When will Democratic leaders stop dissing their base? David Obey is making a habit of it.
Earlier this year, the Wisconsin veteran, who heads up the House Appropriations Committee called anti-war workers, "idiot liberals" for calling for a cut off in funds for Bush's Iraq disaster. This week, Obey told advocates for youth to grow up and stop complaining about the millions of dollars his committee intends to shovel to deadly, discredited abstinence-only programs.
House Democrats will likely vote today to increase abstinence-only miseducation programs to $140 million, a larger increase than any put forward in the last three years of the Republican Congress. Obey told NPR it's all about pragmatism: the Appropriations Bill faces a veto threat from the President, and House Democrats need all the support they can get from Republicans. And there are quid pro quos: to secure a proposed $27 million increase for the family planning program Title X anti-choicers need to be bought off with $27 million for deadly abstinence.
"It's about people acting like adults and realizing that you can't just hold your breath until you get your own way," Obey told Morning Edition June 14th.
But that $27 million increase represents just a ten percent growth in the budget for Title X; it's a 30 percent increase for abstinence only. Besides, most sane Americans were expecting the purportedly pro-choice Democratic majority to cut off funding for this boondoggle not increase it.
Anyone who read Michael Reynolds' excellent piece on the Abstinence Gluttons knows the myriad ways in which these censorship programs stink. As a congressionally mandated report recently concluded, they're bad health policy, bad fiscal policy, and should be ended. As Reynolds' documented in depth, federal funding of "abstinence" also gifts billions of dollars to GOP partisans who not only mess with young minds but also campaign against Democrats and progressive priorities.
As James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth told the Air Americans last week, the GOP gravy train was bad enough. "Now it's switched tracks and became a Democratic train. Obey can now stand tall and say that he is now one of the biggest funders of the Radical Right in America."
It'd be bad enough if it were just Obey, but progressive caucus members including Nita Lowey and Barbara Lee who sit on both the Appropriations and the Health and Human Services subcommittee (also chaired by Obey) that put forward this proposal are complicit. Democrats enjoy a 37:29 majority on Appropriations. What they push moves. The battle goes to the Senate next, where the 15:14 split on appropriations is much tighter. Speaking of senators, Hillary Clinton is talking up a storm on the campaign trail about her support for Title X. So far she's remained mum about millions more for sex-miseducation.
"We are not your pawns," youth activists told House Democrats on the eve of the Committee's vote. Wagoner has some glum young progressive organizers in his office to explain the Democratic majority to. Said Wagoner "as an activist you expect to fight this in a conservative republican congress, but I can't tell you how infuriated, how angry I feel, having witnessed Democratic allies sell us out."
Thus Wagoner and his team join the anti-war activists. Bravo Democrats you're swelling the ranks of pissed-off, enraged, "liberal idiots."
Laura Flanders is the author of Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians, out now from The Penguin Press.
© 2007 The Nation