Cue the Excuse-Making!


I am, it goes without saying, a bomb-throwing Communist for thinking that workers should not be making hundred of times less than their boss and that depriving workers of a just wage is still a sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance.

HT: Caelum et Terra

  • Dan F.

    I’m not convinced that raising the minimum wage is the panacea that its proponents think. Yes, “big businesses” ought to pay their workers better even for (relatively) “unskilled” work. What will probably happen is they will automate more processes and eliminate workers to keep their labor costs in line with their business models.

    The people who will really be hurt by this are small business owners with already thin profit margins who may be paying more than the current minimum wage but less than the proposed hike for “unskilled” labor. Also, IIRC many union contracts tie their starting wages to a multiple of the minimum wage so a hike in the minimum wage by up to 38% (depending on what state minimum wages are) would see a corresponding hike in union wages. That much increase in labor costs will likely result in small unionized manufacturers going out of business or outsourcing their work to East Asia.

    Net result of attempting to achieve a living wage for McD and Walmart employees by federal fiat will be less jobs available for many others.

    A better idea would be to attach a penalty to businesses whose (full-time) workers qualify for SNAP or other significant government assistance.

    • ivan_the_mad

      It is indeed not a simple issue.

      “But if the business in question is not making enough money to pay the workers an equitable wage because it is being crushed by unjust burdens or forced to sell its product at less than a just price, those who are thus the cause of the injury are guilty of grave wrong, for they deprive workers of their just wage and force them under the pinch of necessity to accept a wage less than fair.” — §72, Quadragesimo Anno

    • Dan Berger

      A better idea would be to attach a penalty to businesses whose (full-time) workers qualify for SNAP or other significant government assistance.

      Sounds good on its face, but that’ll just end up as “required health insurance” all over again: workers’ hours will be cut so they’re just barely under full-time — but they’ll be required to be available for work at any time on pain of being fired.

      The proper solution is to cut the loopholes, and the easiest way to do that is to raise the minimum wage.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Certainly, the question of a minimum wage (whether there ought to be one, and if so, what ought to be its value) is a matter of prudence on which men of good will can (and will) disagree. But this image does serve to remind one of the moral issues involved in the discussion, which transcend and constrain the question of economic efficiency which invariably arises. We must consider the moral end we wish to attain before considering the means, economic or otherwise.

    That a wage really ought to support the worker: “Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.” — §45, Rerum Novarum

    That a wage really ought to support the worker and his family: “It is an intolerable abuse, and to be abolished at all cost, for mothers on account of the father’s low wage to be forced to engage in gainful occupations outside the home to the neglect of their proper cares and duties, especially the training of children. Every effort must therefore be made that fathers of families receive a wage large enough to meet ordinary family needs adequately. But if this cannot always be done under existing circumstances, social justice demands that changes be introduced as soon as possible whereby such a wage will be assured to every adult workingman.” — §71, Quadragesimo Anno

  • Faithr

    I get the just wage thing. The idea that if you are working you shouldn’t be starving, homeless, etc. But I don’t really care how much the CEO is making if the the wages are just. Also, I don’t think every job is supposed to pay enough to maintain a household. There are entry level jobs that simply aren’t going to economically pay enough to pay rent for instance. I think that focus is wrong, to get really angry at so and so because he’s making a fortune. To me that smacks too much of the type of thinking that goes: The Catholic Church should sell all its holdings and that will fix poverty on earth. The money that the CEO/hollywood star/NFL player makes is probably an unjust amount and reflects the fallen nature of our lives, but that is not where our focus should lie. They do pay a huge percentage of our taxes, they do give to places like universities, charities, museums, they do have money to create more businesses that create more jobs. So a lot of good also comes out of those high earnings, even if it is unjust as well. And for another thing, a lot of these places like McDonalds and Dunkin’ Donuts are franchises so it is wrong to compare the CEO of the whole thing to the amount the hamburger flipper makes. It should be what the owner of that particular franchise makes to his/her employees. Doesn’t that make more sense? There I don’t think the difference is nearly so great. Maybe the franchise system is what is unjust? Anyway, I could go on with my questions. I don’t really know, I just don’t think it is as simple as that poster suggests.

  • Jem

    Let they who are without sin cast the first stone. Catholic institutions have claimed that paying overtime and the minimum wage violates their ‘religious freedom’, and that principle is routinely applied so ludicrously broadly that the courts have found in their favor:

    The religious can’t be expected to follow the law. Next thing you know, they’ll have to treat gay people like human beings and women will be getting the health care they’re paying for. Pay a living wage, and how will they fund the retirement palaces for bishops?

    Cue, as they say, the excuse making.

    • Benjamin2.0

      Next thing you know, they’ll have to treat gay people like human beings and women will be getting the health care they’re paying for.
      Aside from your obviously question begging equivocations, I think your conclusion and Mr. Shea’s have something in common. You both take the strange right of employees to their employers’ money to outweigh the rights of the employers to do what they will with their money. While both sides can lament the facts, reasonable men could disagree with regard to the solution. The adjective “reasonable” begins to strain when one talks of throwing out natural rights for the sake of newly-concocted ones, though. It’s not that principle is the most important thing (no, that’s such an understatement the idea differs from the reality in kind), it’s that principle is why anything matters at all. If pragmatism is all you’ll hear, though, how long could a McDonald’s continue to make a profit if it paid its employees $10 per hour? Why should we kill the golden goose through thug politics for an extra golden egg today?

