Social issues need to be put on backburner

Freedom New Mexico

A few months ago, we wrote that tea party activists who focus on fiscal issues were in a tug of war with other conservatives more interested in “social issues” such as abortion and gay marriage. We said politicians who rode the tea party wave to power should concentrate on the economy and resist being pulled in other directions.

Readers scoffed and said we didn’t know what we were talking about.

Really? Check out the news wires:

From March 5: “House Speaker John Boehner said he’s launching a legal defense of the federal law against gay marriage.”

From March 2: “Tennessee is considering making it a felony to follow some versions of the Islamic code known as Shariah. … It represents the boldest legislative attempt yet to limit how Muslims worship.”

From around the nation: State legislators and members of Congress are straying from economic issues to try to restrict abortions, stiffen drug laws and let students carry guns on college campuses.

For a while, it looked as if the GOP-tea party coalition would carry the Clintonian banner: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Now the banner has been rewritten: “It USED to be the economy, stupid, but now it’s gays, guns and foreigners.”

This is a serious misstep. Economists assure us the recession is over, but that’s just using a textbook definition. The nation’s economy is still ailing and people are still hurting. In New Mexico, too. Our state’s unemployment rate stood at 8.7 percent in January, just below the national average. In Curry County, the jobless rate actually worsened — from 5.4 percent in December to 5.8 percent in January.

And some folks are fretting about gay weddings?

Lawmakers should stop trying to wield government force in order to mold people’s behavior — a dubious habit in the best of times — and follow Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s advice: Reduce taxes, reduce government, scale back regulations and give the economy room to grow.

Save the “social issues” fixation for later. Or, better yet, never.