Congressional Republicans have made it rather clear that they’re eager, almost desperate, to slash public investments. For political reasons, they’re often reluctant to say which investments they want to cut, but if it’s a domestic priority, chances are, GOP lawmakers believe it’s currently receiving too much money.
As it turns out, there is an exception.
Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) on Monday called for the creation of a new federal grant program that would spend half a billion dollars to educate teenagers about why they should not have sex before marriage.
In a speech on the House floor, Hultgren cited a Centers for Disease Control report from mid-February that said young adults account for 50 percent of all sexually transmitted disease infections.
According to Hultgren, for every dollar that goes to “risk-avoidance” education (i.e., abstinence education), $16 goes to “contraceptive-centered education.”
And while I’m inclined to think that ratio isn’t nearly one-sided enough, Hultgren and his 13 co-sponsors – 12 Republicans and one Democrat – don’t quite see it the same way. As The Hill’s report noted, they want to spend $110 million a year for the next five years “on grants to abstinence programs around the country.”
There have to be better uses for federal funds.
There are a few angles to keep in mind on a story like this. For one thing, it’s a reminder that the Republicans’ interest in the culture war clearly hasn’t gone away. We haven’t seen quite as many anti-abortion bills as were introduced at the start of the last Congress, but bills like Hultgren’s are a reminder that the GOP’s interest in social issues clearly hasn’t gone away.
For another, it’s curious to see some of the same House Republicans who say we can’t spend another dime on domestic priorities suddenly commit to a half-billion-dollar investment in their preferred social experiment.
And then, of course, there’s the simple truth that abstinence education doesn’t work.