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Economics 101: Republican Style August 15, 2014

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Dirty Deals on Social Security Likely to Succeed June 28, 2011

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Monday 27 June 2011
by: Jack Rasmus, Truthout         | News Analysis
         Jack Hartley, 58, at his home with his dog, Bouncer, in Fostoria, Ohio, September 3, 2010. Hartley, who works a 12-hour shift assembling tires, said he does not think he can last until age 66, when he will be eligible for full Social Security retirement benefits. (Photo: Stephen McGee / The New York Times)
The current offensive underway against Medicare by Paul Ryan and the House Republican majority is well known. Less well known is the somewhat hidden undermining of Medicare in the 2010 Obama health bill that will take effect in a few more years and cost retirees a significant increase in out-of-pocket costs and caps on benefits. In contrast to Medicare, Social Security retirement and disability programs were, according to the Washington political consensus, to be delayed from cuts until after the November 2012 elections. But there is new evidence that the growing coziness between Obama and mainstream Republicans, on the one hand, and corporate interests on the other is about to result in a new offensive against Social Security before the 2012 elections. What this means is that the “old age retirement” benefits fund as well as the “disability insurance” fund programs of Social Security are now, like Medicare, about to become prime targets for cuts in the 2012 budget this fall.

The assault on the disability fund is already well underway. Disability benefits administrative law judges, who decide on granting long-term disability benefits under Social Security, have recently come under intense attack for being “too generous” in granting permanent benefits to the disabled. The new offensive was initiated in the wake of a May 19 Wall Street Journal editorial attacking disability administrative judge, David Daugherty. In the wake of the Journal opening salvo, Republicans and Democrats in the House quickly joined forces calling for an investigation of disability benefits judges in general. In response to the House investigation, the offensive quickly turned even more aggressive. It has now taken on the character of a criminal probe. All this, no doubt, will have a “chilling effect” on decisions to grant benefits by judges. The cost cutting has already begun.

The disability benefits trust fund is a prime and easy target from which to attack Social Security across the board. The disability fund pays out $124 billion in benefits to 10.2 million in 2010. That’s a juicy cost-cutting plum.

Rumors abounded that Obama’s “golf summit” with House Majority Republican Leader John Boehner would discuss Social Security cuts as part of a larger “understanding” of broad federal budget cutting in the 2012 budget, starting next October. Obama is clearly willing to use Social Security as a bargaining chip now, instead of waiting for a second term.

Obama’s new “soft” position on Social Security in general was evident in his last December 2010 decision to reduce the payroll tax by 2 percent for workers. That resulted in more than $100 billion shortfall in revenue for Social Security this year alone, when the chronic jobless problem – 24 million still out of work – for three years now has already meant a major falloff in Social Security revenues for its various funds for the first time in decades. The 2 percent cut in the payroll tax was supposed to boost consumption, but it hasn’t. Estimates are that 60 percent of the 2 percent payroll tax cut last December has already been absorbed by oil companies to pay for $4 a gallon gasoline.

Not deterred by this fact, the Obama administration, nonetheless, in recent weeks has begun floating the idea of cutting the employers’ 6.2 percent share of the payroll tax, giving yet more income to business that has been sitting on a cash hoard of $2 trillion and not investing in the US and creating jobs. The logic of why corporations need still more cash from a payroll tax cut in order to invest is unconvincing. This second cut will drive the Social Security retirement and disability funds further in the red, making it even more convenient for those who argue for cuts now instead of after 2012.

With the imminent new offensive against Social Security “in the air,” groups like the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) last week did an about-face. AARP led the defense against Bush Jr.’s attempts to privatize Social Security last decade. Now, however, they are jumping on the cut Social Security retirement benefits bandwagon. As the Wall St. Journal recently gleefully noted, AARP “is dropping its long standing opposition to cutting Social Security benefits, a move that could rock Washington’s debate over how to revamp the nation’s entitlement programs.” Does anyone believe AARP hasn’t discussed this already with the Obama team, that some kind of new consensus to cut early and deep is being formed?

The most recent report by the Trustees of the Social Security program stated that the retirement benefits trust would run out of revenue to provide full benefits to retirees in 2038, when only 77 percent of benefit levels could be paid. The Medicare trust will run out of funds for full benefits earlier, in 2018.

