Friday, March 2, 2012

Rush Does What We Expect of Rush, People Somehow Surprised, News at 11

Just when you thought political discourse couldn't get any lower, noted thinker Rush "Problem?" Limbaugh manages to pull a little more water out of the pool. I generally pay about as much attention to what Rush says as I do to Bill Maher, since both get by on bombastic trolling barbs aimed solely to fire up their true believers and rile everyone else, but it seems this time Rush managed to get the attention he sorely craves.

During the recent Capitol Hill debates over whether private insurance companies--notably those affiliated with Catholic institutions--should be required to provide contraceptive coverage, the Democrats decided the best expert to make the case for requiring such coverage was a Georgetown Law student named Sandra Fluke. (Georgetown Law's student health plan apparently does not cover contraceptive coverage--when I attended over a decade ago, I don't recall what exactly they did cover, though it wasn't much and it was still expensive. I never found condoms to be so expensive at the drugstore--even today they're about $15 a box--that I tried getting them through a health plan, though.)

Fluke's testimony focused on the high cost of contraception for her, and Rush commented in his usual form by reasonably discussing whether Catholic-affiliated institutions should be required to have their health plans cover purchases that go against their religious doctrine. Oh wait, no, he instead compared Ms. Fluke to a "slut" and a "prostitute" because she wanted to be "paid for sex". (I should note--if having her condoms subsidized makes her a prostitute, then we live in a world filled with hookers. A Charlie Sheen fantasy!)

Limbaugh's statements about Fluke (eventually culminating in him suggesting she post sex videos online) aren't really worthy of discussion--sometimes you just have to ignore things like that just like you'd ignore a three-year-old yelling "poop!" over and over again to get attention. Particularly since Rush's comments gloss over the real discussion we should be having.

Namely, that is--should the government be telling private health plans what they should and shouldn't cover? If so, where do we draw the line? Most people agree access to contraception is a good thing--and should be encouraged, as even the cost of subsidizing it can be far slighter than the harms it prevents (disease, unwanted pregnancy). And moreover, should there be conscience exemptions, and how far should those go? If a Catholic organization can be exempted from funding birth control, then why can't a Catholic taxpayer be exempt from letting their tax dollars be spent on the same? Is a general state subsidy less intrusive and more fair than an unfunded mandate on a private entity? And did anyone really think some law student's story of how expensive it is for her to buy condoms (and why were her sex partners not helping out, anyway???) would really move a lot of hearts? This isn't exactly equivalent to the widow who mortgaged her house to pay for her husband's cancer treatments, after all.

But of course, any hard debate and intelligent discussion gets lost the minute the civil discourse gets "Limbaughed". Now we're talking about "slut shaming" and how we define "prostitute".

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