Thursday, May 26, 2016

ADE Defies Legislature, Law on Requiring American Government To Be Taught in HS

I got a letter from a fellow we shall call "Brutus". You may recall his article saying that the ADE's new education standards "eviscerate" U.S. History standards. Partially in response to his article, the legislature passed a law reversing the bureaucracy's decision and requiring American Government to be taught in High School. It looks like the schools are ignoring the law, and the ADE is letting them, or maybe even encouraging them. 
My ultimate view on the matter is that this is a local decision which each district should decide on their own. I think if they did, schools would mostly teach American Government in High School. Instead, the ADE tried to push them to drop the class before the legislature over-rode them and said to keep it. Is this just that ADE is not doing its job, or is ADE encouraging schools to drop the course despite the law? 

Dear Arkansas legislators. 
In 2015 you sponsored or co-sponsored the bill that is now known as Act 1284.  Act 1284 restored stronger high school social studies graduation requirements that the State Board of Education had plan to reduce as of July 1, 2015.  Since Act 1284 became law on April 8, 2015, it does not appear that the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) has made changes in regulations to comport with the new law nor is ADE enforcing the law.  School districts are either unaware of the new law, or they are ignoring it. 
Reference text of Act 1284:
Here is a sample of Arkansas high schools that no longer require the teaching of American Government despite the passage of Act 1284:
Example #1: 
Fayetteville High School’s posted current graduation requirements do not include a course in American Government. (See handbook, page 7)
Example #2:
Springdale High School’s posted current graduation requirements do not include a course in American Government. (See Career Action Planning catalog, page 3)
Example #3:
Van Buren High School’s posted current graduation requirements do not include a course in American Government. (See district handbook, page 94)
Example #4:
Fort Smith North Side High School’s current graduation requirements do not mandate a course in American Government.  See webpage:
Example #5:
Little Rock high schools’ posted current graduation requirements do not include American Government.  See webpage: 
Example #6:
Texarkana High School catalog does not list American Government as a graduation requirement – and does not even list American Government as a course offering.  See page 23 of course descriptions:
I am keenly aware of this issue because I teach American Government and United States History to high school students.  What we see is a profound dumbing down of Arkansas students –  students who can no longer be expected to understand the structure and functioning of American government.  
I am hesitant to sign my name to this letter because as an Arkansas licensed teacher I can get my certification revoked as payback by the ADE over some made-up issue.  Nevertheless, truth is still truth. 
The bottom-line question is whether or not the rule of law applies in Arkansas. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Boozman Votes to Spend More Money than Obama Asks For

Frank Gilbert is running for U.S. Senate against the incumbent, John Boozman. Gilbert is not shying away from a fight to put it mildly. He has issued one press release after another which shows, with devastating precision and undeniable facts, Boozman's record to be the furthest thing from conservative. Gilbert is making the case that no thinking conservative could justify a vote for Boozman.

Unfortunately for him, there are a very large number of unthinking voters who consider themselves conservative. And while the facts may be undeniable, they are not un-ignorable to those voters who have what I call "invincible ignorance". I expect them to pull the lever for Boozman because they have heard his name before and there is an "R" after it. Those are idiotic reasons for a conservative to vote for someone with Boozman's actual record, but if voters paid any attention to what guys like Boozman were actually doing in Washington, we would not be in this ridiculous mess now would we?

Here is the release...

“The U.S. Senate’s first spending bill of 2016 allocates $261 million more than President Barack Obama requested and lacks significant conservative amendments, but it still sailed to passage Thursday in the Republican-led chamber.” The Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal reported this bit of bad news for taxpayers earlier this month.

Arkansas Senator John Boozman voted with the majority to spend more than even our leftist president wanted.

Frank Gilbert, the Libertarian Party nominee for U. S. Senate, criticized the vote and his opponent.

“John Boozman and the GOP leadership are every bit as much a part of the spending problem in Washington as our lame-duck president,” he said. “Boozman lacks the leadership and courage to say ‘no’ to the president and his party leadership. He may have come to congress as a conservative all those years ago, but he has now sold out taxpayers.”

Even an attempt to add an amendment by Arkansas’ other senator was sabotaged by his fellow Republicans.Tom Cotton proposed an amendment that would have prohibited the U. S. from purchasing heavy water from Iran. The amendment would have hampered Iran’s stated goal of developing a nuclear weapon. However, the amendment was opposed by President Obama so it was handled in such a way by the Republicans that required it to get 60 votes for passage. Democrats easily defeated Cotton’s amendment under that circumstance.

“To say that John Boozman is a sell-out is not too harsh,” Gilbert concluded. “He has sold out taxpayers and even the defense of our country to please his real bosses, the GOP leadership.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What I Said to the Tea Party - The Way Forward

There is a quote. I don’t know if he ever really said it, but it’s attributed to the great Winston Churchill. It goes

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

To be fair, I think it says more about humanity in general than it does about Americans in particular. It is so like us humans to try and cut corners and look for easy answers. But have you ever noticed how the easy way and the right way are almost never the same thing? I believe that is not by accident, that the universe is designed to test our character. It is built to see if we care about what is true and right enough to follow that path, even though at first it seems the much harder road.

This life is designed to test our character. If we are honest, we are going to realize that we regularly fail the test. Ultimately the honest soul will concede that we need to reach up to God for help rather than rely on our own insight and virtue. You are meeting in a church building, so I hope that it is OK if I go there.

It is simply a fact of history that in the long term, without the Gospel there will be tyranny. This was the norm for humanity before the Gospel arrived, it is still the norm in places where the Gospel never took wide root, and it is once again becoming the norm in societies where the influence of the Gospel has waned. We are increasingly without the Gospel, so we are increasingly under tyranny.

What was it about the gospel which produced so much human liberty? I think a big part of the answer is its brutal honesty. What does it say about us? It says that we are sinners. That we need to repent. That we have been kidding ourselves about who we are and the nobility of our motivations and actions and how much those of our sort can be trusted. It informs us that even what we imagine to be our most righteous acts are tainted by our mixed motives. They are rubbish.

