Sunday, February 19, 2017

House Republican Plan Would Crush "Arkansas Works"/"Private Option"

State Republicans and Democrats joined together in the grossly immoral practice of generational looting when they expanded Medicaid to cover able-bodied adults. The plan was deceptively called the "Private Option" even though it was a Medicaid program that just had a facade built on the front end to give it the look and feel of private insurance as a part of that deception. Then they changed the name to "Arkansas Works" because too many people had caught on to the fact the "Private Option" was a farce.

"Arkansas Works" is also a farce, both because it is not fundamentally different from what it claimed to do away with and because non-workers and those barely working will continue to harvest benefits to be paid for later by your grandchildren. The new tweak just asks Medicaid for permission to have applicants "seek work". The Obama administration was not keen on granting that permission. The Trump Administration will likely reverse that, but if you had anything to do with hiring when unemployment benefits were stretched to 99 weeks you know what a sham that "seek work" requirement can be. But the establishment in Arkansas, Republicans and Democrats, saw that Washington was handing out the next generation's money and they united in determining that they were going to do everything they could to grab as much of it as they could- including committing welfare fraud on a massive and systemic scale.

Now the Republicans in Congress have rolled out their plan to "replace" Obamacare. If they pass a plan that looks anything like their roll out, the wheels are going to come off of "Arkansas Works", a program State Senator Bryan King called "a scam." The state was happy to sign up everyone they could (including those who were not eligible) when FEDGOV was paying 100% of the costs. But that was just a trick by Obama to suck states into expanding Medicaid during the first three years. Now the state must pay an increasing share of the costs.

Supposedly, the state's share was to max out at 10%. The state's share of traditional Medicaid spending is around a 33% share so adding new people to Arkansas Works costs the state less (but taxpayers the same) as adding a traditional Medicaid recipient.  But when you add hundreds of thousands of new beneficiaries and don't have your own printing press, even 10% of the cost can overwhelm the state budget. If they could have found sneaky ways to shift beneficiaries of traditional Medicaid onto the rolls of the new Medicaid program "Arkansas Works" then they might have found a way to break even.

Not only is that not going to happen, but House Republicans seem fully aware of some of the system-gaming going on in states like Arkansas. Here is a quote from the roll out of the house plan......
"This is unfair because the federal government is paying a greater portion of the cost of coverage for able-bodied adults, than for the disabled, elderly, and most vulnerable patients. This disparity also creates a perverse incentive for States when they have budget shortfalls and need to trim their Medicaid program. That’s because it creates an incentive for States to reduce services or provider payments related to the most vulnerable patients, rather than able-bodied adults."
Exactly right. Many of us have expressed concern that when it comes to crunch time the legislature will cut benefits to children and the disabled first because they have to match 33% of the dollars spent in that program but only 10% of the dollars spend on the Obamacare Medicaid expansion of able-bodied adults. They were betting people's lives that Obamacare would be successful. Or maybe they were not even thinking that far ahead. They just saw a chance to take "free" money from Washington and they took it.

The House  Republicans propose to fix this disparity by making the Fed's share for Obamacare Medicaid expansion the same as any other Medicaid......
"Under our proposal, Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion for able-bodied adults enrollees would be repealed in its current form. There would be a period of stability to ensure we are not pulling the rug out from underneath States or patients. States that chose to expand their Medicaid programs under Obamacare could continue to receive enhanced federal payments for currently enrolled beneficiaries for a limited period of time. However, after a date certain, if states choose to keep their Medicaid programs open to new enrollees in the expansion population, states would be reimbursed at their traditional match rates for these beneficiaries."
The Republicrat Establishment in Arkansas expanded Medicaid under the politics of fiscal delusion. The money to pay for this program does not exist. It never existed. The state never had a realistic way to pay the bills once they had to match 10% of the dollars in 2020. Its going to be tough to match the smaller percentages from now until then. They entered a program that offered three years of "free" money" with no real plan because it was tomorrow's problem. Now not only is it tomorrow but the feds are about to change the deal to make it even more painful.

The original "Private Option" bill had provisions stating that it "is terminated" if the feds ever reneged on their percentages- a possibility that many of us tried to warn them about. It also had language declaring that this program was "not a right". Some of us, even Forbes, tried to warn them that extracting themselves from the program after getting people hooked on it and altering our health care infrastructure to accommodate it may not be possible. The new language in the successor bill (SB 1) seems to recognize these difficulties. It does not say participation in Medicaid Expansion"is terminated" if the Feds reduce the matching funds. It just says DHS shall present "a plan to terminate" those services to the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services.

CMMS has to approve these plan changes so whether we can leave or not is no longer in our hands! The feds have to approve the plan. At that point, it is going to be a disaster whether they do or they don't. And SB1 makes no mention of the part in the original "Private Option" saying that this program is "not a right". Even if CMMS let's us out of the deal, the judges might not.



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Violating Separation of Powers for a Good Cause

It always starts for such practical reasons. I am talking about going around the constitution in the name of "expediency" and for a good cause. That is always how it starts and almost never how it ends up.

In this case I am talking about the activities of the "Violence Reduction Network". Why who in the world would have a problem with reducing violence? Me, if it means doing violence to the intent of the Constitution and violating the "separation of powers" as intended by our founders. In this case, the city prosecutors have started taking every crime involving guns to federal authorities and then "collaborating" on decisions about whether to pursue state or federal charges. Little Rock and West Memphis are two of the only five cities who have joined this program nationally, at least as of a year or so ago. Arkansas public officials really seem to take the lead in embracing heavy-handed centralization of power.

