This year marks the tenth anniversary of the last time Msgr. George Higgins, the quintessential labor priest, was an advisor for the United States Bishops' Conference' annual labor day message. George pretty much penned that Labor Day statement, from 1946 to 2001. This year represents also the 120th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, Leo XIII's ground-breaking encyclical, supporting unions and the right to bargain collectively for a just wage. In Leo's time, it was assumed that a living wage was earned by the man and was sufficient to support his family. Today, often enough, even with two-family earners, many parents barely earn sufficient money to support their families.

       It is, simultaneously, the 30th anniversary of John Paul II's stunning social encyclical, Laborem Exercens, on the dignity of labor. Written at the time of the Solidarity Movement in Poland (which Higgins strongly supported), John Paul II saw unions as 'indispensable' to protect human dignity. This year, finally, is also the twenty-fifth anniversary of the American Bishops' important pastoral on the economy in which the bishops reinforced Catholic support for unions and what they called  "Justice as Participation."

      Drawing on a lifetime of service to working men and women, Msgr. Higgins espoused a term, 'economic citizenship' to refer to justice as participation. He phrased it this way: "Economic citizenship requires a voice in the decisions that shape your life and your livelihood--a voice in your job, your community and your country. Economic citizenship requires a sense of recognition and respect for the work you do, the contributions you make and your inherent dignity as a child of God."

        In a Labor Day statement written in 1990, Msgr. Higgins cited his predecessor at the Bishops' Conference and his own mentor for his own doctorate in economics, Msgr. John A. Ryan. Ryan had coined that phrase, 'a living wage' and became known as 'The Right Reverend New Dealer.' At the height of the great depression, Ryan noted: "Effective labor unions are still by far the most powerful force in society for the protection of the laborer's rights and the improvement of his or her condition. No amount of employee benevolence, no diffusion of a sympathetic attitude on the part of the public, no increase in beneficial legislation can adequately supply for the lack of organization among the workers themselves."

       In that 1990 statement, Higgins cited former Secretary of Labor, Ray Marshall, a distinguished labor economist. Marshall insisted that strong and effective labor unions are necessary not only to protect workers' rights but just as importantly to safeguard political democracy. Marshall stated: "We should be particularly concerned about the weakening of labor organizations, because we are not likely to have a free and democratic society without a free and democratic labor movement. Trying to have economic democracy without unions is like trying to have political democracy without political parties."

        Higgins had been a close advisor for the 1986 Bishops' Letter on the Economy. That document stated: "The Church fully supports the rights of workers to form unions, to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions. No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself. Therefore, we firmly oppose organized efforts, such as those regrettably now seen in this country, to break existing unions and prevent workers from organizing." What the bishops might say today ( if they ever found again some common voice on anything other than abortion and same sex marriage) as Governors try to break the backs of unions or refuse to accept genuine attempts by unions to compromise on pay or pension costs is anyone's guess. I feel sure I know what Higgins would say.

       Higgins noted in that 1990 Labor Day statement: "In stressing the need for strong and effective labor unions and opposing efforts to thwart labor's right to organize, the Pastoral is not suggesting that unions in the United States are above criticism. Moreover, the Pastoral is not siding against management, much less pitting labor against management. To the contrary, it explicitly states that workers have obligations to their employers and that trade unions and their management counterparts jointly ' have duties to society as a whole.' The Pastoral, calling for 'an imaginative vision of the future that can help shape economic arrangements in critical new ways' strongly emphasizes the representative and coordinating role of organixed labor and management, jointly assisted by government, in developing new forms of bona fide partnership for the public good." In fact, given new challenges to American productivity from globalization, argued Higgins, such a new sense of partnerhsip between workers and management may be crucial to remain competitive. It is a mistake, he argued, to see labor and management as, necessarily, always at arms' length or inherently always adversarial.

          Higgins never missed an opportunity to pray a benediction at a union gathering. He also, almost single-handedly, kept the AFL-CIO from endorsing a pro-abortion policy stance. Higgins who had marched with Caesar Chavez and documented the unfair wages and working conditions of the braceros, also took on Catholic hospitals who tried to break unions. As an elder statesman, he showed up at a Catholic hospital in Sacramento, California to support the right of its workers to organize a union.

