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Morality and Economic Policy in 2012

An early look at the candidates for the GOP presidential nomination

By Matthew Milhon

In these uncertain times it is easy to lose sight of the essentials. Fiscal reform is the topic of the hour, and rightly so, when a July Gallup poll finds that 73% of Americans think the economy is getting worse as 2011 comes to a close.

Such being the case, those Presidential candidates looking to secure the Republican nomination for the 2012 race are working hard to show their conservative credentials to the public when it comes to economic policy and government spending. The entire field is calling for a balanced budget, greater freedom in the market, and a sound monetary policy to ensure a financially viable future for this great country in which we live, but almost none of the candidates is addressing the issue behind the issue. Namely, why is it that we live in the most prosperous nation on the Earth and yet still see increasing levels of poverty?

One candidate offered a proposition:

"The biggest problem with poverty in America, and we don't talk about here because it's an economic discussion… is the breakdown of the American family. You want to look at the poverty rate among families that… have a husband and wife working in them, it's 5 percent today. A family that's headed by one person, it's 30 percent today. We need to do something. We need to talk about economics, the home. The word home in Greek is the basis of the word economy. It is the foundation of our country. We need to have a policy that supports families, that encourages marriage, that has fathers take responsibility for their children. You can't have limited government, you can't have a wealthy society, if the family breaks down that basic unit of society, and that needs to be included in this economic discussion."

The candidate who said this was former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum. Now, I have some reservations about Mr. Santorum, but to his credit he is the only candidate running in 2012 that offers a consistent message of family values, and the restoration of the family as the nucleus of political life, as a central theme of his campaign.

He does so much to the chagrin of his conservative confreres in the debates. Since states rights and limited government is the battle cry of the Tea Party movement and, at least ostensibly, of the Republican establishment as a whole there is a push for a libertarianism renewal, of sorts, that emphasizes the right of the individual to the point of extremity, and in so doing forgets that we as Americans live in a political society whose goal is the prosperity of persons.

In a response directed to Herman Cain’s position that the states should legislate marriage laws themselves, Mr. Santorum stated “I have been a long-time advocate for states’ rights. However, I believe that states don’t have the rights to legalize moral wrongs…Mr. Cain, Congresswoman Bachmann and Governor Perry all believe 50 different definitions of marriage is fine, I strongly disagree and will continue fighting for traditional marriage between one man and woman.”

Mr. Santorum is putting his faith into action in the political square and doing so like few Catholic politicians have before; unapologetically. The belief in the family as the core of political society, that moral wrongs exists and are not able to be legitimized by any sort of government, no matter how local, should be the test of any Catholic in the public square. In 2012, it will be up to us as voters to decide who the best candidate will be to put these maxims into practice.

Let us pray for our country and for its leaders that they may faithfully execute their office according to sound principles and right reason so that we may all live free and happy lives.

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