Revelation teaches that work is an obligation. Furthermore, man must work to develop and fulfill his humanity. St. John Paul II in his encyclical “Centesimus annus” writes, “A society in which this right is systematically denied, in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfactory levels of employment, cannot be justified from an ethical point of view.” Due to social circumstances of the past, Catholic Social Teaching focused on ensuring that the worker had the right to work and receive a just wage. Now the Church’s teaching needs to respond to another social circumstance: ensuring that the worker needs to work for a wage.
President Biden’s $3.5 trillion Infrastructure Plan proposes many policies. At first glance many of these programs seem lifted straight from Catholic Social Teaching. The plan includes entitlements for families, the poor, the elderly, infrastructure and education. Yet, many of its entitlement programs are untethered from work requirements. For instance, the plan expands a child tax credit which guarantees basic income for families with children.
Government programs that fight poverty and create conditions for human flourishing are most certainly good. Yet, good intentions do not always equal good results. Programs which inadvertently discourage or even minimize the necessity to work will not contribute to human flourishing. We do not need to speculate. We can look around us to see the effects of government handouts and worker shortages.