Monday, April 14, 2014

The Rest of the Health Care Safety Net Comes Down as State Bets Lives on Obamacare

This is all just so predictable.  In fact, I did predict it, but it was so obvious that it should not be any big deal that I did so.  The movers and shakers in this state are betting the lives of poor adult Arkansans that Obamacare will work and is sustainable. They are also betting that their mostly cosmetic modification of Obamacare which they mis-named "The Private Option" will work.

Legislators were pressured into voting for the bill with claims of "people are going to die" if they don't.   The truth is, people are always going to die and in the long run there is nothing the state can do about that.  If Obamacare works exactly as designed, some adults may get extra years of life at the expense of the children who will have to pay for it (since it is now being paid for with debt) spending extra years of their lives working to pay off the debt incurred to do so.   If Obamacare fails, or if it finally leads to a collapse of the dollar due to the world losing faith in our ability to keep our fiscal house in order, then many, many more people are going to die due to a lack of health care.

You see even poor people who did not have access to traditional health insurance plans, or who had conditions not covered under those plans, still had a patchwork system of health care services in place.  This was through a combination of private charity outreaches, community health clinics, and hospital provided clinics (to keep those same people out of their emergency rooms).   What is happening now is that this network of healthcare, the system the poor used prior to Obamacare coming in with all its big promises that it has no means to keep, swooped in and for a time made them appear to be superfluous.

Here is an excerpt from a recent "Mena Starr" article, but the same thing is happening all over the state, heck all over the country in places where, like Arkansas, Medicaid was expanded to comply with the demands of Obamacare....
“Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore,” Stacey Bowser RN, 9th Street Ministries Clinic Director, stated. “We’ve gone from seeing around 300 people a month on a regular basis, but as people were enrolling in Obamacare, the numbers we were seeing have dropped. We were down to 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three people at the medical clinic in March. Our services won’t be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission. ..."
To the left, this is a triumph.  To the wise, this is a tragedy.  The almighty state has stepped in and rendered the need for a private charity null and void.  You can be sure that this is not only happening in Mena, but throughout Arkansas and every other state which expanded Medicaid.  Thus, our state's network of private clinics withers and passes as all chips are placed on government's number.  And not just "government" as a whole, but the central state, as in Washington D.C.   The one which even Rahm Emanuel, the current President's former Chief of Staf,f called "dysfunctional" and is working to get his city less dependent on.

You see not only did private charities have a network of clinics for the poor, but state and local government have one as well.  Though there political pull might still save them, they too are in danger of being put out of business due to Obamacare.  After all, why provide a network of state and county health clinics when all the poor can get access to medical care via Obamacare?

Private hospitals often sponsored clinics which gave free medical care to the poor out of their own self-interest- just to keep those people out of the emergency room where by law they had to get some treatment. Those too can go away since their former clients can now sign up for Obamacare. What the hospitals once was doing for free will now be paid for by the federal government laying more debt on your children.  I say "free", but the reality was that the up-charged everyone else to pay for the clinics.  Will we get that money back now?  There is no sign of that happening. This looks like a multi-billion dollar windfall for hospitals.

The bottom line is this, the politicians in Arkansas have fixed it so that we are placing all of our chips on Obamacare.  It is not just the middle class who lost their existing health care coverage when Obamacare went through, it now turns out that poor people are losing whatever health care coverage they had too, on the hopes that Obamacare will be better.  The existing health care infrastructure for poor adults is going away due to Obamacare.  If in a few years we realize that we can't afford Obamacare, the poor will be far worse off than they are now.  "
This is my prediction for what will happen.  We will get into this thing and in a few years FEDGOV will try to shift costs to the states or something else will happen which will cause it to fail.  We will then realize that the money to pay for all of these promises does not exist.  The money to pay for it never existed, they only said it did in order to gain control over your family's health care.  We will have dismantled our existing health care structure for the poor only to see the single federal system the state's leaders pinned all of our hopes on fall apart.  

The window of opportunity to avoid disaster is rapidly closing.   If we can escape this thing in the next year it may not be too late to keep much of our existing health care infrastructure for the poor in place, and bring back on line that which we have lost.   Five years from now, I believe it will be too late.  The people will have wandered off, the equipment will have been dispensed with, the facilities put to other uses.  \


Mark is an advocate for a philosophy of government called "Localism."

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Resisting Revisionism on Rove

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing has happened.” - Winston Churchill

As I moved to adulthood, I was very late to grasp what many people sense instinctively- the role of the will when it comes to accepting something as true:  People believe what they wish to believe rather than what the evidence available to them suggests.  What is more, many strongly resist any effort to get them to change these beliefs until absolutely forced to do so by urgent circumstance.  When reality hits them in the head with a 2X4, that's when they will face it.  Until that point, they will aggressively resist any attempts to revise their positions, perhaps even lashing out in anger at the person warning them that its time to duck.  

I was slow to catch onto this aspect of human nature (though I claim no exemption from it).  For a while I just thought I should get more skilled at presenting the information.  Experience has taught me that this is sometimes worse than futile.  It's counter-productive.  The more starkly and irrefutably truth is presented to a person not willing to hear it, the more angry they become.  They become madder, not wiser!   

This tendency for people to see only what they wish to see is most common on the far left, but none of us are immune.   Many of my Tea Party friends for example, seem to have revised their mental history when it comes to the last Bush administration and "The Architect" Karl Rove.   Some of them think America was only in trouble when Obama got in office and the Bush administration represents the good old days that the Tea Party came into existence to fight to restore.   If that is what you want to believe, and you will get upset if someone shatters this idea, then just stop reading right here.  Perhaps we will talk again after the swelling from the 2X4 goes down.....

Was the Tea Party a response to Obama only?  No.  It got kicked into high gear when Obama pushed for a bill which mandated gigantic "stimulus" spending, but the movement was coalescing even during the Bush White House.  It was anger and frustration with both parties, especially the big bank bailouts, which prompted the Tea Party. After all, if what formed the Tea Party was simply anger at the Democratic Party, the people who first started the Tea Party could have just joined the Republicans instead of starting something new.  

 It is true that the national protests did not get organized until February of 2009, but that was mere days after Obama took office on January 20th.    The discontent was fermenting long before that, and the trigger for the protests was not just Obama's stimulus plan, but the big bank bailouts that Bush, Obama, and McCain all supported over the objections of almost all Americans.  
Newsmax had this interview with pollster Scott Rasmussen.  Here is an excerpt from that report.... "The Bush and Obama administrations’ bank bailouts triggered the tea party’s rise, he says."
"Voters are really upset about that,” Rasmussen explained. “Establishment figures said wait a minute, the bailouts saved America. Most Americans have the opposite belief.”
Tea partyers’ anger focuses on two issues, he says. “They think federal spending, deficits and taxes are too high, and they think no one in Washington is listening to them, and that latter point is really, really important.”
The Wiki article on the "Tea Party Protests" also acknowledge that the two-party bank bailouts were the impetus for the protests.  Here is a very early UPI article from April of 2008, before the election, which says that "the Boston Tea Party is serving as a template for protests across the nation" without giving many specifics.   The suggestion to send Tea Bags to the Congress and Senate (not the White House) for example, was made on Jan. 19th 2009, the day before Obama took office.  It was between February and April 16th of 2009 that the media began covering the movement, but that was the beginning of its coverage, not its existence.   It was then that people knew there was a band-wagon to hop on, and many hopped on it.

