Monday, January 30, 2012

Injecting principled Reasoning into the Contraceptive Mandate Shouting Match

Recently, there has been a bunch of noise about Catholic Institutions being required to provide deductible-free access to contraceptives in the health insurance plans they provide their employees.  Angry diatribes and weirdly neutral negative opinion pieces have been written on the subject.  They are angry (or bizarrely bland), so it's understandable that they don't clearly understand what they're talking about.  Let me clear things up for everyone involved (that means you Catholic Bishops).

See the difference? Me neither.

The objections in this debate are essentially of the form "We object to you forcing us to recognize that the people we employ use the money we give them to buy contraceptives."  That is dumb.

Kinds of thing that would infringe on religious freedom:

  1. Requiring Catholic hospitals to provide abortions
  2. Requiring Catholic doctors to prescribe the pill
  3. Requiring Catholic pharmacies (do these exist?) to sell the pill or condoms or what-have-you.

Kinds of thing that would NOT infringe on religious freedom:

  1. Requiring that health insurance benefits provided by Catholic institutions include deductible-free access to contraceptives
  2. Requiring that Catholic institutions pay their full-time employees (Note: 2 is equivalent to 1)

Reasoning in word form below the fold:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

SOTU 2012

They did a state of the union sort of thing. I found it much more enjoyable than the last one.  The substance can basically be summed up as:
"We have done awesome in the foreign policy sphere.  We inherited a spectacularly bad economy, we have turned things around, and we have a plan for how to consolidate and build on these economic gains.  Also, Republicans are making it really hard to get things done around here, despite how many of our policies are from their playbook. Go America!"
The speech is book-ended by the administrations substantial foreign policy successes, but the meat of it is all economic.  First, Obama lays out the short and long term factors involved in our economic woes (long term: structural adjustments such as outsourcing and replacement of workers with robots, short term: irresponsible lending/borrowing and the subsequent banking collapse).  He sees the outcome of all that to be increased inequality and high unemployment.  He then walks through the story of the catastrophic economic collapse (pre-Obama policies), and the subsequent recovery (under Obama policies).  He highlights the auto-bailout in particular, which is in my mind the clearest example of successful stimulative action.  Finally, he highlights some ideas about how to consolidate and build upon these recent gains.  They basically boil down to restoring regulations whose loss enabled the collapse, implementing recent regulations to eliminate the need for future bank bailouts (Dodd-Frank), implementing a tax code with fewer deductions for multinational corporations and very rich individuals (Buffet rule), increasing exports by forcing other countries to adopt policies favoring the U.S., funding entrepreneurs and basic research, reforming education, and investing in infrastructure and energy (both gaseous and green).  

Along the way we see some brief comments about immigration reform, some useful facts that belie the right wing "Obama is a socialist" dialog, and one unfortunate spilled milk joke.  Point by point below the fold (masochists only).