The Obama-Republican-Corporate Solutions

Republicans, Obama and Corporate interests are proposing to “solve” the Social Security retirement/disability benefits and Medicare benefits problems with the following measures:

  1. Raise the retirement age to 70, which would cover 28 percent of the projected shortfall.
  2. Eliminate the annual cost-of-living benefit increases for retirement benefits, which would cover another 23 percent.
  3. Make new state and local government workers go into the Social Security system instead of receiving negotiated state-local pension plans, saving another 7 percent.
  4. Reduce benefits for middle-income retirees and significantly for higher income retirees, raising another 39 percent.

Those four measures would amount to 97 percent of the projected shortfall and make the retirement benefits trust fund “solvent” past mid-century.

For Medicare, their proposals are not to maintain benefits, but to reduce them by various measures while raising the costs for the reduced benefits. These include:

  1. Cap government payments while prices are allowed to rise. Or, as in the Ryan plan, give retirees vouchers to buy insurance that is “capped” as well while insurance rates rise.
  2. Raise the amount of monthly premiums by double or more. Currently, retirees must pay between $95-$115 for doctors’ costs coverage and an additional amount per month to cover only part of prescription drugs. Combined premiums will, thus, rise to $250-$300 per month. And that’s not counting higher deductibles and copays for doctors and drugs.

The Real Causes of the Social Security-Medicare Funding “Crisis”

The shortfall in the Social Security retirement benefits fund and disability fund are due first and foremost to the chronic lack of job creation and, thus, payroll tax revenue generation, for more than a decade now. Today, fewer are employed in the US than in 2000. The 2001 recession resulted in loss of jobs followed by weak job creation for the following four years. The 2007-11 recessions resulted in 24-27 million lost jobs and continuing weak job creation for more than three years now. These cyclical job losses were combined with chronic structural job losses at the same time: multinational corporations created three million jobs offshore and reduced 2.4 million jobs in the US. In addition, for those with jobs, wage gains have been lagging for a decade as well. That adds up to less payroll tax revenue as well. Then on top if it all, Obama cuts the payroll tax and is about to propose even more cuts in the payroll tax.

As for Medicare’s shortfall in funding, the problem has several dimensions. First, the same payroll tax of 1.45 percent for the employee and for employer is ridiculously low. Where else are 47 million recipients of medical care covered for so small a tax? The typical employer-provided health insurance in contrast costs more than 20-24 percent, the equivalent of a typical worker’s monthly paycheck. That’s ten times more expensive. And the benefit coverage is often far less. The other major problem with the Medicare fund’s shortfall is rising health insurance premiums and other health care costs for the past 15 years. And there’s no solution to rising health costs in Obama’s 2010 health care bill whatsoever.

Alternative Solutions to the Social Security-Medicare Funding “Crisis”

Solving either of the funding shortfalls, for Social Security retirement-disability or for Medicare, is not very difficult.

  1. Eliminate the current cap of $106,800 on earnings for the 12.4 percent. This would raise revenue to cover 86 percent of the projected shortfall for the next 75 years.
  2. Raise the payroll tax rate by 1 percent more, both for employee and employer, to 14.4 percent, in stages over the next 20 years. That would cover another 63 percent of the shortfall. That’s just under 150 percent of what is needed.
  3. Use the excess 50 percent funding to reduce the retirement age to 65 for everyone, instead of the current 67. That would open up more jobs for young workers, who are suffering the worst unemployment as more older workers are forced by economic conditions to continue working past 67 or are forced to re-enter the labor force just to pay their bills.
  4. The Medicare shortfall can be solved simply by raising the 2.9 percent Medicare payroll tax by 0.25 percent for workers and employers each for the next ten years, then another 0.25 percent each for the second decade. That’s  0.5 percent now and another 0.5 percent ten years from now.
  5. To sum up, what this amounts to is a simple 1 percent more each, employee and employer, for Social Security retirement, and another immediate 0.5 percent each for Medicare, applied to all “earned” incomes (wages and salary = “earned”). In short, make all earned incomes pay the same – and the so-called “great crisis” in entitlement funding disappears. These estimates, by the way, are from the Social Security administration’s own calculations.
  6. Better and simpler yet, make everyone pay the 14.4 percent and 3.4 percent, not just those “earning” wages and salaries. Make all forms of capital incomes (capital gains, dividends, interest, rents etc.) pay the 14.4 percent and 3.4 percent – and you not only solve the so-called “entitlement funding crisis” for the remainder of this century, but you have now raised enough revenue to pay for single-payer health care for all as well.

