Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Obama’s Plan B Controversy

09 Dec

Yesterday, I participated in an interesting online discussion on Facebook.  The Obama administration decided not to raise restrictions on Plan B (emergency contraceptive, which I have written about before) to make it available to minors without a prescription.  This is generating a lot of static from certain groups.

A friend posted a link to this article from the Washington Post and subsequently a conversation developed over the outrage of requiring a prescription for emergency contraception for girls under 17.

I decided to continue the topic here rather than further hijack my friend’s Facebook page.  For reference, here are the applicable pieces of the conversation:

ME: I don’t understand the controversy about this. Plan B is just like any other birth control pill, except it’s a more concentrated dose. So why would they make THAT available to anyone, when you have to have a prescription to get any other kind of oral contraceptive?

N: I thought about that too Amy, but I came to the conclusion that it must have to do with the effects of long-term use rather than short term use.

ME: But if Plan B were available over the counter, I have no doubt that a lot of people would use it on a consistent basis, long term (based on conversations my friend the Pharmacist has with her customers), which seems like it would be even more potentially dangerous than normal long-term birth control. So it still seems like access to it should be limited just like regular birth control.

S: Amy, I doubt that would make economic sense: a regular bc prescription is almost certainly cheaper than Plan B every time you have sex. In which case, it does make sense that it’s available without a prescription, both because of the time window in which it needs to be taken, and because the prescription for regular bc, as I understand it, is to make people aware of the potential health risks of long-term, continued usage.

N: Perhaps it could be restricted like sudafed or other drugs that can be used inappropriately but don’t need a prescription.

L: You’re ignoring the political benefits of banning this pill. Mis/Underinformed parents who don’t want their children to be able to do anything that they do not understand will find this comforting. Republicans cannot out-right this move (since there’s nowhere else to go from “no”), and they certainly won’t move left. And of course, children don’t vote. The future is never a priority in election cycles, for if it were, deficit spending, the environment, and education would be actual issues, instead of defense and present-tense economics. At no point in time was the science of this considered by the gov’t; the scientific process was already done, reviewed, discussed, and recommended. The political process then occurred.

ME: I guess I still don’t understand why it’s such a big deal. You can get it without a prescription if you’re 17. So the only people affected by this decision are children – who can still get it through any adult over the counter, or a doctor via prescription. So this falls into the same class as cold and allergy drugs, spray paint, lottery tickets, getting a tattoo, buying things from infomercials or getting married. I don’t hear anybody complaining about any of those things. And this is directly connected to health and wellbeing, even if it’s deemed “safe” by science. So in what scenario should a child who needs adult intervention to get a tattoo NOT need to involve an adult to use birth control?

P: Wow, I go off to have student conferences, and come back to a big discussion.

Amy: you *can’t* get Plan B without a prescription if you’re under 17 — that’s the ruling that’s being reversed. And I have a problem with that specifically because Plan B is an important emergency form of birth control, and there are numerous unpleasant situations where teens might need it, but might *not* have had the opportunity to get non-emergency birth control in advance.

If anything, making Plan B available without a prescription is *less* risky than the alternative, because it lessens the possibility that a young woman would try to recreate its effects by taking a large number of birth control pills at once — which *has* been shown to be dangerous.

ME: All a 16 year old kid needs is an adult to buy it for her – that’s what I meant by without a prescription. Just like I can buy cough medicine for my kid, I can buy Plan B for her too. It doesn’t appear that that’s being reversed. Plus, I suspect that any kid that has access to large amounts of birth control pills is also likely to have access to Plan B if needed.

P: Right — but if the adult in question is the abuser, or the spouse of the abuser; or if the kid was raped, and fears that the parents would blame her for being raped — where does that 16yo go for help? (I wish that weren’t necessary — I really do — but to keep Plan B prescription-regulated is to suggest that kids in these situations are “not capable of understanding its use” — but are somehow *more* capable of actually bearing children.

I can’t get behind that.

ME: This is a sticky area. Relaxing restrictions on Plan B would not have helped Jaycee Dugard. So you’re really only talking about kids that are 1) sexually abused by parents or guardians who would rather have the child publicly carry a baby to full term than any of the alternatives, and 2) still allowed enough freedom to go to a store unsupervised, and have enough cash to purchase something as expensive as Plan B. In which case, there are still problematic health issues. Because incest rape is never a one-time thing. So these kids are going to be needing the Plan B again and again and again and again – all the while not getting the help they REALLY need.

