Posts Tagged Conservative politics
“Look, I get that you don’t like the government, but how do you plan to pay the cops if we abolish all taxes?”
Conservatives are regularly derided by liberals–from bloggers to Presidents–as wanting to tear down the entire government and stop all government functions and programs. I’ve been attacked for this myself.
If the charge is not, “You hate the government and want to close it down,” then it’s, “You’re a hypocrite because you say you hate the government but you still drive on public roads!”
Are either of these charges accurate?
This attack often presents as evidence either 1) the conservative desire to lower everyone’s taxes, or 2) conservative opposition to particular projects.
Let’s take these one at a time. Issue one is taxes. The reasoning goes that since government needs money to function, if conservatives want to cut taxes, then conservatives must want the government to stop functioning.
But while lowering taxes might mean having to cut or scale back some government programs or services, the idea that conservatives want to eliminate ALL taxes and cease ALL programs does not follow. If I’m spending too much in my personal life and decide I ought to cancel my cable TV, this does not mean I secretly want to stop wearing deodorant and become a hermit.
Then what about Republican opposition to specific spending projects? Do conservatives want to eliminate roads and schools? I’ve been hearing that charge my entire life, along with the claim that Republicans want to fire all the cops and firefighters. Or, opponents will point to conservatives’ desire to eliminate certain federal programs or departments–the Department of Education, for example, or the Affordable Care Act.
Federalism means that governing power is shared and divided between central and local governing bodies (e.g. states or provinces). Subsidiarity is the organizational principle that the smallest, most local authority that can effectively accomplish a task, should be the authority responsible for it.
We all know these concepts instinctively. We recognize that individual employees are capable of walking to the supply room and taking a box of staples when they run out, and we react against micromanagerial policies that require a manager’s signature to requisition staples and pens and a supervisor to open the supply room. It wastes the time of both manager and employee, it saps morale by treating people like children, and that all means a waste of money.
Subsidiarity does not say that local government should do everything and the federal government should do nothing. A staple czar is a bad idea, but a company can’t function without a chief at all. So of course there are things that only a central government can manage well, and subsidiarity says that the central government should do those things. Subsidiarity simply means that we ought to direct our efforts where they will be effective.
Within this framework, conservatives believe that the federal government, and local governments, and businesses, and individuals are all going to be good at certain things; and, if we’re smart, we’ll avoid making any of those groups responsible for tasks to which they are not suited. The point is to avoid wasting money and effort.
So it’s not that I don’t want public roads. I think that’s something government can be relatively good at, as long as we keep an eye on corruption. It’s not that I don’t want schools. It’s that I don’t think the federal government is at all good at running them. State and local governments are handling it, so let’s not waste effort where it’s not needed. Let’s not send money from Illinois to Washington, D.C. to pay for an expensive building full of expensive bureaucrats who will then decide how much of that money comes back to Illinois and how we should spend it.
Yes, I bristle when conservatives are called anti-education for taking issue with the Dept of Education, a federal, Cabinet-level Department with a nearly $70 billion budget whose mission is to “promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” What does that mean? It means the Dept. of Education doesn’t educate a single student. State and local government handles this.
Back to the beginning. Why, then, is this presented as, “Conservatives don’t want the government to do anything at all, ever!”? Because it looks that way from the point of view of today’s liberal Democratic party. The left today acts as if every social issue can and should be solved by a new shiny federal office full of federal workers. Progressives today argue without irony that a government’s effectiveness is defined by the number of laws it passes, and that when conservatives say, “Let’s cut this program because it’s not helping the poor,” they must really mean, “We don’t want to help the poor.” But subsidiarity means not doing things that won’t work. And I think that’s a reasonable principle to follow.
So, it turns out having a baby makes it a lot harder to blog regularly.
But fear not! For you have in front of you, just in time to share with your undecided voter friends, the 2012 Basic Conservative Election Overview!
The Current Situation
Shoddy journalism, political ads, debates, fact-checkers, fact-checker fact-checkers, and bloggers like me have all conspired to make the truth very slippery indeed this year. Many people believe many things that are simply not true. Some of those things are asserted as truth by the President and his challenger nonetheless, with the full, cynical knowledge that the majority of people listening won’t bother to check–and those that do are political nerds that have already made up their mind about who to vote for, and a few lies won’t change that.
