Sunday, April 26, 2015
I am physically nauseous as I write these words, but uber-liberal Max Brantley has a much more honest assessment of Governor Asa Hutchinson's statements and approach to Common Core than some of my conservative friends. It is not that Max is more honest than they are. I have found he is perfectly willing to distort the truth, even to the point of what can realistically be called lying, if that is what it takes to smear Republicans in general and conservatives in particular. The sad thing is that lately he has not had to resort to such tactics to make the Republicans look bad- he can make them look downright awful just by reporting what they are doing and offering the obvious conclusions about what it means.
Nor is Max smarter than my conservative friends. Sure he is clever, but the real difference is that a lot of them want to believe that all of these machinations and "listening tours" and rebrandings are all going to result in Arkansas abandoning Common Core. Brantley, whose powers of observation are in this case unhindered by such desires, can just add up the facts and come to an unemotional conclusion that its all a big show. He is only wrong when he is wrong, he is not wrong just because he is Brantley.
Others media outlets have also noted the obvious, that the elites here as in other states are just going to slap a new name on the program, add a state specific standard here or there, then try to sell the warmed-over product as something "new", just as they did with the "private" option. It is a tactic that is tired and transparent but is still useful because it is able to fool one subset of people - those who wish to be fooled.
Kicking the idea of our approach to Common Core off to this commission is simply a way to add a few Arkansas tweaks and give it a new name while retaining the core program. This is exactly what Hutchinson appears to be doing with Medicaid Expansion now that the Private Option has been unmasked. His commission chair for the Common Core task force is designated "Tea Party Betrayer" Tim Griffin, who came up through the ranks as a protege of Karl Rove. Karl Rove, leader of the group of elitist Republicans making war on the Tea Party, is a Bush guy, and they love centralization of education in all forms, including Common Core.
Hutchinson and the Republicans also went to extraordinary lengths to weaken the requirements for Education Director in order to shoe-horn former state senator Johnny Key into the position. Key is an ardent supporter of Common Core, and would not have been the pick if there was any doubt Hutchinson wanted the global standards implemented. If you watch what Asa Hutchinson does, rather than what he says, it's obvious the intention is to foist Common Core on us. The average person does not want it, but the elites do.
Sure the spin in the recent media reports are that he says he wants an "Arkansas Solution", but when you look into the details that is exactly what I and others have described. When he says there is "no preconceived outcome" I assure you he does not mean that whether or not Arkansas stays in Common Core is up in the air. He means that if we add a few additional standards to the mandated ones our ruling class have ordered us to include, that the content of those is not preconceived.
How can I know all of this? Listen to the man closely. In the link above he says "“I don’t know what the outcome will be,” Hutchinson told the panel Thursday. “It’s not preconceived, but I do expect high standards, high expectations for our students that are transparent, that we can measure where we are in reference to the competitive world, other states.” Tell me how in the world we can refuse common core and still have results "that we can measure where we are in reference to the competitive world, other states"? You can't. Its political double-talk.
I tire of listening to it, and I tire of people accepting it at face value when it is delivered at two-faced value. Not that I blame Governor Hutchinson personally. There are simply a lot of people who want to be lied to, and when there is a market for that, the need will be filled. If he did not do it, someone else would. The root problem is a population willing to accept such duplicity, the duplicitous politicians are merely a symptom, not the cause of our troubles. The root cause is that too many of us have lost our love for the truth. When we love the truth more than the comfort of easy answers and pleasant falsehoods, then we will get it. If we are willing to accept less, we will have less.
That boils over to the way problems are solved. When Hutchinson says in the same article :
“I didn’t mind people on this panel, this task force, that had preconceived ideas. That’s life. That’s a part of our background, and if you’ve studied and thought about it, you have some preconceived ideas, but the most important criteria is that you’re open-minded and you’re willing to listen to the other side and willing to see facts and data and to adjust where you are. That is critically important, because otherwise you’re never going to arrive at a consensus.”
