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Archive for the ‘National’ Category

Asa and me — what I forgot to say yesterday

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Here’s something I should have said yesterday in the blog item about the lunch with, and lecture from, Gov. Asa Hutchinson:

I will concede this much to the governor: It is not entirely contradictory or nonsensical to want to repeal Obamacare – mistake though that be –while wanting to keep the Medicaid expansion money in its current or a new form to spend in your state in your own way, presumably to keep the Medicaid expansion population covered.

It’s trying to have things both ways – your political way, because the easiest currency in Arkansas politics is to assail President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, and your financial way, because the easiest money to afford tax cuts and facilitate the use of general revenue for highways is to keep taking hundreds of millions for health insurance from the federal government.

At least we have a Kasich-ish Republican governor whose exhausting finesses are intended to keep poor people insured and state government flush amid a toxic climate on his own right flank .

The governor asked me to try not to be so cynical.

I’m not cynical. I am confident President Obama is nobly trying to do the right thing on health care, if only the Republicans and the states will let him.

 

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Written by jbrummett

February 16th, 2016 at 7:54 am

Asa and me — showdown at high noon

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson had me out to the Governor’s Mansion at noon today for a knuckle sandwich.

I mean a BLT from Community Bakery.

The purpose was for him to lecture me on my recent column assertions that he can’t claim on the one hand to abhor and want to repeal Obamacare while relying desperately on it on the other hand in order to make his state budget work.

“What’s amazing to me is that you’ve aligned yourself with Conduit for Commerce (an extreme right-wing anti-government group pushing Republican primary opponents for private option supporters),” he began, after the small talk.

“They are going around saying you can’t support ‘Arkansas Works’ (his proposed new name for a conservatized private option form of Medicaid expansion) without embracing Obamacare, and now you’re making their case for them by saying the same thing every day,” he said.

Actually, not exactly. That right-wing outfit is saying you can’t support Medicaid expansion without embracing Obamacare and that Obamacare is awful. I’m saying you can’t support Medicaid expansion without embracing Obamacare and that Obamacare is great. Well, starting to work, and in line to work better as we go along.

And what was that business about my hammering him “every day?” That was hyperbole, I countered.

So he picked up a thick stack of papers that he said represented my recent writings beating him up.

I bet they were triple-spaced to make a bigger pile.

So here is the governor’s position, which I summarized back to him after he’d presented it to make sure I had it. And I had it.

He inherited the “private option.” He did not start it. He was immediately faced with a budget based on its federal money and the prospect of pulling the rug from 200,000 people recently favored with new health insurance.

So he accepted it, provided we would end it in its current form and seek federal approval to do it differently after 2017 with work incentives, personal responsibility for parts of premiums and permission to require recipients working for companies providing employee coverage to use those employer-based plans instead.

So — I interjected — would he have gone along with starting the private option in the first place had he been governor when Mike Beebe was getting it done with Republican legislative moderates?

Asa grinned and said that was a speculative question he didn’t have to answer.

He said he might have said at some point that he wouldn’t have done it, though he couldn’t be certain, but that he wasn’t saying one way or another right now. And he kept grinning.

(He would have started it. That’s how I took that. But he didn’t say that. Which means he can add a printout of this blog post to his thick pile of bad Brummett stuff.)

He said it is “logical and rational” for him to make the best decision for Arkansas in the context of the landscape confronting him, while at the same time opposing the individual mandate and employer mandate of Obamacare – as affronts to “freedom,” he said – and supporting the prevailing position of Republican presidential candidates to repeal and replace Obamcare.

But … he is favorably inclined to the notion to replace the Medicaid expansion element of Obamacare with some kind of block grant to states that gives states enough money and full flexibility to insure people now insured – meaning the 200,000 on Medicaid expansion in Arkansas.

So – I interjected – he was saying he didn’t want Obamacare but did want all of Obamacare’s money without any strings attached.

He said no, sir, he wasn’t locking himself into that amount of money, or any definitive sum. He said states ought to be able to do more with less, given that full state flexibility he seems to see as a panacea.

Anyway, he said, it was impossible to make definitive statements on that now with the presidential race and the membership of the next Senate in such extraordinary flux.

Indeed, Trump or Cruz might be elected, in which case we’d all need to flee to Canada or New Zealand.

I said that. He didn’t.

I have an idea whom he favors among his party’s presidential candidates, but I dare not say.  His life is one big political constraint, one extended exercise in duress and finesse.

