Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's NOT the Economy

It’s NOT the Economy

          We all know that the economy stinks.  Millions of people are out of work and homes are being foreclosed on at record levels.  Young people are graduating college with plenty of debt, but no job offers.  We are told again and again that the upcoming election is going to be about the economy.  Polls consistently show that the voting public agrees.
          However, at the same time, an entire class of people, the unborn, are being slaughtered by the millions.  Marriage is being redefined before our eyes, and those who oppose it are increasingly facing persecution.  Parental rights are being trampled on as our children can be vaccinated against STDs without our consent and we are losing our rights to opt out of objectionable public school curriculum.  Our health care system, which has provided the highest level of care in the world, is under hostile takeover by the federal government, and there are advisors to the President who have endorsed euthanasia, voluntary and involuntary, as cost cutting solutions in the past.  The next President will almost certainly shape our national policy on these issues for years through Supreme Court appointments.  On top of this, we are still deeply involved in the global struggle against terrorism.
          So no, for a Catholic, the economy can not be the issue driving our votes this election season.  In fact, until basic human rights, most importantly the fundamental right to life, are guaranteed to every person, and until each person’s human dignity is safeguarded in law, it is selfish for any of us to vote based on how we imagine we could be doing four years from now.
          Regardless, on Tuesday night there was a Republican Presidential debate focused entirely on the economy.  The economy is important, don’t get me wrong.  We are being crushed by a national debt that is morally indefensible.  And work is intimately tied into human dignity so our elected leaders do have an obligation to do what they can to create an environment favorable to job creation.
          Many of the candidates have impressive credentials.  Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and John Huntsman have been successful governors, economically speaking.  Herman Cain is a down-to-earth straight shooter with an impressive track record in business.  Michele Bachman has proven willing to stand and fight for what she believes.  But I think Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum stand above the others in experience getting things accomplished, working with both Republicans and Democrats.  Both men worked with President Clinton on important economic reforms.
          The debate, overall, was uninspiring.  Each of the candidates, of course, shared their approach to the economy.  Much time was spent attacking and defending Herman Cain’s “9-9-9” plan.  And Mitt Romney spent most of the night not answering the questions he was asked.  Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachman came off as the most knowledgeable, along with Rick Santorum, though he was given the least opportunity to speak of the eight candidates.
          There were two moments that were particularly important.  The first came near the beginning.  The candidates were told that most Medicare spending comes in the last two years of a person’s life, often on treatments that do not prolong life.  Is this wasteful?  Implicit in the question was the notion that we may not be able to afford to care for these elderly people.  This is a major issue, particularly since President Obama has hinted as much in the past.  We must resist degenerating into a people that looks at someone and asks what they cost, rather than what they are worth.  As Catholics, we know that value is inestimable.  Only two candidates were afforded the opportunity to respond.  Happily, both Gingrich and Bachman displayed disgust at the suggestion.
          The other moment came near the end, when Rick Santorum pointed out that a single-parent family is six times as likely to be in poverty as an intact home.  He suggested we need to do better at encouraging marriage and supporting the family.
          It was refreshing to see a candidate take a truly integrated approach to the economy.  It is important to recognize that our economic issues are intimately tied to our social issues.  I’m sure many of the candidates would have agreed.
          Mr. Santorum’s pro-life credentials should also be encouraging to Catholics.  Most of the candidates are pro-life and many have very solid track records.  However, Santorum led the fight against partial-birth abortion during his time in the Senate.  As a Catholic, I appreciate that he is a man who is not afraid to wear his faith on his sleeve.  He and his wife have seven living children, including a disabled daughter, and one that died two hours after birth, who they welcomed despite knowing he had a fatal condition.  In the Senate, he led a Rosary for Catholic senators, and through personal friendships was able convert the hearts of some of his peers.
          As important as the economy is, I have a problem with an entire debate being focused solely upon it.  I have seen a number of the debates and have already heard a lot about the economy, but voters desperately need to know who the candidates really are regarding social and moral issues.  The Values Voter Summit was nice, but the debates need to broaden.  Until the priorities of the American voting public change, our country will continue to wait for the change it really needs.