Yesterday's defeat of a gay marriage bill in the New Jersey Senate is just one more disappointment in a string of bitter losses for those who seek equal justice under the law. Sure, other countries don't seem to have a problem making fairness legal, but here at home, at the state level, we have apparently decided that we're not going to play along. Many of the objections you hear center around religion, but the sorry undercurrent behind the unwillingness to grant the same rights to homosexuals that their fellow citizens already enjoy and frequently abuse is actually one concerning politics and economics, i.e., in These Troubled Times legislators are not willing to take a chance on equality while their constituents are more concerned about jobs and wages. Basically, gays are screwed until the economy picks up again and we all feel so prosperous that we don't care whether or not two committed partners who happen to be of the same gender want the same benefits as everyone else. It's unfortunate, but that's the way it is. So let's set some benchmarks!
I spoke with Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon and asked him what economic indicators we should be looking at to determine the point at which we'll be so caught up in the next boom that we'll be ready to let gays marry. He suggested the following data points:
Unemployment: Unemployment is now at 10.2%. It was 5% back in November '07, when this recession started. My personal feeling is that the number would have to drop down below 5% again before gay marriage gets another shot, but Salmon suggests that it would be better to focus on the NAIRU number, "the rate of unemployment below which inflation starts kicking in – or, to put it another way, the level of unemployment which the Fed should consider to constitute 'full employment'." Salmon believes the Fed won't let unemployment go below 5%, because that would be too inflationary. He suggests 7% as an acceptable figure. I'm going to split the difference and call it 6%.
Dow Jones: Salmon thinks the Dow is already in vaguely "recovered" territory, but he's a lot closer to the numbers than the rest of us, so I think we need something that seems a little more robust than the current 10.5k. I'm gonna say the Dow will need to be no lower than 12k for a sustained period of time.
Federal Budget Deficit: Salmon thinks we'll need to see a government deficit that is less than 3% of GDP. I've spent the last half hour poring over CBO estimates for the next ten years, and, let me tell you, I have NO IDEA what they mean. So we're gonna go with Salmon on this one.
And there you have it, gays! Write these figures down and stick 'em on your wall: Unemployment below 6%, Dow at 12000, and deficit less than 3% of GDP. When all of these numbers come up, so has yours! Time to call your legislators. Until then, sit back and enjoy the watered-down palliative that is "civil commitment." See ya when everything's good again.