R: No, they’ll just be forced to get surgical abortions when their abusers realize they’re pregnant.

Anyway, hypothetical abuse scenarios aside, one known effect of restricting Plan B in this way is that, like cough syrup, it means that pharmacies have to control access to it, and that affects women over 17, not just young teens. Given the way that pharmacists in conservative areas have been refusing to give women prescription birth control, I don’t trust them to honestly deal with women who want to just walk in and buy Plan B without getting hasselled or being told that they are “out.”

J: I read this whole thing. Thanks for all the great info. For the record, I’m also against rape and incest and human selective breeding, and this product (and abortion) does far more to promote than prevent those things. I wouldn’t have even thought of it if P hadn’t mentioned it, but wouldn’t an abuser be the one to go out and buy this to cover up their crime, or perhaps the victim would go out and get it to hide the crime and so free herself to being abused again? I can’t support that at all.

R: J, you’re assuming that allowing teens access to this pill would create that scenario – but it already exists; given that the pill is available to adults, there’s nothing to stop them from obtaining it already… or, as I said, forcing an underage girl to have a surgical abortion. Making Plan B off-limits to teens doesn’t solve that problem – which is abusive adults hiding the results of their abuse through force – and, moreover, does deprive those abused teens of a relatively easy way to control their own bodies (something otherwise denied them).

What it will do is enable teens – including those in consensual relationships (the far more typical scenario) to avoid becoming pregnant if a condom breaks or they have unprotected sex.

I have to say, I’m rather disturbed that hypothetical scenarios about adults controlling teen-agers’ bodies are being used to deny teen-agers the tools they need to control their own bodies.

ME: ‎”What it will do is enable teens – including those in consensual relationships (the far more typical scenario) to avoid becoming pregnant if a condom breaks or they have unprotected sex.”

This is true – but I don’t understand why it’s so important for these same teens to have access to this pill without any adult involvement. They can control their own bodies by not having sex to begin with if they’re not ready to deal with the natural consequences. But oral birth control reaches into the medical realm and in every other medical scenario that exists, adults are involved in the treatment and care of children.

R: But the science shows it WON’T be a problem. That’s the point. They investigated it, studied the likely complications and usage problems, and concluded that it was safe to release it to a larger population, including minors… but were overruled for no more reason than “ew, icky.”

There are a lot of medications that minors can buy – such as pain killers, or vitamins, for example – that can potentially do a lot of damage, but they’re not restricted because the science doesn’t support a more stringent set of restrictions. The same applies here: worst case scenarios aside (and they will exist for _everything_ – even water can kill you if you drink too much) the people who make a living weighing the risks of such products have concluded it’s safe for the vast majority to have access to this medicine, even minors.

If the Obama administration wants to justify the restriction they need to provide more than just “ew, icky,” and they haven’t.

I have to say, I’m reminded of the shitstorm over Jocelyn Elders suggesting masturbation as an alternative to teen-age sex. Teens have sexual urges, like any physically mature human. Expecting them to pretend they don’t simply because it makes adults uncomfortable to contemplate it is unfair to them.

In other words, they need access to these pills _because_ their sexuality makes judgmental adults uncomfortable… but, really, it’s not the adults who have to live with the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy. Making it hard to prevent such pregnancies won’t stop teens from having sex – the evidence is amply clear on that point. All it will do is increase the numbers of teen-aged women who have to decide between an abortion or carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term.

P: What R said. And J, I know you mean well — but if a teen is worried about being pregnant, whether the circumstances are consensual or non, I would rather that she have maximum ability to control that possibility of pregnancy, rather than less. If you want to look at this in terms of abortions, then I would rather have teens have the possibility to insure that no pregnancy will occur even before the sperm and egg have contact.

A couple of side notes before I continue:

  • This is, one of very few political conversations of this nature I’ve ever had that remained amicable and peaceful for that long.  And for that, I thank the participants for their maturity.  Most of the time, discussions like this turn sour when somebody gets offended that their thoughts are being questioned, and then the conversation degrades to petty cheap shots – at which point I abandon the discussion and move on.
  • Written discussions are difficult for me because rather than a clear linear progression, they too easily start to look like a very old tree, with each branch sprouting more and more branches.  This tends to happen because each time someone contributes, they make multiple points – and while it is very tempting to try to address each of those points, it usually only serves to muddle the issue, which then digresses into other petty things.  So I have tried my best during this discussion to weed out a lot of the peripheral points and stick to the real issues that people were raising.  In keeping with that attempted focus, I’m going to narrow down all possible responses to the following two points:

Thing, the First

The science doesn’t necessarily show that it won’t be a problem.  The OTC acceptance was rejected for a very specific reason, more concrete than ew, icky:

In a statement and separate letter to Hamburg, Sebelius said she reversed the FDA’s decision because she had concluded that data submitted by the drug’s maker did not “conclusively establish” that Plan B could be used safely by the youngest girls.