So, depending on who you listen to, we’re currently experiencing an unending recession, or finally seeing the economy recover. If there’s been no recovery, it’s either because George W. Bush dug too deep a hole for us to climb out of in four years, or a huge expansion of government has put the brakes on the economy. The last four years (interestingly) have either seen massive government growth, or the most conservative, spendthrift administration since WWII.
The problem is, each of these statements generated responses saying “that’s not true, here’s the truth!” (That last one is one of my favorites.) And each of those responses generated responses. And each of those… you get the idea.
So let’s take a look at….
The Current Situation (Really)
President Obama inherited a mess. There is no question. The US economy entered a recession in Dec. 2007, kicked off by the bursting housing bubble. Each side has attempted to place 100% of the blame for that on the other side–but there is blame enough to go around, as everyone had their role to play.
The President also came in to office with a plan. The job losses could be stopped with an $800 billion dollar stimulus–in fact, his administration released an analysis that stated that, with the stimulus, unemployment would never reach 8%, and by 2012, would return to below 6% (chart at right).
So in February of 2009, one of the first orders of business of the new Congress and new administration was to pass and sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
By October of 2009, unemployment had sailed past 10%. Just last month, we finally, mercifully dipped below 8% for the first time since 2009. Various people have updated the now-infamous chart to reflect what really happened (second chart).
We may not have gained much in the way of jobs from the stimulus. President Obama himself, a couple of years after signing the bill, joked that the shovel-ready jobs he promised were “not as shovel-ready as we expected.” Hilarious.
Many have argued that the stimulus, though it didn’t create many new jobs as hoped, saved millions from being lost–millions! It’s just that nobody can seem to agree on how many. That’s because it’s all speculative. Especially considering that in their rush to present all the jobs saved, the White House started counting people multiple times. From the linked article (emphasis added):
“…contract administrators employed by the state may oversee more than one stimulus project, meaning that they can be double or triple counted in stimulus employee counts.
For example, Bill Cass, NHDOT’s director of development, explained that one administrator is overseeing four projects, and has staff supporting him. Both the administrator and his staff would have been counted four times each in the report’s employment numbers.“
All this to say, the stimulus gives new meaning to “overpromised and underdelivered.” Lots of people throw around lots of numbers, but there are a few things we can be certain of: 23 million people unemployed or underemployed. The left screams when you mention that number “because only 12 million or so are actually unemployed!” But this is a number that the government tracks–the two most useful BLS unemployment numbers are what’s known as the U3 (official rate), currently 7.9%, and the U6, which includes people who have given up looking for work, and people who are working part time only because they cannot find full time employment–currently 14.6%, which is where that 23 million number comes from. And I think those people are getting just as screwed by this economy as those in the 7.9%.
Another thing we can be sure of: the stimulus wasn’t the only thing that was supposed to improve the economy. Despite attempts to place the lack of recovery on the Tea Party and Republicans in Congress preventing the President from being able to get a single thing done, the President got pretty much everything he wanted in his first two years. The stimulus, the CARD act, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform act, an extension of current tax rates (2009 Obama: “You don’t raise taxes (on anyone) in a recession.”) and a boost to the stimulus, plus a few bills addressing housing and hiring incentives–all passed in 2009 and 2010, each one promising to turn the economy around. Obamacare is a series of posts all its own, but let’s at least mention it here, lest we forget that the President really did get everything he wanted.
And yet, as I said above, the official unemployment rate is still 7.9%, up from last month. The economy is still growing far too slowly to pull us out of our slump. And the anemic growth we have seen is itself slowing.
We were told that if we simply spent enough money, none of this would happen. We spent the money. We borrowed it from our children, spent it, and we will now hand them the bill. And yet there is no recovery.
The President has tried. He did exactly what he campaigned on, and it has failed to produce results. This year, he’s campaigning on doing more of the same. More “investment,” which in government-speak, simply means stimulus. But we tried that. All it did was explode the deficit. So his solution is to continue spending like we have, and simply take a little more from those millionaires and billionaires. They can afford it, then we’re in the clear!
But the math does not work. Even if, like the President, you consider anyone making over $250,000 a year a millionaire, letting the “Bush tax cuts” expire on those tax brackets will bring in at most, according to official numbers, $80 billion next year. Our deficits are well over $1000 billion and have been ever since 2009. The President is arguing to cut our deficit by a few percent in words that imply that if we simply raise these taxes on the rich, the debt will be covered. It’s a lie. He’s simply arguing for more of the same.