      • Jem

        “The adjective “reasonable” begins to strain when one talks of throwing
        out natural rights for the sake of newly-concocted ones, though.”

        We should go back to the traditional ways: corporations issuing decrees about which methods of contraception their employees and their spouses are allowed to spend their wages on.

        “If pragmatism is all you’ll
        hear, though, how long could a McDonald’s continue to make a profit if
        it paid its employees $10 per hour?”

        A very crude calculation is that McDonalds could keep profits and expenses at exactly their current level and pay a minimum wage of $15 if they charged $1.19 for a dollar meal.

        An alternative could be to do what they’ve just started doing in Italy and Spain, and tax churches for their business activities and end their exemption from paying property taxes. That would raise $71Bn a year, almost exactly the Federal government’s annual Education budget.

        • Heather

          “We should go back to the traditional ways: corporations issuing decrees about which methods of contraception their employees and their spouses are allowed to spend their wages on.”
          Isn’t the issue which methods of contraception the corporation itself has decided not to pay for? As far as I am aware the employees are free to spend their wages on whatever they want.

          • Almario Javier


            • Jem

              As I noted, when employers pay towards an employee’s health care, it’s not ‘the employer’s money’, any more than wages are: It’s another form of compensation for work done by the employee.

              One of the mechanisms Hobby Lobby are proposing to enforce their ‘religious rights’ is to scrutinize claims to make sure that doctors haven’t so much as discussed contraception. So, if an employee or someone else covered by the plan – a wife, a daughter – goes to a gynecologist, someone (perhaps many someones) at Hobby Lobby will read the doctor’s report. Which will include, as standard, questions about sexual history or activity. Or, to put it another way, if you’re a guy working for Hobby Lobby, someone in HR will be able to open a file and find out how many sexual partners your 21 year daughter has had.

              Yay! LIBERTY!!!

              Different methods of contraception are suitable for different circumstances. Some are very cheap, some can be rather expensive. As with every medical decision, it should be based on what the doctor thinks is the best course of action, having discussed it with his patient.

              If the owner of your company was a Saudi prince and you got a mileage allowance for your car, would it be acceptable for him to stipulate that women couldn’t ever drive it, or sit in it unchaperoned?

              • Benjamin2.0

                when employers pay towards an employee’s health care, it’s not ‘the employer’s money’, any more than wages are: It’s another form of compensation for work done by the employee.
                Giving money to someone who goes and spends it viciously by his own volition isn’t morally equivalent to spending one’s own money viciously on another’s behalf. I’m glad I got here too late for this discussion…

                • Jem

                  “Giving money to someone who goes and spends it viciously by his own
                  volition isn’t morally equivalent to spending one’s own money viciously
                  on another’s behalf.”

                  Your fundamental, rather telling, error is in thinking that a boss ‘gives’ you your money. It speaks volumes as to how you see that relationship working, and where the authority, responsibility and agency lies.

                  Your boss is not choosing to spend some of his money on your health care, or ‘giving’ it to you as some kind of gift. He is required to by law. If your wages are ‘your money’, then so are employer contributions to your health plan. If they’re ‘gifts’ from your employer, then three cheers for feudalism, and that’s entirely consistent with Hobby Lobby’s desire to peruse the details of your family’s sex life.

                  Look … you can take lessons in moral complicity from Cardinal Dolan if you want. According to him, a statutory requirement to buy health insurance that explicitly excludes abortion makes him complicit in abortion; but he’s not complicit in the child abuse scandal even though he acknowledges he signed six figure checks to pedophile priests so they went quietly, ordered that child rapists were simply moved to another diocese, and sheltered the church’s money so they don’t have to pay court-mandated settlements to victims. This isn’t ‘a double standard’ so much as parallel universe stuff. Before Cardinal Dolan campaigned for Romney, he was happy to have a health plan with exactly the wording the ACA mandates. If such a thing wasn’t impossible, it would almost be as if the senior US Catholic is a opportunistic hypocrite, isn’t it?

                  It’s a ludicrous position, and in any sane world his role in the legal system would not be ‘he’s influencing legislation’ it would be ‘he’s eligible for parole at some point in the 2040s’.

      • MarylandBill

        This is not a question of rights to an employers money, but rather whether employers and CEOs (not necessarily the same thing) are unfairly benefiting from the labor of the common employee at the expense of a living wage for those common employees. If a company is making large profits, it has a duty under natural law to use a large portion of those profits to ensure that their employees receive a living wage. This right trumps the right of the employer to do whatever they want with their money just as much as the obligation to replay a creditor trumps that right.

      • Roki

        The “right of employees to their employers’ money” is not strange in the least, though its phrasing is. An employee, by his very status as employed, has a right to recompense for his labor. It is a fundamental human right to support oneself and one’s family with the fruits of one’s labor – even if that labor is sold for a wage.

        An employer’s “rights of the employers to do what they will with their money” is limited, on the other hand, by the universal destination of goods. Anyone may do whatever they like with their money or other property – so long as they do not deny the goods of the earth, including food, shelter, decent clothing, opportunity for health care, etc., to anyone else.

