Bishops: "An economy that cannot provide employment…is broken"

The United States bishops yesterday released their annual statement for Labor Day:

“This Labor Day, the economic facts are stark and the human costs are real: millions of our sisters and brothers are without work, raising children in poverty and haunted by fears about their economic security,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California in “Human Costs and Moral Challenges of a Broken Economy,” the annual Labor Day statement of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). He added, “These are not just economic problems, but also human tragedies, moral challenges, and tests of our faith.”

Bishop Blaire, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said this Labor Day comes at a time when nine percent of Americans are looking for work and cannot find it, while others live in fear of losing their jobs. He cited Pope Leo XIII’s groundbreaking encyclical Rerum Novarum as the inspiration for this year’s statement, and added, “We need to look beyond the economic indicators, stock market gyrations, and political conflicts and focus on the often invisible burdens of ordinary workers and their families, many of whom are hurting, discouraged, and left behind by this economy.” He further stated, “An economy that cannot provide employment, decent wages and benefits, and a sense of participation and ownership for its workers is broken in fundamental ways.”

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28 responses to “Bishops: "An economy that cannot provide employment…is broken"”

  1. With all due respect the Bishops are talking out of both sides of their mouths. They have supported illegal immigration for the past several decades, that has driven down wages in several fields of employment. They have also stood by and said nothing while American jobs were outsourced to 3rd World countries. I respect their opinions on matters of faith, but this is one area where they are out of touch. They do not know what it is to work a real job, or support a wife and family.

  2. The main problem with your commentary, Ray, is that immigrants legal and otherwise are consumers. They use fuel, they buy groceries, they build homes and roads, they pay taxes, and contribute to their communities.

    Far more damaging to the employment picture is the withholding of jobs by corporations to the advantage of shareholders and executives. This behavior is sinful, and the trend of politicians to ignore this in favor of silly ideas like attacking gays and lesbians under the guise of defending marriage.

    Perhaps it is time to take economic control of our communities, urge local businesses to take the risk the corporations refuse, and to keep jobs, production, and consumption as local as possible.

    The bishops are right, and their preaching on immigration harms the economy not one whit.

  3. Ray:

    “They have also stood by and said nothing while American jobs were outsourced to 3rd World countries.”

    Now, why do you think that is so?

  4. The only thing more depressing to me than the economy, continues to be the tone and import of some of the comments.

    For God’s sake – when there is no dignity because of no work, I can promise you that life deteriorates quickly and hard. Domestic violence is certainly up – and who knows how else this impacts the family unit. We can cry all we want about gay marriage but I venture a guess that this has more impact on most families.

    And yes – there was probably a terrible silence or maybe not a very loud voice from the bishops about earlier corporate behavior, that when combined with a bad economy, lead us to where we are today.

    Numerous Americans are in a place of what seems to be zero and I do mean zero hope. I can tell you that more and more people come to the church for help; we do what we can. When someone walks in, in utter shame and degradation because they have a $1200 utility bill and shut off notice you just want to cry. They were sure they could get something going, find a job, something. And they were too ashamed to speak up sooner.

    When corporate executives do this, we say they were bold and took chances. When families do it we mock and deride them.

    And God knows we put the corporation at the pinnacle of all in the US. Each one has far more rights and benefits than the average person.

    Dignity, many of them don’t really care about that, so they don’t need it.

  5. Ray is right on the impact of illegal immigration on jobs. The country set up immigration laws to allow the government to control the inflow of new workers to match the need and to allow assimilation of the incoming people. Illegal immigration has killed many of the jobs in construction, landscaping, and other areas formerly held by US citizens and also has allowed the overall pay for many jobs to be lowered by employers. Why have immigration laws if you are going to have open borders and very little done to stop it or penalize those who break the laws? If we need more workers, then congress should address this with minor changes to the totals allowed which should be a simple process if the need is there. At times of large unemployment as we have now, the numbers should go down. Easy fix. set up a program as with whistle blowers. set up huge fines for employing illegals with increases where it can be documented that taxes, SS, and Medicare were not withheld. Pay those who rat out these employers a percentage of the fine and you will dry up jobs in a short time frame for those who break our laws.

