SEX ED: LET’S HEAR IT FOR TEXAS!

According to this infographic, ‘abstinence-only’ states lead the nation in teen pregnancies; states that teach comprehensive sex-ed have the fewest. More than 96% of Texas school districts teach ‘abstinence only.’ Texas leads the nation in teen pregnancies – 62 per 1,000. Your teenage daughter is only half as likely to get pregnant if her school has comprehensive sex ed, versus ‘abstinence only.’ If you want her to get pregnant while in high school, consider a move to Texas.

ROMNEY: LET’S TANK OUR ECONOMY

Listen. Austerity is not the path to growth. (If you don’t get that, read Krugman on Europe’s woes.) And neither are tax cuts. (If you don’t get that, note that Bush’s tax cuts were followed by a near depression; whereas Clinton’s tax hikes were followed by the creation of 23 million jobs.) Yet Romney – in his oddly-sited speech on the 30-yard line of an empty 65,000-seat stadium – pledged sharp cuts in personal and corporate tax rates (and to lower the estate tax on billionheirs from 45% to zero), which he would fully pay for . . . somehow.

How? We know it’s not by cuts to the social safety net – he’s told us he’s not worried about the poor, because there is that safety net, and that he plans to augment it if there are holes in it. That will cost more money, not less.

So how? By eliminating the home mortgage deduction? That should help buoy the struggling housing (NOT!).* By eliminating the charitable deduction? Great idea: let’s make it more expensive to give to charity – our nonprofits are just rolling in cash (not), so discouraging contributions is a great idea (NOT!!!). By cutting the military? Well, yes, but I’m guessing that’s not his plan; and even if it is, doing it responsibly would not yield nearly enough savings to pay for his tax cuts.

And why make them? Tax rates are already so low, it’s more fanciful than ever to think that further tax cuts for the best off would buoy the economy.**

INSTEAD: LET’S RENEW AMERICA

What would buoy the economy is massive sustained investment to renew our infrastructure, putting unemployed people to work building new things and renewing old (like 154,000 substandard bridges and who knows how many 19th Century sewage systems) that we need to last for the next 100 years.

That kind of job-creating, economy-priming public investment requires public revenue. Taxes.

And (while I’m on a roll) what would buoy the economy further, by inspiring confidence, is a long-term, balanced plan – along the lines of the Simpson-Bowles recommendations – that in the ‘out years’ would begin to bend our revenue curve up and our spending curve down. (This is, roughly, that $4 trillion ‘grand bargain’ President Obama was working toward the last time the Republicans threatened not to lift the debt ceiling.)

To those who believe not a penny in concessions can be made on entitlements, even as part of a balanced plan, I offer bad news and good news. The bad news is that: get over it. We have to do this. The good news is that if we do – showing ourselves and the global markets that we have a path to fiscal health – we may experience the kind of growth and prosperity that will one day allow us to undo whatever mid-Century belt-tightening had been planned. (Right? Say – to take one example – that as part of a balanced deal we keep the early-retirement age for Social Security at 62, but extend the full-benefits age, currently slated to hit 67 in 2027, by one month per year, reaching 69 for those retiring in 2051. Okay? In the first place, that would give today’s 29-year-olds 40 years to plan for the adjustment. And – and here’s the thing – someplace along the way, perhaps even before 2027, the promise of technology and productivity being what they are, we might just be able to reverse course and start lowering the retirement age. But for now, we need to assure ourselves and the world we can set a responsible course.)

*Some distant day we should begin to do that. But so gradually, and with so much lead time – perhaps a decade or more – that the market has time to absorb the shock.

**The one exception that both parties rightly embrace is to cut the 35% corporate tax rate by means of removing loopholes. Definitely worth trying, albeit easier said than done.

 

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