Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 26, 2009

STIMULUS AND CONTRACEPTIVES.... House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared on "Meet the Press" yesterday, complaining about a proposed stimulus package. He noted, in particular, a proposal to spend "over $200 million for contraceptives." He asked, "How will this fix an ailing economy?"

Apparently, the contraceptives proposal has become quite an issue for conservatives. It was the lead story on Drudge this morning, far-right blogs are all worked up, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was quizzed on the spending on ABC yesterday.

What's this all about? Are Democrats trying to spend "over $200 million" on condoms? What's the story?

As you might have guessed, it's not quite as scandalous as conservatives would have you believe.

[T]he family-planning program that Pelosi supports expanding in the stimulus bill was created in 1972 under the leadership of Republican president Richard Nixon.

What's being proposed is an expansion in the number of states that can use Medicaid money, with a federal match, to help low-income women prevent unwanted pregnancies. Of the 26 states that already have Medicaid waivers for family planning, eight are led by Republican governors (AL, FL, MS, SC, CA, LA, MN and RI -- a ninth, MO, had a GOP governor until this past November). If this policy is truly a taxpayer gift to "the abortion industry," as John Boehner and House Republicans claim, where are the GOP governors promising to end the program in their states?

Additionally, the process of obtaining a waiver for Medicaid family-planning coverage is extremely cumbersome. A letter written by Wisconsin health regulators in 2007 noted that some states have had to wait for as long as two years before their request was approved. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that eliminating the waiver requirement would save states $400 million over 10 years.

It's likely that Boehner, Drudge, and others hope that they can simply say, "Democrats want to spend $200 million of your money on contraceptives" and the howls will be so loud, the money will be stripped from the spending bill. As is too often the case, they're assuming the public won't hear, or care about, the details.

Steve Benen 1:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (41)

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Comments

And so this is supposed to help the economy how?

Posted by: Brad on January 26, 2009 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

As is too often the case, they're assuming the public won't hear, or care about, the details.

And if past is prologue they would be right. The wingnut public listens to Limbaugh, and Fox Noise. They read the Wall Street editorial page. Except for occasionally reading a Coulter screech they are exposed to very little else.

When was the last time you heard a policy debate involving Republicans. They don't do it. If they did their base might look elsewhere for information. The Republican establishment likes to treat its base like mushrooms. They work hard to keep them in the dark and feed them s**t.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 26, 2009 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

they're assuming the public won't hear... the details.

So far, I have heard Republicans make the "$200 million on condoms" at least a half dozen times on TV, and not once was it disputed - not by a host, not by a "Democratic strategist". Better strategists needed, please.

Posted by: Danp on January 26, 2009 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with Brad. How will this allocation help the economy? The politics aside, really, will it create jobs, loosen credit, stem foreclosures? My guess is that it will be removed from the bill because it does not make economic sense. Politically, it is tradeable for something that does. And there's no guarantee that the govs of the states will ask for the waiver. If no one wants the money, could it be used for something else? I'm in favor of making contraceptives available through Medicaid, but it should go in the next HHS appropriations bill.

Posted by: jpeckjr on January 26, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Does this belong in the stimulus bill? It seems like a worthy piece of legislation to be debated on its own merits, but does little to immediately help the economy so shouldn't be in THIS legislation.

Posted by: kp on January 26, 2009 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

As is too often the case, they're assuming the public won't hear, or care about, the details.

Unfortunately, as is too often the case, Boehner, Drudge and the others are correct in their assumption.

Posted by: David Bailey on January 26, 2009 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

jpeckjr
How will this allocation help the economy?

from the article cited by Steve:

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that eliminating the waiver requirement would save states $400 million over 10 years.

R-I-F: reading is fundamental

Posted by: mercurino on January 26, 2009 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

And so this is supposed to help the economy how?

You mean other than preventing a burden on the state for the costs of Medicaid, AFDC, TANF and WIC that would be incurred for each unplanned pregnancy, leaving aside the added burden for public schooling, publicly-funded child care, etc? Especially when a very small expenditure (say $100 per year for the Pill) can prevent thousands of dollars in state welfare payments?

Gosh, other than those thousands of dollars saved that could be put towards job creation and job training instead, I guess there is no reason.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 26, 2009 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

So, Republicans think giving more tax breaks to rich companies and their rich shareholders will stimulate the economy because it's worked SO WELL so far--but putting a little money in a poor working woman's pocket by making birth control a little cheaper won't help at all?

Seriously, are they worried that if we make contraception a little cheaper, abortion providers will go out of business and they'll have no way to keep the fundies busy?

Posted by: anonymiss on January 26, 2009 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

And so this is supposed to help the economy how? -Brad

Along with the estemated $400 million saved over 10 years, let's not forget that every low income family that gains access to family planning advice and contraceptive is a family that is far less likely to burden us with medical expenses related to pregnancy. The potential savings there are enormous.

Duh!

Posted by: independent thinker on January 26, 2009 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps that's what they're saying. Maybe it is about abortion. But that spending sure as shootin' ain't stimulus.

