from Austria.

              The first Austrian School stole the works of the School of Salamanca and, as has happened on many with this Pope, misread what they wanted and, actually, were saying.

              First of all, the modern State is a classical liberal invention, supported by the Counter-Reformation Catholic intellectuals, which allowed the transition from absolutism to liberalism – later being stole by protestant liberalism -.

              Second, Martin de Azpilicueta, probably the first greatest monetarist on history, had respect for money, unlike the current golden calfers lovers.

              Third, Félix de Sardá, already wrote in the late XIXth that «liberalism is a sin».

              Fourth, the anti-state rethorics are profoundly anti-Catholic insofar as the great majority of these rethorics are also anti-govenment, which has always been a very protestant attitude against the only true government, that coming from the Church.

              Fifth, without the State the Church would have never become the greatest Institution the Eath has ever known. Theodosius made Catholicism the official religion. A Pope crowned Charlemagne, etc.

              Whatever that smells protestant does no good to the Church. Allow these Pope to clean such smells.

              • Ita Scripta Est

                Excellent comment. I completely agree.

  • Greg Fazzari

    When recent hires get paid what they are worth (for example $8.00/hr) then long-term and/or skilled employees can be paid a just wage (maybe $14.00/hr). When recent hires are paid more than they are worth (for example $10.00/hr), then long-term and/or skill workers get proportionately less (say $12.00/hr).

    If you want to pay good employees and skilled labor a living wage, stop demanding that businesses pay recent hires and unskilled employees more than they are worth.

    • Objectivetruth

      Interestingly, only 3% of the work force in the US makes minimum wage, with 60% of them teenagers working part time/summer jobs. In other words, the minimum wage discussion is far more a political football than a human rights issue.

      • Patrick

        That is indeed interesting, considering that the most recent data I could find states that 50% of people earning minimum wage are OVER 25.
        And that the average age of a minimum wage earner is 35.
        And that 4.7% of the workforce earns minimum wage.
        As of 2012, the most recent year that data has been processed for.

        Unless you have access to data that hasn’t even finished being tabulated, that is. Feel free to give a source on your data. Here’s mine: http://www.bls.gov/cps/minwage2012.htm

        • Objectivetruth

          Incorrect, read this:

          http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/07/19/who-makes-minimum-wage/

          And you do realize that a large percentage of minimum wage earners are “tipped” employees (waiters, bartenders) whose actual “take home pay” (hourly rate plus tips) is above the minimum wage?

          And I guess you didn’t read the part of my post where I stated this is “far more political football than human rights issue?” The democrats up for midterm election are going to be slaughtered due to Obamacare. They’re looking for anything to divert the attention from this. Minimum wage has become their rallying cry to try to get reelected, making it seem like the problem is far greater than it actually is. And what has become classic Obama tactics, by attacking Big box companies like Walmart they now have the “demon” they are looking for. It’s similar to the attack and demonizing on the “1%” not paying their “fair share” of taxes. But the bottom line is when you dig deep in to the numbers and the demographic make up of the minimum wage worker, the problem is very much overstated. And that a mediocre economic plan by the Obama administration has led to lackluster growth and GDP, which is why the country languishes in an economic quagmire.

          • Patrick

            Even YOUR OWN SOURCE says only 24% of minimum wage earners are teenagers.
            It says 50.6% are age 24 and under, which leaves the other half at, GASP, 25 and over, just like I said.
            It also confirms my statement of 4.7% of hourly-paid workers.

            So maybe read your own source of data before you tell me I’m wrong.

            I don’t care about “political football.” I don’t care about one party or the other.
            I care that businesses which are economically capable of paying all their adult employees enough to support themselves and a family on are not doing so.
            Which, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a harm to the dignity of man.

            That’s what I care about. I’m okay with the 1% being rich. I don’t insist that support for the poor *must* come from the government.
            I care that adults are being deprived of their basic dignity by businesses that can afford to pay them enough to protect that dignity. And it doesn’t matter if it were only 1% of minimum wage workers, instead of nearly half. Even 1% is a serious problem because it is undermining basic human dignity.

            Furthermore, it’s not even a thing the government is capable of fixing. It has to be fixed culturally. So maybe find out what I’m actually suggesting before you jump down my throat for “solutions” I wouldn’t even suggest because I don’t think they’d work to begin with.

            Ensuring people can afford to raise a family is a Culture of LIfe issue, pure and simple.

            • Objectivetruth

              “I care that businesses which are economically capable of paying all their adult employees enough to support themselves and a family on are not doing so.”

              Tell me what you mean by “economically capable?” You do realize that the vast majority of businesses in the US are categorized as “small businesses”, and run on slim profit margins? That a raise in minimum wage probably means they’re going to have to lay off people? Raise prices on their products, therefore stifling demand for their product and consequently revenues drop?

              Or are you just on a good rant here Patrick, and really don’t understand the economics behind this?

              Great, Patrick, sounds like you want to be honorable and help those in need. I’m assuming you do work? In the private sector? So my question is how much of YOUR paycheck are YOU willing to sacrifice to help those in your company making minimum wage? Are you willing to take a 15% paycut? Or how about 30% to help those making less than you? Or why don’t you work 15-20 hours extra a week for your company for no pay?

              So why don’t you go to your human resources department tomorrow and tell them to take 30% of your pay and give it to those making less than you at your company.

              • Patrick

                You did catch where I said this isn’t something that can be solved by the government just passing some law, right?

                I didn’t even say we necessarily should raise the minimum wage.

                I am saying that a business that CAN economically afford it, needs to be encouraged to provide what the Catechism of the Catholic Church would qualify as a just wage.

                If a business can’t do that, that’s one thing. But I mean can’t, not “can’t without reducing end-of-quarter profits by 20%” or “can’t without improving their business model” or the like.

                The changes that need to be made are cultural, not isolated to one business, and need to be made in part by the people who make decisions regarding employee compensation as a whole, not what percentage of a very slim margin one employee is willing to donate.

                Maybe you should take the advice of others here and focus less on spending other people’s money.

                I’m talking about encouraging businesses to do what they can. To be part of the Culture of Life by helping people to be able to afford to raise families.
                It’s not some zero sum game where the only way to improve things for “them” is to make you suffer. We’re all human beings and all must have our basic dignity respected.