        • Benjamin2.0

          Anyone may do whatever they like with their money or other property – so long as they do not deny the goods of the earth, including food, shelter, decent clothing, opportunity for health care, etc., to anyone else.
          Theoretically, yes, but therein likes the rub. It has not been demonstrated that McDonald’s is denying anything to their employees. If you divide the offending CEO salary by the number of minimum wage and near-minimum wage employees, you don’t get a boost to $10 per hour. You get something less than one dollar per hour. Folding all the corporate profits on top of that won’t get you much farther. Lots of money divided by lots of workers can end up being very small. Even firing the CEO and becoming a not-for-profit company can’t quite get the employees $10 per hour. So, in addition to this solution being unprincipled and economically foolhardy, it’s also mathematically impossible. I know this point is buried now, three days late, but the point still hasn’t been made. I’d hoped someone would have picked up the slack in my absence.

          • Roki

            Well, if full-time workers at McDonald’s (or any other company) is not able to afford food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and a few benefits of culture for themselves and their families on the wages they receive, then yes, McDonald’s (or whatever company) is withholding a just wage from those workers.

            If a company must accept lower profits (not just a cut in executive salaries, but lower corporate profits) in order to pay a just wage, then that is what they must do, morally speaking. If the company cannot make any profit, perhaps cannot even break even, while paying a just wage, then that company is by definition uneconomical and must either find a better way of doing business or fold.

            In terms of how to regulate this legally, well, I must leave that to more legally educated minds than myself. It is not an easy question, and I doubt there is a single or simple answer.

            • Benjamin2.0

              If you will allow me to speak just once more, though I am but dust and ashes, dividing the $5.5 billion dollars of annual profits by its 1.7 million employees gets us $3,235 per annum. That’s only going to be a little over a dollar and a half per hour raise to a full time employee right at the threshold of bankrupting the company. This is clearly not the imagined case of an evil corporate villain hoarding more than enough money to make up the difference. Further, if the company goes under, those 1.7 million people aren’t exactly better off. While I admire the ends of this push, the means are dubious in principle and certainly aren’t prudent.

              • Roki

                I am not suggesting any means at all. I am simply laying out the principle that, if a business cannot afford to pay a living wage, then it cannot afford to hire employees, morally speaking.

                I don’t think that corporations are by nature evil – though I tend to be suspicious of big anything, because as size increases so do opportunities for systems to replace persons. But my goal is not to shut down any big corporation. My goal is to raise awareness of the principle that a living wage is owed in justice to every employee. A living wage is one that will allow someone to support oneself and one’s family on a full day’s work.

                How this can be accomplished practically… I have no idea. A minimum wage is one approach. I’m not sure it’s the best one, and it has serious problems, but at least it’s an attempt. So I’m not going to dismiss it outright, especially when no one else is offering any serious alternatives.

    • MarylandBill

      It is hardly an excuse to say that your example by its very nature is a distraction from the current discussion. It in fact surprises me that the the seminarians in question were even compensated for their services beyond room and board during their stay at the parish in question (though perhaps that is the norm). To my mind, those placements are akin to an internship which often are unpaid entirely. Further, this is not a discussion about overtime compensation, but rather providing a minimum compensation for workers that is adequate to meet their material needs.

      • Jem

        “It is hardly an excuse to say that your example by its very nature is a distraction from the current discussion.”

        It’s not a distraction to note that the next time you hear a Catholic priest lecturing a giant multinational organization about fair pay, that they’re part of an organization that has gone to court a number of times now and declared that employment law around having to pay the minimum wage doesn’t apply to them because of their religious beliefs.

        How about leading by example and paying a fair wage, rather than paying lawyers a lot of money to wriggle out of doing that?

        • Alma Peregrina

          “How about leading by example and paying a fair wage, blah, blah, blah”

          Because then Jem would say something to the effect: “Why do priests and seminarians receive such high wages compared with a KFC worker? Why not give that money to the poor? etc, etc…”

          When you’re clearly NOT concerned about the seminarians at all. They’re just human admunition for you to throw to the Church so that you’ll get what you REALLY want: contraceptives and gay “equality”.

          Being a seminarian is not a job.
          It’s a vocation.
          Deal with it.

          • Jem

            “Because then Jem would say something to the effect: “Why do priests and seminarians receive such high wages compared with a KFC worker? Why not give that money to the poor? etc, etc…”

            No. Priests don’t get paid very much at all. Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals, the ‘CEOs’ in this analogy, do very well. I fully support the idea of priests getting a living wage. I think the priesthood as a whole should be subject to all employment laws. I think some accommodation should be made for the nature of the employment (I think it would be silly for me, an atheist woman, to apply for the priesthood and then sue because I was discriminated against).

            Many priests do very good work in the community. They should get a fair wage for that and legal protection.

            Two thirds of bishops covered up for pedophiles. They are easily identifiable and should all die in jail.

            “When you’re clearly NOT concerned about the seminarians at all. They’re just human admunition for you to throw to the Church so that you’ll get what you REALLY want: contraceptives and gay “equality”.”

            One of my best friends is a seminarian – he’s more anti-Church than I am, it’s hilarious, you should hear the horror stories – and I have contraceptives, thanks.