We have another option. Mitt Romney has spent his life finding ways to balance budgets and turn failures into successes. People attack Bain Capital because some of the companies they bought laid people off, or went out of business. Yes, that happened. Of course that happened. Romney and Bain specialized in buying failing companies and turning them around. Complaining about his record is like attacking an ER doctor for sometimes losing patients. Yes, by the numbers, maybe your pediatrician has never had someone die on the table–but I’d rather have a surgeon who’s dealt with messy situations before if I come in with a ruptured appendix. Romney’s record is phenomenal. Paul Ryan has passed budgets when the President could not–budgets that balance, and make the necessary changes to our bankrupt Social Security and Medicare systems to keep them afloat.
These are men with solid records and a serious plan to fix our mess. President Obama wants to keep doing what we’re doing–what has failed for four years so far–but he’ll get those evil millionaires.
There is only one serious option. This Tuesday, vote Republican.
For those of you that live in states where your vote for President “won’t matter,” or don’t think local races make a difference, please remember that spending bills originate in the House–and historically this has had more of an impact on the government’s spending and debt than the President. I made an embarrassingly low-quality chart to demonstrate:
This is the difference between voting Democrat and voting Republican. This is what you need to remember. The left and the media will yell that Mitt Romney doesn’t care about the poor, or the 47% that won’t vote for him (though they were okay with candidate Obama dismissing anyone that wouldn’t support him in 2008 as bitterly clinging to guns, or religion, or racism). The left and the media will try to convince you Republicans want to ban contraception (they don’t), that Republicans are racist (re-read your history), that Republicans are pro-rape (don’t get me started)–but this chart is the difference. If Senator Obama was right four years ago that borrowing trillions to finance irresponsible spending is unpatriotic (he was), then this chart is all you need to know.
One final note. There were a couple of lies in the recent weeks and during the debates that I didn’t get a chance to write up, but I can’t let pass. One is President Obama’s continued assertion that he’s cut taxes on small businesses and the middle class–18 times, lots of tax cuts, tax cuts for everyone! Unfortunately, the cuts he’s referring to are generally negligible and/or already expired. In fact, he’s put on the books a myriad of tax hikes on small businesses and the middle class–he just made sure they didn’t kick in until 2014, long after it would affect his re-election. And the left has long attempted to conflate “not raising taxes” with “cutting taxes”.
The second lie that I can’t help but comment on came from Vice President Biden during his debate. He looked America in the eye and told a flat-out lie on par with calling the sky yellow. I will quote directly from the USCCB response.
“…the following statement was made during the Vice Presidential debate regarding the decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force virtually all employers to include sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion, in the health insurance coverage they provide their employees:
“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”
This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.”
I put this fully in the category I mentioned at the top of my article–a bald-faced lie told with the full understanding of the truth and the cynical knowledge that the only people that will bother to check won’t change their vote over it. Our Vice President represents everything that we all know is wrong with politics and politicians today and deserves the support and vote of absolutely no one this Tuesday.
Alright. Nothing left to do now but vote. I hope you will, too.
The last few days have seen the Republican nominees and all-stars enter full attack mode. And the Great American Pastime of arguing, fact-checking, and commentary has moved into its final stretch–with the conventions, we start our engines for the playoff season, and I’m excited to see the contenders enter the ring.
In addition to giving bloggers like me an opportunity to badly mix metaphors, this is also a good moment to comment on the left-wing responses to some of the RNC speeches.
What I’ve heard and read from the left in the last few days can be divided into two categories: arguments centered on Romney and Ryan, and arguments centered on President Obama. The arguments I’ve heard about Romney and Ryan have been predictable; their speeches were nothing but lies and distortions (and also racist!), they only want to help the rich, yadda yadda yadda. More on that in a further post. But it’s the arguments about Obama’s record that I want to talk about here.
Romney and Ryan have reasonably spent a fair amount of time highlighting the President’s failed record. Almost four years now–a full term–and unemployment has yet to come back below 8%, we still have 23 million people unemployed or underemployed, and his first term will have added nearly $6 trillion in debt.
I think it’s fair to point those things out. So what has been the response?
Republicans are mean.
