The Right Opinion

The Economics of Life and Marriage

By Ken Blackwell · Dec. 19, 2011

Iowans are strongly pro-life and supportive of traditional marriage. These remain strong “bridge” issues that unite economic conservatives with social conservatives whenever questions like abortion funding or overturning true marriage are put on the ballot. When pollsters find that Iowa’s likely caucus-goers – including large blocks of Evangelicals, Catholics, and Lutherans – are citing the stricken economy as their greatest concern, this does not mean social issues have been forgotten.

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-goers 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: Sunt angeli? Are they angels? The local architects had neglected to put 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 it is stable married families having children that drive economic growth.

Former Wall Streeter David Goldman pointed out in Of Demographics and Depressions (First Things, May 2009) that 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 girl friend’s basement. He does a little dope. At night he is the lead singer in the band he has formed. He is soft-spoken and respectful of his elders. Harry’s parents shower love on Harry’s daughter by his girl friend. Jim is a young husband in the same city. He and his wife have three children under three. 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 girl friend’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 girl friend 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 monies to them and their family banning activities and all will be well.

President Obama is suing Texas, Indiana, and Kansas to keep the torrent of federal funds flowing to Planned Parenthood. Not even state governments should be able, according to him, to stop subsidizing this abortion advocacy institution. In all the thousands of line items in the bloated federal budget, the one Sacred Cow for Mr. Obama is Title X, the cash cow for Planned “Barrenhood.”

Are we the blind following the blind? Have we so shackled ourselves to the dogmas of population control and no-growth “progressive” 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, Dr. Henry Potykus, a Senior Fellow at FRC’s Marriage And 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. Socialism has never worked wherever it has been tried.

Ronald Reagan began his working life in Iowa, as an announcer on WHO radio. Reagan 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 winning coalition needs to be assembled once again.