Nicholas Kristof on global family planning Better funded family planning, currently "a victim of America's religious wars," could be a solution to global problems like climate change, poverty, and civil war, writes Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. The United Nations estimates the world population passed 7 billion this month, and it predicts the world will hold 9.3 billion by the year 2050. Rapidly growing youth populations contribute to unrest and terrorism, to global poverty, and to environmental damage. "Moreover, we've seen that family planning works. Women in India average 2.6 children, down from 6 in 1950." Yet "[w]omen in Afghanistan, Chad, Congo, Somalia, East Timor and Uganda all have six or more children each." In parts of Africa, women haven't heard of birth control. But to solve the problem we need more than contraceptives. We need education and equal rights for women. We also need more research to improve contraceptive options. "One breakthrough is an inexpensive vaginal ring that releases hormones, lasts a year and should not require a doctor." Family planning used to be bipartisan, but "overzealous and coercive programs in China and India" got it wrapped up in the abortion debate. Reductions in family planning funding, though, increase the number of abortions. "When contraception is unavailable, the likely consequence is not less sex, but more pregnancy." Republicans have sought to cut global family planning funding as well as programs in the United States. But U.S. family planning centers probably save tax payers money they'd be spending on more pregnancies and babies. Thankfully, at least one group of Evangelical Christians has supported family planning recently, noting that it "reduces abortion and lives lost in childbirth." Indeed, Kristof says, "We should all be able to agree on voluntary family planning as a cost-effective strategy to reduce poverty, conflict and environmental damage."
Jeff Greene on thanking the 99 percent Occupy Wall Street should remind us of a 1960s protest not because of the hippie-ish "look and feel" but because, as in the 1960s, the protesters "are mainly educated, middle-class and completely sincere," writes investor and former Senate candidate Jeff Greene in The Wall Street Journal. The positive outcome of 1960s protests was the political awakening of a young middle class frustrated that Washington wasn't including them in decisions that affected them. In the 60s, many protesters couldn't "have voiced a detailed critique of the war. At Zuccotti Park, I found that no one could offer me a coherent explanation of why they hated Wall Street," he notes. But all of them were anxious about a trend that they feel presents all but the richest Americans with increasingly fewer opportunities. Many of them are upset because they've tried to make good life choices by going to college, and yet they remain in debt and unemployed. "While individual protesters may not have the data at their fingertips, many of us in the 1% do, and much of it supports their case." Americans tend to spend as much as a third of our income on housing, reserving just 2 percent for education. That's the opposite of the numbers in some Asian countries, where 15 percent of income is spent on childrens' education. Our government's reward for home ownership and mortgages, and our city planning that emphasizes cars in part assures that we'll expend our money this way. Yet the future of our economy depends not on lessening our short-term expenses, but on investing in our long-term competitiveness. For politicians and families alike, the question should be, "Do your policies reward and encourage investment in education for the long term or consumption in the moment?" Occupy Wall Street protesters are pointing out our lack of long-term solutions for a dangerous trend, and we should thank them for it, he says.