Yes, the people they are locking up are, for now, very bad people. Yes, two sets of government officials can take credit for locking up bad guys whereas before only one set could on each case. Yes, it shifts some dollars for prisons from the state budget to the federal budget. But it doesn't make us any safer- it makes us less safe. The ordinary criminals will be locked up either way, but the government criminals will be empowered by this measure.

Not every gun case should be a federal case. Indeed, none of them should because the 2nd amendment specifically forbids CONGRESS from making any law infringing on our right to "keep and bear arms". The Constitution does not authorize Congress to pass laws making a bunch of things crimes. Ordinary crime is supposed to be left to the states. Now the feds are injecting themselves into what was once the purview of the states alone.  What happens when a local prosecutor develops too cozy a relationship with the feds? It sets the stage for the eventual politicization of law enforcement on a national basis.

Federal Prosecutor Chris Thyer wondered "why have we not been doing this all along?" I think it is because in past generations we were more sensitive to the corrosive effects of all political and government power being drawn to Washington D.C. We wanted power decentralized. There were drawbacks to that, but they understood the advantages to local people managing their own affairs outweighed the costs. Since only five cities had joined up I think a lot of cities still understand the reason we have not been "doing this all along". I only wish that Little Rock and West Memphis did.

Look for what happens on a voluntary basis with Washington today to be tied to funding from Washington tomorrow, and mandatory regardless sometime after.  Every case is going to be "a federal case" if the feds want it to be. Combine that with the flawed thinking that there should only be one set of rules over the whole nation made by the elites in DC and everything they don't like should be outlawed and every idea they like should be mandatory and you have a recipe for an increasingly unfree society.

Politicians Take Credit for Voting Down Internet Sales Tax After Amazon Agrees to Collect it Anyway


I just can't stand all the lies, spin and deception coming out of Little Rock these days. Now we see people cheering that a legislative committee killed the bill to tax internet sales. It was voted down on a b-partisan basis. The reality: They only did it AFTER the giant online retailer Amazon agreed to start collecting the tax on us anyway. In other words, the state gets to take more of our money without the politicians having to accept any responsibility for a vote to implement those collections.

Under the threat of the state forcing them to collect the tax, Amazon agreed to collect the tax "voluntarily". Amazon announced that on Friday. The following Tuesday a bi-partisan legislative committee voted down the bill (SB 140, Senator Jake Files (R), Fort Smith) to tax internet sales in Arkansas. I wonder what kind of deal was made with Amazon to get them to do this without the politicians having to take the heat for it? Look for taxpayer money to be shoveled Amazon's way for agreeing to do this "voluntarily". Regardless, we should be very reluctant to pass out any credit for voting against increased taxes collections when they knew that those collections were going to be increased anyway.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Many Republican Legislators in NWA Directed Public Money to Ecclesia

Former State Representative Micah Neal of Springdale was recently caught up in a scandal where he received kickbacks from a third party to direct GIF money to tiny Ecclesia College. A former state Senator, widely believed to be Jon Woods, was also implicated.

But those are not the two legislators who directed money to Ecclesia in the 2013-2015 time frame. That tiny school was very good at getting state money. There is, as of yet, no evidence to suggest that any of the other legislators received kick backs for directing state money that way. For those who gave only small amounts, I would not expect there to be any kick backs. Maybe they just saw a band wagon and jumped on it- and there is another lesson in there somewhere. Here is a list compiled by reporter Doug Thompson, and here is a link to a report by him where they give their explanations.

Woods (R-Springdale) $350,000

Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) $60,000 (at least its in his district)

State Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R-Rogers) $60,000

Former  state Rep. Micah Neal (R-Springdale) $50,000 to the college

Former state Rep. Randy Alexander (R-Rogers) $26,500

Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) $14,000

Rep. Jim Dotson (R-Bentonville) $13,5000  (at least he is an alumnus of Ecclesia College)

Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Hindsville) $8,500

Rep. Debra Hobbs (R-Rogers) $10,000

Rep. Stephen Meeks (R-Greenbrier, the sole legislator on this list not from northwest Arkansas) $25,000 (for matching money for a federal student aid grant).

That was just GIF money. Much smaller amounts came as "work force education" grants (basically scholarship money) as directed by legislators in the following amounts....

 — $1,000 from Sen. Uvalde Lindsey (a Democrat), $5,000 from Rep. Grant Hodges, $5,000 from Rep. Jana Della Rosa, $10,000 from Rep. Justin Harris and $5,000 from Rep. Charlie Collins.



Wednesday, February 08, 2017

SJR8 Straight Out of Fight Club

Mark and Paul talk about SJR8, why it is fake tort reform designed to let foreign companies write off killing your family as a cost of doing business, and that might not be the worst part of the bill!

LISTEN HERE!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Near Future News on Article V Convention

April 2017: After a giant struggle, Arkansas becomes one of eleven states to pass the "Convention of States" language to petition Congress to call for an article V Convention to propose amendments to the Constitution. The battle was intense, with advocates citing a quote from James Madison that said article V could be used to reign in the federal government. Critics countered that Madison oversold article V in an effort to convince states to ratify the original document, noting that Madison also claimed that the constitution would result in a central government with powers that are "few and defined" while the powers left to the states were supposed to be "numerous and open-ended".