Thing, the Second

Since the beginning of the discussion, I’ve been attempting to uncover the exact concrete demographic that is so negatively affected by this policy decision, and on whose behalf everyone else is so outraged.  Because clearly, it ISN’T:

  • Anyone over 16 (who can get the birth control by themselves already)
  • Anyone 16 or under who has a parent (or friend) 17 or older that would obtain the medication for them
  • Anyone 16 or under who sees a doctor and can therefore get a prescription
  • Child rape or incest victims (which is always the first hypothetical thrown out there, assumedly because it’s an extreme case with clear unarguable victims…yet it seems to fall flat or be abandoned when really examined)
  • Kids whose parents allow them to take oral contraceptives (and therefore wouldn’t need the less effective emergency contraception)
  • Kids whose parents do not allow them to take regular oral contraceptives, but who are aware they are having sex (so the kids would likely be able to obtain one-time contraceptives when the alternative is an increased risk of pregnancy)

So who’s left that would find it advantageous to avoid involving an adult in healthcare decisions affected by their sex life?  And after circling around a couple of times, I think the final statements of this Facebook conversation clear that up more directly.

The root of the backlash seems to be the ideology that a 15 year old kid should be able to have consensual sex against his/her parents’ wishes and keep it a secret from them.  Or, at least, 15 year old kids ARE GOING to have sex against their parents’ wishes and so they should be able to try to prevent the ramifications of such a decision without involving any adults.

If this is the real reason behind making Plan B available to minors without any adult involvement, then I simply cannot support that with any fiber of my being.

Kids’ sexuality is not what makes parents uncomfortable.  What makes parents uncomfortable (whether religious or not) is the NATURAL CONSEQUENCES of acting upon sexual urges.  And they are many.  Sex may be common, natural, innate – but it’s still a BIG DEAL.  It’s not like getting a headache, for which a minor can obtain Advil without a prescription.  There are physical and emotional consequences to sex, beyond pregnancy – for both genders but particularly girls.  And parents should not be blindsided by these consequences, or made unaware that they are a possibility, out of fear that they might be “judgmental.”  Kids who are clearly not ready to handle the effects of sex should not be left to their own devices to deal muddle through these consequences without adult guidance or supervision.  Say what you want about their “cognitive abilities” – they’re still KIDS.

“but, really, it’s not the adults who have to live with the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy.”

This is emphatically untrue.  Remember, we’re not talking about juniors and seniors about to embark on adulthood.  We’re talking about kids.  An unwanted pregnancy has a MAJOR effect on the lives of parents too – a new family member, childcare, a teen (or possibly pre-teen) that will be unable to finish school or move out when she turns 18 because there’s a baby to take care of.  Why should parents be kept in the dark about that possibility?

If my 15 year old is having sex, then there IS a possibility that she’s going to get pregnant (among other things), whether or not she has access to Plan B.

Fact:  Outside of abstinence, there is no such thing as a 100% effective form of birth control.  Those who take Plan B still have a 1 in 40 chance of getting pregnant.

If my 15 year old is making a choice that could change the rest of her life and mine, then I sure as hell have the right to know about it.  And if the medication is indeed safe for use without any worry of young kids “doing it wrong,” then that’s all the prescription does – it requires some kind of adult involvement so that some adult SOMEWHERE is aware that the kid is having sex and could suffer any number of health-related consequences.  And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

But what about the science???

It’s probably safe, when used occasionally as directed.  But not for sure (see Thing, the First).  It probably doesn’t dislodge an already fertilized egg, causing what some would term an abortion, but again they admittedly still don’t know for sure.

But even if it’s totally medically safe under normal usage, that in and of itself is not a trump justification for making it freely available to kids.  See also: tattoos, lottery tickets, prescription shampoos, credit cards, consensual sex with an adult, gym memberships, and every other form of oral contraceptive.

But what about all those poor Catholic kids…

whose parents would never let them take any kind of birth control and who don’t have any friends old enough to get it for them?

