When the House of Representatives voted two weeks ago to end federal grants and contracts for Planned Parenthood, it was doing more than merely expressing congressional revulsion against a notorious and scandal-plagued organization. It was deciding that American taxpayers should not be saddled with even more outrageous debt to fund an extraordinarily wealthy nonprofit.
As a consequence, what is now at stake in the funding fight over the nation’s largest abortion business is not just a dispute over social policy. It’s not even just a dispute over an organization that has been a sacred cow for decades. It’s about a whole herd of sacred cows. In fact, it’s about the whole farm: If a new Congress elected on a pledge to halt skyrocketing spending and deficits can’t cut the gold-plated panjandrums at Planned Parenthood, it can’t cut anything.
For economic and social conservatives alike, Rep. Mike Pence’s Planned Parenthood defunding amendment is a defining moment. The facts are so familiar that the emergency they represent can be lost in special interest politics, but they are worth rehearsing one more time. President Obama has added $3 trillion to the federal debt over the past two years. The current fiscal year is nearly halfway gone. When it’s over another $1.6 trillion will be added to the tab our nation is running up for its children and grandchildren.
Sometime in the next few weeks, Congress will vote to raise the debt limit because we have maxed out on the $14 trillion in borrowing that has already been authorized. For the average American family, the federal government has now borrowed more than $100,000 on its behalf, funds it will take generations to pay back. By 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office, annual interest payments alone on the national debt will equal non-defense discretionary spending, making the “Department of Interest Payments” — DIP for short — the second largest in the whole federal behemoth.
Against a mountain of debt like this, backhoes are needed, not teaspoons. If American workers are to have any chance of cutting this mountain down to size without turning over all their earnings in taxes, dozens of federal programs, and even a department or two, must be on the table. No program can be off limits. It’s not just the money, of course, it’s the scope of government that must be rethought. Right now, no corner of American life, from the kind of light bulbs we can buy to the toilets in our houses, has been left alone by our overreaching national government.
For these reasons and more, Planned Parenthood should be at the head of the cut list. To begin with, as Chuck Donovan at the Heritage Foundation has pointed out, Planned Parenthood is awash in net income. From 2002 to 2007, the national organization and its affiliates took in $388 million more than they spent on programs and services. No doubt the group lost some of that money in the same kinds of investments that disappointed the rest of us, but that has not prevented it from paying its president more than $337,000 in annual salary and tens of thousands more in benefits and allowances.
Across the country, courageous Republican governors are doing the right thing and taking on tough budget fights. They are asking government workers to pay more for their pensions and health-insurance plans. They are laying off public employees, reducing the number of patrol cars and fire crews, and cutting basic services. Leaving Planned Parenthood at the federal trough, under lobbying pressures that are a fraction of what the Left has thrown at conservative state legislators, sends up a white flag of surrender that will signal the beginning of a fiscal rout.
Planned Parenthood is a prime cut for reasons that should matter to conservatives on other grounds. Over the past few years, as the investigative group Live Action has documented, Planned Parenthood has shown it will accept donations offered up on racist grounds. They routinely fail to obey the law on statutory rape reporting. And now we know that their clinics across the country will condone and cooperate with child sex trafficking. We ask again: If a sparkling new Tea Party Congress won’t cut off this bunch, what will it cut?
Mike Pence’s battle is not just another social-issue skirmish. It’s a test of economic and budgetary seriousness. March 18 and a second continuing resolution are looming. Planned Parenthood must be privatized. Economic and social conservatives agree — this one is non-negotiable.
— Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform. Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the Susan B. Anthony List.