Legislators discounted that argument because opponents said the real thing that needed to change was the two-party system, not the constitution. Legislators and backers hope that changing the Constitution, rather than their own system, will solve our national problems.

August 2018: Even though backers of the Convention of States proposal were still far short of the 38 states required, Congress elects to issue a call to convention based on both COS petitions and the petitions from left-leaning states which call for amendments relating to gender equality, and corporate donations to politicians. That is, they agree to write a call for a convention to consider the issues mentioned in all petitions.

Many who initially backed the COS proposal are shocked, since they were assured that identical petitions were required from 38 states in order to have a convention, and that topics from the convention would be strictly limited to what was in the petition to Congress to call the convention. Some of them file lawsuits to that effect, but COS officials are so excited to actually have a convention where their ideas are on the table that most of them do not participate in the suit. There is a split within the movement as some believe that the Congress cannot violate the state laws and resolutions that "bind" congress to conduct the process in a pre-determined fashion.

November 2018: The courts rule that state laws are not binding on Congress. They cite the federal supremacy clause of the constitution, the fact that article V states that the call to convention is written by congress, and judicial precedent in U.S. Term Limits vs. Thornton. In that case Arkansas passed a state constitutional amendment to term limit all public officials. The courts ruled that the measure could only be applied to state officials, and that congress could only be limited by the federal constitution. In the same way, the call to an article V convention could not be limited by state officials, but only Congress and the federal constitution.

In addition, they throw out the suit that claimed that all petitions must have the same language before Congress can call the convention. The courts rule that congress is not bound to call a convention unless all petitions are exactly the same but neither are they prohibited from calling one based on differing language in petitions from the required number of states. The actual article puts no such restrictions on congress.

Many former supporters of an article V convention are shocked that all the proclamations, pronouncements, safe-guards and legislation from the states to keep the subject matter of a convention defined were swept aside so easily. The formal COS organization takes the position that citizens should lobby congress to match the subject and format of their proposal as closely as possible. Frantic scurrying goes on as grassroots groups begin to lobby Congress- the very body they had hoped to reign in with an article V convention. They are overwhelmed by the intact lobbying apparatus in Washington who all have ideas about how the most powerful convention in over 200 years should be staffed, organized, and directed. Donations to Congress skyrocket as groups vie for influence.

January 2019: Congress issues a call to convention. It appears to have positives and negatives from a COS perspective. It does contain the language they want regarding convention subject matter, but also contains language desired by the left, such as language asking for an amendment making "gender equality a fundamental human right of the highest order".

Even more upsetting, Congress lays out very specific procedures as to how delegates from the states are to be selected. The legislatures are to present lists of names, up to twenty names for each member of the federal delegation the state would have. The Governor would pick from among the names submitted by the legislature. COS in Arkansas pushes hard to fill the list of 120 names with people sympathetic to their cause, but every other group in the state is pushing too. This time, donations flow to state legislators as their campaign coffers are stuffed full of cash from groups hoping to get their names on the list.

Even though the COS people in Arkansas do a solid job of getting 27 of their people on the list, when the list goes to the Governor  he picks twelve reliable establishment names off the list of 120 names- six names off the list to serve as the delegation for Arkansas, and six alternates. Only one COS affiliated person makes it as an alternate, and he never gets to cast a vote at the convention.

Never in the history of the United States was so much potential power assembled together in one place, and that place was Philadelphia PA, as determined by Congress. Having it there made great optics, enhanced the idea that it was not from Washington even though the ranks of the delegates were staffed with reliable establishment men, women, and various other genders. The military has to form a perimeter around the convention hall as multitudes of Americans collect to demand that their agenda be heard. But they never make it inside the hall. Tensions around the county simmer,

March 2019: The convention issues amendments for ratification. To the relief and shock of many, the language is somewhat along the lines of what COS supporters hoped for. The language on the taxation amendment is right out of Mark Levin's "The Liberty Amendments". The amendment on a balanced budget is very similar in language to that pushed by "Compact For America". There is also an amendment reigning in judicial tyranny, and one for congressional term limits. The bad news is the Gender Equality amendment. It empowers federal intrusion into churches, homes, businesses, child rearing, and even overseas in the name of gender "equality". There is also a ban on corporate contributions to political candidates, favored mostly but not exclusively by the left.

COS had taken a lot of heat when the doors were closed and all of the rules were being made in defiance of all of their alleged 'safe-guards.' They could hardly believe their good fortune. Even though they had lost control of the process four of the proposed amendments were something they could have written themselves! Now they were able to return to the offensive. They rallied their forces to urge passage of the "good amendments" and defeat the bad. They crowed that even though the doors to the convention hall had been closed, the establishment knew they had to bow at last to the people's concerns.

May 2019: Then came the bombshell: Congress chooses ratification by state conventions and in their ratification bill directed that the process for selecting convention delegates was the same as that for selecting delegates to the national convention, except that there would be three delegates for each seat in the federal legislature, with a like number of alternates. So for Arkansas there were to be 18 delegates and 18 alternate seats in the state ratifying convention. Some expressed surprise at the small number of delegates and sued over that. Others sued because Congress was detailing the process for "state" ratifying conventions. Their position was that Congress could not do anything but tell the states to have a ratifying convention, all of the particulars as to those conventions should be left wholly to the states. In fact, multiple suits were filed on those grounds.

