That is the question I asked this morning as I watched Obama's presser to do with the contraception uproar in the wake of his Affordable Care Act provisions. As I noted in the last blog and previous ones, there was really no need to change or do anything. Given we have the separation of Church and State in this nation, than anything a church-based entity does in the public space must be subject to government oversight and guidelines. It is the same thing with these odious "faith based services" which were hatched since Bush's reign. Thus, they are not permited to proselytize using government money that many of us (atheists and secularists) pay, nor can they practice any hiring discrimination, say of gays, Jews or atheists while on the government dime.
It ought to have been the same with Catholic institutions operating in the public sphere and providing contraceptives to workers.
But alas, 100 stupid old celibate male freaks, the Catholic Bishops, got their panties in a snit and were determined to make a political deal out of this whole issue. They were led by the likes of the black- robed Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, a guy obviously oblivious to the needs of Catholic women, or any women!
Once alleged Catholic "liberals" like WaPo columnist E.J. Dionne joined the fray on the side of the patriarchy, and assorted other groups and charities, it was all over except for the dirges. After the Repukes entered and claimed this as a wedge issue, one could smell surrender not far away, I mean, there was too much of a political firestorm. Some women's groups - such as led by Sen. Barbara Boxer, tried to provide some support for Obama's position but it was too little and too late. What Obama really needed was a measured counterforce PR strike to match the intensity of the Reich Wing reactionary howlers and whiners. Bottom line, he didn't get it.
One wonders where the Catholic women were in all this, but perhaps like those suffering from "Stockholm syndrome", they were peremptorily shut down or shut up, either by their conservative pro-church mates or the Church's paleolithic prelates, or the Church's noisome PR that "government was infringing on religious liberty" when nothing of the sort transpired. After all, NO churches were asked to provide contraceptives as part of health plans, only Catholic public institutions like schools, universities and hospitals that occupy the public space - consume its resources, and are granted tax exempt status.
And so, Obama advisors like David Plouffe saw no out other than the one today, in which once more Obama attempted to split differences. Interestingly, in an MSNBC Roundtable, the head of Planned Parenthood praised the compromise and to be sure, Obama's words were that if the church-based institutions refuse to pay for contraceptives (which they surely will) the women will be able to demand it from insurers, and his Affordable Care Act will contain revisions to ensure they pay up.
But there's the rub. There's absolutely no assurance they will pay up. Indeed, it is more likely any of these private insurers will raise a stink about the added expense of having to eat co-pays for contraception. From today's front page story in The Miami Herald (http://www.miamherald.com/):
"The White House says covering contraception saves insurance companies money by keeping women healthy. But the plan is likely to meet resistance from insurers. Although administration officials are right that contraception is cost effective, insurers may well argue that it's not free, either. And the industry might balk at what amounts to a coverage mandate on it.”
And to be sure, this may also be why Obama delayed responding (or confecting a "compromise") for so long because he knows the costs will be enormous and in an austerity environment the insurers will likely squawk and even take their case to the Supremes.
Consider: if it costs on average $600 a year to supply contraception to women who need it, and some 10 million will - under the Affordable Care Act, then that is $6 billion a year - not exactly chump change. Apart from the fact the insurers could drag this thing out in court for years, there are also other strategies they might employ so they don't have to eat the costs - including passing increased premiums and co-pays onto other members.
So, no, to many of us this won't be good enough and the plan ought to have remained where it was: the Catholic enterprises eating the costs in return for which they are granted tax exempt status to operate! As it is, there's absolutely no assurance - not 100% - that these sanctimonious miscreants still won't accept what's on offer from Obama. Indeed, as the lead story in The Miami Herald this morning observed:
"But the U.S. Conference of Bishops withheld its endorsement, saying it was too early to say if Obama's policy changed had met core concerns of the Catholic church. "
So these deluded fools and reactionaries, protectors of priestly pedophiles over the past decade, could still try to browbeat Obama into further retreat. And make no mistake, he can't afford to backtrack again, or even be perceived as giving in to these Jacobins.
So, did Obama effect a compromise in the true sense this morning, or did we witness a cave-in? The answer, alas, will have to await the manner in which this plays out. If women end up having to pay the co-pays after all, and insurers refuse to go along or use court delay tactics, we shall have to take it as a political cave-in with some fancy PR attached. But we will all know by then that effectively he tried to put lipstick on a pig.