Republicans and abortion: a fool’s errand

Let me see if I have this right?

House Republicans exultantly voted on Thursday, Jan. 22, for a bill (H.R. 7) that would forbid the use of taxpayer funding to pay for abortion.

The House Of Representatives votes on H.R. 7

The House Of Representatives votes on H.R. 7

So Republicans, who routinely rant about taxpayer dollars supporting poor freeloaders with too many kids who are burdening the welfare system, want to make sure that people who can’t afford to get an abortion have more babies.

The Hyde Amendment, passed annually as part of an appropriations bill, already prevents using federal funds to pay for abortion, except in cases of incest, rape and life endangerment of the mother, but H.R. 7 would make that permanent law.

The House bill would restrict the use of federal funds to cover abortions, including through the Medicaid federal-state insurance program for low-income Americans, government-owned health-care facilities and the tax credits available to some people to subsidize the cost of health plans purchased under the Affordable Care Act.

Of course, denying to pregnant low-income women any government assistance for abortions pretty much guarantees that more unwanted babies will be born and that the mother and child will be even more dependent on government aid. In many cases, it also means that the child will be taken care of, or not taken care of, by an unwed mother, too often a teenager, that both will struggle to realize a decent life and that society at large will bear the burden of their failure to thrive.

It’s bad enough that many states, with conservatives cheering them on, have eroded Roe v. Wade by adopting measures that severely limit access to abortion for all women, including restrictions that end up constraining the number of clinics in a state that can perform abortions. That means low-income women wanting an abortion are left out in the cold because they can’t afford to travel to a faraway clinic.

The pregnant daughter of a member of Congress probably faces no such financial barrier if she wants an abortion.

After all, a report from OpenSecrets.org showed the median net worth of a member of Congress was $1,029,505 in 2013, compared with an average American household’s median net worth of  $56,355. Keeping up the trend, half of this year’s freshman class were already millionaires upon their arrival.

Meanwhile, Congress isn’t the only abortion battlefield. Outside the Beltway, Republican gains in numerous states in the November elections strengthened the anti-abortion zealots in statehouses and governor’s offices.

And so the struggle continues.

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Musings: cowardly snipers, Selma, the Oregon Cultural Trust and failing schools

Lot’s of random thoughts lately.

Cowardly snipers

That great progressive American patriot, Michael Moore, made another of his well-informed, well-reasoned comments the other day on his Twitter account. Speaking out about Clint Eastwood’s movie, “American Sniper”, Moore said, “My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse.”

Current and former American soldiers alive today because of the effectiveness of American snipers in Iraq and Afghanistan had no comment.

AmericanSniper1

Selma

The hyperventilating critics of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s portrayal in the movie, Selma, need to chill out.

Joseph Califano Jr., a top assistant to Johnson, said, for example, that the movie took “dramatic, trumped-up license” with the truth and “falsely portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson as being at odds with Martin Luther King Jr. and even using the FBI to discredit him, as only reluctantly behind the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and as opposed to the Selma march itself.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965

It’s a MOVIE, folks, not a documentary. And, by the way, where were all you historical accuracy nuts when the idolatrous TV and theater movies about John F. Kennedy omitted scenes of his sexual escapades and the hagiographies about his brother, Ted Kennedy, skipped over his responsibility for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne?

Oregon Cultural Trust

The billboard on Broadway urges donations to the Oregon Cultural Trust. “Donate/Match, get the whole match back,” the billboard says.

CulturalTrust-Billboard

The way the program works is you add up your donations for the year to one or more of the participating cultural nonprofits and then make a donation to the Cultural Trust in an equal amount. Your donation to the Cultural Trust will come back to you dollar for dollar at tax time when you claim your cultural tax credit.

In 2009, the Legislature stole $1.8 million from the Trust for Cultural Development account of the Oregon Cultural Trust to deal with state budget pressures. The Senate tried to defend itself by claiming it just took money from Oregon Cultural Trust license plates, not public donations.