Most of them never saw the light of day. The courts ruled that most of the plaintiffs did not have "standing" to sue because they were not state government officials. Finally, some rouge legislators filed the same suit. Unfortunately the precedent had already been set. Courts had already ruled that Congress could set a deadline for the ratifying conventions to complete ratification. Absent any constitutional restraint on congress, the court ruled that article V's language authorizing congress to determine the mode of ratification implied that congress could set a 'reasonable and uniform" standard for selecting delegates for such conventions.

In making this decision the courts were not making any departure from precedent.  The courts had already determined that Congress could set reasonable time-limits for the states to ratify the amendments in Dillon vs. Gloss and confirmed that in Coleman vs. Miller. Congress would determine the parameters for delegates under article V because it said in article V that they would "propose" the "mode" of ratification, while the phrase "Convention of States" did not even appear in article V. It was a marketing slogan rather than a feature of the actual text of article V of the constitution.

COS was in a quandary. On the one hand, it seemed like a lot went right, even if things had not gone as planned. The overwhelming majority of its supporters were enthusiastic about four of the amendments, but very much against the other two. But its bigger problem was that it no matter how its members felt, they would not be deciding anything. Sure it lobbied to get its supporters put on the list of names handed to the Governors, but the Governors just crossed off those names and selected safe establishment types for the few slots available. But its choices now were to oppose ratifying conventions who were considering language that was mostly what they wanted, or jump in front and try to take credit for a bandwagon they did not build. They chose to give themselves credit for the language of the end process rather than blame for all of their errors about the technical details of how the process unfolded.

Even though a land-slide majority of Americans favored at least one of the amendments there was no agreement on which one- no one amendment had the level of support to meet the high bar for ratification. And of course, the left leaning states favored the last two amendments and hated the first four. Conservative states tended to be the opposite. A few states were wary of the whole process. Some were willing to vote down a popular amendment unless a less popular amendment was included. If it had been a question of a majority vote on each amendment in each state, none of the amendments would have cleared the very high hurdle of the 3/4ths majority needed to pass.

July 2019 : The state conventions all met on the same day: the 4th of July 2019. The entire nation waited in anticipation, though news reports had emphasized the divisions in the nation and how high the 3/4ths hurdle was. But to the shock and surprise of the nation, one by one the delegations came out from behind the closed doors and announced the same results: They had chosen to ratify all six amendments, provided that 3/4ths of the other states did the same. Apparently, there was communication and collusion among the state delegations, even if there had not been much between the state delegations and the citizens of the states. Some state delegations wanted some amendments, while others wanted different ones. The only way to get a 3/4ths majority was to make a deal giving each side the amendments they wanted and execute it quickly, giving everybody some of what they wanted even if it came with some unwanted extras.

Hours later, the Secretary of State signed off and just like that, the constitution was different. COS declared victory because, miraculously, most of the amendments were what they wanted. It was true that every step of the way they their much vaunted safe-guards were easily by-passed, but they simply kept pointing to the end result.

AFTERMATH:

The leftist amendment about Gender Equality was the PC-totalitarian nightmare you might imagine that it would be- if you have an enormous and ghastly imagination. Lots of people went to prison for things that they had had every right to do and say before. The rest of America kowtowed until they learned to love it and believe it was their own idea.

The left-leaning but more populist amendment regarding no corporate contributions to candidates did not do much of anything. Just like a similar state amendment in Arkansas, it had a loophole a mile wide in that corporations could still give to PACs. The big corporations had their lobbies set up several PACS each and just funneled the money through them. Smaller companies who could not afford all of that were shut out even more.

The so-called "Balanced Budget Amendment" that used similar language to the "Compact For America" proposal turned out to really be a proposal to go to a "National Sales Tax".  At the next budget crisis they changed from income tax to national sales tax since that raising those did not require a super majority from anyone. Since global corporations had made trillions overseas, switching to a sales tax allowed them to bring their profits back into America tax free. The middle class however, saw an increased tax burden, since the big corporations were paying less. The IRS was not eliminated, it was just transformed into the ISS, the Internal Spending Service. Every favor or trade among friends and family suddenly became the business of Washington and an attempt to "evade sales taxes".

That change made the "Income Tax Amendment" from Mark Levine's "Liberty Amendments" a moot point. But even before then Americans were shocked to realize that that amendment was a trap. It limited taxes for any American to no more than 15% of gross income, but only the top ten percent of Americans even paid more than that to begin with, and only the top five percent paid significantly over that. In other words, the amendment mandated a large tax decrease for "them" at the expense of everyone else. And since the Middle Class was the only one with money to take the burden fell hardest on them as described here.

You might say that Levine's tax amendment forbade Congress to "institute" a national sales tax, so how did Congress pass it? Well, Congress passed legislation saying that the states would start collecting so much sales tax for the federal government using their existing taxation infrastructure, therefore Congress did not "institute" the sales tax but rather piggy-backed on existing state institutions. The last few states without a sales tax would not get federal funding of any sort until they did the same.

Naturally this double talk resulted in multiple law-suits and since the language was fairly plain the courts ruled in favor of the plaintiffs- the tax plan from Congress was in violation of one of the new amendments. Congress though, was up against a budgetary crisis. They utilized yet another amendment passed on that fateful day- one that said they could abrogate any court ruling with a 2/3rds majority vote. To the dismay of the public, Congress increasingly used the power given to them by that amendment in ways which advanced their self-interest, exactly as they had cast all of their other votes for decades. People could no longer count on the courts to protect them from increasing police-state tactics out of Washington. Anytime the courts ruled against a practice Congress favored, even if corrupt, Congress simply used its new power to overturn the ruling.