So what do you do if you really want a tattoo (everyone else is getting one!) but your parents are big believers in Leviticus 19:28?  You wait until you’re of legal age when the choice is yours to make.

Look, no one is asking kids to pretend they don’t have sexual urges.  But it isn’t too much to ask them to control those urges – in the same way we ask them to control the urge to sleep in and miss all their high school classes every day.  Kids are notorious for making stupid decisions, it’s part of growing up.  But they are not animals.  They are certainly capable of controlling their bodies and it is not unreasonable for us to teach and expect them to do so.  (Consensual) sex is a choice.  It doesn’t just happen to you.

But what about all those poor Catholic kids whose parents would never let them take any kind of birth control and who don’t have any friends old enough to get it for them and who are just gonna do it anyway?  Shouldn’t we reverse the prescription requirement for them???

Let’s weigh the choices.  Doing so would come at the expense of allowing kids (KIDS.) of a very young age to engage in sexual activity with many obvious and unhealthy consequences including but not limited to the VERY REAL RISK of getting pregnant (pill or no pill), likely under the faulty assumption that they can just take the Morning After Pill to prevent pregnancy – AND all without any parental or adult knowledge whatsoever.

And that is my sticking point – the fact that the ONLY purpose of relaxing the prescription requirement is to exclude adults from this particular (and hugely important) piece of adolescent healthcare.  I can’t find any other benefit.

As a parent (and someone who identifies with both liberals and conservatives on various issues) when I weigh those two options, I can not support the repeal of the current prescription requirement.

 

Balloon Festival

20 Sep

… Or not.

I had planned to post this week about our annual (or biannual?) tradition of attending the Balloon Festival.  We bought discount tickets off a daily deals site, packed our cameras, picnic blanket, strollers and lawn chairs, stuffed everyone into the carpool vehicles and caravanned (is that a word?  Spell check doesn’t think so.)  over to the field where the hot air balloons take off.

And then we got there and were told to turn around because the Balloon Festival was being canceled due to inclement weather.  It had been a beautiful day so far, but there were some large clouds coming in pretty fast.

Well.  That was anticlimactic.

At least we hadn’t gotten out of the car yet.  There were a lot of people who had already parked far away and walked a mile over the hilly grass to get there… they looked kind of downtrodden as we passed them trudging back to their vehicles.

So I have no Balloon Festival pictures this year.  The kids did enjoy some chocolate custard on the way home.

The end.

 
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New Homework Policy = No Homework Policy?

19 Aug

My daughter starts kindergarten in a few days.  She’s excited and apprehensive at the same time.  As am I.

I did find out something interesting at the “meet the teacher” open house yesterday.  According to her teacher, apparently our school district is looking to “move away from homework.”  I’m not sure exactly to what degree that will be carried (and neither is the teacher, who just found out about the new goal this week), but I can say that I’m fully in support of it.

While I’ve heard of schools trying out this idea of reducing, restructuring or eliminating homework, I’ve not heard of any local district pursuing it.

Personally, I think it could be a great idea.  Or it could be a terrible idea.

In my opinion, homework has two basic values:

  1. Memorization through sheer repetition, without taking time away from in-classroom learning hours
  2. Increasing the skill of working independently to complete tasks

However, for a lot of students, simply being “required” to complete work at home is not enough to build these skills.  Students actually have to be taught how to study or work independently (particularly if they are to succeed in college).  If this skill can be mastered in the classroom, where some supervision and guidance is still available, then that would greatly benefit the demographic of students for whom independent work does not come naturally.  However, if the skill of independent and self-guided work is not addressed, then all students will suffer – including the ones that would otherwise have mastered the skill on their own out of necessity.

When I was in school, we had a lot of homework.  Hours, each evening.  It was depressing.  I was fortunate enough to have some extracurricular activities that got me up on my feet and doing something active that I enjoyed, which probably kept me from going into depression with the amount of school work I had to do most nights.  However, those same extracurricular activities also took time away from my afternoons and evenings, making the homework assignments more difficult to complete in the amount of time I had available.  I was either losing sleep by staying up to finish homework, or wasting time by accidentally falling asleep on top of my assignment in the middle of the night.

