Republicans pledged to govern on a platform of job creation after their soaring 2010 midterm election victory. The U.S. economy was clearly in the crapper — the reasons for this are outside the scope of the article — and there needed to be an honest debate on the causes and cures for the economic mess we found ourselves in.
Most analysts agreed that focusing on economic issues was a winner for the Republicans. Whatever one’s feelings on President Obama, and the causes for the current crisis, there is broad agreement amongst Americans of all political stripes that the unemployment rate is too high.
The Republicans say they’re focusing on job creation. On gop.gov, they claim there are 28 “bipartisan job creation” bills awaiting Senate action, not-so-subtly implying that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the Democrat-“controlled” Senate are holding up key bills. (In reality, with cloture rules, no one party “controls” the Senate, but that’s another story for another day.)
However, when one looks a little beneath the surface, these so-called “job creation” bills are nothing more than naked partisan swipes at the President and Democrats. For example, number two on the Republican’s list is HR 1633, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011, which prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from making regulations about particulate matter from farms. I suppose a rather tortured case can be made for job creation in this case, but it’s a difficult sell during an election year.
HR 3012 is the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2011. Rather than attempt to improve the educational system in this country, it proposes to lighten visa restrictions on high-tech workers from China (and no other country). While I’m generally in favor of this initiative, I’m having a difficult time connecting the dots so they create a path to the goal of reducing American unemployment.
A careful examination of these “job creation” bills reveals that the vast majority have to do with easing supposedly burdensome government regulations. That may create jobs, but the regulations that are being eased (like farm dust) are small potatoes compared to the number of jobs the economy needs to create.
In the absence of any effective job creation strategy from either side of the aisle — a symptom of the “do-nothing Congress” — Republican presidential candidates have turned to moral issues. Now comes a push by Republicans in Congress on whether employers should be required to provide contraceptive prescriptions, clearly another in their series of important job creation bills.
So it is that this week’s news is about the Big Bad Obama Administration “forcing” health care plans to cover contraceptive services, even when the employer may be morally opposed to contraception. I’d like to examine the likely success of such a strategy.
It seems that most Americans, and even most Catholics, are prepared to ignore this week’s advisory from the Conference of Catholic Bishops. According to Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan,
Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.
The policy that riled the Catholic Bishops this week has been in place since the twilight days of the Clinton Administration. In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that employers were required to provide contraceptive services as part of any health plan that covered other prescription medicines. This was uncontroversial at the time and appeared to be on solid legal footing, given Congress’s clear intent in passing Title VII in 1964 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, PL 95–555, 92 Stat. 2076.
The existence of the EEOC’s 2000 ruling contradicts Archbishop Dolan.
The Republicans, to distract Americans from their lack of job creation, have decided to redefine life as occurring at the point of conception. This is a perfectly fine moral and ethical position, but it’s not science, and calling it “science” does not make it so. It’s not even a view held by a majority of Catholics.
For example, addressing pastors at the Bella Donna Chapel in McKinney, Texas, this week, candidate Rick Santorum said,
Abortion is wrong. I know life begins at conception … There’s no difference between that child in the womb and any one of us but time.
Well, technically, there’s no difference between me and a corpse but time. Santorum’s stated position is contrary to science. There are a lot of developmental events which occur between conception and birth that he’s glossing over here.
The Obama Administration is in full campaign mode. Their internal polling tells them that Republicans are weak on the contraception issue. In late 2011, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake presented this statement to people being polled:
Requiring health insurers to cover contraceptives violates the rights of people who belong to religions that don’t believe in artificial contraception. The Catholic Church morally opposes birth control and Orthodox Jews and some Protestants find birth control objectionable. Forcing religious groups, individuals, health providers, and health plans to perform or pay for a service that they may find morally objectionable is wrong.
In Lake’s analysis, 52 percent of Americans polled found this argument “not convincing”.
A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey, commissioned by Planned Parenthood, found Americans support contraceptives as part of health plans even at Catholic institutions, with 57 percent in favor vs 39 percent opposed (i.e. a spread of +18 points). More critically, in the crosstabs, Catholics fall squarely along with other Americans, favoring this plan 53⁄45 (+8). Independents overall favor it 56⁄39 (+17) and Catholic independents are in favor 60⁄39 (+21).
Critically, Republicans are opposed to this policy, 38⁄58 (-20).
Congressional action to overturn the 2000 EEOC ruling is a non-starter with a large majority of Americans. According to the same PPP memo,
58% of voters say they oppose Republicans in Congress trying to take away the birth control benefit … including 56% of independents.
One might criticize these polling numbers as the output of partisan hacks, but they’re consistent with a Gallup poll released in July of 2011 that showed 62 percent of Republicans, 46 percent of independents, and 33 percent of Democrats in favor of “opt-out” provisions that allow pharmacists and health care providers to refuse to provide services they may feel are “anti-life”.
Still, on Friday the President announced a “compromise”: in cases where an employer refuses to pay for birth control, the cost of contraceptives will be shifted from the employer to the insurance company. This has the effect of still providing birth control to all employees, but with the tissue-thin excuse that “we didn’t pay for it, the insurance company did”. The insurance company is happy, because birth control is cheaper than pregnancy and childbirth (which they are still required to cover based on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act).
Supporting the removal of contraceptives from health plans is a naked appeal to the Republican base, and it may help Rick Santorum in his primary campaign, but if he is the eventual nominee, can he pivot and change his position in time to win the general election? Having the solid support of 40 percent of Americans on an issue is not a big winner in American politics. Mitt Romney is even more vulnerable on this issue, and is perceived as having flip-flopped to his current pro-life position, so it’s a loser no matter who becomes the Republican nominee.
- Lactating Boobies in the Workplace Will Kill Job Creation (and Other Signs of the Womanapocalypse) (pamshouseblend.firedoglake.com)
- The Election Consequences of the Contraception Controversy (usnews.com)
- Jobs Creation Will Influence America’s Vote for President in 2012 (kimberlyjmyers.wordpress.com)
- Obama’s Conscience Protection Clause Has Been Upheld In Court (thinkprogress.org)
- Gallup Finds Job Creation Improving Slightly (elections.firedoglake.com)
- Bishops Were Prepared for Battle Over Birth Control Coverage (nytimes.com)
- Contraception controversy round up in the U.S. (kiwianglo.wordpress.com)
- Obama Amends Contraception Rule (myfoxny.com)
- Logarchism » Meme Watch: The Republican War on Women
- Logarchism » It’s Complicated
- Logarchism » War Is Hell
- Logarchism » Do Nothing, Know Nothing
- Logarchism » The Caterpillars Are Winning
- Logarchism » Faith, Hope and Charity
- Logarchism » We’re Going to Plan B