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How bad is Arkansas?

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Or maybe the better question is which fatcat corporate interest group backed by the billionaire Koch Brothers of Kansas do you want to believe?

A strong subtext of the election this year has been the million-dollar-plus effort by Americans for Prosperity, a political organization established by the Koch brothers, corporate titans from Kansas whose properties include the vast Georgia-Pacific forest products company.

The Kochs want to elect a majority Republican Arkansas legislature. Aim: low taxes, low regulation, no health care reform. To do it, they've been working to defeat individual Democrats and also working to sell a message that Arkansas is mired in a hopeless economic situation — high taxes, stagnant economy, poor education, rising debt — thanks to Democratic leadership. The Democratic Party, in ads narrated by Gov. Mike Beebe, has touted our balanced budget, his huge sales tax reduction and positive ratings on education rankings.

So who you gonna believe?

The question got more complicated this week when the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) issued its annual ranking of the states on economic policy and competitiveness. ALEC is also a corporate-funded group that specializes in writing corporate-friendly model legislation for conservative legislators. The Koch brothers have supported it, too.

Guess what?

ALEC's latest report paints Arkansas among the top quintile of states. It ranked 10th in the so-called competitiveness index and 11th, up from 13th, for its positive economic outlook. Per capita income growth over the last decade ranks 7th in the country. Not too shabby.

The news from ALEC didn't cause a change in tune at AFP. Its paid state leader, Teresa Oelke, seemed to acknowledge it only with a flurry of Twitter blasts repeating its own preferred massaged numbers on the low state of Arkansas. Still trashing us, in other words.

What do you bet that, if Republicans take the majority, the emphasis will switch to numbers putting Arkansas in a better light? By the way: the good numbers are not necessarily worth cheering. They reflect, among others, favorable tax circumstances, our anti-union law, a low minimum wage and similar policies only a corporate billionaire could love.

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