Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Making Sense of Nonsense

It is difficult to conceive of an Arkansas legislative session in which some tax and/or legislative pay is not raised in some way; thank goodness for consistency in 2009. I had suggested earlier that the people of Arkansas would be better served during this time of extreme economic challenge if the members of Arkansas’ legislature would at least pretend they have a clue about what is happening across the state and the nation, indeed the world, but it appears by recent actions that not only are they seemingly unaware (or unconcerned) of dangers lurking but that they may in fact be incapable of seeing beyond the end of their collective nose. What is even worse is the level of arrogance that has been on display in some of the comments made by the alleged “leaders” of this state and its General Assembly.

A 3.8% pay raise has been approved by the General Assembly for all elected officials and signed by the governor who also stated that he would refuse his raise “because of the economy”. Puhleeze, Gov. Beebe. Leadership would have demanded that if you truly believed this, you would have vetoed the entire package as inappropriate for the time. House Speaker Robbie Wills is equally clueless when he says that he and his wife are expecting a new baby soon and that he “needs” this raise, which comes to about $400 per year for him. I wonder how many expectant parents in Arkansas have recently lost their jobs with no new job prospects or who are about to lose their jobs who will not see any raises anytime soon; that is, if they are lucky enough to keep their jobs? For that matter, how many Arkansans will see raises this year at all?

Sorry, Gov. Beebe, but you completely missed the boat on this one. You showed total disregard for certain reality even while acknowledging this very same reality, you made a feeble attempt to show some sense of solidarity with the working folk of this state, and you showed the people who entrusted to you the keys to the entire state that you will do only what is in the best interests of the legislature. After all, you never know when you may need them to return the favor, huh? That kind of trickery does indeed show how all your legislative experience helps. I sincerely hope all those who supported you come to realize they are getting exactly what they asked for and that all those who supported someone else knew exactly what would come sooner or later.

There is another certain reality among Arkansas households that when things are tight and jobs scarce, the last thing to do (if at all) is to take on a new financial obligation or expand current obligations, no matter how badly it seems to be needed. Each member of the Arkansas General Assembly, as individuals, is probably no exception to this general rule. However, put all these particular individuals in the same room, and suddenly conventional wisdom takes a back seat to standard government practice: think up ways to spend money, and then do the “responsible” thing by raising taxes to pay for it. And let’s not forget that folks hate smokers, so that’s an easy tax to go after. And to show the soon-to-be-fleeced that the legislature really has their best interests at heart, statements will be made to the effect that, “well, we really hope you quit smoking.” Let’s top it all off with a rally at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Who’s gonna say no to the kids?

I have never seen anything in history or civics classes that ever held that one of the state’s enumerated purposes for existence was to serve itself or purposely seek to enhance its own revenue. My understanding has always (apparently very wrongly) been that the state’s income is incidental to what is happening in the real world; that if things are not going so great out there, the state may actually have to tighten its own belt while citizens are forced to do the same. Apparently this is not true in Little Rock AR. I’m just gratified that they care so much and that I can perhaps take some solice and comfort in the fact that some things never change.

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