My Firefox blew up this morning, and it’s taken a while to get it all sorted out. [snarl] So here we go. Ms. Collins, in “The Siege of Planned Parenthood,” says so much for doing something about jobs, jobs, jobs. Our elected officials seem more worried about repealing health care and stopping family-planning services. Of course they are, honey. All our wombs belong to the Talibangelicals. Didn’t you know that? I’m lucky that mine is all old and shriveled up. Mr. Blow, in “The Kindling of Change,” says a check of some data shows Tunisia and Egypt to have a lot of company when it comes to elements that may spark a revolution. Let’s hope so, and that there are peaceful outcomes. Mr. Herbert is “Bewitched by the Numbers,” and says confusing jobless data do not capture the painful economic realities plaguing millions of American families. Sweetie, the jobless data is cooked. Doesn’t include folks who’ve given up. It’s probably closer to 15% than 9%, and I think I’m being VERY conservative in that. Here’s Ms. Collins:
As if we didn’t have enough wars, the House of Representatives has declared one against Planned Parenthood.
Maybe it’s all part of a grand theme. Last month, they voted to repeal the health care law. This month, they’re going after an organization that provides millions of women with both family-planning services and basic health medical care, like pap smears and screening for diabetes, breast cancer, cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.
Our legislative slogan for 2011: Let Them Use Leeches.
“What is more fiscally responsible than denying any and all funding to Planned Parenthood of America?” demanded Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, the chief sponsor of a bill to bar the government from directing any money to any organization that provides abortion services.
Planned Parenthood doesn’t use government money to provide abortions; Congress already prohibits that, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. (Another anti-abortion bill that’s coming up for hearing originally proposed changing the wording to “forcible rape,” presumably under the theory that there was a problem with volunteer rape victims. On that matter at least, cooler heads prevailed.)
Planned Parenthood does pay for its own abortion services, though, and that’s what makes them a target. Pence has 154 co-sponsors for his bill. He was helped this week by an anti-abortion group called Live Action, which conducted a sting operation at 12 Planned Parenthood clinics in six states, in an effort to connect the clinic staff to child prostitution.
“Planned Parenthood aids and abets the sexual abuse and prostitution of minors,” announced Lila Rose, the beautiful anti-abortion activist who led the project. The right wing is currently chock-full of stunning women who want to end their gender’s right to control their own bodies. Homely middle-aged men are just going to have to find another sex to push around.
Live Action hired an actor who posed as a pimp and told Planned Parenthood counselors that he might have contracted a sexually transmitted disease from “one of the girls I manage.” He followed up with questions about how to obtain contraceptives and abortions, while indicating that some of his “girls” were under age and illegally in the country.
One counselor, shockingly, gave the “pimp” advice on how to game the system and was summarily fired when the video came out. But the others seem to have answered his questions accurately and flatly. Planned Parenthood says that after the man left, all the counselors — including the one who was fired — reported the conversation to their supervisors, who called the authorities. (One Arizona police department, the organization said, refused to file a report.)
Still, there is no way to look good while providing useful information to a self-proclaimed child molester, even if the cops get called. That, presumably, is why Live Action chose the scenario.
“We have a zero tolerance of nonreporting anything that would endanger a minor,” said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood. “We do the same thing public hospitals do and public clinics do.”
But here’s the most notable thing about this whole debate: The people trying to put Planned Parenthood out of business do not seem concerned about what would happen to the 1.85 million low-income women who get family-planning help and medical care at the clinics each year. It just doesn’t come up. There’s not even a vague contingency plan.
“I haven’t seen that they want to propose an alternative,” said Richards.
There are tens of millions Americans who oppose abortion because of deeply held moral principles. But they’re attached to a political movement that sometimes seems to have come unmoored from any concern for life after birth.
There is no comparable organization to Planned Parenthood, providing the same kind of services on a national basis. If there were, most of the women eligible for Medicaid-financed family-planning assistance wouldn’t have to go without it. In Texas, which has one of the highest teenage birthrates in the country, only about 20 percent of low-income women get that kind of help. Yet Planned Parenthood is under attack, and the State Legislature has diverted some of its funding to crisis pregnancy centers, which provide no medical care and tend to be staffed by volunteers dedicated to dissuading women from having abortions.
In Washington, the new Republican majority that promised to do great things about jobs, jobs, jobs is preparing for hearings on a bill to make it economically impossible for insurance companies to offer policies that cover abortions. And in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry, faced with an epic budget crisis that’s left the state’s schools and health care services in crisis, has brought out emergency legislation — requiring mandatory sonograms for women considering abortion.
