Two Incomes, Three Expenses, Just Wages

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You wouldn't be the first family to question both parents working outside the home. We often forget that there is more than one way of creating wealth and income comes in many forms. It could be dollars which we use to buy goods and services, or it could be "in-kind" household production. One parent working at home can create a tremendous amount of wealth, both in terms of expenses avoided (such as child care), and household production (such as home grown and processed food, home-sewn clothing, educational opportunities for the children), coupled with prudent management and cultivation of the family's assets and responsibilities. Just because this kind of production isn't counted in the Gross National Product doesn't make it any less real. It can be more important -- effectively, more profitable -- to your family than a second cash income.

Our society has many structures and systems that encourage "two-income families". It is constantly suggested to us that we are nothing more than the sum of the Things that we buy. It's not possible to have enough Things, there are always newer and more exciting Things for us to buy. Or so goes the politically correct mantra of politicians and corporations. In the process, they have slowly but thoroughly devalued the household economy, preferring to monetize everything from child care to food preparation.

The teaching of the Church is that employers should pay just wages, high enough that a family can be supported without hardship with only one cash income. In Laboren Exercens, Pope John Paul says: "Hence in every case a just wage is the concrete means of verifying the justice of the whole socioeconomic system and, in any case, of checking that it is functioning justly. It is not the only means of checking, but it is a particularly important one and in a sense the key means." By this measure, there is much economic injustice in our society as not all 2 income families do this as an expression of their freedom, many families must have two cash incomes in order to simply pay their basic bills for shelter, utilities, transportation, medical care, and food. It's one thing for a family to have the freedom to make the choice to have two incomes, and another to have it thrust on them by the force of their circumstances.

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