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25 February 2012

The Perversion of Rights



They’re now gifts that a benign king graciously showers upon his subjects.


NASCAR driver Danica Patrick



By Mark Steyn

CNN’s John King did his best the other night, producing a question from one of his viewers: “Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control, and if not, why?”

To their credit, no Republican candidate was inclined to accept the premise of the question. King might have done better to put the issue to Danica Patrick. For some reason, Michelle Fields of the Daily Caller sought the views of the NASCAR driver and Sports Illustrated swimwear model about “the Obama administration’s dictate that religious employers provide health-care plans that cover contraceptives.” Miss Patrick, a practicing Catholic, gave the perfect citizen’s response for the Age of Obama:

“I leave it up to the government to make good decisions for Americans.”

That’s the real “hot topic” here — whether a majority of citizens, in America as elsewhere in the West, is willing to “leave it up to the government” to make decisions on everything that matters. On the face of it, the choice between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church should not be a tough one. On the one hand, we have the plain language of the First Amendment as stated in the U.S. Constitution since 1791: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” 
On the other, we have a regulation invented by executive order under the vast powers given to Kathleen Sebelius under a 2,500-page catalogue of statist enforcement passed into law by a government party that didn’t even bother to read it.

Commissar Sebelius says that she is trying to “strike the appropriate balance.” But these two things — a core, bedrock, constitutional principle, and Section 47(e)viii of Micro-Regulation Four Bazillion and One issued by Leviathan’s Bureau of Compliance — are not equal, and you can only “balance” them by massively increasing state power and massively diminishing the citizen’s. Or, to put it more benignly, by “leaving it up to the government to make good decisions.”

Some of us have been here before. For most of the last five years, I’ve been battling Canada’s so-called “human rights” commissions, and similar thought police in Britain, Europe, and elsewhere. As I write this, I’m in Australia, to talk up the cause of free speech, which is, alas, endangered even in that great land. In that sense, the “latest hot topic” — the clash between Obama and American Catholics — is, in fact, a perfect distillation of the broader struggle in the West today. When it comes to human rights, I go back to 1215 and Magna Carta — or, to give it its full name, Magna Carta Libertatum. My italics: I don’t think they had them back in 1215. But they understood that “libertatum” is the word that matters. Back then, “human rights” were rights of humans, of individuals — and restraints upon the king: They’re the rights that matter: limitations upon kingly power. Eight centuries later, we have entirely inverted the principle: “Rights” are now gifts that a benign king graciously showers upon his subjects — the right to “free” health care, to affordable housing, the “right of access to a free placement service” (to quote the European Constitution’s “rights” for workers). The Democratic National Committee understands the new school of rights very well: In its recent video, Obama’s bureaucratic edict is upgraded into the “right to contraception coverage at no additional cost.” And, up against a “human right” as basic as that, how can such peripheral rights as freedom of conscience possibly compete?

The transformation of “human rights” from restraints upon state power into a pretext for state power is nicely encapsulated in the language of Article 14 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which states that everyone has the right “to receive free compulsory education.” Got that? You have the human right to be forced to do something by the government.

Commissar Sebelius isn’t the only one interested in “striking the appropriate balance” between individual liberty and state compulsion. Everyone talks like that these days. For Canada’s Chief Censor, Jennifer Lynch, freedom of expression is just one menu item in the great all-you-can-eat salad bar of rights, so don’t be surprised if we’re occasionally out of stock. Instead, why not try one of our tasty nutritious rights du jour? Like the human right to a transsexual labiaplasty, or the human right of McDonald’s employees not to have to wash their hands after visiting the bathroom. Commissar Lynch puts it this way: “The modern conception of rights is that of a matrix with different rights and freedoms mutually reinforcing each other to build a strong and durable human rights system.”

That would be a matrix as in some sort of intricate biological sequencing very few people can understand? Or a Matrix as in the illusory world created to maintain a supine citizenry by all-controlling government officials? The point is, with so many pseudo-“rights” bouncing around, you need a bigger and bigger state: Individual rights are less important than a “rights system” — i.e., a government bureaucracy.
This perversion of rights is killing the Western world. First, unlike real rights — to freedom of speech and freedom of religion — these new freedoms come with quite a price tag. All the free stuff is free in the sense of those offers that begin “You pay nothing now!” But you will eventually. No nation is rich enough to give you all this “free” stuff year in, year out. Spain’s government debt works out to $18,000 per person, France’s to $33,000, Greece’s to $39,000. Thank God we’re not Greece, huh? Er, in fact, according to the Senate Budget Committee, U.S. government debt is currently $44,215 per person. Going by the official Obama budget numbers, it will rise over the next ten years to $75,000. As I say, that’s per person: 75 grand in debt for every man, woman, and child, not to mention every one of the ever-swelling ranks of retirees and disabled Social Security recipients — or about $200,000 per household.

