Dems drop smoking, STD prevention funds from stimulus

Senate Democrats have, in another concession to the GOP, agreed to strip two controversial provisions from the larger package.

By Alex Koppelman

Published February 2, 2009 11:50PM (EST)

Senate Democrats, like their counterparts in the House before them, are extending something of an olive branch to their Republican colleagues. CNN reports:

Senate Democrats have dropped two controversial spending programs in the Senate economic stimulus bill: $75 million dollars for anti-smoking programs, and $400 million for STD and HIV prevention.

Two Democratic leadership sources tell CNN they did it as a “symbolic gesture” to show Republicans they are listening to their objections.

But one of the Democratic sources also admitted that “it’s hard to explain when you’re in the midst of a crisis, why these programs are important. When people are struggling and thinking about their jobs, it’s hard to make that connection.”

To some extent, I can see that source's point. Amidst all the noise, it can be difficult to make a rational argument for this kind of funding. On the other hand, as I wrote in a previous post, there are real justifications for these expenditures, and they're honestly not that hard to explain. First, there will be jobs created by giving additional money to these programs -- someone has to administer them and someone has to create any literature they hand out, for example. Moreover, if run properly, these programs will save many times this amount of money down the line.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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