What We Talk About When We Don’t Talk About Austerity (Vaginas, Mostly)

by evanmcmurry

I may be seeing causal connections where there are none, but it nonetheless seems noteworthy that weeks after news that the deficit is collapsing at an unexpectedly rapid rate—thereby depriving conservatives of their ability to yell “Austerity! Spending!” in response to any question, real or imagined—comes the following:

  • Ohio Republicans introduced what ThinkProgress is calling “the worst abortion bill of all time,” mandating, among other things, that doctors tell women medically disputed information, a 48 hour waiting period, and that women not only submit to intrusive ultrasounds but pay for the procedure themselves.
  • House Republicans—the national, big boy branch!—is planning a vote on a blatantly unconstitutional measure restricting abortion after twenty weeks, with no exception for rape or incest, a bill with no chance of passing the Senate, being signed by the president, or surviving an appellate court.
  • Trent Franks, the author of the 20-week ban, decided to re-up Todd Akin and blah blah blah about the relation of rape to pregnancy.
  • The House passed the new National Defense Authorization Act with an amendment overturning the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
  • The House—they’re on a roll—also passed a bill calling for the deportation of DREAM-eligible immigrants, a pointless salvo in the calm before they take up immigration reform.

The tea partyish elements pulled this bait-and-switch in 2010, when the clown car that got elected on cutting spending pulled up to state capitol buildings with anti-Planned Parenthood bills falling out the passenger window. But that cultural undercurrent, which was largely obscured by subsequent debt-ceiling dramas and budget battles, came back to upend the GOP in 2012 in the form of Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin and the gang. Moral of the story: conservatives are on much firmer footing when they rail about debts and deficits than when they improv on reproductive systems.

But that political calculus requires a deficit crisis. If you read this blog you know the deficit crisis was always more of an imagined moral imperative than a real emergency, but it’s still deflating before our eyes, even with the gratuitous austerity measures we’ve passed in the past three years. So what we’re seeing right now is a political movement suddenly faced with a void where their raison d’être used to be. The GOP clearly has no bench of issues: the moment the government spending alarm stops sounding, they immediately revert to criminalizing women’s health, oppressing gay people, and demagoguing immigrants. Which means the better the economy gets, the more we’re going to hear white men inveigh on the morality of pregnancy.