And that brings us to the last amendment- term limits. Term limits worked pretty well in the Arkansas legislature, where the system could not find enough insiders to fill all of those new openings, but in a nation of 320 million people for only about 100 empty seats every election, the system was able to replace one empty suit with another. And they were indeed empty suits. The Legislature was actually significantly weakened compared to the bureaucracy, which could always "wait out" the occasional legislator who tried to do some good. By the time they really learned the ropes, they were out of terms!

Since they knew they could not make a career out of legislating, the temptation to sell out to some special interest who would take care of them after their time was up was stronger than ever. It turned out that blanket term-limits was no substitute for a diligent population putting good men and women in the legislature and keeping them there where they could be a real counter-weight to Executive and Judicial abuse.

 A dejected conservative movement had learned some valuable lessons about trying to reform a bad system using more rules instead of going around it to send in better people. But by then, it was too late.


Friday, February 03, 2017

Hog Football Recruiting Run Down

National Signing Day was this week. That is when High School football stars officially commit to where they will play college ball. When it comes to football recruiting Arkansas has always had to do more with less. For example, the state of Louisiana has more than double the population of Arkansas and is just drenched in football talent. We have never, ever had a class as good on paper as LSU. Yet in most years we are very competitive with them on the field. If we are going to succeed, especially in the brutal SEC West, it appears that we are going to have to keep doing more with less.

Not that we don't sign talented players. According to Rivals, probably the nations #1 recruiting site, the Razorbacks finished with the #24 ranked class in the nation. That is up from our #32 ranking last year and about the same as our #25 ranking in 2015. That's not bad. In most conferences it would be good enough to put you in the top tier. Unfortunately, the Hogs are not in most conferences, they are in the SEC.

Alabama just recruited another ridiculously deep and talented #1 class. Georgia was #3 and they had two five-star players and fourteen four-star players in their class. LSU was #8, Florida was #9, and Texas A&M was #10.  So half of the top ten, including the champ, was SEC.

Auburn, Tennessee, and South Carolina finished #14, #15, and #16 respectively.  I would like to think that we could out-recruit South Carolina.  "Thank God for Mississippi" also applies here as we did beat both schools from that state, although Mississippi State was close at #27.  Ole Miss has the threat of sanctions hanging over them and their recent stellar recruiting has taken a nose dive. Miss. State tends to have classes like ours. Lots of good, tough, football players sprinkled with a few stars.

The Razorback class contains no five-star players, but five four-star players and fourteen three-star players, along with four two-stars who are often projects that take time to develop. The ratings can be over-blown. A lot of three-stars go on to become great players and get drafted into the NFL. Some five-star players never pan out. Half of it is what kind of players you get and half of it is how they are developed and what you do with them.

That being said, Alabama has won eight of the last ten recruiting championships and two of the last five National Championships on the field, and has been the runner-up a couple of times too. Right now, they are the only team so good at every position that they can win a national championship without a dominant quarterback. The other recent winners all had one. Clemson had DeShone Kizer, Florida State had Jameis Winston. Ohio State had more than one of them. Auburn had Cam Newton.

So the way to get in the hunt is to be stacked at every position, like Alabama, (Ohio State is getting there too), or have enough really good players paired with a dominant quarterback. We are close to recruiting enough good players that a dominant quarterback could get us there, but with our style of play it is unlikely that a top quarterback out of high school would sign with us unless he grew up here and always wanted to be a hog. Or maybe, since quarterback is very hard to evaluate out of high school, we get a Johnny Manziel, someone who was not highly regarded out of High School but wound up being great anyway.

Even if we don't recruit 15-20 absolutely stud recruits every year we can still compete with the handful of schools which do- if we have a dominant quarterback and the talent that we do have is well distributed. There are only 22 plus kickers starting spots on any college football team. If we can get eight or nine great players a year we can still fill every spot with a great player. We won't have the depth of those other schools, but our starters will be competitive.

Are we there yet? Not quite, but CB Chevin Calloway fits the bill. The class has five four-star players, but not all four-stars are equal. Some are just good players and some are real difference-makers. Calloway is a Rivals Top 100 player that Texas wanted in the worst way. He gives you a defensive back that can actually cover the small speedy WRs that will just tear your defense up if you don't have a Chevin Calloway type-player.

The one place we don't have trouble recruiting is running back, and Chase Hayden is a Rivals Top 250 player who can be a very good, but not dominant, one. He is not a pure running back, but more of an all-purpose back. That is what I like about him- if we can get that great quarterback they will make each other better. I expect TE Jeremy Patton and WR Brandon Martin to make an immediate impact as well, but they are Junior College players who will not be with us for four years. Too much of the top of our class comes from the J.C. ranks to suit me.

That's not all of the good players we have in this class. Malik Barkley is a good player. So are defenders Kamren Curl and Tyrie Fisher from Oklahoma. Montaric Brown is the top-rated Arkansas player in this class. He may have a big learning curve stepping up to SEC football, and he needs some time in the weight room, but he could develop into a good safety. Among the rest of them, somewhere there are some players who are going to exceed expectations and become stars. I am just not sure that there will be enough to compete well in the brutal SEC West.


