Sunday, March 18, 2012

Believing the Big Lie

The Big Lie is a falsehood so audacious that readers react by thinking, "Wow, that's so unbelievable that it must be true - no one would make up something like that." The Hysterical Left has decided on just that strategy with respect to proposed legislation in Arizona. I first saw a retweet of a tweet from ZDNet's Ed Bott. He tweeted:

WTF, Arizona? Seriously, WTF? AZ legislature passes bill allowing any employer to fire employees who use birth control.

The tweet included a link to the ACLU web site. That got my attention. The claim sounded dubious, but okay, politicians do a lot of stupid things, so I bit. I followed the link to the ACLU post:

Use Birth Control? You're Fired!

...Now, a bill that would give your boss the green light to fire you for using birth control. You think I am kidding? I wish. For a decade now, Arizona insurance companies have been required to provide coverage for contraception just like other prescriptions. But, because they saw an opening to score some political points, some politicians there are suddenly moving to take that coverage away from women and their families.

And we aren’t talking here just about exemptions for religiously affiliated employers like Catholic hospitals and universities. We are talking about authorizing secular, for-profit employers to deny a woman coverage for birth control if the employer doesn’t believe that she and her partner should be allowed to have sex without getting pregnant. Yup, that’s right. If the owner of the Taco Bell where you work opposes birth control, Arizona legislators want to give him a legal right to deny you insurance coverage for your pills.

Sadly, that isn’t even the half of it. You may want to sit down for this one. Arizona legislators know that whether or not her insurance covers it, a woman may get the prescription she needs to prevent an unintended pregnancy. They want to give her boss the right to control that too. The bill they are pushing would not only allow employers to take the insurance coverage away, but it would also make it easier for an employer who finds out that his employee uses birth control to fire her. You heard me right . . . to fire her.

Note that the ACLU doesn't include a hyperlink to the bill itself. Hmm, odd, no? But hey, Google's your friend, so a few moments brings me to the Puffington Host, which not only provides the link but has an assessment of the bill that is at least a tiny more honest:

Under current law, health plans in Arizona that cover other prescription medications must also cover contraception. House Bill 2625, which the state House of Representatives passed earlier this month and the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed on Monday, repeals that law and allows any employer to refuse to cover contraception that will be used "for contraceptive, abortifacient, abortion or sterilization purposes." If a woman wants the cost of her contraception covered, she has to "submit a claim" to her employer providing evidence of a medical condition, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome, that can be treated with birth control.

Moreover, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, the law would give Arizona employers the green light to fire a woman upon finding out that she took birth control for the purpose of preventing pregnancy.

Reading the relevant parts of the bill itself, one finds that

  • The employer or the plan issuer needs to register a religious or moral objection to covering contraceptives
  • A covered employee may still have the plan reimburse her for a prescribed contraceptive if the purpose is medical.

Nowhere does it say that the employer can fire an employee for using birth control. On the other hand, I can easily imagine that an employer can fire an employee for making a false claim. The ACLU (and the Puffingtons, Ed Bott, and anyone else who took this seriously) should be ashamed for pushing the Big Lie.

I will say that I disapprove of the legislation, but only because it doesn't go far enough. States all have laws similar to this one, that mandate that insurance policies cover certain things. Some states are worse than others, but all take a paternalistic view toward those who buy insurance. Employers (for example) can read policy coverages and exclusions, and can pick a policy that balances cost and coverage for their employees. (Often employers offer an array of plans, allowing employees to pick a plan that best suits their coverage and budget needs.) One reason insurance is so expensive is that these mandates are treated as though they are free when, in reality, the insurer passes on the cost of every one of them. I would like to buy a plan that is lower cost and covers only catastrophic events - things I could not afford to pay for by myself, but occur with relatively low frequency. Others might like the peace of mind that comes with a more expensive plan that covers the employee more fully, so that there are fewer unexpected medical bills. Instead, every state insists, to a greater or lesser degree, that everyone buy the second plan.

