Thursday 25th August 2016

Home » Featured Today » Currently Reading:

What Seems To Be . . . A Morally Mandated Public Policy Position May Not Be

March 5, 2014 Featured Today No Comments

By STEPHEN M. KRASON

(Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s “Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic” column appears monthly [sometimes bimonthly]. 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. He is also co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. He is the author of several books including The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic [Transaction Publishers: 2012], and most recently published an edited volume entitled Child Abuse, Family Rights, and the Child Protective System [Scarecrow Press: 2013]. This column originally appeared in Crisismagazine.com. All rights reserved.)

+    +    +

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 “neo-liberal” (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 50th 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.

Share Button

2016 The Wanderer Printing Co.

BREAKING: Leaked e-mails show George Soros paid $650K to influence bishops during Pope’s US visit

August 23, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Leaked emails through WikiLeaks reveal that billionaire globalist George Soros – one of Hilary Clinton’s top donors – paid $650,000 to influence Pope Francis’ September 2015 visit to the USA with a view to “shift[ing]…Continue Reading

Catholic school faculty member sues school after she’s fired for being gay

A lesbian teacher was fired from Paramus Catholic High School after administrators learned that she was married to a woman, according to her lawsuit. Kate Drumgoole, 33, was the school’s head basketball coach and dean of guidance when the school…Continue Reading

Scottish Catholic Church denies supporting ‘mandatory’ LGBT activist school program

GLASGOW, Scotland, August 19, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The Catholic Church in Scotland is flatly denying that it is lending its support to advancing a pro-homosexual curriculum in Catholic schools, despite secular as well as gay news sources claiming the opposite.…Continue Reading

Amid falling sales, Target responds to backlash with $20 million plan for single-stall bathrooms

target

NewsGenderThu Aug 18, 2016 – 2:57 pm EST Amid falling sales, Target responds to backlash with $20 million plan for single-stall bathrooms  #flushtarget , bathroom bills , target , transgender , transgenderism MINNEAPOLIS, August 18, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Facing…Continue Reading

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Signs New Book Deal with Bloomsbury

Indeed, it’s official. Bloomsbury is announcing that Pope Benedict has a new book coming in November 2016, entitled, The Last Testament. It appears to be 224 pages. Ever since Bloomsbury merged (“bought out?”) T & T Clark, they have been…Continue Reading

Transgender Bathroom Access Extended to All Federal Buildings–Including Prisons

The Obama administration is set to unveil a new regulation this week that will expand transgender people’s access to restrooms consistent with their “gender identity” to thousands of federal buildings and facilities across the country — including prisons. Buzzfeed News…Continue Reading

Satanic ‘Black Mass’ held in Oklahoma City

OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — A small group attended an event held by a satanic church in Oklahoma City Monday night. The ‘black mass’ was met with Christian masses and prayer rallies. Leaders of Oklahoma City’s Church of Ahriman set the…Continue Reading

Uplifting Story . . . Gymnast Simone Biles soars to Olympic gold while grounded in Catholic faith

olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, August 10, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — When three-time world champion gymnast Simone Biles flew to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic Games, the 19-year-old carried a rosary her mother gave her and a St. Sebastian medal from…Continue Reading

Satanic Black Mass Still Scheduled at Public Venue Despite Protest

Amid growing protest Satanists plan to stage a second Black Mass at the public Civic Center Music Hall in Oklahoma City on August 15, 2016. The public sacrilege against God and the Catholic Mass will include the desecration of a…Continue Reading

Margaret Sanger Award Recipient Nancy Pelosi on Zika: ‘This is About Babies’

nancyp

(CNSNews.com) – At a Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the Zika virus threat is “all about babies.” “The Zika in the Southern part of our country is in our country, and because…Continue Reading

Thousands of Colombians join nationwide protest of gender ideology in public schools

August 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Thousands marched yesterday in protests held throughout Colombia to protest a new initiative of the country’s homosexual Minister of Education to implement homosexualist and transsexualist gender ideology programs in Colombian schools. “No to gender ideology!…Continue Reading

98% Of CRS Employee Political Donations Go To Pro-Abortion Candidates

Contributions for political campaigns are recorded and monitored, and made available as public information in order to ensure transparency in the political process.  The information found in these recorded contributions are closely monitored and analyzed by political parties and research…Continue Reading

Newsmax

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Enter Comments Below

This Weeks Comments And Letters . . .

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “An Introduction To The Problem Of Euthanasia”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 23 of The Facts of Life, a 150-page treatise on all of the aspects of euthanasia, e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + We have covered the definitions of the varieties of…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Baton Rouge Establishes Special Flood Victims Fund

By KATHLEEN NAAB The Diocese of Baton Rouge, La., is welcoming assistance as so many thousands of people have lost homes or property and many have been killed in the massive flooding affecting the state. “The historic flooding that has taken place has impacted nearly every corner of our diocese, and our parishes and schools are struggling to recover in an effort to provide for the spiritual and educational needs of their parishioners and students,”…Continue Reading

Catholic Politician Defends Abortion, Says Catholic Church Doesn’t Think Unborn Babies are People

Minnesota state Rep. John Lesch is a Catholic and a politician in the conservative mid-west. He also supports abortions. Lesch, a board member of the pro-abortion group Catholics for Choice, wrote a column for The Hill this week explaining why he supports abortion and why other Catholic politicians should, too. “I came of age in a time when we learned to respect a woman’s conscience-based decisions, and we were more cautious of the institutional church’s…Continue Reading

