Dr. Barbara Forrest has a new article at the Louisiana Coalition for Science page (here) wherein she discusses the Louisiana Family Forum’s 2011 agenda and relative scope of its funding versus her organization’s funding (none). While it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) surprise me that Gene Mills and his brethren are advancing a typically right-wing-wacko slate of ideas for the coming year, it’s nevertheless telling just how utterly anti-family it actually is. This is my favorite part:
Pass 2011 State Senate Redistricting Plan
Defeat any new taxes
Defend Life gains
Defeat homosexual adoption and marriage
Shrink size and scope of government
Three of these ideas are wholly secular in nature. Only two of the five have some basis is the so-called “social conservative” movement. So I guess the question is this: is being either a “fiscal conservative” or a “social conservative” a “family-friendly” position?
Let’s take a look:
1) Pass 2011 State Senate Redistricting Plan: Historically, redistricting has been used to gerrymander districts in favor of a chosen political party. People drew lines around white neighborhoods so Republicans would get elected or around black neighborhoods for Democrats. Louisiana has no choice but to redraw lines as the 2010 census has uncovered a substantial population drop, which means we are losing a seat in the House of Representatives and also we are required to reassess district lines for the legislature and a number of other bodies by law following the federal census. There is a Powerpoint presentation by the House which explains some of these factors here. I don’t know the true significance of the joining forces of an Opelousas-based black legislator and the Louisiana Family Forum to create an “equitable” plan that creates majority-black districts in various areas of the state, but I strongly suspect that this is part of some broader effort to ensure that more social conservatives are elected to the Louisiana Legislature. I can’t see the LFF putting its resources behind anything simply for sake of justice; it flies in the face of so many other things that the organization does. So is it family-friendly? I guess that’s the sort of thing that would have to be addressed in the context of whether “social conservatives” and their agenda truly represent something that makes American families stronger. I don’t think so, but I’ll have to push that question back until we’ve looked at the other items here.
2) Defeat any new taxes: This seems like a relatively-straightforward conservative position, a chestnut of those who still subscribe to the long-discredited notion that putting more money in the pockets of the already well-to-do will lead to economic growth and prosperity for all. What has this policy, having no new taxes and, in fact, repealing the Stelly plan, which reduced regressive taxes like sales taxes and increased progressive taxes (income tax) to compensate, done for the economy of the state of Louisiana? Well, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. While much of Louisiana’s trouble can be laid at the doorstep of other factors, like the collapse of the housing bubble (which was itself a consequence of the Bush administration’s “hands-off” approach to banking regulation), the bottom line is that lower taxes in the state means fewer pennies in the state’s coffers and draconian cuts to services, especially in a state whose constitution protects all areas of the budget but health care and education. Reduced health-care benefits and decreases in K-12 and higher education budgets are not “family-friendly.” Just as with the conservative Democrats and Republicans’ efforts to derail even a modest reform of the nation’s health insurance industry, the effort to promote decreased tax revenue hurts poor and middle-class families who need health-care services to survive and a quality education to thrive.
3) Defend Life gains: If you’ve hung around any of the religious wackos for even the briefest of periods, you recognize this as code language for ensuring that efforts by conservative legislators to curb abortion rights as much as is Constitutionally-permissible are maintained and advanced. Louisiana, which already had some of the most restrictive laws regarding abortion in the country, passed several new initiatives that must have had Mr. Mills dancing like an Ally McBeal baby in 2010. Naturally there was a law declaring that the state wouldn’t pay for any abortions as a result of the new federal health insurance reform; it was a pointless law because that procedure already wasn’t covered under the federal law, but hey, this is Louisiana! Then we had a law that made it easier for LDHH to shut down clinics that perform outpatient abortions when a violation is found on an inspection. (I could climb onto a giant soapbox about the Legislature granting DHH enforcement authority with teeth in this one tiny area of its regulatory authority and leaving the rest of its regs as toothless as a sparrow, but I won’t.) The third law excluded providers of elective abortions from medical malpractice coverage, because apparently conservatives love a good tort reform unless there’s fetuses involved. Finally, and most outrageously, a fourth law which requires a woman seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound of the fetus prior to having the procedure–and with no exemption for victims of rape or incest. This is a lot like saying, “I’m sorry you were viciously assaulted but before we can give you medical care to treat your wounds, you must watch this video of your assault.” I guess that sums up pretty well what the anti-abortion people really think of women. Women are and should be second-class citizens, subservient in their abilities and desires to men. So, I guess the answer to this one really depends on how you define a family. Is a family a hierarchy wherein the dominant figure of the man acts as the stand-in for the deity and his word is absolute, while the wife and children exist to serve him? Is a family a partnership between two spouses who may also choose to raise children?