I think what happened was that a lot of traditional Republicans who were OK with Bush saw this movement going on and decided to jump on the band wagon.   They were OK with Bush on a purely partisan basis.   They did not care to object when he did the exact same kinds of things they were mad at Obama about (big bank bailouts, federalization of education via NCLB, domestic spying, expanding government health care via Medicare Part D, pushing for amnesty for illegal aliens, excessive spending).  

When this second wave hit, it expanded the movement but in a way almost killed it. It almost blunted the real signal that much of the country is dissatisfied with the two DC-based political parties.  As the outsiders troubled the system, some of them were invited to become cozy with the insiders.    This ongoing process risks moving Tea Party members from being on the cutting edge of political change to one of the last ones to know how the country really feels.  If the Tea Party is nothing more than an amen corner to the Republican party, if it is only there to cheer one half of the DC party machine rather than hold them both accountable, then it is superfluous. 

That brings me to Bush advisor Karl Rove.   I don't hate the man.  I don't wish him any ill-will at all.  I simply disagree with him on public policy and do not wish him to be a member of the group of people who are ruling over me.   Karl Rove is anti-tea party.   He is the ram rod of one of the most prominent groups of Republican big money establishment wing of the Republican party.  He formalized that opposition with a project called "American Crossroads", but the blow back from the conservative grassroots caused that brand to become damaged.   So what he did was keep the same idea but launch a spin-off group deceptively named "The Conservative Victory Project" By that they mean "a conservative who can win".  And by that they mean, no conservative at all, as experience has shown us.  

Karl Rove is anti-Tea Party.   That much is common knowledge, again except among many Tea Party folks themselves.   They may remember an image of Rove from their GOP days that is dangerously out of touch with present reality.  While they are fondly reminiscing on a mental picture of Rove based on who they thought he was, the real one is on the phone to big donors trying to raise the money needed to destroy their movement.    

That Rove is on the forefront of the Establishment's push back against the Tea Party is obvious and clear, but again, accepting truth is more than a matter the facts, its a matter of the will.    Plenty of Tea Party people, as an act of the will, refuse to accept the abundant evidence that Rove is out to defeat the Tea Party movement.  Other Rove fans who are ostensibly in the Tea Party know what Rove is up to.  They approve because their first allegiance is to the GOP establishment and they are only associating with the Tea Party to live out the old political adage "keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

Some may refuse to accept the facts, but for those willing to accept them there is no doubt that Rove is out to defeat the Tea Party on behalf of the GOP establishment.  What is slightly less obvious is that he left the White House under a cloud.  I recently had a professional political consultant, good at what he does, insist that Rove was in the White House until the very end of the Bush administration.  In other words, so completely did he revise events in his mind that he was sure Rove never left early at all, much less under a cloud.

The CNN coverage of Rove's resignation mentions that he was leaving while under subpoena from Congress concerning his role in the firing of U.S. Attorneys and replacing them with close political operatives like Arkansas' own Tim Griffin.  The accusation was that they intended to use the offices for political prosecutions.  

Maybe the people who don't know much about the circumstances surrounding Rove's departure only watched Fox News. The Fox news story on the same event does not even mention the U.S. Attorneys scandal, even though it was so big that it was widely considered to be a major reason that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned at about the same time as Rove.  Not that I have much faith in CNN, but I consider that to be a ridiculous omission by Fox. The Wall Street Journal report was somewhat between the two, waiting until the last paragraph to mention the scandal's role in his departure. 

A couple of my friends who are looking for excuses to not see that Rove left under a cloud repeated the White House claim that Chief of Staff John Bolton had told "senior staff" that if they did not leave by a certain date then they would be expected to stay until the end of the term.  They reason that this deadline was why Rove and Gonzales departed when they did, and so quickly.  That's rubbish.  Rove and Gonzales were both far closer to Bush than Bolton.  Bolton was not making the rules for them.  They could have left anytime they wanted to and their 30 year personal friend G.W. Bush would have allowed it.   The story about the deadline is an obvious fig leaf to cover the departure of two very senior staff right as the U.S. Attorney's scandal was getting hot. 

Another claim was that if Rove was guilty, he would stay and keep the protection of the White House attorneys.   He still had that protection, because the Bush administration continued to exert Executive Privilege in order to block Rove's testimony.  Rove was found in contempt of Congress, but that carries no jail time.  Rove would not have gotten jail time anyway, because at that level the two parties don't prosecute each other.  

Look, Bush did not prosecute the Clinton gang for any of their improprieties and the quid pro quo is that the Democrats would not prosecute the Bush side for their crimes either.  It is to the advantage of the elite of both parties, but to the great disadvantage of the American people, if they simply don't prosecute members of each other's highest ranks.  They may pontificate, but they don't prosecute.   This is why I told a friend three years ago that Attorney General Eric Holder will never be prosecuted no matter how many deaths he is responsible for by arming ultra-violent Mexican drug cartels in violation of our law.   The two clubs, at the highest levels, give each other a pass.  At most, they resign.  Rove and Gonzales resigned.

A close Karl Rove associate, Tim Griffin himself was part of the fallout.  He stepped down in June of 2007 when he realized that the Senate would never confirm him as a U.S. Attorney.  At the time his statement said it was "to pursue opportunities in the private sector."  In reality, he got paid by the Presidential Campaign of Fred Thompson, but that campaign folded by the end of January 2008.  By September of 2009 Griffin apparently had had enough of private sector opportunities and announced for Congress.   

There are a lot of claims floating around out there about Griffin's role in the politicalization of the U.S. Attorney's offices, but I want a little more evidence before I even talk about that here, if it even bears talking about.   None of it even matters for my point.  Karl Rove is an enemy of the Tea Party by his choice, and Tim Griffin is a Karl Rove protege, yet Griffin appears to have almost unanimous Tea Party support in his latest campaign. This is so even though he has two Republican primary opponents.   It makes no sense at all to anyone who is looking at it objectively- but again that might be the problem.    

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Deconstructing Nate Bell on Ballot Laws

Last month, I reported to you that Neighbors of Arkansas, a group of which I am a member, was suing the state of Arkansas for an outrageous change to the ballot access laws for independents.

The sole co-sponsor of the bill changing the law was Nate Bell of Mena, the socially conservative, fiscally enigmatic Republican who voted to fund Medicaid expansion in Arkansas under Obamacare so that he could stop it later, or some such nonsense.   Bell and I have also clashed on the use of debt to fund highway maintenance. Steve Brawner of the Arkansas News Service did a story on the suit, and here is how he describes Bell's thinking on the matter...