But you won’t hear these ideas and solutions coming off the “golf course summit” between Obama and Boehner this week.

Obama Increases Number of Prisons, Cops May 12, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice.
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Rady Ananda, www.opednews.com, May 12, 2009

President Obama’s 2010 budget proposes $105 million for two new federal prisons. The new budget will also add $3 billion to the Department of Justice budget from 2008 figures, putting 50,000 more cops on the payroll.  That might be necessary since he continues to bailout billionaires and millionaires, while allowing more homeowners to become homeless.   

Though only comprising 5% of the world’s population, the US jails more citizens, in raw numbers and as a percent, than any other nation on the planet.  Obama proposes to jail another 3,000 citizens, devoting scarce dollars to the prison industrial complex. 

To highlight some prison fun facts from a prior article:

 

The US convicts people of color at rates far above those for whites, and for longer terms.  In 2006, the incarceration rate per 100,000 for whites was 409, and 2,468 for blacks.  That’s an imprisonment rate of nearly 3 in 100 for blacks, or six times higher than for whites.    With the federal government’s war on drug users, women now comprise a growing portion of those imprisoned.  In 1925, the US jailed one in 100,000 women; in 2006, the US jailed one in 746 women. 

In the economically distressed town of Mendota, California, formerly an agriculture community, Mendota officials see economic opportunity in jailing people.  With over $49 million in federal funds, the new prison scheduled to open in 2010 will employ only 314 people.  No one is sure how many, if any, of them will be Mendota citizens. 

Under Obama’s proposed federal prison budget, West Virginia will take the remaining $55 million for a new federal prison. 

Obama Breaks (Another) Campaign Promise: on AIDS May 9, 2009

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WASHINGTON  – U.S. President Barack Obama’s failure to lift a federal funding ban on syringe exchange — a policy that allows intravenous drug users to swap used needles for clean ones — is a blow to AIDS-prevention efforts, says a global health group.

 

[AIDS activists rally in support of US President Barack Obama in Washington, DC., last November. President Obama's failure to lift a federal funding ban on syringe exchange -- a policy that allows intravenous drug users to swap used needles for clean ones -- is a blow to AIDS-prevention efforts, says a global health group. (AFP/Paul J. Richards)]AIDS activists rally in support of US President Barack Obama in Washington, DC., last November. President Obama’s failure to lift a federal funding ban on syringe exchange — a policy that allows intravenous drug users to swap used needles for clean ones — is a blow to AIDS-prevention efforts, says a global health group.(AFP/Paul J. Richards)

Although Obama pledged on the campaign trail to overturn the federal ban on funding for syringe exchange, he refrained from doing so in his proposed 2010 budget. “Providing clean syringes is proven to be one of the most effective public health interventions since the polio vaccine,” said Jennifer Flynn, managing director of Health Global Access Project (GAP). “It is clear that it works, but yet, we now have to wait for Congress to act to have the freedom to use every possible resource to make it widely available.” (See Health GAP’s full statement below.)
 

Overall, U.S. health advocates were extremely disappointed by the health provisions in the president’s 2010 budget, unveiled yesterday. “Our analysis of the information provided by the White House today show that the president’s FY10 global health budget essentially flat-lines support for global health and ignores the president’s campaign promises to fully fund PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and to provide a fair-share contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB [tuberculosis], and Malaria,” said Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance. “This proposal is even worse than we had feared,” added Christine Lubinski, director of the Center for Global Health Policy. “With this spending request, Obama has broken his campaign promise to provide 1 billion dollars a year in new money for global AIDS, and he has overlooked the growing threat of tuberculosis.”

Just after Obama’s election, AIDS activists spoke of high hopes for a renewed U.S. commitment to fighting the disease. Last month, however, a U.S. health care foundation said Obama’s first official plan to fight domestic HIV/AIDS “falls far short” of what is needed to confront the growing epidemic. The $45 million media campaign, launched in early April, aims to raise awareness about domestic HIV/AIDS over the next five years. “If this proposal is any indication of how President Obama and his Administration intend to address the AIDS epidemic domestically or globally, we are deeply disappointed,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

* * *

PRESIDENT BREAKS ANOTHER CAMPAIGN PROMISE

From: Health Global Access Project (GAP)

Federal Ban on Funding for Syringe Exchange Remains in Budget

Washington, DC — President Obama’s budget does not follow through on one of his key campaign commitments – to lift the ban on federal funding for syringe access. Before and since taking office, President Obama has repeatedly asserted his support for syringe exchange programs. This latest disappointment comes on the heels of a newly announced six-year global health initiative that would actually reduce spending on global AIDS by $6.6 billion.