4) Defeat homosexual adoption and marriage: Here’s an awesome hot-button issue–lettin’ the queerosexuls marry. It makes for really bitchin’ bumper stickers like this and this. But what does it really mean? It means two people love each other enough to want to make a lifetime commitment of monogamy and faithfulness. Apparently this idea somehow degrades the commitments of other people because this specific pair happens to be of the same gender. Also, kids love orphanages–it’s right there, in the Bible!
Okay, lest you think I’m just blowing off the whole “gay adoption” thing with a snarky remark, see this report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Pay close attention to # 2. But go ahead and read the whole thing; it’s pretty interesting.
5) Shrink size and scope of government: We made it to # 5, again looking like a core conservative “value.” So what could possibly be wrong with shrinking government? Well, I could start by referring you to #2, above. And I will. Frankly, there is nothing pro-family about reducing government services, and that’s really what we’re talking about here. This state has embarked on a crusade to strip its government to skeletal tatters in the name of keeping taxes low and expecting employees to do the impossible: provide the same level of service with no resources.
People are fond of quoting Ronald Reagan as saying that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are–I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Government has historically been a conservative boogeyman of the highest order–a nameless, faceless bureaucracy that forces you to spend money and takes away your liberties to feed its neverending hunger for wealth and power. There are people–lots and lots of them–who really see government this way. It doesn’t really occur to them that governments at all levels provide a variety of services that the majority of Americans are physically or fiscally incapable of providing for themselves. Governments build and maintain roads, provide for fire protection through hydrants and the maintenance of fire departments; provide law enforcement services through a variety of professionals including park rangers, sheriff’s deputies, detectives, laboratory technicians, military police, wildlife enforcement agents, border patrol agents, city and state police officers, FBI personnel, et cetera; protect and maintain the commons; create and maintain public utilities such as roads, highways, ferries, bridges, public water systems, public wastewater treatment systems, and drainage canals; create and sustain cultural enhancements like public parks, history and natural history museums, zoological gardens, and botanical gardens; fund research in a variety of subject areas through NSF and NIH grants; train and educate children through the K-12 public school system and public colleges and universities; segregate dangerous elements of society in prisons; protect food supplies and ensure the safety of manufactured drugs and other consumer goods through an assortment of state, local, and federal agencies; protect citizens from foreign enemies by maintaining a standing army (along with other branches of the armed forces).
That’s not a comprehensive list, of course. However, I think my point is made. Governments are not the enemy of the people; government is a tool of the people to accomplish many things that we can do collectively but would be unable to do as individuals. There is this weird sort of Wonderland notion that floats around conservative circles that if you simultaneously cut the taxes that fund government and cut government workers, equipment, and other resources that you can somehow still come out with an equivalent end-product to that with which you started. The fact is that nobody can really do more with less; it’s called a paradox for a reason. Moreover, the implicit assumption that government is essentially 99% fat and 1% meat is simply wrong–there are real limits to which governments can be cut without causing real harm to people. Just ask the people whose family members died in the Deepwater Horizon explosion or the Salmonella outbreak in 2009.
This brings me back to the point of #1. Does the Louisiana Family Forum actually represent and promote “family-friendly” positions? Is the social-conservative agenda one that strengthens and enhances families? This agenda is typically colloquially known as the three “G”s: God, gays, and guns. All of these threads share a common weave: the paranoia that government is taking away your rights and your ability to be protected from the other, whether that other is a sinister agent of the regime, a creepy queen, or a militant atheist. At its root, it is an agenda of fear and hate. People who have some form of religious belief have always been a majority in this country and they almost certainly always will; gays are not out to steal your children and pee on your marriage certificate; and the Zionist cartel isn’t waiting for the right moment to swoop in and take the pistols and rifles from your family’s gun cabinet. The Bizarro-world in which these things could happen exists only in the minds of the true believers of the religious right.
Mixing religion and politics is dangerous under the best of circumstances, and it is for precisely the reasons that Mr. Mills has shown us. While the rights of all individuals, including the many people who are not Mr. Mills’s co-religionists are supposed to be protected by our state and U.S. constitutions, at the end of the day it is simply too easy at the state level for conservatives to decide that their religious agenda is a “one-size-fits-all” solution to our woes. We are told that abortion and homosexuality are “sins” and the legislature restricts them accordingly. Global climate change and evolutionary theory don’t conform to Biblical notions of Man having dominion over the environment and each individual being “specially created” and endowed with a soul by god, so we get the ironically-named Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008. I really don’t mind people getting together in small groups or large groups to talk about their imaginary friends on Sundays; I’d just prefer it if they didn’t do it in our Legislature. The Establishment Clause does grant us freedom from religion just as surely as it grants us freedom of religion. If the Louisiana Family Forum could or would understand and accept this idea, perhaps they would cease trying to turn this state into a theocracy; then again, if that were ever to happen, the LFF would probably have no raison d’etre.