“The economy must serve people, not the other way around.”

These words, from the USCCB's themes of Catholic social teaching, seemed to be at the heart of a letter the chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development wrote today urging Congress to continue unemployment compensation and protect the jobless and their families. This message is especially resonant as Congress debates over extending federal unemployment benefits, which, without an extension, will expire for many people starting January 1.

"The U.S. Catholic bishops have long advocated that the most effective way to build a just economy is the availability of decent work at decent wages," Bishop Stephen Blaire wrote to the House of Representatives. "When the economy fails to generate sufficient jobs, there is a moral obligation to help protect the life and dignity of unemployed workers and their families."

Bishop Blaire also advised the House to "consider the moral and human consequences of your decisions on the most vulnerable among us, especially unemployed workers and their families."

A New York Times editorial today also cites the importance of continuing the benefits. Though the House has proposed a bill that will extend benefits for one year, the bill would likely cut social spending and call for many burdensome requirements on those applying for unemployment benefits.

“Curtailing jobless benefits makes sense once hiring is clearly on the rebound, which is not yet the case,” the editorial states. “Joblessness remains high, not because the unemployed are lazy or on drugs, but because there are too many applicants for too few jobs. Labor statistics show that if all the job openings in America were filled tomorrow, nearly 10 million people would still be unemployed. That works out to about four jobless workers for every opening. In a normal job market, the expected ratio would be about one to one.”

Under the House's bill, says the Times, cuts would prevent millions of struggling people from having money to spend. This lack of consumer spending would continue to weaken our still-fragile economy.

However, the Federal Reserve says that it won’t do anything new to expand the economy this year, saying that the country is slowly but surely making economic progress on its own.

The Federal Reserve doesn’t seem too concerned with boosting economic growth. Let’s hope then that the federal government will heed the bishops’ call and show some concern for those who continue to be affected by unemployment.

About the author

Elizabeth Lefebvre

Elizabeth Lefebvre is a writer living in Chicago.