                If you really want me to make some sort of “policy” suggestion, here’s this, though it’s not any sort of policy, but rather a goal we should be exhorting businesses to follow: If their gross profits are larger than what it would cost to increase the pay of their adult below-just-wage earning employees, they should adjust their payroll policies in such a way that they are closer to providing a just wage to those employees (or others taking their places) in the future.

                In egregious cases, where a large business is making 10 or 100 times as much as it would cost them to provide all their adult employees with a just wage, greater pressure should be put on them to make changes faster. They *can* afford it. It might reduce their growth somewhat, but it is better to do things the right way and be slightly less profitable than to place money over justice.

                Again, this is a subject the Catechism describes as a matter of justice, and it is a Culture of Life issue, as unpopular as that phrase has gotten of late.

                • Objectivetruth

                  “Maybe you should take the advice of others here and focus less on spending other people’s money.”

                  Huh???? Then in the next paragraph you’re telling business’s to do what they can to help others afford to raise families?

                  You never answered my question if you were employed? So I’ll conclude you’re not, and that you really have no clue about the economic reality of this and how to build a business and employ people.

                  And even if you were employed, it doesn’t sound like you truly want to put any skin in the game to personally help any person with a family making less than you, do you Patrick? It’s that “big bad company” that’s at fault, not you?

                  And one can argue extensively how you’re misinterpreting the Catechism on financial social justice, but I don’t have the time.

                  And please stop using the term “culture of life”, so loosely OK? John Paul II was referring to abortion, euthanasia when he discussed the culture of death.

                  • Patrick

                    “Then in the next paragraph you’re telling business’s to do what they can to help others afford to raise families?”

                    “2434 A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice. In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. “Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.” Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.” -The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

                    I’m merely giving suggestions on how we can encourage businesses to better follow Catholic teaching.

                    Here’s another quote from the Catechism for you:
                    “2432 Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations. They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and not only the increase of profits. Profits are necessary, however. They make possible the investments that ensure the future of a business and they guarantee employment.”

                    Profits are necessary.
                    I’ll say it again. Profits are necessary.
                    Of course based on how you’ve carried on so far you’ll likely just ignore that statement since it doesn’t help you make as biting of an argument.
                    Maybe it’s time to stop arguing with some archetypal opponent that exists in your mind and actually try responding to the person you’re actually talking to.

                    “You never answered my question if you were employed? So I’ll conclude you’re not, and that you really have no clue about the economic reality of this and how to build a business and employ people.”

                    I did specifically note that the margin by which my income exceeds that which I need to cover basic necessities and live in simple dignity is narrow. Which clearly acknowledges that I am earning an income.
                    If I’d known you were going to try some kind of “You must be unemployed, and therefore absolutely wrong by definition.” type of nonsense argument, I’d have been much clearer the first time around.

                    I actually also have a fair bit of formal study of economics, and I also pay enough attention to know that the existence of many small businesses does not negate the existence of large ones, nor does the inability of a small business to do something negate the moral responsibilities of larger ones.

                    “And even if you were employed, it doesn’t sound like you truly want to put any skin in the game to personally help any person with a family making less than you, do you Patrick? It’s that “big bad company” that’s at fault, not you?”

                    I do what I can. I don’t have a lot of money to give, so part of what I do when I run out of that is try to combat injustices socially.

                    You did catch the part where I specifically said that businesses that can’t afford to pay their employees that much shouldn’t be forced to, right? Or did you just skip that because it would slow down your rant?

                    But the inability of one person to provide a just wage to an employee does not negate the responsibility to try to do so for employer who is able.

                    Here’s a hint, just because I have disagreed with some of the things you have said does not mean I agree with the diametric opposite of everything you believe or agree with some group that you disagree with.

                    Stop trying to paint me as some hippy liberal socialist just because I vocally support Catholic doctrine regarding just wages. If you think I’m wrong about them, I’d be glad to hear why. Believe it or not, I am open to the possibility that I am mistaken.

                    And I will go on using the term Culture of Life because the whole point of the term is that it is more than just those two issues. If people are unable to have children due to economic injustice, that is a Culture of Life issue.
                    Too many times I’ve heard people tell poor families “Well, you shouldn’t have had children you can’t afford.” What were they supposed to do? Use contraception or get abortions? I personally know more than one young family who conceived on their wedding night. Should they have forgone their very vocation because of poverty?

                    • Patrick

                      Also, I find it really strange that merely correcting someone’s statistics has suddenly made people think I’m some commie who hates people making money.

                      I’m even *more* likely to correct mistaken statistical claims by people I agree with, because I don’t want my side of the argument looking out of touch with reality.

                    • Objectivetruth

                      Patrick….

                      My point is, minimum wage jobs should be viewed as stepping stones for better positions and employment. Or possibly a second income to help supplement the household. Most people making minimum wage don’t want to stay at that level, and view it as a step to the next level. As a young man working many jobs to pay for college, I always persued the employment that paid the greatest wage. I didn’t care what the job was or how unappealing it was, or how physically demanding it was, I took it. If it was hauling trash and it paid the most, I did it. I worked for minimum wage and tips bartending, because I knew if I hustled and worked hard and made the customer happy, they’d tip me more. I worked long hours, fell asleep studying in the library, but got through college. But these jobs were never ends unto themselves, but means to greater opportunity and employment. Should the minimum wage be raised? Possibly, yes. But they should never be viewed as the main means to raise a family, buy a house, etc. employers don’t want employees permanently working in their minimum wage jobs. They want (and encourage) that employee to strive for better things at their organization, including better positions with a greater wage.

                    • Patrick

                      “My point is, minimum wage jobs should be viewed as stepping stones for better positions and employment. Or possibly a second income to help supplement the household.”

                      And I generally agree!
                      The problem is that that is how they should work in theory, but in practice there are far too many cases where that isn’t how it’s working out. Something needs to be done about that, and there are many ways of approaching the problem, I’m just suggesting one. I’m open to other solutions.
                      What I’m not open to is “Well here’s how it’s supposed to work, even though it’s not working like that, so we don’t need to do anything.”

                      “Most people making minimum wage don’t want to stay at that level, and view it as a step to the next level.”

