By now, most Americans have noticed a disturbing trend: prices are going up. In some cases, way up. Last summer I built a treehouse for my kids, and I’m grateful that I did it before I needed to be Warren Buffet to afford a 2×4. And it’s not just lumber: used cars, groceries, housing (both rent and ownership), and many other items are all rapidly increasing in price.
For upper class Americans, this is mostly an annoying inconvenience, but for the lower class and even the middle class—many of whom live paycheck-to-paycheck—rising prices can lead to some hard choices. Can I afford the groceries this week? Am I able to buy my daughter clothes for the new school year? But I’ve yet to hear one word about this issue from those Catholic leaders who most want the Church to be the “Church of the Poor.” Why is that? Spoiler: because the very public policies they most advocate are a primary cause of these price increases.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and when Church leaders push for yet another “free” program for the poor, they are in reality putting a greater long-term burden on those poor. For it won’t be the rich who pay for it, but the poor themselves in the form of higher prices. To understand their error, we need to understand why prices rise.