         I was wondering what George Higgins ( whom I greatly admired. I dedicated my 1982 book, An American Strategic Theology, to him) might have remarked about the recent report in the Atlantic from the Institute of Policy Studies. That report shows how 25 CEO's of large corporations earned more than their companies paid in taxes! Many of their companies ( through corporate lobbying and tax loopholes) actually got tax refunds. A generation ago, CEO's earned roughly 25 times what an average worker earned. Today it is 325 times! The Atlantic article noted how 40,000 Verizon workers returned to work, after a losing strike, without new contracts. They were being asked to pay $3,000 more for their health care. All the while, the company's top five executives walked off with a quarter of a billion dollars in pay over a four year period. Verizon received a tax refund in 2010.

        Those who want to know more about Higgins can consult the book by John J. O' Brien, George G. Higgins and The Quest for Worker Justice: The Evolution of Catholic Social Thought in America (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005). People often mused, in Higgins' later years, whether our church would ever again produce such a scholarly, thoughtful and insightful labor priest. It does not seem that we have. Throughout his years, Higgins remained committed to unionization, fought for structural changes which would remove poverty and unemployment as well as racial discrimination and challenged both big business and organized labor to be accountable to the public good. Not a bad reminder to all of us on Labor Day. No bona fide Catholic, on Labor Day, can ever, in good conscience, nurture, in principle, anti-union sentiments.

John A. Coleman, S.J.

 

Comments

Beth Cioffoletti | 9/6/2011 - 7:46am
JR says to me:
- 'They have an underlying agenda that is closed to any other point of view (or the Holy Spirit).'
 
How do you know that?  That is an incredible accusation and one not backed up by any evidence whatsoever. -

dunno, JR, I suppose I really don't know.

But whenever I doggedly insist that I'm right and everyone else is wrong, it is a clear indication that I have all my doors and windows closed to any movement of the spirit.
Anonymous | 9/5/2011 - 10:28am
''They have an underlying agenda that is closed to any other point of view (or the Holy Spirit).''
 
How do you know that?  That is an incredible accusation and one not backed up by any evidence whatsoever.  Maybe the dissenters are the ones who really care for the poor and the workers and do not just mouth platitudes that cannot be backed up by logic or facts.  If you object to the criticisms then debate with logic or facts not aspersions to others motives neither you or Father Coleman could hope to discern without direct dialogue.  
 
You admit you do not understand and yet you are willing to make negative comments about the people who do know something.  I suggest you listen to their objections and if you do not understand, continue to probe for more information.  I have only seen one author here in the last two years who was willing to do that and he is now not commenting anymore.


Here is a labor link to an article by an ex union activist who now thinks the unions are dysfunctional which briefly explains some of the problems with unions which authors here should be ready to acknowledge.


 http://www.suntimes.com/news/huntley/7403085-417/new-labor-move-is-anti-biz-jobs.html


Here is a link to what is happening in Wisconsin after they were able to break the union who represented people with above average salaries, namely the public services unions.


http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/274360/wisconsins-reforms-are-already-working-christian-schneider 
Janet Richardson | 9/3/2011 - 12:24pm
"If you are taking anything else out of this debate then you are not seeing how the economy works."  Actually, there is a debate because more and more Americans do, in fact, see - and experience - how the economy works.  Over and over again we are reminded that a business exists to make money, that the bottom line is profits.  All that is well and good, but not when the distribution of profits shrinks the amount of money available to those whose work contributes to, and indeed, is vital to, making business successful in the first place.  What is needed is an economic model that  ensures and protects the accommodation of the workers' rights to fair wages and benefits along with a real chance at upward mobility.  That is the reason for labor unions.  Labor unions are not the problem, they are the opportunity for wealthy and non-wealthy alike to embrace creative expression of human solidarity.      
Tom Maher | 9/3/2011 - 11:56am
One has to be careful not to maintain a Catholic folklore on labor unions that gives way too much credit to  labor union's economic effectiveness and even giving unions  abilites they do not have and never will while failing  to see the acute limitations of labor union's effectiveness in today's economy. 

Because the church approves of labor unions as far back as 1891 that does not certify that labor unions will be an effective economic force forever.  The issue of real economic effectiveness of union in today's economy is separate from a folklore and general wishful thinking that subjectively favors and promte unions under all ciircumsatnaces in disregard of labor union's actual economic effectiveness in today's economy.