Bell said the change in the signature deadline was made to create “an equal footing with regard to timetable,” not to try to burden independent candidates. When independents had until May 1 to turn in their signatures, that meant party candidates weren’t really sure about the election landscape until shortly before the party primary. That affected fundraising, volunteer recruitment and other activities, he said.
Bell, who once was elected constable as an independent, argued that it’s actually easier to collect signatures in the winter because people are more likely to be home. Besides, the best way to collect signatures is by finding large groups of people, not walking door to door.
“The ones who are complaining about it being a barrier are the same candidates who frankly aren’t going to be competitive in the election,” he said.
So shifting the deadline by which independent candidates must turn in their petition signatures from the delightful Spring months of March, April and May to the cold and early-dark months of December, January, and February was not trying to make a burden for independent candidates?   Last cycle, seven independent candidates for the state legislature qualified for the ballot.  This year, only one did.  Does anyone reading this article believe that the people of Arkansas are seven times more satisfied with the two-party system than they were two years ago?  A more likely explanation is that the Dead of Winter signature collection period makes it much harder for independents to get on the ballot, and basically impossible to file at the last minute.

Bell's idea of an "equal footing with regards to time table" is that Republicans and Democrats can go decide to file at the last minute based on what they see, while independents must act weeks or really months in advance gathering the signatures they will need to file.  Remember, the real deciding vote for the so-called Private Option, if it was not Bell himself, was Rep. Kim Hammer, another bait and switch Republican who voted against the "Private Option" until the filing period to run against him was closed, then switched his vote.

And don't you just love this contention: "When independents had until May 1 to turn in their signatures, that meant party candidates weren’t really sure about the election landscape until shortly before the party primary. That affected fundraising, volunteer recruitment and other activities."

Am I the only one who sees that as basically saying he wanted the law changed because it was more convenient for the establishment party politicians?  But what does it even mean?  Does it mean that politicians did not know how to change their image based on who they were running against?

Also, it belies the statement that he wanted an "equal footing with regard to time table".  Say there are two or more republicans in a primary, and two or more Democrats, and the vote to determine who will face who is held on May 20th.   When they won't know the Democrat or Republican landscape until May 20th then even giving the independents until May 1 does not give them an "equal footing" as regards to time table.  And now that unequal footing is made even more unequal because Bell's bill has moved  the date for independents and independents alone back to early March.  His change does not put anything on an equal footing.  Rather, it exaggerates the already skewed law which says that Independents have to show their hands first.

I will let the readers who suffered through this most recent Winter judge whether Bell is talking sense when he claims that collecting signatures is easier in the Winter than the Spring.  His claim about 'the best way to gather signatures isn't door-to-door' may or may not be true in Mena, where districts are huge due to sparse populations.  Those doors are usually far apart, and any crowd is likely to have your voters in it.  But none of that applies to more populated districts where people from three or four legislative districts may use the same post office or be in any crowd you see.  You can't be sure the voter is in the right district unless you go door-to-door, and a lot of doors are close together.  Bell may just be taking what he has found to be true for him and assuming it universally applies to everybody.  It is hard to be a fair person when one can't imagine one's self in the other person's shoes.

As for his last comment, about the people complaining not being the ones who can win anyway, I was complaining so I guess it was aimed at me.   I think we should just have ballot access laws which allow citizens equal access to the ballot regardless of how they choose to run and then let the voters decide who does or does not have a chance.  I was at about 39% in 2012 as an independent and I think the disgust with the two-party system which has mismanaged the country is worse now than then.  I'd like a chance to convince 6% of the voters to change their vote, resulting in a 12% swing and a victory, regardless of who Nate Bell thinks is or is not a credible candidate.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Strong Tea in Garland County

What should a TEA Party be?  What is its function?  Some think they should not exist at all.   Some think it should be a cheerleading section for the Republican Party.   Others feel it should serve to help the right kind of candidates win Republican primaries.  And then there is the Garland County TEA Party.    What is happening there is very interesting, and in my opinion should serve as both an inspiration and a model for other groups throughout the state, and beyond.

Elements of the Garland County Tea Party helped former Hot Springs police Captain Mike McCormack get on the ballot for Garland County Sheriff- as an Independent.  Not only that, but the sole person who filed for the state legislature as an independent this year is State Senate Candidate George Pritchard, a former Garland County Justice of the Peace.   Pritchard was able to utilize the network and expertise developed from getting McCormack on the ballot to get the signatures needed to launch his own candidacy.   I spoke with Reggie Cowan, a board member of the Garland County Tea Party about their approach and how they see their own role in the public debate.

Most small towns in the state have city councilmen and mayors who file as independents.   For other offices, Arkansas has had independent candidates before, but not winning candidates.  That changed two years ago when Robert Akin was elected Drew County Judge as an Independent.  Akin tapped into a growing discontent with both parties.  Cowan says that McCormack considered all of his options, and decided that Sheriff is not a policy-driven office.   It's an office where honesty and impartiality should be paramount.  He decided he preferred to run with a non-partisan label even though he was recruited to jump into the GOP primary.

Although there is a Democrat in the race, and four are vying for the spot on the Republican side, Cowan thinks McCormack can get votes from supporters of both parties as well as those who don't identify with a party.  There have been independent candidates before, but they have rarely been good candidates.  Maybe its not the independent label that is the loser in Arkansas politics, but rather the sort of person who usually ran under that label in the past.   They were lone wolves, not backed by local grassroots groups.   Cowan sees McCormack as a good candidate.

Can McCormack win a three way race?  Akin did in Drew County. Remember, in County races they have run-off elections if no one gets over 50% of the vote.  That is going to leave people free to vote their conscience.  They won't have to vote for one major party candidate or the other out of fear of "splitting the vote."  They can vote for who they want in the first round and if they don't make it to the run off then vote for the least-worst alternative there.   That's all the more reason to have run-offs for all elections, preferably instant run-offs, but that's another story.

Most people see the TEA Party as hyper-partisan, but here is a case where they are helping someone run for what should be a non-partisan office in a non-partisan manner.  And the person they recruited is hardly the most right-wing they could find, rather, he's one of the best qualified they could find.

That brings us to the other race, State Senate.  Unlike the Sheriff's race, there is an incumbent.  Sen. Bill Sample is a Republican, but one who loves big government.  Sample checked in at #8 on the Arkansas Watch list of "Ten Worst Legislators in the State of Arkansas."   Garland County has tilted Republican, but much of that comes from the crony-capitalist wing of the GOP.  That's how Sample got in to start with.  There is no Democrat on the ballot to challenge Sample.

Cowan and other members of the Garland County Tea Party recruited former Garland County Justice of the Peace George Pritchett to run against Sample as an Independent.   Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that they recruited Pritchett and he considered all his options.   He choose to run as an Independent, and they backed him regardless of his choice.    The $7,500 filing fee to run for state senate as a Republican was definitely a factor. Why rush to get all that money when it could just go to your opponent's campaign should you lose what is likely to be a slanted party primary campaign?   Add to it that Sample already has an opponent in the GOP Primary, Jerry Neal.