Seriously! I still hear, after almost four years of failure, that it’s all the mean Republicans’ fault. Obama wanted to fix the economy, but Bush left him such a mess, and he’s NEVER been able to get any of his plans through those mean Republicans in Congress that block him at every turn! They even admit they want him to fail, and that’s just mean!
So I’d just like to remind us all of something.
Despite the way the left talks today, Obama had large majorities in both houses of Congress for the first two years of his Presidency. During that time he got everything he wanted passed. Stimulus, Dodd-Frank, Obamacare–multiple major, far-reaching works of legislative overhaul.
People talk as if the President has never been able to pass a bill. “Of course the economy hasn’t turned around,” they say, “Congress won’t let a single one of the President’s ideas through!” The facts contradict this. Americans have extraordinarily short memories. Every one of the President’s ideas got through.
Finally, after having two years of carte blanche to pass anything he wanted, the American people recoiled at what they saw the Democrats doing, and responded with their votes. Obama himself referred to it as an electoral “shellacking.” Since then, the fact that he’s had any opposition in Congress at all has been the central excuse of the left for our economic situation.
And still, the stimulus WAS passed, and we still sailed beyond 10% unemployment. Dodd-Frank was passed, and the housing market has yet to rebound. The President’s policies aren’t some vague “what-if” that may have fixed our problems. President Obama’s policies are in place and we are seeing their effects in our economy’s failure to grow.
The position of President of the United States used to be referred to as the “leader of the free world.” I haven’t heard that term used in years. I don’t think people see this President as a leader at all.
So instead of a President that blames every problem on someone else, I think we need a leader that can work with whatever difficult situation he’s dealt. Someone that has been able to work with a hostile legislature and still get things done. A leader that has been able to step into existing failures and turn them into successes. If we can find one, I want a leader that’s been so amazingly good at turning failures around, maybe he’s even sheepish about how much money he made doing it.
That’s not about being mean. That’s getting things done. Let’s get things done, America.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that many large U.S. corporations are hiring, but hiring more people in other countries than they are here at home.
Eager to highlight the evils of multinational corporations, Think Progress reported on the report, noting that some companies had even cut jobs in the U.S. while hiring abroad. References to the problem of outsourcing and a look at the article’s comments section make clear how Think Progress and the left see this issue, and that this sort of information is their evidence.
Here’s what they overlook. Think Progress calls out Wal-Mart specifically (because who doesn’t love to hate Wal-Mart), and then posts the chart at right. The bottom section is the group guilty of layoffs in America while hiring overseas.
But these aren’t outsourced call centers and sweatshops. UPS, Starwood Hotels, International Paper. Think about what these companies do. UPS employees get in trucks and drive packages around their city, or work in warehouses necessary in every city they deliver to. UPS isn’t going to hire a driver in Detroit to deliver packages in Peru. Attacking UPS won’t save any jobs, it will just make it more expensive to order products online. In the same way, it makes no sense to blast Starwood Hotels for hiring people in Brazil to staff their hotel in Brazil. It’s not like hotel chains run sweatshops in China. They open hotels all over the world, and staff them locally.
They go out of their way to mention Wal-Mart, though they didn’t even make the list. But Wal-Mart has opened almost 700 stores abroad since 2009, giving them almost 1200 more stores abroad than they have here at home. And they still employ almost twice as many people in America as they do in other countries (around 1.4 million). Are they supposed to fly cashiers from Minnesota to Singapore every day so that they can use American labor? Yet these are the numbers the left points to when they complain that businesses need to be more regulated and punished for not hiring American workers. This is the standard counterargument whenever someone uses the term “job creators.”
As it turns out, manufacturing in America is still strong. We’re still, by far, the most productive country in the world, and manufacturing salaries continue to rise (currently averaging around $50,000). International Paper, also on this list of offenders, is a good illustration of manufacturing in the modern world economy. International Paper runs paper mills and distribution centers in America to sell to America. They also have dozens of mills, offices, and centers in other countries. To do business in those countries. Just like Toyota and Honda have factories in Indiana and Ohio to make cars to sell in America. Just like American auto makers have opened factories in China–gasp!–to sell their cars in China. Doing otherwise would be inefficient and make their product more expensive. Attempts to impede companies’ ability to operate where it makes sense to operate will not save any jobs–it will only drive up the cost of products and services. It will make all stuff more expensive. Helping the poor, that ain’t.
