Our American Discourse, Ep. 14: Why So Many Women Can’t Access Health Care

In Imperial County, California, just outside San Diego, 5.5 percent of teenage girls become pregnant every year. That’s twice the rate in the rest of the state. This presents two mysteries: Why is teen pregnancy so rampant here when it’s been declining to record lows statewide? And why has it received so little attention? In her recent PhD dissertation, my guest solved both of these mysteries. What she found will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about women’s health care — and the politics that determine whether it’s accessible for all.

In this episode, inspirational speaker and social work professor Melissa Bird brings us face-to-face with American women who form the very bedrock of their communities — and their incredible, invisible struggle to take care of themselves.

Continue reading “Our American Discourse, Ep. 14: Why So Many Women Can’t Access Health Care”

The Money Race: Further Debunking the Billion-Dollar Myth

A couple weeks ago, I debunked the myth that the Obama campaign had raised $1 billion — or that they even had much of an advantage over Romney, once you include party money and Super PACs.

Now it seems that even the prediction that they will eventually raise $1 billion is looking unlikely. According to the latest numbers, they are now behind where they were at this point in 2008, when they raised $750 million:

And the decline isn’t confined to one or two industries. It’s across the board:

It’s worth noting that the Republicans’ plans to eviscerate Medicare and Social Security have not been lost on retired donors, just as their anti-contraception, pro-invasive-vaginal-probe crusade has driven women further into the arms of the Obama campaign.

But those gains aren’t nearly enough to keep up with Republicans’ Super PACs:

“They clearly are feeling the pressure,” said one major Obama fund-raiser, who asked for anonymity to characterize his conversations with campaign officials. “They’re behind where they expected to be. You have to factor in $500 million-plus in Republican super PAC money.

On the other hand, the Obama campaign didn’t have to wage war in the primaries, so they have more cash on hand than they had in 2008. But that will dry up fast, and they’ll be left with a big hole to fill:

To raise as much money for his campaign as he did four years ago, the president would have to raise about $70 million a month through the end of the election cycle, more than triple the rate he has been bringing in cash so far.

So campaign spending will probably decline as a percent of GDP for this election, which isn’t surprising since 2008 was a little above the norm. Contrary to popular belief, however, 2008 was not the most expensive election ever, relative to the size of the economy:

So, while we’re debunking myths, we can add the “money has taken over presidential elections” myth to the list. The truth is that money was always important — even more so in 1896, 1908, 1932, and 1968. As I said last month:

Policy is made by the elite. Always has been.

You can overturn Citizens United. You can ban Super PACs. You can even institute public financing of elections. But you can’t take money out of politics.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try. I’m saying this problem predates Super PACs. It goes so much deeper than lobbying and campaign contributions. The elite have always had the ear of Congress. They have always been Congress. They have always owned the media. They have always controlled the conversationAnd they do not speak for us.

What remains to be seen is how Super PACs will change this equation. Based on the numbers above, it looks like they’ll be almost as powerful as the campaigns themselves…

What to Read on Rick Santorum

Who Is Rick Santorum? — The Atlantic

Homosexuality, abortion and family values have been the signature issues of Santorum’s career, rising to prominence as he did during the height of the 1990s culture wars. He authored the partial-birth abortion ban that passed the Senate in 2003. He proposed an amendment to the No Child Left Behind legislation that would have required public-school teachers to discuss the “controversy” surrounding evolution. Remember Terri Schiavo? That was him, too — he was one of the leading voices calling for the federal government to intervene to prevent the Florida woman from being taken off life support amid conflicting family wishes. Santorum decries secularism, hedonism and the idea that different family configurations are equally acceptable, openly pining for a bygone society built around heterosexual marriage and traditional gender roles. In his book, It Takes a Family — intended as a rebuttal to Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village — Santorum blamed “the influence of radical feminism” for the distressing fact that women were finding it “more socially affirming to work outside the home than to give up their careers to take care of their children.”

Santorum is an extreme Iran hawk, arguing that tough action, likely military, is needed to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. In effect, he says, the U.S. has been at war with Iran since 1979, and regime change will be necessary to ensure the country is no longer a threat. Santorum has been pounding this drum for some time. In 2005, he authored a bill to put $10 million toward Iran regime change.