So maybe you’re not interested in philosophical notions of liberty vs. statism — like Danica Patrick, tens of millions of people are happy to “leave it up to the government to make good decisions.” Maybe you’re relatively relaxed about the less theoretical encroachments of Big Government — the diversion of so much American energy into “professional services,” all the lawyering and bookkeeping and paperwork shuffling necessary to keep you and your economic activity in full compliance with the Bureau of Compliance. But at some point no matter how painless the seductions of statism, you run up against the hard math: As those debt per capita numbers make plain, all this “free” stuff is doing is mortgaging your liberty and lining up a future of serfdom.

I used to think that the U.S. Constitution would prove more resilient than the less absolutist liberties of other Western nations. But the president has calculated that, with Obamacare, the First Amendment and much else will crumble before his will. And, given trends in U.S. jurisprudence, who’s to say he won’t get his way? That’s the point about all this “free” stuff: Ultimately, it’s not about your rights, but about his.

Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2012 Mark Steyn

24 February 2012

The Sharia Court of Pennsylvania


By Andrew C. McCarthy
February 24, 2012 2:59 P.M.


A state judge in Pennsylvania has dismissed an assault and harrassment case against a Muslim defendant who admitted attacking the victim. Magistrate Judge Mark Martin, a veteran of the war in Iraq and a convert to Islam, ruled that Talag Elbayomy’s sharia defense — what he claimed was his obligation to strike out against any insult against the prophet Mohammed — trumped the First Amendment free speech rights of the victim.

Yes, you read that correctly.

 I have made a transcript of the Pennsylvania case in which state judge Mark Martin, a Muslim convert and U.S. Army reservist who served in Iraq, relied on a sharia law defense (as well as some evidentiary contortions) to dismiss an open-and-shut harassment case against a Muslim man who assaulted an atheist activist at a Halloween parade.

The victim, Ernest Perce, wore a “Zombie Mohammed” costume and pretended to walk among the dead (in the company of an associate who was the “Zombie Pope” — and who, you’ll be shocked to learn, was not assaulted). The assailant, Talag Elbayomy, a Muslim immigrant, physically attacked Perce, attempted to pull his sign off, and, according to police, admitted what he had done right after the incident. The defense argued that Elbayomy believed it was a crime to insult the prophet Mohammed (it is, under sharia law), and that because he was in the company of his children, he had to act to end this provocation and set an example about defending Islam.

As you will see, Judge Martin did not lecture the defendant about free speech or how disputes are resolved in a civilized country. He instead dressed the victim down for failing to appreciate how sensitive Muslims — including the judge himself — are about Islam. The audio of Judge Martin’s remarks can be heard on YouTube (The audio, beginning at around the 2-minute mark on the YouTube clip, lasts about 7 minutes. Martin has reportedly threatened to hold Perce in contempt for recording and publishing the judge’s statements, which were made in open court. Perce says he had permission to make a recording as long as it was only audio, not video.) Here is the transcript:
    

 
Well, having had the benefit of having spent over two-and-a-half years in a predominantly Muslim country, I think I know a little bit about the faith of Islam. In fact, I have a copy of the Koran here, and I would challenge you, sir, to show me where it says in the Koran that Mohammed arose and walked among the dead.

[Unintelligible.] You misinterpreted things. Before you start mocking someone else’s religion you may want to find out a little bit more about it. That makes you look like a doofus.

And Mr. Thomas [Elbayomi's defense lawyer] is correct. In many other Muslim speaking countries – excuse me, in many Arabic speaking countries – call it “Muslim” – something like this is definitely against the law there. In their society, in fact, it could be punishable by death, and it frequently is, in their society.

Here in our society, we have a constitution that gives us many rights, specifically, First Amendment rights. It’s unfortunate that some people use the First Amendment to deliberately provoke others. I don’t think that’s what our forefathers really intended. I think our forefathers intended that we use the First Amendment so that we can speak our mind, not to piss off other people and other cultures, which is what you did.