Evryone needs to recognize that the world has profoundly changed economically since 1891 or 1935 or even 1991.  After 120 years it needs to be asked: Are unions still  useful economically in today's economy or have they ceased to serve for most people any effective purpose?     Are unions still a viable soltuion to most people in today's economy? is a fair and moral question to ask.  Because if unions are no longer useful to most people why promote unions as a solution when they are largely no longer useful? 
Anonymous | 9/3/2011 - 11:43am
I should correct myself on the previous post.  There were many times in the past where unions helped the poor and disadvantaged but one can not extrapolate from these very legitimate instances of union activity to one that says that all unions contribute to the society's well being or that unions must be defended at all times because they are positive for workers or the poor.  The current situation with many public service unions is quite the opposite.  They are actually often very dysfunctional in our society.  It would behoove America authors to recognize these distinctions and when in fact unions are not  a positive force for the general well being.  Until the authors here do so, they have no credibility with their defense of unions.
Anonymous | 9/3/2011 - 7:17am
Father Coleman,


I think you misunderstand what some of are saying.  The 9.3% unemployment is due to the liberal mind set.  So if you do not have that mind set, you may actually care for the poor more than those who do.  My experience is that conservatives actually care more for the poor than the liberals do and this may shock you.  In no way am I defending being rich just for the sake of being rich but the history of job creation is that it is rich people who create the jobs and not the government.  


So if one if one is interested in finding employment for those unemployed then one had better find out how the rich can create those jobs.  And right now the liberals and the current government are doing their best to suppress job creation by making it extremely expensive to expand business opportunities.  And it is business that creates the jobs and not the government.  All the government can do is get in the way and stifle it or they can allow an environment for it.


If you are taking anything else out of this debate then you are not seeing how the economy works.  Unions are a side show in the current problems and making them more powerful will decrease jobs, not increase them.  Take Wisconsin where the unions were broken.  They are now hiring more teachers, and the local government are balancing budgets which means more people can be hired.   The ones who are anti poor are the liberals who create a system that frustrates business at every turn.


So I suggest you engage in a friendly manner those who you think are craven and maybe find out that they are the ones who really care about the poor.  If may be enlightening. Your comment 


''The church's social teaching which George Higgins so fervently propagated or, at least, defended seems not to have taken root.''


may actually reside in those who you think are anti union but in reality are pro poor because they know that the unions are not pro poor.  Unions have served some positive functions in the past but they were never pro poor, but pro those who were fortunate enough to be able to join them.
 
John Coleman | 9/3/2011 - 3:26am
 I was surprised my blog got so many-to me often puzzling- responses. I was a bit shocked how many of the respondents did seem to be, in princple, anti-union.  The church's social teaching which George Higgins so fervently propagated or, at least, defended seems not to have taken root. I am, to be honest, just a little bit appalled at many of the responses to my blog. Too many don't seem to care at all about workers' rights, justice as participation or have any sense -in a country where 9.3 % are still unemployed- that anything but getting wealth for the wealthy counts. I was, for a moment, reading all these responses, actually discouraged for ever writing a blog on this site again !
Anonymous | 9/3/2011 - 12:19am
''JR says''  It may makes sense to eliminate all the capital gains and dividend taxes but it may not' This is a clear answer? . ''
 
 Yes it is a clear answer but some may not have the knowledge to understand why.  Do you read anything someone says or just attack.  I never said anything about the elimination of capital gains and dividend taxes and the reason is that it is not clear what tax rate is best.  So my answer was clear. Those who think it is clear what to do are muddled especially those who want to raise them.  Their is no sane reason to do that.  
 
The money received that forms the basis for capital gains and dividends has already been taxed so it is taxing money twice.  There is no economic reason for this other than let's get money from anyone or any place we can.  That is generally a stupid philosophy because it actually reduces the  amount of money one can get in taxes and discourages investment.  But no one ever said that liberals are smart.  They just think they are but none of their arguments can hold up in any debate.  Notice who is always attacking here and not providing any substance to their claims.  If you guessed the liberal authors and respondents, you go to the head of the class.
Anonymous | 9/2/2011 - 11:48pm
''Wrong...Je accuse..... John Paulson reported 4.9 billion in income in one year  shorting mortgages. ask the millions of people who lost there homes if they were not ripped off.''