I know there are companies that make use of cheap overseas labor. Yes, Apple has a lot of components put together in China. But they also employ 47,000 people here at home, more than twice as many people employed abroad. And that’s only direct Apple employees–that business supports literally hundreds of thousands of other US jobs in affected industries providing raw and technical materials, services, transportation, health care. If you forced the 23,000 employees in other countries out of their jobs, Apple might be able to hire some here, but they’d also lose a lot of their sales when the price of the new iPhone doubled, and have to lay those workers right back off. And thousands of people in China would be kicked off the lifeline that’s finally pulling that country out of a peasant economy.
So if you think Apple’s overseas factory is the reason for 14% real unemployment here in America, you’ll be disappointed to see the hundreds of thousands of American workers harmed by making it harder for Apple to do business. And since the most common fixative I hear liberals support in order to deal with this supposed problem is to levy extra taxes on companies that do business overseas, you’ll be disappointed when all that does is make your vacations and Amazon purchases more expensive. Most of all, if you think damaging UPS and Starwood Hotels’ business is worth it just to “get” companies like Apple, keep in mind the hundreds of thousands of US workers you’re “getting” at the same time, and driving up the cost of goods for every single one of us.
All the supposed solutions simply make imports more expensive. If you make imports more expensive, then the end product will be more expensive too, and that’s bad for the customer and manufacturer alike. That just means less business gets done, and you and I have access to less stuff. Protectionary tariffs are one of the things that led to the Great Depression. If you threaten businesses here, some may submit, but none will choose to do business in America any longer if they can help it.
Conservatives have an alternative. Free trade makes the world a better place. It’s hard to get many economists to agree on anything, but they generally agree on that. More jobs here, more jobs abroad. If one company moves a call center to India, another company opens its doors here in America. Cheaper goods everywhere. And the more markets we open for American goods to be sold abroad, the more American manufacturing jobs can be created.
If you really want to help the poor, that sounds like a good start.
From my recent article at Kendall County YR:
The May 10th editorial by Tony Scott in the Kendall County Record claims that the GOP needs to stop alienating women with backwards social issues like abortion and birth control. Scott goes so far as to claim that “most Republican candidates support limits on… birth control.” This is made up. It’s false. Scott wants the uninformed to assume that these dangerous Republicans are coming to ban sex and make women wear burkas. In fact, the issue of birth control has only been brought up by Democrats recently, in attempts to force religious institutions to provide free contraception for their employees. Even the staunch social conservative Rick Santorum stated that, though he morally disagreed with contraception, he had no interest in restricting anyone’s access to it. If you remember all the way back to January of this year, when the issue was first artificially injected into the campaign by former Democratic advisor George Stephanopoulos at a debate, every single Republican on stage was variously bemused and/or annoyed at the waste of time. Stephanopoulos spent over four minutes repeatedly asking each candidate, in so many words, come on… you want to ban the pill, right? Tell me you want to ban the pill.
The Republican audience got so fed up with the absurdity of the line of questioning that they started to yell and boo. Romney summed up the general sentiment: “George, I — I don’t know whether a state has a right to ban contraception. No state wants to. I mean, the idea of you putting forward things that states might want to do that no — no state wants to do and asking me whether they could do it or not is kind of a silly thing, I think.”
Scott correctly reports that 77% of those recently polled thought birth control “should not be part of the national political debate.” Republicans agree. They’re not interested in it either, despite attempts to characterize the GOP as the party of “extremism and gender inequity.”
Also brought up is the issue of abortion. Republicans need to back off abortion, goes the claim, because 53% of Americans support it! Polls on abortion are tricky. They change. A lot. Constantly. Pew did report last month that 53% of those polled were in favor of keeping it mostly legal, but that number, in its pendulous swings over the past few decades, keeps slowly swinging in a pro-life direction. And swing it does. Between October 2008 and April 2009, support swung from 57% to 46%—eleven points in eight months. There was a three point change between two polls conducted in the same month in 2008. Even six months ago, only 51% of those polled supported abortion. This number moves a lot, but the big picture is a trend towards protecting the lives of our unborn children.
Here’s the bigger picture still. These social issues make for good press and loud arguments, but when asked what issues will determine their vote this November, people list abortion, contraception, and gay marriage low on the list (39%, 34%, and 28%, respectively, answer these issues are “very important”). The top of the list? The economy (86%) and jobs (84%). Our current President is running on a failed record on those issues, against a man who’s spent his life demonstrating a spectacular ability to turn financial failures into successes, in both the public and private spheres. Which of those two men do you think Americans should trust with our economy?