Hypocrisy — with Republicans it’s a feature, not a bug. Always remember that, Gail. Here’s Mr. Blow:
It is impossible to know exactly which embers spark a revolution, but it’s not so hard to measure the conditions that make a country prime for one.
Since the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, speculating about whether the fervor will spread and to which countries has become something of a world-watcher’s parlor game.
So I’ve decided to give over much of my space this week to providing more data for that discussion.
As The New York Times headline declared earlier this week, “Jobs and Age Reign As Factors in Mideast Uprisings.” And the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Index of Democracy has used levels of democracy to identify countries at risk around the world.
These are solid measures, but I would add spending on essentials like food (there is nothing like food insecurity to spur agita), income inequality and burgeoning Internet usage (because the Internet has been crucial to the organization of recent uprisings).
Seen through that prism, Tunisia and Egypt look a lot alike, and Algeria, Iran, Jordan, Morocco and Yemen look ominously similar.
Please, explore for yourself.
Color me unsurprised. Now here’s Mr. Herbert:
The data zealots have utterly discombobulated themselves.
They were expecting something on the order of 150,000 new jobs to have been created in January. That would have been a lousy number, but they were fully prepared to spin it as being pretty good. They thought the official jobless rate might hop up a tick to 9.5 percent.
Instead, the economy created just 36,000 jobs in January, an absolutely dreadful number. But the unemployment rate fell like a stone from 9.4 percent to 9.0 percent.
The crunchers stared at the numbers in disbelief. They moved them this way and that. No matter how they arranged them, they made no sense. Nothing even close to enough jobs were being created to bring the unemployment rate down, but for two successive months it had dropped sharply. (It dived from 9.8 percent to 9.4 in December.)
A baffled commentator on CNBC said, “I think there is an improvement in the economy, though you can’t see it in today’s payroll survey.”
Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, who is frequently very good at this stuff, said: “I think these numbers are meaningless. I don’t think they mean anything.”
What data zealots need to do is leave their hermetically sealed rooms and step outside, take a walk among the millions of Americans who are hurting to the bone. They should talk with families that are suffering, losing their homes, doubling up, checking into homeless shelters.
We behave as though the numbers are an end in themselves — just get the G.D.P. up or the jobless rate down — and we’ll be on our way to fat city. But the numbers are just tools, abstractions to help guide us, orient us. They aren’t the be-all and end-all. They don’t tell us squat about the flesh-and-blood reality of the mom or dad lying awake in the dark of night, worrying about the repo man coming for the family van or the foreclosure notice that’s sure to materialize any day now.
The policy makers who rely on the data zealots are just as detached from the real world of real people. They’re always promising in the most earnest tones imaginable to do something about employment, to ease the awful squeeze on the middle class (policy makers never talk about the poor), to reform education, and so on.
They say those things because they have to. But they are far more obsessed with the numbers than they are with the struggles and suffering of real people. You won’t hear policy makers acknowledging that the unemployment numbers would be much worse if not for the millions of people who have left the work force over the past few years. What happened to those folks? How are they and their families faring?
The policy makers don’t tell us that most of the new jobs being created in such meager numbers are, in fact, poor ones, with lousy pay and few or no benefits. What we hear is what the data zealots pump out week after week, that the market is up, retail sales are strong, Wall Street salaries and bonuses are streaking, as always, to the moon, and that businesses are sitting on mountains of cash. So all must be right with the world.
Jobs? Well, the less said the better.
What’s really happening, of course, is the same thing that’s been happening in this country for the longest time — the folks at the top are doing fabulously well and they are not interested in the least in spreading the wealth around.
The people running the country — the ones with the real clout, whether Democrats or Republicans — are all part of this power elite. Ordinary people may be struggling, but both the Obama administration and the Republican Party leadership are down on their knees slavishly kissing the rings of the financial and corporate kingpins.
I love when the wackos call President Obama a socialist. Wasn’t it his budget director, Peter Orszag, who moved effortlessly from his job in the administration to a hotshot post at Citigroup, beneficiary of tons of government largess? And didn’t the president’s new chief of staff, William Daley, arrive in his powerful new post fresh from the executive suite of JPMorgan Chase? And isn’t the incoming chairman of Mr. Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness very conveniently the chairman and chief executive of General Electric, Jeffrey Immelt?
You might ask: Who represents working people? The answer, as Tevye would say with grave emphasis in “Fiddler on the Roof,” is, “I don’t know.”
Maybe the data zealots have stumbled on a solution. They’ve created a model in which a radically insufficient number of jobs has resulted in a sharp decline in the official gauge of unemployment. If that trend can be sustained, we’ll eventually get the jobless rate down to zero. People will still be suffering, but full employment will have finally been achieved.