Legislators whose votes he desperately needs for the three-fourths appropriation to continue Obamacare – uh, I mean private option . . . uh, I mean Arkansas Works — they are heavily divided among Cruz and Rubio supporters He needn’t offend one group or the other, or both, if he favors someone else.

The bottom line is that Asa’s positon is that he doesn’t want Obamacare but he does want enough federal money to let Arkansas do Medicaid, or its successor, as it chooses, and that he would opt – in that event – to find some way, or some mixture of nobly conservative ways, to keep offering health insurance to the current expansion population.

And there’s another bottom line, which amounts to the governor’s case for re-upping the private option in the looming fiscal session: With the prospect existing that the Republicans can undo Obamacare next year and do Medicaid their way at the state level, let’s dare not retreat right now on the private option and lose any leverage we have next year for doing it in a more conservative and demonstrably efficient way.

Hutchinson intends to say an increment of that Wednesday when he speaks to his health care task force. He also hopes at that time to have a letter in hand from federal Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell expressing support in principle, subject to particulars, for the permissions he seeks in an eventual waiver – to refer private option recipients to work training, to steer relevant recipients to their employer plans and to require some personal contribution from the population between 100 and 138 percent of poverty.

I got the idea the governor has received some verbal communication of federal receptiveness.

And that reminded Asa: He objects to my calling these requested changes “cosmetic.” He asked: If they were purely cosmetic, why would he be required to apply for a formal waiver?

They could be sufficiently cosmetic that the waiver will be easily won.

But that’s just me.

Finally, on the way out, the governor made the point that his position was not that much different from that of Mike Beebe, who always said he was not crazy about Obamacare altogether but was sure-enough crazy about getting heaps of federal money to expand Medicaid.

There’s a little light between saying you’re not crazy about Obamacare and wanting to repeal it. But I concede Hutchinson a near-point.

I told the governor I was sick and tired of being sick and tired – well, of Obama getting trashed unfairly and Obamacare demonized when it fact it’s a good-faith effort to address a powerful problem and is beginning to show signs that it can work just when people who live off it are trashing it.

He said, well, thanks for coming out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Written by jbrummett

February 15th, 2016 at 2:42 pm

Creepy NRA and absolutism

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The creepy NRA is on the attack today against President Obama for saying in his Inaugural Address that we must distinguish absolutism from principle.

It was the best part of the address and I expound on it in tomorrow column at arkansasonline.com/brummett by giving several examples that contrast a destructively tunnel-visioned absolute with a soaring broad principle.

The NRA took the president’s line personally as an attack on an absolute guarantee of a right to bear arms and insisted everyone has the right to have hydrogen bombs at home, essentially.

Sneak preview of tomorrow’s litany of absolutes and principles: Absolutism — Wooo pig, sooie. Principle — We’re going to have to let you go, Bobby.

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Written by jbrummett

January 23rd, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Posted in National

Benghazi in brief

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Here’s what I propose on the Benghazi matter:

1. We accept that American foreign service in this crazy world is dangerous and that no one running the State Department for any president of any party ever knowingly or deliberately neglected he security of it citizens in this noble service

2. We accept that tragedy happens in this crazy world.

3. We understand that mistakes are made and blame must be assigned and responsibility taken.

4. Once responsibility has been taken, as is the case with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, apparently a hard and diligent and competent worker most days, our focus should be on assessment and improvement, not recrimination and partisan political exploitation.

5. And we can agree that the scariest thought offered today in Washington was when Rand Paul said. ” If I had been president. . . “

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Written by jbrummett

January 23rd, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Posted in National

Asa’s fateful words: volunteer, armed, schools

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The man who probably — tragically — is going to be our governor after Mike Beebe has been propped up by the National Rifle Association as leader of its effort to . . . well, have guys grab guns and go to school.

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

I’m referring to the eternal candidate, Asa Hutchinson, to whom the Republicans seem inclined to cede their gubernatorial nomination in 2014. And the Democrats seem equally inclined to cede the general election, now that Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has made a mess.

It’s my considered opinion that you can’t get too gun-loving for rural Arkansas, where they favor drive-by deer hunting from the state highway.

Asa indeed may try to get too gun-crazed in this new role, but I’m thinking this assignment amounts to governor’s votes in the bank for him.

You see, the NRA announced Friday that it believes the problem at Newtown, Ct., was that there weren’t enough guns at the school.

So rather than try to restrict a particular form of close-range, heavily-clipped, semi-automatic weapon that is ideal for slaughtering 20 first-graders in a classroom before police arrive, the gun lobby says we need to use the central federal government to order up armed guards at all our schools.

