Columns » Max Brantley

How do you say thanks in Chinese?

Some seasonal cheer.

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THANKS FROM THE CHINESE: A Chinese paper company announced plans to build a $1.3 billion pulp mill somewhere amid the vast and welcoming piney woods of South Arkansas to make the material for diapers and sanitary products. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced this as if it was his doing, rather than something working since a trip by Gov. Mike Beebe in 2012, but that's politics. More interesting are the specifics of Arkansas's promise of "preferential tax policies and other policy support" in a letter that Hutchinson signed. Will Arkansas loan money at a low rate and make direct cash grants to a Chinese company, even though they've naturally focused on locating in a cheap place to obtain the raw supply they'll grind up for diapers? In short: Arkansas, one of the poorest states in the country, will be giving tax breaks to benefit the communist Chinese economy. Could Arkansas even wind up with taxpayers (the government) owning a share of the means of production? It does in the Big River Steel Mill, where the equity partners include retired Arkansas teachers. Who'll pay for the road damage more log trucks will cause on Arkansas's secondary highways? Not new revenues. Gov. Hutchinson has ruled those off the table for highway building in Arkansas. Camden, Crossett or Arkadelphia will get perhaps 350 new jobs and log cutters will have a lot more business, so that's good. I'm thankful beyond ironic belief to be alive to see Arkansas's Republican governor engage in socialism to help Chinese communists make a bigger profit.

THANKS TO LOUISIANA: Speaking of diapers: It was, yes, a "perfect storm" as all are saying that allowed a Democrat, John Bel Edwards, to defeat Republican David Vitter in the race for Louisiana governor, a rare big Democratic victory in Dixie. Vitter's dalliance with prostitutes, including a reported diaper fetish, didn't help him. Nor did a divided Republican Party in Louisiana — crazy vs. crazier.

Arkansas Republicans want you to believe John Bel Edwards is not really a Democrat. They base this on his pro-gun and Catholic anti-abortion leanings, forgetting that Democratic legislatures in Arkansas passed cutting edge pro-gun legislation decades ago and have never favored abortion. What's more, Edwards has friends in the teachers union and the environmental movement, is cool to charter schools, and announced after his election that his top priority was not further harassing women or gay people, but getting the legislature to adopt Obamacare's Medicaid expansion in Louisiana. That's a DINO Comrade Asa could love, given how badly Hutchinson's budget needs to continue Obamacare in Arkansas.

I'm thankful, fluky though it was, that the victory at least offered the hope for further flukes in the South. The Louisiana electorate is 33 percent black, vs. 15 percent in Arkansas, however, so odds of a Democratic fluke here are more remote. Even if the GOP nominated a diaper fetishist. Despite his baggage, Vitter still got 44 percent of the vote.

THANKS FOR A LIVING WAGE: I'm happy to make enough money to support myself (even without a far more productive wife). I could work at UAMS. That 10,000-employee colossus has hundreds of the state's highest paid employees on its payrolls. But they'd be in a bind without the less-valued (in monetary terms) people who mop the floors, empty the bedpans, haul the trash and do any number of other essential tasks. Do all make a living wage?

I'd judge not by the annual UAMS drive to round up stuffing, meat, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and other food so that all UAMS employees can celebrate Thanksgiving.

Rounding up political support for a living wage for UAMS workers would fill stomachs more days of the year, but this being Arkansas and the custodial staff not being Chinese tycoons, they'll just have to be thankful for what they can get.

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