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Social Issues and the Economy Aren't a Zero-Sum Game

Some voters wish politicians would ignore social issues and focus on the economy. The problem is, these two things are intertwined.


"I think all politicians need to stick to the economy and get away from social issues," Marty Folger, a banker from Port Clinton, Ohio, told USA Today in a story posted last night. "I've always been more about the economy, and when it comes to the social issues I don't really let them play into my decisions."

Folger's has been a relatively common reaction to the culture war that's bubbled up around women's reproductive rights and religious freedom. Nobody has emphasized the supposed meaningless nature of these issues more than presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. He has repeatedly deflected questions about birth control, intimating that they are irrelevant. Meanwhile, many other Republicans have charged the Obama administration with reigniting the culture war by handing down the birth control mandate in the first place.


I agree that our lawmakers should be focusing on creating jobs, but let's remember that social issues aren't divorced from the economy. One affects the other. Take the issue at hand: the HHS decision to require complete coverage of birth control is more of an economic decision than a ideological one. Despite the Republican talking points about "out-of-control spending" and the "nanny state," the whole point of the Affordable Care Act is to reduce health care costs for both individuals and the government. Covering birth control, particularly, will not only help women and families save money, it'll also lighten the load on taxpayers who currently support unwanted children. By virtually all scientific accounts, birth control is an good thing for society as a whole, including its bottom line.

Beyond birth control, though, social issues affect how the government spends its money—on everything from environmental initiatives to education. Civil rights often determine the financial security of minority groups (think of gay people who can't reap the financial benefits of marriage, or those who are subject to housing discrimination). Unemployment and the economic downturn, in turn, seriously affects people's personal lives. These things are intertwined, and it makes no sense to vote for a president without considering both. So while we should pressure our leaders to take action on poverty and joblessness, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user rasdourian.

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The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.





Culture
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The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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