I don’t think you’re aware, sir, there’s a big difference between how Americans practice Christianity – uh, I understand you’re an atheist. But, see, Islam is not just a religion, it’s their culture, their culture. It’s their very essence, their very being. They pray five times a day towards Mecca. To be a good Muslim, before you die, you have to make a pilgrimage to Mecca unless you are otherwise told you cannot because you are too ill, too elderly, whatever. But you must make the attempt.

Their greetings, “Salaam alaikum,” “Alaikum wa-salaam,” “May God be with you.” Whenever — it is very common — their language, when they’re speaking to each other, it’s very common for them to say, uh, “Allah willing, this will happen.” It is — they are so immersed in it.

Then what you have done is you've completely trashed their essence, their being.

They find it very, very, very offensive. I’m a Muslim, I find it offensive.

[Unintelligble] aside was very offensive.

But you have that right, but you’re way outside your bounds on First Amendment rights.

This is what — as I said, I spent half my years altogether living in other countries. When we go to other countries, it’s not uncommon for people to refer to us as “ugly Americans.” This is why we are referred to as “ugly Americans,” because we’re so concerned about our own rights we don’t care about other people’s rights. As long as we get our say, but we don’t care about the other people’s say.

All that aside I’ve got here basically — I don’t want to say, “He said, she said.” But I’ve got two sides of the story that are in conflict with each other. I understand — I’ve been at a Halloween parade, I understand how noisy it can be, how difficult it can be to get a [unintelligible]. I can’t believe that, if there was this kind of conflict going on in the middle of the street, that somebody didn’t step forward sooner to try and intervene — that the police officer on a bicycle didn’t stop and say, “Hey, let’s break this up.”

[Unintelligible]. You got a witness.

[Unintelligible response. Judge Martin then continues:]

The preponderance of, excuse me, the burden of proof is that the defendant — it must be proven that the defendant did with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person — The Commonwealth, whether there was conflict or not — and, yes, he should be took [sic] putting his hands on you. I don’t know — I have your story he did and his story that he did not.

But another part of the element [of the offense charged] is, as Mr. Thomas [the defense lawyer] said, was — “Was the defendant’s intent to harass, annoy or alarm — or was it his intent to try to have the offensive situation negated?”

If his intent was to harass, annoy or alarm, I think there would have been a little bit more of an altercation. Something more substantial as far as testimony going on that there was a conflict. Because there is not, it is not proven to me beyond a reasonable doubt that this defendant is guilty of harassment. Therefore I am going to dismiss the charge.



Me again: I could get into an evidence and criminal law analysis here — Judge Martin is being disingenuous about the “He said, she said” business: There was a videotape that corroborates the assault (it does not depict the assault but it shows there was a sudden disturbance), and a police officer would have testified that Elbayomy admitted attacking Perce — beside the fact that if there had been no assault, there would have been no need to defend it on sharia grounds. Moreover, Martin obviously missed class the day they taught the difference between intent and motive.

But all that is beside the point. This judge had no business entertaining a sharia defense to a violation of Pennsylvania law. The judge had no business ridiculing an American citizen as a “doofus” and hectoring him with Martin’s views about Islam, its requirements, its purportedly extraordinary significance to Muslims (compared to other believers who, according to Martin, are less devoted to their faiths), or about the Muslim perception of “ugly Americans.” The judge, furthermore, had no business sitting on a case in which he was biased against the complainant — so patently biased that the defense lawyer, R. Mark Thomas, saw that a sharia defense would fly and played it to the hilt.

Here’s what Mr. Thomas told the local ABC affiliate: “I think this was a good dressing down by the judge. The so-called victim was the antagonist. We introduced evidence that clearly showed his attitude toward Muslims. . . . The judge didn’t do anything that I wouldn’t have done if I had been in the same position.”

Yeah, I’m sure. But one’s “attitude toward Muslims” is irrelevant to one’s right in America to walk the streets and express opinions people may find offensive without being physically attacked and intimidated. And the fact that sharia governments kill people over such expressions of opinion means that they are barbaric, not that we should tolerate additional constraints on our (diminishing) liberties. Contrary to Judge Martin’s view — a view that is becoming increasingly and disturbingly common among top administration officials, some members of Congress, and the military brass — sharia does not set the “bounds on First Amendment rights.”

In 27 years of trying and analyzing legal cases, this performance is as shocking and disgraceful as anything I’ve ever seen from an American trial judge.



22 February 2012

Ominous Numbers for Obama

 

An index based on joblessness and consumer spending isn't saying good things about the president's chances of re-election.