So the idea of little or no homework for my kids?  I love it on the surface.  But in order to make it work, teachers will have to make up for the information and skills gained while doing the work outside of the classroom.  With the current budget issues in our public schools, the probability of this concerns me.  Because to truly make up for anything lost when homework is eliminated, I believe the school will have to increase two factors:

  1. Time allocated in the classroom for independent work
  2. Individual attention given to each student

You know what that means, right?  Longer hours (or a more succinct curriculum) and smaller class sizes.  Given the fact that the state of Texas has just cut $4 billion from schools that are already suffering from lack of funding (Texas ranks 43rd in the nation for money allocated per pupil), what is the probability that any district will consider increasing school operating expenses or hiring more teachers?  Highly unlikely.

So for the meantime, I guess we’ll just wait and see how the new homework policy works out.  I’m guessing we’ll end up with less than a lot of change.

 
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Posted in Current Events, Politics, School

 

Letter to Parents

16 Aug

Dear Texas Parent:

 We would like to tell you that we are excited about the start of the upcoming school year.  But that would not be entirely true.

This past summer, the Texas Legislature cut $4 billion in overall funding for public education, and the impact will be felt in classrooms across the state.  Regardless, we pledge to provide your child with the best education possible, in a clean, safe school.

This will be a challenge in a state that previously ranked 44th in funding for public education, and is now likely to fall even lower among the 50 states.

You should know how budget cuts are likely to affect your child’s education: 

  • Statewide there will be fewer teachers.  Some teachers were laid-off; others retired, and we eliminated their positions; other teaching vacancies were simply left empty, to save money.  This will mean larger class sizes and fewer academic options, especially at the high school grades.
  • The focus on the new high-stakes STAAR accountability test will likely mean that we’ll try to find savings in subjects that will not be tested, so expect to have fewer art and music teachers, especially at the elementary grades.
  • While state leaders like to tout Texas’ potential in a global economy, our ability to provide students who can speak German, French, Japanese, Chinese, and other foreign languages, will be diminished.  We simply can’t afford to hire the teachers.
  • To continue with an effectively full-day pre-kindergarten program, some districts will now be charging tuition, based upon a family’s ability to pay.
  • Because of rising transportation costs, many field trips for culturally-enriched art and music programs will be cancelled.
  • School maintenance is not protected from budget cuts.  So, if your scout troop or service club is looking for a project, please contact your child’s principal.  They, undoubtedly, will have a ‘to do’ list of projects that we don’t have the money to tackle.
  • Higher food prices and utility costs are causing many of us to increase cafeteria meals by 5-10 cents.  Still, it’s nutritious food, and is the only balanced meal that many students receive daily.
  • For those of us without artificial turf in stadiums, we’ve done our best to keep athletic fields watered this summer, despite the drought.  That’s not because we want them to be lush, but because if they are nothing but rock-hard patches of dirt, our young athletes are at greater risk of injury.
  • Speaking of athletics, some of us are moving into the era of “pay to play,” in which athletes and band members may be required to pay a fee to participate.  We recognize that these fees will present a hardship for many of our students, especially those from low-income families.

 We would like to think these financial challenges are temporary.  We would like to think that, when it convenes in 2013, the Texas Legislature will restore the funding it cut.  However, we are placing greater faith in the courts.  For four decades, our lawmakers have balked at adequately funding public education, until forced to do so by threat of lawsuit.

Only a handful of us, so far, have chosen to go to voters — who are cash-strapped as well — asking for more revenue through a Tax Ratification Election.  The rest of us will cut corners, and dip further into reserve funds, hoping it doesn’t adversely affect our bond ratings.

We know that these are difficult economic times for most Texas families. These are also tough times for Texas schools.  Nonetheless, you have our pledge that we will do our best to provide the academic support that your child needs to succeed.  In return, we hope that you will continue to support us.

 Sincerely,

 Your Local Texas School District

 

Written by Andy Welch, who recently retired as communication director for the Austin Independent School District.

 
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Posted in Current Events, Frustration, School

 

Justice Served

06 Jul

So the trial is over and Casey Anthony has been found “not guilty” of murdering her daughter.  The social media world is outraged, and jurors are taking a lot of heat for their decision. But frankly, I don’t see what else they could have done.

The prosecution has been reported to be “shocked” at the outcome.  If they were, then they were blindly foolish.

Most observers seem to agree on at least the basics:

  1. 2-year old Caylee Anthony’s death was premature, and whatever the cause, an adult should be held responsible
  2. Casey Anthony’s bizarre behavior during the disappearance of her daughter was unnatural for a worried/grieving mother, and therefore suspicious

But suspicious of what?  The prosecution never managed to substantiate the answer.  They went after her hardcore for premeditated murder, without any proof that a murder had even occurred.  They had no evidence to show how Caylee died, why she died, where she died.  As juror Jennifer Ford has succinctly pointed out, “If you cannot prove what the crime was, you cannot determine what the punishment should be.”