Name one poor person that Paulson made money off of.  Paulson did not write one mortgage.  So how did he rip off anyone who owned a home.  He just bet that  the people doing the ripping off were in for a fall.  Shorting anything does not hurt anyone but could set one who does it up for enormous losses.  


I suggest you read Greg Zuckerman, The Greatest Trade Ever to find out about Paulson.  He is the main focus of the book and told his story to Zuckerman.   Michael Lewis also wrote about those who shorted the housing market in ''The Big Short.''  Lewis's book is a good read but does not include Paulson who was the biggest winner from the shorting of housing securities.  There are a lot of interesting characters in both books.


The ones who hurt the poor were the people at Fannie Mae who started the whole housing mess.  Later on a lot of Investment banks jumped on the bandwagon and some paid dearly but others got let off when they shouldn't have been.  Read Gretchen Morgenson's book,  ''Reckless Endagerment'' to see how the whole housing crisis played out and how Fannie Mae was at the heart of it.  And guess who received the most money, from Fannie Mae since 2004.  You guessed it in one, our current president.  So here is one person that got rich off the backs of the poor, Barack Obama.  And by the way this wasn't anything new for Obama who also screwed the poor blacks in Chicago as his rich slum lord buddies sucked money out of government contracts and built sub standard housing and then would help finance his election campaigns.  But that seems to be ok if a Democrat does it and then they even elect him president.
ed gleason | 9/2/2011 - 8:57pm
JR says "As far as I can see no one is accusing the super rich of getting their money by extorting it from the poor or off the backs of the poor.'
Wrong...Je accuse..... John Paulson reported 4.9 billion in income in one year  shorting mortgages. ask the millions of people who lost there homes if they were not ripped off.

 Jeff says ".super-rich people who have become super-rich primarily from government services, like Warren Buffet has."
This is total nonsense and you know it. so why say it?.
.
JR says"  It may makes sense to eliminate all the capital gains and dividend taxes but it may not' This is a clear answer? .   
Anonymous | 9/2/2011 - 2:52pm
Mr. Gleason, your "argument" is something of a runon and difficult to parse, but let me try to respond.

First, you continue to incorrectly argue (as a matter of pure fact) that only the "super rich" get capital gains and dividends income and as a result benefit from the beneficial treatment of those types of income (even though you seem to have argued in your post immediately prior to your last one that in fact the super rich DON'T have any such income).  I raised 401(k)s and pensions as examples of investment income that almost every single American middle class worker has that also receive beneficial tax treatment as capital gains.  There is nothing "ambiguous" about my statement re: pension taxations.  I fully admitted that DISTRIBUTIONS from the pension plans are taxable as ordinary income; BUT the CONTRIBUTIONS AND THE INCREASE from INVESTMENT BEFORE the distritbution ARE taxed at NOTHING.  Again, that is a simple fact.

Second, I'm highly skeptical of super-rich people who have become super-rich primarily from government services, like Warren Buffet has.  Moreover, if the "super rich" want to pay more in taxes, nothing keeps them from writing as large a check to the IRS as they desire and forgoing all deductions ni their favor (President Obama, for example, took every single deduction available to him on his $1,000,000+ salary).  Finally, if Mr. Buffet wanted to pay more in taxes, then perhaps instead of giving all his fortune TAX FREE to a trust, he could voluntarily choose to pay the federal government's estate tax! 

Third, the so-called "living wage" you argue the public unions have secured maybe allowing them to live high off the hog, but it is killing the taxpayers who foot the bills. 