It tells me that he is using the Hegelian Dialectic as the method of "solving" the problem. That is, the purpose of the Commission is not to find the "right" answer. It is to reach "consensus" in an approach that takes the premise that there is no right or wrong answer, only a process of meeting in the middle. If I say 2+2 = 4 and someone else says that 2+2 = 22 what we do is meet in the middle and agree that 2+2 = 12. I am going to give you a link to this short article which describes exactly what is wrong with using this as the default method of problem "solving" and what the outcome must be if we don't change. If you want to understand what is happening to you, big picture, please read it.
I also strongly disagree with the Governor's claim that we can't let local school districts have primary control of setting their own standards because of the Arkansas Constitution. He said, "“We can’t say, ‘Well, we just want to give it all because we believe in local flexibility and local control,’” he said. “The constitution of Arkansas gives that responsibility to the state, and so we’ve got to have standards that are high and high expectations all across the state of Arkansas for every student.” .
You don't care more about those children than their parents Governor. Nor do you know more about what is good for them than their parents. Nor does the Arkansas Constitution mandate any such thing as you are claiming that it does, and if it did, why did we give school districts such wide latitude for the first 100 years after the state constitution was adopted? The only part of the constitution he could be talking about is Article 14 which reads:
"Intelligence and virtue being the safeguards of liberty and the bulwark of a free and good government, the State shall ever maintain a general, suitable and efficient system of free public schools and shall adopt all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education."
Is centralized control, micro-management, and 85% or more of our standards being derived from an outside-of Arkansas group consistent with this passage? Are they going to agree with Arkansans as to what constitutes "virtue"? Is this "suitable"? Is centralized micro-management "efficient"? At most, this provision in the state constitution permits Arkansas to set "general" standards, while letting the districts pick their own. It does not mandate Common Core, even if it is renamed "Arkansas Core". If this provision mandates that the state is responsible for school standards then submitting to a Common Core actually violates this provision of the constitution, because it would outsource a function delegated to the state in the constitution to an outside group.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Is Arkansas' Ruling Class Involved in Massive Welfare Fraud?
"It's a scam." concluded Arkansas State Senator Bryan King (R) of Green Forrest when discussing Arkansas' recent Medicaid expansion under the so-called "Private" Option. King was recently featured in a Forbes article discussing the lack of eligibility verification, in violation of federal law, for participants in the program. King is the one who calmly laid out the numbers explaining why the costs of the "Private" Option are going to eat up virtually all projected growth in future state budgets and tie the hands of future legislators, leading to a fiscal train wreck in five years. His reward for actually looking at the numbers was to be removed as chairman of the joint budget committee, I presume so that the looting could continue without a lot of pesky questions.
It really does not matter whether you like the idea of expanding Medicaid or hate it. It does not matter whether you want to help the poor, or want to eat the poor. The fiscal reality is, neither the state nor the nation has the money to pay for it, promises to the contrary not-withstanding. A person who says "we can't afford this" is not a heartless person, they are a realistic person. They are a grown-up in a landscape of perpetual adolescents who think prices are evil and only exist to keep people from getting things.
What is really going on with this program is a perfect example of what Charles Hughes-Smith has been talking about, where the middle class and the upper middle class are being looted by an alliance between the political class (and the very rich who fund them) and the lower class. Since much of it is being paid for by debt via generational looting, the real bill will come due in their children and grandchildren's days.
In this case, the big players in Arkansas health insurance get a cut when someone signs up for the private option. The owners of the hospitals get a cut when those people come in for care. Hence the insurance and medical care lobbies favor the program. Those who own significant shares in companies in those markets tend to favor those programs. They are willing to give money to politicians who vote for those programs, thus benefiting the political class. DHS benefits when they "grow" the number of people in this program. Every time someone new is added to the program, eligible or not, all of these interests benefit from borrowing money against the credit of the children and grandchildren of today's middle and upper middle classes. It is the very top and the political class strip-mining the wealth of the middle by making a deal to expand welfare benefits to the lower classes.
But we are not here to cast blame on poor people who are in a desperate situation for health care and take what is offered them. Indeed, while individuals in this group may be committing welfare fraud by entering or staying on the program when they are not eligible for it, even those people don't have an incentive to look the other way when more and more ineligible people are enrolled in the program. The other interests I mentioned do have such an incentive. The more people on the rolls, eligible or not, the more money or power they get. They have an incentive to sign up everyone possible, eligible or not, and basically encourage welfare fraud by empowering a system which neglects to perform mandatory eligibility screening. This is what the Senator was referring to, particularly with respect to government officials, when he called the "Private" Option a "scam."
