Note: This commentary was delivered by PFM President Mark Earley.
President Obama’s proposed economic stimulus plan, now past the House and on the way to the Senate, has a little bit of everything. The stimulative effect of some of the provisions, middle-class tax cuts for example, are easy to understand.
Other provisions, such as additional money for the National Endowment for the Arts, are a hard sell for stimulating the economy. Then there is the proposal that not only does not stimulate the economy but is, arguably, counterproductive.
The $825 billion plan includes $87 billion, over 10 percent, to help states with Medicaid coverage. And part of that money is to be used for expanding family-planning services and contraception.
Now, reasonable people can disagree about whether government should be in the family-planning business, but it’s hard to imagine anyone arguing that these services promote economic growth-at least with a straight face.
Still, Speaker Pelosi gave it a shot. On ABC’s This Week, she told an incredulous George Stephanopolous, “The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now,” she said, and added that “contraception . . . will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.”
This is very revealing, and very wrong on so many levels. For starters, while I doubt that this was the Speaker’s intention, it has a strong whiff of eugenics-the attempt to “improve” the human race by reducing reproduction among certain classes of people.
The proponents of the measure aren’t concerned about upper middle-class families having more children-their concern is with poor people having children. In this respect, they are following in the footsteps of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, whose explicit goal was to “limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective”-meaning someone that wasn’t like her.
While no one talks like that today, Planned Parenthood has stated that its “core clients” are “young women, low-income women, and women of color”-the same people targeted by the stimulus proposal.
The good news is that, after a public outcry, this money has been stripped out of the plan. The bad news-groups like Planned Parenthood who wanted it have been promised they’ll get it another way.
In addition to raising serious moral questions, the Speaker’s rationale really has it backwards. At the same time that Pelosi was claiming that contraception fostered economic growth, Japan’s employers are urging workers to go home earlier and, well, make babies.
As we have previously told you, Japan’s post-war economic miracle is threatened by its low birthrate. So Japanese employers are telling employees to go home and have bigger families. The Japanese have learned what Speaker Pelosi hasn’t-that “the age and growth rate of a nation help determine its economic prosperity.”
And as President Obama’s very story reminds us, tough beginnings tell us nothing about a person’s potential contributions to society.
Ultimately, the issue here isn’t economics-it’s what we think about man. Is he the crown of creation, or merely another animal that frankly, the world could use a lot fewer of?
Increasingly, many people think the latter and are acting on that belief. That will the subject of the next three broadcasts. We hope you stay tuned.