Arkansans must suffer lest Obama succeed 

The rabid partisanship in Washington and in many statehouses, ours among them, is so extreme that, according to polls, it sickens most voters. The public alarm over stalemate and partisan strife is about the only healthy sign in the body politic.

But the most provocative extremists are correct that this is not new but a robust American tradition. The country has experienced greater antagonisms, like the half-century of partisan fury over slavery and states rights before the Civil War, when men carried guns into the halls of Congress to protect themselves from their hotheaded colleagues from the North and South, culminating in the South's worst fear, the election of Abraham Lincoln. Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was clubbed nearly to death in the Senate chamber in 1856 for accusing a South Carolina senator of being a pimp for that "old harlot — slavery." Sumner apparently chose not to shoot him or else he didn't have a sidearm that day.

You can find close historical parallels to the bizarre hatred of Barack Obama, who Republicans claim is plotting to establish a European socialist state in America, justifying their stop-him-at-all-costs strategy. President John Adams accused Thomas Jefferson, his hated vice president, and Jefferson's party of plotting to bring the bloody anarchy of the French Revolution to our shores.

The Federalists/Republicans then and now were right about the Democrats Jefferson and Obama in about the same measure, which is to say none at all.

Waves of intense partisanship have marked turbulent periods after the Civil War — brought on by the populism of Republican Teddy Roosevelt, by Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, and by Bill Clinton's interference with the conservative revolution. Were they hated by the other party!

The United States decided long ago that James Madison, not George Washington, was right about these matters. Madison thought partisan rancor, though it might be extreme and at times harmful, was generally good for democracy. But it disgusted the father of our country, who deplored the party sniping in his farewell address because it "agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms." He hoped it would not become the tradition. I like the old gentleman more and more, but the country has paid him no heed.

All that history aside, is there something about the current partisan hysteria over Barack Obama that is unique and that justifies the public's alarm? I think so.

It is this: The common welfare, at least as each side saw it, was nearly always at least a consideration in the partisan posturing. It is not today. For four years after November 2008 the principal force of the Republican Party in Washington had only one end. The Senate Republican leader spelled it out bluntly: the defeat of Obama. That being no longer possible, now it is to see that Obama does not succeed in the slightest endeavor and that the country does not prosper or make the slightest progress in any of its manifold trials while Obama is in charge and might conceivably get credit. He must not be seen as successful or the country as healing.

Is that putting it too harshly?

The voting rules as dictated by Republicans now prevent a vote in either house on any matter that the party's extremists do not want a vote on. Sixty percent of the Senate must consent to any important vote. The operative rule in the House of Representatives is that no vote will occur unless a bare majority of Republicans—118 Republicans in a membership of 435—wants it to. Never has the House been so undemocratic. Thus another year will pass without Congress making it possible for millions of underwater homeowners to refinance their mortgages and rejoin the economic mainstream, which would be a huge shot for the languid economy. No part of the president's program will get a vote.

In his state of the union address, the president begged Congress just to vote. Vote no and defeat the bills and nominations if you please, but just vote, he said. But that would suggest that the country was on a glide path to safety. Mustn't happen.

The Affordable Care Act and any of its parts must not succeed. The worst of all possible outcomes is that a large majority will come to see it as a very good thing. What if they should begin to say, "I still hate the dusky fellow with the Middle Eastern name, but who misled us about his health-care thing?"

Thus, a minority in the Arkansas legislature who were elected on campaigns to oppose Obama and Obamacare will prevent more than 215,000 poor working families from getting health insurance and stop billions of dollars in health-care assistance at the state line.

Routine Cabinet appointments, including a conservative Republican war hero as defense secretary, are blocked or delayed so that the administration seems in perpetual disarray. A fiscal cliff, such as the prospect of the country not paying the bills run up by prior Republican governments, must always lie ahead so that uncertainty hangs over the economy and the financial sector.

If the economy is growing robustly, the deficit coming down, medical inflation plunging and the government running smoothly, people might get the wrong idea about Obama.

In the end you have to frame in a word they love but hate in this context. Is this really patriotic?

