Leaders of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Charities USA are urging the Senate to increase the minimum wage.
In a news release Wednesday, the USCCB announced that Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, have sent a joint letter to the Senate calling upon it to “advance policies that promote decent work and just wages.”
In the letter, Wenski and Snyder express their concern “with the ongoing decent jobs crisis as well as the resulting inequality in our communities and country.” The authors state they wish the Senate to “consider closely any legislation that begins to heal our broken economy by promoting decent work and ensuring fair and just compensation for all workers.”
Wenski and Snyder cited the following statement by Pope Francis to support their appeal to the Senate:
It is therefore necessary to remove centrality from the law of profit and gain, and to put the person and the common good back at the centre. One very important factor for the dignity of the person is, precisely, work; work must be guaranteed if there is to be an authentic promotion of the person. This task is incumbent on the society as a whole.
The letter’s authors urge the passage of an increase in the minimum wage because “so many of our families find it increasingly difficult to afford basic needs, forcing some to take multiple jobs or, in desperation, even seek out predatory loans.”
Wenski and Snyder add, “The current federal minimum wage falls short of this standard for its failure to provide sufficient resources for individuals to form and support families.”
Though the two leaders state they are writing “not as economists or labor market experts, but rather as pastors and teachers,” they also clearly state:
Because the minimum wage is a static number and does not change, each year it becomes more difficult for workers making the minimum wage to survive. Additionally, while some minimum wage workers are teenagers, research suggests as much as 25 percent or workers who would benefit from a minimum wage increase are parents.
However, in his Townhall column dated September 17, 2013 and entitled “Minimum Wage Madness,” author and economist Thomas Sowell wrote, “Advocates of minimum wage laws often give themselves credit for being more ‘compassionate’ towards ‘the poor.’ But they seldom bother to check what are the actual consequences of such laws.”
One of the simplest and most fundamental economic principles is that people tend to buy more when the price is lower and less when the price is higher. Yet advocates of minimum wage laws seem to think that the government can raise the price of labor without reducing the amount of labor that will be hired.
When you turn from economic principles to hard facts, the case against minimum wage laws is even stronger. Countries with minimum wage laws almost invariably have higher rates of unemployment than countries without minimum wage laws.
“As for being ‘compassionate’ toward ‘the poor,'” writes Sowell, “this assumes that there is some enduring class of Americans who are poor in some meaningful sense, and that there is something compassionate about reducing their chances of getting a job.”