Horsepucky! It was out-and-out theft.

So don’t trust ’em. If they were willing to break the public trust over a lousy $1.8 million, they’ll do it again. Don’t donate a dime to the Trust this year, or next. We both know the Legislature will raid it again someday.

Failing schools

In his Jan. 20 State of the Union address, President Obama said he wants the federal and state governments to cover 100 percent of the junior college tuition for students who meet minimal standards. Of course, the program wouldn’t really be free. Obama wants to raise taxes to pay for the fed’s share.

And the proposal ignores the fact that the biggest problem at community colleges isn’t the cost, but the dismal completion rate. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, at 2-year degree-granting institutions, only 31 percent of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a certificate or associate’s degree in fall 2009 attained it within three years. This graduation rate was just 20 percent at public 2-year institutions.

Portland Community College graduation

Portland Community College graduation

Part-time junior college students don’t do well either. Even when given four years to complete certificates and degrees, no more than a quarter make it to graduation day, according to a Complete College America report to the nation’s governors. The rest wander aimlessly through too many class choices, get committed to jobs, relationships mortgages and more and end up with nothing finished and backbreaking debt.

Of course, it’s not just the junior colleges that fail. Too many students arrive ill-prepared by their K-12 educations to succeed at higher education and channeled into remedial courses that don’t work.

Obama’s community college plan: free is a very good price

“Free is a very good price,” Portland pitchman Tom Peterson used to say in ubiquitous advertisements for his retail stores.

Barack Obama must have been listening to Tom, based on his new proposal that community college be tuition-free for students who meet minimal standards.

“Community college should be free for those willing to work for it because, in America, a quality education should not be a privilege that is reserved for a few,” Obama said on Jan. 9.

Portland Community College registration.

Portland Community College registration.

Of course, despite the tendency of Democrats to define things paid for by the government as “free” and spending on favored programs as “investments”, Obama’s community college proposal won’t really be free. Federal taxes and state revenue will need to pay the bill, so either something else will have to be cut or taxes will have to be raised.

All the beneficiaries of Obama’s proposed junior college program would need to do is attend community college at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and make steady progress toward completing their program. What a deal.

The Federal Government would cover three-quarters of the average cost of community college and the states would be expected to come up with the rest.

How much will it all cost? Who knows? The White House said the free-for-all program would help about 9 million students each year and that it would save a full-time community college student $3,800 in tuition per year on average. If all 9 million students go full-time, that would translate into a whopping annual cost of $34.2 billion, with $25.6 billion of that coming from the feds and $8.6 billion from the states.

And then there’d be the additional facilities and teachers community colleges would need pay for to accommodate the influx of free-for-all students? Who would pay for that?

Obama says he’ll include details on the federal costs in his January 20 State of the Union address and in his proposed budget.

Whatever number he comes up with, it’s likely to grow year after year because community college costs will grow, particularly with guaranteed federal money flowing in.

Another legitimate concern is grade inflation. As noted earlier, to get the free tuition students would need to maintain a 2.5 GPA. Anybody who thinks that community college instructors would not be inclined to inflate grades, and even be subtly pressed to do so, to keep the money coming is naive.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the completion rate at 2-year degree-granting institutions is pretty abysmal. Just 31 percent of first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began their pursuit of a certificate or associate’s degree in fall 2009 attained it within 150 percent of the normal time required to do so, or within 3 years for a 2-year degree. The graduation rate was just 20 percent at public 2-year institutions.

Obama’s plan seems to assume that the main thing holding students back from satisfactorily completing coursework at community colleges is the cost, particularly of tuition. But many other factors are likely to be determinative, including poor K-12 preparation for a significant number of students and the need for remedial courses that many students can’t successfully complete. Making community college free for everybody won’t solve these problems.

In fact, without any skin in the game, students may be even less motivated to complete their studies.