What about the rest of that list? Are various members of what might be called our ruling class encouraging welfare fraud as part of an effort to maximize their profits? Are they scam artists? Well, the Forbes article paints a very bleak picture of the screening process for this handout. It is consistent with the idea that since the (borrowed) money is presently all coming from Washington, they are just signing up everyone they can, eligible or not, so that they can get some of that "free" money that our children will be expected to pay back.
In addition, Wallet Hub has rated Arkansas dead last in the nation when it comes to return in government services for tax dollars spent. That is a sign that our ruling class is more rapacious than the ruling class of other states when it comes to skimming dollars off of government programs for their own benefit. Plus the "Private" Option has had consistent cost over-runs, because of course you can't have Medicaid Expansion with private insurance companies taking a cut for standing in the middle as cheaply as you can just have Medicaid expansion.
All of this circumstantial evidence and more point to an attitude of "Washington is handing out free money, let's go get as much of it as we can any way possible for as long as it lasts" in the ruling class of our state. I mean legislators, Governors, High-level bureaucrats, and certain Big Business interests. This attitude disregards then underlying long term costs or ethics or morality of the cash-grab.
The solution to such a wretched state of affairs is an old-fashioned word that is much out of favor in a post-truth age: repentance. The ruling class of this state, those that may be participating in this particular legalized theft, should repent of their deeds. Those of us who have been sitting on the sidelines letting them do this ought to repent of our complacency and inaction. The alternative is for the looting to continue until the middle and upper middle class in this state has been preyed upon to extinction, and the loot gained thereby enjoyed by each member of the ruling class for perhaps thirty years or so until at last the day comes that they have to explain their actions before a Righteous God.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Arkansas Dead Last in Return of Services for State and Local Taxes Paid
Wallet Hub did a study to determine how much people "get their money's worth" for their state and local taxes paid. That is, how much we get from taxes vs. how much we pay in taxes. The results could be viewed as how "efficient" our state and local governments are at turning tax revenues into government services such as highways. Conversely, they could be a function of how much graft and corruption is costing taxpayers. Arkansas was dead last in the rankings. That is to say, we get the very lowest return in the nation for our taxes paid.
Our taxes are among the worst in the nation. 40th out of 50 according to the chart. If we are in the bottom ten because our taxes are among the ten highest, you would expect that at least our government services would also be among the ten highest- if we pay a lot at least we should get a lot. Sadly, the reverse is true. We are 48th in government services provided. In spite of being in the top ten in what we pay to state and local government, we are in the bottom three in terms of what we get from state and local government.
The liberals at the Arkansas Times tried to make this a red/blue thing, implying that the problem was that we are now a red state. They could be a decent independent news organization if they were not so ridiculously dishonest about things like this. We have only been "red" a short while, and this study measured local governments too, many of which are still blue. This is not a red/blue problem in my view. The problem as I see it is that our present ruling class (red or blue makes no difference) is more rapacious in their looting of the populace compared to the ruling class of other states and/or our populace is more docile and willing to put up with being looted. Until one or both of those things change I don't see it getting better.
Much of our low ranking comes from the poor return we get on highway dollars spent, yet the population recently voted to raise their own sales taxes to give the same highway commission system more money to inefficiently spend. The problem with "democracy" is that we get the government than the average voter deserves. Arkansans are familiar with the idea of repentance as a religious concept. It is essential to the Christian faith. Maybe it is time we "repented" of giving our consent to be governed by the folks that have brought us here and instead give someone new a chance so that we might leave a better Arkansas to our children.
Monday, April 13, 2015
Judge Shopping Machinations on Homosexual Marriage Case
In a very depressing sign of what our courts have become (bench-legislators separated from all sense of original intent and perfectly willing to use the courts to hammer through their personal feelings on a matter into a quasi-law) here is an Arktimes article on some of the maneuvering to decide who will hear a case on formal recognition of homosexual relationships as marriage. It is hard for me to see how an individual has a "right" to formal public approval for their relationship, especially when such "approval" is mandated by a court instead of passed by referendum or at least legislation from "the people's branch."