Children would be safer in a crossfire, presumably.

Columbine had an armed guard. For the record.

The NRA executive director talked at times of federally funded police officers at schools and at other times merely of armed security officers. But when Our Boy Asa got up to talk as chairman of some kind of gun-worshipping task force, he actually uttered this phrase: “volunteer armed guards.”

Here are three words I would prefer never to see juxtaposed: “volunteer” and “armed” and “schools.”

I’m wondering if maybe if the PTA couldn’t become the Parent Teacher Arsenal.

The gun industry is a brilliant racket. Its answer to every problem it creates is to let it compound the problem with more sales.

Meantime, the NRA blather is spreading that banning semi-assault weapons would ban basic deer rifles, because you can pull those triggers rat-a-tat.

It’s, well, a lie.

A deer rifle is designed for longer range and less ammunition and fewer shots. Deer run fast. In the woods.

The legislation can be written plainly — as is the case with U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein’s bill — to make clear specifically the weapons and  their ammunition-loaded capacities that you are banning for sale.

Further, the NRA blather that banning the sale of weapons wouldn’t stop crazy bad people from doing crazy bad things is, of course, true.

It simply would establish as public policy that we as Americans don’t think you ought to be able to go buy a semi-military gun suitable not for sport or self-defense, but mass murder.

It simply would establish as public policy that we as Americans think Adam Lanza should have been more primitively equipped.

Now, all that said, I could go for a compromise. Armed police officers at schools and passage of the Feinstein bill.

I proposed that yesterday on social media to a gun advocate who said he’d give up his 2nd Amendment rights when I gave up my 1st Amendment rights.

OK. We have a deal.

I already concede some of my free-press rights by being subjected to laws against libel. I just want the gun industry to be subjected to laws against children-slaughtering devices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Written by jbrummett

December 22nd, 2012 at 9:53 am

Our next governor to lead NRA’s more-gun campaign

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Good Lord.

The next governor of Arkansas is, in the meantime, going to lead the National Rifle Association’s campaign for more guns.

Yes, the NRA announced its post-Newtown position this morning. It’s that we need gun-toting security officers in all our schools.

It announced the appointment of Arkansas Gov.-in-Waiting Asa Hutchinson, former George W. Bush administration appointed cop type, to lead this task force.

Just let some Arkansas Democrat run against that in Bubbaville.

So to be clear: Instead of trying to restrict weapons designed specifically not for hunting or self-defense, but to do rapid-fire maximum human killing in close quarters to slaughter more kids in school before the first responders arrive, our next governor is going to lead the NRA in facilitating an even more pervasive gun culture — one in which pointless weaponry is answered, of course, with yet more weaponry.

It’s beautiful marketing that goes this way: Maybe our guns cause tragedy. So the only answer is more guns. Write us a check, please.

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Written by jbrummett

December 21st, 2012 at 11:17 am

Are we stepping away from the cliff?

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The word is that John Boehner has now conceded in essential concept and has said he will take increased tax rates — from 35 to 39 on the top margins — for persons making more than a million dollars a year.

So now we just haggle on the price.

President Obama wants 39 percent over $250,000. I see a counter-offer at a half-million, or, better yet, since Boehner wants to talk about a million dollars, an imposition of the so-called Buffett Rule by which those making more than a million dollars would pay an effective tax rate of 30 percent.

After that, Obama and the Democrats must give something real and substantial on entitlements. Personally, I’m not hung up on waiting longer for Medicare. A little longer. Sixty-five, sixty-six. For 12 months, I’ll use my new Social Security to pay my premium on my health savings account/ high-deductible Blue Cross policy.

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Written by jbrummett

December 17th, 2012 at 10:37 am

Posted in National

On guns, mental illness and newspapers

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Let me try to ease back into blogging though I continue taking Tuesday and Wednesday columns off through the end of the year.

I have the following to say about the gun/mental illness matter:

The general premise is that we should preserve  presumably constitutional universal gun ownership while doing whatever is legally permissible to keep children safer.

Can we agree so far?

You may have and keep your gun for hunting and sporting, of course. Not to be trivial, but Dick Cheney has well-demonstrated that you can shoot a man in the face with your hunting weapon and not kill him.

You may have and keep your household gun or guns for self-defense, of course, or to make yourself feel safer.

That leaves these issues:

1. We need, by presidential executive order or law if necessary, an improved registry of persons who, on account of a record of condition or behavior, will be denied a gun purchase. This would include persons diagnosed with mental illness or behavioral issues, persons cited for domestic abuse or animal cruelty and whatever else within a limited definition the experts would describe.