It was a smaller area TEA Party that courted Neal, but I like the result.   Crony-capitalist Republican Sample gets challenged in the primary and in the general election.   Men like that may raise a lot of money from special interests by voting for big government, but if activists would just follow this recipe then they would not get to keep it.  Hit them in the primary with a primary challenger, then hit them again in the general with a grass-roots backed independent.

So we see that in both cases the candidates choose to run under an independent label not out of necessity, but out choice.   I think we are going to see more of that, as a reflection of the increasing disgust many Americans feel towards both DC-based political clubs.   The TEA Parties can serve to back candidates who run for offices which are not policy-centric and thus ought to be non-partisan, like Sheriff, and they can find candidates to supplement when the two-party system breaks down and fails to provide good candidates- as is now the norm.

Those are the TEA Parties I see surviving, and thriving.   The ones on track for extinction are those who are redundant cheerleaders for one half of a two-party system which has obviously failed America.

Asa Hutchinson and a Diet of Mealy-Mouthed Mush

The state legislature has just finished a tough battle over whether or not to expand Medicaid under the so-called "Private Option".   This program combines some of the worst elements of Crony Capitalism and Obamacare all in one ultimately unaffordable package.   The legislature, after much deal-making and arm-twisting by Governor Beebe, barely scraped up the super-majority required to fund the measure.

Asa Hutchinson is considered to be the establishment favorite to win the Republican nomination for Governor.  Hutchinson was remarkably recalcitrant during the debate over the private option.  His presumed Democratic opponent, Mike Ross, seemed frustrated by Hutchinson's evasive statements on the issue.   His opponent in the Republican primary, Curtis Coleman, is staunchly opposed to the so-called "Private Option" and has tried to make hay out of Hutchinson's refusal to take a strong stand on the issue.

"There is only one Governor at a time" Hutchinson said in response to questions as to why he was not more forthright on the issue.   That sentence bothers me just as much as his failure in general to take a strong stand about Medicaid expansion.  It indicates that he is failing to take a strong stand not out of some deep respect for the legislature,  or out of concern about executive over-reach.  Rather, it hints that he is merely waiting his turn to use the same unsavory strong-arm tactics that Mike Beebe used to get his way on the issue.

The legislature has become almost irrelevant in the last 40 years as power has shifted to the courts and the Executive Branch.  I don't believe this is an accident.  Elites are opposed to rule by the people, and the Legislature is known as "The People's Branch".   At least it was intended that way.  But citizens hold it in low regard these days, because they understand that it does not represent them.   Instead, members increasingly represent the desires of party HQ in D.C., or the chief executive if he is of their party.  The Democrats in the legislature marched in lock-step with Beebe.  They did not represent their "constituents" at all.  They represented him.

The solution is to quit routing our legislative candidates through the same DC-based parties as our executive branch candidates, preferably electing them as independents, so that they can once again be a check and a balance on over-reaching executives instead of their enablers, but I digress somewhat.  This article is mostly about executive over-reach and only consequently about how we elect our legislature.

Once upon a time, laws were named for the members of the legislature who originally sponsored the bill.   The very name "Obamacare" shows how the power has shifted to the Executive.  And if Obama can get no bill through because the other party holds too many seats, he is now threatening to act without legislative approval.  He can get away with this because almost half of each house is comprised of his own party members who will not impeach or convict him no matter what.  Its like a mafia-style family.  There is no way an executive could get away with that if legislators were independents or members of different parties than the executive.   Again, the result is to make the legislature mostly irrelevant.

The genius of our Arkansas founders is that they produced a constitution which required a legislative super-majority to pass appropriations.   This made, for a while during the fiscal session, the legislature in Arkansas relevant again.  If they were really determined to take the heat, a determined group of legislators could stop government expansion.  

To counter this, Mike Beebe took extreme measures.  Not only did he threaten, he bribed.  Senator Jane English sold her vote in exchange for Beebe changing the way $24 million dollars in tax money was spent.  Several million dollars of this money came from general revenues and a "rainy day" fund.  In other words, the legislature as a whole did not approve of moving this money.

Beebe also with-held critical information from the legislature.  Although it would have saved billions in the long run to say "no" to Medicaid expansion, in the short term, looking only at state dollars and not overall-taxpayer dollars, it would cost $89 million more to say "no" to Medicaid expansion.   Beebe kept demanding that those who opposed expanding Medicaid tell him where this $89 million would come from.  What programs would they cut?  What taxes would they raise?

Two days after they voted to expand Medicaid, his administration revealed that there was a $116 million dollars in excess revenue available!   They had the money to fill the supposed funding gap all along, but he treated the legislature like mushrooms.  Beebe has always treated the legislature, and by extension the citizens they are supposed to represent, with this sort of contempt.

Here, at last, is my point. I don't object to Asa Hutchinson staying out of the fight, if he was staying our for the right reasons.  I am OK with a mild-mannered executive branch.  We need a lot more of that to return to the sort of government our founders intended.   If Asa Hutchinson wants to defer to the legislature, then that's a good thing.  If he wants to be the kind of chief executive who believes they are simply there to Execute the laws which the legislature passes rather than give the legislature bills and demand that they rubber-stamp them, then I approve.  The trouble is, I doubt that this is the real reason for his "judicious" approach to Medicaid Expansion.

Even at that, there would have been nothing wrong with him making a strong statement as to his policy preference on the issue.  What I would object to strenuously, especially since  he basically "sat out" the battle of the century, was if once he got in office he resorted to the same sort of unseemly tactics employed by Beebe to shoe-horn this bill through the The People's Branch even though the people themselves were not in favor of it.  

"There is only one Governor at a time" is no reason to stay out of the battle, especially if you are going to be the one who has to clean up the mess that your predecessor is making.  And the voters deserve to know what kind of Governor he intends to be.   Does he strongly favor X, oppose X, or will he leave X and other law-making matters mostly up to the legislature?   And let's go beyond the policy, what about the tactics Beebe used to get his favored policy passed?

Will Hutchinson resort to cutting deals with individual legislators on how public funds are spent, cutting out the rest of the legislature, in exchange for votes on unrelated matters, as Beebe did with English? In other words, will he or will he not honor "The Martin Doctrine" as it regards reaching compromise on legislative items? Will he favor a policy of keeping the legislature in the dark as to the state budget's true condition, as Beebe has done?  Will he threaten legislative members as Beebe has done?   People deserve to know not only where he stands on policy, but on procedure and ethical conduct in office.   Right now, I don't think we know any of that.

Monday, March 03, 2014

More Evidence Higher Ed is Insanely Over-Funded In Arkansas

I have maintained for years that higher education is extremely over-funded in Arkansas.   Heavy subsidies of higher education does not "create jobs" in this state, because labor is mobile.  Rather, when a state has a higher-ed system grossly disproportionate to the size of its underlying existing real economy higher ed is a subsidy from the taxpayers of that state to the economies of other states where the students must go to find work.   Or those students graduate and then take a job around here which does not require a college degree, in which case the higher ed represents of massive misallocation of resources.

