The talk in Washington this week has been all about the economic stimulus package. Everyday comes with a new round of corporate lay-offs and what were once thought of as pessimistic predictions become reality. While it may not be so obvious living on a small college campus in Northfield, MN, outside of the bubble the crisis is quite evident.
On Wednesday, President Obama announced that there wasn’t a “moment to spare” with regards to Congress passing his stimulus plan. The fear-inducing language worked, and on that same day the House passed the $819 billion package with a vote of 244 to 188. This version of the plan passed by the House now heads to the Senate for approval. The package includes funding for numerous projects including $79 billion to establish a state fiscal stabilization fund, $87 billion to help states close their budget gaps created by Medicaid expenditures, $43 billion in unemployment benefits, and $275 billion in tax cuts.
Missing from the package, however, is the $200 million from the original plan marked to help provide birth control for low-income women. This provision was cut from the package because House Republicans refused to define such a provision as an economic stimulus. They argued that the Democrats were only trying to monopolize on the economic downturn and push their moral agenda, but the Republicans were wrong. The birth control provision would have helped to better living standard’s for those currently suffering - a goal of the stimulus plan. The allocation should have remained in the package
It’s not a question of moral agendas. It is simply a question of economics. The following examples illustrate the general principle on which I make my argument. If you have five miles2 of land and five people, each person gets one mile2 to live off of - this includes space to build a home and grow sustenance. But now imagine that you have ten people for the same five miles2, the amount of room and the amount of food available for each person gets cut in half. Suddenly, they are all worse off and their living standards have decreased. In the second example there were too many people trying to use the available resources and everybody suffered.
Currently, like the land available in the above example, the United States has a limited amount of resources available to assist struggling families. When a household loses its income, as many are doing in these economic times, the state carries the burden of allocating a part of the resources pie to the additional household. It makes it all the worse when parents incapable of providing for their family of four, become a family of five - in some cases not because they choose to but because they cannot afford any form of pregnancy prevention. The additional person represents an additional drain on the state’s resources. We can see this problem in the stimulus package passed on Wednesday. The House allocated billions of additional dollars to fund welfare services such as Medicaid, unemployment, and food stamps. As the number of people in need of these services increases with each additional child born, so does the cost to the state, and in reality, the tax payer. As the cost of these services continues to rise because of additional and sometimes unwanted births, tax payers suffer and money that could otherwise be used for other forms of economic stimulus is drained from the state.
The point is that by providing birth control to lower-income women, the state provides economic relief to everyone in society. Essentially, providing birth control has the same effect as providing the $275 billion in tax relief that Republicans insisted be part of the package. This conversation does not revolve around morality, but instead the serious economic hardship of a society deep into a recession.