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The Democrats Increased Funding for WHAT? | The Nation

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Katha Pollitt

Katha Pollitt

Politics, feminism, culture, books and daily life.

The Democrats Increased Funding for WHAT?

I'm way late on this, so I hope you've already squawked to your congressperson about a particularly nasty bit of gristle buried in the big fat bratwurst that is the 125-page Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. Passed by the House on July 19 by a comfy 276-140 vote, HR 3043 increases federal funding for abstinence-only education by $27.8 million -- $4 million more than Bush asked for. That brings to a whopping $141 million the amount of your taxes the feds will spend annually on religion-ridden error-strewn information-denying propagandistic-boondogglish school programs that--as a Congressionally mandated 10-year evaluation by Mathematica Policy Research showed back in April -- do not even work.

These are the same programs that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) blasted in a report last December for spreading such falsehoods as : condoms don't protect against pregnancy, half of gay male teens are HIV positive, a 43-day old embryo is a "thinking person," 10% of women who have abortions become sterile, and the HIV virus can be transmitted through sweat and tears. My personal favorite, as described by The Washington Post:

"Some course materials cited in Waxman's report present as scientific fact notions about a man's need for ‘admiration' and ‘sexual fulfillment' compared with a woman's need for ‘financial support.' One book in the ‘Choosing Best' series tells the story of a knight who married a village maiden instead of the princess because the princess offered so many tips on slaying the local dragon. ‘Moral of the story,' notes the popular text: ‘Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man's confidence or even turn him away from his princess.' "

So who voted to keep filling young people's minds with sexist fairy tales and potentially fatal falsehoods? Henry Waxman! Along with Nation favorites Maxine Waters, Jan Schakowsky, Dennis Kucinich, and indeed every other House Dem present (Nancy Pelosi, although present, by tradition as Speaker, didn't vote). Practical explanation: throwing Republicans this trivial bone would build a veto-proof majority for a bill Bush has promised to reject-- a $152 billion bill crammed with good things, from more funding for Pell grants and for math and science education to $27.8 million more for Title X, the family planning program for low-income people. $27.8 million for claptrap, $27.8 million for reproductive health care. That's only fair.

Well, okay, that's how it goes in the sausage business ( For background on the politicking, read Lindsay Beyerstein's excellent report at www.inthesetimes.com. ) Still, I expect a little more backbone from the men and women who claim to represent the reality-based community. The Dems spent the last six and half years bashing the Republicans for supporting abstinence-only. They raised a ton of money and extracted hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours from people--feminists, gays, seculars, ordinary normal middle-of-the-roaders--who have just had it with the Christian right and their craziness. The Bush Administration's flagrant politicization of science--especially reproductive science -- was one of the Democrats' strongest cards. They might be dazed and confused about Iraq, but at least they know the government shouldn't tell young people condoms don't prevent pregnancy and STDs when, in fact, most of the time they do.

Did the strategy at least succeed? Apparently not. Republicans did not provide that veto-proof majority. Instead, the reality-based community has been demoralized, while the Purity Ballers whirl happily round the dance floor. And just to put the cherry of masochism atop the sundae of cynicism (yes, I know, what happened to that sausage?) federal abstinence dollars, as Michael Reynolds reported in The Nation , have a way of morphing into huge slush funds for Republican candidates. Even if David Obey, Nita Lowey and the other members of the HHS Appropriations committee who ground this sausage don't care about young people, you'd think they'd balk at funding their own opposition.

After all, they're doing such a good job of discouraging their supporters on their own.

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