I'm not sure if a single person in Washington knows what all is in -- or will be in -- the $825 BILLION spending bill about to be passed by the Democratic-led Congress. There might not even be a current copy of the bill for taxpayers or journalists to peruse. It makes it a very difficult story to report -- not that many reporters are known for in-depth budget reporting. Ostensibly, the bill is designed to stimulate our sagging economy. Which led one reporter -- ABC's George Stephanopolous -- to ask House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., about one of the spending provisions:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?
PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?
PELOSI: No apologies. No. we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.
Turns out the contraception inclusion -- something no economist has called for as part of any stimulus -- might not make it into the final bill. Not every random inclusion of pork or other spending spree will have as much of a religious angle as this one, but I'm sure there are others in the bill. Federal funding of birth control under the rubric of stimulus spending certainly has more than a few ghosts, of course.
Unfortunately if taxpayers and the press only have a few hours to peruse the lengthy bill before it's passed, it's not likely that we'll see much disclosure or coverage of such provisions in the spending bill. Of course, Drudge is highlighting the $335,000,000 FOR STD PREVENTION at the top of the page. But what about the other non-stimulus but certainly noteworthy spending plans -- for education, health care and other items with aims supported by the National Council of Churches? I know the media are covering this as a "stimulus" bill but there are some possibilities pregnant for religion coverage, to say the least.
As for Pelosi's comments, they lit up the blogosphere and the religious and pundit side of the press, but there wasn't much, if any, mainstream news coverage. Last time Pelosi talked about human life issues on a Sunday morning program, it was at least covered by the media. Perhaps that's because Catholic bishops across the United States corrected her for using Catholic teaching to defend her political support of abortion.
Here's James Pethoukis of U.S. News & World Report's Capital Commerce blog commented on Pelosi's unique stimulus views:
This is wrong on so many levels, one of which is looking at children born to the "wrong people" as economic burdens rather gifts, the music makers, the dreamers of dreams. She sees them as a cost instead of blessed benefits. Wow.
He goes on to present the economic argument for why decreased birth rate isn't the best thing for an economy. But he's a business blogger and there are more overt religious arguments dealing with House Democrat plans for hundreds of millions of dollars in birth control.
There are religious advocates of birth control. There are religious opponents of birth control, taxpayer funded or not. Unfortunately, neither voice is presented in mainstream coverage because the line item and its significance aren't really loked into.
Another religious ghost is the means by which the provision may be bumped. Apparently President Obama told Pelosi to get the provision out of there. Is there a religion ghost there as well? Would it have been a bridge too far for some of his Catholic or other religious supporters who crossed the aisle to support him? This is an ongoing story about how the Democratic Party learns to deal with some of its newly found religious supporters, not just a campaign issue.