          • Roki

            Jem has a certain point, insofar as the Church should follow the same law as everyone else unless there is a specifically religious reason not to. Having seminarians who are in fact interns but wrongly classified is a problem, but it’s one fixed relatively easily.

            Consecrated Religious, who take a vow of poverty, could be an example of a specifically religious exemption from a minimum wage requirement. That said, most Religious congregations I know are perfectly happy to accept a wage or salary if they are working for an outside organization, and that money goes into the common account rather than into anyone’s personal account. It’s a tricky question – as are all discussions about just wage – and it largely depends on the actual situation on the ground.

            However, law should always be based on a norm, not on exceptions. Whatever the law is, exceptions can be made when needed.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    I believe a great deal of the Law and the Prophets and Christ Himself had a WHOLE LOT to say about this.

  • AquinasMan

    I’m all in favor of raising the minimum wage, but the natural consequence will be the hiring of better educated workers than currently make up a section of the “minimum wage” workforce. What you are really asking for is a system that allows for pay increase and keeps the same people employed at those higher pay levels. As I’ve mentioned before, the pool of willing workers would go up exponentially if we were to jack minimum wage to, say 11 or 12 dollars an hour. Unless we want to enforce a quasi-affirmative action based on education level or future job prospects, the poor population this is intending to help, will be left behind by reality.

  • Obpoet

    Rather complicated isn’t it? Raise the wage, many benefit. Some get fired, and then make $0.00 per hour. Lots of unintended consequences. And many companies are barely getting by and not making the profits of the mega companies listed. Economics is always so complicated.

    • Jon W

      The problem is not that economics is complicated. The problem is that some people use that complexity to deny final ends.

      I love how when I make a comment like this, and I get only two upvotes, I know they’ll be from Andy and Ivan. ;-)

      • ivan_the_mad

        “I know they’ll be from Andy and Ivan” He has the gift, the second sight! BURN THE WITCH!!! (For Science™, of course ;)

  • TMLutas

    Sustainable high wages come from increasing labor demand to exceed supply. That’s it, there is no other strategy that durably achieves a living wage through the entire population.

    I wish half the energy devoted to raising the minimum wage were expended on increasing labor demand. We would have a bigger economy, more people having the dignity of work, and higher wages. But it seems like this is not to be in these precincts. Instead we get tired advocacy for a solution that is inferior from a Catholic perspective. Why is an inferior solution the preferred hobbyhorse of so many around here?

    • Jon W

      I wish half the energy devoted to raising the minimum wage were expended on increasing labor demand.

      I’ll bite. How do we do that?

      • TMLutas

        There are a number of ways. Reducing the expenses involved in creating jobs is one. For instance, shift social spending taxation out of payroll taxes paid for by the employer and decouple benefits from employment by equalizing the tax treatment of purchasing these benefits by the beneficiary vs the employer.

        Another avenue for increasing labor demand would be in reducing licensing requirements, such as those protecting incumbent hair stylists from competition from hair braiders and incumbent taxi operations from jitney and share ride operators.

        You can help the problem of insufficient labor demand by making capital more available to entrepreneurs. We’re actually doing a bit of that with the legalization of equity crowdfunding but there’s more that could be one in that arena. The whole accredited investor structure is way too paternalistic in the information age.

        Socially encouraging entrepreneurship by simple goal setting is another way to improve sustainable labor demand. Laying out the great liberation of chinese and indian labor, celebrating it as an advance for human freedom and dignity, and educating people what the implications of that are.

        Eliminate poverty traps that cause extra work to lead to decreased living standards. Move on to a grubstake system that encourages entrepreneurship and savings pools.

        Normalize political sunsetting of regulations so that they don’t outlive their usefulness. We have a horribly undeveloped rail sector in the US because of a century of foolish regulation that, among other things, forced electrified and diesel trains to carry railroad stokers. The net effect of that was to cause dead weight losses to the economy that actually reduced jobs.

        • Almario Javier

          Perhaps the shift in social spending from an employer-based system could be achieved via the negative income tax, as proposed by various figures on both the Right and the Left?

          • TMLutas

            I don’t have an objection to negative income taxes per se, though I’m concerned that adding a third major player in the reform competition might delay improving our present system. The flat tax vs the fair tax are the two current entries in the tax reform derby. Any of the three would be a distinct improvement over the current system which means I’m mostly in favor of action, no matter which faction actually pulls it off. Our present system is an abomination.

            • Almario Javier

              In my opinion those two proposals would be even worse, equitably, than the present system. If it’s a choice between those two, I’ll just take the progressive income tax, thanks.

              • TMLutas

                I don’t see how you could rationally say that but we’re going far enough afield that I’ll leave that discussion for another day. You might want to look up the actual proposals from the advocates. They’re fairly sophisticated and fix the regressive problems that bedevil the simple variants nobody is actually proposing.

          • Jem

            Government backed universal health care is inevitable. We’re getting *really* good at detecting risk factors. Very soon, we’ll be able to genetically test an infant and work out when it will die of heart disease and what cancer might kill it first.

            Little secret: your insurance companies know, statistically, when you’ll die a natural death. And they’re usually within five years of right. If you’ve got life insurance or a pension, there’s a computer somewhere that’s figured out when you’ll be dying, owned by a company with billions of dollars riding on you not outliving that. Yay!

