The Conservative War on Pragmatism and Logic

(tl;dr version: Republicans don’t want to spend money on birth control, welfare or abortions, despite the fact that by doing so we save far more money than we do otherwise. For the specifics, see below).

Let’s talk about a few basic things in the Republican party platform, shall we? Elements of this may not be in the official platform, but they certainly do express the views of current GOP frontrunners, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

1. Welfare is bad. It’s expensive and creates a mentality of dependency by encouraging people not to work.
2. Planned Parenthood should not receive any money from the government.
3. Government should not pay for birth control or abortions.
4. Abortions should be illegal.

I think we can all agree these are viewpoints held by the majority of Republicans. Now I disagree with them on every single one of these points. But for the sake of this article, I’m going to pretend that point 1 is valid. I’ll pretend that welfare is a bad thing and must be eliminated entirely or at least significantly minimized. So that in mind, let me explain to you why points 2, 3 and 4 undermine point 1.

Planned Parenthood has been a focus of the culture wars for decades. Even as a youth, I remember hearing Republicans bitch about it. I also remember a representative of Planned Parenthood coming into my high school to demonstrate things like proper use of condoms and the like.

I’ve never been exactly clear as to why the Republicans dislike Planned Parenthood so much, but I know that at least part of it is a trail of logic that goes like this:

Planned Parenthood gets money from the government.
Planned Parenthood provides abortions and birth control.
The government isn’t allowed to pay for abortions using taxpayer money.
The government shouldn’t be subsidizing people’s sex lives by paying for their birth control.
When the government gives money to Planned Parenthood, they are paying for abortions and birth control.

I am of course over generalizing and simplifying the argument, but I think that’s about how it goes. I do also think there’s an element of subtle sexism in their viewpoints, but that’s not worth discussing right now. This viewpoint undermines their position on welfare. How?

It costs about $222,000 to raise a child to adulthood. That works out to about $13,000 a year for seventeen years or so. Of course there’s variations to this if you have someone who leads a particularly rich lifestyle or a parent who is especially niggardly toward their children. But I think that’s a decent approximation.

Birth control pills cost anywhere from $180 – $600 a year, though I’ve heard other statistics that indicate it costs upward of $2,000 a year. That’s on top of any exam costs. Now I understand that isn’t that much money for most people. But for some people it is.

So if you are someone for whom $600 a year is a burden, say someone who is a student, or is unemployed, or underemployed, or a single mother who is already raising four children, then you certainly are also someone who can’t afford to pay $13,000 a year to raise a child. Admittedly the costs are probably lower if it’s your fifth kid, since you can do hand-me-downs and the like, but even still, I have to believe it’s at least another $6,000 or so.

Given that, if you are someone who can’t afford birth control and you have a child anyhow, you’re probably going to have to go on welfare. With WIC, food stamps, Medicaid and other programs, the state and federal government wind up paying a lot of money. How much? I can’t quite tell. I’ve done some Google searches, and I don’t seem to be able to find any reliable information on exact numbers. However I do know that a single, unemployed person in Arizona can receive around $200 a month in food stamps. I assume that probably goes up dramatically if a child or two is involved. Let’s assume each child adds another $150 to the pot. That means $350 in food stamps for one parent and one child.

Then there’s the other programs like Medicaid and WIC. I know that young children are often getting hurt, or getting sick. Each of those things cost money. Then there’s also things like telephone assistance, rental and housing assistance, utilities assistance, bus passes and all sorts of other things. Plus some states give out actual cash to parents to cover extra costs. Again, I can’t find hard numbers, so I’ll pull one out of my ass: $1,000 a month for all those things. This gives us a figure of about $16,200 a year in welfare benefits. That’s higher than the cost of raising a child per year ($13,500), but remember that things like housing, utilities and food stamps help the parent as well.

It’s also important to bear in mind that it’s entirely possible to work over 40 hours a week and still qualify for all these benefits. If you work two minimum wage jobs ($7.25/hour is federal minimum wage), and they both give you 25 hours a week (in my experience, most minimum wage jobs don’t offer 40 hours a week). There’s no overtime because even though you’re working 50 hours a week, that 50 hours is spread out over two jobs. That means your pre-deductions pay check is about $362.50 per week. Knock off a bit for taxes and the like, and let’s assume that your take-home pay is $300 a week, $1200 a month and about $15,600 a year. If you’re earning that wage and you have two kids, you clearly qualify for most, if not all, of the welfare programs mentioned above.