By GENE EPSTEIN 


Will the economy (stupid) again determine the outcome of a presidential election? Based on two important economic measures that I've examined and their relationship to the presidential races since 1956, Obama supporters have cause to worry.

All but the most recent of those races featured an incumbent, whether it was a sitting president (nine races out of 13) or a vice president seeking to move into the Oval Office (four out of 13). Based on consumer spending and unemployment—the two variables I tracked—Obama probably would have lost had he run for re-election this past November. 

The numbers have improved since then, but not enough to tip the odds in the president's favor. (See summary data in the table below.)

Is It the Economy, Stupid?

Year Incumbent/VP VEWB* Result
1956Dwight D. Eisenhower-0.6Won
1960Richard Nixon-2.2Lost
1964Lyndon B. Johnson3.6Won
1968Hubert Humphrey5Lost
1972Richard Nixon4.3Won
1976Gerald Ford1Lost
1980Jimmy Carter-4Lost
1984Ronald Reagan0Won
1988George H. W. Bush0.8Won
1992George H. W. Bush-1.3Lost
1996Bill Clinton0.5Won
2000Al Gore2.6Lost
2004George W. Bush0Won
2011Barack Obama-3.9
*Voters' Economic Well-Being = Consumer spending growth minus the jobless rate


For my first variable, I took the percentage increase in real consumer spending in the last six months of the year in which the election was held, compared with the previous year's last six months. That's a more tangible sign of confidence, in my view, than surveys of confidence.

For my second variable, I examined the rate of unemployment for married males over the last six months of each election year. This provides a more continuous measure of labor's pain over the past half-century than the overall rate of unemployment, whose demographic mix has changed over time.

To compute my measure of voters' economic well-being, or VEWB, I subtracted that bad thing, the married-male unemployment rate, from the good thing, the rate of increase in real consumer spending, and got a single number. 

In seven of the 13 races, the incumbent won. In six out of those seven, the VEWB was flat or positive. In one race, the VEWB was slightly negative, and the incumbent also won (Dwight Eisenhower in '56). 

According to the data, then, a flat-to-positive index is virtually required for an incumbent to win. Also, no one has ever won with an index as negative as Obama's is now. But a positive index doesn't guarantee victory. In the six of 13 races the incumbent lost, the VEWB was negative in three but positive in the others.

STARTING FROM THE BEGINNING, incumbent Eisenhower's win in 1956, even with a small negative VEWB, was followed by V.P. Richard Nixon's loss in 1960 with a much larger negative. Lyndon Johnson won re-election in '64 with a positive VEWB, followed by V.P. Hubert Humphrey's loss in 1968 despite an even larger positive. Incumbent Nixon won in '72, with a positive index, while incumbent Gerald Ford lost in '76, despite a small positive. Incumbent Jimmy Carter lost in '80, with a huge negative, while incumbent Ronald Reagan won in '84, with a flat VEWB. 

V.P. George Bush won in '88, with a positive index, but lost in '92—by then his VEWB had gone negative—against a challenger who campaigned on the concept that "it's the economy, stupid." Incumbent Bill Clinton won in 1996, with a positive index. But V.P. Al Gore lost with a positive index (although he won the popular vote) to George W. Bush in 2000, who in turn was re-elected with a flat index in '04.

Last November, Obama's VEWB would have been the second-worst since 1956 (behind only Jimmy Carter's in 1980). Sure, the president's number could turn at least flat or maybe even positive by November, but that's quite unlikely. However, as my data show, it isn't always the economy (stupid) that determines presidential elections. But it sure helps the incumbent if the economy is healthy when he seeks a second term.


21 February 2012

On the O'tanic, Forget Lifejackets & Lifeboats, But You Will Receive A Lifetime Supply of Assorted French Tickler Condoms And An IUD That Last For Life --- ALL FREE!!!







                       A universal birth-control mandate is a curious priority for a dying republic.


By Mark Steyn

Have you seen the official White House version of what the New Yorkimes headline writers call “A Responsible Budget”? 

My favorite bit is Chart 5-1 on page 58 of their 500-page appendix on “Analytical Perspectives.” This is entitled “Publicly Held Debt Under 2013 Budget Policy Projections.” It’s a straight lin e going straight up before disappearing off the top right-hand corner of the graph in the year 2084 and continuing northeast straight through your eye socket, out the back of your skull, and zooming up to rendezvous with Newt’s space colony on the moon circa 2100. Just to emphasize, this isn’t the doom-laden dystopian fancy of a right-wing apocalyptic loon like me; it’s the official Oval Office version of where America’s headed. In the New York Times–approved “responsible budget” there is no attempt even to pretend to bend the debt curve into something approaching reentry with reality.


