Pema Levy

Pema Levy is an assistant editor at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Using Food Stamps to Buy Drugs.

In December, Monica predicted that newly controlled Republican legislatures would slash anti-poverty programs. According to a new report from CLASP, several states are looking at a particularly inefficient, costly, and likely unconstitutional way of doing this: drug testing of recipients of government aid. At least 12 states have proposed bills mandating that people in a range of government assistance programs, including TANF, food stamps, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance, submit to drug testing as a condition of receiving aid. The idea is that the state will save money because so many people will test positive and lose their assistance. However, since it takes a large number of tests to get one positive result, estimates put the cost of catching a drug abuser between $20,000 to $77,000 each, which is probably a lot more than most people would be receiving in assistance. Florida's new governor Rick Scott wants to go ahead with a program to test all of the states 3.1 million...

Republicans' War on Women

Yesterday, news broke that the GOP-controlled Congress, rather than waste their time trying to keep Title X family-planning funds from going to Planned Parenthood, will go ahead and just eliminate family-planning funding across the board. In a draft of a continuing resolution to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2011, the House Appropriations Committee will suggest today cutting all money to Title X, which provides basic preventative care and education to millions of women in over 4,000 of clinics across the country. First, this is really bad policy. They may save $327 million today, but taxpayers will lose much more than that in the long run because every dollar put into family-planning saves the country about $4 in expenses down the road (treating cancer that went undetected or medical care for a pregnancy that never would have happened are way more expensive than a breast exam and a condom). At the very least, this is what the government should do: Shore up the...

The Fact-Free Zone

Could making it easier to sue news organizations make them more honest?

Bryan Howard, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona. Howard has notified the FBI that at least 12 of its health centers were visited recently by a man purporting to be a sex trafficker.
Earlier this week, a reporter from The Bill O'Reilly Show confronted a Planned Parenthood spokesman about videotapes that reveal the organization "excusing and covering up underage sex trafficking." Bill O'Reilly himself reminded his audience of the requirement to report abuse of minors. He failed to mention, however, that that's exactly what Planned Parenthood did, two weeks ago, when it first received mysterious, surreptitiously videotaped visits from men and women posing as pimps and prostitutes. Fox's accusations completely ignored the facts. The videos, released by the extremist anti-abortion group Live Action, purported to catch the organization covering up a sex-trafficking operation; Fox News was the only large media outlet to take these edited tapes at face value. Planned Parenthood is now fending off investigations in the states where the videos were taken. Of course, this is not the first organization to face a calculated smear campaign from the right. ACORN, the community-...

Voting Rights Act vs. the Courts.

With all the talk over the individual mandate and health-care reform, oral argument in Shelby County v. Holder yesterday in the D.C. federal court got little attention. The Alabama county of Shelby is challenging the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires designated local and state governments to get approval from the Department of Justice or courts before changing any voting laws or procedures. In 2006, a near unanimous Congress renewed Section 5 after evidence proved the continued need for the "preclearance" provision. According to The Washington Post , before reauthorizing Section 5, "Congress held 21 hearings and collected 16,000 pages of testimony to establish that the act is still needed. The [DOJ] has rejected or forced modifications since 1982 to 800 proposed changes by covered jurisdictions, including 420 cases in which changes appeared to be ‘intentionally discriminatory.’" The issue was brought before the Supreme Court in 2009 and the Court...

Live Action Releases Video of Planned Parenthood Staffer and Pimp.

As predicted, after a dozen strange visits to Planned Parenthood clinics across the country, the anti-abortion group Live Action yesterday released a video (then an unedited version ) that purports to catch a Planned Parenthood staffer at a New Jersey clinic aiding a child sex trafficker. As I wrote on Monday, the video release is well-timed to anti-abortion efforts in Congress. First, the charge that the video is exposing a “cover-up” is laughable because Planned Parenthood alerted the FBI to the possibility of a sex-trafficking ring more than a week before the videos were released. Several of the clinics who received visits reported the incident to local authorities (it’s unclear if the New Jersey clinic in the video did so). There was never a cover-up. Live Action believes that the video footage proves that Planned Parenthood condones child sex trafficking because, I’m guessing, the New Jersey staffer humored the pimp and his female companion rather than throwing them out. The next...