7/5/2013 2:09:00 PM Focus on workers, not bottom line
Catholic News Service
A worker installs weatherstripping in Chrysler's new Jeep Grand Cherokee in late May at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit.
The richest nation on the globe has 23 million children in working poor families below the poverty line. This is a scandal that the U.S. bishops are pointing out to federal lawmakers.
The bishops say rightly that we must return the worker to the center of economic life. In other words, jobs exist for people, not people for jobs. Decent work that pays just wages honors human dignity. Raising the minimum wage to a level that allows families to survive would be a very pro-family move.
"Work should be a ladder out of poverty for families, it should not trap them in poverty," Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton told a federal panel last month.
The Congressional Budget Office reported last year that the average income of the wealthiest one percent of Americans has increased 275 percent over the last 30 years. The income of the poorest 20 percent, on average, increased by less than 20 percent, despite an increase in worker productivity over the same time.
Increasing disparity will lead to instability at some point. A rich upper class and poor masses certainly are not what the scriptures envision and are not in the American tradition of the founders. It was the American middle class, with its buying power and creativity, that helped the U.S. become a powerful nation in the second half of the 20th century. A shrunken middle class could cripple our nation.
Nay-sayers will complain that we are promoting "job-killing ideas," as if only the quantity of jobs matters. It's time to work on the quality, too.
A just wage affirms the worker's human dignity. A low wage that keeps a family in poverty demeans human dignity, making people mere commodities.
Pope Francis said it well: "Not paying a just [wage], not providing work, focusing exclusively on the balance books, on financial statements, only looking at making personal profit. That goes against God!"