“Providing clean syringes is proven to be one of the most effective public health interventions since the polio vaccine. It is clear that it works, but yet, we now have to wait for Congress to act to have the freedom to use every possible resource to make it widely available,” said Jennifer Flynn, Managing Director of Health GAP. Flynn lost a family member in 2005 to hepatitis C contracted from sharing used syringes. “If needle exchange programs were around when my cousin was injecting heroin, he would be alive today. President Obama could have done something simple to save lives. Now Congress needs to take action,” she continued.

Jeff Crowley, national AIDS czar, said that the “President doesn’t think policy should be done in the budget process.” However, the federal ban on funding syringe exchange is housed in each annual appropriations bill, and must be removed from there to allow federal funds to go to these lifesaving programs. Removing the language would allow syringe exchange to be included in the HIV prevention toolkit, and as a result, HIV infections would be reduced. Crowley continued to say that syringe access will be discussed during the National AIDS Strategy. When asked for the time frame of this plan, he said that they are working on it as we speak and did not commit to a final due date. “When you are dealing with the containing the spread of a deadly virus, and you know something works, you don’t need to wait for a “strategy” as well. Taking your time to develop a National AIDS Strategy is no excuse for NOT implementing lifesaving public policy now. Furthermore by NOT taking action, President Obama did set policy on this issue. The right thing to do is to remove the ban in the budget so that we can discuss using federal funds for this lifesaving program,” said Kaytee Riek, Director of Organizing for Health GAP.

The federal ban on syringe access does not formally apply to programs outside of the United States, but under the previous administration, the ban became policy for foreign aid funding as well. That has meant that countries receiving funding from US-supported programs fighting AIDS could not use it to pay for syringe access programs.

“It is sad that my President broke his campaign promise by leaving the funding ban in the budget. Congress must now act and lift the funding ban when they take up the budget next week.” said Jose DeMarco, Health GAP Board member, long-time member of ACT UP Philadelphia and founder of Proyecto Sol Filadelphia.

The Obama Mandate: End Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs February 19, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
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Jodi Jacobson on February 18, 2009

www.rhrealitycheck.org

Republicans these days are very, very deeply concerned about “wasteful government spending.”  House Minority Leader John Boehner complained about wasteful spending in the stimulus.  Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana stated: “More big government spending…won’t cure what ails the American economy.”  House Republican Whip Eric Kantor made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows talking “waste, waste, waste.”  And now, according to the New York Times, the National Republican Congressional Committee is launching ads blasting House Democrats on the stimulus bill, which it ridicules as “chockfull of wasteful Washington spending.”

You know what?  I agree.  Let’s get rid of that wasteful Washington spending.

And I have a concrete suggestion that will save over $200 million in cold hard cash right away, plus billions of dollars in future healthcare and related economic costs!

Sound too good to be true?  

Really, it’s not a gimmick.  It’s very simple: We just need to zero out funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in the next budget cycle.

These programs don’t work to reduce sexual activity in teens, they don’t work to reduce sexually transmitted infections and they don’t work to reduce unintended pregnancies.

What is worse, they waste money both on the front end and the back end: The failure of these programs to effectively contribute to preventing unintended pregnancies and infections from the outset actually costs more money in the long run.  In 2004, for example, teen childbearing in the United States cost taxpayers at least $9.1 billion, never mind the costs of sexually transmitted infections.  So by investing in abstinence-only programs, taxpayers actually are losing billions at a rapid clip.

So it’s easy.  Eliminate the funding; we all save money now and money later.  

Given the general concern about wasteful spending, the desire to ensure the prudent investments of taxpayer funds in ways that yield positive benefits, concerns about rising health care costs, and the now-overwhelming evidence that abstinence-only programs don’t work, one might assume it will be easy to reach bipartisan agreement that abstinence-only programs, like the bridges to nowhere of the past,  should just be cut.  No bickering, no posturing…pure and simple.  Should be easy.

We will soon find out.