We could never face such a harsh assessment about ourselves, even if it’s the truth, if not for the good news of the gospel. Yes, we are sinners, but God has provided forgiveness for that sin. We are not right, but we don’t have to be right. We just have to be willing to believe the truth instead of whatever lies we had previously comforted ourselves with. When you get a nation of people who are able to accept change in this manner, when you get people who are willing to trade even comforting lies away in return for truth, even when it hurts, then you get a society which is in tune with reality. It only hurts for a while but once adjusted we find the truth we painfully accepted actually leaves us better off than the false comfort of unreality we once clung to.

Our founders were keenly aware of human nature and its moral shortcomings. They did not create for us a system of government based on the idea that the right people could be trusted with power. Quite the opposite, they assumed that power corrupts even the very best of us, or even reveals the corruption present all along. They started with the premise that no one, not even their group, not even Holy Joe on the Front Row and not even our favorite candidate could be trusted with unchecked power.

They did not trust even Washington, Jefferson, or Madison with unrestrained power. Those men did not even trust themselves with it, and the Presidency in the early Republic did not have one percent of the power of the Presidency today. FEDGOV itself was only a thin shadow of its present vastness. Instead they very deliberately implemented a complicated system of checks and balances so that power might be decentralized and divided.

Given that this is true, can any among us truly say that electing anyone on our ballots to the Presidency is any kind of way to restore the republic? Then why should we be so upset about it? Why should we gnaw at one another over it?

We find ourselves in this particular place of which perhaps Lord Churchill spoke, where we have tried everything else, and it is now time for us to do the right thing. We have been trying to give power to the right person, when the Founders designed for us a Republic founded on the idea that when it comes to political power there is no right person. We have been trying to gather up political power when our heritage is to divide it. After years of taking the so-called easy way, we find ourselves lost. We have out-sourced the job of looking out for our interests to a political machine headquartered in Washington D.C. and funded by global corporations, and then are shocked to discover that they worked for their own interests and not ours.

National political parties are not in our constitution but they spontaneously formed early on in our nation. As two of them gained power they kept altering the rules so that they got more of it. It is only natural that we should seek to drink from the well which they had already dug. It was convenient to believe that much of our nation’s ills would go away if only “our” side of the equation was able to heap up more and more power. We believed this only to find out that the Scriptures and the Founders were correct all along- power corrupts. Giving “our” side more of it did not make America better, it only made what we though was our side more corrupt.

We have been trying national political parties, but they have never been the right way to do things. They were always a short-cut, they were always an easy way out. And they were always contrary to the vision of the Founders who devised for us a government with separation of powers. National political parties are in fact an informal end-run around the formal checks and balances which the Founders intended in order to protect us from what both they and we know about human nature.

Listen to me friends, listen. It was never right for the states governments and the federal government to be stocked by members of the same political club. The states and the federal government were meant to be a check and a balance on one another. When public officials from both are drawn from the same club the tendency over time will be for them to advance the interests of their club, and that means centralizing all power to Washington. In the same way, how can we expect the legislative branch to really be the People’s Branch, as it was intended, when they are elected by the same club which elects the Governor? Is it not clear that, with exceptions from time to time, that the rule will be that they will represent their Governor rather than their constituents?

This has happened, this is still happening today, and this will continue to happen, so long as we refuse to change our candidate selection system from one which undermines the Founder’s intent on separation of powers and instead build one which supports it. Can we select a President like that? No. But the answer is not to make the right person President. It’s to go back to an America where it was a lot less important who the President was. Unless you have fought harder for that goal than you have fought electing your preferred choice President, you are quite frankly doing it wrong.

You should take that as good news because you can now understand why our efforts have been so futile. We have been working the problem the wrong way so it is no wonder things have been getting worse not better. God in His Mercy was not going to let us “win” the wrong way, by taking a shortcut which denies what He has said about human nature. But His blessing of defeat does not end there. It also means that if we repent, if we change, if we are willing to start working the right way, the way that is in accord with what He says about Man, then we can win. We don’t have to keep losing. We just have to lose the tactics that have not worked for us and in the long run cannot work. They can only make the problem worse and here is why- the more power the other side wins the more corrupt it gets. The more power our side wins the more corrupt it gets. This is why we should seek to disperse government power more than we love accumulating it.

What specifically am I suggesting? I am suggesting a network- a network not a hierarchy, of citizens of a single state, not a part of a national centralized group. This loose coalition of citizen groups (which I shall call “houses”) would work together to provide ballot access for candidates local office and the state legislature, as well as Congress- but not Governor or President. There will be no hierarchy to capture or corrupt. Each “house” in this network will be a self-contained unit. If they go bad, they can be excluded next time around, so the contagion is contained. But most importantly, it brings what the Founders intended in government to the political process- decentralization. Checks and balances. A separation of powers.

It is too late for 2016, but we can hit the ground running in 2017. What I am asking of you tonight is if some among you in this County Tea Party wish to be a part of a “House” to gather signatures in the Spring of 2017 to put this new coalition on the ballot. In exchange, your group will have the responsibility of naming candidates for all county offices, and a say in who we nominate for state legislative offices. Those who do the work pick the candidates. The voters will decide if you picked the ones they wanted or not, but you will have until November to make that case. It is not like running candidates in a stacked primary where the Governor is endorsing the other guy and there is no time for sweat equity to counter big money.

If you are ready to change the way we elect candidates, if you are ready to align your political action with what both God and the Founder’s believed about human nature and political power, I ask you to connect not with me, but with one another. When you think you have enough serious workers to commit, let Jeff know. He will visit with me and we will go from there.

I thank you for your attention. Those of you who managed to listen on through, even though it was not an easy word to hear, I do salute you and if you wish to scrutinize me with questions I make myself answerable to you at this time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Jonesboro Goes Bananas as Battle Over Expansive Property Code Reaches Climax

Today is election day in Jonesboro. On the ballot is not only a City-Council race to fill in the term of a departed Councilman, but whether the city will repeal its recently and controversially adopted "2012 International Property Maintenance Code".  The fight over the code has been emotional, and as you read on you will see why.

The code was originally adopted after a head-fake from Mayor Harold Perrin and a City Council which contained a member who lived outside the city. When discussions began on whether to adopt the IPMC it was so controversial that they passed the question to a "Blue Ribbon Commission". Even though those Commissions are typically used to provide cover for something that the powers-that-be want done anyway, the decision was still contentious within the Commission. Eventually the Commission passed a resolution (6-3) that the City Council adopt the IPMC with allowable special provisions.

