Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why the Pressure on Akin?

Senatorial candidate Todd Akin is under pressure from Republicans to withdraw from the Missouri race against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill for comments he made the other day about rape and abortion.

What he said was, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” He went on to say that if nevertheless a pregnancy ensues he didn't think that the child was the one who should be punished.

There are two things here for which he's being criticized. The first is his claim that somehow the trauma of rape causes a physiological "shutdown" that somehow prevents conception. The second is that even if pregnancy occurs an abortion is not a satisfactory solution to the problem.

He may be wrong about this, I don't know, and even if he's correct the context sounded a bit insensitive, but let's assume that he's mistaken about both the biological and the moral questions. Why is that a reason why he should withdraw from the race? Republicans afraid of their own shadows fear he'll be labelled "extremist" and that this will cost him the election in November, but the appropriate response is to seize the opportunity to point out that what apparently passes for acceptable views among Democrats are far more extreme than those of Rep. Akin.

Which, for example, is more extreme, to want to protect the defenseless unborn or to support killing infants?

Both of the Democrats' two most recent presidents in one way or another support infanticide, but despite the fact that the practice is still murder under the law, no one called these men "extreme," or demanded they leave office, or withdraw from a campaign.

We might also ask which is worse, to be accused of holding incorrect, even nutty views about a woman's physiological responses to rape or to actually be accused of committing rape? President Clinton is a hero to Democrats notwithstanding that he was accused of raping Juanita Brodderick, and not only is a hero he's been invited to give the keynote speech at the Democrat convention this month.

Todd Akin is closer to the mainstream on the issue of abortion than either Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, and his words are not nearly as repugnant as Mr. Clinton's deeds.

But there's something else about this that the Republicans don't seem to understand. If they force Akin out of the race they're opening the door for a fusillade of attacks on Paul Ryan who also believes that abortion is not morally justified even in the event of a rape-caused pregnancy. Of course, a lot of Catholic Democrats believe this as well, but that'll be ignored. What'll happen if the GOP somehow persuades Akin to leave the field is that the Democrats will start asking why Akin gets jettisoned but Ryan's allowed to stay on as a vice-presidential candidate.

In other words, forcing Akin out of the race isn't going to make the controversy go away.

Akin's biggest offense is that he was verbally maladroit and probably medically mistaken, but if saying something factually incorrect or dopey ipso facto disqualifies Republicans for public office then let's start holding Democrats to the same standard. We can start with the current Vice-President, the House Minority Leader, and the DNC Chair.

UPDATE: Todd Akin has declined to submit to almost universal GOP pressure for him to drop out of the race. Very well, now let's see the Republicans dare the Democrats to make his views on abortion an issue in this race when at the top of their ticket they have a man who voted twice in the Illinois state senate to allow abortionists to let babies born alive after a botched abortion die from inanition.

Let's see if the Republicans will dare the Democrats to make Akin's views on abortion and rape an issue when their former president and the keynote speaker at their convention twice vetoed bills that would ban partial-birth abortion and was accused at least once of having raped a woman.

Hit the Road

That Harvard history professor Niall Ferguson wrote a piece calling for the defeat of President Obama in November is not surprising. Ferguson is, despite teaching at Harvard, a conservative. What's surprising - shocking even - is that his essay appeared in Newsweek which has been reliably liberal for decades. Until now it has all but deified Obama and all but demonized Romney.

If Newsweek is now going to strive for more balance, who's next? The New York Times? Here's some of what Ferguson writes (in Newsweek's cover story no less):
In his inaugural address, Obama promised “not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.” He promised to “build the roads and bridges, the electric grids, and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.” He promised to “restore science to its rightful place and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost.” And he promised to “transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.” Unfortunately the president’s scorecard on every single one of those bold pledges is pitiful.

In an unguarded moment earlier this year, the president commented that the private sector of the economy was “doing fine.” Certainly, the stock market is well up (by 74 percent) relative to the close on Inauguration Day 2009. But the total number of private-sector jobs is still 4.3 million below the January 2008 peak. Meanwhile, since 2008, a staggering 3.6 million Americans have been added to Social Security’s disability insurance program. This is one of many ways unemployment is being concealed.

In his fiscal year 2010 budget—the first he presented—the president envisaged growth of 3.2 percent in 2010, 4.0 percent in 2011, 4.6 percent in 2012. The actual numbers were 2.4 percent in 2010 and 1.8 percent in 2011; few forecasters now expect it to be much above 2.3 percent this year.

Unemployment was supposed to be 6 percent by now. It has averaged 8.2 percent this year so far. Meanwhile real median annual household income has dropped more than 5 percent since June 2009. Nearly 110 million individuals received a welfare benefit in 2011, mostly Medicaid or food stamps.

Welcome to Obama’s America: nearly half the population is not represented on a taxable return—almost exactly the same proportion that lives in a household where at least one member receives some type of government benefit. We are becoming the 50–50 nation—half of us paying the taxes, the other half receiving the benefits.

And all this despite a far bigger hike in the federal debt than we were promised. According to the 2010 budget, the debt in public hands was supposed to fall in relation to GDP from 67 percent in 2010 to less than 66 percent this year. If only. By the end of this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), it will reach 70 percent of GDP. These figures significantly understate the debt problem, however. The ratio that matters is debt to revenue. That number has leapt upward from 165 percent in 2008 to 262 percent this year, according to figures from the International Monetary Fund. Among developed economies, only Ireland and Spain have seen a bigger deterioration.

Not only did the initial fiscal stimulus fade after the sugar rush of 2009, but the president has done absolutely nothing to close the long-term gap between spending and revenue.

His much-vaunted health-care reform will not prevent spending on health programs growing from more than 5 percent of GDP today to almost 10 percent in 2037. Add the projected increase in the costs of Social Security and you are looking at a total bill of 16 percent of GDP 25 years from now. That is only slightly less than the average cost of all federal programs and activities, apart from net interest payments, over the past 40 years. Under this president’s policies, the debt is on course to approach 200 percent of GDP in 2037—a mountain of debt that is bound to reduce growth even further.
Ferguson goes on in this vein for four more pages. His column is the most thorough indictment of the Obama presidency that I've seen, and Newsweek is to be commended for featuring it and for being willing to endure the storm of criticism they're bound to receive from the left for their decision.