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Kelvin Mace

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Gender: Male
Home country: USA
Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 17,469

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University of Rochester professor defends Limbaugh's screed

Steven E. Landsburg, a professor of economics at Rochester University has decided that Rush Limbaugh's attack on Sandra Fluke's "position" deserved to be "ridiculed, mocked and jeered".

While more careful to differentiate between the person and the opinion, Landsburg none the less doesn't seemed to have actually read what Ms. Fluke said, any more than Rush did.

From a posting on The Big Questions blog:

But while Ms. Fluke herself deserves the same basic respect we owe to any human being, her position — which is what’s at issue here — deserves none whatseover (sic). It deserves only to be ridiculed, mocked and jeered. To treat it with respect would be a travesty. I expect there are respectable arguments for subsidizing contraception (though I am skeptical that there are arguments sufficiently respectable to win me over), but Ms. Fluke made no such argument. All she said, in effect, was that she and others want contraception and they don’t want to pay for it.

No, that is NOT what she said. What she said is that she wants contraception covered under her medical insurance policy, like the one she ALREADY PAYS FOR.

Now some might argue (like this idiot) that requiring insurance companies to cover contraceptives means that he is compelled to "subsidize" a drug whose use he and Limbaugh disapprove of. This is a completely specious argument and deliberately distorts the purpose of health insurance. To use this logic, I should be able to deny Dick Cheney any cardiac care, since my tax dollars subsidize his health insurance, since I believe he is a soulless monster who should be put down for war crimes. I certainly believe that any person who has a policy with Rush Limbaugh's health insurer would object to subsidizing his drug habit!

Whether something should, or should not be covered by health insurance is a simple financial argument which you would think an "economic professor" would understand:

1) Is the drug effective?

2) Will the use of the drug prevent more costly treatment down the road?

3) Does the drug effectively treat a condition, or prevent a condition from occurring?

The answer to all these questions is "yes". Contraceptives are effective when used as directed. Contraceptives prevent unwanted pregnancies, which cost hell of a lot more than the contraceptives themselves. A single pregnancy, with no complications costs as much as a lifetime supply of contraceptives. Contraceptives are also used to treat other disorders of the endocrine/reproductive system, and improve the quality of women's lives by allowing them to control when and if they will have children.

To his credit, Rush stepped in to provide the requisite mockery. To his far greater credit, he did so with a spot-on analogy: If I can reasonably be required to pay for someone else’s sex life (absent any argument about externalities or other market failures), then I can reasonably demand to share in the benefits. His dense and humorless critics notwithstanding, I am 99% sure that Rush doesn’t actually advocate mandatory on-line sex videos. What he advocates is logical consistency and an appreciation for ethical symmetry. So do I. Color me jealous for not having thought of this analogy myself.

Rush's analogy might have made sense if what he claimed Ms. Fluke said was in any way, shape or form true. Ms. Fluke NEVER brought her own sex life into the conversation, and she certainly never asked to be paid for sex. These were projections of Limbaugh's twisted libido and obvious familiarity with prostitutes and online porn.

Like all conservatives, Landsburg interprets people's justifiable anger at Limbaugh's (and Landsburg's) vicious character assassination as "humorless critics" who don't appreciate Limbaugh's unique brand of "humor"

There’s one place where I part company with Rush, though: He wants to brand Ms. Fluke a “slut” because, he says, she’s demanding to be paid for sex. There are two things wrong here. First, the word “slut” connotes (to me at least) precisely the sort of joyous enthusiasm that would render payment superfluous. A far better word might have been “prostitute” (or a five-letter synonym therefor), but that’s still wrong because Ms. Fluke is not in fact demanding to be paid for sex. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) She will, as I understand it, be having sex whether she gets paid or not. Her demand is to be paid. The right word for that is something much closer to “extortionist”. Or better yet, “extortionist with an overweening sense of entitlement”. Is there a single word for that?

Bzzzzz! Wrong again, "professor".

extort: to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power.

Please explain how Ms. Fluke meets the definition of an "extortionist"? How is she "forcing" anyone to her point of view? We live (supposedly) in a democratic society, and Ms. Fluke has availed herself of her right to petition her government for redress of grievances. She has no power, illegal, undue or otherwise, to compel anyone to her opinion. Perhaps Landsburg find her intimidating? If so, I think it is a reflection of his gynophobic disorder.

I think an argument could be made that LIMBAUGH is the extortionist, as he is using his "undue" power to intimidate Ms. Fluke into silence.

Landsburg manages to be clueless in three disciplines at the same time: Economics, English and law. He might want to pay close attention to that last one, especially the legal definition of what constitutes libel. I believe calling Ms. Fluke an extortionist is just as libelous as calling her a prostitute.

The UR president is NOT amused.

Let's look at someone making minimum wage

$7.25 an hour means $1,160 a month.

Knock off about 30% for taxes, FICA, etc, and we now have $812.

Rent? In 2000, the last year I can quickly find a figure for, the median U.S. apartment rent was $602.


We now have $210 left.

Utilities - $150 per month, leaving $60.

Food? One McD's value meal per day, $6, x 30 days $180.

Now at -$120.

Haven't factored in for clothes, gas, insurance, car expenses/bus fare.

See a problem?

OK, let's try "per capita" income, which is 27,000K a year.


We come up with a more generous $2,250 a month, $1,575 after taxes:

Rent: $602
Utilities: $150
Health Insurance: $400 ( I am basing this on what I pay)
Food: $450 ($15 a day)
Car Payment: $250
Car Insurance: $100
Gas: $180 (1 tank a week, 12 gallons at $3.75)

Oops, I am already up to $1,832 and we are back in the hole, and we haven't accounted for insurance co-pays, clothes, or any form of entertainment.

OK, restart, we get a room mate, and cut rent, utils, and car expenses in half, which means we are finally "in the black" with $1,491 against our net income of $1,575, leaving us a "cushion" of $84 a month.

That $9 birth control prescription represents over 10% of our total "discretionary" income.

And that $84 must cover doctor visits (need one to get a prescription), personal needs (tampons, toilet paper, soap, tooth paste/floss (better use it, because dental is not included in your insurance plan), clothes, and you ARE saving money for an "emergency" aren't you?

When all else fails, do the math.
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