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Contraception Misdirection
A universal birth-control mandate is a curious priority for a dying republic.

(The White House/Pete Souza)

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Mark Steyn

Testifying before Congress, Timmy Geithner referred only to “demographic challenges” — an oblique allusion to the fact that the U.S. economy is about to be terminally clobbered by $100 trillion of entitlement obligations it can never meet. And, as Chart 5-1 on page 58 of the official Obama budget “Analytical Perspectives” makes plain, your feckless, decadent rulers have no plans to do anything about it. Instead, the Democrats shriek, Ooh, Republican prudes who can’t get any action want to shut down your sex life! According to CBO projections, by mid-century mere interest payments on the debt will exceed federal revenues. For purposes of comparison, by 1788 Louis XVI’s government in France was spending a mere 60 percent of revenues on debt service, and we know how that worked out for His Majesty shortly thereafter. Not to worry, says Barry Antoinette. Let them eat condoms.

This is a very curious priority for a dying republic. “Birth control” is accessible, indeed ubiquitous, and, by comparison with anything from a gallon of gas to basic cable, one of the cheapest expenses in the average budget. Not even Rick Santorum, that notorious scourge of the sexually liberated, wishes to restrain the individual right to contraception.

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But where is the compelling societal interest in the state prioritizing and subsidizing it? Especially when you’re already the Brokest Nation in History. Elsewhere around the developed world, prudent politicians are advocating natalist policies designed to restock their empty maternity wards. A few years ago, announcing tax incentives for three-child families, Peter Costello, formerly Timmy Geithner’s counterpart Down Under, put it this way: “Have one for Mum, one for Dad, and one for Australia.” But in America an oblivious political class, led by a president who characterizes young motherhood as a “punishment,” prefers to offer solutions to problems that don’t exist rather than the ones that are all too real. I think this is what they call handing out condoms on the Titanic.

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, distills the current hysteria thus: “It’s as if we passed a law requiring mosques to sell bacon and then, when people objected, responded by saying ‘What’s wrong with bacon? You’re trying to ban bacon!!!!’”

Americans foolish enough to fall for the Democrats’ crude bit of misdirection can hardly complain about their rendezvous with the sharp end of that page-58 budget graph. People are free to buy bacon, and free to buy condoms. But the state has no compelling interest to force either down your throat. The notion that an all-powerful government would distract from its looming bankruptcy by introducing a universal contraceptive mandate would strike most novelists as almost too pat in its symbolism. It’s like something out of Brave New World. Except that it’s cowardly, and, like so much else about the sexual revolution, very old and wrinkled.

Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2012 Mark Steyn



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