    Todd, illegal immigrants often send a good portion of the money they make out of the country. They live in apartments with 20-30 people and eat cheap. They often drive cars unfit for the road and without insurance. They send their kids to schools without paying taxes to support them and to emergency rooms for medical care. Fix the immigration issue with numbers to match country needs and clean up the mess with employers. And the issue with holding back on jobs is things like ObamaCare and the huge amount of new regulations and red tape imposed on employers since Obama gained office. Also the increases in things like fuel which has doubled since Obama arrived and its impact on everything else stops employers from hiring. Hiring people just to create jobs will only drive more them out of business. We also need to massively cut government jobs on the federal, state, and local level. some of the cities started massive programs when they had huge revenues and they have not made the proper adjustments. The old days of unlimited benefits, pension plans, and pay increases for government workers has to end or the states will go bankrupt. Some of the states are making changes as in Ohio and Wisconsin, but others have tried to depend on handouts from the federal government that is broke as well.

    HMS, jobs were outsourced because we now live in a global enviornment and it will never go back to what it was before. I note the head of Obama jobs program Immelt with GE is shipping its xray manufacturing from Wisconsin where it has been for decades to China and cutting jobs elsewhere. GE Jack Welch once made the statement that the perfect manufacturing company would operate as if on a river where you could pick up employees needed for one stretch of the river and throw them off as you rounded the bend. He put in effect the program that still exists of rack and stack forcing every department to rate their top 10% and bottom 10% and explain why the bottom 10 is still around. Remember those corporations the left seems to hate are also the ones who have the investment of many all over the country and even with the unions for pension plans and they depend on those companies profits and dividends. Thinking we can go backwards with the old type of jobs at huge pay and benefits makes about as much sense as holding out for the blacksmith after the arrival of the car or farming jobs going into the industrial age.

    What would make sense is to look at jobs where we can go get oil wherever possible. this will create a lot of very good paying jobs and drive down the cost of gas which helps everyone. Instead we spend money to create green jobs in industries that to make sense demand we pay huge gas and utility costs or they are not viable which hurts everyone. Green jobs only make sense if they can compete on equal terms.

    As to the bishops voice on things like the economy, I think it should be reseved for areas where their is solid Catholic teaching on faith and moral issues aimed at helping us get to heaven. Why we should think bishops should focus on issues related to economy makes little sense as they have no expertise and in fact could promote concepts which make the economy worse for everyone. If there is ever an area where separation of church and state makes sense, it should be in economic areas. Remember that the church has gone out of business in many areas of every city and state over the last 50 years. They have also shown they are not able to fill their own need for priests with strong vocational programs and that has had a huge impact on the ability to deliver their product. If a bishop has one main job, it is to build a solid program to help bring the needed priest and religious into the Church. As a former CEO, my number one job was to recruit and retain good people in my business. So lets let the bishops speak out on how to help us attain heaven by avoiding and fighting against grave sin as with abortion and special rights for gay behavior.

  6. As always, the flaw seems to me to be greed, which is a manifestation of the sin of pride.

    I think the American bishops have issued an important reminder that people are not statistics to be manipulated, here. In that sense, it seems to me entirely consistent with supporting immigrants. Whether it is economically consistent, I don’t know. I’m not an economist, and neither, I suspect, are most of the American bishops.

  7. The bishops cite “immigration.” Unfortunately, they keep forgetting to include the adjective “ILLEGAL” whenever they write about this topic. However, it is only one part of the problem.

    One part they do not seem to want to discuss is union corruption and the vast amounts of $$ (taken from union workers) spent on political campaigns, which in many instances is spent against the candidate they want to win.