Thursday, February 02, 2017

Left and Right Agree on Governor's Tax Shell Game

When the Arkansas Times makes more sense to conservatives than a Republican Governor, its news. This article breaks down the shell game that is the Governor's "tax break for veterans", pushed by Lt. Governor Tim Griffin among others. The bill actually includes a completely separate tax break for wholesale syrup distributors, to be paid for by taxing digital downloads and unemployment benefits (so give it to them with one hand and take it with the other- sounds efficient right?).

Dave Ramsey points out that the tax break for veteran's retirement benefits will cost $13.4 million while the tax increase on candy and soda pop will by itself raise $13.8 million. So just looking at that, the bill is not revenue neutral. It is not a tax cut, it is not paid for by any reduction in spending. It is a shuffling of taxes which results in a slight overall tax increase. Only retired veterans, a sliver of the population, will see a tax decrease.

For some people on the right the military is held in a near-divine reverence. There would be almost no special benefit one could suggest for them that they would be against. There is a militaristic national security element of the right, but that is not the "right" I am talking about here. I am talking about the limited-government right that is suspicious of all government attempts to divide us against each other by handing out or with-holding special privileges to various groups.

Look, I think it is disgraceful the way FEDGOV is not keeping its promises to the veterans, but we never promised them that they would get a state income tax break. People with military retirement incomes, with the exception of those seriously wounded on duty, are already better off than most of the rest of us. I too am a veteran, though I did not stay in until retirement. Some of the people I served with were patriots and others were not. No, its not fair, and its not patriotic for them to get an exemption from taxes on their military retirement income when the rest of us have to pay taxes on our income. With the exception of those badly wounded in service of the nation, I don't see why they should even want an exemption.

In the long run, retired veterans will be even more respected if they shoulder their share of the load of the cost of running state government than if they become just another special interest group with their hands out. They will also be more motivated to help us watch the politicians and reduce the load on us all if they share in the burden, instead of only being interested in preserving special privileges at everyone else's expense.

If you were a patriot when you served, continue to be one when you retire. I don't want to make the ex-military an us vs. them situation.Society is better off if retired military and the rest of us are in the same boat, rowing together. This is preferable to rolling around on the deck fighting each other for special benefits from the politicians, who are the real ones that win when we start treating each other differently.

That brings us to the "other bill" which is hidden in the bill. They are hiding behind veterans to also do the following with this bill....

* Removing the income tax exemption on unemployment compensation: approximately $3.1 million

* Imposing tax on digital downloads (this replaced the earlier idea of removing the sales tax exemption on mobile homes, which turned out to be politically untenable): $2.4 million

* Cutting the wholesale-level tax on soft drink syrup by 40 percent: $5.9 million

So the two taxes at the top, plus the overage on the first tax increase, equals just the amount of the tax cut for wholesale soft drink syrup sellers. Conclusion: they are hiding behind veterans in a complicated shell game to pay for a tax cut to a special interest group. One wonders what donations were driving that chicanery. Both left and right should vote "no" on this bill.




Monday, January 30, 2017

How to Tell Who the Bad Guys Are

The Arkansas Senate today voted against (but they will try again) passing a resolution calling for Congress to pass a call to a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution. Giving all of the people in the current political establishment- people we are angry at because they are liars and thieves who are robbing our posterity blind- a chance to rewrite the U.S. Constitution is a terrible idea. Yet because a lot of people are scared, frustrated, desperate, and maybe still in denial about how bad even their representative is, some of them want to roll the dice and support this "solution".

The politicians are glad to feed their escapism and agree with them that what needs to change is not the politicians themselves, and not their voting habits (voting for candidates from the two D.C. controlled and globally funded political cartels which have helped bring our nation to ruin both fiscally and morally), but rather that the problem is the constitution. It needs to change while the people can go on voting for team red or team blue......

But what struck me the most on this important vote was that the people I came to think of as "the bad guys"- hard leftists and corporate republican sellouts, were the ones who voted correctly. They voted against it. The ones who I long thought of as the "good guys", sensible limited government types, voted for it. Yes, thanks to all of what we thought were the bad guys and no thanks to those few who we consider the good guys, this terrible idea was stopped for now.
These events remind me of something-  my thesis actually. I am not like those usual limp-wrists who try to say that "there are no bad guys, we are all good people here who need to understand one another".  No that is not it. The truth is that we are all bad guys, and even the best of us are sinners saved only by the finished work of Christ. Even our allies, even ourselves, can and do go terribly wrong and need watching. It isn't that there are no bad guys, its that we are all bad guys.
I had this conversation with a friend today, about the actions of "Senator X", someone who we have in the past regarded as one of the finest people in the legislature....
"Senator X took offense at my posting about it the other night, urging them and our other Senator friends to vote against it. I had to call them yesterday to try to repair the relationship, but they went on and on and on about how we were "attacking" them (by asking people to vote against it)? They took it all as a personal attack. They cannot be reasoned with at all on this issue and told me they had made up their mind no matter what I said. Then they said I had to just "trust their heart," that they was doing the right thing for the right reasons. Well, why don't they "trust our hearts," that we're opposing it for the right reasons?"
Indeed. But that would be a mistake too. None of us are beyond error and all of us should be ready to give an answer for our intended course of action. An answer which defends our choices on the basis of reason, fact, and logic, not an appeal to the purity and correctness of someone's heart. I prefer to trust God's word above a politician's demands to "trust their heart", and here is what God's word says about the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9)..."
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
Not sinful human beings in the midst of political battles, that's for sure. Our perspectives are limited even in the best of circumstances, especially on subjects like the wisdom and the purity of our own motives!
The bad guys are the good guys and the good guys are the bad guys on this one. We are all sinners, we just have different sins.
Politicians who forget this wind up like this Senator did- unable to distinguish between a policy disagreement and an attack on them personally. Once we get it in our head that our side,  "the good guys" are without sin, then we are on the road to perdition. At that point it is not about the truth anymore, it is about their own illusion of self-righteousness. They can't be "doing something wrong" because they are the "good guys" and by definition they can do no wrong because "good guys" don't do that.  Doing something wrong is taking them out of the "good guys" group. That is why these politicians have been taking things so personally.
It is time to reject these flawed ideas, before the bitter fruit of them poisons our public well any further. Our side is not the "good guys". Neither is the other side. Nor would a new side be. The best we can hope for is a side which realizes "we are all the bad guys, so we better watch each other and ourselves."