Posted by: pidgas on January 26, 2009 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

[T]he family-planning program that Pelosi supports expanding in the stimulus bill

What a load of horsecrap. It ain't stimulus, it doesn't belong there, she's giving just trying to sneak it through on the back of the stimulus bill.

$400 million over 10 years

So we're going to waste time and effort arguing about a portion of the bill that is like 1/500th of the total stimulus package and isn't itself meant to act as a stimulus?

Math is Fundamental.

Posted by: red state mike on January 26, 2009 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Aid to states was the 4th most effective stimulus spending strategy according to Moody's - yielding $1.36 in benefits for each $1.00 spent. The top three were food stamps, extending unemployment benefits and infrastructure.

Posted by: Amanda on January 26, 2009 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, Boehner is factually wrong anyway. Spending on contraceptives does save taxpayers money. Short-term, it reduces all those deductions and child tax credits, and releases more productive time to parents or would-be parents. Long-term, it reduces demand on basic resources (like oil, copper, etc.) and reduces the cost to the rest of us. BTW there is no legitimate advantage of any kind, social, economic, etc., to population growth once levels like ours have been reached.

tyrannogenius

Posted by: Neil B ◙ on January 26, 2009 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

I like how contraception equals abortion now. Very interesting.

Posted by: Rob Mac on January 26, 2009 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

hey, red state mike:

So we're going to waste time and effort arguing about a portion of the bill that is like 1/500th of the total stimulus package and isn't itself meant to act as a stimulus?

1. it is an "act of stimulus" in that it provides direct aid to the states (see Amanda's comment)

2. agree that the amount is trivial and shouldn't be argued about.

so...why are you arguing about it again?

logic is fundamental

Posted by: mercurino on January 26, 2009 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

And so this is supposed to help the economy how? -Brad

Even in terms of immediate short-term stimulus and ignoring all the serious details presented here, if people feel freer to go out on dates because they know that, at the end of the evening, they can engage in some risk-free frolicking, that means 1. More sales of movie tickets 2. More sales of concert tickets 3. More restaurant meals 4. More chatting at bars 5. More sales of flowers, the list goes on...

Posted by: Rich2506 on January 26, 2009 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Rich2506: Now that's what I call a stimulus package!

Posted by: chrenson on January 26, 2009 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

It ain't stimulus, it doesn't belong there, she's giving just trying to sneak it through on the back of the stimulus bill.

Except that, as multiple people have explained, it IS part of the stimulus because it helps states pay for basic health care and frees up money for other areas.

Of course, I realize some people don't think that pap smears and birth control count as basic health care because it's all about those icky wimmin parts.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 26, 2009 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

2. agree that the amount is trivial and shouldn't be argued about.
Posted by: mercurino

Don't play dumb. The dollars are trivial but the culture war aspect is not, obviously since the repubs are on it. She's just trying to sneak it through like a coward rather than actually debate it on its merits, which is kind of what congress is supposed to do. Well, now she's being caught out on it.

Both sides do it, and I'm sure there's plenty of other Remora hanging onto this bill that none are complaining about, but that don't make it right.

Posted by: red state mike on January 26, 2009 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah ok contraceptives may not stimulate the economy but it will keep women from having babies that they cannot afford in a deep reception. Has that not occurred to anyone? The real travesty is our health care system that covers viagra for men but won't cover my birth control pills. Women in this country are dumped on and don't get the medical care that they deserve. The fact that this is even a debate in this country makes me sick to my stomach.

Posted by: Erin on January 26, 2009 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

And so this is supposed to help the economy how?

More people going out on dates.

SASQ.

Posted by: Gregory on January 26, 2009 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike: Both sides do it

On the contrary, I've never seen a Republican try to sneak in a legitimate proposal that would actually help the larger legislation do what it's intended to do.

Republicans are the ones [as always] who are making this a 'culture war.' For the rest of us, it's just good common sense. More contraception = fewer unwanted pregnancies = fewer abortions. It's not culture, it's fact. What do Republicans have against fewer abortions?

Posted by: chrenson on January 26, 2009 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Irony alert: Red State Mike wrote: Don't play dumb.

Posted by: Gregory on January 26, 2009 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Good post Rich2506 2:25PM

If Brad is not to busy out counting McCain/Palin yard signs, maybe just a little of this will sink in.


Posted by: Ted76 on January 26, 2009 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Wonder what Boehner will do about this ?

The trade publication Air Cargo World suggests Ohio officials were less than vigilant last year when they approved a $270 million economic-development bond package for DHL. The money was an incentive meant for the German-owned package carrier to expand its private airport hub in Wilmington in SW Ohio. Now the German firm plans to abandon the site, leaving at least 8,000 jobs in the lurch:

"DHL will be under pressure to repay $270 million in bonds the Dayton-Montgomery County Port Authority sold in March 2007 to back DHL's expansion and upgrade of the Wilmington hub. DHL has 40 years to repay the state. DHL also was required to continue its debt payments at the Cincinnati airport after the company left its relatively new hub there to consolidate express operations in Wilmington."

The Cincinnati airport is in Kentucky. So Ohio screwed Kentucky to lure DHL away. Now DHL is about to do the same to Ohio, by switching its air cargo service to UPS, which has a hub in Louisville. At the moment, it looks like Kentucky wins after all and Ohio gets the shaft.