            No private insurance market can exist once genetic testing gets cheap and good. There will inevitably be discrimination between the genetic ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. And the private sector will want the good risks, and they’ll want to burden the public sector with the rest. And the only way to make that work is for the public sector to annexe the pool of good risks.

            So, in our lifetimes, the US government’s going to have to adopt a universal healthcare system like the UK’s, basically. On the plus side, that means we’ll all get cheaper, quicker, high quality medical care with better medical outcomes.

            Oddly enough, if you don’t have to employ offices full of people to chase billing, and you’re not skimming off a profit, you can deliver the same medical care for less money. Who knew?

            • TMLutas

              That’s a lot of confident, evidence free assertions you’re emoting. The most dubious is that the UK provides cheaper, quicker, high quality medical care in their public system. About 10% of the UK has private health insurance mostly because there are things that “free” provision by the NHS means poor service and people are willing to pay privately for better.

              In case you are not aware, there are other systems, for instance Germany, which has universal coverage and about a quarter of healthcare is spent through the private health insurance system.

              Another item that you seem to have overlooked is that it looks quite dubious whether any of these universal systems will last. They are all suffering the exact same problems the american system has of rising costs, just starting from lower bases. The case of Greece is educational. 2.8% of GDP spent on healthcare and they still can’t maintain universal coverage.

              • Jem

                “The most dubious is that the UK – ”

                I’ve been a medical statistician, in the UK and US, for over twenty years. To sum up: you’re wrong. The American system costs almost everyone more, treats less, covers fewer people, pays more for drugs, gets to patients later and has worse outcomes. There’s little to no room for interpretation on any of those statements. The American health care system has two advantages over the UK one: there are more injury lawyers and more medical billing companies. And they employ a lot of people. That’s it. It’s a great system if you’re a lawyer.

                • TMLutas

                  Sorry, I was somewhat clumsy. The US version of medicine is tremendously expensive which gave you the toehold to shoehorn in the rest of your claims which are less than accurate. As somebody who claims professional expertise, I would hold you to a higher standard.


                  Given the facts laid out in the article and their well sourced provenance, in all charity I cannot credit you with honesty. The NHS is in crisis and cannot handle a population that is objectively much less inclined to poor lifestyle choices than the US without having higher rates of mortality in heart disease, stroke, and cancer among other medical conditions. The treatment practices in the UK are considered criminal in the US. In this country you *must* be seen within 24 hours by the admitting physician. Multiple days in hospital without seeing a doctor is just unacceptable as is four months to wait to see a specialist. But four months is an aspirational goal, with the BBC reporting that 30k patients slipped past even that lax standard last January.

                  To say that the US healthcare system is only providing more work for lawyers and medical billers with no other advantages over the UK system is to lie.

                  • Jem

                    “Given the facts laid out in the article”

                    It’s an article written by an American Fox News contributor with a book to sell and message to push, using statistics he seems to have found at the NCPA, an organization ‘established to ensure free trade and privatization’.

                    Take: “prostate cancer mortality rates are strikingly worse in the UK than in the U.S.”. This, on the face of it is true. Here’s the thing: prostate cancer tends to appear late in life and is slow acting. You tend to die of something else before you die of prostate cancer. Nine times more people with prostate cancer in the US die of heart disease than that cancer. What that statistic is actually telling you is ‘you are less likely to die of heart disease in the UK’.
                    It’s easy enough to pick through data and find whatever story you want to find.


                    The numbers are here. The US spends twice as much per capita on healthcare, and in return Americans have fewer hospitals and nurses. You are more likely to die of cancer in the UK, but you’ll live two years longer than you will in the US, and you’re far less likely to die of heart disease.

                    But it’s not just about death – not one person has been bankrupted by paying medical bills in the UK. If you are ill, you go to the doctor, you don’t have to worry about whether it’s covered by your plan or co pays or anything like that. I’ve lived in both countries. This article reflects my experience to decimal places.


                    Here’s another comparative discussion.


                    And a comparative study with other nations in which quality of life issues and equality of treatment are taken
                    into account (ie: they look at the whole population, not just those with
                    health care)


                    America spends twice as much as the UK and across the board achieves roughly the same outcomes, once you take the whole population into account. It lumbers individuals with unexpected and often immense costs. It’s a deeply unequal system.

                    People in the UK are happier with their own system than people in the US. Even with a sense of American exceptionalism, a distrust of ‘socialized medicine’ and the Murdoch empire banging the drum for the Republicans, far more people in the US would switch to the British system than vice versa:


                    • TMLutas

                      It’s hard to take seriously the discrediting of two Lancet journals and the BBC because the person assembling the facts submits work at Fox among other places.

                      Talk about ritually impure sources! Your attempt at discrediting is just poor.

                      So let’s take the stuff that you’re not actually challenging, the 30k this last January that hadn’t been seen by a specialist for four months. Scale that up and add in the US racial mix (blacks get more heart disease and hypertension) and poor habits and that’s a lot of people who end up dead of waiting. It’s not like the UK is an outlier on this. Long wait times are a major feature in just about all the socialized systems when there isn’t a nearby private system to take the pressure off.

