Archive for October, 2012


Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Government policy makers who force austerity on our country have not learned the economic lessons of history. Much of our sustained economic misery following the great recession of 2008 is not the result of uncontrolled or unexplained forces. Instead it is better explained as self inflicted pain directly resulting from failure both to appreciate lessons learned from past crises and to understand the well documented positive role of government stimulus in helping to restore a strong economy.1

As Paul Krugman points out, a properly stimulated economy allows people to pay down their debts and provides a more firm financial footing to facilitate increased consumer spending. Joseph Stiglitz stresses that government investments in projects like road construction have a high economic return to society. The current Congressional obsession with the deficit and emphasis on budget cutting is guaranteed to sustain self-inflicted austerity.2 Failure to sufficiently stimulate the public sector has resulted in spending cuts across the country that have put thousands of teachers and other public sector workers out of jobs. Much austerity and pain could have been avoided had Congress passed President Obama’s stimulus jobs act of 2011.3

Where did this ill advised emphasis on austerity come from? Partly it can be explained by the influence of the newly elected Tea Party members in the House of Representatives. Another factor is the no new taxes ideology of the “shrink the government” movement led by Grover Norquist. The most ironic influence, perhaps, is seeing “socialist” Europe as a model for undertaking austerity at the time of beginning recovery from recession. As early as 2010 Rep. Kenny Marchant, Texas Republican, said “Europe is already setting an example for the US” and Karl Rove, Republican strategist and former advisor to President George W. Bush,quoted the leader of the European Central Bank as saying “The idea that austerity measures could trigger stagnation is incorrect”. In 2011, Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican said “The president should learn a lesson from the ‘German miracle’”. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, top Republican on the Senate Budget committee said “we need a budget with a bold vision—like those unveiled in Britain and in [the US in the state of] New Jersey”.4

So, what are the results of this imposed austerity in Europe and N.J.? In Europe the overall economy is predicted to shrink this year and have negligible growth next year. Germany expects less than 1% growth this year and Britain’s economy is already contracting. In NJ, since Gov Christie took office in 2010 the state’s unemployment rate rose from 35th to 48th in the nation and it ranked 47th in economic growth this year.  Even the anemic predicted 2% growth rate in the US was cited by the International Monetary Fund, as the only “bright spot” in the West’s economic outlook. So much for the idea that austerity could trigger stagnation. 4 What is more alarming for the US is that, if Gov Romney becomes president and is known to support the Paul Ryan austere and draconian budget for 2013, 5 we could go the way of Europe and NJ.

IPPA strongly believes that further self-inflicted austerity at this time is ill-advised, based on current events and economic history. As well, austerity as being practiced in the US is morally unjustified, because by negatively influencing our economic growth,  the most vulnerable members of our society endure the greatest effect.


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Thursday, October 18th, 2012

–The Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal.

–In the 1964 President Johnson said all US citizens should have equal rights.

–Our Constitution says we all enjoy the right of equal protection under the law.

–Our collective national ethos says equal opportunity for all is a hallmark of our democracy.

But equal really means “as close as we can get.”  At best, our citizens, our government, our businesses, mass communication, and our cultural and educational institutions share a common goal of treating everyone the same in all our transactions, unless there is a valid reason for not doing so (e.g. special parking places for the handicapped) At worst, the goal is tossed aside and we enter a free-for-all of everyone for themselves.  Folks, we are rapidly approaching that worst.