Let’s assume that someone is in that situation, has a child and gets full welfare benefits each month. Let’s further assume their economic situation never gets any better or worse (neither of these are likely, but go with it). If this person gets those welfare benefits for, say, eighteen years, that means that at the end they will have cost the state and federal government $291,600.

By contrast, if the government provided this mother with birth control at the maximum rate of $600 per year, and her reproductive lifespan as an adult ran from, say, 18 – 45, then the cost for those pills would be…huh. What do you know. $16,200. So the cost of birth control for 27 years is about the same as my estimated cost for welfare for one year. Please note, I didn’t plan it that way. It’s just how things turned out when I did my math. Nice, though.

Now let’s say further that you’re a single woman who doesn’t use birth control, or the birth control fails for whatever reason, and you become unexpectedly pregnant. You’re about to experience, dare I say, unplanned parenthood (I’m so clever!). Well, if for whatever reason, you’re not ready to have a child or that child has massive genetic problems or birth defects, or whatever, and you decide to have an abortion, that abortion will cost you anywhere from $350 – $550. It’s a one-time cost and from a purely pragmatic viewpoint, if a woman can’t afford to cover that cost (and therefore can’t afford to have a child), it’s better financially for the taxpayers to pay for that abortion than it is to cover the welfare expenses following birth, especially if the child has any sort of defects, since I would imagine the cost of raising a special needs child goes up exponentially from the cost of raising a regular one.

Of course moralists want to say that they don’t want their taxes paying for something they consider to be immoral. Fair enough. I consider the death penalty, warfare, the bloated military budget and the War on Drugs to be immoral. Can I have my tax dollars not go toward those things, please? Of course not. Our taxes go to many different areas and every single person probably has at least one thing those dollars go to that they consider immoral, so let’s ignore that argument.

There’s also the argument that the mother can simply put the child up for adoption. Fine and dandy, but who pays for foster parents and orphanages in the meantime? Plus, despite the Republican talking points, not every child is wanted. If they were, we wouldn’t have orphanages and foster care. Older children, minority children and disabled children are usually in the system until they’re eighteen and then go into adult welfare. This isn’t even addressing the fact that child birth is a very dangerous process and forcing a woman to go through it and have a baby she doesn’t want strikes me as far more immoral that using tax dollars for abortions.

Many of those same moralists make the point that they consider birth control to be immoral so their tax dollars shouldn’t pay for that. Well, we’ve demolished that idea. They also say they shouldn’t be subsidizing someone’s sex life. Ok, that’s a fair point. But the birth control pill is also used for so many other medical purposes that really the “birth control” aspect is almost just a side effect. It is legitimate medicine for many, many women. Now you can argue, as some people do, that the government shouldn’t pay for anyone’s medication, but they already do, and so therefore there’s no real reason birth control pills should be treated differently.

So, to recap from the top of the article, about 1500 words ago, here’s the Republican positions:

1. Welfare is bad. It’s expensive and creates a mentality of dependency by encouraging people not to work.
2. Planned Parenthood should not receive any money from the government.
3. Government should not pay for birth control or abortions.
4. Abortions should be illegal.

I think I’ve covered 1 and 3 fairly well. 4 is something I fundamentally disagree with, and I think anyone who is sufficiently pragmatic would also disagree. As for number 2…well, it is true that Planned Parenthood receives money from the federal government. How much? About $362 million. That’s the same as the welfare costs for about 22,345 children for eighteen years. One small-sized stadium. That’s it.

Mitt Romney said the following about the government funding for Planned Parenthood, “…is it so critical that it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?” First off, $362 million is a pittance off the federal budget of about $3.6 trillion. Actually, it’s about .1% of the federal budget. So it’s unlikely we’re having to borrow money from China to pay for it.

