July 15, 2009

"...even more than in the past"

WV workers rally at state capitol for the Employee Free Choice Act. I think this picture is about three years old.

It is one of my rituals after returning from a trip to comb through newspapers and other sources to catch up and see what I might have missed.

One story that I found to be particularly interesting was the release of Pope Benedict's encyclical, CARITAS IN VERITATE.

The encyclical is a very strong statement in support of economic justice and a strong critique of "unleashed" capitalism. Among other things, it contains a strong endorsement of labor unions and strongly supports the rights of workers to organize:

Through the combination of social and economic change, trade union organizations experience greater difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labor unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum, for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.

And that's not all. In the words of Thomas Reese, S.J., writing for the Washington Post,

Although Benedict's emphasis in the encyclical is on the theological foundations of Catholic social teaching, amid the dense prose there are indications, as shown above, that he is to the left of almost every politician in America. What politician would casually refer to "redistribution of wealth" or talk of international governing bodies to regulate the economy? Who would call for increasing the percentage of GDP devoted to foreign aid? Who would call for the adoption of "new life-styles 'in which the quest for truth, beauty, goodness and communion with others for the sake of common growth are the factors which determine consumer choices, savings and investments'"?

What would Joe the Plumber say?

Some other items that struck my eye included:

*this overview of health care systems in different countries;

*this piece that reminds us that even people with health insurance can go broke in a medical crisis; and

*this news story that reports lower rates of bankruptcies in states that don't seize wages.


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