Earlier this year, The Weekly Standard reported Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels as opining that the next president will “have to call a truce on the so-called social issues,” given the nation’s pressing fiscal issues. When questioned further, Daniels said that we face a “genuine national emergency” in regard to the federal budget and “maybe [social issues] could be set aside for a while. But this doesn’t mean anybody abandons their position at all. Everybody just stands down for a little while, while we try to save the republic.”
Daniels’ comments generated a torrent of criticism from social conservatives, but he refused to back down. “It wasn’t something I just blurted out,” he remarked on his call for a possible social truce. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.” His words are made all the more striking given the fact that he is a strong social conservative. The first article by the Standard points out that Daniels is pro-life, serves as an elder at the Indianapolis Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, which he has attended for 50 years, and helped found a “Christ-centered” school which he claims “is the most important thing I’ve ever been involved in.” The devout Daniels previously stated that “atheism leads to brutality.”
Nor is Daniels alone in his sentiments. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was elected despite largely avoiding social issues, has kept a laser-like focus on fiscal issues while in office and become a national conservative hero partly because of it. What is more, he has specifically called for Republicans to “rebrand themselves credibly with the candidates they run, and what they espouse, as the person who will keep an eye on the cash register, who will rein in the spending and the debt.” When pressed on the social truce idea at a Christian Science Monitor-sponsored discussion, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour replied, “I think what Mitch said is very similar to what I have responded to today”:
The voters have on their mind the economy, jobs, spending, debt and taxes and good campaigns are about the issues that are on the peoples’ minds.”… “I’ll put my bonafides up against anybody as a social conservative,” he added, noting that as governor, Mississippi was voted the safest state in the country for an unborn child. “But that ain’t going to change anybody’s vote this year because people are concerned about jobs, the economy, growth and taxes…you are using up valuable time and resources that can be used to talk to people about what they care about.
Socially conservative congressman Mike Pence, however, could not disagree more. “To those who say we should focus on fiscal issues, instead of the right to life, I say ‘what is more fiscally responsible than rolling back this administration’s effort to expand funding for abortion at home and abroad?’” he said in Iowa earlier this month. “What is more fiscally responsible than denying any and all funding to Planned Parenthood of America?”
The congressman may or may not know, however, that federal domestic funding for abortion in the next fiscal year will be at most $327.4 million, with an additional $700 million for international family planning programs. When combined with the $349.6 million in government funding received by Planned Parenthood in fiscal year 2007-2008, the total federal expenditure (even disregarding the fact that the Planned Parenthood figure includes money from state and local governments) on abortion constitutes just 0.00036% of the roughly $3.8 trillion that will make up the 2011 U.S. federal budget. The collective figure also pales in comparison to America’s other economic ills: an umemployment rate that has remained above 9.4% since May 2009 and a national debt estimated at $13.63 trillion as of this writing.
To answer Congressman Pence’s questions, while the amount of government funding for abortion is deplorable, it would be far more fiscally responsible to focus on repealing parts of this year’s massive healthcare reform legislation, whose price tag may exceed $1 trillion over the next ten years. It would be far more fiscally responsible to work to ensure that there are no additional stimulus packages akin to 2009’s wasteful $787 billion plan. It would be far, far, far more fiscally responsible to focus on reducing the size of government in a meaningful, substantial way, growing our economy, and paying off some of our horrendous collective debt.
Governors Barbour, Christie, and Daniels: bring on the social truce!