Finally, your statement that the GOP hasn't "yet" figured out how to ship more jobs overseas is a nakedly partisan statement, ignorant of facts such as BILL CLINTON signed into law NAFTA, which created the free trade regime we now have.  Moreover, President OBAMA is arguing for signing new free trade agreements along the same lines as NAFTA.  I would be more willing to entertain your arguments if you weren't ignorant of basic facts like these in your zeal to heap partisan opprobrium on those who disagree with you.  That makes you, in my eyes, "rabid" ala the Tea Partiers.
ed gleason | 9/2/2011 - 2:10pm
Jeff and JR you have not answered why you and the GOP want to eliminate Federal Income tax on capital gains and dividends so that the super rich, pay nothing. The statement that the majority of the middle class have capital gains deductions is wrong . Maybe once when they sell their house. But many are losing and guess what.. there are NO capital gains tax on loses..  Why can't you say along with many of super rich e.g. Buffet. French, Feinstein, Pelosi et al that the really well off should pay more . ??
You post an ambiguous statement trying to refute that pensions are Federally taxable.They are taxable at full rate.  and I ask why do you keep up a fictitious story and blur the augment by bringing up the state income tax which is different in all 50 states. .?   and call us 'rabid'.You say 50% pay no taxes and then bring up SS and sales tax which everyone employed pays  Your concern about public unions is that they have maintained a living wage. and yes private industry unions have taken a big hit. Reason? The GOP can't figure a way to ship public service jobs oversea. {YET!}
By the way.. .. Your call for SS and medicare cuts will fall on deaf ears.Your call for no increased taxes for the super rich dooms the GOP and tea party.
Beth Cioffoletti | 9/5/2011 - 8:57am
"Too many don't seem to care at all about workers' rights, justice as participation or have any sense -in a country where 9.3 % are still unemployed- that anything but getting wealth for the wealthy counts. I was, for a moment, reading all these responses, actually discouraged for ever writing a blog on this site again !"

Please keep writing, Fr. Coleman!  There are a few commenters here who monopolize the comment boxes with their political idealogy.

More than ever, we need Catholic social teachings taught and explained.  I'm carefully reading your articles and books.  But I am increasingly hesitant to join the "debate" with the commenters here.  They have an underlying agenda that is closed to any other point of view (or the Holy Spirit).
Anonymous | 9/2/2011 - 4:28pm




''Jeff and JR you have not answered why you and the GOP want to eliminate Federal Income tax on capital gains and dividends so that the super rich, pay nothing''
 
Someone could answer all your questions and nearly all have been answered but some never listen to the answers.  Maybe the fault is in those who are self righteous and think they have all the answers.  I am not sure that I ever said or even wished for an elimination of federal taxes on capital gains and dividends.  So this question makes no sense to me since it supposed something that does not exist.  It may makes sense to eliminate all the capital gains and dividend taxes but it may not.  This revenue has already been heavily taxed and these are double or triple taxes.  That could be a point of discussion but it will never get that far here because of ideological blind folds and as I said the self righteous arrogance of the authors and many of the commenters.  I personally have no ideological objections to any tax rate.  My interest is what works best.
 
As far as the money that the super rich make, and I have never been close to being one so it is not a personal interest of mine.  My interest is in the well being of all so it is a matter of who decides what is best to do with that money.  The federal government has a bad track record at allocating resources though there are some things that are best done by them.  I get the opinion that some here think that the super rich sit around and count their money all day like Scrooge McDuck.  The money will end up somewhere, and not under the mattress.  So the question becomes who makes better decisions on the use of this money.  What best motivates people to innovate and provide the increases in wealth we all have become used to. I understand that it may seem unfair that some make a lot more than others but is this a negative to those who do not make as much.  Is it mainly that some don't understand how the money is distributed and think they are being screwed or is this unequal distribution providing the basis for our increased over all wealth, better food, better education, better health care. etc.
 
As far as I can see no one is accusing the super rich of getting their money by extorting it from the poor or off the backs of the poor.  There are certainly instances in the past where one could point to this as true and in todays world there are places where this happens but in general not in this country or most of Western society.  The problem is that extracting the money from the super rich has not been shown to be a positive phenomena when it done by the government.  If that were so, then I would support it.  So as far as I am concerned those who advocate for higher taxes are in reality advocating for sup optimum use of the money.  Does every rich person spend their money wisely.  Obviously not but how does on choose who will spend it wisely and who will not.
 
So some here make up false nonsense and then attribute it to others and when they do this it is not a way to shine light on anything.  If anyone wants to play with a full deck on how much money everybody makes and the taxes they spend, then here are a couple good references to play with.  Have at it.
 
http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/saez-UStopincomes-2006prel.pdf 
 

http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/TabFig2006prel.xls




John Coleman | 9/2/2011 - 1:39pm
 I was a little cavalier in my throw away line about not knowing for sure what the bishops' voice would be about Governors ( in Wisconsin and Ohio and elsewhere) trying to curtail collective bargaining. The Wisconsin Catholic Conference was forthright in opposing Governor Walker's moves. Of course, the excellent Labor Day statement this year by Bishop Stephen Blaire was excellent and clear. But some evidence suggests that the Ohio Bishops' conference has remained neutral over a proposition to curtail collective bargaining. That is what triggered my-perhaps-injudicious remark.
Vince Killoran | 9/2/2011 - 10:36am
There are plenty of taxes out there-you are referring to federal taxes only but don't mention the fact that there are social security, state & local taxes, etc.

