Friday, April 19, 2013

Putting the Session Into Perspective

"Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"

Yes friends, it is possible for one tragic event to cancel out all the hard work of the script writers, actors, producers and stage hands.   It is reasonable to suppose that on the night Lincoln was assassinated that none of them expressed displeasure than no one was talking about the "positives" of their performance.  It is extremely likely they understood that the one Big Bad Thing that happened that night eclipsed whatever good they did in the theater.  It wasn't just, because they had no responsibility for the one Big Bad Thing that happened that night, but still, they understood.

Contrast that to the embarrassing display of self-absorption put on by the Republican legislators who voted to fund Medicaid Expansion in this state, despite their campaign promises six months ago.  I don't say the passing of Medicaid expansion is an equal tragedy to the Lincoln assassination, only that they are both big tragedies.  But in spite of our tragedy, the legislators are not responding with the decorum of the common stage hands a century and a half ago.   These people are complaining that watchful activists are not giving them credit for all the good that they did in this session because we are focused on the one Big Bad Thing that happened- Obamacare is being implemented in this state.

These men and women were elected to positions of public trust, yet they fail to display the sense of humility and proportion possessed by common stage-hands and actors a century and a half ago.  Indeed, the stage hands actions are far more honorable because they had nothing to do with the one Big Bad Thing which impacted them. These legislators on the other hand, were directly responsible for their one Big Bad Thing, which they did in violation of their promises to the voters a mere six months before.   The stage hands had the sense of decorum to understand that that particular dark night was not about pointing out the lesser things they did right.  Not so the truculent legislators whose sense of entitlement to praise has been violated.

Oh, and too many of them are not manning up and admitting what they did was an Expansion of Medicaid and the implementation of Obamacare.   They can live in denial as long as you their constituents will accept their baloney at face value, but the rest of the nation calls it what it is.  And despite their spin that this was the GOP imposing a different plan on the Democrats, Gov. Mike Beebe was looking at some of these special programs, with the Obama administration, back in 2011.  And their future promises about how Arkansas can pull out if the Feds don't do it the way we want may be just as worthless as their past promises that they would oppose Medicaid Expansion- there is no hint that the courts said any state could withdraw from Obamacare after jumping in.  The Roberts ruling only said that states could decide whether they want to participate or not at the beginning.  That is why Forbes describes the plan as a "roach motel."  We can get in, but getting out is another matter. 

But let's turn the spotlight for a minute on these other "accomplishments" that they want us to give them credit for as we step across the dead body of their campaign promises for the defining issue of the previous election.   Twenty feel-good bills don't make up for one multi-billion dollar blunder.  Yes I am glad they passed the pro-life bills, but there is a 99% chance that the most significant bills will never be implemented.  They got points for those who voted for them from the pro-life community, but they have yet to save one innocent life and the odds are they never will.

The other major issue was the tax cuts.   They were talking about tax cuts in the 100 million to 150 million dollar annual range when all this started.   But on closer examination, the tax cuts they want us to give them credit for are not their tax cuts at all.   They are actually trying to take credit for tax cuts that they are obliging future legislators to honor, while they themselves keep spending wildly.

I kid you not.  Their tax cuts for next year are worth a paltry $10 million dollars, or about four dollars per person.   They 'phase in' the tax cuts.  The big money starts in future years, which is ridiculous.  No legislature can bind a future legislature.   It is not their place to tell whoever is elected in 2016 that they have to find places to tighten the belt to pay for tax cuts they passed this year but are to be implemented in future years.  They are trying to take present credit for hatching tomorrow's chickens.

They are claiming the money will be there because of two things, one is that the courts will someday let us out of the Little Rock School District desegregation law suit.  Whenever that happens, it will free up about $70 million dollars annually.  They were hoping that would happen in time for them to cut taxes or spend the money, but the courts did not make the ruling.  So what the legislators did was say "when the courts let us out of this thing, here is how our successors are to spend the freed up money."

It is absurd for them to expect credit for that.   If you want credit for a tax cut, tighten the belt on your watch and give us a tax cut with the freed-up money.   Don't try to take credit for a demand that your successors in the future tighten their belts and give us the money based on some hypothetical occurrence.   It is grand standing that is really hard to respect.

The other thing they are claiming as a source of savings is that they say their plans to reform Medicaid are going to work out so well that future legislatures will have plenty of money for a tax cut.   Therefore they are going to tell those future legislators what to do with the presumed future bonanza of cash that their wisdom will provide.   They want credit today for legislation that says some future group of legislators tomorrow has to give you money that has not yet been saved.

The truth is just the opposite.  By giving into Obamcare they have tied the hands of future legislators just to get a few years of easy money.    Once the feds quit matching 100%  then they are going to be putting future legislatures in a worse position to cut taxes than they are, not a better one.   They just added about 100,000 people to a government welfare healthcare program.  It is going to cost more money than de-linking from Obamacare to the maximum extent possible under the law- a lot more.

They broke the promises they made you yesterday, but they want credit today for their promises about what will happen tomorrow.  In effect, they don't want activists, they want groupies who pretend to be activists.  They want people who will focus on the positive, even if it means looking past the balanced truth.   For the most part, I don't think they will get their wish.

Benton County Senator Bart Hester is one of the best men in the legislature.  He is actually being honest with the voters, and sadly, that is all it takes these days to be among the best.  Here is what he says about the matter:

Senator Bart Hester: The entire session everyone has been sold a bill of goods that if this Medicaid passed, there was going to be at least $100 million if not $150 million in tax cuts. And that’s what Davy was in the paper saying, $150 million, the Senate was saying $100 million, now they get their Medicaid and we come back and it’s $9.8 million in cuts. And they give you the old schoolyard, ‘Well, we didn’t say what year the cuts were gonna be.’ I think it’s dishonest, it’s misleading.

We only have $9.8 million we can share with the entire state, but we have $125 million we can give to one company and then we have $100 million in [General Improvement Funds], pork-barrel, earmark spending for a bunch of us to go home to our friends with. It’s not right. It’s not right that we spend $100 million in pork-barrel spending and we can’t give the taxpayers anything.

I oppose it. It’s going to be the most unpopular statement of the session I’m sure because everyone loves their GIF

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