And then there’s the “motive,” which simply didn’t hold water.  According to the prosecution, Casey Anthony killed her daughter so she could party more.

Seriously?  To quote Frank Farley, who says it as well as I ever could:

No credible motivational psychology that I know of would support that a single mother who seemed to love her child and who had lots of back-up parenting, in the grandparents and perhaps even from a brother, would go through the careful planning and complex, unpredictable, scary process of killing and disposing of her child in order to get a bit more free time.

This could not be true, unless she was seriously mentally ill, and no available evidence showed that. To go against that deep human instinct to take care of a child, and instead kill that child, demands a very significant reward in the opposite direction, and partying doesn’t rise to that level.

What sane human being could wake up in the morning and say, “Gee, I could have a fun time if I killed my daughter.”

Casey Anthony appears to be guilty of something involving the disappearance and death of her daughter – but the exact extent of her involvement can only be guessed at.  It’s likely that no one will ever know for sure what really happened to little Caylee.  But if anyone is to blame about the fact that Casey will not serve time for her crimes, it’s not the jurors.  It’s the prosecution.

Honestly, I find it difficult to be as outraged as the rest of the world seems to be.  Casey Anthony may have been acquitted, but has not gotten away without punishment.

Think about it.  She has served nearly three years in jail, mostly in isolation.  She has no home to go to, no friends or family that support her outside of her lawyers.  She’s been publicly defamed and her face has been broadcast to the entire world.  She would have reasonable cause to fear for her own safety in the wake of public outrage and demand for “justice” that has come from this case. She may not spend the rest of her life in a jail cell, but she will spend it on the outside of society, a pariah who can’t even go to the grocery store without being put on trial again in the minds of everyone she passes.

Her “bella vita” is gone.  Even looking at the recent pictures, you can tell this is not the same party girl that first met the public eye several years ago.  Her time in court may be over, but Casey Anthony’s trial will follow her for the rest of her life. Even if she does generate some income off the publicity circus that has arisen around this trial, money can’t bring her peace.  It would not surprise me if she becomes dependent on alcohol or other numbing/coping mechanisms.

Rest in peace, Caylee Anthony.  You have been at peace for 3 years and may never know the mark you left on this world.  Your death was tragic, but will be long remembered in life.

 
 

Kaelinisms: Global Warming Edition

18 Mar

Kaelin’s take on Global Warming:

“Kaelin, what is global warming?”
“Every time a cow farts, the earth gets a little warmer.”
“And how would you solve the problem of global warming?”
“I think we should eat all the cows.”

 

Disaster

13 Mar

If you frequent Facebook, you’ve probably seen this already, but I thought I’d put it here as well. This is a Japanese town, getting – literally – washed away in minutes. It was originally posted by James MacWhyte, an American living in Japan, and has since been picked up by Gawker and other publications.  I don’t usually take time for 6 minute videos, but this one’s worth it.

Tsunami Footage

 
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Why I Hate Everybody Rant: Part II

12 Mar

Now, where were we?  Ah yes, I have already covered the part where I think Democrats are whiny, spoiled and fiscally incompetent.

Now on to Republicans (this is the part where my dad disowns me).

The Pubs have, in the past, had a reputation for this longstanding mantra of conservative fiscal responsibility.  If you believe that this still holds true, then you have had your head in the sand, my friend.

They are still pushing a financial agenda, and pushing it hard.  But it’s not a smart one, a responsible one, or even a conservative one.  The goal seems to be entirely to take from the people who need it, and hand it directly over to the people who don’t.  Republicans right now are the ultimate Anti-Robin Hoods.

Federal Budget Cuts

Republicans have held firm to their requirement that the government reel in its out-of-control spending.  An admirable initiative – like I said, we have to CUT STUFF.  But look at what they’re cutting…

Here are 70 programs that are in line for the guillotine, according to the list unveiled by Representative Hal Rogers, Chairman of the House appropriations committee.  Take a quick gander through this list.

