Strong Families Are The Engine That Drives Strong Economies
By Ken Blackwell
A number of commentators are noting that prospective GOP caucus goers in Iowa are concentrating on the crippled economy. These pundits are suggesting that Evangelicals, Catholics and Lutherans in Iowa have converted to the Gospel of James Carville, that is. He famously said: "It's the economy, stupid!" For some, this represents a welcome sidetracking of those pesky "social issues."
Well, not quite. First, most of the GOP candidates are already on board for the defense of human life and true marriage. So it makes sense for Iowa voters to tell pollsters and focus group moderators that their primary concern is the economy.
This does not mean they don't care about abortion or attempts to undermine marriage. It just means that after numerous candidate debates, those who advocate "civil unions" as a supposed compromise on the marriage issue have difficulty even making the cut to be on the stage. Iowa's caucus voters aren't buying this obvious ploy.
Second, there need be no conflict between economic and social conservatives. I'm reminded of a story about blueprints for an Iowa convent that had to be approved by the Vatican. The plans came back from Rome with a question: Are they angels? The point was that the architects had neglected to make a very human construction: putting bathrooms in the convent.
We who are pro-life and pro-marriage know that families need jobs. They need a growing economy. But economic conservatives need to recognize that stable married families having children are what drive economic growth.
Ex-Wall Streeter David Goldman pointed out in a 2009 First Things journal story called "Of Demographics and Depressions," the economic slump began in the home mortgage industry because we have no more young marrieds with children than we had in 1969. The home mortgage industry has been the driver of America's post-World War II economic prosperity. Cohabiting couples and single parent families tend to rent, not buy.
Consider these examples of economic and social activity. Harry is a rock star. Or soon will be. Harry sleeps in his girlfriend's basement. He does a little dope. At night he is the lead singer in the band he has formed. He is softspoken and respectful of his elders. Harry's parents shower love on Harry's daughter by his girlfriend.
Jim is a young husband in the same city. He and his wife have three children under 3. Jim has to work long hours as a lawyer, but he does so willingly. For now, he rents. But he has bought a van.
Harry's daughter is supported by his girlfriend's family and by his own parents. Jim's three children are provided for by Jim.
Does it matter to America whether the rising generation follows the Jim model or the Harry model? Harry's girlfriend is successfully pursuing a career. She doesn't do dope. She doesn't have time. Jim's wife is raising their expanding family.
Can America afford to subsidize the breakdown in the family? Planned Parenthood thinks we can. They see a smaller America with smaller hopes. Just keep shoveling public money to them and their family banning activities and all will be well.
Are we the blind following the blind? Have we so shackled ourselves to the dogmas of population control and nogrowth liberal taxation and regulation policies that we cannot see the obvious way out? Strong families are the engine that drives strong economies. It's that simple.
As my colleague, Henry Potrykus, a senior fellow at FRC's Marriage & Religion Research Institute, confirms, human capital is the key to our economic growth. Young marrieds - especially those who worship regularly - plus education generate the greatest amount of human capital.
Iowa has always had a strong base of intact families and a strong education system. If Iowans know this and appreciate it, it's no small wonder the Iowa's GOP caucus goers are strongly pro-life and pro-marriage. And they know that this administration's economic policies are not working. Most Americans sense this. State-managed economies have always underperformed.
Ronald Reagan began his working life in Iowa, as an announcer on WHO radio. He did not beat voters over the head with Scripture. But he did have fun with some devout evangelists of the Gospel of Marx: "Socialism might work in Heaven, but they don't need it. Socialism would work in hell, but they've already got it."
It was Reagan who most successfully united social, economic and defense conservatives. That coalition needs to be assembled once again.
Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.
This article appeared in Investor's Business Daily on December 16, 2011.