Given they control the White House and Congress, the ball actually is in the Democrats’ court for now.  Several observers have suggested it may be too late to remove funding for abstinence-only from the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 appropriations bill, which has yet to be passed and which will likely be rolled into a giant omnibus bill to be dealt with by Congress.  (Although given their concerns, perhaps the Republicans will offer an amendment to take it out?)

But President Obama is expected to release his first federal budget request, for FY 2010, at the end of February, and the pressure is on to eliminate ab-only funding in this next fiscal cycle.  A number of leading advocacy groups, including Advocates for Youth and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US (SIECUS) have launched campaigns urging President Obama to do just that.  Both point to promises made by Obama during the campaign and in his inaugural speech to put an end to these programs, and to ensure evidence drives public policy.  (To take action see Advocates for Youth here, and SIECUS here).

Candidate Obama, for example, “firmly oppose(d) federal funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.”  He also declared support for “comprehensive sex education that is age-appropriate,” and asserted that providing “science-based sex education in schools [is] the right thing to do.”  As a Senator, he was a co-sponsor of the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act, which would provide funding for comprehensive, medically accurate sex education, and the Prevention First Act which supports efforts to reduce unintended pregnancy and increase access to contraceptive services and information.  Moreover, during the transition, a Congressional liaison from the President-Elect’s transition team reportedly communicated directly to congressional leaders Obama’s firm opposition to continued funding for abstinence-only programs, expressing again his full support for comprehensive approaches.

Still, many advocates want Obama to make this crystal clear when he releases his budget and not, according to fears expressed by some, just give “broad guidance to Congress” as he did with the stimulus package.   They want the White House to make its priorities known.  James Wagoner, President of Advocates for Youth, notes that:

“What President Obama does on abstinence-only-until-marriage funding in his first budget will be the flagship signal for young people regarding the President’s credibility on reproductive and sexual health issues.  Obama was explicitly supportive of comprehensive sex education and science-based approaches to public policy during his campaign.  This budget must zero out abstinence-only funding.  It simply has to go.”

The majority of Americans apparently agree with Wagoner and the President on comprehensive programming.  According to a study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, originally published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, the majority of American adults (80.4 percent) favor a balanced approach to sex education in schools, regardless of their political leanings.  The survey gauged strong support for teaching children about both abstinence and other ways of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  And, as Wagoner points out, support for the stimulus package proposed by the President polled 20 points higher among 18 to 29 year olds then the rest of the population, indicating the very high level of political support among young adult voters for “doing the right thing.”

And here is where it gets a little complicated.

First of all, under the Bush Administration, funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs rose from $97.5 million in 2000 to $215 million in 2008.  The funding kept rising, even when Democrats were in control of Congress, and even after numerous studies, including a federally-funded evaluation conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and published in April 2007, showed that these programs were ineffective.  The Mathematica study reviewed four carefully selected abstinence-only education programs, and showed that youth enrolled in the programs were no more likely than those not in the programs to delay sexual initiation, to have fewer sexual partners, or to abstain entirely from sex.

Still, the programs retained strong support from powerful organizations, like the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and from a wide array of conservative evangelical groups receiving federal funds to promote abstinence-only.  As a result, some members of Congress, including Congressman David Obey, Chair of the Appropriations Committee, have been reluctant to cut such funding in the past.  Obey, for one, comes from a heavily Catholic district near Milwaukee.  Absent a clear message from the White House that the days of abstinence-only are over, some fear that members like Obey may not remove this funding from the House appropriations bill. 

And if the stimulus debacle was any indication, we can anticipate that, despite their concern for waste in government, at least a few Republican leaders will try to twist the debate on funding of abstinence-only programs until the facts lay in tatters on the green room floors of cable stations across the land.  If that happens, then other members, even Democrats, may feel pressured to act against both the evidence and that ever-invoked “will of the American people” just to mollify the loudest in the farthest right.

Because of these complicated politics, nothing is guaranteed.  To ensure the House does the right thing, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a strong supporter of evidence-based programs, needs to use her leadership role and make clear to her members from the outset that the goal is to end funding for these programs once and for all. 

Second, there is no line item for comprehensive sexual health education in the federal budget, and bills proactively supporting these programs have yet to be passed.  Related programs also desperately need additional funding.  According to Bill Smith, Vice President for Public Policy at SIECUS:

“The challenge is not just about getting rid of funding for abstinence-only programs, it’s also about fulfilling the committment to fund comprehensive sex education, increasing HIV prevention and Title X funding and about increased funding for the broader reproductive and sexual health services needed by people throughout this country.”