    Could you imagine how many more benefits union members would receive or how much more money they would have in their pockets if union leadership were just and honest?

    The unions spent, by all accounts, $30,000,000 to unseat six legislators in Wisc. And they only succeeded in two races. Can you imagine how much more food that would have put on the tables of unemployed union members? How much more medical assistance they would have received? Talk about wasted money.

  8. You think is bad here? Try living in Mexico, Bangladesh or Spain and Greece. Even China that has the lion share of foreign industry has unemployment.

    I guess the whole world is broken because there will always be unemployment, the only thing that changes is how much of it there is. No government in the world can guarantee full employment. The best a government can do is do not harm to the economy so that the private sector can crate the jobs.

    Countries that have tried to create jobs by creating government jobs have failed eventually.

  9. Unions are the blame? Really, yes they spent money, how much did the corporations spend – money that might have gone to the workers or the stockholders to defeat legislators in Wisc? What makes you think that if the unions did not exist the workers would receive more benefits – the way American capitalism works is that money not spend goes to the top. Not that unions are perfect – they are not – but they are not the root of the problem. The root of the problem that the bishops addressed was corporate greed, speculation and the worship of mammon.

  10. Andy:


    Greed is one of the capital sins in our capitalistic society.

    We need to revisit church teachings about justice and the the working class thanks to Cardinals Gibbons and Manning, and Pope Leo XIII.

  11. Todd – I believe I said “ILLEGAL” immigrants. Who don’t always pay taxes, use public services, and send a large portion of their money out of the country. They have driven American workers out of several professions. And I did mention Corporations out sourcing jobs – so I think we are in agreement there.

    HMS – Why haven’t they said anything about outsourcing American jobs? Well, like I said they don’t have a clue what it is to support a family. It doesn’t affect them till the collection basket starts getting light. And then they give one of there sermons trying to guilt us into giving more. Sorry if that sound cynical, but the average priest really doesn’t care about people struggling to make ends meet. They have no appreciation for how hard people have to work for that money to magically appear in the Church coffers every Sunday.

  12. And before everyone starts attacking Corporations, they are not all bad. Our Governmenent should regulate the flow of jobs. Our tax code, should heavily punish companies who outsource jobs to other countries, and reward companies who create jobs here.

  13. Andy:

    I did not say that unions are the root of the problem. You are putting words in my posting. I said that they are part of the problem and something the bishops should address.

    The next time a union creates something — other than no-show jobs, junkets for their leadership, skimming of funds, padding the pockets of the DNC — then we can talk.

    Remember, a union tells you what you can make — not what you are worth — based on your skills.

  14. American companies pay about .75 cents per hour in China for 9 or more hours of labor (the Chinese workers work from Monday to Saturday and are confined to the compound. They let them out on Saturday evening for R & R). In Vietnam the wage is about the same, perhaps lower. Cambodia increased their labor to about .55 cents recently. In these countries it cost to make a pair of shoes about $8.00 to $10.00. These same shoes will sell in the U.S. for about $ 60.00 to $120.00 plus. Is this right or wrong? These jobs probably lower the cost of these shoes from over $200.00 they would cost if manufactured here in America. They provide millions of jobs in other countries for people who otherwise would no jobs at all. Yet at the same time all of these jobs were lost to Americans, the profits of the companies are leonine and the country here has been stripped of most labor intensive manufacturing jobs. Regulation and Taxation have a lot to do with it, but I think companies have realized the incredible bargain that cheap labor is. Its the global economy and nothing will change it short of a revolutionary change of mind by the whole paradigm.

  15. Andy and HMS. Making money is not an evil in and of itself. Many of the wealthy dedicate their lives and fortune to good workds later in their lives and America is blessed with libraries and much more as a result. America was built on the concept where the average guy could have an idea and the guts to go after it with a government that did not get in the way of that pursuit to take that idea to reality. we once looked up to success but lately it seems to be a bad thing to be too successful in the eyes of the socialist thinking left. Corporations are made up of people and most of the time the investors include the unions, retired people, and even the churches. There has never been a successful society or country that thought with a socialist concept of equal pay for all. The redistribution of wealth destroys the environment that creates wealth and jobs. Normally when the wealthy made more, the middle class grew as well. Hell, even the poor in our country live better than the middle class in many countries.