In fact, we have a fairly regressive tax system in the U.S.  See Jonathan Chait's "No, Half of All Workers Aren't Freeloaders" In THE NEW REPUBLIC (http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/87204/no-half-all-workers-arent-freeloaders).

Public service workers deserve the rights of other workers, including the right to join a union.  BTW, many of the states with the serious budget shortfalls don't have, or severly limit, public service unions.

The discussion is honest but there are a number of bloggers who are ideologically opposed to unions full stop.
John Coleman | 9/1/2011 - 6:10pm
When I was teaching at Loyola Marymount University, I remember meeting and talking to the Hispanic and black women who cleaned at the nearby hotels, no medical care coverage and minimum wage. Not hard when you talk to such people to imagine why-yes even is today's America-unions still make sense!
Anonymous | 9/1/2011 - 6:08pm
"GOP wants NO taxes on capital gains and dividends. And this income is the Super richs' only income."

Ever hear of a 401(k)?  A pension?  Guess what - they're all investment capital taxed as capital gains!

Tom Maher is absolutely correct; labor economics have fundamentally shifted in today's global economy.  Romanticizing the past won't change that fact.  Catholic teaching re: labor needs to reflect the current reality.  Isn't that the bedrock of progressive Catholicsm rather than a gauzy re-hash of the "good ole days"?
ed gleason | 9/1/2011 - 11:00am
David; The labor priests have all died out but before they died they watched the suburbanization of the Catholic church. Catholic White collar suburbanites had no use for unions so too many of  their priests became country club Republicans Every city in the north had  labor priests in the 30s40s50s and early 60s. God bless them. The immigrant population has not had the labor accompaniment by clergy that they should have. Why is the good question, Maybe the immigrant priests do not have the labor backround or are not sympatico to organizing. We have one Anglo [Italian/American]priest in San Francisco who accompanies them when he is not imprisoned for peace witness.
Anonymous | 9/1/2011 - 10:04am
This article portrays a world that does not exist in the United States and again uses the bad logic of equating public with industrial unions.  Until the labor advocates here separate the two, there will be no intelligent discussion of unions and what their purpose is.


The average American recognizes the perversion of the union concept that is continually being made by making believe that industrial and public unions are similar concepts.  They are not.  We have the ironic concept here that the Jesuits and their employees are defending those with way above average salaries and in the process are advocating policies that create more poor.  

And one final point,  the United States and the third world are different situations and working conditions are very different.  But if they get their way, maybe the US will have working conditions similar to the third world.
Vince Killoran | 9/2/2011 - 11:50am
I'm so sorry Jeff but state & local taxes, plus social security & sales taxes are significant. It's worth reading Chait's article in TNR.

As for state budget shortfalls & unions, the causal link just isn't there ?(http://mediamatters.org/research/201103150008).

You guys keep referring how we "rabid" pro-labor folks want to return to the mid-20th century but when I read some of these comments (and conservative radio et al.) I hear a call to return to the 19th century.

Have a nice Labor Day. I have to work.

 
Anonymous | 9/2/2011 - 11:30am
''with the ''all government is inherently evil'' Tea Party folks. '' 


I have been to some Tea Party events and have watched it fairly closely since I listened to Rick Santelli's rant.  Most, if not all Tea Party folks would be happy with a balanced budget, and right now that it is about 2.6 trillion in spending.  So the all government is evil characterization is not an accurate one.  They would be happy with slightly higher spending if the economy was more robust but it is not.  One way to balance the budget would be to eliminate all increases in spending and that would mean slightly smaller social security payouts and somewhat smaller medicare coverage.  Say back to the levels of 2004-2006 when the country was in misery and had essentially full employment.


I am sure you could find a small minority of the Tea Party that would like to dismantle the federal government in its entirety but they are not the essence of the Tea Party let alone a significant minority.


''many of the states with the serious budget shortfalls don't have, or severly limit, public service unions.'' 