 


As for us doom-mongers, at the House Budget Committee on Thursday, Chairman Paul Ryan produced another chart, this time from the Congressional Budget Office, with an even steeper straight line showing debt rising to 900 percent of GDP and rocketing off the graph circa 2075. America’s Treasury Secretary, Timmy Geithner the TurboTax Kid, thought the chart would have been even more hilarious if they’d run the numbers into the next millennium: “You could have taken it out to 3000 or to 4000” he chortled, to supportive titters from his aides. Has total societal collapse ever been such a non-stop laugh riot?




Yeah, right.  We cut it off at the end of the century because the economy, according to the CBO, shuts down in 2027 on this path.” 

 -Paul Ryan to Tim Geithner



The U.S. economy shuts down in 2027? Had you heard about that? It’s like the ultimate Presidents’ Day sale: Everything must go — literally! 


Soph:  Here's some more of that exchange:  Every American should be made to watch this until they can recite both parts backwards.  

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner spar over debt. Transcript below:

Ryan: Here's the point, if you'll allow me. This is your time, so we'll just take a long time. Here's the point.  Leaders are supposed to fix problems. We have a $99.4 trillion unfunded liability. Our government is making promises to Americans that it has no way of accounting for them. And so you're saying yeah, we're stabilizing it but we're not fixing it in the long run. That means we're just going to keep lying to people.  We're going to keep all these empty promises going.

And so what we're saying is, in order to avert a debt crisis -- you're the Treasury Secretary -- if we can't make good on our bonds in the future, who is going to invest in our country?  We do not want to have a debt crisis. And so it comes down to confidence and trajectory. Do we have confidence that we're getting our fiscal situation under control, that we're preventing the debt from getting at these catastrophic levels?

If we go back to the preceding chart, number 13, you're showing that you have no plan to get this debt under control. You're saying we'll stabilize it but then it's just going to shoot back up.  So my argument is, that's Europe. That is bringing us toward a European debt crisis because we're showing the world, the credit market's future seniors -- people who are organizing their lives around the promises that are being made to them today -- that we don't have a plan to make good on this.
   
Geithner: Mr. Chairman, as I said, maybe we're not disagreeing in a sense.  I made it absolutely clear that what our budget does is get out deficit down to a sustainable path over the budget window.

Ryan: And then they take back off.

Geithner: Why do they take off again? Why do they do that?

Ryan: Because we have 10,000 people retiring everyday and healthcare costs going up.

Geithner:



"That's right. We have millions of Americans retiring everyday, and that will drive substantial further rise in the growth of healthcare costs. We're not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution to our long-term problem. What we do know is we don't like yours."


[Soph:  Allow me to translate Tax Cheat Timmy for you:

"That's right.  We have 10,000 Americans becoming newly eligible for Social Security and Medicare everyday in America and that number will continue on through the end of the 2020s.  We recognise that what many of the hardliners on the fiscal right have been saying is true and the entitlement programmes are unsustainable.  Simply raising taxes on the 1% might close less than 10% of President Obama's next budget deficit.  We aren't suppose to articulate the problem that arises when the demographic foundations upon which the New Deal and The Great Society were founded breakdown.  Simply put, there are too few children to support their aging parents and, as a society, we decided it was the government's role to take care of the elderly not the parents anyway.  That was how all great Social Democratic states in Europe did.  Why should millions of Frenchmen be made to abandon their 6 week vacations in August of 2003?  The state was supposed to care for their homebound parents without air conditioning in one of the greatest heatwaves in a century.  Il n'était pas la responsabilité des enfants!  Non!  Sadly, there are not enough children to pay the taxes to take care of the adults, who chose not to have beaucoup enfants in France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Germany, or elsewhere.  All of the programmes are unsustainable.  We know that.  But, we would rather get reelected and paper over the disaster in the hope that we can leave the disaster for the next President, who will likely be a Republican and will be hated for having to dismantle all of our fine social safety net programmes and doom his party to hell for an eternity.]

At such a moment, it may seem odd to find the political class embroiled in a bitter argument about the Obama administration’s determination to force Catholic institutions (and, indeed, my company and your company, if you’re foolish enough still to be in business in the United States) to provide free prophylactics to their employees. The received wisdom among media cynics is that Obama has engaged in an ingenious bit of misdirection by seizing on a pop-culture caricature of Republicans and inviting them to live up to it: Those uptight squares with the hang-ups about fornication have decided to force you to lead the same cheerless sex lives as them. I notice that in their coverage NPR and the evening news shows generally refer to the controversy as being about “contraception,” discreetly avoiding mention of sterilization and pharmacological abortion, as if the GOP have finally jumped the shark in order to prevent you jumping anything at all.

