“Economic Freedoms Filter”
90th Arkansas General Assembly—Regular Session 2015
By Joe Maynard and Brenda Vassaur Taylor
Co-Founders of Conduit for Commerce
Recommended filter for all proposed legislation:
- Does it grow government?
- Does it increase dependency on government?
- Does it spend money we do not have?
SB96 passed both chambers of the Arkansas General Assembly as of February 5, 2015. How does it measure up to our tests which assure the promotion of economic freedom in Arkansas? How did it get passed? How do we move forward from here?
During the 2014 elections, we had a plurality of members of the House and Senate campaigning for and promoting the immediate repeal and/or wind down of the ObamaCare Medicaid Expansion (ME) in Arkansas –commonly referred to as the Private Option (PO). There was a clear mandate by voters across the state in 2014 that they did not want ObamaCare Medicaid Expansion continued in Arkansas.
With the passage of SB96, more than half of those legislators who won their elections based on their promise to stop the PO/ME, voted for and now promote extending the PO to the full term while embracing the idea that the expanded ME population be covered into perpetuity by something they, themselves help create.
Most conservatives across the country believe that ObamaCare has been a major tool in expanding the voter base for the liberal agenda. Many feel this is the same game being played today in our state by the newly elected “conservative” majority.
The diversion from the promises made in the campaigns is done while simultaneously crafting a “message” that will pacify and paralyze their conservative base. The message is accompanied by attacks on detractors, accusing them of being extremists for interpreting campaign rhetoric as genuinely pursuable.
SB96 proponents accuse their opposition of attacking members’ integrity and exhibiting a clear “lack of trust” in the legislators’ ability to put forth a government solution from the right as being the answer to a government created problem from the left.
These SB96 proponents choose to be deaf to the fact that voters did not vote for another conservative fix to a liberal created problem. The voter elected those who promised in May and November 2014 to eliminate the problem. Arkansas simply does not want welfare expanded in the state…period! We strongly recommend that SB96 proponents drop their position regarding “trust.”
The message we hear to the voters from those winning a historic conservative majority in Arkansas is “be civil” meaning–get along and go along with the established rules of reverence for the entrenched “institution” and be “realistic” about what is possible.
Our response to these good people is: We will continue to do our best to help you in all ways possible to keep your promise to work toward the implementation of good economic policies in our state which shrink government with the goal of obtaining prosperity for all. You may count on us. Though we may disagree on this very large piece of legislation—you are not our enemy. We will work with you as best we can to help you in all ways possible, as we continue to believe:
“What is possible is what you choose to pursue, consistent with promises made, as we gain a majority of people in pursuit of conservative principles such as those found in the Republican Party platform.”
Our actions will continue to reflect our goal to help our Legislature move the terms of debate in Arkansas so that our next General Session Economic Freedom Filter may be reflected as follows:
Recommended filter for all proposed legislation in 2017:
- How much does it shrink government?
- How much does it reduce dependency on government?
- How much does it reduce government debt?
Commentary on things we are learning regarding how things work in government:
Claiming to be concerned about states rights, state control, and the national debt, we are now asked to embrace the accumulation of more debt to the federal government by taking “free federal money” to help foster yet another group of dependents in Arkansas. ObamaCare Medicaid expansion essentially works like this: The state (DHS) gets free money (borrowed by the federal government) and gives it to a private company (insurance ); in turn the ME population gets a card they use to attempt to get the same medical care the rest of us pay for. The insurance company then takes a cut and forwards the rest back to the state (DHS). When a claim is made on the new insurance, the bill is sent to ….no, not the insurance company, the state. The state (DHS) then pays whatever “they” deem fair and pockets the rest to further use on their bloated bureaucracy. This is what I would call the state’s “skim”. So we have an insurance skim of approximately 20% and the state skim (impossible to get them to give you this number, … ever) which amounts to larger government growth, obfuscation, and incentives in government to control and perpetuate the system. We do not believe the best solution is to “identify and hopefully reduce the skim” as seems to be the heart of SB96. Our solution is to eliminate the expansion program altogether!
Some claim to desire more jobs in Arkansas and to facilitate this, create economic development departments and programs to make this wish come true. There is no lack of opportunity to work if that is your desire. Hundreds and thousands of jobs go unfilled each day in the state because the unemployed are largely unwilling to take advantage of these jobs. Some are afflicted by substance abuse, some are just plain lazy. Programs like the current economic development schemes we have are designed to elicit companies to relocate or form in the state. Why is this the solution we choose? It is incredible that those who have little experience in the real world of creating jobs believe that a government that over regulates the building process, taxes everything that moves, and echoes the evils of the rich, believe they can expand commerce in the state by increasing taxes on business (e.g capital gains increase), retain the highest tax rate in the surrounding area, enable even more dependency and reduce incentives to work (ME), and then bring in some outside corporation to scavenge the good working people of Arkansas to abandon existing successful businesses for a new opportunity.
The unemployed are not going to be employed by any “new business” for the most part. Currently employed will simply move to the new company for a higher wage that is, in part, subsidized by the “training dollars” and other incentives they themselves are paying for in state taxes. This makes little sense to anyone that has created jobs (excluding those who claim to create jobs in government). All they will accomplish is to move working people around and enable those not working to have their needs met without working at all.
If working together and compromise is the path of preference in all things government we will all lose in the end. If we think for a moment that when liberal democrats are in charge, they will not set in stone everything that is socialism with or without your input we are all sadly mistaken. All these people have to do is incrementally increase rights and dependency by taking from some and giving it to others one inch at a time and call it compromise; and the one way ratchet grinds forward. That is unless, when they are rewarded by the voters based on the promise to reverse government, conservatives take charge and jerk the reins back without regard to some fatalistic notion of fairness and compromise which is not extended to them when not in power. In regard to big government, we seem to be willing, in the spirit of bipartisanship, to too often taking two steps toward a socialist state and one step back (occasionally). How is that working for us? This sentiment is clearly observable at the federal level and in our approach to fighting our nation’s enemies. You cannot convince some people to get along; they take until you stop them.
It is clear that in campaigns and in the legislature that often, those with whom you disagree will project what their motives would be, if doing what they see you do, onto others. That is to disagree with a policy or position; they would claim your motives are to question their motives when no evidence exists.
Circle the Wagons:
It has been interesting to observe the nature of many legislators in regard to “other than legislators”. It is useful to get support and input to become elected, but not so much after. The herd mentality seems to capture most in short order. Disagreement or objection after being elected seems unwanted and a challenge to their sole authority. What they seem to miss is that the election support is contingent upon certain outcomes and representations made. Often it becomes apparent that the more important consideration is maintaining the “messaging” to pacify those who disagree. The 2016 primary voters will determine whether this approach is deserving of re-election.
The Big Picture:
Most folks in Arkansas do not need all the statistics and more specific information from DHS and other government agencies before they know whether they support the PO or any other program which takes away their ability to make a living or keep what they work for or make their own personal decisions regarding their healthcare. They know when a government program (such as ObamaCare) ultimately takes away personal rights and wastefully gives their money to others. Once Arkansans and the rest of the US file their 2014 tax returns this April and go through another health insurance renewal period the end of this year, they will have an even better idea of what their government is taking from them in order to meet its own enormous insatiable appetite.
This new AR legislature may be feeling its oats now due to extended term limits, a more than 200% pay increase, and an expanded voter base due to SB96—Arkansans may decide to continue to act as they did in the 2014 elections without an audit and task force to tell them how to fix it.