                      Certainly. But it’s not always working like that, so something has to be done either to make it work out in fact like it should in theory, or to protect against the potential harm of it not working that way. But either way, something needs to be done about the problems with the system, not just to shepherd people through it as if the system can’t be changed.

                      “But they should never be viewed as the main means to raise a family, buy a house, etc.”
                      So long as even a significant minority of them are forced by circumstance or economic difficulties or whatever the reason to have to use them as that main means, we need to acknowledge that. We can’t just say “That isn’t how it should be” and let it continue being without doing something to alleviate or fix it.

                      I’m not saying people should be staying at the minimum wage. Quite the opposite, in fact.
                      What I am saying is that we need to do something for the people who are *stuck* in it for whatever reason, and individual-level solutions like helping them get an education merely vacates that problematic situation for another person to fall into.

                      If there’s a pitfall in a road, you don’t just help pull people out all day, every day. You fix the hole so people stop falling in.

                • Objectivetruth

                  Patrick, you do understand that minimum wage workers don’t stay at minimum wage their whole working life? That businesses that wish to prosper and grow (which by their very nature is all businesses) want to train and keep hard working, motivated, talented employees? That companies will reward and compensate hard working employees with promotions, greater benefits, equity in the company, and greater pay? This employees are extremely valuable to a company over the years, bringing skills and best practices that make the company successful. And the business will keep these once minimum wage workers happy by progressively over their tenure of employment promote them, give them greater pay, benefits, and responsibility. Many fryers at McDonald’s starting at minimum wage worked hard as young men and women moving in to greater responsibility and pay, some eventually owning their own McDonald’s franchises.

                  Go to the Walmart website and see the career tract and promotional job opportunities for hourly retail workers at Walmart. There are thousands of employees at Walmart that started their careers making minimum wage, and are now through hard work middle, upper management and VP levels with extremely high 6 figure salaries. Most of them never persued a college degree, worked at Walmart starting at minimum wage, and in their 30′s and 40′s now are upper management. As the saying goes Patrick, “You can give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish, he eats for a lifetime”

                  • Patrick

                    Objective, I do understand that 49.4% of minimum wage workers are above the age of 25, and I do know that there have been times in my adult life where the job market downsized severely and I had to lower my standards and apply for minimum wage jobs despite having long before moved past that stage of employment.

                    It doesn’t matter if it is only temporary. A temporary unjust wage is still unjust. It doesn’t matter if education helps one avoid it. An unjust wage for the uneducated is still unjust.

                    I’ll tell you right now, I’m not even opposed to the idea of a lower minimum wage for people 18 and under. They don’t have to support a family and *are* normally working either for the experience, to build up savings, or to earn some disposable income.

                    But not all of the people earning minimum wage are part of that paradigm, and that needs to be addressed somehow.
                    Ignoring them because they aren’t part of the intended paradigm is only compounding injustices they are subjected to.

                    • Objectivetruth

                      And what is “unjust?” What is a “just” wage (do you believe) for someone that cooks French fries? Or cleans floors at the local grade school? Or washes dishes at a restaurant? Give me a monetary amount of what is a just wage for those positions?

                    • Patrick

                      “In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. ‘Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.’”
                      -The Catechism of the Catholic Church

                      The monetary amount that constitutes a just wage obviously varies, based on a number of factors the Catechism specifically mentions.

                      Trying to shift the goalposts is a poor method of argumentation.

                    • Art Deco

                      Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a
                      dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social,
                      cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the
                      productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.’”

                      Applications, not incantations, please.

                    • Patrick

                      I am addressing the fact that it is known that there are many variables involved, and therefore asking for a specific single number is a specious argument.

                    • Art Deco

                      I am not asking for a specific single number.

                      What you do not seem to get is that there is not a ready way for an interested party to read phraseology like you quote and know what to make of it in their daily life. You cannot quite tell if it is aspirational or it represents some obligation on the part of the employer.

                      Remuneration never guarantees much of anything other then a sum of money at the disposal of the employee, which may provide some sort of ‘opportunity’. But that’s hardly a reference that needs be made.

                      Which gets to the problem here. You all are pushing the idea that the employer either does not employ anyone or that he assumes responsibility for the man’s wife, his children, his ‘opportunities’, &c. when he does employ him. Which is to say all enterprises are philanthropic concerns with (presumably loss-making) commercial auxilliaries.

                    • Patrick

                      I know YOU aren’t asking for a specific single number, but the person I was replying to was.

                      I wasn’t even trying to use the quote as an answer, as I said, I was using it as demonstration of several known variables in question to explain why the question I was asked is not a reasonable argument.

                      And I am not pushing that idea at all. What the business is capable of reasonably paying is one of the very variables I mentioned!
                      The business does have SOME responsibilities, but obviously they are not solely responsible for everything.

                      I’m sorry if I’m getting snippy. People responding to what they expect me to say instead of what I said has always been one of the things that I get angry about, and I apologize if my temper has been swaying my tone, I’ll try to do better.

                    • Objectivetruth

                      Picture the small business owner of a Subway franchise running on a 15% profit margin. Now he has to by the new minimum wage law increase pay by 30% to his employees. And oh yea…….Fred’s Sandwiche Shoppe just opened across the street and to gain Subway’s market share is offering his sandwiches for $1 less than Subway’s, and free refills on soda. The subway owner projects out that he’ll lose 30% of his business next year because of Fred’s across the street.

                      What’s the Subway owner do then, Patrick? His labor costs have increased by 30%, and 30% of his business has literally walked out of the door.

                      My move as the far as the Subway owner is either lay off one of my employees, or cut back the current employees hours and I as the owner have to fill in working more hours making sandwiches myself.

                      This is how things work in the real world, Patrick. Everything’s nice and clean in theory, but this is an exact analogy that is happening everyday with small businesses.

                    • Patrick

                      Wow, good job arguing with some argument you expected to make while completely ignoring how I have completely supported the fact that the need of the business to be able to make a profit and therefore stay in business.

                      Stop assuming I’m some hippy socialist and responding to what you think a hippy socialist would say. It makes it look like you don’t actually have any critical reading skills.

                      And how in the WORLD do you get the idea that *I* am saying things work out nice and clean because that’s how they’re supposed to work in theory?!? I have been consistently objecting to your attempts to do that very thing!