 Maybe some have not heard of California, Illinois, Maryland or Wisconsin.  Oh, Wisconsin dose not have a budget problem any more so I should exclude it.  Sorry.  And then there is New York which has budget problems and just cut services a lot and put a cap on property taxes and the result is school districts are laying off teachers and much more is expected next year and pension costs are being passed on to the school districts which have no source of revenue except property taxes.  Meanwhile many of the senior teaches there are still getting raises as the unions eat their young.  Wonderful system if you happen to be a favored by union membership.  Same thing happened in the Great Depression.  The lucky ones ate well while masses were on the brink of starvation and had no money to buy the products the union companies made which meant they couldn't hire more people.
Anonymous | 9/2/2011 - 10:49am
You are correct, I am ONLY talking about federal taxes because federal taxes are the primary means by which we raise revenue.  State sales and income tax are either negligble (as in Texas & FLorida where there is no income tax) or vary to such a degree that it is difficult to generalize about them.

But I want to respond to your comment that "The discussion is honest but there are a number of bloggers who are ideologically opposed to unions full stop."

I don't think either or these assertions is correct for the same reason.  The rabid pro-labor-at-all-costs position has failed, so far, to come to grips with the changed realities of labor economics as a whole, i.e. with the fact that many of the economic problems union workers are suffering (primarily wage inflation) have very little to do with some big bad GOP plan, and more to do with shifting capital and labor supplies elsewhere and increased global competition.  Both political parties have promoted policies that have aided AND harmed the union worker/middle class generally (I remind you that the Democrats are just as committed to free trade as teh GOP).  So the conversation is not honest, insofar as it suggests that what is needed is a return to the "good ole days" of the '30s/40s/50s and that the GOP is the real problem.  Nor do I know any bloggers adamantly against unions ipso facto.  What the ones that I read argue is that unions, like the rest of American workers, have to come to grips with these changed realities.  What we need, they argue, is a labor movement in sync with the 21st century.

I fancy myself a pretty moderate Republican; it strikes me I have the same frustrations speaking with "pro-Union" partisans as I do with the "all government is inherently evil" Tea Party folks.  They both hold to realities of their own creation, and always love to have a big bad bogeyman to blame everything on.
Anonymous | 9/2/2011 - 10:29am
"I guess though, this info will not turn you into a progressive!! (-:
If the GOP take over,  the rich will pay nothing NADA in income taxes because  they don't have wages .. what's not to understand??"

First of all, the "rich" are paying taxes - and lots of them.  In fact they currently pay almost 40% of all income taxes in this country, while close to half of Americans (and that number is rising) pay NOTHING in income taxes.

Second, you said "GOP wants NO taxes on capital gains and dividends. And this income is the Super richs' only income."  YOU said that the "Super rich"'s income is only capital gains and dividends; I pointed out that lots of ordinary folks who have 401(k)s have capital gains income; indeed since MOST retirment plans these days is done via a 401(k), MOST Americans have capital gains income.  You are correct that a DISTRIBUTION from a qualified pension plan is taxable, but BOTH contributions (deducible and tax free) AND income (tax-free) earned via investment is treated favorably under the tax code.

The bottom line is the story YOU tell is factually incorrect.  You can rant all you want, but ranting don't change the facts!

From the notorious right-wing Urban Institute:

http://www.urban.org/publications/1000541.html

"In the United States, an employer's pension contribution is deductible in computing corporate income taxes, and the investment earnings on plan assets are not taxed. The employee is taxed once—personal income tax liability is deferred until the employee receives a distribution from the plan."
Anonymous | 9/2/2011 - 9:32am
Having an honest discussion here on unions does not seem possible.  The major fuss over unions in the pass couple years has been over public service employee unions and time and time again we get the bleeding heart stories of the poor.  Folks, the public service employees are not poor and in fact are way above average in salary and benefits in the US.  Also the nature of the unions are completely different between private and public service employees.


Why not separate the two.  My guess is that one cannot and make one's ''case'' whatever the ''case'' of the moment is.  Instead we have very bad logic, not supposed to be an element of Jesuit reasoning in the past but definitely part of the current arguments.  If we want to discuss the poor, don't bring up public employee unions.  If you want to talk about collective bargaining rights of public service unions, do not bring up the poor.  They are each non sequiturs.


