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"It's the economy, stupid." That's the mantra endlessly repeated by every political commentator and analyst throughout this election season. We've been told by pundits on both left and right that people have three issues they're concerned about: jobs, jobs, and jobs. (And did I mention jobs?) Of course, there's plenty of reason for that. With an official unemployment rate of 9.6 percent, and an unofficial jobless rate more like 17 percent, many of us are worried about being able to earn a living. Recent college graduates are saddled with crushing educational loan debt. Most are struggling to find work -- any work, let alone an entry level position in a particular field. Economic concerns are very real, and there are very real reasons for concern.
But whether you think current office holders have inherited or created the worst economy since the Great Depression, I have a question for you: if now is not the time to discuss and debate one's position on the "social issues," when is? If it just doesn't make sense to discuss marriage or the breakdown of the family this year, when will it make sense to do so? If we ought not to debate policies that fail to address the causes of generational dependence on government under the current conditions, what conditions have to be present for us to debate them? If the decline of literacy and the rise of violent crime aren't on the list of currently relevant topics, when will they make the list? And if the dignity of the human person before birth and at the end of life just isn't relevant right now, can anyone tell me when it will be? By the way, have you noticed how many social policy initiatives seem to be taken when everybody's paying attention to the economy?
Frankly, I'm tired of money matters trumping everything else that matters; in fact, everything else in the history of humankind matters a lot more than money. Think about the Bill of Rights, or the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. How much do those timeless documents focus on the economy? They don't. Why? Because the dignity of the human person and the rights given to each of us by the God who made all of us are far more important than any material wealth or poverty ever could be. I'm not suggesting that there is no connection between human rights and economic policy. The link is undeniable. As our Church so wisely teaches us, social justice is a social issue. But here's another question: are we so convinced that economic struggles produce societal breakdown? Couldn't it be the other way around? Isn't it possible that a nation's economy could suffer from, say, increased criminal activity? Or, that the poor would become even poorer if the majority of their children grew up in single parent households? Or that a nation would not be able to adequately support its elderly population simply because the population as a whole was shrinking? If social and economic issues are connected, then isn't it at least possible that the very things we don't have time for when the economy is in the tank are precisely the reasons why the economy is in the tank?
Whatever political shifts there may be, as a Catholic, I am tired of "leaders" who refuse to openly engage social issues. I don't believe for a minute that those who wield political power don't make decisions that affect abortion, euthanasia, marriage, education, the status of women, immigration, free speech, and the free exercise of religion. They can, and they do. It's just that it becomes a lot easier to do what they want when the rest of us are wearing it's-the-economy-stupid blinders. I believe a man's value is not equal to his bank account balance, and the greatness of a nation is much more than its GDP. That's why I'm sick of seeing fiscal and monetary policy take the center stage. For me, it's not the economy. Because of my faith, it never was, and it never can be.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.