New interview: Cardinal Burke says ‘I will never be part of a schism’

cburk12

August 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – In a new interview, Cardinal Raymond Burke has revealed that he and other “serious-minded” Church leaders are calling on Pope Francis to release a document correcting the confusion emanating from his recent apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia. He also decried characterizations that he is an “enemy” of Pope Francis. The cardinal says clarification of Amoris Laetitia is essential “for the sake of souls” because of the rampant confusion…Continue Reading

Life Issue Is Not Front and Center with Pennsylvania Catholics . . . Catholic voters split, perplexed by presidential choices

By Peter Smith / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette The conversation flowed freely at the school cafeteria tables as families sat Thursday over a dinner of chicken and ratatouille at Our Lady of Grace Church’s annual parish festival in Scott. But when a reporter brought up the presidential election, there was more head-shaking dismay than enthusiasm for any candidate. “I can’t see myself voting for Clinton,” said Bob Bauer. But as for Donald Trump, he’s still going “back…Continue Reading

Lifesite editorial . . .The first step needed to get the Church out of the current crisis

August 19, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – In his book Magisterial Authority, Fr. Chad Ripperger, PhD, says “the Church will not climb out of this tumultuous period” without reversing the “practice since the Second Vatican Council onward not to police the doctrinal integrity” among bishops, priests and theologians. The crucial observation comes at the end of nearly fifty years of destructive leniency, which has in the Francis pontificate taken on new dimensions. While under the pontificates of…Continue Reading

Summer 1916 . . . The Second Apparition Of Angel Of Portugal

By DONAL ANTHONY FOLEY The previous article on this topic (April 28, 2016, p. 8A) looked at the first of the three apparitions of the Angel of Portugal, or the Angel of Peace, to the three Fatima seers, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, and Lucia dos Santos, in the spring, summer, and autumn of 1916. This…Continue Reading

ISIS And Other Useful Fictions

By JUDE P. DOUGHERTY Islamic State (ISIS or Daesh) and al-Qaeda are useful fictions. “Islamicist” is another ill-used word. Has anyone ever identified the borders of the so-called Islamic State, identified the site of its central government, attributed to it a president, prime minister, cabinet, parliament, or congress, or anything resembling such? Even the most…Continue Reading

The Real Existential Threats Of 2016

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN On September 30, the end of fiscal year 2016, the national debt is projected to reach $19.3 trillion. With spending on the four biggest budget items — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, defense — rising, and GDP growing at 1 percent, future deficits will exceed this year’s projected $600 billion. National bankruptcy,…Continue Reading

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic… A Frontal Challenge To The Left: Taking On The Homosexual Movement

By STEPHEN M. KRASON (Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic column appears monthly [sometimes bimonthly]. 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. He is also co-founder and president of the Society…Continue Reading

Truths And Trends

By DONALD DeMARCO Aristotle, in his Metaphysics, declares that “it is right also that philosophy should be called knowledge of the truth.” This statement contrasts sharply with Pontius Pilate’s famous assertion, “What is Truth?” If we cannot know truths, there is nothing to build on and philosophy is a vanity. Pilate, on the other hand,…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Divine Mercy And Justice

By Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke Part 2 (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the Consecration Weekend, The Marian Catechist Apostolate, Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Crosse, Wis., July 23, 2016. Because of its length, we are publishing it in two parts; part 1 appeared in last week’s issue. And also because…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Moral Outrages Mount While Bishops Snooze

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The U.S. bishops’ conference is a leadership disaster. Joe Biden presiding over the marital simulation ceremony of two men who work in the Obama administration was the latest unanswered provocation to assail the American portion of the Body of Christ. Vice President Biden has completely sold-out on Church teaching. He enthusiastically promoted the rainbow revolution…Continue Reading

The Marvel Of The Catholic Church . . . The Historicity Of The Old And New Testaments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA Part 14 Is the Book of Genesis historical or simply allegorical? Many have spent hours and days and years trying to prove one view or the other, as if God our Lord left to individuals the ability to decide about it. The truth is that some things are historical and some things are allegorical and some…Continue Reading

The Baptism Of Jesus

By DON FIER Much that regards Christianity and the Catholic faith we profess to believe is prefigured in the Old Covenant; signs and shadows which prepared the way for the New Testament abound throughout the pages of the Old. And as we saw last week, this is especially true for the Sacrament of Baptism: “[In] water, seen as source of…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. At the time when Moses received the Ten Commandments from God, was the original intent of the Fifth Commandment to be a proscription against murder? — P.C., California. A. We would say yes. Beginning with the murder of Abel by his brother Cain long before Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, God had told His Chosen People…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Euphrasia Eluvathingal

By CAROLE BRESLIN In 1605 Fr. Robert De Nobili, a Jesuit priest, arrived in India to evangelize the people. He found them to have a noble bearing and a deeply spiritual life filled with fasting, prayer, and meditation. Difficulties presented themselves to him as he struggled to convert them: “If these people did not see me do such penance, they…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Joseph Of Cupertino

By CAROLE BRESLIN Now that the school year has begun, students — especially Catholic students — will find recourse to their favorite patron saint of studying. Some may choose St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine of Hippo. For those students who find it difficult to retain what they read and write about it, perhaps this saint will encourage them: St.…Continue Reading