Personally, I am not anti union but only point out that they have been dysfunctional in a lot of places.  Unions add cost to any organization and these costs have got to be considered when analyzing their benefits. One can make a pretty good case that unions were part of the reason the Great Depression lasted so long but you could also make the case that they were part of the change in the American working place for better and safer working conditions.  But if one wants to have an intelligent discussion, the emotions and false comparisons have to eliminated.
Vince Killoran | 9/1/2011 - 8:39pm
The inglorious history of the "unions are no longer necessary" claim goes way back-e.g., in the '20s business vowed that workers could depend on company paternalism so workers could dump their unions. 

Despite decades of well-funded anti-union campaigns the majority of the American public still support unions. 
ed gleason | 9/1/2011 - 6:59pm
Non Violent class war? right now the hotel workers across America are picketing the unionized 4 Star hotels that have too many affiliated non union hotels in cities that love the minimum wage so much  that's all they will ever pay. The well off, [not the America posters], will see these noisy picketers if they visit the 4 star unionized hotels in cities that appreciate service. and their unionized workers.

Jeff, " Ever hear of a 401(k)?  A pension?  Guess what - they're all investment capital taxed as capital gains!" WRONG...

pensions are taxed as ordinary income= 35% for your future info...and the super rich don't have stinking 401ks.. Super rich is millions to 4 billion annual income. or a huge portfolio of investments and income property.  John Paulson hedge fund manager made 4.9 Billion yes Billion in 2009. Taxed at 15% capital gains because in the Bush admin they got bonuses taxed as 'carried interest'.. his gardener and cook paid at 35%. I guess though, this info will not turn you into a progressive!! (-:
If the GOP take over,  the rich will pay nothing NADA in income taxes because  they don't have wages .. what's not to understand??..  .. take Romney as an example  .. Remember last week he said he is un-employed>>I wonder if he's a 99er. get it?
  .
ed gleason | 9/1/2011 - 4:29pm
Tom " 
"Unions have become unnecessary and without effective purpose in today's economy'.

You must not go to restaurants or hotels, retail or farms..

" Today companies output goods and services that require high skilled workers  that have skills that requires the payment of higher wages to retain these workers skills.'

So why the GOP opposition to minimum wage.?? $7.25 an hour..

GOP wants NO taxes on capital gains and dividends. And this income is the Super richs' only income. GOP opposses minimum wage and says no no no taxes at all for the investing crowd and you think no action is necessary? I'm all for non violent class war with or without Catholic chaplains. If there is class war, guess who will win?.   


 
Tom Maher | 9/1/2011 - 3:38pm
Union membership in the private sector has been declining for decades. Today only 6.9% of the private sector enployees are members of unions.  Most of existing unions membership are in mature businesses and industries that were organized long ago.  Workers are not freely joining unions in the private sector when they have a choice .

The American economy has changed greatly since the labor laws allowed strikes and collective bargaining in the early 1930s.  Industrial companies that employ large numbers of low skilled workers at low wages no longer exist.  Today companies output goods and services that require hgh skilled workers  that have skills that requires the payment of higher wages to retain these workers skills.

Unions have become unneccessary to represent the worker's interest.  The worker's skills are needed and value for themselves.  Businesses compete to have the high skilled employees they need to adequately serve their customers and compete in the marketplace.  It is in the employer's interest today to provide a safe and worker freindly amd fiancially rewarding employment. 

A worker can more directly and immeadiately deal with  his or her employer to address his or her concerns..  A union to represent the worker interests is no longer needed.  And the very nature of the economy is such that long term employment at one employer is usually detremental to a career. Unions are still structured around one job at one employer for life.  Unions fail to deal with constant major technical changes in the economy that cause worker's skills to become rapidly obsolete.  It is in the worker's own best interest to manage their own careers base on their own ability rather than rely on being organized for no useful purpose. 
 
Unions have become unnecessary and without effective purpose in today's economy.
Vince Killoran | 9/1/2011 - 10:29am
With the rise in low-wage jobs and sweatshop labor(and virtual slavery) in large parts of the workforce, we need a Fr. Higgins now more than ever.

David is right: except for a few "labor priests" (e.g., Fr. Clete Kiley) there are few who have taken this as their life's work.  Of course, the clerical ranks are much thinner these days. . . Time for more lay Catholics to step up to the job of articulating the Catholic pro-labor position.