                      Now let’s talk about your concluding sentence “It’s easy enough to pick through data and find whatever story you want to find” which I happen to agree with. But that’s a far cry from your confident assertions of the inevitability of nationalized health care which is where we started off. We do actually have a choice and unless you were challenged, you were espousing a falsehood, that we didn’t have a choice. It was inevitable.

                    • Jem

                      “Talk about ritually impure sources!”
                      You feel he’s neutral on the issue? He was the guy you cited. So, do you think he represents a dispassionate view, with no agenda of his own? It’s not a question of ‘ritually impure’, it’s just … well … if you don’t see the problem, I’m not sure where to start.

                      “We do actually have a choice and unless you were
                      challenged, you were espousing a falsehood, that we didn’t have a choice. It was inevitable.”

                      The reason I think it’s inevitable is completely separate from why it’s definitely better. It’s inevitable because we’re rapidly – at some point this century – approaching a Minority Report or Gattaca point where doctors will be able to prick a newborn’s finger and tell the parents a couple of minutes later when it’ll die and what of.

                      In that environment, we have two options (a) ban them from doing that or (b) set up healthcare in a way that places the genetic haves with the have nots.

                    • TMLutas

                      I think that the sources he cited, medical journals and the BBC are neutral on the issue. The idea that the Lancet becomes a biased source because a fox news contributor cites it is laughable but that’s what you’re defending. This is practically a textbook case of ritually impure “logic”.

                      In the world you’re predicting, we’re also likely to have cheap individualized genetic treatments that will completely revise any early prognosis. You’re dreaming of a very unlikely dystopia where we make progress only on diagnosis but not on treatment. This does not appear to be the world we will be living in.

                      So yes, we’ll be able to predict the diabetics, but we’ll also be able to give them perfectly functional replacement pancreases based off their own genetics that eliminate the risk without requiring immunosuppression.

                      These will be new fields requiring new workers and a perfect example of the process of increasing labor demand that is a better solution than mandating an increase in the minimum wage.

                    • Jem

                      “The idea that the Lancet becomes a biased source because a fox news contributor cites it is laughable”

                      Ah, I see. You’re an idiot. That would explain it.

                    • Jem

                      OK. Here’s a factual statement. ‘Pope Benedict XI, formerly Rottenfuhrer Joseph Ratzinger of the Hitler Youth, who manned an anti aircraft gun that downed Allied planes during the War recently met Pope Francis, who in 1982, as part of broad support for the fascist Junta, voiced his support for the invasion of the Falkland Islands.’

                      An entirely factual statement. Is it, perchance, a loaded or biased one?

                    • TMLutas

                      Actually it is not an entirely factual statement. You aren’t even good at calumny much less argumentation, see the poor strategy in how you’ve picked your targets. Give it up.

                    • TMLutas

                      I see we’ve come to the portion of the conversation where you’ve lost the argument and resort to name calling. Grow up.

                    • Jem

                      “you’ve lost the argument”

                      You say that if a Fox News correspondent cites the BBC, he can’t be biased. The only possible reason I’d call you an idiot for saying that is because I know I’ve ‘lost the argument’. What other reason could there possibly be?

                      If you want to ‘win’, you go over there and rejoice in your great victory. Wow, well done. What a brilliant argument.

                    • TMLutas

                      Stuffing words in my mouth does not improve your poor argument. What I was saying was that the truth of the Lancet articles does not get lessened by being reported on by a Fox news contributor. That’s the definition of a ritually impure source. You’re making an adult version of the ‘cooties’ argument. Grow up.

                      You’ve yet to respond to the underlying sources, at all. I’d have expected at least a cursory addressing of their points.

                    • Jem

                      “You’ve yet to respond to the underlying sources, at all.”

                      I linked to the Cancer Research page that explained discrepancies between US and UK figures. If you want me to respond to specific arguments, come up with better arguments.

                    • TMLutas

                      That reference is interesting in a political spin sort of way. The US and Canada have the highest worldwide incidence of prostate cancer but the reference you point to says that it’s all about overdiagnosis in the US. There is no mention of Canada. It would disturb the narrative. Here is something better from PubMed


                      “There were wide differences in survival across Europe, with rates in the UK well below the average, but all European rates were far below those in the USA”


                      Happy clappy propaganda is not convincing. Why is UK survival rates for prostate cancer below the european average?

                      Btw: the original piece that the UK page you are relying on was written to refute is here:


                      The article is 5 years out of date and Canada has since moved to more private provision of healthcare and improved its results because of it.

                    • falstaff77

                      “I linked to the Cancer Research page that explained discrepancies between US and UK figures. If you want me to respond to specific arguments,”

                      No, that page does not explain the discrepancies, instead the authors strike a bemused pose, as seems to be the case anytime serious criticism of the NHS arises. Here they switch the topic from survival rates to incident based fatalities rates:

                      “We don’t know where this figure has come from….not nearly so dramatic a difference.”

                      God Save the … NHS.

