by Max Brantley
What? No triple-digit reading in LR today? (I take it back. Fox 16 said the official reading at Little Rock Airport was 102.) Closing words on the open line:
* FACTS MATTER: I heard Sen. Gilbert Baker, soon-to-be lobbyist for those trying to prevent people from winning damage judgments for medical malpractice and other frivolous stuff, on the radio this morning calling the Affordable Care Act the biggest tax increase in U.S. history. It's not. Here's the rundown from Politifact. And this debunking: 1) doesn't account for tax cuts given people to encourage health care participation 2) doesn't account for the fact that much of this money is already being spent paid in others ways. and 3) will create savings for many. Yet still the words "biggest tax increase etc." are tumbling off the lips of Republican politicians like water over Niagara. Kevin Drum provides further explanation on this lie for those who, I know, have no intention of paying attention.
This whole debate isn't really very complicated, though it's not necessarily a matter of right and wrong except in a moral sense:
One side believes that a civilized country should provide health care for all its citizens, even if that means a shared payment. The other side doesn't believe in a shared obligation to universal care. By extension, they don't believe in universally provided public schools, by payments from those with kids and no kids, or any number of other shared services that lift civilization for all, including those who don't directly benefit. A Republican-majority legislature is likely to demonstrate this in painful ways.
There is a better way on health care — single payer health insurance. Many believe it could be done WITHOUT increased costs, if you combine all the inefficient ways that coverage and care is provided now. But, this column in the Times today explained that the entrenched system of employer-provided coverage — a "catastrophically bad model" — was just too much to overcome.
CHECK THIS THOUGHT: Numbers up for Obamacare after SCOTUS ruling.
* WELCOME TO WALMART: Sad story in the Tampa newspaper about a 73-year-old Walmart greeter, fired after 22 years on the job for touching a customer on Black Friday. (She grabbed the woman's sweater as the customer pushed her to keep from falling.) She was not only fired, the company fought her unemployment benefits.
* INTERSTATE 40 ALERT: The Highway and Transportation Department has signs up all over warning of bottlenecks on I-40 between Little Rock and Memphis because of road construction. A report from traveler Paul Ward underscores the point, with a detour suggestion (basically, use U.S. 70 between Hazen and Brinkley):
I had to make an unexpected trip to the Memphis Airport to pick up the wife yesterday (flight from Chicago to LR cancelled). The construction work on I 40 near the White River is a big bottleneck. Stop and go for several miles. Also, once on I 55 in Memphis heading to the airport, the 3 lanes condense to 1, another bottleneck. It took me 3 1/2 hours. On the return trip from the airport, the 3 lanes of I 55 heading toward Arkansas were all open.
We decided to detour around the I 40 bottleneck and I thought your readers who travel this part of I 40 might like the benefit of our experience. Seeing several trucks follow the same detour confirmed our thoughts. On the east side of the White River, get off I 40 at Brinkley and take U.S. 49 south to U.S. 70 west. Take U.S. 70 west to Hazen. At Hazen, take U.S. 63 north to I 40 and resume heading west. Do the reverse if heading east. When we exited I 40 at Brinkley, we could see the long line of stopped cars just ahead of us. When we got back on I 40 from U.S. 63 at Hazen and resumed heading west, we could see the bottleneck of west-bound traffic behind us. That's indicative of how long it is. The problem is that the I 40 bridge over the White River and a stretch of highway east of the river are just 1 lane each way. Our return trip took under 2 1/2 hours.
I checked my iPad Map icon while at a pit stop and had my wife check her iPhone map icon while I drove and both give a clear picture of the detour.