by Max Brantley
Bomb-throwing Republican Nate Bell quotes approvingly, for example, from a newspaper profile of Carter:
He promises to reduce the state income tax and to fight burdensome regulations. A top priority will be decreasing the size of government and eliminating waste.
This effort will begin by reducing the state sales tax on groceries. The biggest issue is the looming Medicaid shortfall which is hard to resolve because the Obamacare guidelines are still uncertain.
Carter likes to quote Ronald Reagan, "We don’t have a trillion dollar debt because we haven’t taxed enough; we have a trillion dollar debt because we spend too much.”
The fault for the conflation here of unrelated issues — the state and federal budgets — may lie more with the writer of this passage than with Carter.
But just to be clear: The state of Arkansas has a balanced budget. It has no debt, except for bonds to which income streams are pledged. The Obamacare guidelines ARE clear enough to show a net financial gain to the state from their implementation and a solution to the current Medicaid shortfall. Burdensome regulation? Care to name one on Arkansas books? We have a laissez faire environmental protection agency, workers comp laws not worthy of the name, corporate tax accounting that produces a windfall for national corporations. The burden, if there be one from government, falls almost entirely on those who live at the bottom of the hill down which the you-know-what rolls. The cliched calls for waste-cutting and expense-cutting in Arkansas grow increasingly tiresome from a GOP contingent that has never produced any meaningful specific to back up the meme — other than the obvious, of course, such as defying Supreme Court rulings on adequate education support, cutting prisoners loose or throwing old people out of nursing homes and blocking medical services for the working poor and their children.
I've talked enough to Davy Carter to believe that he understands the reality. But if he's still trotting out the same old Grover Norquist script in fresh newspaper interviews, I have to wonder if he's likely to lead the new Republican majority legislature to anything but the same train wreck with a different engineer. I haven't seen a Republican income tax plan yet that was anything more than a windfall for the rich and a body blow to the state budget. Carter so far hasn't revealed another way.
UPDATE: The Northwest D-G wrapper account of Carter's meeting with some red-hot Repubs at Neal's Cafe in Springdale indicates he got some grief for being even willing to discuss Medicaid expansion and, particularly, for retaining former Democratic House Speaker Bill Stovall as a key House staff member.
He said there was no one experienced enough to fully replace Stovall when “the session starts in 30 days."
“You have to have people who have been there and know what they’re doing,” he said. “Getting rid of them would leave us exposed to procedural screw-ups.”
To those calling for massive resistance to everything related to Obamacare, Carter commented:
“If we say ‘No, no, no’ to everything,” Carter said, “the federal government will do it themselves and do it over us.”
Rep. Charlie Collins reassured the crowd about the Republican legislature's conservative bona fides. He promised bills to allow concealed weapons on college campuses, stringent anti-abortion bills aimed at de facto outlaw of the practice and the Billionaire Boys Club charter school agenda.