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mark and Paul Get Into It on "Article V" Movement

Audio at this link...

(PS- yes liberal states like California and New Jersey have also petitioned Congress to call an Article V Convention.)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

COS Campaign's Shady Tactics Cause Setback

The effort to initiate an Article V convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution encountered a setback recently when investigators for Secure Arkansas discovered that HJR 1001 listed co-sponsors who never agreed to co-sponsor the bill. One of those listed as a co-sponsor, Republican Trevor Drown, said he was against it. Proponents were hoping for a pass out of committee, but due to the flap its been tabled. Sources tell Arkansas Watch that an identical resolution, SJR 2, has strong support in the Senate Committee so the house side is probably the best place to stop it.

I am not going to hold back here. I don't believe that this is an anomaly. It is not a one-time mistake from a group which normally does things right. The "Convention of States" movement has been dishonest all along. This is not an an exception to how the operate, it is an example of how they operate. And they have taken in some of the finest people in the state with their deceptions, and that makes me angry. I hope the legislators and activists who have been sold a bill of goods get away from these people as fast as they can.

Even their name is a deception. There is no "Convention of States" in Article V of the U.S. Constitution. Those words do not appear in that order in the article. It is a marketing slogan, not something that actually exists in the Constitution. The states can only petition congress to call a convention, Congress writes the call, not the state's. You can't trust this Congress to represent you on their regular job, just look at Congressman Womack who is crusading to shake us down for more sales tax collections on internet sales. Who thinks that's what most of his constituents want him to do? And make no mistake, Washington's hand will be all over this if it happens. And if there is any doubt about whether or not they are overstepping their bounds the issue will not be decided by you or I, but by employees of the Federal government in D.C., the Supreme Court who just decided they were smarter than God and now mandate that all states recognize their new idea about what constitutes "marriage."

Trusting today's ruling class in D.C. to alter the constitution and expect it to be something better than it is now is madness. But even if the states really did run this thing, we can't trust the ruling class in our state government either. Thanks to the present party system, every state party is connected to D.C. Conservatives can't count on Asa Hutchinson, and they can't count on a legislature that is increasingly coming to be controlled by him.

We are all only human. We all tend to reach for easy answers instead of facing up to painful choices. The real problem is that our two-party system does not represent us anymore. They have insulated themselves from the people. But a lot of activists have emotional attachments to what they mistakenly think of as "their" party, so they don't want to face the fact that what needs to change is that the national parties need to go away. We need a new decentralized approach to electing the people who are supposed to represent us.

But that would involve We the People changing our political habits. So the snake-oil salesmen come and tell you "you don't have to change, the constitution is what has to change". As if the same people who are ignoring the constitution now will respect it if you just add more to it. When failure of the ruling class to respect the constitution is the problem, adding to it can't be the solution. We have to replace the ruling class, even if that means we have to quit seeing ourselves as "team red" or "team blue" to do it.

Deep down, people know this if they would just think it through, but the salesmen keep offering this so-called COS thing as a magic "cure-all". If the debt is your issue, they promise it would fix the budget. If Congressional Term Limits is your issue, they promise it would fix that. If a Flat Tax is your issue, they will say it will fix that. If a new issue comes up in the news tomorrow that has people up in arms, they will say that an Article V will fix that too. Dr. COS's healing tonic will fix you right up! That is why I am OK with using the term "snake oil" to describe their tactics. They sound just like the tonic peddler stereotypes. And very smart people are falling for it, because they are anxious and desperate for a cure. If the fake cure wasn't offering such easy answers they might even be willing to make the hard choices they are going to have to make for the real cure.

Another thing. They don't win the debate. Here is one big debate I had with them. The audio for their side is not good on this second one but here is another. Listen for yourself. They don't win the argument, but they have big money behind them from somewhere and they want to win on volume what they can't win on reason and intellect. This audio highlights some of the arguments they have no good answers for. The other side does not have full time paid employees to go around and make claims and influence people. We don't have national radio talk shows as platforms. But don't mistake "loud" for "right".  We just had some protests in DC that were loud and got lot's of media coverage, but that did not make them right, or even sane.