    As to the poor, I do not remember Jesus ever giving a sermon on changing the roman government to start programs for the poor. I don’t remember his march to rome to demand large government programs to end poverty. What Jesus talked about was for each of us to give what we are called in our heart to give as our hearts are filled with His love. This ties not to ending poverty on earth, but to helping us to find ways to reach heaven. he said to give to government what is government and to God what is God’s. The left has created the idea that big government is to be our God on earth and to end all ills on earth. That idea starts with stealing money from one to have the government decide who gets the money and what they have to do to receive it. Work hard and make money and they come to steal it. Do not work, have kids out of wedlock, and do other destructive things with your life and there is a big government program for you. The bishops in this country should indeed talk about the need for everyone to do what they can for the poor, but to dictate who does what and how is wrong. They also should preach nothing that says breaking laws is the right thing to do. I notice the left has no issue with them saying it is OK to say illegal immigration is ok, but would scream if the bishops indicated in any way that going after doctors who kill babies is in any way acceptable.

  16. Greta:

    I never said that making money was evil. As a matter of fact, I like to have it around, especially when I have enough to pay for my son’s education and an occasional high quality wine.

    Remember 1 Timothy 6: 10,17-19

    “For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.”

    Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life.

    Be generous, ready to share? Hmm…

  17. Personal opinion and suggestion:

    Others have said the source of the problem is greed. Indeed!

    Personally, I think the more direct problem is theft (7th commandment) resulting from that greed.

    When people misuse the ways things work in the physical world, such as jumping off a tall building, they get a solid consequence at the end of the fall that does not depend on their personal belief in the existence or lack thereof of gravity.

    It would be foolish to believe that any government could change gravity and the consequences of it by merely passing a law. In this sense natural law trumps human belief every time.

    I think the same holds true with economic and government systems enacted into law. Humanly passed laws that either directly or indirectly end up causing a large number of people to have their honestly earned and owned property or money seized without their consent do violence to an economy. Why would we think an economy subject to such laws that ignore natural law (as expressed in the 10 commandments, for instance) would prosper? The effects may take longer and be less directly observable than the fall off the tall building, but I think they are just as inevitable.

    This is true whether the law directly commits theft itself, by taxing different classes of people at what can be wildly different rates, such that their consent (through a legal means, such as the vote) to being taxed does not exist (the definition of theft – the taking through threat of force without the informed consent of the one being taken from).

    Or this can be true of those wealthy who abuse contract law, or who falsely advertise (or grossly mislead) what their good or service is.

    Or this can be true of those who collude with others to effectively form a monopoly, so that those who wish to purchase products so monopolized have no choice. Both businesses and labor unions do this. From what I can see, labor unions are a reaction to businesses having done this first.

    Or this can be true of those who regulate, perhaps starting with good intentions, in a way that goes beyond the initial good intentions into denying whole classes of potential workers or business people the value of their skills, by denying them the legal right to use those skills.

    I don’t think theft can ever be completely eliminated from society, at least not without a radical change in the morality of the entire population. However, to enact human laws that attempt to reduce the various forms of theft would seem to me to get the economy subject to those laws in much better shape.

    After all, why would anyone work hard merely to have over half of what they have earned taken from them by force? Why would anyone start to produce a good or service if they didn’t know whether or not it would continue to be legal and profitable?

  18. HMS, revisting an encyclical over 100 years old that has anything to do with the economy or wealth today has to be taken with some skepticism. The attack on corporate greed is an easy one to make, but if you have stock in a corporation, you want to see maximum return on your investment, especially if it is the primary source of your income say in retirement. My point is that this is not the role of bishops and certainly not to have them lead on economic terms involving government growth or programs.