Now I have a study whose results back me up, even though its is not what it is trying to do.  The article is yet another attempt to bleed the taxpayers for more higher-ed money.  It claims that if current trends in higher-ed funding continue, then within a certain number of years in one state after another the states will provide zero dollars for higher ed.  Really all they are doing is taking a trend where the most wild-eyed over-spending for higher ed is being ratcheted back a notch and extrapolating that trend to absurd degrees to get their chart.  In Arkansas, and in many other states I suspect, most if not all of the "reductions" in spending are due to falling revenues from lottery proceeds spent on education. But the chart still shows who the outlier is- Arkansas.

Take a look for yourself, it is about a third of the way down and to the right on this link.  Using their unsound extrapolation of data, 47 states will quit funding higher ed completely by the year 2140.  Three states will continue to fund it. Ten years later, one of those three, Georgia, will quit funding it. For the next 45 years, only two states will fund higher-ed until in 2194 New Mexico's subsidies to higher ed would cease.  For the next 73 years, only one state would be subsidizing higher-ed- Arkansas.

Again, the conclusions about how far the reductions would go are silly, but the chart and data are still useful for showing how ridiculously out-of whack our state is compared to the rest of the nation on higher ed.   If lavishing grotesque amounts of tax dollars on higher ed really was some kind of key to prosperity, one would think we would be the richest state in the union instead of one of the poorest.

One trouble may be that there is no major party in this state which acts as any kind of restraint for higher ed spending.    The Democrats want to spend money on it, but so do many of the Republicans who have big ideas about "work force education" (a planned economy with respect to labor inputs as opposed to a free market).   Many big republican legislators are paid by colleges, such as Gilbert Baker and now Johnny Key.   There is no party of no when it comes to higher ed spending in this state, and it shows.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Beebe vs. Martin on True Political Compromise and Principled Governance

Governor Mike Beebe got Medicaid expansion passed through the Senate by acceding to the wishes of a single legislator (Sen. Jane English (R) of Little Rock) as to how tens of millions of taxpayer dollars will be spent, and diverting several million dollars from the "Rainy Day Fund" and "General Revenues" without the specific approval of the overall legislature.

If all that is legal, it shouldn't be.  What a chicken-scat way to run a state government.  Just do whatever gets you what you want now, regardless of how much damage the precedent will do to the state in the future.

The bill has not passed the house as I write this, but Beebe minion (even though he is a Republican) House Speaker Davy Carter is forcing the House to vote on the exact same bill over and over until it passes.  Again, what a chicken-scat way to run state government.   Obviously, they are working to see who they can bribe or bully into voting for the exact same bill the member opposed four times before.

OK, Mark, you say they are doing it the wrong way.  What is the right way to do it?  If you claim they are unprincipled in the way they pass legislation, then what is the principled way?  Here I will defer to a definition provided by our Secretary of State.  Secretary of State Mark Martin understands what "compromise" on legislation means under principled governance:
True political compromise is not achieved by individual politicians abandoning or changing their principles due to positive or negative incentives external to the bill being considered. True political compromise is only achieved when the bill being considered is sufficiently changed to reflect the principles of a sufficient number of politicians the electorate chose. To insist upon re-voting on the exact same bill repeatedly is to insist that those voting compromise their principles rather than the bill itself compromise to reflect those principles.
"Principled Governance" is something this state has never had a surplus of, and it is scarcer now than ever.     The ruling class in this state has consistently gotten bills passed in unprincipled ways.  It is worse here than in many states, in my view.  Certainly the bribery with tax dollars is more open here than elsewhere.  

Corruption has consequences.  Arkansas should be one of the most prosperous states in this nation.   We have a wide array of natural sources, including oil, gas, and timber.   We have a hard working population with below-average wages and cost of living.   We are centrally located and have an excellent system of waterways.  When any entity underperforms over a long period of time, it is invariably the fault of those who are running it.   The ruling class of Arkansas has been holding the state back.   The private option fiasco has been just one example.

In an atmosphere of taxpayer-financed payoffs it costs a lot more money than it should to get anything passed.  This is because the expectation is that there will be pay-offs external to the bill being considered.  This only encourages more hold-outs to make even more demands.  This drastically drives up the cost of governing even as it reduces the efficiency of governing.  In the short term it looks like Gov. Mike Beebe "got something done".   But he did it in a manner which accelerates the structural rot in our whole system.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Accepting the Left's Premises on Medicaid Expansion (Private Option)

If you are already familiar with the background, you may want to skip down to this point "*****".

The Arkansas Legislature is in a dead-lock over whether to fund a key component of Obamacare- the expansion of Medicaid.  In Arkansas, this is being done via a Medicaid plan which routes the Medicaid money through insurance providers first rather than directly to the providers of medical services.  This scheme is deceptively called the "Private Option".  So far it seems to combine the worst of Socialism and Crony Capitalism in one un-affordable package.

All of the Democrats support funding the expansion.   Almost all Republicans were elected on a platform of opposing it, but more than half have caved and decided to vote to fund it anyway.  The federal government has arranged funding to conceal and mis-state the cost of this expansion of government in the short term.    When Gov. Mike Beebe says rejecting the "Private Option" will leave an 89 million dollar hole in the budget here is what he means:  The feds would not borrow 89 million more dollars on the taxpayer's account and give it to Beebe and the legislature to spend on expanding Medicaid, with Arkansas Blue Cross taking a cut on the way.   

Several polls have been cited showing that the public is split fairly evenly on whether to expand Medicaid, even when the poll mentions it is part of Obamacare.  Still, all of the polls on the subject are extremely slanted in favor of the expansion for this reason- none of them mention how the expansion will be paid for.  They all say something like "do you favor expanding Medicaid so that uninsured adults have access to medical coverage?"  

Well, if there is no price tag attached to it, what kind of ogre would be against that? Sure, health care for everyone!  But that is not a fair question because it asks if people want to give someone else a benefit while never mentioning who will be stuck with the bill for it.  If the question was stated giving both costs and benefits rather than just benefits it would be more like "do you favor expanding Medicaid so that uninsured adults have access to medical coverage to be paid for by sending the bill to the next generation via increased government borrowing?"   I am confident that most Arkansans do not want to steal from children to pay for government hand-outs, but the questions are never asked that way.

Fortunately a 3/4ths majority of the legislature is required to pass appropriations bills.  Two votes have been held, and the forces that want to fund it appear to be short and getting shorter of the number required.  The conservative Republicans, the ones who have been keeping their campaign promises, have mostly resisted the pressure.   