                      The real world is messy and sometimes decisions are hard to make, which is why I’m saying just wages should be a matter of cultural pressure rather than strict price control by a centralized government.

                      You decided I disagree with you, and as such you’ve apparently concluded that I support every argument you expect someone who disagrees with you to make.

                      Here’s a hint: I don’t. Stop and read what I’m saying instead of just skimming it and guessing at what argument a liberal hippy socialist might make that would vaguely resemble it.

                      It’s absurd seeing you angrily try to correct me about things that you don’t even realize you’re agreeing with me on.

                    • Objectivetruth

                      Huh???

                      You’re a run around, Patrick.

                      “taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.’”

                      The role and productivity of the three positions I mentioned merits minimum wage. They’re not positions someone is going to stay in as a career and try to grow a family.

                    • Patrick

                      How is that a run around? Saying that what constitutes a just wage is variable (and due to more factors than just what the job is), and therefore that it is impossible to give a specific number with any meaningful level of precision at all unless you give more specifics isn’t a run around, it’s the exact thing I’ve been saying.

                      I don’t know every situation so I can’t say what is a just wage in every situation. That’s the responsibility of the worker and the person setting the pay scale. You know, people who actually know those circumstances and are in a position to make judgments on them.

                      And aside from that, those are positions that someone would not WANT to stay in as a career, but you know perfectly well that reality doesn’t always work out the way things are ideally supposed to.
                      Saying “Well, it’s not supposed to work out that way” has no effect on the objective reality that sometimes it is working out that way.

                    • TheAbaum

                      You don’t have goalposts. You are in the bookstore looking for the stadium.

                      Just stop embarrassing yourself.

                    • Patrick

                      Tell me the sum of x+y.
                      The specific number. No, I won’t tell you what x and y are, you just have to answer or you’re wrong. Oh, and x and y are different depending on what time it is.

                      See what’s wrong with that demand?

                • TheAbaum

                  Define “can afford it”.

                  “In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account.”

                  • Patrick

                    There doesn’t need to be a specific cutoff line because I’m not calling for mandatory automated responses.

                    “Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.”

                    I can give examples of businesses who obviously can afford to pay employees enough to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family, and I can give examples of businesses who obviously cannot. I’d even say in the ambiguous cases we should lean in favor of “cannot” so they can use their profit to grow and become more able to provide a dignified wage to their employers.

                    The fact is there are some businesses that are capable of paying a just wage to all their employees, and yet do not. That is objective reality. Those businesses are not conducting themselves in a manner in keeping with Catholic teaching. I am saying that we must SOCIALLY try to correct that problem, not politically, not legislatively.

                    Why is “People should be paid enough to live on if their employer can afford to pay them that much” being treated as some kind of polarized political statement? Not everyone who you believe you disagree with is a socialist.

                    • TheAbaum

                      “There doesn’t need to be a specific cutoff line because I’m not calling for mandatory automated responses.”

                      I didn’t say there needs to be a “specific cutoff line”, but without some sort of objective criteria, “can afford it” is meaningless.

                    • Patrick

                      Alright, what criteria would you suggest?

                      I’m not saying I have a perfect solution, but there are companies employing workers for unjust wages who’s profits are far, far more than what it would cost to pay all their employees just wages. That is undeniable. That is apparent to anyone with eyes to see, and some sort of social action needs to be taken to encourage those companies to fulfill the responsibilities they have to their workers.

                      Of course, I would personally propose that the reason it is so hard to define a particular criterion or set of criteria is because there are so many factors that are specific to the individual business that it would essentially have to be determined on a case-by-case basis for the ambiguous cases.
                      And that is precisely why the approach should be to encourage businesses in general to keep their responsibilities in mind while focusing particular attention just on the readily apparent situations.

                      We boycott over so many things anyway, I don’t see the harm in joining a few liberal boycotts over irresponsible business practices. We might even be able to help fine tune their arguments so they have fewer problematic side-effects.

                    • Art Deco

                      You start talking about Just Wages and Just Prices and you are usually sending people off on some sort of snark hunt.

                    • Patrick

                      1) Where’d I say anything about “Just Prices”? I am familiar with supply and demand, you know. Short of fraud or or extorting people of everything they own for basic necessities in times of crisis, I don’t really see many situations where pricing would be “unjust”

                      2) There is a real set of criteria for determining just wages according to Catholic teaching. It’s not simplistic, because obviously every situation has dozens of factors. At the very least it is important for the business to be *trying* to be responsible about it. All humans are imperfect, we can only expect that we strive to do the right thing, not that we always unerringly succeed.

                    • Art Deco

                      You have not referred to any criteria that could possibly be applied by anyone.

                    • Patrick

                      Let’s list some of the ones I’ve mentioned, shall we?

                      “The needs and contributions of each person”
                      1) Needs of the person
                      2) Contributions of the person

                      “…should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural, and spiritual level…”
                      3) Cost of providing a dignified material livelihood
                      4) Cost of providing a dignified social livelihood
                      5) Cost of providing a dignified cultural livelihood
                      6) Cost of providing a dignified spiritual livelihood

                      “…taking into account the role and productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.”
                      7) The role of the person in the business
                      8) The productivity of the person
                      9) The state of the business
                      10) The common good (Yeah, that one is ambiguous and has countless sub-variables, but for the sake of simplicity I’ll just list it as one here)

                      “Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations. They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and not only the increase of profits. Profits are necessary, however. They make possible the investments that ensure the future of a business and they guarantee employment.”
                      11) Ensuring the future of the business.

                      (All above quotes are from the Catechism)

                      That’s nearly a dozen criteria that can differ from case to case, from business to business, from city to city, etc.

                    • TheAbaum

                      No, that’s not criteria.

                      Look up the definition of the word “criteria” .

                    • Patrick

                      It is a measure upon which to judge something, therefore, BY DEFINITION it is a criterion.

                      By the way, if you’d bothered to follow your own advice and looked up the word, you’d have noticed that “criteria” is the plural form while “criterion” is the singular. If you’re going to call other people illiterate, at least understand the language you’re using to do it in.

                      And yes, it is nebulous, because it’s actually a combination of a huge number of factors.