Posted by: Burghman on January 26, 2009 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Had only George Herbert Walker Bush known of them.

Posted by: berttheclock on January 26, 2009 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Am I the only one who finds it amusing that someone with a name that looks like "boner" is opposed to condoms in the "stimulus" bill?

Where does Sen. Vitter lie on this issue?

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 26, 2009 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Where does Sen. Vitter lie on this issue?

The unrepentant smartass half of my personality wants to say "On the changing table?"

Posted by: Blue Girl on January 26, 2009 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Contraceptives are all that Boner is talking about these days. Appropriate.

Posted by: palinoscopy on January 26, 2009 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

color me slow, but for the life on me, i can't figure out how a program handing out contraceptives THAT PREVENT PREGNANCIES can be described as a "gift to the abortion industry."

ah boner....

Posted by: dj spellchecka on January 26, 2009 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

Blue Girl,

Good answer.

Another appropriate answer would be, "Wherever he opens his mouth."

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 26, 2009 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

color me slow, but for the life on me, i can't figure out how a program handing out contraceptives THAT PREVENT PREGNANCIES can be described as a "gift to the abortion industry."

Didn't you know? Anything that prevents a pregnancy is a de facto abortion now, whether it's the Pill preventing ovulation or a condom preventing the sperm from getting to the egg. Because apparently God's will is for every act of intercourse to result in a baby, which is why 50 percent of all pregnancies naturally end in an early miscarriage (or, as it is known in medical terms, a "spontaneous abortion" -- see!)

Posted by: Mnemosyne on January 26, 2009 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

@ Rich2506 at 2:25 PM: Don't forget booze!

Posted by: Gregory on January 26, 2009 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Mnemosyne,

Exactly so.

In the event that unwanted pregnancies and (actual) abortions go up in the next four years the GOP will say, "See, he used your tax dollars to subsidize sex and all it did was get your daughters in trouble."

Of course, Sen. Vitter had sex with a prostitute while he was on the clock but those are different tax dollars he used.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 26, 2009 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

I do not understand why there is not a whip which makes democrats vote the party line. Why even fucking bother if they are not going to try to enact the agenda. I fucking hate this fucking country's stupid politics sometimes. I would move back to England if they weren't such a bunch of miserable bastards. Congress isn't that different to parliament. Fuck this bullshit.

Posted by: peteco on January 26, 2009 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Spend $200 million now to save $400 million ten years from now? Really?

Posted by: Huh? on January 26, 2009 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

Repubs have to keep their message in the most base and simpliest terms - their followers have trouble understanding complex sentences. They feed them this hooey - and they're too intellectually lazy to do their own research. Sorry to sound cynical, but they haven't done much in the way of proving me wrong.

Posted by: Jilli on January 26, 2009 at 9:10 PM | PERMALINK

As the money would be used to provide birth-control for poor women, you'd think Republicans would be all for it. Aren't they always whining about women on Medicaid having children they can't support? (You know, "those people.")

Posted by: Nancy Irving on January 26, 2009 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

Jack Cafferty is the latest 'journalist' to be touting this $200M for condoms line in his new commentary on CNN.com.

gotta love when people are so used to taking the AP at its word that they don't do any diligence themselves...

Posted by: Mike on January 27, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

brad, jpeckjr, kp - here's a starting point for you.
Copied and pasted directly from a comment by EU_expat, at a related thread at Matt Yglesias' blog. I've inserted spaces to improve readability.
--------------------
Reasons this family planning money is useful:
(a) contraceptive pills are extremely expensive (even with insurance we�re talking 20-40 dollars/month co-pay),
(b) many many people are losing their insurance along with their jobs
(c) women, who work more frequently in the service industries, are losing their jobs at a more rapid rate,
(d) condoms are not as effective as contraceptive pills,
(e) proper condom use requires the willing and active participation of another person,
(f) abortions are equally prohibitively expensive (and often are not covered under insurance),
(g) pregnancy counts under many HMOs as a �previously existing condition� and so pregnant, or recently pregnant women have trouble getting coverage,
(h) childbirth (and appropriate pre-natal care) are even more expensive than abortion and contraceptive pills when there are no complications, and
(i) poverty/stress lead to pregnancy complications� all of which are to say that a woman with little or no insurance coverage relying on her partner(s) being willing and able to correctly use a condom 100% of the time no matter what is likely to have a high risk, high expense pregnancy thus incurring more debt for herself and requiring more help from the government. All of this could be avoided if:

(j) from an ideological perspective, women should have sexual and physical autonomy no matter their class, income, race or current employment situation.
-----------------------------------------
Distilled, and presented dryly, it's about opportunity cost. Every dime that has to be spent preventing pregnancy is not spent elsewhere. It is the case that for many people, there are no additional dimes once other necessities and contraception are paid for.
Further, in re: stimulus: a large chunk of any tax cut is going to be saved, not spent, due to continuing uncertainty - we have as evidence for that the effects of the last tax rebates and how they were spent. The economy has not improved in the intervening time.

Posted by: kenga on January 27, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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