  1. Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies -$30M
  2. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy -$899M
  3. Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability -$49M
  4. Nuclear Energy -$169M
  5. Fossil Energy Research -$31M
  6. Clean Coal Technology -$18M
  7. Strategic Petroleum Reserve -$15M
  8. Energy Information Administration -$34M
  9. Office of Science -$1.1B
  10. Power Marketing Administrations -$52M
  11. Department of Treasury -$268M
  12. Internal Revenue Service -$593M
  13. Treasury Forfeiture Fund -$338M
  14. GSA Federal Buildings Fund -$1.7B
  15. ONDCP -$69M
  16. International Trade Administration -$93M
  17. Economic Development Assistance -$16M
  18. Minority Business Development Agency -$2M
  19. National Institute of Standards and Technology -$186M
  20. NOAA -$336M
  21. National Drug Intelligence Center -$11M
  22. Law Enforcement Wireless Communications -$52M
  23. US Marshals Service -$10M
  24. FBI -$74M
  25. State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance -$256M
  26. Juvenile Justice -$2.3M
  27. COPS -$600M
  28. NASA -$379M
  29. NSF -$139M
  30. Legal Services Corporation -$75M
  31. EPA -$1.6B
  32. Food Safety and Inspection Services -$53M
  33. Farm Service Agency -$201M
  34. Agriculture Research -$246M
  35. Natural Resource Conservation Service -$46M
  36. Rural Development Programs -$237M
  37. WIC -$758M
  38. International Food Aid grants -$544M
  39. FDA -$220M
  40. Land and Water Conservation Fund -$348M
  41. National Archives and Record Service -$20M
  42. DOE Loan Guarantee Authority -$1.4B
  43. EPA ENERGY STAR -$7.4M
  44. EPA GHG Reporting Registry -$9M
  45. USGS -$27M
  46. EPA Cap and Trade Technical Assistance -$5M
  47. EPA State and Local Air Quality Management -$25M
  48. Fish and Wildlife Service -$72M
  49. Smithsonian -$7.3M
  50. National Park Service -$51M
  51. Clean Water State Revolving Fund -$700M
  52. Drinking Water State Revolving Fund -$250M
  53. EPA Brownfields -$48M
  54. Forest Service -$38M
  55. National Endowment for the Arts -$6M
  56. National Endowment for the Humanities -$6M
  57. Job Training Programs -$2B
  58. Community Health Centers -$1.3B
  59. Maternal and Child Health Block Grants -$210M
  60. Family Planning -$327M
  61. Poison Control Centers -$27M
  62. CDC -$755M
  63. NIH -$1B
  64. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services -$96M
  65. LIHEAP Contingency fund -$400M
  66. Community Services Block Grant -$405M
  67. High Speed Rail -$1B
  68. FAA Next Gen -$234M
  69. Amtrak -$224M
  70. HUD Community Development Fund -$530M

I don’t know about you, but I see a list that takes a lot of money away from:

  • programs that help the poor
  • law enforcement
  • programs that protect our food, our health and our lives
  • programs that aid our children
  • programs that invest in our future

Now, it’s difficult to determine the actual impact of these cuts, since amounts given are proposed against Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget request (which was never taken up by Congress) and not against current federal government funding levels. But make no mistake, in the Republicans’ attempt to squeeze blood out of a turnip, they have made cuts are going to be PAINFUL for the US in a lot of different ways.

All told, the above list totals about $23 billion in cuts.  Lots of programs that benefit the country are on the table, and the majority of them focus on initiatives that could grow the economy, rather than reducing waste.  Two areas that are NOT on the table, at least as far as mainstream republicans are concerned:

  1. Military defense spending
  2. Tax breaks

These two areas are the sacred cows of Republican thinking.  But they should be the answers to our substantial financial crisis.

ve-military-spending

The United States spends $711 billion on military spending each year, representing 48 percent of the total military spending in the world.

Military Defense Spending

The US spends more on its military than the rest of the world COMBINED.  That’s not just excessive. It’s absurd.  Especially when you consider that instead of paying our bills and taking care of our country’s needs, we are funding military programs that are obsolete, ineffective and wasteful.

“To amass military power without regard to our economic capacity would be to defend ourselves against one kind of disaster by inviting another,”

-US President Dwight D. Eisenhower

If we cut just 4% of our military budget, we would save over $28 BILLION, with cuts that have nowhere near the negative impact on citizens that the $23 billion above have.  But how could we possibly cut our military budget???  Well, here are a few easy places to start:


Tax Breaks

The administration recently caved and extended a lot of the Bush tax cuts, which Republicans applauded.  After all, Lower Taxes! has been their battle cry for how many years now.