                    • Marthe Lépine

                      I understand from reading many sources that the 1st, or one of the top reasons for bankruptcies in the US is related to medical costs. Can you give us a comparison of this aspect of the US health care and what happens in other countries? And also explain why it is acceptable? I think it would be a very useful contribution to this discussion. I have heard stories from the time before Canada had its centralized system of people having the choice between having simple operations like apendectomies and feeding the kids; I even read about one such case where a mother allowed herself to die in such a case, for such a relatively simple medical condition, because the family would not have enough money left to feed the kids. How is allowing such situations to continue for nearly a half-century after other countries have at least provided medical care to large numbers of their populations through a single-pay health system an acceptable situation in what has been considered the richest country in the world, the US? Of course our system is imperfect, but it has certainly helped my parents and myself, and most of the people I happen to know.

                    • Jem

                      “Can you give us a comparison of this aspect of the US health care and what happens in other countries”

                      Yes. In the UK there are no out of pocket expenses whatsoever, except for a flat prescription charge (which is waived for children and those on a low or fixed income). Low income patients are reimbursed the cost of public transport to the hospital. You can, of course, usually arrange a home visit instead, if that’s easier.

                      In the US I was once charged $175 just for sitting in an emergency room for two hours. The only doctor on duty was busy stitching up a kid who’d fallen off his skateboard. My case wasn’t that urgent, so we agreed I’d come back that afternoon.

                    • TMLutas

                      The emergency room is for emergencies in the US, thus the name. If you walked in there instead of a minute clinic or urgent care facility for a problem that’s not that urgent, you’re part of the problem. Stop doing that.

                      The standard of care in the UK is 95% being seen within 4 hours of entrance into the A&E (UK emergency room equivalent), a standard that is not being met. A third of patients take longer than that and there are other tricks at play with people being forced to wait to start the clock on the A&E wait with 20% of ambulance patients being forced to wait over an hour.


                      Now the UK does something smart, by having an acute assessment unit reassigning patients out of the A&E at the very beginning of the process. This is something that does happen in certain hospitals in the US but not all of them. It’s a reform that does not require any systemic changes to accomplish.

                      Had you gone to a US hospital with such a gatekeeper system, you’d have gone to the urgent care unit and been seen for less and likely faster.

                    • TMLutas

                      I decline to argue in support of a system I don’t actually support. I think the current US medical system is unsustainable, a leaking boat that the US must get out of and the sooner the better. That being said, I don’t like the idea of climbing out of one leaky boat and climbing into another. Changeovers are expensive and we should seek to replace the current system with something better, not something worse. In some quarters this is controversial.

                      I have seen terminal stage socialized medicine. It is not acceptable. The communist socialized medicine systems are rejected by socialized medicine proponents as too alien from their experience. But nobody from that crowd seems to have noticed that Greece, an EU member with a low healthcare spending percentage and decent results has abandoned universal coverage. They ran out of money. Oops. Portugal recently imposed user fees to keep its “universal” system solvent. Go through the financial crisis countries and time and again you see services drop while costs paid by individuals rising. Two tiered systems seem to be the rule where if you’re poor, you get a bare minimum and the middle class and well off pay for private policies to give themselves a shot at all the good doctors who are private pay.

                    • falstaff77

                      After years of lay study of US medicine and international alternatives, reinforced by the experience of long term serious family illness, I’ve often come across the following line of argument. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons, in comparisons of the US versus the UK (or Japan and others) the following is generally true:

                      “America spends twice as much… but you’ll live two years longer than you will in the US, and you’re far less likely to die of heart disease.”

                      But when the above, which includes a hosts of causes having nothing to do with the quality of the medical system, like car wrecks among 20 somethings, diet, homicide rate, or gene pool is conflated:

                      “with better medical outcomes.”

                      I’ve learned that the position is either not serious or ignorant of the issues. Fortunately you will not find serious thinkers on either side of the universal care debate making the above mistake, i.e. blaming the medical system for grotesque BMI numbers or crediting another system with a couple years difference in lifespan.

                      Access and cost in the US is a problem, but these are not the same thing as medical outcomes. IF one actually becomes seriously ill, then the only relevant issue with regard to *medical outcome* is, what are my chances with this particular medical treatment? There are a couple particular diseases and conditions, for instance Hodgkin’s lymphoma where one will find that the Germans have the best medical outcomes. But generally speaking, IF one gets sick, the US has the best medical outcomes in the world.
                      Lancet Oncology

                      “For all solid tumours, with the exception of stomach, testicular, and soft-tissue cancers, survival for patients diagnosed in 2000—02 was higher in the US SEER registries than for the European mean.”

                      In the process of trying to fix the admittedly high cost and access problems of US medical care, I hope we can avoid trashing its quality.

                    • Jem

                      Here’s a perspective on the cancer rates:


                      If one gets sick AND one is covered, medical outcome in the US is generally good. But not always better, and rarely much better. And it’s extremely expensive and astonishingly inefficient.

  • Mike

    I’ve become increasingly confused by the notion of justice used in these discussions. It is precisely unjust to give a man a wage that exceeds the value of his labor. It is an insult to him to pretend that his labor is worth more than it actually is. If he is starving, feed him. If he is homeless, shelter him. If he is intelligent and trainable, support him to gain skills and knowledge to allow him to obtain a living wage. If he does not make a living wage, give him charity, treat him as a brother, but don’t lie to him about what the value of his labor.
    I do not understand why we Christians continue to hand over the care of the poor to Caesar and Mammon when it is our duty.

