It is a great irony that the same party that had watch over creating the deep recession in which we find ourselves -- largely through excessive spending, particularly on the grand flight of neo-conservative fancy to export and re-plant democracy -- now seems set to reclaim their discredited reputation and once again try to dupe the American public by saying they are fiscal conservatives. What rubbish.
Still, the showdown in the Senate over the remaining Fiscal Year 2009 appropriations has certain members of the Republican party clamoring to cut spending. Senator McCain (R-AZ), for example, sought to have the entire appropriations bill set aside and allow programs to continue at Fiscal Year 2008 levels. That is the same backward thinking that lost him the election. And the ever reliable Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), always seeking to pass judgment on what he sees as "acceptable" public expenditures, is seeking support for a series of amendments to cut "wasteful" spending.
Noticeably absent from Coburn or McCain's list of suggested cuts is the failed abstinence-only-until-marriage funding that remains in the bill. True, this bill cuts the current funding by just over $14 million dollars -- the first cut to these programs in American history -- but a whopping $95 million remains. Expectations are high that President Obama's budget will provide the leadership that zeroes out these funds for Fiscal Year 2010, but we have to get through 2009 first.
If Coburn and the rest of the crew are serious about cutting wasteful spending, why not start with the abstinence-only-until-marriage earmarks in the bill sponsored by Senator Specter, a fellow Republican from Pennsylvania. Yes, the same party that is crying about wasteful spending is not only not going after the failed abstinence-only-until-marriage money that is regularly in the bill, but even the earmarks for these programs in the bill seem to be escaping their attention.
Senator Specter has more than a half-million dollars of abstinence-only-until-marriage earmarks in the bill for projects in his home state. It is no wonder that these dollars escape scrutiny. Abstinence-only-until-marriage money remains a vestige for funneling money to the extreme right wing and in this case, including those who strangely enough oppose Senator Specter's moderate record on reproductive health issues.
For example, two of the intended recipients of these earmarks are for extreme right-wing crisis pregnancy centers: Tender Care Pregnancy Center in Hanover, Pennsylvania and Women's Care Center of Erie County. A quick review of the latter's website (www.wccerie.org) reveals the same sensationalist and deceptive anti-choice rhetoric and scare tactics that have become a hallmark of the agenda of these abstinence-only-until-marriage providers.
But the big question beyond the failed folly of what these dollars fund is why Senator Coburn and his colleagues seem so fit to pass judgment on certain spending projects but not on their own pet programs. Why should we turn a blind eye to the inconsistency of their posturing when they throw an additional $528,000 into the bill, in pork-laden earmarks nonetheless, for failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs? We shouldn't.
It would be laughable if not so tragic because in this case -- it is about young people and their health and lives. But moreover, it is an indication that Senator Coburn and his ilk still did not get the memo on the change the American people are seeking and that these disingenuous attempts to regain the banner of fiscal conservativism should not be allowed to stick. Fiscal conservatism is a principled stand, but where it is put into service to wield ideologically motivated mischief, as it is in this case, the real bearers of the principle should come forward and send the charlatans to the back bench.
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