    Yes, we should do everything possible to help the poor. How that is done is the issue. I believe that Jesus wanted to teach each of us to do what we can on a personal basis for someone else in more need than us. Do you think that Catholic teaching is fulfilled by the use of income tax by the government with massive government programs to dole out funds to the people they choose worthy? If you raise corporate taxes, the cost will be passed on as part of the cost of the product or service to everyone else. It is amazing to me that so few people seem to get this or understand the basics of economics.

    So telling the rich to do more depends on who is assigned the task of telling them and if it includes someone forcing the taking of their money to give to others I have yet to see it anywhere in the gospel…

  19. ART ND 76, you are right on target. Adding to that of course is the massive misuse of the stolen funds that encourage bad behavior. every year we hear about the billions/trillions in every program due to fraud and abuse. Frankly, I wish the government would show some respect for the money they are stealing. It all gets back to the federal government taking on roles not given to them by the states and the state government and local governments in many ways doing the same thing.

    If the politicians were held accountable in the same way as they are in business, many would be in jail over the ponzi schemes called medicare and social security or the utter corrupt fannie and freddie and what they did to the housing industry. Something is very wrong in the USA and it will not end until the concept of progressive socialist engineering is disposed of forever.

  20. Whoa, Greta #20:

    Every papal encyclical on economics has reaffirmed and updated the teaching in Rerum Novarum (1891)

    Quadragesimo anno (1931) Pope Pius XI

    Mater et Magistra (1961) Pope John XXII

    Octogesima Adveniens (1971) Pope Paul VI

    Popuorum Progressio (1967) Pope Paul VI

    Laborem Exercens (1981) Pope John Paul VI

    Sollicitudo re socilais (1987) Pope John Paul II

    Centesimus annus (1991) – Pope John Paul II
    “In spite of the great changes which have taken place in the more advanced societies, the human inadequacies of capitalism and the resulting domination of things over people are far from disappearing. In fact, for the poor, to the lack of material goods has been added a lack of knowledge and training which prevents them from escaping their state of humiliating subjection.”

  21. It’s them damn illegals! Americans were *dying* to pick lettuce for crap wages but them damn illegals came here, *forced* those employers to hire them at crap wages and decent hard-working Americans who were longing to do back-breaking labor for exploitation wages just were helpless!

    Blame the poor! ignore fantastically wealthy plutocrats who get a trillion bucks in secret deals from the State.

  22. HMS, in going over your list of encyclicals, which ones and where do they advocate huge government programs financed by stealing money earned by one person and given to another? Again, the issue is one of how we are to deal with poverty and how we as people chose to give of ourselves. And once again, Jesus did not advocate new taxes by the roman government or a roman solution to poverty unless i missed that part of the sermon on the mount. I can hear the sermon now refreshed with the need for larger democratic type government programs to fund the war on poverty.

    Frankly, I think that some in leadership in the Catholic Church have gone socialist which of course JPII spent a lot of time trying to end when fostered by the USSR with strong language about the evils of the socialist state. I will be interested to read where the Pope endorses high taxes and if so, we should then start with ending the tax exemption for each not for profit endorsing higher taxes. No more benefits for donating to any not for profit for any reason if they support higher taxes. The removal of this tax deductible form of giving would bring in a good chunk of revenue. The Church should limit itself to saving souls and one way to do that for the individual is to give until it hurts to help those in need, not to endorse state stealing. Will be waiting to see that theft concept in written form from any Pope.

  23. Shea, you must have had a brain freeze that stopped with the grape workers decades ago. Last time I looked, illegals were taking jobs in construction, factories, and many other areas and where they were not directly taking the job, the wages and benefits were frozen as a result of adding 15 million illegals into the work force who can be exploited.