While I can understand efforts to jump-start the economy, this was a very costly move that sacrificed a lot of income for the government.  And frankly, a lot of it came from people who didn’t necessarily need the tax breaks.

For years, I’ve heard the lines about how the top 20% of income earners pay 80% of taxes, and how UNFAIR this is, so stop trying to squeeze more money out of those poor rich people! I know Rush Limbaugh is a big fan of this “statistic,” and I’ve heard it echoed by other Republicans throughout the years as well.

Well I call shenanigans.

It’s true, the top 20% of income earners pay 80% of the taxes.  Because they make 90% of the money.

Actually, 80% is a darn good deal.  Especially when you consider that the wealthy are allowed so many deductions and tax shelters that they usually pay a lower percentage of tax than the middle class.  Show me a billionaire who actually pays 35% of his income in tax, and I will show you someone who doesn’t have an accountant.

In fact, the Urban Institute found last year that raising the capital gains tax for wealthy Americans from 15 to 20.6 percent would reduce the deficit to 3 percent of GDP.  Right now, it’s about 10%.

Our country is in financial distress, yet we cut money that helps people find jobs and become productive members of society, in order to keep handing out tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporations who need it the least.  Why?

It has nothing to do with “trickle down” theory, which is basically the idea that if you feed a horse enough oats, he’ll crap more and then all the birds and flies that eat his poop will profit.  Trickle down, or “horse and sparrow” is largely ineffective and has been termed by Ross Perot as “political voodoo” because in general, the money never finds its way down to the bottom of the totem pole.  Instead (again, generally speaking), you just get executives with more vacations, fancier cars and bigger retirement plans.

So again, WHY do Republicans keep insisting on these Anti-Robin Hood methods?

It has everything to do with money.  But nothing to do with the budget.  Companies and individuals who have the most money fund the campaigns and get people elected who will cater to them.  Supporting policies that aren’t to the clear advantage of the corporate and wealthy means the end of your career.  It’s Democracy at its best.  Or something.

And here’s where it has gotten us:

Infographic via Center for American Progress

Social Injustice

This “Class War” as some have termed it, is extending down into the State level as well.  Just recently, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has implemented a $1.7 billion tax hike… but only on the elderly and poor people.  The same amount of money will be directly handed over to corporate special interests.

And now our children’s future is under attack.  As a parent, this infuriates me.

  • Kentucky, Wisconsin and other states are cutting huge amounts of school funding to offset budget deficits.
  • State legislatures in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Indiana are among those considering new bills that would eliminate or severely curtail teachers’ collective bargaining rights in negotiating contracts.
  • Wyoming lawmakers are entertaining a measure to end teacher tenure, which would allow the immediate suspension or firing of teachers for any reason not expressly prohibited by law.
  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently skipped a $3.1 billion payment to the state’s pension system as part of an effort to cut benefits for public workers, and some conservative lobbying groups are suggesting that states be allowed to declare bankruptcy to escape their debt—including, of course, their obligations to state pension plans.
  • Missouri has recently introduced a bill to eliminate child labor laws.

And in a slightly related topic, in some sort of attempt to cut funding for abortions, Republicans offered a bill with language that attempted to narrow the definition of rape.  While I am opposed to abortion, and thereby sympathize with the idea that my tax dollars shouldn’t pay for it, I see no reason to draw some kind of unnecessary line between “rape” and “forcible rape.”  It serves no purpose other than moving toward making “un-forcible rape” more socially acceptable in some context.  Fortunately, after significant national criticism, Republicans dropped the offending language.

However, shortly thereafter, Republican State Representative of Georgia Bobby Franklin introduced legislation that would change the language in a rape trial.  The rape “victim” would be relabeled as the “accuser.”  Because we don’t want to coddle all those pesky women who have had their lives violently interrupted and their rights dismantled by allowing them to be called “victims,” until the court has finished deciding that there was actually a crime. Of course, victims of other less gendered crimes, like burglary, would still remain “victims” from the start.

What is wrong with this picture???

In short, while the Democrats can be whiny and incompetent, Republican politicians are proving themselves to be a**holes, determined to attack the citizens that make up this country and drive our stability and future into the ground.  Auctioning off their souls to the highest bidder.

I think I want to start my own political party.  Circus clowns, conspiracy mongers or people who lack discretion need not apply.  Same goes for people who are willing to be pushed around by an agenda that puts a price on common sense and responsibility. Unfortunately, that probably means that my party will be very, very small.

And now you know why I hate everybody.