King: Cut Planned Parenthood To Fund Border Wall

Unless you closely follow political news, the last you probably heard from Rep. Steve King (R-IA) was his tweet back in March:

Steve King, a United States Representative, went on record effectively encouraging white nationalism. And when it was pointed out to him that his tweet could be read as an endorsement of white nationalism, King stood by it. In a political arena often rife with unseemly, insensitive, and exclusionary behavior, King stands in a class of his own. (That class is located somewhere between the earth’s core and mantle, in case you were wondering.)

Stevie Boy is back in the news again today for — you guessed it — finding new ground upon which to sow his seeds of ethnonationalist idiocy. In an interview with the Washington Examiner, King offered an alternative solution to the recently-answered question of who will be footing the bill for Trump’s proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico. (Spoiler alert: it ain’t Mexico.)

On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee introduced a spending bill that would allocate $1.6 billion — roughly 12% of the total $13.8 billion earmarked for Customs and Border Protection — toward the cost of building the wall. This is not enough, according to King; the report mentions that “[King] would prefer an additional $5 billion for the wall.” And how, pray tell, does he plan on coming up with another $5 billion?

(We’ll get to that in a second, but really quickly: remember when Trump insisted, over and over again, that Mexico would pay for the wall? Well, hold onto your hats, but it turns out that Trump may have been talking out of his ass on that one. Who knew, with such a track record for honesty and foresight?)

Anyway, King’s proposal to come up with the other $5 billion — or, in other words, 312% of the amount originally allocated — is as follows: “I would find half of a billion dollars of that right out of Planned Parenthood’s budget […] And the rest of it could come out of food stamps and entitlements that are being spread out for people that haven’t worked in three generations.”

See? It’s that simple.

Now, it’s unlikely that Steve King has actually reviewed the federal budget and its line items; if he had, he would know that “defunding Planned Parenthood” is a meaningless exercise that would likely result in the federal government spending more money on medical care. From Slate:

According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2006, government spending on contraceptive services for 9.4 million patients — including Medicaid, Title X and state funding — totaled $1.85 billion. Of those patients, 2.6 million went through Planned Parenthood, at what Planned Parenthood estimates to be a cost of $385 million, and 6.8 million of them went through other providers, at a cost of $1.5 billion […] this means Planned Parenthood cost the government an average of $148 for a patient’s contraceptive care in a year, while other clinics spent $215 a year per patient.

For another thing, the term “defunding Planned Parenthood” is misleading. Planned Parenthood is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC); it is not its own line item on the budget. In other words, to defund Planned Parenthood, the government would have to cut the budget to all FQHCs, including clinics at homeless shelters, community health centers in medically underserved areas, and public housing primary care programs.

For another, due to a federal law that requires drug companies to provide discounts to organizations with an “overt family planning mission,” Planned Parenthood saves money on drug costs. Getting rid of Planned Parenthood wouldn’t do anything to save money; the people who use it would simply move to another government-run service — one that isn’t the beneficiary of discounted drug prices.

On top of that, Planned Parenthood is one of the only FQHCs that can bill private insurance for the services they provide. Most other FQHCs can only bill to government-funded programs like Medicare or Medicaid, which means the government foots the bill for less of the costs associated with an individual visiting Planned Parenthood.

And on top of that, as much as conservatives like to pretend that Planned Parenthood exists solely to help people who want to murder innocent babies, that’s not what it does. In some underserved areas, Planned Parenthood is the only place people can go to get primary care; in Alabama, for example, Planned Parenthood locations routinely see women, men, and children. Why? Because there’s nowhere else for these people to get medical care.

Of course, none of this really matters. Steve King isn’t offering a serious solution to this (self-inflicted) budgetary problem, he’s just trying to score points with his base. King knows that all he needs to do is check off one of the items on the Conservative Bingo card (Planned Parenthood, Obamacare, immigration, the Second Amendment, entitlements, tax cuts, and so on), and conservative voters will be satisfied.

By the same token, the second part of his proposal — cutting federal funding for welfare programs — is equally idiotic. King’s logic exists in a feedback loop: if you build the wall, no more immigrants. No more immigrants means immigrants won’t be taking American jobs, and more Americans will work. More working Americans means less need for public assistance. This conveniently ignores a much simpler truth: companies who hire undocumented workers are doing so because they don’t want, or can’t afford, to pay American workers at American rates.

Remember when the biggest complaint from small business owners and, later, conservatives who latched onto it regarding Obamacare was that, if required by law to provide health insurance to their workers, they would just hire fewer people to limit their costs? The same logic applies here.

By eliminating the migrant workforce, the number of available jobs would (at best) stay level, or (at worst) go down. Business owners aren’t going to altruistically start cutting into their profit margins to spend more on labor because it’s the “right thing to do” any more than they would do the same to spend more on health insurance for their employees. The primary reason these jobs exist in the first place is because immigrant workers are willing to accept less than the minimum wage to do them. Raising the cost of hiring workers won’t force businesses to hire Americans; it will force them to lay people off and pay fewer people for the same amount of work to stay afloat.

King also made a final, grasping-at-straws attempt to justify his proposed elimination of the social safety net in service of fulfilling Trump’s campaign promise: people on welfare are fat. Seriously, he said that: “Now we have a problem of obesity. And when you match up the [Electronic Benefits Transfer] card with what the scales say on some of the folks, I think it’s worth looking at. Michelle Obama looked at it, Republicans should be able to look at it too.”

Bringing up Michelle Obama is a not-so-savvy way for King to lay the groundwork for a future claim of “partisanship” or “hypocrisy,” but worse than that, it’s not even accurate. Michelle Obama reviewed the EBT system to ensure that the foods covered by food stamps were providing adequate nutrition to the children in the families that received the food stamps. The subtext of King’s assertion, on the other hand, is clear: People on food stamps are fat; ergo, they’re eating too much food. Therefore, we can lower the amount of assistance offered to them in order to save ourselves money — it’s not like they’ll starve, right?

Steve King’s statements demonstrate the problem with hard-line fiscal and social conservatism: it only makes sense if you take the most narrow view possible, exhibit no regard for your fellow man, and refuse to entertain any evidence that contradicts your beliefs. Fortunately for those most in need in this country, Steve King’s opinions carry about as much weight in the Republican Party as Barack Obama’s. Let’s just hope that doesn’t change anytime soon.

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