In the city itself the code was much more controversial. People were showing up at every city council meeting to protest. This led the City Council to pass a resolution to suspend "indefinitely" consideration of implementing the IPMC. Mayor Perrin said that the suspension of consideration applied to the IPMC, but that the city could continue to discuss developing their own code. He prefaced that with conciliatory statements like "maybe this wasn't the right code" and gave every indication that the crisis was over.

As soon as the concerned citizens went away, Perrin rammed through the IPMC. Not that the city Council was comfortable with the plan. The city council vote was tied 6-6, so Perrin broke the tie with his own vote (Mayors are allowed to vote to break ties). One of the city councilmen who voted to ram through the IPMC was later found to be living outside the city limits of Jonesboro, and thus ineligible for the office in which he served. His replacement will also be selected in today's voting.

The citizens who were against the code were outraged by the Mayor's head-fake. Many of them were part of the area Tea Party who were practiced at turning anger into action. They organized a petition drive to put a repeal effort on the ballot. In addition, they recruited James Bowman to run for the vacated city council seat. Those two items are what is being voted on today.

What the IPMC does is essentially criminalize poverty. Not just poverty, but it would run out working class people who can't afford all the property improvements that the more Toni sections of the city enjoy. For example, my house in Pea Ridge is one of many which does not have a paved driveway. There are even a few businesses in town without a paved driveway. Under the code, they would all have to be paved. Dan and Cheryl Lakey of Jonesboro were cited under the code for failure to have dog houses for each of their two dogs- even though they bring them in every night. According to Mark Pillow, one of the more active supporters of the repeal movement, Code Enforcement Officials have asked neighbors of those who favor the repeal for access to their backyard so that they can spy on opponents in order to discover violations.

The fine for failing to have your property up to code starts at $150, but there is no upper limit on the amount one may be fined for the third offense. People with working class homes would have no choice but to sell out to a developer cheap in order to get out from under the fines. The code can be used to run poor people out of town and send them as economic refugees to surrounding areas. Its effect will be the forced gentrification of the city.

The code would is not limited to the exterior of homes. The interior of homes are also required to meet the new code. It applies to residential and commercial properties. Pillow says that many businesses are secretly helping the repeal effort. They are doing so secretly because they don't want to lose the business of the wealthy folks in town who are tired of their upper-class eyes being forced to gaze upon disorder within the property lines of their poorer neighbors. Helping their neighbors out, or buying the property at a fair market value and fixing it up, seems to be beneath them. The solution they have hit upon is to use the city government to run those miserable working class peasants out of town.

Pillow says that Fort Smith adopted a much gentler version of the code with a hardship clause, and which did not apply to all structures, and had a maximum fine of $500. Even still, Pillow says they had 10,000 "violations" in year one. Pillow speculates that after a Tea Party group with which he is associated helped defeat a sales tax increase within the city, that the Mayor is looking to replace that "lost" revenue with money from code violations. It is also easier to apply for certain grants if a community has enacted the code, so the rich get richer.

Pillow has complained of despicable tactics by some supporters of the code. This is beyond the usual tearing up of yard signs, though he reports a very high incidence of "Repeal" signs being removed and destroyed. He says that real estate companies have been threatened with being blacklisted by two tony property owner's associations in the city. There have been incidents like the one I described with the Lakeys.

Pillow says that, just before he was scheduled to appear in a debate with code proponent Teresa Beck,  someone called the Department of Human Services and reported that his nephew was in a house which was without electric power and should be investigated by DHS. He was without power- for a few hours while maintenance was being conducted down the street. Pillow said he had a visit with DHS investigator Gary Robertson, who was sent to see if the state needed to intervene due to this teenager having to go without power for a few hours!

Even worse, someone called the boy's grandmother (Mark Pillow's mother) who has dementia. and threatened to have the boy removed from the home and placed in state custody. She did not understand the call, but handed the phone to Pillow's brother. He kept the threats from his mother because he figured it was all about shaking up Mark Pillow just before a big debate. Pillow suspected something was up because the opposition went from firmly opposing a debate to demanding one immediately. Pillow had arranged for a stand-in to replace him the day before- a move that he says sent the other side into a frenzy when they found out.

Proponents of the code want to make Jonesboro into a gentrified community. They often cite Auburn Alabama as their model. Auburn used the IPMC to push all of their working class and below outside the city limits to surrounding communities. They of course live in somewhat of a bubble because Auburn University is located there. Tons of money pour into the city from around the state even if they have no manufacturing or normal economy. The vision is for Arkansas State University to do the same for Jonesboro. Even if it was morally right to use government force to push out the less fortunate, I don't think their model is economically feasible for a number of reasons.

First of all, Auburn had its success as the higher education bubble was swelling. Jonesboro is trying to pull this stunt just as the higher ed bubble is starting to burst. Auburn rode the wave of federal money and lottery money thrown at higher ed over the last 20 years. Jonesboro is trying to buy into that market just as it has peaked. I think they are going to have to find another path to prosperity besides counting on the rest of the state handing them money and fining their own citizens for being poor.

Secondly, Jonesboro is somewhat larger than the town of Auburn, at least it is now before all the have-nots have been purged by this new code.  Jonesboro has over 71,000 people. Auburn has barely 60,000. If higher ed growth was just starting a 20 year run, instead of winding one down, then the plan might work- if ASU and Auburn were equal in terms of financial cash cows. They are not close. ASU is a fine mid-size university in a pleasant small city. It's not Auburn and that should be OK.

Auburn's main campus has a budget of $942 million dollars a year. ASU has a budget of only $153 million. Auburn also has over 27,000 students. ASU has 14,000 in Jonesboro and its my guess that on average they come from less affluent households than that of the Auburn student body. The private business potential from servicing them is simply nowhere near as great in Jonesboro compared to Auburn. ASU has endowments of 55 million dollars. This is dwarfed by Auburn's $642 million in endowments.

My take is that some among the upper class in the city have gotten pretentious. They imagine themselves as being something more than they are. This hubris and ambition actually makes them less than what they ought to be- benevolent and generous leading citizens of what is after all a nice Arkansas small city.  Instead, they are willing to run over those less fortunate than themselves in what I believe will be a futile attempt to turn their grand illusions about themselves into reality.