The thing they keep coming back to is "this is the only constitutional answer", which is just as fake as their list of cosponsors. First of all, its not the "only constitutional answer" because its not a real answer. Its a fake one so long as we have the ruling class that we do. The current ruling class would control the process. They are not going to cut their own political privileges for you. They would love for you to be distracted by this process for another three, four, five years because it means that you are not focusing on the real problem- them and the unitary national party system they have developed which shifts all of the influence away from you and towards them. The centralization of political power.

Adding names as co-sponsors without their knowledge or consent smacks of an attempt to create a false "band-wagon"effect. That is, it gets people to support something not because they have independently and rationally evaluated evidence from both sides and decided that its a good idea, but just because "all of my friends are for it". But its not true. Conservative, Conservatarians, and Classical Liberals, I am your friend too. I am the contrarian friend who tells you what I think you ought to hear, even if it doesn't resonate in an echo chamber. I hope they don't pull it off, but if they do I want you to mark this day well. If I am wrong and the results of an article V convention really are good for the country then quit listening to me. If they are wrong about an issue this big, then maybe you should quit listening to some of them.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Legislative Session on Taxes So Far

We are about two weeks in to the Arkansas legislative session. 2015 was the first session in which we had both dominant Republican majorities in the legislature and a Republican in the Governor's office. Now not only do we have all that to an even stronger degree, but they have had experience being in charge. What I see overall is that Governor Hutchinson is tightening his control over the legislature. The "leadership" in the Republican legislature is tightening its control. 2015 was the wild west by comparison.

In 2015 the Republican majority was still slim enough that Hutchinson needed the Democrats to join him against the true conservatives in his own party in order to get things through various committees and get passed. Now they are marginalized. He does not need them any more. 
When the Democrats were the majority, Mike Beebe ran a very tight ship- too tight for my comfort because the legislature can get demoted from a co-equal branch of government to a rubber-stamp. As a Republican Governor attempts to tighten control I see the same thing happening. As a localist I dislike the centralization of political power into fewer and fewer hands, so I would be for almost any renegade faction that showed up and tried to return some power to the rank and file members of the legislature.
To show you how the unitary party system causes legislators to abdicate from their responsibilities here is a quote from Hot Springs senator Bill Sample on his view of SB 115. 
"“If it were Bill Sample doing business, I probably wouldn’t do it,” Sample said Friday. “But this is the governor’s bill and his call, and he says we can afford it. If something comes up [with the tax cut], then he’s the one that has to answer the question. But I am going to vote for it.”
So the individual judgment of the man the people elected to vote on laws is out the door, and the new way of doing business is to vote the way the Governor wants no matter how you feel about it. Sounds just like what the Democrats did under Mike Beebe.
To unpack the tax policy of the Republicans I think we need to go back a bit in time. The Beebe tax policy could be summed up as "Look for isolated groups of people to loot by massively raising their taxes in order to fund a tiny tax cut or some benefits for a much larger group. Take political credit for "cutting taxes" with this move." He did it with the natural gas severance tax and he did it with the tobacco tax. That was Beebe's SOP, and it is also Asa Hutchinson's SOP. The winners and losers change but the tactics are identical.
In 2015 the Republicans in the legislature took credit for a "middle class income tax cut". I told you at the time "there has been no middle class tax cut, at least not yet". I suspect that there never will be. All they did was raise capital gains taxes immediately and cut a microscopic amount from income taxes at first, with an order to decrease them more later. They paid for their 2015 tax cut by reversing their 2013 tax cut- at least for all but the very rich who had over $10 million in capital gains.

So the net effect of their tax changes last time could be described like so: It gave your parents an extra $200 bucks a year in income tax reductions but when they retired and sold their house the state got it all back in capital gains tax increases. On the net there was no middle class tax cut, Republicans simply harvested the political credit for passing the illusion of one. Since they later slipped in a measure which eliminated capital gains on gains in excess of ten million dollars, the main group that got a net tax benefit from those maneuvers are entities with capital gains over that amount.
In 2017 the plan is to give all Arkansans who make less than $21,000 a year a tax break, but to pay for it largely by increasing sales taxes on manufactured homes. Right now sales taxes are only paid on 62% of the price of the home- they want to raise it. If you think about it, they are already disadvantaged because we don't pay sales taxes on regular houses. That is going to be a crushing blow to the manufactured home industry in Arkansas - which is just the kind of housing that poorer Arkansans have to resort to if they are to own their home at all. It is not like these same folks can afford traditional homes which cost considerably more. If I had the time to check the campaign finance reports, it would be my guess that the home builders associations gave a ton of money to the Republicans and the Manufactured Homes association interests gave more to Democrats.
The plan will turn potential manufactured home owners into renters- in a state with the most landlord-favorable laws in the nation. Landlords will win. Arkansans who work in the manufactured home industry or poorer Arkansans who aspire to own a home will lose. Would you trade a reasonable chance to go from being a renter to a home owner for $150 a year tax cut? This is a tax cut designed to keep the poor poor.

As bad as that is, I think I am saving the worst for last. I don't see government shrinking in size or power due to this plan. The bill (SB 115) will establish a panel to determine what income tax policy ought to be going forward. In other words, that decisions will be taken out of the committee system and the judgment of individual legislators and handed to this committee. So if I say to my legislator "I want you to support X as a tax policy" they can just shrug and say "its all up to this committee that you don't vote for what the policy will be."  Then again, if the legislators are all like Sen. Sample then they are in a hurry to defer their judgment to the Governor anyway.