    Also, with many of the old manufacturing jobs and other industries moving out of America in a global competition, many who lost those jobs would be glad to have a shot at many jobs now being taken by illegals, especially when the ever increasing unemployment insurance runs out.

    The solution is simple. have a whistle blower program established where anyone can report one of those employers hiring illegal immigrants at explotation wages and often do not pay social security other deductions. The money to pay the whistle blower would come from huge fines on these employers. You would see illegals ratting out employers as well as other citizens for the quick hit money. Result, no more hiring of illegals and as the jobs dry up for them in this country, they leave and go the legal route. This of course would mean the employer wanting to fill need would have to pay more to citizens of this country to do the job. Congress at this point can save billions by not having to catch or care for the illegals lowering our debt and that of many states. If the employers cannot find people to do the work and demonstrate the need, Congress can then change the numbers on legal immigration to meet need. Everyone wins. Simple.

  24. Greta: “And once again, Jesus did not advocate new taxes by the roman government or a roman solution to poverty unless i missed that part of the sermon on the mount.”

    No, he assigned a large part of that job to the Church, Greta. Of course, if the Church is not up to the task then we can hardly expect God to sit by and let the poor starve, can we? After all, didn’t Jesus say that if the people did not praise Him the very rocks themselves would cry out? How much more then would God use something other than the Church to help the poor if the Church were unwilling/unable to do the job?

    After all, it’s God’s money, not yours, isn’t it?

  25. Richard.

    Disconnect here? what has “didn’t Jesus say that if the people did not praise Him the very rocks themselves would cry out” have anything to do with economic discussions by the bishops? If he had said the stones would cry out if rome does not establish massive welfare programs to take care of the poor or the stones would cry out, it might apply.

    “How much more then would God use something other than the Church to help the poor if the Church were unwilling/unable to do the job?” Again, since the topic is the bishops speaking out on the poor, maybe if the church is not able or willing, maybe the bishops should be looking to see what the Church is doing to help the poor. In days past, before the Church closures in most of the urban poor areas or before the Catholic hospitals focused on the bottom line, it could be said the church was indeed doing above and beyond for the poor. Now too many of the Church leaders have signed on to supporting government programs to do this job and the government has turned around and tried to make sure that effective religious programs helping the poor are blocked from funding by government. Many church leaders supported the Democrats war on poverty started by LBJ. trillions were spent over time and yet it would appear to me that they were wasted as poverty seems to be winning that war. The collateral damage to families in poor neighborhoods is clear to any objective evaluation. The best way to help the poor is to bring them jobs and in our society that means helping companies be as successful as possible with the least amount of regulations and taxes holding back growth. As a retired former CEO and one in contact with hundreds of them trying to grow their companies today, all I hear is how much the regulations under the Obama czars and departments have exploded and how much uncertainty their is on things like Obamacare holding them back from hiring. The Bush tax cuts which became the Obama tax cuts last December when he reached agreement with the republicans to extend them for two years started to allow some growth until Obama under heat started about renigging on that agreement and starting his tax the rich election run. Now again, uncertainty. To run a business, the more you take government uncertainty and interference out, the more jobs you will create.

    If Church is not the answer Richard, God knows that government will never be his answer, but one of His many problems. That is why Jesus said give to Caesar what is his and to God what is Gods. The bishops should be focusing on what is Gods and that is how to help us get to heaven. One thing they could do is encourage us to give as much as possible to help the poor, but that should not mean giving it to the government who has proven they cannot do anything without imposing their godless rules and with huge fraud and abuse the political hacks so love to talk about. Bishops could also encourage the government to stop stealing money from one to give to another as it is against Gods commandments.

  26. Kind of funny to hear a teacher point the finger of blame at greedy corporations. No one is greedier than teachers. Kids graduate colleges in debt for the rest of their lives, while teachers rake in their salary, pensions, and two months paid vacation. “physician, heal thyself” ? – Hmm

    Seems like it is human nature to always think the fault lies with the other guy.

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