The code was repealed by a vote of very nearly 2-1. It was a giant defeat for Mayor Harold Perrin, but guys like that don't give up just because the hoi peloi don't like what they are up to. On the city Council Seat side, there will be a run-off, but James Bowman won't be in it as he finished third in a six man race. It turns out the repeal effort was split on who they wanted to fill that seat. Some business interests in the coalition like the idea of a code that steps on other people's toes, just not theirs.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

What Just Happened Here (Obamacare Funding Vote)?

The Magnificent Seven

Almost all appropriation items in Arkansas outside of a few categories require a 3/4ths majority in each house of the legislature to pass. That is in the state constitution. This should have the effect of making sure the state only spends money on things for which there is broad public support. Unfortunately, it doesn't work in practice. There may be 35 Senators, but they represent only two political parties. If the leadership of both of them want something, they can normally find a way to herd enough Senators together to do it even if an idea is extremely controversial with taxpayers. 
Medicaid expansion under Obamacare is very controversial. If it were put to a referendum on the November ballot, there is a good chance it would be voted down, and it is highly probably that it would be voted down in Senate Districts represented by Republicans. But legislators don't just represent their constituents, they also represent one of two parties (and the Governor runs one of those). This fact has basically short-circuited a process which was supposed to insure than the state does not spend tax dollars on most things unless they have broad public support. That is one reason why I think we should start sending independents and/or people from new grassroots parties to the state legislature, but I digress.
Ten Senators had stood their ground and refused to pass a budget which included Obamacare Medicaid expansion in it, which in this state is now called "Arkansas Works".  It was previously called "The Private Option." If people are so sold on it, one wonders why they have to keep changing what they call it? Senators were under tremendous pressure from both sides. If Governor Hutchinson wanted D.C. to send him some more money to pass out, he had to find a way to split two of the ten off and get them to vote for the appropriation.
Rumors had been circulating that not all of the ten were solid opponents of the plan. The idea was that some of them were just making a show for the folks back home. If there was some symbolic gesture they could use to flip their vote, they would.

That may have been the impetus behind the Governor's plan, which sounded too convoluted to be a plausible "House of Cards" script. By combining a bill which funded Medicaid Expansion with an amendment which ended funding of Medicaid Expansion, a couple of Senators looking for a way out could vote for the bill, arguing that the bill "defunded" the program. This was even though the Governor said in advance he intended to line-item veto the part that revoked the funding and thus leave the bill with the funding intact.

The two Senators who accepted that deal were Bart Hester and Blake Johnson. The rest did not. In one way or another they refused to fund it, whether by voting "no" or "present". You see their names above, in red and yellow. Bledsoe, Clark, Collins-Smith, Flippo, King, Rice, Stubblefield. I call them "The Magnificent Seven".  In Missy Irvin's case, she went to a funeral instead of showing up to vote so count her as a sort of "no" as well.

By flipping their vote for something that was such an obvious gimmick, Hester and Johnson put themselves in an awkward position. Sure, voting for it is bad, but putting on a big show and then flipping over such an obvious token gesture is even worse. It would have been better to have come out in favor of the bill all along than to make a big show of being against it and then abandon your position in exchange for the barest of fig leaves.

Hester made a statement to explain why he went for the deal, saying that he just could not keep voting "no" because he did not want all of Medicaid to go unfunded. But President Pro Tem Dismang had already said he was ready to separate out the "Arkansas Works" money from the rest of the DHS budget. If so, they could have had a "clean" vote on the funding of Arkansas Works without holding the rest of the people on Medicaid hostage. A lot of us see the folks on traditional Medicaid as becoming the victims of Obamacare/Arkansas Works anyway as funding for that program crowds out the Medicaid funding for them.

Hester also explained his switch by saying in effect he voted for a bill that defunded Medicaid Expansion and if the Governor comes along later and makes it into a bill which funds it instead then that's on the Governor, not him.

Look, legislators have tough jobs. I know that. They are voted into office to make some hard calls. Still, I think his statement is, by itself, an abdication of his responsibility as a legislator. The legislature is supposed to decide what is funded and what is not. That is not really what this bill does. The language in this bill was written, if what the Governor is doing is really legal, so that Medicaid Expansion can either be funded, or not funded as the Governor may decide. Sure the legislature could technically over-ride his veto with a majority, but the whole intent in the Arkansas Constitution is that a super-majority is required to appropriate state money. The legislative super-majority requirement for an appropriation is being skirted by this measure. That power was put into the Constitution to give legislators the ability to make some hard decisions, to hold out and stop spending they thought was wrong.  In this case that power, and the buck, is being passed to the Governor.

Now, there is a big caveat to all of this, for both Johnson and Hester. You see I don't think what the Governor and the legislature just did is legal, for reasons outlined here. Yes, they changed the language some, probably because they were worried about just the kind of thing I wrote about in the link, but the changes they made don't alter the fundamentals. Not that you can't count on judges to rule according to the text of the law or the constitution anymore, but they are supposed to and they have been know to do so. If it is taken to court, the Governor's action may be ruled unconstitutional. If the judges rule on the text of the state constitution it very likely will be ruled so.

What I am saying is that maybe Hester and Johnson have given the Governor enough rope to hang his Medicaid Expansion scheme. Did they mean to? I don't know, but we will see if they are at the forefront of the legal fight to show that what he did is a violation of Separation of Powers. A court ruling saying so will cast even more dubious actions at the feet of a program which already has a history of plenty. It will set things up even more for real victory on the issue in the next fiscal session. If they do it will go a long way toward showing that they were not just trying to score points or mollify some powerful supporters with a show of a fight. Instead, they are willing to fight when a fight is called for, they just had a slightly disagreement on tactics.

Look, each year that goes by the more of a burden this program is going to be, not just from the perspective of a taxpayer, or someone on traditional Medicaid getting their program cut, but even from the perspective of the state.  The state's share goes up each year. Insurers are leaving the state. Premiums are set to increase significantly in 2017. The feds will one day tire of the state taxing their Medicaid money and demand we end the practice. Each year that goes by will show more and more that The Magnificent Seven had it right, and the rest of them had it wrong. I know we have seen a lot of defeats, mostly of stubbornly clinging to old habits. Example: people insist on relying on the Republican party to vet their candidates instead of bypassing it and getting candidates of their own choosing directly onto the general election ballot. But on this one, we can win. We are on the right side of history, and fiscal reality. So we should keep doing what we are doing, only smarter.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Boozman Voted to Fund Obamcare When the Chips Were Down

Frank Gilbert is coming after John Boozman, pointing out that the Senator voted to fund Obamacare when his vote was critically needed to fund it- one of 19 Republican Senators who crossed over to do so. A lot of grassroots voters are extremely feed up with legislators, on both the state and local levels, who claim they are against Obamacare but then vote to fund it at critical times.

