The Guard's burden
As many Arkansans know, 11 of our National Guard units have been training intensely. They are preparing to accompany the 39th Infantry Brigade when it deploys to Iraq next year. After so much hard training, with more to come, one would think that they deserve at least a short break for the holidays. This would be a chance for soldiers to spend time with their families and get their personal business in line before heading out of the state for more training and then deployment. After all, these men and women are citizens with families and lives, like the rest of us.
At last notice, a soldier from one of these units informed me that the 39th will be getting this much needed break. But soldiers in some units are not so sure they'll get time off. Not only would this prevent them from seeing their families before they leave, but it would also prevent personal lives from being put in order. In some units, soldiers already have been prevented from completing personal business by the removal of virtually all leave time.
Also, some soldiers who are supposed to be off duty after medical or dental treatment have been pushed back onto duty immediately. Not only is this against regulation, but it puts the health of men and women at unnecessary risk.
I have always been put under the impression (by the National Guard itself) that the lives and families of those who serve are important. These recent events and others are beginning to make me think twice about that impression.
Yes, I am a family member of a soon-to-be-deployed soldier. I support my family member as a Guardsman, though we are barely able to see or speak to each other. And, yes, I am writing this letter in hopes that someone else will speak up, hopefully before it is too late for those who need this time to get their lives straight before being shipped so far away from those they love.
Virginia L. Edds
North Little Rock
Mayoral power — the numbers
On the issue of the mayoral power shift in Little Rock:
• Little Rock employees — 2 percent raise.
• Little Rock mayor — 471 percent raise.
• Little Rock citizens — no change.
• Look on voters faces — priceless.
Something's happening here
My wife sent me on an errand last night to our local Kroger. When the clerk swiped the gallon of milk and I saw $3.80 displayed, I took a step back and got to thinking.
Is the economy really that resilient — to hold on in the face of such obvious high prices? Did all analysts who published reports of negative savings rates and large numbers of people living paycheck-to-paycheck push a wrong button or two on their computers? As a consumer who hasn't previously been too price-conscious, I am certainly noticing these price jumps and our family is adjusting accordingly. It makes me wonder why it isn't having more of an impact nationally or even here in Arkansas.
My gut feeling: the U.S. consumer is like a frog in a pot of water set on the stove to boil and doesn't notice the water getting steadily hotter. We have slowly gotten used to carrying an increasingly heavy economic load and haven't stopped to take measure exactly how heavy the load really is. When we do, I think the economy starts to slide if conditions do not fundamentally improve.
A few supporting thoughts:
1) On average in the U.S., about 92 cents of every dollar earned is spent. Every dollar spent in the economy changes hands 12.5 times. If one person here in Little Rock takes note of $3.80 milk (like I did) and opts out of the $4 cup of Starbucks the next morning (like I did), the U.S. economy potentially shrinks by $50 ($4 X 12.5).
2) The consumer accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. GDP. It doesn't take too many people tightening their belts magnified by each dollar trading hands 12.5 times to have a very large impact.
3) Wages for the vast majority of people are stagnant — and have been for a long time. It's not like most people have been putting back a lot of their check and are now just choosing to spend more and save less in the face of higher prices. (A good, recent Time magazine article addressed this in a larger piece on what is “average” in the U.S.)
4) The dollar is so very low causing imports, aka 90 percent of Wal-Mart's inventory, to rise in price since our dollar buys less in China, Japan, etc.
5) Consumer staples like my milk example and, of course, gasoline are very high. It's not like people can easily choose alternatives or simply not buy these have-to-have goods.
6) Housing … 'nuff said.
7) Bush's over-the-top spending has a lot of chickens up in the air now that will soon come home to roost … Further eating away at the dollar.
Truly, I would love my thoughts above to be dead-wrong. Maybe the Times with insights from others in the know can point out the errors of my thinking?
Spread the word
I moved to Georgia just over a year ago, and, having spent quite a few years following the shady exploits of my then-governor in the pages of the Arkansas Times, have been carefully ignoring what I had considered his farcical attempt at the presidency. However, his campaign has recently been so much in the news and so remarked on — almost as if he were a legitimate candidate — that I've found myself not just incredulous but also strongly desirous of helping to deflate the preposterous misconception that he stands for ethics and values.
I have gone so far as to write a curmudgeonly letter to Time magazine, requesting that they check with the Arkansas Times before writing anything further regarding the candidate — but evidently to no effect. I keep seeing the oxymoronic use of terms such as “ethics,” “principles” and even (most difficult to believe) “integrity” in conjunction with the name Huckabee in the media. What gives? It makes me wonder: has anyone in the national media ever bothered to look into Huckabee's record in Arkansas, at all?
The final straw came today, when I opened my local rag to discover that my own Georgia congressman has now publicly endorsed Huckabee for — wait for it — yes, his “values and character”! Holy s---! I
Kelly Haggard Olson