This article is in part why the Pope recently spoke out so strongly against capitalism. In it, the author states: “At fifteen or sixteen, you likely possess no valuable skills, no worthwhile experience, and limited social awareness. You are worth less than others. And so you should be paid less”(empasis in original).
There are many philosophies that value people at different rates. Even in America, slaves were only 3/5th a person for quite some time. The idea was that “[slaves were] worth less than others. And so [slaves] should be paid less.” This stands in direct contrast with Catholic social teaching on work.
To begin with, work exists for us, not us for work. In laboring at work, we partake in the creative act of God. He made the world, and we mould it to how we would like it. Good work well done is therefore gratifying. Most people can attest to this with their hobbies.
Now, not all work is worth doing. We use pay to make this jobs worthwhile. What then is a job that is worth someone’s life? It is a job that provides for that life. If one spends all day at a job, that job should provide sufficient pay for that days life in both survival and enjoyment. As it is, minimum wage provides enough to sustain life, but not enough to thrive. All people deserve the opportunity to thrive and enjoy life, and so pay should provide for a person and their “family on the material, social, cultural, and spiritual level” (CCC 2434).
As St. John Chrysostom said,
“Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we posses are not ours, but theirs”
and as St. Gregory the Great said,
“When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”
We can therefore see extreme wealth inequality as an injustice which should be righted by law. Some might say the injustice isn’t that bad in America, so let’s look at it.
Almost all the gains from labor in America went to the top .01%. The bottom 90% of workers lost 10% of their income.
But if videos are more your thing, look at this:
Clearly money is not well distributed in America. This is not because the poor are “worth less”, they are people and all people are equally precious. Capitalism fails to give value to people based upon who they are as children of God, and instead gives value to people based upon what they can do.
In this system, smarter people, prettier people, cleverer people, are all worth more than average people. In this way, it is no less unjust than an aristocracy. As a democracy, we should contact our legislators and petition them to enact more just laws regarding wealth. Laws that fairly provide for the needs of those who work but are still excluded from society from poverty. To allow the situation to remain as it is would be to allow the rich to continue to steal from the poor.