The complete press release about "Both Ways Boozman" is here.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Six Percent Trust the Media

According to a recent poll I found in the media, but they would have no reason to lie about that. I believe that represents about the percentage of people who either work in the media or have a close family member who does so.

Remember Moore's media Maxim: The establishment media does not exist to inform the public. The establishment media exists to protect the establishment.

And a corollary: Any nation with banks "Too big to fail" will have a corporate media "too connected to tell you the truth."

Are You SURE About that Governor?

So the Governor seems to think he is in a House of Cards episode where he can get around the 3/4th majority required to approve appropriations by a made-for-Hollywood convoluted scheme. First step is adding an amendment that kills funding for Obamacare's Medicaid expansion into the bill that approved it. That should peel off a couple of the ten Senatorial holdouts and the bill would be approved. Then his plan is to line-item veto the amendment taking out the funding, reanimating the funding that the amendment said was killed. Then his veto is not over-ridden and the bill becomes law, with the reanimated funding.

That is more like a Walking Dead episode, but still, try to focus here. By this plan, according to the actors playing the lawyers in whatever episode he imagines himself in, he can legally fund Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. He calls this Obamacare expansion by the misleading name of "Arkansas Works" possibly because that is what Kevin Spacey would do.

When asked last week if he was sure this use of his line-item veto power was constitutional, the Governor took the trouble to issue a strongly worded statement saying how completely confident he was that the scheme was constitutional. Here is one of his statements:

"I have vetted it and feel totally comfortable with it," he said. "The constitutional language is clear. I have a history of all the exercises [of the line-item veto]. I've talked to legal counsel. I don't think there's any question about it." Hutchinson said he has also walked through the strategy with the Bureau of Legislative Review. "I don't think there's any room for doubt there," he said.

I added the bold print, but that is an actual quote from the Governor. I have a little question here for our studio audience. When have you ever heard Gov. Asa Hutchinson speak in such absolute and definite terms about anything? Me neither. He is normally vague and squishy. So what does it mean when he is makes a definitive statement like this?

I think it means he is starting to realize that the truth is the opposite of what he says here. He is not comfortable he can pull it off. The constitutional language is not clear, at least not in his favor. There is a question about it. There is room for doubt there. He has made a huge mistake and has to find another way out.

Here is the section of the state constitution in question:

Article six, section 17

The Governor shall have power to disapprove any item or items of any bill making appropriation of money, embracing distinct items; and the part or parts of the bill approved shall be the law, and the item or items of appropriations disapproved shall be void, unless repassed according to the rules and limitations prescribed for the passage of other bills over the executive veto.”

So the question ought to be if the section allows the Governor to line item veto any item in a bill making appropriations, or only any appropriation line item in any bill making appropriations? I think its the latter. The Founders never imagined un-appropriation language being added to an appropriation bill and then being line item-vetoed so that the canceled appropriation is re-animated. If confirmed this will be a new Executive Power in Arkansas, never before wielded.

Look, if you read only the blue sentence fragment above and stop reading there, then the Governor's position makes sense. But if you keep reading the red part it indicates to me that the Governor is not granted power by this section to line-item veto a non-appropriation item from an appropriation bill, only the appropriation items. How do I know this? Read the part in red where it specifies that the items of appropriations disapproved shall be void. The part in blue allows for two possible meanings, but the part in red clarifies their intent.

The Governor was meant to have line item veto power over the appropriations in appropriations bills. How can they write that amendment so that when it says "kill an appropriation" it is still an item that makes an appropriation? I ask that because that is the only kind of item that I see the Governor actually being authorized to line item veto in this section.

I believe the Governor has messed up big and he knows it. His House of Cards plan is not the way out for him. So I look for someone to offer another way out, perhaps in secret agreement with the Governor. That is different from legitimate attempts to compromise. Senator Alan Clark offered a legitimate attempt to compromise with a proposal to end new enrollments in the program while not cutting off those on it now until they leave due to some change in status.

Of course the other side is not interested in that kind of compromise. They are interested in SB 96 style-compromise. That is, the appearance of compromise which ends in them getting everything they wanted and you getting nothing. If that doesn't happen I would just as soon let the Governor have his way and then take him to court over it. If they care about the text (and prior AG opinions) the courts will rule against him.

******* UPDATE, CLARK and HESTER seem to be working on the same plan, one that may be very different from any of this. Details tomorrow, we hear, *******************

I noticed Senator Bart Hester offered a proposal on the heels of Clark. I would like to see the details, but so far I am dubious. From what I have heard, it looks like the SB 96 of the special session. I hope I am wrong but here is why I write that: It would "cap" enrollment but allow new people to enroll as old ones drop off- thus resulting in no cut to the program and maybe even more growth depending on where the cap is. It would also kick the can on funding but that is not the same thing as defunding. In the end we would have to fight the same battle all over again.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Arkansas Legislative Maneuvering Too Bizarre for House of Cards Script

In an effort to grab as much of the next generation's money as Obama is willing to give them, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and company resorted to convoluted legislative machinations that I think would be rejected as a "House of Cards" script for being too shady to be considered believable by the audience.

His problem? It takes a 3/4ths majority to pass appropriation bills. That means nine senators can stop an appropriation, if they are willing to take the hits. As of this week, ten were willing and voted down the appropriation for "Arkansas Works" the new name for the Private Option which was the old name for Medicaid Expansion in Arkansas. As an aside, have you ever noticed that honest folks marketing quality products don't have to change the name of what they are selling every few years?

The Governor came up with a plan to get around that obstacle. According to State Representative David Meeks and since confirmed by others, here was the Governor's plan:

1) It fails in the Senate today and gets sent back to Joint Budget.
2) Joint Budget adds special language that kills Arkansas Works.
3) Goes back to the Senate and passes.
4) Comes to the House and passes.
5) Goes to the Governor who then line-item vetoes the language killing Arkansas Works.
6) Veto is not overridden and Arkansas Works is implemented.