Santorum Rose Quickly From Reformer to Insider — Sheryl Gay Stolberg

Mr. Santorum won election in 1990 to the House by attacking his Democratic opponent for living in Washington while representing Pennsylvania; by 2006 his critics said the same of him. As the third-ranking Senate Republican, he was a point man in a controversial effort to place Republicans in lobbying jobs. And his finances came into question, amid controversy over political donations and tuition money he accepted.

[In college, he] struck professors as ambitious, if more interested in tactics than issues.

“Most students would ask whether a policy would be worth the cost; he was unusual in that he was interested in what would get you the most votes,” Robert O’Connor, a former professor, recalled.

The group [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington] put Mr. Santorum on its list of the “20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress,” and accused him of introducing legislation to benefit political donors.

Santorum: States Should Have the Right to Outlaw Birth Control — Igor Volsky

Santorum has long opposed the Supreme Court’s 1965 ruling “that invalidated a Connecticut law banning contraception” and has also pledged to completely defund federal funding for contraception if elected president. As he [said, “Contraception is] not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

…contraceptive services provided at publicly funded clinics helped prevent almost two million unintended pregnancies. Without funding from Medicaid and Title X, “abortions occurring in the United States would be nearly two-thirds higher among women overall and among teens; the number of unintended pregnancies among poor women would nearly double.”

Santorum Says He Would Bomb Iran’s Nuclear Plants — Michael Ono

Rick Santorum said today that he would be in favor of launching airstrikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

“We will degrade those facilities through airstrikes, and make it very public that we are doing that,” Santorum said…

“On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear program in Iran turn up dead. I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly,” Santorum said…

Among the possible methods for dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat listed on Santorum’s campaign website is treating nuclear scientists working for the Iranians like enemy combatants.

Santorum Hypes Iran “Threat” — Juan Cole

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum warned North Dakota on Wednesday that it was in the cross-hairs of an Iranian attack.

Iran has a small medical research nuclear reactor, which produces nuclear isotopes for use in chemotherapy.

The medical reactor was given to Iran by the United States… The reactor is being regularly inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure it is being used only for civilian purposes.

The reactor actually has no conceivable military purpose, and its fuel, uranium enriched to 19.75 percent, is used up when run through the reactor, so it cannot be used to make a nuclear warhead. Nuclear bombs need the uranium to be enriched to 95 percent…

Top Ten Catholic Teachings Santorum Rejects While Obsessing About Birth Control — Juan Cole

  1. …Pope John Paul II was against anyone going to war against Iraq…
  2. The Conference of Catholic Bishops requires that health care be provided to all Americans.
  3. The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty for criminals in almost all situations.
  4. The US Conference of Bishops has urged that the federal minimum wage be increased, for the working poor.
  5. The bishops want welfare for all needy families…
  6. The US bishops say that “the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions…”
  7. Catholic bishops demand the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967. Rick Santorum denies that there are any Palestinians…
  8. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops ripped into Arizona’s law on treatment of immigrants…
  9. The Bishops have urged that illegal immigrants not be treated as criminals and that their contribution to this country be recognized.
  10. The US Conference of Bishops has denounced, as has the Pope, the Bush idea of ‘preventive war’, and has come out against an attack on Iran in the absence of a real and present threat of an Iranian assault on the US.

Ayatollah Santorum Excommunicates Obama, Mainstream Protestants — Juan Cole

Rick Santorum does not think Episcopalians are Christians.

…he believes the social Gospel and non-literal approaches to the Bible are un-Christian, and he has thrown President Obama out of Christianity along with 45 million other mainline Protestants. Santorum does not believe that the Bible suggests you care for the poor and needy.

In fact, Santorum by declaring the social Gospel to be un-Christian has not only excommunicated liberal Protestants from Christianity, he has excommunicated the majority of American Catholics, along with the US Council of Bishops and the last few popes, all of whom speak of an “option for the poor.”

…he condemns fornication and adultery, but also implicitly revealing clothing. And he is against condoms and birth control pills because in his view they encourage sleeping around (though he doesn’t approve of them for married people either; go figure).

…Santorum’s approach to religion and social policy is reminiscent of Muslim fundamentalist parties…