Kindness was shut out last week when Arkansas's delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives voted as a bloc to repeal health-care reform. It was hurtful to see, but maybe we got spoiled while Vic Snyder was a member, coming to expect at least one decent vote on every roll call. Snyder's gone now, and his successor, Tim Griffin, was eager to oppose a law that benefits Arkansas more than just about any other state. So were the other two Republican freshmen, Rick Crawford and Steve Womack. This new Republican-majority House will not be soft on poor people. Certainly not with the help of nominal Democrats like Arkansas's fourth rep, Mike Ross. He calls himself a Blue Dog Democrat but he gets more doggy and less blue with every passing day.
Though it didn't go far enough (to a single-payer system), "Obamacare" is the best thing that's happened to the sick, the poor, and the middle class since Medicare and Medicaid, which were also opposed by the Republicans — unsuccessfully, thank heaven. This hard-hearted repealer approved by the House won't get past the Senate or the president's veto — we owe heaven another one — but it forcefully makes the point that insurance companies will be more cherished than common people in the new House of Representatives.
Austin learning limits
When President George W. Bush was asked why as a young man he'd chosen Yale over the University of Texas, he explained, "I wanted intellectual stimulation. I wanted to study history, literature, philosophy under great professors. I knew that experience wouldn't be available at UT, where they only offer classes in football and country music."
It's sad but true that academics get short shrift at Austin, and the shrift grows shorter. Last week, it was announced that UT and ESPN have agreed on a 20-year, $300 million contract for a 24-hour television network devoted exclusively to Longhorn sports. Ironically, on the day of the announcement, the last member of the UT faculty who could speak Spanish was found dead of malnutrition and exposure in a cardboard box where he'd been living, his UT professor's salary insufficient to pay rent. UT's dean of curriculum told reporters, "I thought we were spending too much on foreign languages anyway. You only need one language to say 'Hook 'em Horns.' " Herds of young Texans are now fleeing their home state in pursuit of higher education; the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville has compassionately accepted many. Products of Texas high schools, the newcomers need much remediation, a UA official tells us, but they're not beyond hope of enlightenment. Most of them.