Another glaring weakness of Obama’s proposal is the absence of any income qualifications for the tuition aid. Presumably the executive’s son and the gas station attendant’s daughter would both be equally eligible for the giveaway. At a time of severe budget constraints, what’s the point of that?

But why worry about the details. It’ll be free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let the dogs out: the assault on Steve Scalise

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA, has had a reputation throughout his political career for being open to talking with just about anybody, regardless of their ideological persuasion. Horrors!

In today’s hyper-partisan world, that’s apparently a bad thing.

“I live in a rather special world,” influential film critic Pauline Kael commented after the 1972 presidential election. “I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken.”

The provincialism and narrow-mindedness of that observation came to mind in thinking about the Steve Scalise controversy. Progressives in the media and government were all too ready to accept the controversial allegation from a left-leaning blogger and attack Scalise in a frenzy because they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, think outside their echo-chamber of like thinkers.

But consider the source, and wonder whether the media have failed the public.

The melee started when a left-leaning blogger, Lamar White Jr., posted that twelve years ago a Louisiana state legislator, Steve Scalise, addressed the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) about a tax and spending ballot measure.

Lamar White

Lamar White

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-LA

White later said he learned about the incident after getting a tip from Robert Reed, the son and campaign manager of a Democrat who lost to Scalise in a 2008 special election to fill an open House seat in Louisiana.

White said he verified the tip by checking Reed’s source, a post on Stormfront, a race-baiting website run by white nationalists and other racial extremists.

Stormfront logo

Stormfront logo

When the media discovered White’s allegation, they leapt at the story, apparently without bothering to do much fact-checking. The progressive posse, eager to believe the worst about a conservative, went ballistic.

Because EURO was founded by David Duke, a prominent former Ku Klux Klan leader, critics excoriated Scalise for even talking to a racist group, no matter the topic, even though Scalise said he had no recollection of speaking at the EURO conference.

The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) enthusiastically bashed Scalise, now House Majority Whip, with a guilt- by-association pronouncement.

DCCC National Press Secretary, Josh Schwerin

DCCC National Press Secretary, Josh Schwerin

“Steve Scalise chose to cheerlead for a group of KKK members and neo-Nazis at a white supremacist rally and now his fellow House Republican Leaders can’t even speak up and say he was wrong,” said DCCC National Press Secretary Josh Schwerin. “Republicans in Congress might talk about improving their terrible standing with non-white voters, but it’s clear their leadership has a history of embracing anti-Semitic, racist hate groups.”

Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.), piled on, calling for Scalise to resign from the Republican House Leadership team.

Alexandra Petri, author of the Washington Post’s ComPost blog, said, “Why would you possibly think speaking at this event was a good idea? Why would you think attending this event was a good idea?”

Similarly, Eugene Robinson wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled, “The GOP has a bad habit of appealing to avowed racists”.

“Here’s some advice for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise that also applies to the Republican Party in general: If you don’t want to be associated in any way with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, then stay away from them,” Robinson said.

Robinson went on, “Do not give a speech to a racist organization founded by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, as Scalise did when he was a Louisiana state legislator before running for Congress.”

This has just gone too far.

Now it’s apparently not only wrong to say something that’s offensive to progressives or something provocative that might challenge preconceptions and “trigger” discomfort, but it’s impermissible for politicians to address people progressives don’t agree with.

No wonder we have political gridlock if electeds are rebuked for even talking with people who have a different point of view.

What makes this whole thing even more bizarre is that Louisiana’s Times-Picayune newspaper now reports that Scalise may not, in fact, have spoken at the Euro event.

On Dec. 31, the paper said the man who arranged Scalise’s appearance at the event he addressed now says Scalise didn’t attend the EURO conference, but rather a small meeting of the Jefferson Heights Civic Association that was held in the same hotel conference room earlier the same day.

Wouldn’t it be something if all this sturm and drang has been over nothing.