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Smart Talk, Sept. 17



Lincoln loses ground


But some might call it gaining ground. Nobody covers liberal assessments of the Arkansas congressional delegation more fully than the Arkansas Times, and here's another report. The liberal NCEC (National Committee for an Effective Congress) this month judged Lincoln the least liberal of the five Democrats in the Arkansas delegation. Lincoln won't mind, running for re-election in a generally conservative state where she's often accused of being too liberal. But not by liberals, who accuse her of being too conservative.

Last December, the liberal ADA (Americans for Democratic Action) rated Lincoln and Rep. Marion Berry the most liberal members of the Arkansas delegation. The new NCEC ratings were calculated by looking at every congressional vote on which a majority of liberals opposed a majority of conservatives. The NCEC said that Berry and Rep. Vic Snyder, tied at 95 percent, were the most liberal of the Arkansas delegation. Rep. Mike Ross and Sen. Mark Pryor tied for second at 90. Lincoln scored an 85, ahead of only the state's lone Republican congressman, Rep. John Boozman, who got a 5. The roll calls covered a number of issues, including abortion rights, gun control, education funding, Social Security and Medicare, tax cuts, military spending and environmental protection.

Some congressional Republicans scored a zero on the NCEC Index. Among them was Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who gained notoriety last week by calling the president of the United States a liar while the president addressed Congress.      


Supporting the president


President Obama, beaten decisively by John McCain by Arkansas voters and in lower regard now according to polls, has nonetheless enjoyed support from Arkansas Democrats in Congress. A new Congressional Quarterly shows three of the five Democrats — Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor and Rep. Vic Snyder — supported Obama 98 percent of the time on votes where the administration had clearly staked out a position — 270 Senate and 684 House votes this year through the August recess. For Reps. Mike Ross and Marion Berry, the scores were 90 percent and 91 percent respectively. By contrast, Republican Rep. John Boozman sided with Obama 25 percent of the time. Lincoln does less well in her “party unity” score, a measure of the percentage of time a member votes with his or her party. Her score: 82 percent. Snyder's was 95 percent, Berry 93 percent, Ross 92 percent and Pryor 90 percent. Boozman voted with the majority of Republicans 95 percent of the time.


Good investment


The Arkansas Teacher Retirement System put together some interesting figures recently on its members who are 100 years old and up.

As of Aug. 26, the system counted 23 centenarians on benefit rolls, the oldest 105 and all but one a woman. They're getting a lot of bang for their bucks. They averaged 30 years of work and had average salaries of $5,700, but are drawing an average of $1,500 a month and, cumulatively, have received an average of more than $322,000 each in benefits.

The earliest retiree started drawing benefits July 1, 1965  after 15 years of teaching and $947 in personal contributions with a final average salary of $2,365. So far, she has drawn more than $158,000 in benefits.


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