So they were going add in an amendment which says "never mind what we said earlier in the bill, Arkansas Works is not funded." That would peel off a couple of the holdouts, which is all he needs to get his 3/4ths majority. Then the plan was to line-item veto the amendment (which he can do on appropriations bills) leaving us with the original language the Senators objected to, but since the veto would not be over-ridden, Arkansas Works would wind up funded.

His complicated plan was hurriedly implemented with little notice to anyone, including the Democrats. That is why it hit a speed bump at step two. The Joint Budget committee failed to approve the amendment killing Arkansas Works. Some Democrats did not want to vote for an amendment to kill the program, even if it was part of a ruse to wind up with the program.

Many of us would consider Sen. Joyce Elliot an advocate for downright moral degeneracy. Well, she did not vote for the Governor's convoluted scheme yesterday basically because she was ethically troubled by how disingenuous it was. Joyce Elliot had too much integrity to be comfortable with Governor Asa Hutchinson's tricksy scheme. Think about that for a minute.

He is going to get another try next Tuesday and I believe he can get the votes to get it out of committee. I also think he will induce two of the ten to vote for the amended bill on the basis that it "kills Arkansas works" even though they know that language will be a dead letter.

Let me be clear: It reminds me of the battle over SB 96 last time. This bill "kills" Arkansas Works like SB 96 "killed" the "Private Option." That is going to be the likely practical effect even though this move might not even be constitutional. The key issue is whether one considers an amendment to cancel an appropriation of money as an appropriation of money. I don't think it is. Cancelling my subscription is not the same thing as subscribing. Here is the section of the state constitution in question:
Article six, section 17
“The Governor shall have power to disapprove any item or items of any bill making appropriation of money, embracing distinct items; and the part or parts of the bill approved shall be the law, and the item or items of appropriations disapproved shall be void, unless repassed according to the rules and limitations prescribed for the passage of other bills over the executive veto.”

So the question ought to be if the section allows the Governor to line item veto any item in a bill making appropriations, or only any appropriation line item in any bill making appropriations? I think its the latter. The Founders never imagined un-appropriation language being added to an appropriation bill and then being line item-vetoed so that the canceled appropriation is re-animated. If confirmed this will be a new Executive Power in Arkansas, never before wielded.

Look, if you read only the blue sentence fragment above and stop reading there, then the Governor's position makes sense. But if you keep reading the red part it indicates to me that the Governor is not granted power by this section to line-item veto a non-appropriation item from an appropriation bill, only the appropriation items. How do I know this? Read the part in red where it specifies that the items of appropriations disapproved shall be void. The part in blue allows for two possible meanings, but the part in red clarifies their intent. The Governor was meant to have line item veto power over the appropriations in appropriations bills. How can they write that amendment so that when it says "kill an appropriation" it is still an item that makes an appropriation? I ask that because that is the only kind of items that I see the Governor actually being authorized to line item veto in this section.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Enslaving the Next Generation in the Nicest Possible Way and for the Noblest of Motives

There is very often a gap between what people think they are doing and the real consequences of their actions. We kid ourselves about the effect that our actions have on the lives of others. That is why the Prophet Jeremiah, under Divine inspiration, wrote "The heart is deceitful above all things, who can know it?" God answered that He is the One who knows the heart of man. Which is to say, we can't be trusted to be objective when evaluating the morality of our own actions. We require an outside reference point for that, and there is only one such moral reference point which is truly objective- God Himself.

That brings us to our little controversy in the State Senate recently. When proponents of Medicaid Expansion (under the disingenuous name "Arkansas Works") started questioning the Christian values of those who refused to support the plan, Senator Terry Rice responded by saying, "We are enslaving future generations, our children and grandchildren — to debt that we are irresponsibly putting on their credit card. That to me is ... unbiblical."

While proponents of the plan don't mind insinuating that those opposed to the spending are unchristian, they bristle at the suggestion that they might be themselves. Senator Stephanie Flowers took exception to Senator Rice's statement. She said "I would never vote for a bill that enslaved anybody," and further, "I don't think that's what we're doing when we're providing health care for the poorest Americans. I have a serious problem with that kind of statement. Humanity dictates that we ought to give people an opportunity to have a healthy lifestyle. That's not enslavement. I'm willing to have my son, and any grandchild, help somebody out when they're sick."

Senator Flowers seems like a nice person. I can just tell that she is. I don't question her Christian values. But I do question her objectivity to evaluate her own actions. And I do her no insult when I say that because as I pointed out at the start of this article we all tend to have trouble doing that. Senator Terry Rice is exactly correct when he says that they are making debt slaves of the next generation. And we are doing it to lavish government benefits on ourselves now.

The national debt right now is over $59,000 per citizen. This means that each new child born in America starts off with that much debt hanging over their heads, stifling the economy in which they must live and work. And each and every day over $2 billion dollars of debt is added to the national total as government relentlessly spends more of the next generation's money. The FEDS propose to pay for 90% of the expense of expanding Medicaid, but let's be frank. they are paying for most of it with the next generation's money.

If someone handed you a $59,0000 bill for items that you had no say in, would you be OK with it? What happens when that bill gets to $100,000, or $200,000? These are debts of a size that most people cannot work their way out of. "Debt slavery" at some point becomes the perfect term to describe where today's politicians are taking tomorrow's children with their non-stop generational looting.

Senator Flowers tells herself that she is "providing health care for the poorest Americans". In truth she is not providing anything except access to the next generation's pockets. They are the ones that will be providing whatever health care is given, whether they can afford it or not and whether they consent to provide it or not. Nor is she doing it for "the poorest Americans" as if it is OK for me to steal from your children if you have more than I do. For one thing, the very poorest were already covered under existing Medicaid, along with the disabled. Their funds are now being threatened by this new program. Its called breaking the safety-net due to over loading.

For another thing, those are not the poorest Americans. The poorest Americans are the next generation who come into this world with nothing. No money, no assets, no skills, no education, no jobs. All they have is the $59,000 and growing debt that we have burdened them with in our eagerness to tell ourselves what good people we are for "providing" this or that through government debt.