But even if we were, let’s look at the costs versus the benefits. Let’s assume that without government funding, Planned Parenthood shut down entirely or at least had to curtail their operations so much that many women didn’t have access to it. We will ignore the fact that this means many women won’t get preventative care for various physical problems and therefore will only seek treatment for those problems when they are much worse and much more expensive to treat. We’ll just focus on the “parenthood” part of the organization’s name.

If we assume that as a result of this defunding, an additional 100 children per day was born, which I think is extremely low, but it’s easy to work with, that means that at the end of the year another 36500 children will be born. If their parents couldn’t afford birth control and family planning stuff on their own (which is, as mentioned before, about $600 a year), then that means each of these children will end up on welfare at the cost of $16,200 a year. That means each year the state and federal government pay a combined total of $591,300,000 each year for those unplanned children. That’s about $230 million dollars extra.

In other words, by funding Planned Parenthood, the federal government may be saving about $230 million per year in welfare dollars. So I’d say that if we do have to borrow money from China to fund it, then, yes, it is indeed worthwhile since it saves us from having to borrow more money to pay for welfare.

Of course the GOP wants to eliminate most welfare, too, but that’s another discussion, and I really don’t see how we’d end up any better off if the single mother with two children winds up homeless instead of drawing welfare payments. Because, basically, the GOP cares about you right up until the moment you’re born, then they don’t give a fuck.

Also, one last point: throughout this article, I’ve used the example of the single mother with one or two children, but it’s entirely possible to have a married couple with one, two, five, eight children who are on welfare. Consider the situation where a married couple has three children and the mother stays home to take care of them (as the Republicans want), while the father works at a job that pays $14 an hour, or $4480 per month before deductions. That’s $58,240 per year, again before deductions, probably around $40,000 after them. But we’ve established that it’s about $13,000 per year for one child, and probably another $6000 or so for each additional one, so $25,000 per year. That’s half the family’s income just to raise three kids, and realistically, it’s probably more than that. This family therefore probably gets welfare payments. They’ll get even more if the father loses his job, and they’re now a no-income family. So it isn’t just the single mothers that matter in this situation. It’s the married ones, too.

In the end, this isn’t about money. What it’s about is Republican moralizing disguised as fiscal responsibility. It’s about the party who says, “We want to keep government out of your lives,” adding the rider of, “unless it’s your sex life, and then we’ll get involved in every negative way possible, but none of the positive ones.” It’s about a party of prudes who don’t think single women should have sex, and if you’re married, well, it’s your job to have babies and take care of them. It’s about a party that should be pragmatic and, dare I say, conservative, instead acting like a bunch of idealists who don’t live in anything even approximating the real world.

And that’s a problem for all of us as long as they have any power.


Publicly-Funded Abortions

The President, as well as others, have gone out of their way to reassure the Right that, no, we won’t be having publicly funded abortions regardless of what else might end up being in the health care bills. This no doubt comes as a great relief to them.

I say, though, that we should have publicly funded abortions. In fact, if we have nothing else, we should have that. Why? Well, first it’s a legal medical procedure. Even if you don’t personally like it, it’s legal. Suck it up and deal.

Second, people who can’t afford to actually pay for an abortion almost certainly can’t afford to raise kids. Why force them to?

Last, there are people who say, “I don’t want my tax dollars going to something I don’t believe in!” Well, tough. Your tax dollars almost certainly already do. My tax dollars go to funding a war in Iraq that I’m against and one in Afghanistan that I’m not crazy about. We don’t get to pick and choose what our tax money is spent on.

That’s all I have to say about this, surprisingly. Not too much, but there you are. 🙂

Brazilian Evil


So the Catholic Church, aka: the Enemy of the World, is continuing to stick their nose in where it doesn’t belong.

See, back a few months ago a nine-year-old girl was allegedly raped and wound up pregnant. With twins.

She lives in Brazil, where abortion is illegal except under certain special circumstances. The courts there figured an 80 pound, nine-year-old girl with twins she didn’t want and wouldn’t be able to safely have counted as special circumstances and approved her having an abortion.