It’s Primary day in Illinois. You wouldn’t know it from the weather. We’re used to headlines along the lines of “Voter Turnout Low Due To Blizzard,” but I guess we’ve been using too many incandescent light bulbs around here.
However, this year the beautiful, sunny weather reflects my excitement about the election, and my hope for a bright, sunny future just over the horizon.
Get ready to cue the groans and complaints from my liberal friends, my “true conservative” friends, and my Paulbot friends, but gosh darnit, I’m excited to cast my vote for Mitt Romney today.
I understand that Rick Santorum has a more conservative record. I know you’re worried about Romney’s moderate past. I am too. But let’s look at a few facts. When Ronald Reagan ran for President, he was a former Democrat, former union boss, a governor that had signed the most radically permissive pro-abortion bill in US history.
People change. Reagan did. Mitt Romney has spoken about his changes of heart. And, he will have a very different climate in which to govern as President next year than he did as Governor of a very liberal state years ago. Not only will he be representing all Americans both red and blue, rather than only deep-blue Massachusetts, but after the budget explosion of the last three years and the Tea Party response, he will have very little room to break deficit-cutting promises. And after spending months campaigning on a platform of waiving and repealing Obamacare, he will have neither room to flip nor flop on that issue.
Now, a word about Santorum. Yes, his record is cleaner, and I agree with much of what he says. This morning I listened to WLS-AM in Chicago while host and commentator Dan Proft said that in a primary, we should support whomever we believe would be the best standard-bearer for the party; in his opinion, Santorum. But “best standard-bearer” does not necessarily mean, nor is it restricted to, “agrees with my opinions most closely.” In fact, despite my generally liking and agreeing with him, there is no doubt in my mind that Santorum would be a disastrous representative of the conservative movement. Santorum is far too easily painted as a crazy extremist, and it’s not all the media’s fault.
Sure, the contraception debate has been a made-up issue, but instead of refusing to engage, Santorum takes the bait and talks about how he feels about birth control. Appending a quick “but as a Republican, I don’t want a government program to deal with this” at the end doesn’t help with the public perception. The sound bites are already recorded, and now Republicans want to ban the pill in the minds of every voter that only reads headlines. Now he’s talking, all on his own, about wanting to outlaw pornography. He gets caught up talking about gays and women in the military. It doesn’t matter how you feel about these issues. They are not what we need to be talking about right now. With unbelievable deficits, massive unemployment, and a floundering recovery, we need someone who will focus completely on jobs and the economy. Someone with successful executive experience in both the private and public sector. Someone exactly like Mitt Romney.
Allowing the debate to shift to pornography and birth control will drive an entire generation away from the GOP, and we cannot let that happen. But by focusing on jobs and the economy, by supporting Mitt Romney, we will not only win in November, but we can win converts to the conservative cause.
And that’s why I’m excited to support him today, and I hope you will all do the same.
I’m often accused, and see other conservatives accused, of not seeing things clearly. It’s a common refrain in many circles, one generally intermixed with references to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.
So imagine my surprise when I hear, from the side that sees everything with perfect clarity, the argument that came up in a Congressional hearing last week.
Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student, made the case that the federal government must force all insurers and employers, regardless of their religious or moral objections, to pay for contraception for their employees–or, in this case, college students. They must do this because paying for one’s own contraception causes one to suffer “financially, emotionally, and medically.” She even described the sad case of how “embarrassed and powerless” one woman felt upon learning that her contraception would not be free. 
Let’s get this straight. The argument here appears to be, “Because I want birth control and paying for it sucks, the government ought to force someone else to buy it for me.” That’s about it. Look closely, we want be sure we’re seeing this clearly.
Birth control is not a basic right, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nor is it a women’s health issue. It’s something that, according to recent polls, most people choose to use at some point. But it’s still a choice, and it’s not a choice that everyone makes, and it’s certainly not something that anyone needs in the sense that we need food and shelter. It’s fairly absurd for Fluke to put contraception-on-demand on the same level as antibiotics or insulin, referring to birth control as a “critical health care need.” But this clear thinker makes an even more dubious logical leap: her claim is that their struggle is “for the access to the health care we need.”