More generally, I'm appalled at the view that grown women need to have Uncle Sam spring for contraceptives. The left's latest cause célèbre, Sarah Fluke, is 30 years old an in a prestigious law school, but thinks she is owed payment for her sex life. How childish. She lied about the cost of contraception - claiming that it was "over $3000" over the course of a law program - when a little research showed she could buy a monthly prescription for oral contraceptives for about $10, no insurance company involved. Yet somehow Georgetown's lack of coverage for her is evidence of a "war on women." Grow up already, Sarah. I'll stay out of your "reproductive choices" (as the current phrase goes) if you don't ask me to pay for those choices.

Addendum: Bryce Covert at The Nation, opines that employers should embrace contraceptive use by their employees, as delaying (or eliminating) child-rearing encourages workers to invest in job skills (citing a study co-authored by one of my econ professors many years ago, Claudia Goldin). The article is refreshingly free of the hysteria of the ACLU piece, even as it disapproves of the legislation. But it's a funny sort of world in which sexual desire, and hence the need for contraception, is an immutable part of human nature, but maternal (or paternal) desire is something that can and should be controlled. Miss Covert may find that employers who embrace child-rearing by their employees are able to attract a wider range of job candidates and/or have a happier and more productive work environment.


John Williams said...

You know how that lefties like the "What's the Matter with Kansas" author argue that many voters vote against their economic interests by voting for the GOP? Well Ed Bott is one of those journalists who clearly operates under such a rationale.

He writes tech columns that you would think he would want to maximize readership of. He writes tech books that you would think he would want to maximize sales of. But what does he do? He goes way beyond what most journalists do in pushing a far-left point of view--he openly pushes it rather than doing so clandestinely. With only about 20% of the US self-identifying as liberals and about 40% self-IDing as conservative, how smart could it be to your economic interests to irritate your tech readership by left-wing political sermons?

I asked him on Twitter about the wisdom of such a thing. He ignored me. When he proudly promoted Margaret Sanger as a hero on Twitter in quoting her, I responded with another quote of hers favorable to the goals of eugenics. He wasn't amused. No response except for an immediate block. BTW, a Pew Internet study demonstrates that liberals block others with opposing political views TWICE as often as conservatives do. They are so tolerant of free speech, as long as it doesn't upset them (witness attempt to silence Rush).

Rhianon Jameson said...

Some people can't help themselves. The otherwise spot-on John Gruber of Daring Fireball occasionally ventures into the realm of fantasy politics (he's a big fan of Paul Krugman, who clearly exists in a dimension other than ours). I find it odd that he would be okay with alienating some of his readership that way, but I suppose he doesn't care.

As far as blocking people with opposing views... it's odd, isn't it? If you make a comment with a strong and not universally-popular slant, people with opposing views might respond. It comes with the territory, especially for political pundits. The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto has been blocked by Charles M. Blow of the NY Times and Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post, among others - when did pundits become so thin-skinned?

I never mind responses with a position different from mine - as long as the responses are tolerably polite. :) I suspect that one contributing cause to the growing political divide in the country is that partisan sources of information are increasingly available, which is not bad in and of itself, but it discourages people from reading what the other side has to say.

And while I've meant to read the book and have never gotten around to it, my reaction to the title was that there wasn't a darn thing that was wrong with Kansas. But I suspect that's not a universally-held opinion.

John Williams said...

Fascinating examples you gave about John Gruber, Charles Blow, & Jennifer Rubin. All interesting characters, no matter how much I may disagree with them politically.

Today I saw Ed Bott upbraiding a fellow journalist for passing along information that he found from Newsbusters & Breitbart. Not a big deal to caution that they are not the most objective sources, but instead, he said that they were "hopelessly inept propaganda outlets." That from a man that uncritically passes along items from Media Matters, in addition to the source you mention in this blog post--the ACLU. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, out of the nearly 1000 Twitter accounts he follows, not one of them is a right-leaning news or commentary account.

But, like you referenced with Jennifer Rubin, it's not exclusively the Left that blocks. David Limbaugh blocked me after I retweeted some biting parody to him from the @OrwellForce Twitter account. After an explanatory email to Limbaugh, he unblocked me. But the seeming target within the parody, 'Jim' 'Treacher' of the Daily Caller has kept me blocked, even after an email. But, it is understandable, given that the parody tweet referred to him as a racist (a common theme in OrwellForce's parodies). On the other hand, journalist-turned-columnist Roger Simon of Politico responded to criticism of him with a clever response and has never blocked me.