Where you live, how much money you have, and the color of your skin are the first and foremost determinants of how fairly your equal rights will be applied, what kind of legal protection you will get, and what social and economic opportunities will be available to you.  Paradoxically, although we have put in place numerous laws designed to accomplish equal rights and equal opportunity—the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and affirmative action and equal opportunity requirements in hiring and admission to universities for example—actual opportunities between upper and lower income citizens are not fairly distributed.  This unfair distribution clearly parallels the income gap between upper and lower class wage earners, and like the income gap, the opportunity gap is also widening.   Because no matter how many laws are in place, in actual practice, the power of money to influence politics and social policy trumps actual enforcement of laws and regulations. (more…)


Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Providing birth control methods at no cost significantly reduced unplanned pregnancies and abortion rates, in a study of more than 9000 women reported by investigators at Washington University Hospital in St. Louis. It was published on line in the Oct. 4, 2012 issue of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.1 The effect among teenagers [ages 15-19] reduced pregnancies to 6.3 births per 1000, compared to the 2010 rate among teenagers of 34 births per 1000. The abortion rates of all the women in the study were 7.5 per 1000. This was much lower than the 13.4-17 per 1000 rate in the greater St. Louis area and also than the national rate of almost 20 abortions per 1000 women2.

The lead author, Dr. Jeff Piepert is quoted as saying; “the impact of providing no-cost birth control was far greater than we expected in terms of unintended pregnancies. We think improving access to birth control, particularly IUD’s and implants, coupled with education on the most effective methods has the potential to significantly decrease the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in this country1”.

The women in the study were counseled on the different methods approved and available for pregnancy prevention. These included the shorter acting ones, such as the birth control pill, along with longer acting methods such as IUD [intrauterine devices] and implantable ones. All of these options were free to the study participants, in contrast to many options currently available in health insurance plans. So the women in the study, after counseling, overwhelmingly chose the more effective methods, the IUD or implants which have a 1% failure rate. This is in contrast to the shorter acting methods which have a reported failure rate of 8-10 %. The more effective options are unaffordable for many women because they have higher upfront costs that are not covered.

IPPA emphasizes that this study convincingly demonstrates how important is the new provision in the Affordable Health Care Act [Obamacare,(AHC)]that all FDA approved contraceptive methods will be available for no cost to women enrolled in workplace insurance plans. It can be effective in reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortions all across the country. IPPA stresses that those of us who are really serious in wanting a much lower abortion rate in this country, should strongly support the AHC. It will provide free and accessible, safe and approved pregnancy prevention methods for many women of reproductive age.



Monday, October 8th, 2012

“Recognizing Conscience in Abortion Provision” is the title of a recent article in The NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL of MEDICINE, by Lisa Harris, M.D., Ph.D. ,  of the University of Michigan Hospitals, Department of Ob-Gyn, and Planned Parenthood of Mid- and South Michigan.1 The author shows that both sides of the abortion debate appeal to a  moral standard to justify the personal and legal positions to which they adhere. If we know what these standards are, we can decide if we want to oppose or support legal legislation that is based on such reasoning. The Republican Party’s 2012 position is, “Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence we assert the sanctity of human life and assert that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life…”

IPPA encourages people to refer not only to moral standards or moral beliefs by referring to which they support their positions, but also to go on and to identify the contents of those beliefs. We have been disappointed that in the past many pundits and public figures have justified their positions by appealing to moral mandates and “ethics” without giving them any content. During the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaigns, Hillary Clinton said that “There is a moral imperative to ensure quality affordable health care is available to all Americans.  President Obama’s first economic advisor, Lawrence Summers, said the same thing. The columnist Thomas Friedman said, “We need to re-establish the core balance between our markets, ethics, and regulations.” And the economist and columnist Paul Krugman said that helping the needy through health benefits “is the morally right thing to do; it’s also a far more effective form of economic stimulus than cutting the capital gains tax.” But none of these figures went  on to say what the relevant moral principles are.

To refer at least to the basic parts of one’s beliefs is to strengthen a position; it does the same for an opponent when she does it. It allows the reader or listener to look at a person’s guiding principles, for consistency, relevant co-existing values cited or just implicit, and coherence of the guidelines with human experience.  Do the guidelines appeal to fundamentals daily shared by many humans, or do they require beliefs exclusive to one group of people? Are the guidelines workable in the sense that they do not put unreasonable demands on a person’s basic motives (two of which are, to preserve her own life and to avoid long term suffering)? (more…)