    • Marthe Lépine

      I think that the way the value of one person’s labour is being measured, and undervalued, in itself, is wrong. Maybe sweeping the floors, for example, does not require much skill… but try working in a workshop where the floor is never swept. The efficiency of other workers is going to be considerably hampered; add to this the risk and cost of accidents and fire, and the wear and tear on expensive equipment from poor maintenance. In an eating establishments the consequences may be very serious. Or if there was nobody to empty the waste baskets and clean the offices, maybe the IT technicians would have to eventually do it themselves, and that would be a waste of their time. Why would not the sweeper’s job be considered valuable? It is certainly useful. And if nobody was cleaning a hotel’s rooms? I actually recently read somewhere, I think in the Christian Democracy blog, a story about some hotel where it was said that the reputation of such an establishment actually depended on such things as clean rooms and helpful staff; why would this staff be considered as less valuable than the clerks in the offices? The same thing is true of all kinds of manual labour that support the operations of any business. I am sure most of you can easily think of several other examples. Even the less skilled worker on an assembly line is necessary for the line to keep going smoothly, as would the sweepers. I am afraid that sometimes, measuring the value of some jobs is influenced by other considerations, such as the social statute of the workers who normally do such jobs, and, just maybe, even the possibility of exploiting people with less education and less ability to speak for themselves, and other such factors.

      • Mike

        It is true that the necessity of something does have an effect on its value, but it is not the only thing. If it were the only thing, then the price of food would be outrageous because it is of absolute necessity to everyone. However, the other factor that is involved is the supply, whereas necessity relates to demand. There is a massive demand for food, but there is also a massive supply, at least in the United States. Thus as there is a huge supply of people capable of janitorial work, so too there is a low wage for such work
        Also, the necessity of the janitor is only based on the necessity of the skilled worker in your example. Were there not skilled workers, there would be no workshop and no work for the janitor. The janitor’s necessity is only derivative. Indeed, it is only the value of the skilled worker’s work that is the reason for there being a janitor at all, rather than skilled worker doing his own clean up. It is more valuable to the shop overall that the skilled worker keeping doing his craft and someone else clean up.
        While fighting against human exploitation is a noble effort, I’m not clear on how forcing employees to exploit their employers by compelling employers to give employees wages greater than the value of their work solves the problem. Employers are humans too that we should not allow the government to exploit.

    • Erin Manning

      The problem with this is that the waitress who is run off of her feet for eight or more hours a day is worth way more than the $4/hr she gets, while the expensively educated guy with the rich family background and monogrammed shirt sleeves probably doesn’t contribute $100,000 per annum worth of scintillating brilliance per year to his company, either.

      (True story: a local young waitress my daughter is acquainted with told my daughter that she had worked a 12 or 13 hr. shift recently at a sports bar type restaurant; the first two customers left her no tip, and the third skipped out the door without paying at all; mgt. policy was that SHE had to pay their $23 check out of her wages. Of $4/hr. Thank God, the next set of customers noticed that she was a bit down, found out why, and left her a $40 tip to make up for the jerks who had preceded them, but that’s never a sure thing.)

  • John Harden

    I don’t disagree with the injustice in the disparity of pay, but I don’t think raising minimum wage is going to be the salve that fixes it. Regardless of how high a minimum wage becomes, it is not akin to a living wage. It will result in more outsourced jobs, higher unemployment, and higher inflation. It will especially hurt small businesses, who do not fit this diagram, and who cannot afford to pay a high school ice cream vendor $10 an hour.

    So what other options are available? What about a tax penalty on any corporation that has such an egregious disparity between profits, executive pay, and their average worker wages? What about a tax penalty on any company that outsources jobs overseas? There are smart people out there who can think of even better ways to do this.

    A minimum wage increase only addresses the symptom of a much larger disease, greed. You have to make sure that it is not in the best financial interests of a greedy corporation to pay crappy wages or outsource jobs.

    • Almario Javier

      Well, there are perfectly servicable alternatives to a minimum wage. Until a few years ago, for example, Germany technically had no minimum wage. Same with Britain before Thatcher. Instead there were agreements between labor and capital that all workers, unionized or no, would receive generous wages and benefits, updated every so often. In exchange, the workers agreed to refrain from striking. This sort of corporatism is the sort of thing envisaged by Catholic social teaching.

      The problem is that this sort of thinking is anathema to the corrupt labor and corporate leadership at present in America. Both sides think the other will shaft them (witness the VW unionization debacle recently). The Anglo-American economic thinking erroneously assumes a zero-sum game when it comes to labor relations.

  • Linebyline

    It occurs to me that the problem isn’t just a low minimum wage. The problem is that everything is going up except the wages of the lowest-paid employees. Cost of living, profits, and executive pay are all going up. What we don’t want is a “solution” that will cause unintended negative side effects in the short term (small businesses being unable to keep all their employees, big businesses firing people because it’s cheaper than keeping them) and do nothing to help in the long term (as the cost of living will eventually overtake the new minimum wage).

    Since what the meme is complaining about is the gap between executive pay and front-line-worker pay, why not propose a solution that focuses on that gap? Like, say, a law that requires the lowest-paid employees to receive at least a certain percent of what the highest-paid employees get?