She continues "humanity dictates that we ought to give people an opportunity to have a healthy lifestyle." Once again, she is not giving anyone anything except access to the next generation's earnings. They are obligated to spend untold hours of their life working to pay for the things she decides that others ought to have at their expense. And they have no say in the matter. How anyone can deny that this is very much like slavery is a testimony to the truth of scripture concerning the deceitfulness of the human heart.

If she feels that we ought to give anyone anything, then she should arrange to pay for it, all of it, through increasing taxes or cutting less worthy spending. At least those of us here and now can vote against her or donate to her opponent if we feel like she wants government to pay for too much. The next generation has no vote to defend itself from the predatory looting of today's politicians whose disgraceful conduct is made worse by their efforts to cover it in religious platitudes and call it holy. It is a swine offered at the alter.

She does offer up her own offspring when she says "I'm willing to have my son, and any grandchild, help somebody out when they're sick." So am I. But I want it to be their choice, not mine. I am the steward of my child's life, not the owner. I am to provide for and train them up only for a brief time before they become their own stewards. It is not up to me to dictate to my children or grand children how many hours they must work each day to re-pay the debt which I used to benefit strangers. They must make their own decisions about who to help out and how much. I hope I train them up so that they are able to do so early and willing to do so generously. This is the right and true way we should be willing to have our children and grandchildren help out the sick people. The sick of this generation are our burden, not theirs.

But if she will not listen to me, perhaps she will listen to a prominent Democrat: Thomas Jefferson. He wrote "spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale."  Now one might be willing to dismiss Jefferson because he was a slave-owner. What one should see instead is that even though he was willing to own other human beings, he was not willing to make debt slaves of the next generation. By all accounts, as slave owners go and by the standards of the times, he was good to his slaves. How good are we being to our own slaves? That is, the debt slaves we are creating by this wanton deficit spending so that we can feel good about ourselves?

Friday, April 08, 2016

For a Time Such as This, The Vote on Funding Obamacare Medicaid in Arkansas

In the Book of Esther in the Bible, the Jews in captivity in Persia were facing a deadly crisis. Esther was a Jewess who was the wife of the Persian King. He did not know her nationality. Her job was to please the king and otherwise stay out of his way. Her uncle Mordecai asked her to intercede with the King for her people. She was hesitant to risk the King's ire by doing so. Her Uncle rebuked her in saying that if things went south she better not count on being safe in the palace and that perhaps she was placed by God in the position that she was in "for a time such as this." Reluctantly, she agreed after asking her uncle to have her people fast and pray for her. Eventually she sucked it up and confronted the King as to the bad intentions of his closest and most trusted adviser, Haman. She won the King over and the King wound up having Haman hung before he could implement his evil plan to pillage the Jews and hang Mordeai.

That is an account which may have special relevance right now to some heroic legislators who are in a tough situation. The state legislature voted to renew Medicaid Expansion under Obamacare* yesterday under the new name of "Arkansas Works". The House Vote is here. It passed the Senate 25-10. Here are the ten "no" votes:

Clark, Collins-Smith, Bledsoe, Flippo, Hester, Irvin, Blake Johnson, King, Rice, Stubblefield.

Opponents had some reason to hope that they could stop the bill in committee. For several cycles now the people of Arkansas have been electing folks to the legislature who claimed they were against Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. Some of them, like John Cooper of Jonesboro, was simply lying to get elected and flipped at the first available opportunity. Others only flipped when they saw the Republican Governor wanted to keep the program and decided that pleasing the head of their political party was of more value to them than doing what they told the folks back home they would do when they ran. But some of the most dedicated opponents had worked themselves into position to stop the bill in committee by finagling spots on the Public Health Committee in the Senate. This was the committee through which all Medicaid Expansion bills had passed since the inception of the program.

Their mistake was thinking that the Democrats and Establishment Republicans would have any respect for precedent, them or their work, the rules, or basically anything other than their own will- which is to spend every dollar they can get out of Washington no matter what. President Pro Tem of the Senate Johnathan Dismang simply ignored all that and assigned the bill to the Insurance Committee rather than the Public Health Committee. The former was stacked with those in favor of expanding Medicaid under Obamacare. Meanwhile Lt. Governor Tim Griffin, the man who the Constitution of Arkansas says is supposed to be the actual President of the Senate (and thus deciding which committee should hear the bill) remained still and quiet (EDIT: People I respect have told me I am being unfair and too hard on the Lt. Governor for that statement. I have been sent some info which my crushing schedule will not allow me to look at for a while which it is claimed will show that the LTGOV could never help in a situation like this. So for now, please take my sentence above with at least one grain of salt).

Look the whole of the senate can still bring a bill out that a committee has rejected with a 2/3rds majority, and the Senate passed the bill with a 71% majority so it is very likely they could have brought the bill out despite the committee voting it down. I understand that. It would have taken two senators who voted for it yesterday to decide they were not so much for it as to over-ride the committee process and I seriously doubt that would have happened. (EDIT: I am also told that a majority vote can challenge a bill committee assignment.) But the point is if precedent matters, if the rules are stable (and precedent ought to be respected instead of us trying to follow moving goal posts all over the field) then opponents of the bill should have gotten a chance to try. Unfortunately we in our apathy have allowed ourselves to become ruled by a class of people for whom the "rules" are only tactics to get you to do what they want, but which they do not consider binding on them at all. Both of us, them and us, should repent of our moral failings.

This brings us to the next phase. The constitution requires a 3/4ths majority approval of both houses of the legislature in order to appropriate money to pay for the programs the legislature passes. This was deliberately inserted into our constitution in order to make sure that taxpayer money is not spent unless there is a broad consensus that the program in question is something that the state of Arkansas should be spending money on.

The state has long understood this to be the case. Click here for an example of how this issue came up in Arkansas history. I tell you that if ever there was a circumstance when a minority of legislators need to use this provision of the constitution to stop a spending bill then its on this one. If they don't use their constitutional power now then you might as well strip that provision out of the document, because its useless when people lack the courage to use the tools given in the constitution to stop government over-reach.