                      But if you want to argue the validity of the benchmarks provided by the Catholic Church, that’s your folly, not mine.

                    • TheAbaum

                      You can spin all you want, but in order to “judge” something, there has to be some common understanding. A “dignified [insert adjective here] livelihood means NOTHING. What does that mean? An 800 square foot apartment? A nice trailer? A detached single family dwelling? An old towne brownstone? Do I have to be near a museum?

                      How many times must you be spanked before you concede your ignorance?

                    • Patrick

                      If you don’t understand what the Catechism means by “dignity,” that’s not MY ignorance, and it’s not my problem.
                      Although I would recommend maybe taking an RCIA class if you’re struggling with the concept.

                    • TheAbaum

                      You’re not only an argumentative arse, you are a presumptuous one. I HAVE attended an RCIA class-as a sponsor.

                    • Patrick

                      I attended an RCIA class too. Just for the sake of having more Catholic education once I was done with high school.

                      And here’s the funny thing, they explained what “dignity” means in the context of the Catechism.

                      You know, the concept you insist you are totally unfamiliar with.

                      And I’m not arguing from ignorance, I am saying that, for instance, the cost of living in New York is different from the cost of living in Nebraska. A good furnace is just a luxury in southern Florida but it is an absolute necessity in North Dakota.
                      As such, what constitutes a dignified lifestyle IS DIFFERENT IN DIFFERENT PLACES.

                      Yet every time I say that you express your outrage at the idea and disagree vehemently.

                      So do you think that a dignified lifestyle costs exactly the same everywhere in the US or not?

                    • Patrick

                      Oh, and furthermore, recognizing the teachings of the Catholic Church as stated in the Catechism is HARDLY “hyperorthodoxy.” It’s the official teachings of the faith, believing them is simply non-heterodoxy.

                      And this is the only name I’ve ever posted here under, I just don’t constantly follow every article on the site so I naturally wouldn’t show up all the time.

                    • Art Deco

                      The problem is that no benchmarks were provided.

                    • Patrick

                      Well, for a lot of things, even the benchmarks would be dependent upon circumstance.

                      A dignified material livelihood is different in America from what it is in Egypt or Brazil or Georgia or Vietnam.

                      I’m still not seeing how “Judgement needs to be used instead of just setting a dollar amount” is so objectionable an idea. Especially among people who object to dramatically increasing the minimum wage for exactly that same reason.

                    • TheAbaum

                      I’m still not seeing how “Judgement needs to be used instead of just setting a dollar amount” is so objectionable an idea.

                      Because you are obstinate or ignorant or both.

                    • Patrick

                      Just so we’re clear, you’re arguing *for* distant, bureaucratic price controls that disregard local realities or consequences for local small businesses?
                      Because I’m arguing against that and you’re disagreeing with me pretty strongly.

                    • Objectivetruth

                      What’s a “dignified material livelihood?” 42 inch flat screens vs 37 inch?

                    • Patrick

                      Wow, you’re not even trying to hide the strawman arguments now.

                      What, did you run out of real arguments?

                    • TheAbaum

                      It’s your cake- you provide the recipe. You keep rattling on about “unfair” and “unjust” and you can’t quantify it or qualify it, so that means all you have is visceral reaction.

                    • Patrick

                      So now you’re asking for the single specific number I just finished pointing out is a specious argument?

                      Do you expect me to give you the exact sum of two non-specific generalized numbers next?

                      Or tell you the exact weight of a hypothetical orange without being given any information about its size?

                      There are variables involved. Without determining what those variables are in a particular case, it isn’t possible to give a specific answer.
                      And because those variables are different from case to case, it is impossible to give an answer except for specific cases, and what the answer is for each case will vary.
                      That is the nature of variables, and it’s the nature of justice. Specific circumstances have to be addressed in every case.

                    • TheAbaum

                      Look up the definition of the word “criteria” .

                    • Patrick

                      “Criterion: noun, plural noun: criteria
                      1. a principle or standard by which something may be judged or decided. Synonyms: standard, specification, measure, gauge, test, scale, benchmark, yardstick, touchstone, barometer; from Greek kriterion ‘means of judging,’ from krites (see critic).”

                      I listed 11 different criteria specified by the Catechism in another post.

                      Or are you telling me you’re strictly in favor of a distant bureaucratic price control system that does not take into account local circumstances?

                    • TheAbaum

                      I’m telling you that you don’t know what you are talking about. Standards have COMMON meanings.

                      Show me how two people agree on “dignified cultural livelihood”.

                      No, don’t.

                    • Patrick

                      Okay, so stick to the other 10 criteria I listed, then. (Even though I figure if the Catholic Church says it’s important that’s good enough for me, I’ll concede the point for the sake of moving on in the argument)

                      And maybe try an argument that consist of something more meaningful than insults and fiat declarations.

                      Also it would help if you would respond to what you know I’m saying instead of the bizarre misinterpretation that you think would be easiest to argue against.

              • TheAbaum

                Internships must really be awful in Patrick’s world.

  • DD

    Another excellent article form an excellent writer.
    You wrote:”

    Indeed, if addressing poverty is what’s important, why did the article
    say nothing about the problems of single parenthood, illegitimacy, and
    family breakdown (that is, issues involving personal conduct)—which are major contributing factors to poverty”

    And that is central to the discussion. The procedural matters of how best to help the truly needy is part of the issue but I never, and I mean never, hear any Catholic in authority discuss the role grave sin plays in our particular society and how it relates to poverty.

    Yes, we all should do more than we do in terms of helping the poor. But, the role of fornication, hedonism, desire to run from reality, dead consciences, and more is never talked about. It is as if we live in the 12th century in huts where poverty is in some way forced on folks by the Kings and Queens.

    • TheAbaum

      Don’t you know, poverty is only the lack of money? Anything can be solved by giving money, or making somebody give money. Money is a powerful god. All hail money.

  • frtrue75@att.net

    If I have read Mr. Krason’s article correctly, he seems to be equating raising the minimum wage the only way to end poverty, which is not the argument I have heard and read about that supports the minimum wage. If I remember my Logic classes correctly, thisis a Straw Man argument in which one accuses another of saying something he never said and then constructing an argument to oppose it. President Nixon was a master at this.

