Mr. Easley’s letter (“Words of wisdom,” Feb. 18) contains less wisdom and more ideology than you might expect. A call to the American ideal of working hard to lead a decent life is admirable and inspiring, but does it really work? I cannot definitively say yes or no, but based on the opportunities and intelligence I see in those around me, including the students who attend this university, in comparison with the rest of the population of the U.S., I can imagine the percentage of people who work hard, without benefit of opportunity and intelligence, to end up in a position of “decent living” is low.
The question is then raised, what is decent living? When, if at all, do we have a right to it? Beliefs from Catholic Social Teaching are that “decent living” does not occur at the poverty level, and that we have a right to decent living at all times. Mr. Easley does an admirable job of recognizing that work has dignity in the closing of his letter, but less so in recognizing the rights of workers to respect and dignity, a dignity that includes wages satisfying the basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, health, education, security and rest; not all of which are met at the poverty wage, even if a person is not working alone, or is working more than one job. Referring to a wage increase, to a paycheck that is more in line with the “decent living” that Catholics believe in, as a “handout from this University” is a slap in the face to workers’ dignity, Mr. Easley, as is your questioning of the right to live at a certain level. This is not a discussion of people “getting ahead.” One shouldn’t have to sacrifice anything in order to live a self-sufficient life.