Speaking of Barack Obama, Medicaid Expansion

  • State officials announce details for planned health savings accounts and cost-sharing for private option

    June 17, 2014
    Lawmakers today got the first glimpse at details of the changes coming to the private option in 2015, including the creation of "Health Independence Accounts" and cost-sharing for beneficiaries below the poverty line. /more/
  • Eligibility verification not complete for nearly 5,000 private option beneficiaries; coverage will end May 31 until process is complete

    May 29, 2014
    A technical glitch led to almost 4,798 Arkansans gaining private option coverage prior to fully completing the eligibility verification process. The error was rooted in the way that the federal government submitted data from healthcare.gov to the state. These people have received letters from the Department of Human Services indicating that their private option coverage will end on May 31; in order to regain coverage, they must go back to healthcare.gov and complete the application process. /more/
  • More than 170,000 have gained coverage under private option; population continues to lean young

    May 27, 2014
    According to testimony today from the Arkansas Department of Human Services, 170,033 people through the end of April have been deemed eligible and gained coverage under the private option, the state's unique plan using Medicaid funds to purchase private health insurance for low-income Arkansans. This likely means that the policy has already made a significant reduction in the rate of uninsurance in the state. The private option has also made the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace as a whole significantly younger, which could help lead to lower premiums in the future. /more/
  • No, there is a not a "bailout" for the Arkansas private option

    May 19, 2014
    Apparently if you call something a “bailout,” people won’t like it! This is the approach taken in a piece on the private option posted earlier last week at Forbes, the third article Forbes has published in the last month or so criticizing the Arkansas plan. We take a look at some of their insinuations, and where things actually stand on the policy and politics of the private option. /more/
  • Rep. John Burris and Scott Flippo squabble over private option in GOP primary

    May 16, 2014
    Our Reporter in the paper this week looks at three GOP state Senate primaries that could have an outsized impact on the future of the private option — the state's privatized version of Medicaid expansion which has been the defining issue in intra-party Republican squabbles. Here are some additional tidbits from one of those races, between Rep. John Burris and Scott Flippo, owner of a Bull Shoals nursing home. /more/
  • Private option looms large in GOP primary race between Sen. Bill Sample and challenger Jerry Neal

    May 15, 2014
    Our Reporter in the paper this week looks at three GOP state Senate primaries that could have an outsized impact on the future of the private option — the state's privatized version of Medicaid expansion which has been the defining issue in intra-party Republican squabbles. Here are some additional tidbits from one of those races, between Sen. Bill Sample and retired financial auditor Jerry Neal. /more/
  • Arkansas hospital survey: since enactment of private option, ER visits and number of uninsured patients down

    May 15, 2014
    Preliminary data from a survey of acute care hospitals in Arkansas suggests a dramatic decline in the number of uninsured patients hospitals are seeing since the enactment of the private option, Surgeon General Joe Thompson and Bo Ryall, president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, testified before a legislative subcommittee today. The survey also found that ER visits are down 2 percent statewide. /more/
  • The week that was

    May 15, 2014
    We need my retired colleague Doug Smith to make short pithy work of a momentous week in city and state politics. I'll try to hit the high spots, in chronological order. /more/
  • The Obama in Arkansas Edition

    May 9, 2014
    President Obama’s visit to Arkansas, the ruling on a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, a PR push for the Keystone pipeline, dark money flooding state political races at all levels, Asa Hutchinson’s thoughts on ending the private option, Frank Broyles getting pushed out at the UA, Johnny Key landing on his feet and Quest Charter School hitting a significant speed bump — all covered on this week's podcast. /more/
  • Sen. Bryan King and Rep. Joe Farrer call for new cost projection for the private option

    May 8, 2014
    Sen. Bryan King and Rep. Joe Farrer held a press conference at the Capitol today to reiterate the complaints about the private option they've made since the policy's implementation (and dating back to the debates in the legislature to pass and re-authorize the private option), and to call for a new set of cost projections to be developed by a company other than Optumas, the actuarial firm that contracted with the Department of Human Services to develop cost estimates. Farrer also claimed to have a "better plan" which would covered by the private option, but declined to say what this plan is. /more/
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