    • DD

      I did not read that in his piece.

  • uncle max

    My sole question is this – what charity gives me the best bang for my charitable buck? I give to the Edmundite Missions in Selma, Alabama and have for 8+ years. It is a Catholic mission founded in 1937 to help the African – American community and in those days such a mission in Selma Alabama took courage – lots of it.I send them a check on the first of the month and the day S.S. gets here. In return I get a thank you letter and a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE).
    I am continually bombarded by requests from other charities, religious orders, and the like but I just throw them away – some of them are quite elaborate, which is one reason why they get thrown out – more money is spent on promotion and the like and it does not get to where it is supposed to go.

    • John200

      That is a good rule — the simple appeal gets my attention and my full consideration.

      On the other hand, the professionally prettied up stuff probably will not help me accomplish my aim. And local is better, no doubt about it. I like being able to watch the results. And to kick in more when I pick up an extra job on the side.

      Does a body good….

  • uncle max

    One more thing – it seems that the larger the organization the less efficient it is.

  • thebigdog

    A basic reality of Economics is difficult for many to accept and that is that employees are only worth what it would cost to replace them.

    Hypothetical: Timmy lives across the street and has mowed your lawn for the past couple of years now. When he first started, he did it for $15.00. Last year he charged $20.00 and he has just informed you that this year, it will cost $25.00. Since you are elderly and not in condition to do it yourself, you agree to pay the higher price. However, when Timmy’s schoolmate hears about Timmy’s venture into capitalism, he goes around the neighborhood offering to mow lawns for $15.00

    What makes Timmy worth $25.00 when you can get another boy to do the work for $15.00? How many people think the situation would improve if he government stepped in and passed a law stating that the minimum charge for mowing a lawn be $30.00?

    I’ve always found it interesting how generous liberals are with other people’s money and how cheap they tend to be when it is their own — charities, churches and people in the service industry all confirm this.

  • http://www.windsofchange.net/ Joe Katzman

    First principle: this will stop when the political operatives doing it find it too costly to continue. Not one minute before. And what’s happening is very serious – Pharaoh is trying to appropriate your church.

    The response is 2-fold. On the one hand, sharp attacks on those misusing the authority of the Church in this way, complete with the point that their political party’s platform is not Scripture, and that we do not pray to their political leader. Phrased in those terms.

    There are some few policies and actions that a religion’s teaching will clearly rule out of bounds, in the negative. There are almost none that are required in the positive; that is a matter for debate, based on those broad teachings. Those who deliberately confuse specific policy goals with religious mandates are doing more than just dumbing-down religion and engaging in slimy tactics. In some cases, they show a pattern that has crossed the line to a place where their politics IS their religion, the thing they genuinely pray to and the thing they do not question. There’s a name for that, and it’s a slippery slope that must be confronted. Confronted gently, given our imperfect knowledge of motive, but confronted resolutely in light of our understanding of the 2nd Commandment.

    That must be followed up by concerted attacks based on social justice. Not a deflection, engagement on the same ground. Example:

    “What kind of person would blithely create unemployment among people who are just hanging on now, and widen the class of long-term unemployed? They are contributing to social injustice, and harming the working poor, while exploiting them for personal gain – either votes, or feeling good about themselves while hurting others.”

    That can be pressed hard if one believes it strongly. Or, the point can be raised strongly, and simply left as a rhetorical question by saying: “One must wrestle with these kinds of arguments, rather than just proclaiming fatwas without authority, so that we do not end up hurting others to benefit ourselves.”

    (Personal view: There are some circumstances where raising the minimum wage can be a good idea, but there are requirements. You certainly can’t have both a high minimum wage, plus unpoliced borders [left now hates you for saying it] or wide-open globalization [libertarian right and neoliberals now hate you too]), without hurting a lot of people.)

    I’ll repeat this, because it’s critical. The people doing this need to feel personal pain to their reputations and positions, or they won’t stop. This isn’t just an argument where you say your piece and discuss policy. It’s an argument where people openly question the fitness of the people doing this to be in their positions, and bring some level of pressure or disturbance to their hierarchy.

    The goal isn’t debate – it’s deterrence, so that the Church may remain inviolate and debate flourish.

    These people are allowed to make their political arguments, after all. They’re just not allowed to appropriate the Church and make their specific political demands in God’s name.

  • Theodore

    I would like to see Stephen Krason himself do what he does for a living while earning the current minimum wage (say, for a year – or even indefinitely), and then see whether he still maintains his current views on what others deserve as a minimum wage after experiencing that life predicament for himself.

    • Salamanca

      Theodore, with all due respect, I would like to see you run a small business paying your employees more than the value those employees create for your customers, i.e. try paying your employees $10 for something for which your customers will only pay $5. I suspect that your experiment will be short lived, because it is unlikely that your business would survive a month, let alone a year, before going bankrupt. Absolutely nothing is stopping you, however, from going out and creating such a business or funding such a business. There is, incidentally, no law against paying above the minimum wage. In free society, however, no one ‘deserves’ something from someone else merely because of one’s “life predicament.” Try, e.g., doubling the price that your customer’s pay you based on the sales proposition that your employees are experiencing a “life predicament.” One earns income by serving the needs of the others at a price those others are willing to pay. One is free to sell one’s services for as high a price as one likes, but don’t be surprised if there are no buyers at above market prices. In such a situation several options present themselves — lower the price, move to a new market, or start selling a different service. A minimum wage prevents that first option — lowering the price of one’s labor. Minimum wages protect insiders (i.e. the employed) at the expense of outsiders (i.e. the unemployed). A rising minimum wage forces firms to pay fewer and fewer workers a higher and higher wage, thereby excluding new workers from the workforce. They also incentivize firms to replace workers with automation, destroying more jobs. There are countless econometric studies substantiating this, but you don’t have to believe them. If you have any doubts, I urge you to try the experiment.

