Politics & Policy

The War on Children

President Barack Obama campaigns with Sandra Fluke in Denver, August 8, 2012.
We’re leaving them with a transgenerational bill unknown to human history.

The Democratic party, never inclined to look a gift horse in the mouth, does have a tendency to flog him to death. So it is with a fellow called Todd Akin, a GOP Senate candidate who unburdened himself of some ill-advised thoughts on abortion and “legitimate rape,” and put Missouri back in play for the Democrats. Less ambitious political parties would be content with that little windfall, but the Dems have decided to make — what’s his name again? Oh, yeah — this guy Akin the face of the Republican party. I mean, Mitt pretty much sees “venture capitalism” as a fancy term for legitimate rape, right?

California’s Barbara Boxer opened the bidding this week in her familiar low-key style. “There is a war against women, and Romney and Ryan — if they are elected — would become its top generals,” Senator Boxer told a Planned Parenthood meeting. “There is a sickness out there in the Republican party, and I’m not kidding. Maybe they don’t like their moms or their first wives.” Reichsmarschall Romney and Generalissimo Ryan are both still married to their first wives, so it must be the moms. No wonder Ryan wants to throw his off a cliff.

To win the “war on women,” the party’s general staff are planning their own Normandy invasion, adding to their convention line-up a host of stellar “pro-choice” speakers, including Desperate Housewife Eva Longoria, Planned Parenthood’s head honchette Cecile Richards, NARAL Pro-Choice America abortion supremo Nancy Keenan, and Georgetown Law’s contraceptive coed Sandra Fluke. President Obama’s lavishly remunerated strategists have presumably run the focus groups and crunched the numbers, but, if I were a moderate, centrist, eternally indecisive swing-voter in a critical state and I switched on the Democrat convention to find a bunch of speakers warning about the threat to your abortion rights I would find it a very curious priority in the summer of 2012.

#ad#None of us can know what the world will be like four years from now, but one thing can be said for certain: An American woman will still enjoy her “right to choose.” Whether one supports or opposes abortion, the practical reality is that the biggest “threat” to your “right” to one is that you might have to drive a little bit further for it. Still, one should never underestimate the peculiar lens through which “progressives” view reality: The “war” on women boils down to Sandra Fluke, a 30-year-old schoolgirl, demanding Georgetown Law should pay for its students’ contraceptives — notwithstanding that the entire cost of that four-year contraceptive bill works out to less than the first week’s paycheck of a Georgetown Law graduate’s first job (average starting salary: $160 grand per year). War is hell.

If you think Barbara Boxer’s right about General Romney’s war on woman, feel free to waste your vote. But what else is likely to happen between now and the next time you cast a presidential ballot? We’ve rehearsed the fiscal stuff in this space before: China becoming the world’s biggest economy, another American downgrade, total U.S. liabilities equivalent to about three times the entire planet’s GDP. A “non-partisan” Pew Research study says the American middle class faces its “worst decade in modern history” — and the first bump down starts on January 1: The equally “non-partisan” Congressional Budget Office now says that the tax and budget changes due to take effect at the beginning of 2013 will put the country back in recession and increase unemployment. This is a revision of their prediction earlier this year that in 2013 the economy would contract by 1.3 percent. Now they say 2.9 percent. These days, CBO revisions only go one way — down. They’re gonna need steeper graph paper. In a global economy, atrophy goes around like syphilis in the Gay Nineties: A moribund U.S. economy further mires Europe, and both slow growth in China, which means fewer orders for resource-rich nations. . . . Four wheels spinning in the mud, and none with a firm-enough grip to pull the vehicle back on to solid ground.

Oh, well, it was like that in the Thirties and then, as the ever-optimistic Paul Krugman likes to trill, the Second World War came along to stimulate the economy. Given that in Afghanistan the U.S. and its allies have just taken eleven years to lose to goatherds with fertilizer, I’m not sure I’d want to bet on the global-conflagration chips falling our way next time round.

But don’t worry, Obamacare will “lower costs.” Since passage of the bill in 2010, the CBO has revised its estimate of Obamacare’s gross costs over ten years. Can you guess in which direction, boys and girls? Yes, up from $944 billion to $1.856 trillion. That’s some “revision.” I wonder where it’ll be in another two years.

#page#Well, I’m not the CBO, but I’ll take a wild guess: Obamacare is going to be expensive on a scale unknown to European health systems. Look around you. Americans are not Swedes. Obesity rate in the United States: 36 percent; Sweden: 9.7 percent; Japan: 3.2 percent; China: 2.9 percent; India: 0.7 percent. Ours is a country where 78 million people (or about the entire population of Germany) are classified by the Centers for Disease Control as “obese” — including over 40 million women. If 40 million women have it, isn’t that a “women’s health” issue? Perhaps even a bigger “women’s health” issue than the right of thirtysomething students to free contraception? It’s the first thing the average American of, say, 1950 would notice if you catapulted him forward from his mid-century Main Street to today: not how amazing all these computer gizmos are, but how large and sick today’s Americans look.

#ad#As George Will pointed out this week, nanny-state solutions (such as Michelle Obama’s current campaign to get us all nibbling organic endives) don’t work: Overweight kids in schools with high-calorie junk food, 35.5 percent; overweight kids in schools that banned all the bad stuff, 34.8 percent. Indeed, the bloating of government, of entitlements, of debt, and the increase in obesity track each other pretty closely over the last four decades. If all those debt graphs showing how we’ve looted our future to bribe the present are too complicated for you, look out the window: We are our own walking (or waddling) metaphor for consumption unmoored from production. And, to the Chinese and many others around the world pondering whether America has the self-discipline to get its house in order, a trip to the mall provides its own answer.

So we can’t fight a war in Afghanistan, but we can fight a “war on women” that only exists in upscale liberal feminists’ heads. We can’t do anything about exploding rates of childhood obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, but, if you define “health care” as forcing a Catholic institution to buy $8 contraception for the scions of wealth and privilege, we’re right on top of it. And above all, we’re doing it for the children, if by “doing it” you mean leaving them with a transgenerational bill unknown to human history — or engaging in what Boston University’s Larry Kotlikoff, speaking at the International Institute of Public Finance in Dresden last week, called “child fiscal abuse.”

If that sounds a trifle overheated, how about . . . hmm, “legitimate fiscal rape”? No? Then let’s call it a “war on children.” Unlike the “war on women,” it’s real.

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

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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