Throwing money at programs that don’t work

THROWING MONEY AT PROGRAMS THAT DON’T WORK…. President Obama proposed eliminating federal funding for abstinence-only education, apparently because of the overwhelming evidence that the programs have failed spectacularly everywhere they’ve been tried. The White House wanted to redirect those funds to broader teen pregnancy-reduction programs.

If there are two things conservative lawmakers love most, it’s cutting government spending and eliminating wasteful programs, right? Wrong.

The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday night approved an amendment providing tens of millions of dollars to fund abstinence education programs for teens.

The proposal, offered by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), would provide $50 million per year through 2014 exclusively for abstinence education programs. The measure would effectively reinstate the controversial Title V program, which offered $50 million per year to states for abstinence education, but prohibited them from tapping the funds for other sex-ed subjects like contraception. The same prohibition would accompany the Hatch amendment. […]

The vote was 12 to 11, with Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) voting with every Republican to secure passage of the measure.

Hatch, defending the truly ridiculous government spending, said, “Abstinence education works.”

That’s true, if you live in a fantasy world in which reality has no meaning.

The facts have been stubborn on this. The nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that abstinence programs do not affect teenager sexual behavior. A congressionally-mandated study, which was not only comprehensive but also included long-term follow-up, found the exact same thing. Researchers keep conducting studies, and the results are always the same.

This isn’t complicated. Simply telling teenagers not to have sex doesn’t affect behavior, doesn’t prevent unwanted pregnancies, and doesn’t stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. Teens who receive comprehensive lessons of sexual health, with reliable, accurate information, are more likely to engage in safer, more responsible behavior.

And yet, every Republican — you know, the guys who want to cut government spending — insisted on throwing another $50 million — of our money — at programs we know produce the opposite of the desired result. The measure would have failed, were it not for two conservative Democrats who decided to help them.

The provision may eventually be scrapped as the bill progresses, but that it passed at all is an embarrassment.