Yesterday morning I was enjoying my usual Sunday morning routine of coffee and political talk shows before church when I heard something that I thought must be a mistake. When asked for his reaction to the economic stimulus bill being considered in the House, Boehner said:
But spending 44--or $200 million to fix up the National Mall, $21 million for sod, over $200 million for contraceptives, how is this going to fix an ailing economy?Now the $21 million for sod sounds so much like business as usual in the Congress that it passed without notice, but $200 million for contraception? That has to be a mistake I thought. Apparently not.
The reality of it is not quite as straightforward as Rep. Boehner presented it on Meet The Press, but here is the description of the provision as listed on Boehner's website:
Now comes the latest revelation about the congressional Democrats’ “stimulus” plan: it includes taxpayer funding for contraceptives and the abortion industry. Specifically, a provision in the legislation clears the way for expanded federal funding of contraceptives through Medicaid for those who aren’t even poor. Here’s how:
A Clinton-era program allows states to seek a waiver to offer Medicaid “family planning” services – even for those who are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. If they seek the waiver, the federal government matches the state funding with $9 for every $1.
Yesterday, during consideration of the congressional Democrats’ spending bill by the House Energy & Commerce Committee, the panel eliminated the waiver requirement. The result? All 50 states will now offer Medicaid “family planning” services (including contraception) with the federal government offering the same $9 to $1 match
This, of course, was one of the weekend talking points and was grist for the mill on Rush Limbaugh today as well as the obligatory left-wing blogosphere response. (I swear sometimes these entire exchanges are little more than set-pieces in some thoroughly predictable national pageant.)
Maybe Boehner's linkage to abortion is an overreach, maybe not. Maybe, since the Democrats control the presidency and the Congress, they have the ability to enact an agenda that includes funding for contraception. But to include increased access to contraception and family planning as economic stimulus strains credulity to the breaking point. I seem to recall then candidate Obama remarking something to the effect that a pig remains a pig, even if it is wearing lipstick.
Further evidence of just how shaky this proposition is comes from Speaker Pelosi's response when questioned by George Stephanopoulos of ABC. She said:
Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.
Setting aside the generally incoherent tone of this response, just how does this provision reduce costs? Is she actually suggesting that as a response to the economic crisis people should stop having babies because they represent a cost to the states?
If this is true, it is only so because of the steady increase toward government interference in what have been traditionally family concerns, but that is a discussion for another day. While we do so at our own not insignificant peril, if we are going to reduce human beings to the sum total of their economic impact, the Speaker has a more pressing concern.
In case she hasn't looked at her desk in a while, she and her colleagues in the House are currently considering taking out a mortgage on the nation's future to the tune of about three quarters of a trillion dollars. Who does she think is going to pay this back?
If you don't have children now, there won't be any workers in the future. No workers means no productivity. No productivity, no taxes. I guess it won't matter that we can't pay our debts since there won't be any of us left.
While "I want my last check to bounce" may work as a personal finance strategy, it's no way to run a country.
And if spending on contraception and family planning is our best response to current conditions, our checks just might start bouncing long before we write the last one.