      • Theodore

        If no one “deserves” anything in a free society, then neither does Stephen Krason deserve to earn any more than the minimum wage for being a professor – if even that (in accordance with his own argument).
        .
        That is, Stephen Krason is no more “entitled” to earning a salary of ca. $80,000, than one of ca. $15,000 (which is about what it would be if he were paid minimum wage) than is the employee of the putative small business that you propose I start.
        .
        Yet, I don’t expect we will see Dr. Krason posting on this website to acknowledge his non-entitlement to anything more than the minimum wage, and voluntarily agreeing to accept only $15,000 from the university that employs him because he is entitled to no more than that (if even that).
        .
        And by the way, $15,000 is probably about what his university pays adjuncts to do the same amount of work for the university that Dr. Krason does for $80,000 or so. That fact makes the question about why Dr. Krason is “entitled” to be paid $80,000 – or even $15,000, for that matter – more than a merely an exercise in determining norms of justice in the abstract.

        • DD

          How does this make any sense? The poster you are responding to said no one deserves anything simply because of their particular predicament.

          • Theodore

            If no one deserves anything in a free society because of being in a difficult predicament of some sort, then a fortiori, no one in a free society deserves anything on any grounds whatsoever.
            .
            It follows that Dr. Krason does not deserve his tenure, his $80,000 (or whatever) salary, etc., etc., any more than a full-time Walmart cashier trying desperately to make ends meet for her family deserves $7.50 per hour.
            .
            In fact, since Dr. Krason asserts that the Walmart greeter does not deserve any minimum wage whatsoever, neither is he morally entitled to any compensation whatsoever for his services as professor.
            .
            Again, Dr. Krason’s university compensates adjunct faculty at an annualized rate of about $15,000 per year for doing the same amount of work that Dr. Krason does. But the distinction between Dr. Krason’s tenure, his $80,000 salary, etc., etc., and the $15,000 or so his adjunct colleagues earn is completely arbitrary from a moral standpoint.
            .
            Also again: I suspect Dr. Krason’s views on just who is “entitled” to what in a “free” society would be entirely different if he happened to be one of these adjuncts, rather than a tenured full professor, with the socially constructed and morally arbitrary privileges that this position entails.

            • DD

              Again, this is nonsensical. The other poster points out that any person’s particular problem does not axiomatically mean some other person is obligated to fix it simply because he has a problem.

              If the professor shot drugs, fornicated, and conceived multiple children out of wedlock is his employer magically bound to throw a ton of cash at him so he is not in any stress anymore? That is what you are saying.

              The professor is judged by the metric the University has in place. His salary is directly related to whatever metric he has agreed to. That is vastly different from a person who acts immorally, gets into financial trouble, and then imposes themselves on another under guise of ” I need help because I like to fornicate and shoot drugs”.

              • Theodore

                Even if you were correct that Prof. Krason’s position is purely the outcome of transparent market forces assessing the objective economic value of his services (a highly debatable proposition on its own – see above), my previous moral point would still hold:
                .
                Blind market forces are in no way arbiters of moral value. As such, by his own reckoning, Prof. Krason is just as morally unentitled to his $80,000 salary, etc., etc., as is the struggling Walmart greeter to her $15,000 salary.

                • DD

                  Who said blind market forces are the sole metric? The value of his service can be judged by several factors. There is a real and tangible way for the employer to make this decision. How is that related to paying some low skilled person a large salary that is not commensurate with their job value?

                  • Theodore

                    Economic and financial value – as measured in monetary terms – are entirely different from moral value. You – as well as Dr. Krason – tacitly presuppose that these two spheres of value are identical, which is false. In point of fact, they are very different, and very often divergent in the real world.
                    .
                    Incidentally, the fact that Dr. Krason tacitly presupposes this identity of economic and moral value demonstrates that he has not transcended the binary dichotomy between “left” and “right,” as he fancies he has. By tacitly equating economic/financial value and moral value in his argumentation, as he clearly does, he marks himself very clearly as someone firmly ensconced on the “right” of the contemporary American political spectrum.

                    • DD

                      Huh? The Catholic point is that moral truth is the basis for a just society including economic matters.

                      How does the moral calculus you claim work to give large salaries to those that perform jobs that require little to no skill?

                    • Theodore

                      Contrary to popular myth, there is little correlation between skill and level of compensation in our society. Again, as an example, the adjunct faculty at Steven Krason’s institution differ little from him in skill, and may even be more skilled, yet they receive only a small fraction of the compensation that Krason does for doing the same work.
                      .
                      Also, contrary to popular myth, free market forces have only a very limited effect on compensation levels in our culture. Compensation scales are rather to a substantial degree the result of an elaborate and protracted process of social construction that privileges certain classes and deprives others in ways that are morally arbitrary, and reflect raw social power relations.
                      .
                      And again, to the extent that free market forces DO have an effect on compensation levels, this fact taken by itself carries no moral implications whatsoever.
                      .
                      In my view, the closest one might approach to an intrinsically just system of compensation is to compensate most generously those jobs that are the most onerous and tedious, in concert with those that are the most objectively necessary for the common good. By both criteria, many of the most highly compensated jobs in our society would become among the lowest, and vice versa – i.e., “the first would be last, and the last, first.”
                      To take a concrete example, a financially parasitic hedge-fund manager does far less good for society than a cleaner of toilets. Thus, in an intrinsically just society, the relative compensation of these two jobs would be roughly the inverse of what they are.

                    • DD

                      This is not economic nor theology. It is your private ideology. How queer.

            • Salamanca

              Employers are just intermediaries between employees and customers. The university simply intermediates between tuition paying students and professors/teaching assistants. Walmart simply intermediates between its employees and its customers. Students are willing to pay for an $80,000 professor. There don’t seem to be a lot of people willing to pay for an $80,000 greeter (at least not a Walmart). That is why there are many $80,000 professors and very few $80,000 greeters. The doormen/women at the top nightclubs in St. Tropez may well earn that much, but then they are bringing an entirely different value proposition to the table than your Walmart greeter.