So to really fulfill his own mandate, Obama has to cut out money for programs that don’t work and proactively fund programs that do work, and which people urgently need, like family planning, sexual health education, HIV prevention and the rest. 

For now, however, abstinence-only remains a boondoggle and a dangerous one at that.  Originally reported by Joe Sonka on Amplify, an Advocates for Youth site, and then on RH Reality Check, one such program supported by $800,000 of your tax dollars pays a clown with dubious credentials (ok, I admit I do not know the full curriculum at clown school) to teach adolescents about “saving sex for marriage.”  Great for that first birthday party, but not so much for safer sex, unless he teaches creative use of the balloons.  And even then I am not so sure.  But clearly the content of this program was embarrassing enough that once exposed, both the clown, and Elizabeth’s New Life Center, lucky recipient of all these funds, removed information regarding the program from their respective web sites.

And while the clown example may provide fodder for late-night television comedy, other programs engage in dangerous reinforcement of attitudes and behaviors that denigrate women, blacks, hispanics and homosexuals.  For example, another program uncovered by Amplify, again in Ohio, involved a video role-play of four teens at a party, one of whom, a female, offers to drive her drunk (male) friend home.  When he rapes her, the role-play blames her for “putting herself in a risky situation” and for “having a reputation,” suggesting her claims of rape are suspect.  So this program actually blames the victim for the rape, and dismisses the guy’s behavior as a “boys will be boys” escapade.  Apparently strength of conviction by the organization running this program about the video dissipated as fast as you could say “blog post,” because once again, the video got changed right after the program was exposed.  Shows you what a little “transparency” might find.

Reinforcement of prejudicial attitudes, bias and discrimination based on race and sexual identity also are rife within these programs, many of which are subject to little if any oversight for content.  A report by Legal Momentum, for example, found that many federally funded abstinence-only programs discourage condom use, distort reproductive health information, and reinforce harmful gender stereotypes.  “Many programs also perpetuate sexist and racist stereotypes about women of color,” adds the report.  

One example is ’The Choice Game’ which:

“Has a ‘Midwest School version’ that features 95 percent white students and an ‘urban school version,’ featuring ‘55% African-American actors, 24% Hispanic actors and the remaining are Caucasian.’  The urban version contains stereotypes of African-American women as sexually aggressive and as drug users, and of African-American men as likely to end up in jail.  In sharp contrast, the Midwest materials depict white students working to maintain their ‘traditional values.’”

Reports by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union reveal similar findings.  And a 2004 report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that

“over 80% of the abstinence-only curricula, used by over two-thirds of grantees [reviewed] in 2003, contain false, misleading, or distorted information about reproductive health.” 

In short, the programs reviewed by the Committee took an industrial-size eraser to the line between separation of church and state, relying on heavy does of prosyletizing and religious content to get their ineffective messages across.

Finally, a report by Douglas Kirby, a Senior Research Scientist at ETR Associates conducted for the National Campaign to Reduce Teen Pregnancy stated that:

At present, there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners. In addition, there is strong evidence from multiple randomized trials demonstrating that some abstinence programs chosen for evaluation because they were believed to be promising actually had no impact on teen sexual behavior. That is, they did not delay the initiation of sex, increase the return to abstinence or decrease the number of sexual partners. At the same time, they did not have a negative impact on the use of condoms or other contraceptives.  Studies of abstinence programs have not produced sufficient evidence to justify their widespread dissemination.

What more do we need to know to avoid putting several hundred million more dollars through a giant shredder?

In this new era of citizen participation, accountability, and respect for  evidence and human rights, it is up to us to ensure our elected officials get rid of this particular barrel of pork.

“On one hand,” says Marcela Howell, Vice President of Policy and Communications at Advocates for Youth, 

“We have a Democratic President who has pledged to get rid of this spending.  We have a majority of Democrats in Congress who have publicly stated opposition to this funding, and we have a Republican party on the hunt for wasteful spending.  It seems like an easy decision.”

It should be easy.  But to be honest, given this situation, if we can’t mobilize enough grassroots strength to ensure the President and Congress get rid of these funds, bring back the clown because the joke is on us.