Ruben Navarrette Picks His Pork

Well the true colors are beginning to show. Navarrette is a San Diego columnist whose work appears on His stimulus piece is called Ridiculous Items in Stimulus Plan Out of the whole plan which items stood out for our man Ruben?

I’d settle for removing more of the ridiculous items that House Democrats slipped into the legislation to advance their sociopolitical agenda. Like $350 million for child care on military bases. Or $335 million to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

In normal economic times, there might not be anything wrong with this. But these aren’t normal times. And these politically motivated giveaways do nothing to fight the recession.

Another such item, which was removed from the bill, was a plan to spend more than $200 million on birth control funding as a way of stimulating the economy.

Now I don’t agree with his economic argument and I’ll get to that component after the jump. But first lets do some addition: $350 million + $335 million + $200 million = $885 million. Or about 1% .1% of the bill emerging from the Senate. Even if we accepted the idea that these programs were just Democratic pork (and I don’t not even in the context of stimulus) are there really people out there who would just walk away from the deal because a relatively small of money goes to child care, or to prevent STD, or to fund family planning?

This is not an economic argument, the success or failure of the stimulus package is not going to ride on less than a billion dollars either way. Instead it seems purely focused on achieving the right’s ideological agenda. Because really what he is mainly bitching about is the condoms. If it comes to a choice of you preventing transmission of an incurable viral infection by using a condom or you risking everything by going unprotected Ruben would chose the latter. Or just urge you not to have sex at all.

And yet they argue that it is Democrats who are inserting ideology into this? Bollocks. Plus his economic argument is stupid. Details on that below the fold.

Most working families struggle with the issue of child care. Sometimes the work schedules are such that responsibilities can be passed off between the spouses. Say with work from home dad taking over during the day while mom is at work. Or sometimes there are relatives available to pick up some of the slack, say if the work/commute hours overlap somewhat. But often as not the options reduce themselves to child care or not working at all. And paying for quality child care is likely to make a lot of workers net pay go to sub-minimum wage level.

Okay if I wanted to pick an example of a single spouse who was not able to trade parental responsibilities off, was far from relatives, had a lot of difficulty living on the relatively small paycheck of the working spouse and so needed to get a job to maintain an acceptable family life-style whose face would I see on the poster? Well the wife of a junior enlisted service member living on a military base far from home whose husband just left for Iraq or Afghanistan. And what single thing would prevent her from going out and getting that job? Lack of available child care.

Would the government net out ahead on taxes by freeing up this labor pool? Maybe not though certainly they would get some back. Moreover these new workers would be piling up quarters in the Social Security system and buying stuff at the Post Exchange (where the profits largely go to recreation and family welfare anyway). I am not sure why Navarrette focused in on this line item in the first place. Not only is his argument economically dubious he is basically spitting in the face of the military itself. It is hard to put this down as anything other than adversion to government social spending in general.

So lets look at family planning. Does the nation need future workers? Well yes. Do those kids add to national productivity or family income in the meantime? Well no, it takes a lot of money to feed, clothe and educate a kid for a couple of decades. Moreover it takes people out of the labor pool for months and years. So how did Navarrette respond when Nancy Pelosi made this case in a reasonable way?

When ABC’s George Stephanopolous asked Pelosi to explain how birth control helps the economy, here’s what the speaker said: “The family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now, and part of what we do for children’s health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those — one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.”

Navarrette turned around and tried to connect her to the Eugenics movement of the early 20th century

For a minute, it sounded as if the House speaker was channeling the ghost of Margaret Sanger. The 20th-century birth control advocate is a hero to those who worship at the altar of reproductive freedom. She even founded the American Birth Control League, which became Planned Parenthood.

But there is more. Sanger also embraced birth control as a means of social engineering. She was a leader in the eugenics movement, which had a number of influential supporters.

Many in that school of thought considered immigrant groups like Jews, Italians and Irish to be inferior genetically, and they felt that these groups were having too many children, a trend they believed needed to be stopped — by forced sterilization if necessary.

Yep that Nancy Pelosi, just a racist wanting to keep the browns down. This is kind of a sick play of the race card by Senor Navarrette (who writes very often on minority issues) and seems to have been done with malice aforethought.

As to the remaining piece of ‘ridiculous’ spending, it is not clear if his opposition to preventing STDs is just his Catholicism talking (because he is pretty open about his faith) or just based on some uncomfort about ‘teh gay’. But either way claiming that infectious diseases are not a direct drag on productivity is to me nonsense. And even if you believed they were not why not oppose the substantial amounts in the bill to prevent bird flu?

I suspect there are some AB readers who are thinking in exasperation ‘He is just one columnist’. Well he is a fairly prominent one and a good example of how the arguments against the stimulus bill are despite protestations largely not economic at all. Some people just don’t like their government spending money on social programs.