              • Theodore

                Your assertion that Prof. Krason’s employment-security-tenure, $80,000 salary, health and retirement benefits, etc., is purely a function of the market is highly dubious.
                .
                In point of fact, all these privileges are accorded to Prof. Krason on account of his participation in a financial Ponzi-scheme, predicated upon student loans that most of the current students at his university will never be able to repay upon graduation.
                .
                If transparent market forces were truly in play, all these students would terminate their studies immediately on the basis of knowing that they are condemning themselves to a life-time of debt servitude by continuing.
                .
                But even if you were correct that Prof. Krason’s position is purely the outcome of transparent market forces assessing the objective economic value of his services, my previous moral point would still hold. Blind market forces are in no way arbiters of moral value. As such, Prof. Krason is just as morally unentitled to his $80,000 salary, etc., etc., as is the struggling Walmart greeter to her $15,000 salary.
                .
                The fact that blind market forces are NOT operative in Prof. Krason’s case, but rather a Ponzi-based confidence scheme in which the suckers are his students, implies the very opposite conclusion: Namely, that Prof. Krason’s $80,000 salary is morally unconscionable, resting as it does upon a foundation of deceit and exploitation.

                • Salamanca

                  Theordore, I really want to help you, but you are making this difficult. First, “Ponzi scheme” has an established meaning, which you can easily find by using readily available search tools such as Google. It is not an all purpose pejorative label for any financial services that you don’t like. A Ponzi scheme is when early investors are paid from sales of securities to future investors rather than from any return on their initial investment. Bernie Madoff ran a Ponzi scheme and the U.S. Social Security Administration runs a Ponzi scheme. Students loans are not a Ponzi scheme because students are not investors; they are borrowers. The federal government makes it easier for students to borrow by guaranteeing their loans. The guarantee acts as a subsidy making the price of borrowing (interest rates and credit terms) artificially lower for students. This diverts more funds into higher education than would otherwise go there on market terms and rates. This increases the demand for education causing both higher tuition and (mis)direction of resources into higher education, i.e. more professors employed at higher wages. A government subsidy produces the opposite effect of a minimum wage. A minimum wage artificially increases (rather than decreases) the price of labor. Employers buy less labor at this artificially higher price than they would at the lower market price. The workers whose labor is not purchased by the employers at this artificially higher price end up being unemployed. I don’t see the deceit (other than perhaps self-deceit) or exploitation in either situation. I think both forms of intervention, however, happen to be bad policy. That, however, is prudential rather than a moral judgment.

                  • Art Deco

                    No Social Security and unemployment compensation are income transfer programs, not Ponzi schemes.

                    • Salamanca

                      You are absolutely right that Social Security is a transfer program. Bernie Madoff’s scheme, however, was also a transfer program. Neither would be fraud, and therefore a Ponzi scheme, if they were transparently presented to the public as transfer programs. What makes something a fraud is an intentional misrepresentation. Social Security was sold to the public as an “insurance” program. Tax payers make “contributions” which are held in a “trust fund.” Social Security’s proponents routinely refer to it as an insurance program, talk about people getting back what they put in. Only its most committed opponents refer to as a “transfer program.” If Social Security were ever understood as it actually is, a massive wealth transfer, from younger generations to older generations, political support for the program might decrease, which is why its promoters maintain the fiction that it functions just like insurance or a pension, rather than the pure transfer program that is. It is this deception, that converts it from a innocent transfer program into a compulsory, government-run Ponzi scheme.

          • Theodore

            Right, and I am saying that the more basic premise he appeals to in making this claim is that, in a “free” society, no one “deserves” or is “entitled to” anything. My entire case against Dr. Krason and his generally presumed entitlement to tenure, salary, etc., etc., rests upon drawing out the logical conclusion from that basic premise. So if a Walmart greeter is not entitled even to a minimum wage of $15,000/year for full-time work, then neither is Dr. Krason in any way morally entitled to what he earns, etc. It all flows from the premise that we live in a “free” society, where no one is entitled to anything.

            • DD

              I think your conclusion is erroneous. The poster is not saying people are not entitled to basic necessities or such. He is saying you cannot arbitrarily claim that some job description should get inordinate amounts of salary based on nothing.

        • Salamanca

          Let’s stay with the only fact pattern with which you seem to be familiar — Universities. Nothing is stopping you from starting your own University where you pay teaching assistants $80,000 and full professors $15,000. Getting professors to work for $15,000 will be much easier than finding students willing to pay for $80,000 teaching assistants. No one, a priori, deserves an income from anyone else, just by virtue of existing. One receives something from others in direct relation to what one offers others and what those others have agreed to pay. In other words one gets what one negotiates, not what one ‘deserves.’ Dr. Krason’s receives $80,000 because he is offering services for which others are willing to pay $80,000. Your adjuncts receive $15,000 either because they are offering services which no one is willing to buy for more than $15,000 or because that’s the deal they negotiated. Dr. Krason, may well be able to command much more than $80,000 in the market, but has very likely accepted much less in order to work at a small orthodox Catholic University.

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  • wraithby

    The economic illiterates will not be persuaded by appeals to reasoned argument. They prefer to ignore the teachings regarding prudence and end up promoting a no growth economic model where wealth magically appears to fulfill all needs. The teachings against socialism are ignored while a fantasy economy is wished into existence.

    • TheAbaum

      This could be a standard reply to about 75% of the postings of the economic illiterates. Add in a sentence about how they ignore subsidiarity to erect a golden calf of the administrative superstate that they imbue with omniscience, omnibenelovence and absolute incorruptibility, and you pretty much cover all of their Rube Goldberg devices.

  • Patrick

    I’m finding it highly peculiar that such a conservative community as this is objecting to such ideas as “We shouldn’t dictate to businesses what is a reasonable pay scale for their employees when we aren’t even looking at the details of the business in question.” or “There shouldn’t necessarily be government restrictions on businesses in this matter, since that would require a strict, bureaucratic, pre-defined line that can’t take into account the realities of complicated business situations and factors like whether it would interfere with their ability to actually employ people.”

    • Art Deco

      I am not sure why you find it peculiar. People are familiar with what sort of functions public agencies excel at and what they do not and what the practical implications of price controls are.

      • Patrick

        It just feels like some of you have decided you disagree with me and are arguing against whatever I happen to say, even when I’m agreeing with and restating things you guys have said.

  • DD

    As someone who, at the age of fifty, is currently homeless and dependent on food stamps, I appreciate and understand much of what Mr. Krason writes here. “The System” is deeply flawed and seems to be more in the business of justifying its existence than actually helping people out of poverty. Believe me, I would much rather be working, but as someone with a developmental disability, I don’t have the luxury of being able to work just any kind of job. All the more reason why job creation and the economy ought to have been our President’s top priority.

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