How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives? How does that stimulate the economy?Thus spake John Boehner, R-Ohio, the House minority leader, in commenting on the stimulus package.
I'm reminded of an old feminist saying: if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament. Mr. Boehner obviously believes that a measure that only benefits half of the population isn't worth doing. And this isn't even abortion - this isn't about abortion. This is about giving women the tools they need so they never have to have an abortion. But it's not worth the effort, he thinks.
Here's a little arithmetic, Mr. Boehner. The median family income in the state oof Mississippi, the lowest in the country, is $35,533. The median family income for a family with 2 kids in Mississippi is $53,697. The median family income for a family with 5 kids in Mississippi is $45,494.
(What? but that's what the numbers say. I got these numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. I'm guessing the median is lower for a 7 person family because the wife can't work outside the home, she has to take care of the kids. But that's a guess.)
I think the numbers actually make my point. With some exceptions (most corporate CEOs could support as many kids as they could beget), the more children a family has, the poorer they are. This effect is worst at the low end of the economic scale where salaries have stagnated for the last 25 years. And of course, the poorer you are, the less money you spend to stimulate the economy.
Mr. Boehner is correct that expanding the provision of contraceptives won't give the economy an immediate stimulus. But for a longer-term stimulus, it'll have a definite effect in terms of smaller families, reduction in teenage pregnancies, etc.
Of course, what he's really doing is grandstanding to the Republican supporters on the Religious Right, some of whom object even to contraception. That's not an economic argument. But don't say it won't have any economic effect.