They don't have to do a thing other than what they have been doing to win.  Despite his childish threats to hold the same vote over and over until its passed, the clock is ticking against House Speaker Davy Carter.   But unfortunately, the conservatives have recently fallen into a trap.  They have accepted the false premises of their enemies.   Unless they start taking on these false premises instead of trying to accommodate them, they are going to wind up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  Oh, they may get re-elected a time or two more, but only by continuing the policies which are destroying the country.  


The question they have been asked over and over again by the media is "what are you going to do for the 100,000 Arkansans who have already signed up for insurance through the Private Option?  Are you just going to take their insurance and leave them with nothing?" Another version of this is "well, you are just saying 'no' to everything, what is your alternative?  What is your plan to make certain that all adults have access to medical care?

Their (Sen. Jim Hendren and Rep. Bob Ballinger did most of the talking for a large group of conservative legislators) response to this pressure can be seen at this press conference held at noon today.   They say they don't want to take any health insurance away from those who have already signed up.  Their solution is to freeze enrollment in June, and fund it at that level until next March, when the next legislature can decide whether to re-open enrollment or defund the program.  This course of action will require a waiver from the feds, which if not granted would result in the defunding of the program after June.

In advancing this proposal, they have walked into a policy trap.  The left started by making an unreasonable demand, fund this all now, and they feel like they have to "compromise" and offer something in the middle (fund much of this now and decide later whether to fund the rest of it).  They have basically surrendered to negotiating on a Hegelian basis, which cannot produce an end result of truth.

I negotiate for a living, and they are doing this wrong.  They are doing this wrong if the goal is to defend conservative principles.  If they have a goal of rescuing a floundering gubernatorial candidate of their political party then they may be doing it right.   But that would just be more fodder for the idea that all legislators should be elected as independents rather than go through a D.C. based party.   That way they would owe only the people in their districts, not a party label. Instead of changing their views to do whatever is in the interest of the Governor when he is in their party, they can just worry about what their constituents want.

Reporters immediately asked Ballinger and Hendren about people who had not signed up by the end of June.  Why leave them without health insurance? And if they did not want anybody to lose their health insurance then why only fund it until this time next year when, presumably, if the legislature fails to re-fund it, then all those same people who will lose their health insurance this July (when current funding runs out) would lose it just the same next March?

All good questions if one accepts the premise that the government should provide health insurance to every able-bodied adult.  But that's the problem.  It is a false premise.   It's not up to them to provide an alternative way for the government to provide able bodied adults with health insurance, because it is something the government should never be doing for many reasons.   

What is the conservative alternative to "ensure" people have health care?  We have no plan to do that, nor should we have a plan to do that, because it is a plan which cannot be done without taking money and freedom from whoever we force to pay for it all (in this case, the debt for the next generation, stealing from children with no vote to defend themselves).  

What's my alternative? Freedom, that's my alternative.   I will take it further because the choice is not really between government provided health care and freedom.  The long term choice will be between the illusion of government-provided health care and freedom.   Choose the former and you will lose freedom, but in the long run you will not gain health care.   Europe and Japan are broker than we are after one generation of trying it, and that was with us shouldering most of what should have been their defense spending.   We are even not paying for the government health care we have now- Medicaid and Medicare are drowning us in debt.  

Something is going to ration scarce resources, and no man-made law can undo that iron law of economics.   With government health care, instead of your family budget deciding how much health care you will have, a government bureaucrat will decide.  When scarce resources are being allocated, there will be a rationing process.  That may be painful, but its reality.  Lying, thieving politicians sell people on the idea that they don't have to face that reality if they just give up their freedom, but its another lie.  Reality will have to be faced - either now or once our national credit card is maxed out and we are in an even worse position to deal with it.

Some people are complaining that we can't give 100,000 people health insurance and then take it away from them when the funding runs out in June.  It was written right into the law that it was not an entitlement and they could lose it, so why can't we? Plus, it never should have been given in the first place.

If every day I take a dollar from you and give it to Joe, am I doing Joe wrong by telling him that come July I am going to quit taking a dollar from you and giving it to Joe?   Of course not. Joe had no right to your dollars in the first place.  Joe gets six months worth of benefits from the deal.  If he loses them, well, he is losing something that he never should have gotten in the first place.  Not that we are denying one single person health insurance,  What we are doing is denying them access to other people's earnings to pay for health insurance.

It never should have been funded in the first place.  The answer is not to freeze it in place for a year, the answer is to undo the mistake and de-fund it.   By accepting all of the left's premises, they are going to wind up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  Government does not have the means to fulfill their promises of what they will do for you if only you give them control of your health care.  And they don't care that they can't keep the promises they are making, they are just saying whatever they have to say to get control.

This thing was sold with lies ("if you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Period"), it was passed in Arkansas with lies ("a vote for the Private Option is a vote against Obamacare") and now it is being sustained with lies as they tell us we just can't simply end a program that did not exist six months ago even though they assured us then that it was written into the law that it was not an entitlement and could be ended at any time.

I urge conservatives in the legislature to re-consider and reject this path to defeat whereby you want to freeze enrollment but continue to fund it.  Once you surrender on the premises you surrender on the argument.   Instead, if you must offer "compromise", delay all of the funding until March of 2015.  That is, when it ends in June it ends for eight months.  We stop stealing dollars and giving them to Joe.  Then the next legislature can decide in Jan. and Feb. of 2015 if they wish to resume stealing dollars and giving them to Joe.

Obama himself has unilaterally delayed certain aspects of the law with his name on it for a year.  He delays implementation whenever he wants.   The Legislature should do the same and defer this decision until after the elections so that the people, the real rulers of this state, can break this dead lock in a way that will have some legitimacy.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mad Man Takes Legislature Hostage!

News Flash: Mad-man holds legislature hostage! The vote to fund the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare failed in the house today by five votes.   House Speaker Davy Carter says he is going to keep calling for the same vote until he gets the result that he wants! Is this the way the Republic is supposed to work? Someone call hostage rescue! Really, read this and see if you can come to another other conclusion.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Legislature Shoots Its Own Foot, AG then Hands Gun to Martin

There is more going on in Arkansas government right now than whether or not to fund the mis-named "Private Option" Medicaid expansion (not that it will be funded with much besides borrowed dollars).   Take for example, this next story, which ought to serve as evidence that our legislature is not competent enough to undertake a major expansion of anything.

With Act 1413 of 2013 the legislature made it much harder for grassroots activists who want to pursue ballot initiatives to get them on the ballot.   The law also made changes to the way the three referred amendments are done.  Each regular session, the legislature can refer three suggested amendments to the people for approval.   This time their package includes an an amendment which will weaken Arkansas' term limits provisions. This amendment is deceptively crafted to make it look like an ethics reform amendment which establishes term limits. 

They may be sneaky devils, but they are not competent ones.   Act 1413 also took from the Attorney General the power to give popular names to referred amendments and gave that power to the legislature.  Too bad for them they never bothered to provide the names. The legislature failed to provide such names, yet they gave themselves alone the power to do so.  And courts have ruled that referred amendments cannot go to the ballot without such names. Oops.