Catch that? She’s attempting to make this about access. She’s making the argument that if we don’t force someone else to buy her birth control, we’re saying she’s not allowed access to birth control.
But this is ridiculous on its face. Everyone has access to birth control. Nobody, despite claims in the media, wants to restrict that access. But that doesn’t mean that colleges should have to buy it for their students–especially where the contraception is against the religious beliefs of that college!
This isn’t about access. Nobody’s banning birth control, or telling you what you can or cannot use. Political leaders are making those claims, and those people are lying to you.
If that’s not clear, think about it this way. I’m seeing lots of excitement online about a company that’s making cupcake ATMs–automated cupcake dispensers open 24 hours. The cupcakes aren’t free, you have to put money in the machine. But by Sandra Fluke’s logic, by failing to provide the cupcakes for free, this company is attempting to ban cupcakes. Charging at this machine is nothing less than restricting my right to cupcakes, and causing financial and emotional suffering.
By the way, let’s look at exactly how much of a financial burden she’s claiming this is. Fluke claims that “without insurance coverage, contraception, as you know, can cost a woman over $3,000 during law school.” Now THAT is a lot of–cough–contraception. Many have pointed out that, assuming you’re spending a reasonable average of $1 a condom at CVS, this means you’re having sex almost 3 times a day, every day, for three years. No wonder people say law school is exhausting.
So that cost is a difficult case to present. Besides, I’ve spent the last few months being told everywhere I turn that women can get checkups, screenings, and contraception for free or reduced cost at Planned Parenthood. Indeed, the argument has been that they hardly do any abortions, THIS stuff is really their main purpose. I also seem to remember that when I went to college, they went out of their way to distribute free condoms and let students know where more free condoms were always available. Not to mention the fact that, upon the slightest amount of research, it turns out that the Target near Georgetown’s campus offers various generic birth-control pills for $9 a month, without insurance.  So, if we’re going to look at this clearly, her facts are more than a bit off.
She also argues that having to pay for the pill causes you to suffer “emotionally.” Really? Is she simply referring to the woman that was upset when she found out it wasn’t free? I don’t think that counts as a woman’s health issue. I suffered emotionally when I found out that I couldn’t afford to buy a BMW. That’s not an argument that Congress should write a law forcing my employer to buy me one.
So, if we’re really thinking clearly so far: 1. this isn’t about access; 2. the “financial and emotional burden” fail basic reality checks, and 3. they fail to lead to the logical conclusion that the government ought to mandate that someone else must buy college students contraception.
Finally, she argues that paying for your own contraception causes you to suffer “medically.” This one takes a little more thought, and appears to have some merit, considering the stories she tells. But by her own testimony, her coverage includes hormonal birth control if it’s for medical reasons other than contraception. She tells a couple of anecdotal stories she’s heard about women that have valid conditions and the insurance refuses to pay despite the doctor’s diagnosis. That’s a problem. You can bet that if my doctor told me I needed covered antibiotics for a covered condition, but the insurance company refused to pay, there would shortly be lawyers involved. You’d think law students would be able to work that out.
In the meantime, I’d be buying the medication at Target for $9 a month. I’ll be very interested if anyone can ever validate the “friend who lost an ovary” story (to say nothing of the absurdity of the “friend who decided not to report a rape because Georgetown doesn’t buy us condoms” story).
But the kicker here is that Fluke isn’t arguing to enforce medically necessary treatment. I might get behind that. But no, her argument doesn’t have anything to do with medical treatment, and these stories are nothing more than a litany of red herring. She’s arguing that the government should make her school buy her contraception, just because she wants it and doesn’t want to pay for it. I think, despite the claims of the left, the conservative opposition to this kind of thing is pretty clear-headed and fact-based.
But the unfounded accusations continue. Senate Democrats tweet about the “GOP #Contraception ban.” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) claims on the Senate floor that “if this amendment passes, it would ban contraception coverage for any woman in America whose boss has a personal objection to it.” The head of the National Organization for Women even claims that the opponents of this mandate are “demanding that the government step in and use the force and power and police power of the state to prevent women from taking birth control.”    That’s some clear thinking. These people are simply lying, and it’s sad that so many people are fooled by these lies. I hope one day we can all try to see things a little more clearly.
But maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe at least I’ll get some free cupcakes.