Thursday, June 29, 2006

 

Beebe's Health Delusions

In the 1980s, Nancy Reagan led a campaign against drug use which focused on peer pressure. Her slogan "Just say no to drugs" caught a lot of flack but it got results, too.

Mike Beebe will never be accused of substance abuse. If you have no substance, then you cannot abuse.

Recently, he unveiled his health care plan with a "focus" on affordability, access, and quality. What it amounts to is placing a band-aid on a gaping wound. No where in his plan does he address the root cause of high insurance rates. In fact, beyond expanding and exploiting a federal plan utilizing the Earned Income Tax Credit, he really doesn't address any specifics.

Much as fixing the illegal immigration problem must start at stopping the flow, fixing the spiraling health care costs must start by stopping the wasteful lawsuit abuse that drives the costs ever higher. In this litigious society, people are suing over anything and everything. To make matters worse, in clear-cut cases of legitimate injury, the state insists on fighting. There is very little logic on either side of this issue.

Carefully thought out tort reform, with input from trial lawyers, doctors, business leaders, and lawmakers, should cap awards (with the cap raised or lowered according to inflation) and penalize frivolous lawsuits: both lawyers and clients.

Once the treat of continual lawsuits are removed, health care costs can start to stabilize. Combine this with less government intervention and a streamlining of required paperwork and doctors can start practicing their trade without the distraction of governmental guidelines.

Beebe's idea of incentives to get doctor's to work in rural and impoverished areas of the state is not clearly stated. However, there is a program already in place. It requires doctors to work in these areas in order to pay off their student loans and grants.

On his health literacy program, Beebe says, "We need to educate people to do those things early on to avoid those costs later on down the road." Funny, that seems similar to what Gov. Huck has been doing since he lost his weight. For that matter, nearly every news station in the state runs weekly or daily health updates, complete with actual health professionals. Imagine that, having someone that knows what they are talking about tell you how to stay healthy.

Beebe also wants to "expand the Arkansas Safety Net Benefit Program." That's another program the governor has started. Tell me again, what party is Mike Beebe in?

Beebe's co-opting of Mike Huckabee's programs will not make him seem conservative. Aping the projects of others just serves to make you a copy-cat. But, should we expect any less from Beebe. He has not shown any leadership ability to this point, why should he start now?

Basically what Beebe is doing is throwing ideas against the wall and waiting to see if anything sticks. Mike, that's not leadership, that's darts. When it comes to voting for Mike Beebe, follow Nancy Reagan's advise and "Just Say No."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

 

Constitutional Amendment Fails

The U.S. Senate voted today on a constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration. The vote required a 2/3 majority vote to pass. Guess which Arkansas Senator voted against the Amendment. No, not Blanche Lincoln; surprisingly she did not vote with her leaders on this go-around. Mark Pryor, the conservative senator from Arkansas, voted in the negative.

Why does his one vote matter? The Amendment failed by one (1) vote.

But it gets even more strange. The Durbin Amendment, the Democratic alternative, failed 36-64. Pryor voted for this one. But Lincoln voted against it. Someone must have swapped Fruit Loops for her Wheaties is all I can figure. This isn't like Miss Blanche, voting with the Republicans this far away from a re-election bid.

Monday, June 26, 2006

 

A Closer Look At Halter

Education

Democratic Lt. Governor hopeful, Bill Halter, says, "We need to raise our teacher pay, we need more scholarships for Arkansas students to attend our state universities and colleges, and we need pre-kindergarten programs available to every child." The Sniper agrees. Teachers are not paid enough for their work and it is increasingly harder to attract new teachers. It's true that we need more scholarships available to Arkansas students of every level - traditional students and adult returning students. And if we are to fund pre-K programs it must be colorblind and income-level blind.

However, Halter seems to pin his funding hopes on a lottery which would be tied to education, not on growing an economy that would provide higher paying jobs for the graduates. Current polls show that Arkansans oppose a state lottery.

He says, "I want to make sure children today in Arkansas have the same opportunities I had." Yet he went to Catholic school rather than public school. He was a Harry S. Truman Scholar and a Rhodes Scholar. Very few students have that type of opportunity.

Grade: C - Some good ideas; funding not thought through.

Jobs and the Economy

"Today Arkansas is dead last among all the states in per capita federal research and development spending. If we were at the national average in federal R & D dollars Arkansas would receive $500 million more dollars per year or $5 billion over a decade. These funds would strengthen our research universities and help us build the jobs of the 21st Century in Arkansas. Jobs that would pay two and three times the average Arkansas salary today." No, that was not a quote from Asa Hutchinson, that was Bill Halter. Strangely, that is all he has to say on his website about building for better jobs in Arkansas.

He is for raising the minimum wage, though. "Sadly, many of the special interests are satisfied to keep wages low in Arkansas, including the minimum wage. Well, I'm not afraid to tell you I support an immediate increase of one dollar an hour in Arkansas' minimum wage, and I would index it so that its value is not undercut by inflation in future years." Well, sadly, those special interests are mom-and-pop businesses who are unable to afford such increases. If the wage is raised as Halter suggests, then many small businesses will be unable to hire more employees, put off any expansion ideas, and may have to let some employees go. Interestingly, when ever there is a raise in the minimum wage the unemployment rate tends to stagnate and unionized shops which have their pay rates tied to the minimum wage average must then charge more for their product in order to pay for the wage hike. A vicious circle that serves only to trap the very people it is intended to help for they are still unable to afford the products made at these shops.

Grade: C+ - More funding for R&D studies at the universities is good; a $1 minimum wage hike without reduction in taxes serves only a feel good purpose with no long-term solution.

Taxes

"[My] opponents are not providing specific details of their proposals so it's hard to tell exactly how his approach to tax policy might differ from that of Beebe or Hutchinson," Halter said.

While stating that he will have his eye on making sure any tax changes would be fair to the middle-class, Halter fails to offer up any tax proposals - raising or lowering. A wait-and-see approach makes him look like Mike Beebe - ie. no leadership ability.

"And, we also need to make sure that we, as a state, are competitive with surrounding states, and that we are pursuing a tax policy that puts us in a position to add jobs in the state's economy and to add high-paying jobs in the state's economy." This sounds like he may want to cut taxes - that is what is needed to become competitive with neighboring states. However, Halter is a Democrat, and a Clinton Democrat at that. Remember, no Democrat has ever seen a tax they did not like, and cutting taxes is against the grain for any Democrat.

Grade: D - He talks a good game, but provides no leadership in this area.

Overall Grade: C- - So far, Halter is all talk and no specifics (sound familiar?). With education plans tied to a lottery and generic ideas for the economy and taxes without any sign of leadership, Halter is too dangerous to take a chance on with Arkansas' fragile economy.

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