There has been pressure on Secretary of State Mark Martin's office to create names, or use names suggested by the Attorney General, in order to get those amendment questions from the legislature placed on the ballot.   His office asked the Attorney General if they even had the legal authority to do that.   The AG's office produced a stream of convoluted verbiage which told him that he could go ahead and open that can of worms.  This places the Secretary of State in a no-win position.  

 After reviewing the Attorney General's memo I am more convinced than ever that there is no legal authorization for Secretary Martin to supply popular names to any referred amendment. Whatever he does in this matter will position him for criticism from some quarter. Therefore the only choice he will have is whether he will be criticized for acting justly, or unjustly. Should he take upon himself a power not given to him by law, he will be criticized justly. Should he act with restraint and fidelity, having care not to exceed his lawful authority in the name of expediency (which is ever the excuse of the over-reaching executive) the criticism he will receive will be unjust.

It is often harder to abide by the particulars of the law, than to take creative license to disregard them. Still, if one is to expect regular citizens to abide by the particulars of the law it is my belief that the Executive must set the finest of examples and do the same, even on occasions where doing so is inconvenient. After all, the citizens often find the law inconvenient as well, but are not allowed to set it aside on that account.

In the last State of the Union Address, a man many consider to be the President of the United States spoke of using his pen and phone, not to veto law, but to create it- filling in new powers by Executive fiat where the legislature did not grant him the course most in accordance with his wishes. This is most rightly recognized as an abuse of power by fair-minded and reasonable persons.

Should Secretary Martin ask for clarification from one or both of the other branches of government before he acts, it would be a shining example of how a respectable Executive branch office-holder ought to comport themselves. Should he push on and act without such clarification, he would be guilty in a small way of the same trespasses against divided government that Barack Obama means to do in a great way.

As to the memo from the Attorney General on the real question at hand, if one looks closely, it subsisted entirely of personal opinion and appeal to necessity unsupported by either law or court precedent. First, let's look at where the opinion gave ample evidence for its conclusions....

The opinion provided ample evidence that referred amendments do not require ballot titles so long as they have a sufficient popular name. They cited the court precedents for that, even though they acknowledge several statues refer to both. Let's say for the sake of argument that this covers for one half of the double failure of the legislature on SJR7. This still leaves us with their failure to provide a popular name on all three of the issues.

They offered ample evidence that the Secretary of State is authorized, and even has a duty, to enumerate the issues. He is to provide the issue numbers.

They offered ample evidence that issue numbers alone do not provide enough differentiation to constitutionally place issues on the ballot without a popular name.

All of the above takes us to the second half of page six and then page seven in the opinion. All the rest of the letter up until this point does not even speak to the real trouble at hand- that the legislature gave itself and itself alone the power to give popular names to referred amendments, and then failed to provide them.

Is there anything on the second half of page six or page seven like a law authorizing the Secretary of State to take it upon himself if the legislature fails to act? No, as the opinion itself says in the center of page six “But, as noted above, no official has been expressly assigned the duty to prepare either a popular name or a ballot title when the joint resolution does not designate one”.

To what do they appeal then when they offer the opinion that Secretary Martin might seize the pen and write where the legislature has failed to do so? They appeal to necessity, that father of Executive over-reach, when they write “There is, nevertheless, a practical necessity of sufficiently identifying legislative proposals on the ballot.”

Oh, they do cite Article 19: 22 of the State Constitution, which outlines the process. Surely the Secretary of State has a duty to place a properly referred amendment on the ballot, but to say that means he himself may therefore cure improperly referred amendments is to beg the question. The issue constitutionally, is the last sentence of article 19:22 : Proposals are to “be so submitted as to enable the electors to vote on each amendment separately.”

The process of submitting a proposal in that manner has many components, some of which are in fact the responsibility and duty of the Secretary of state. Composing popular names is simply not one of them. Article 19:22 does not say that the Secretary of State has responsibility for this process (in fact, the SoS is not mentioned anywhere in 19:22). Rather the legislature, in taking the power to issue ballot titles and popular names themselves, have specified that they have the power to perform that component of the job of preparing the proposals so as to “be so submitted as to enable the electors to vote on each amendment separately.”

The courts have ruled (per the cites in the AG's memo) that the popular name is a part of the process of getting the proposals to “be so submitted as to enable the electors to vote on each amendment separately.” There is a duty to produce these names to properly get proposals on the ballot, but the subset of that which involves devising the popular names is not Mark Martin's duty. It's the legislature's duty. Where the legislature gives themselves the power, they give themselves the duty. Listing all the duties the Secretary of State does have in the submission process does not alter one whit the duties which he does not have. He does not have the duty, or authority, to devise popular names for referred amendments. The legislature explicitly gave that power to themselves, not him.

Given that, the case from the AG rests on nothing but an argument from necessity, not propriety, along with mere unsubstantiated belief. Take this quote from page seven for example:
“....ideally this will be expressly addressed by the General Assembly, either in the joint resolution
proposing the amendment or by statute. Absent legislative clarification, however,
I believe the Secretary of State has the power, if not the duty, to ensure that proper
submission to the electorate occurs. I believe this reasonably follows from his
significant statutory role in the submission process”

The Secretary of State does have a significant statutory role in the submission process, but devising popular titles for referred amendments is simply not one of those statutory roles, no matter what the AG's office “believes”. To the contrary, that role is specifically and by statute reserved to the legislature by Act 1413 of 2013.

The AG's memo does not even attempt to claim that the old law applies to these proposals because they were passed a few days before Act 1413 of 2013 became law. That argument may or may not fly in court. After all, 1413 had no grandfather clause, but did have an emergency clause making it law immediately on passage, nor were the popular names selected by the AG prior to the law's change. If the AG's office didn't even make that case, I don't know why your office should.

So what to do now that the legislature has failed to perform? The legislature is in fiscal session, with a super-majority vote they could fix this problem, which is only fair since their actions made it their responsibility. They could amend 7-9-204 to say “....may designate in the joint resolution proposing and amendment to the Arkansas Constitution, or elsewhere,” Then they could pass another resolution giving the popular name of each proposal. Or they could authorize the Secretary of State to provide popular names and ballot titles for referred amendments if the legislature fails to do so.  

I call on the legislature to do the right thing and fix part of the mess they made when they gave themselves new authority yet failed to fulfill the responsibility which came with it.  The people are weary of government breaking its own rules when convenient to itself even while it devises ever more laws and regulations to which we are expected to abide.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Fellowship of the Realistic

The left in Arkansas is howling that "only nine state Senators" are standing in the way of funding the "Private Option (i.e. Medicaid expansion under Obamacare). The real scandal is that there are only nine public servants standing against something most Arkansans don't want. Why is the whole system, bent on expanding government and increasing debt when most of us think its a bad idea? That these nine are standing firm is not the scandal. The scandal is that this ever got far enough that these nine had to take a determined stand to stop it.

Here are the nine holding back the debt-driven fiscal darkness, should any of them go to the dark side, Obamacare will continue its destructive work in Arkansas.   Resources will be misallocated in an unsustainable program until the maximum number of people are dependent on it, then it will collapse.

Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers
Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale
Jim Hendren, R-Gravette

Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs
Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View
Bryan King, R-Green Forest;
Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch
Jane English, R-North Little Rock
John Cooper, R-Jonesboro

Monday, February 10, 2014

Defund Medicaid Expansion Now

My message to hospitals, insurers, fellow-citizens and legislators who still want to fund the expansion of Medicaid deceptively known as "The Private Option" is simple: Keep your thieving hands out of our children's pockets.  Government officials and hospitals are using scare tactics to try and sustain their access to your children's future earnings.  Hospitals, I hope you stay open.  But if you need more government debt laid on my children's future in order to stay open, then I say shut your doors right now.  If that's the price, you don't deserve to stay open.

At some point, our economy has to start operating on a sustainable basis. It is just not sustainable for industries and institutions that can't stay afloat without the government writing a bunch of IOUs to keep operating.  Find a way to operate within your means or sell out to someone who can.  Don't expect my kids to pay for your desire to escape painful adjustments to the market.

One of the original positive claims about the so-called "Affordable Care Act" was that it started out very close to budget neutral.  That is, it would not add very much to the crushing debt burden that our generation is selfishly, irresponsibly, and unsustainably running up for all manner of "free" government goodies.  Because America's credit was good, too many of us have been corrupted.  We have gone from responsible citizens to a mob demanding "free" stuff from the government.  Nothing is free of course, its paid for by someone, and unprincipled politicians soon arose to cater to the demands of an unprincipled population.  The goodies were handed out, and the bills were passed onto the next generation.   May God forgive us!

There cannot be a more cowardly or feckless way to pay for vote-buying than through the use of debt.  Little children and the unborn, who have no vote to defend themselves against the looting of their future earnings, are robbed by low-life politicians who pass off their sickening child abuse as some sort of noble act.   And the Free Stuff Mob believes it is free because they want to believe it.  They believe the lie for the reason most lies are believed- because facing the truth involves short-term discomfort.  We as a society are not just failing a test of character here, we are failing the next generation.

Originally, Obamacare was to cost just under $1 trillion taxpayer dollars for the first ten years and was to pay for that amount mostly through raising $500 billion in taxes and cutting $491 billion from Medicare.   Those numbers assume that millions of young healthy people with good jobs sign up for coverage and pay highly inflated premiums.   Should that fail to happen, the cost goes much higher.   It is mostly failing to happen, because most healthy young people don't have good jobs.   Those who do are loaded down with debt from college and cannot afford to pay the enormous costs of the "Affordable" care act.

But even if things go as planned, in the second ten years, the cost goes up to $2.85 trillion, and we don't know where we will get the extra money.   And as for the proposed $500 billion in tax increases, Obama has already blinked on the bulk of it when he unilaterally changed the law without authorization from the legislative branch and delayed the "Employer Mandate" for at least one year.  We will see after tax time what happens with the individual mandate.  The rest of the taxes that are supposed to pay for it come from taxes on medical equipment.   On a highly inelastic good paid for by the government, those increases in taxes are going to go right back into increases for medical treatment.  In other words, those taxes are a sham.   They will just drive up the cost of care that much more than anticipated, leaving the net effect of the tax at zero.

And what about the $491 billion in cuts to Medicare?  Most of it has not happened yet.  They back-loaded the cuts and front-loaded the spending, as the almost always do, to get a final number that sounded better.  Many of those "cuts" they counted were things that have been repeatedly scheduled in the past, but never followed through on.   Reimbursements to physicians is the big example.  If they push that one too much harder, people will have coverage, but won't have access to care.  That is already starting to happen with Medicaid.

So Obama has blinked on some of the taxes already, and others will simply drive up medical costs and thus do nothing to fund Obamacare on net.   The cuts are almost all in the future and most of them are things that Congress has consistently backed down on cutting at the last minute and would harm access to care if they were cut anyway.   And even if all that had worked out, there is no plan to pay for the increases for the following decade.  Basically, Obamacare is now on track to be just another debt-financed expansion of government.

It may be hard for some voters to sort all this out, because of the brazen way in which some politicians and media in this state are repeating the claim that the "Private Option" is not Medicaid expansion.  This is false.  The so-called "Private Option" is Medicaid expansion. They have a temporary (expires in 2016) waiver from the Obama administration to direct the flow of money a little bit differently than the traditional way Medicaid money has flowed in the past, but it is still a Medicaid program, funded with federal Medicaid dollars, subject to Medicaid guidelines, and directed by the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services, just like the regular way of doing Medicaid. This is Obamacare in a hat and sunglasses, and in 2016 the hat and sunglasses can come off.

We will not reduce the number of our population on Medicaid by implementing the so-called "Private Option", we will greatly increase it, mostly with able-bodied adults.  Instead of one Medicaid program we will have two, the traditional one that pays providers directly, and another which uses insurance companies to stand in the middle and take a cut.  The total population in the two programs will be much higher than the population in the one previous "traditional" Medicaid program.

I am just amazed at the brazen way in which some Republican legislators have tried, and are still trying, to make the false claims that the "Private Option" is not an expansion of Medicaid and that it somehow undoes or opposes Obamacare. One hundred percent of the Democrats in the state legislature voted to fund the Private Option.  Would they have done that if it really was opposition to Obamacare?

The latest in all this is the claim that there was nothing they could do to stop the implementation of Obamacare in Arkansas because it was "already the law." That was not what they said when they were running for office on a platform of opposing the expansion of Obamacare, but its their story now and some of them are sticking to it, much to the disgust of those of us who have taken the time to find out what is really going on.

They could not have stopped some things about Obamacare, but they could have stopped the key part of Obamacare which entailed expanding Medicaid.  This was not a part of what was "already the law", that they had no choice about.  They had to agree to expand Medicaid.  And they did agree to it, some of them are just not honest enough to admit that this is what they did when they came up with the "Private Option" label.

You are witnessing the "big lie theory" put into practice when they make these claims. There was and is much that states can and have done to block the implementation of much of Obamacare in their states. Most of the Republicans in Arkansas just decided to rework the split of the looting so that big insurance and the hospital systems got a bigger cut and go with a plan which combines all of the worst features of Obamacare and crony capitalism.

Obamacare was structured so that if states expanded Medicaid they got what looked to them like "free money" for a few years.  Since most politicians can't see past the next election, it looked like a good deal to them.  On the long term though, it commits Arkansas citizens to increased costs not just as federal taxpayers but as state taxpayers.   Obama structured the funding to be like the bait on a fish-hook, and they took the bait.   The state numbers will look good for a couple of years as the federal numbers look worse, then they will both look worse.

The economy stinks right now.  Past government overspending has put a debt-overhang on the economy that is dragging us down.  I understand that some people are in  a desperate situation.  If you have to use it, use it.  But even if you have to take the coverage, I implore you to vote against the politicians who put it in place.