It may well be that the Democrats succeed in establishing this narrative. But anyone who falls for it is a sap. In fact, these two issues — the Obama condoms-for-clunkers giveaway and a debt-to-GDP ratio of 900 percent by 2075 — are not unconnected. In Greece, 100 grandparents have 42 grandchildren — i.e., an upside-down family tree. As I wrote in this space a few weeks ago, “If 100 geezers run up a bazillion dollars’ worth of debt, is it likely that 42 youngsters will ever be able to pay it off?” Most analysts know the answer to that question: Greece is demographically insolvent. So it’s looking to Germany to continue bankrolling its First World lifestyle.

But the Germans are also demographically exhausted: They have the highest proportion of childless women in Europe. One in three fräulein have checked out of the motherhood business entirely. A nation that did without having kids of its own is in no mood to maintain Greece as the ingrate slacker who never moves out of the house. As the European debt crisis staggers on, these two countries loathe each other ever more nakedly: The Greek president brings up his war record against the German bullies, and Athenian commentators warn of the new Fourth Reich. The Germans, for their part, would rather cut the Greeks loose. In a post-prosperity West, social solidarity — i.e., socioeconomic fictions such as “Europe” — are the first to disappear.



 
The United States faces a mildly less daunting arithmetic. Nevertheless, the Baby Boomers did not have enough children to maintain mid-20th-century social programs. As a result, the children they did have will end their lives in a poorer, uglier, sicker, more divided, and more violent society. How to avert this fate? In 2009 Nancy Pelosi called for free contraceptives as a form of economic stimulus. Ten thousand Americans retire every day, and leave insufficient progeny to pick up the slack. In effect, Nancy has rolled a giant condom over the entire American economy.

Testifying before Congress, Timmy Geithner referred only to “demographic challenges” — an oblique allusion to the fact that the U.S. economy is about to be terminally clobbered by $100 trillion of entitlement obligations it can never meet. And, as Chart 5-1 on page 58 of the official Obama budget “Analytical Perspectives” makes plain, your feckless, decadent rulers have no plans to do anything about it. Instead, the Democrats shriek, Ooh, Republican prudes who can’t get any action want to shut down your sex life! According to CBO projections, by mid-century mere interest payments on the debt will exceed federal revenues. For purposes of comparison, by 1788 Louis XVI’s government in France was spending a mere 60 percent of revenues on debt service, and we know how that worked out for His Majesty shortly thereafter. Not to worry, says Barry Antoinette. Let them eat condoms.

This is a very curious priority for a dying republic. “Birth control” is accessible, indeed ubiquitous, and, by comparison with anything from a gallon of gas to basic cable, one of the cheapest expenses in the average budget. Not even Rick Santorum, that notorious scourge of the sexually liberated, wishes to restrain the individual right to contraception.

But where is the compelling societal interest in the state prioritizing and subsidising it? Especially when you’re already the Brokest Nation in History. Elsewhere around the developed world, prudent politicians are advocating natalist policies designed to restock their empty maternity wards. A few years ago, announcing tax incentives for three-child families, Peter Costello, formerly Timmy Geithner’s counterpart Down Under, put it this way: “Have one for Mum, one for Dad, and one for Australia.” But in America an oblivious political class, led by a president who characterizes young motherhood as a “punishment,” prefers to offer solutions to problems that don’t exist rather than the ones that are all too real. I think this is what they call handing out condoms on the Titanic. Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, distills the current hysteria thus: “It’s as if we passed a law requiring mosques to sell bacon and then, when people objected, responded by saying ‘What’s wrong with bacon? You’re trying to ban bacon!!!!’”

Americans foolish enough to fall for the Democrats’ crude bit of misdirection can hardly complain about their rendezvous with the sharp end of that page-58 budget graph. People are free to buy bacon, and free to buy condoms. But the state has no compelling interest to force either down your throat. The notion that an all-powerful government would distract from its looming bankruptcy by introducing a universal contraceptive mandate would strike most novelists as almost too pat in its symbolism. It’s like something out of Brave New World. Except that it’s cowardly, and, like so much else about the sexual revolution, very old and wrinkled.

Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2012 Mark Steyn