Naturally, the Catholic Church is chiming in on this issue, as the Orthodox Church did with the case of an eleven-year-old Romanian girl a few months back (I guess the Great Scism gets set aside when it comes to abortion). Says Marcio Miranda, a lawyer for the Archdiocese of Olina and Recife, “It’s the law of God: Do not kill. We consider this murder.”

Aw, isn’t that cute? Miranda went on to say the girl could just have had a c-section. Sure, why not? Why not give her a surgical procedure that can often result in infertility. Why not give a nine-year-old two babies to take care of and be a mother to? An abortion has its own medical problems, but nothing on the level of problems that would result with a nine-year-old girl giving birth to twins, or even one child, for that matter.

Now we also find out that the archbishop of the area has excommunicated the girl’s mother and her doctors, and presumably the judge that allowed the abortion.

They were kind enough not to excomunicate the girl who, at nine, is old enough to bear twins but not old enough to be kicked out of the church. How generous.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The Catholic Church is the greatest force of evil in the world period.

On Abortion

Ok, it’s high-time I tackled this puppy! I gave it a slight mention in my article on an eleven-year-old Romanian girl who needed an abortion, but I think it’s time for me to cover this in a bit more detail.

So here it is: I am pro-choice (no shock), and have no real ethical problem with abortion, at least up to a point. Now for the details.

First, I don’t feel that I have a right to tell someone else what they can and cannot do with their bodies. If someone doesn’t want to spend nine months carrying a child, I can’t force them to do so, not ethically.

Second, forcing someone to have a child they do not want is a perfect way to assure that child has a more miserable life. True, the mother can give the kid up for adoption, but that usually just means the kid ends up spending its life in a variety of foster and group homes. Don’t try to give me the arguement that all children are wanted, because we know that’s not true. If it were, there wouldn’t be any children in those situations.

Third, though it’s not as common as it used to be, women can and do die in childbirth. Even if you’re in a hospital surounded by doctors, it’s still possible to have a fatal hemorage. Yes, it doesn’t happen often, but it happens often enough. I don’t feel that I have the right to tell someone they must do something that could end up in them dying. I’m not willing to place a real life in danger to protect a potential life.

Fourth, an embryo is not a person. Please remember this, cause it’s very important. An embryo is not a person any more than an egg is a chicken. For the first many weeks they are just a small collection of cells with the potential to be more, and just because something has human cells, that doesn’t make it human. My dandruff is not me.

Fifth, while it is hard to draw an exact line as to when a fetus becomes a person, I’d say I agree with this article here, that points out fetuses don’t even have proper brain-waves until about the 30th week. At that point, I’d say they are human enough to prevent an abortion except in the most extreme circumstances.

Sixth, if a child has clear birth defects, especially mental ones, then, harsh though this might sound, society benefits from that pregnancy being terminated. If you have someone who is severely retarded, they are going to forever be a drain to society on an economic level and to their family on an economic and likely emotional level. Please note: I’m not saying anyone who is mentally disabled needs to be killed or anything like that, and if someone choses to bring a baby into the world that they know will have major issues, that’s fine and that’s their choice. I’m just saying society as a whole does not benefit by there being more people with, say, Down syndrome. It’s nice that Sarah Palin choose to bring a baby with that condition into the world, but it certainly isn’t one I would’ve made. I’m probably phrasing this part of the argument badly, but I think I’m getting the point across ok. I’ve already braced for the incoming comments about it. 😉

Lastly, as shown in Freakonomics, there appears to be a direct correlation between access to safe abortions and a decrease in crime. A few minutes thought will explain why, but in case it doesn’t, read the book. It’s good. 🙂

Ultimately if women don’t have access to safe abortions, they’ll go out and get unsafe ones. It’s also especially annoying to me that the same groups who tend to be anti-choice also tend to be the abstinence-only types. Not only do they not want to give kids safe ways to avoid getting pregnant, they want to deny them access to abortions if they should end up in an delicate condition.

Roe v Wade is the law of the land, and that’s not likely to change, even if McCain gets into office. That doesn’t mean he won’t try, though, as for reasons unclear to me abortion seems to trump everything else when it comes to the Christian right. If Obama is elected, which appears likely, then hopefully we can get abortion rights a little more solidly setup than they are now.