Every election the battle cry from both sides of the political spectrum goes out: “Don’t talk about the social issues!” Every election we eventually find ourselves embroiled in a conversation on the social issues.
The reason is simple: Social issues are the fabric of our daily lives. They are more than just abortion and marriage, but include issues of law and order, immigration, education, health care, and community standards. You cannot talk about any policy point without understanding the symbiotic relationship between the three main policy categories.
When you think about the political environment we exist in, it is important to understand our policy discussions are much like talking about a three-legged stool. Each leg represents one of the three key policy categories: budget/economy, foreign policy/defense, and social issues. To maintain balance, one must always be prepared to address each of these issues with the understanding that they are interconnected, even if the six degrees of separation are not immediately obvious. How we all reconcile this process is a balancing act, like sitting on a three-legged stool. These factors are why once again we find ourselves on the verge of another federal government shutdown. How our hard-earned, taxpayer dollars are spent or abused should be the paramount concern.
I am in no way suggesting money is the primary reason we find ourselves inflicted by “shutdown fever” once again, but money is the root of all government. Political coalitions, social tenets and self-ordained certainties are dominant driving forces to this latest standoff. Money and where we stand on each of the three policy legs work in concert to stifle a resolution. This time the funding for Planned Parenthood is the “stumbling block.” People on both sides of the political spectrum secretly welcome this battle; it is the people in the middle who will be caught in the crossfire.
Forget the rhetoric and fear mongering. Where you stand on abortion is the driving force of which side of the battle you stand. Planned Parenthood, recipient $528 million of taxpayer money, which has donated at least $25 million to Democrats since 2000, is the source of this conflict. Whether funding for Planned Parenthood should be cut off is the only issue stopping this budget from passing. The truest statement that can be made is that Republicans and Democrats are prepared to shut down the government over this funding. Whether to shut down the government is not the issue though. Whether to continue funding an organization that has lost the trust of the American people is a valid debate.
This is not the first time this year the issue of Planned Parenthood funding was voted on. In August, a Senate measure to defund Planned Parenthood failed by a vote of 53-46. The vote received majority support in the Senate, but fell seven votes short of the supermajority of 60 needed to avoid a filibuster. Republicans in Congress did not vote to stop health care funding, merely to shift the funds to reputable, community-based health care providers.
One of the weapons being thrown out this time by Planned Parenthood is the recent Congressional Budget Office report that states the budget would increase if Planned Parenthood funding was shut off. The CBO is limited in scope and omits one very important detail. The CBO was only asked to rate the measure based solely on defunding Planned Parenthood, and not to take into consideration the plan to shift funds to other community-based, health care providers.
As with all votes regarding Planned Parenthood, you need to follow the money. Voting against the measure were several lawmakers who received approximately $900,000 just from Planned Parenthood’s PACs and supporters. Near the top of that list is our own Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, at $26,000. For those of you concerned about money in politics, Shaheen has been bought and paid for by Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List. In fact, Shaheen has also received more than $1 million from Emily’s List since 2001. Is it any wonder Shaheen held a press conference this week to try to defend Planned Parenthood? Shaheen, like numerous other top recipients of Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List donations, received her marching orders, and she jumped into action.
Those who support Planned Parenthood know there are other more efficient and less controversial ways to provide health care to patients in need. Those in the know are also well aware Planned Parenthood is nothing more than the “middle man” for services such as cancer screening and advanced medical needs, siphoning away money that could be maximized by directly funding the actual, community-based health care providers. Every one of Planned Parenthood’s basic medical services (excluding abortion) can be done safely, more efficiently, more conveniently and at a much better cost than it can.
So again we see how social issues collide with another leg in the policy stool. Make no mistake, Planned Parenthood has earned every bit of the public wrath it is experiencing, and it has paid handsomely for all its support currently offered by its political attack dogs. Planned Parenthood is a political wolf in sheep’s clothing. The intermingling of money at Planned Parenthood is confusing by design and it has ignored one scandal after another, using its paid political servants to attack the messengers. This battle is not about a more efficient, cost-effective and compassionate way of providing health care, it is about abortion. If the government shuts down over this issue, follow the money and it will lead right to the doorstep of Sen. Shaheen and her allies.
Note: Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List contribution figures come from the non-partisan research group opensecrets.org.