When you consider that legislators have been misleading people for years, that the people keep sending politicians to the legislature on the understanding that they oppose this program but then many of them wind up supporting it instead.... When you consider that the program is highly controversial and does not have the consensus of the public that this is something we should be spending money on; when you consider that those who favor this program have resorted to crass and underhanded tactics to get it passed to this point (including secret bribes, open bribes, and voting on the same bill over and over until it passes); when you consider that the money to pay for this plan does not exist and it is unsustainable outside of looting the next generation, then it is clear that it is right and proper to use whatever constitutional tool is legal to kill this program which by all rights should never have made it this far.

I strongly suspect that if the legislators stood their ground and refused to fund the program that the Governor and his legislators (not the legislators who represent the people in their districts I say, but rather those in his service) will ignore the constitution and find some devious means of advancing the bill anyway. That's on them, and it sets the stage for a court room showdown over the thing, as well as further exposes them to the public as oath breakers.

The shame in this is not that only nine senators or 26 representatives can block a large appropriation, the shame is that the political class has forced this thing on us for years and only nine or ten senators have enough respect for the people they are supposed to be representing to stop it. Now the Governor and his legislators have lumped a whole lot of spending on the appropriation bill that funds Obamacare. They think to accuse the legislators who refuse to approve the spending of "holding the Department of Human Services Hostage". Let me be clear. It is Asa Hutchinson and cronies who would be holding this state hostage because it is they who made the decision to lump this spending in with the appropriation for the whole department. They could have just as easily made it a separate "clean" appropriation. If this goes on long enough and the winds turn against them that is what they are going to wind up doing anyway.

It would not be a case of a minority of legislators blocking the will of the majority of the people. It would be a case of a minority of legislators protecting the will of the majority of people from a political system which is ignoring them One determined to impose more debt on their children regardless of what they want.

You might say that the Democrats would retaliate by blocking something "we" want. Who is "we"? Not me. Not the people I know. There is nothing I want from state government so badly that I am willing to consign my children to debt slavery to get it. Blocking funding is a loser tactic for THEM, not US. THEY want things from government beyond justice, we don't. One awkward bit is that THEY includes the big-government Republicans who also want to use government to loot, just for the benefit of a somewhat different group of people. The honest legislators at some point are going to have to separate themselves from these thieves unless they wish to be counted among them. That is the choice. I don't say this as if it will be my doing. I merely foretell.

But let us suppose THEY is a committed group of Democrats (which it largely will be) who retaliate by defunding something the Republicans want. Republicans either want things that most people want, or the THEYs in the GOP want something that a special interest wants. THEY can only cut off something that either a special interest wants, or the general public wants. If the former, then good. Let them consume one another, if the latter, then their position is untenable. What gives you moral authority to stand strong is that the voters have repeatedly spoken and they don't want the PO, they don't want Obamacare, and the system is trying to run over them and impose it anyway. The retaliators would not have that moral high ground to stand on



* The question is "Should the rest of us, and the next generation, be sent the bills to pay for health insurance for the 8% of the population who are able-bodied adults who are below the federal poverty level but not the poorest of the poor?" That is really the question at stake in the Medicaid expansion vote. Those under 17% of the Federal poverty level were already covered under Medicaid. Children were covered under Medicaind (ARKids). The disabled were covered. The so-called "Arkansas Works" plan (like the so-called "Private Option" and every other Obamacare Medicaid Expansion program regardless of what it is called) would lay taxes on the rest of us, along with borrowing a large amount of money from the next generation in federal deficit spending, to pay for the insurance of this group.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Boozman Voted for Bill that Enables Power Line To Snatch Arkansan's Land

The so-called "Clean Line" is a planned string of giant electrical towers that will run from Crawford County all the way across the state to Mississippi County (suspiciously close to where the "Big River Steel" state-sponsored manufacturing facility is setting up). Here is an interactive map of the proposed route. The lines will take electricity generated by windmills in Texas and Oklahoma and deliver it to points east.

Landowners in the twelve affected counties are concerned. Especially since the people behind the power line have just gotten federal authority to use eminent domain to take right of way on which to place their giant, sometimes dangerous, and always ugly towers. That means they can take the land for a price decided in court even if the landowner does not want to sell. Originally the folks pushing this line sought state authority for eminent domain, but were refused. The granting of eminent domain was given by the Federal Department of Energy under the authority of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This is the first time the authority given to the Department of Energy under that act has been used to grant eminent domain power to a private company.

When a project steps on that many toes, politicians step up and promise to help. Even the usually still and quiet John Boozman is making some noise on this one, and trying to get out in front as a champion of the oppressed landowners.  In this case, as in so many others, politicians try to take credit for their attempts to solve problems which they themselves helped create. That's right, as a Congressman John Boozman voted for the very legislation that Talk Business says has enabled the power grab. That would be the aforementioned "Energy Policy Act of 2005". Boozman voted for the bill whose actual implementation he now shows such indignation over. Here is the link showing his vote on the bill.

Not that Talk Business is calling him out on it. Nope. They are doing what the Establishment Media always does- protect the establishment of which Senator Boozman is certainly a member. That's why you have to find out about it from a guy who blogs as a hobby. Its why bloggers are the real media now.

No, Talk Business spent a good deal of space assuring its readers that Boozman and Congressman Steve Womack were fighting this dreaded abuse of power without mentioning that Boozman was one of those who authorized the law that made it possible. The Talk Business article repeated their trumpeting that they were "pushing"  for the "Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Land (APPROVAL) Act (S. 485/H.R. 3062)". This act would require the approval of a state's Governor before the DOE could grant eminent domain for electrical lines under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Yea, they are "pushing" to make it right!

Here is a link tracking the progress of that bill. No action has been taken on the bill since October of last year! Talk Business is telling you that Boozman and Womack are "pushing" the bill. Let me ask you, if your boss asked you about a project that was important to him and you emphasized that you were "pushing" it, but then he later found out that no action had been taken on it since October of the previous year would your boss be satisfied? No. Then neither should you be satisfied with Boozman and Womack if you care about this issue. Especially Boozman.

Boozman is opposed by me-too Democrat Connor Eldrige (the Democrats in the Arkansas delegation voted for the Energy Policy Act of 2005 by a 3-2 margin) and Libertarian Frank Gilbert. In your heart, you know that there is only one of those three who might stand up for individual property rights in the face of big business demands for special favors. The only question left is if you have had enough so that you are finally ready to vote for them?