2. We need simply to reinstate the assault weapon ban of he Clinton era because the right to own and use a gun does not possibly extend to a right to slaughter with mass murder devices of rapid and unlimited firerpower. The Second Amendment does not allow you to own a nuclear weapon.

Would this stop all such tragedies?

No.

Might it save innocent life while preserving the prevailing application of the Second Amendment?

Yes.

So should we do it?

Yes.

On another Newtown-related matter, we have media.

The networks, rushing to be first in breathlessness Friday, initially misidentified the shooter, presumably because some whipsering authority misidentified him. Good Lord. First  shouldn’t matter so much anymore. Reliability matters more. Anyway, first probably comes these days from anonymous idiots on social media. Let them have first.  Let them be wrong. Let them proceed apace on a systematic devaluing of their platforms.

Newspapers? I believe they remain vital and will continue to do so if their information is authoritative, credible and insightful beyond the dumbing drumbeat all around them.

Here’s what I mean: I try to ration my online views of The New York Times because they’lll give you some free hits each month and then start charging.

So it turned out that had reached my free limit as I attempted to click Sunday on fresh reporting about the shooter’s mother.

I pondered: Is it worth my online subscribing — my parting with money — to be able to read this piece on the basis that I trust it will be more informative, reliable and insightful than what I can get otherwise?

Yes.

To survive a newspaper has to be better than everything else. That’s all.

 

 

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Written by jbrummett

December 17th, 2012 at 10:01 am

Posted in National

Feedback on hate and kiss-ins

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My Sunday column on the chicken and sexuality brouhaha generated considerable response, some curious from the right and some seemingly substantive from the gay and lesbian community.

So let’s use the blog to follow up.

Down near the bottom of that column, I wrote that, yes, hatred was surely a factor in some people’s rush to buy the chain’s chicken on Wednesday.

So I’m getting all these emails from people accusing me of accusing them of hate.

I didn’t name anybody. I can’t see into individual hearts. I asserted a mere “factor,” not a universal condition.

It’s the same principle by which race is cited as a factor in the aversion to President Obama, and people get fired up and think they’ve been individually called racists.

This is kind of a megalomaniacal condition.

Maybe they doth protest too much.

Meantime, gay and lesbian respondents have been telling me I missed the mark. They say the demonstration of hostilities toward Chick-fil-A has little to do with the mere comments of the chief executive officer, but everything to do with the company’s charitable arm that has long given money to extreme groups that encourage unfairness and worse toward gays.

Well, OK. If they say so. The first Chick-fil-A kiss-in I knew about was Saturday.

 

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Written by jbrummett

August 6th, 2012 at 7:58 am

Posted in National

John Roberts gives us health reform

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Here’s an instant take on one of the biggest U.S. Supreme Court rulings of our time.

It’s got a real twist to it, but the fact is that health care reform survives and we may now proceed on our way to more sensible health care policy in this country.

I thought it would come down to Justice Anthony Kennedy, as most things do, to swing the vote 5-to-4 either way. It didn’t.

Kennedy went with the three right-wing kooks — Scalia, Thomas, Alito — in saying the whole danged health care reform law was unconstitutional.

It came down to the chief justice, John Roberts, who joined the liberals — Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan — but not on the general issue that the individual mandate is legal as a matter of federal regulation of interstate commerce.

No, he agreed with them on the point that the income tax add-on — or fine, or penalty — for failure to comply with the mandate is, in the end, a federal tax, thus wholly within the firmly established authority of the federal government.

If you permit the penalty on a 5-to-4 vote as a simple tax, then you are affirming the penalty for not complying with the mandate, even if you are not specifically affirming the mandate under the interstate commerce regulation clause.

I think.

That’s a quick reading.

Either way, a conservative chief justice has just written his legacy counterintuitively and America proceeds to broader, fairer, saner health insurance.

My political reading had been that, if the Supreme Court reined in the mandate as too much government, the Republicans would win with the spin that it just goes to show what an abusive big-government socialist so-and-so this Obama is.

Forget that. I will not say what I’m thinking, which is that John Roberts just handed the Obama the presidency.

That’s a rash thing to say.

It’s also an unconventional reaction. Others are saying this will fire up the Republicans and have the Democrats defending a tax.

There is irony. There always is irony in our politics because our politics are so inane. Democrats wouldn’t call this a tax. It survives legally because it’s a tax. Hmmm.

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Written by jbrummett

June 28th, 2012 at 10:06 am

Posted in National

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