Salt in the wound
It is bad enough that U.S. Rep. Marion Berry, nominally a Democrat, voted to permanently repeal the federal estate tax, a repeal that was a key element of the Republican program to comfort the wealthy. He compounded the offense by adopting the Republicans’ deceitful language in a news release, calling the tax on vast inherited wealth a “death tax.” You wonder if he will begin calling the Democratic Party the “Democrat Party,” more weasel wordage that the Republicans adopted long ago.
Berry is not Arkansas’s only representative from the nominal wing of the Democratic Party. Rep. Mike Ross dwells there too, and like Berrry, Ross voted to repeal the death tax, which is to say he voted against the interests of 99 percent of the people, and for making the 1 percent who are superrich even superricher, and tax-proof. Only Vic Snyder of Arkansas’s Democrats in the House voted like a Democrat. We have grown all too accustomed to this.
The same week of the estate-tax vote, Berry and Ross voted for a Republican bill to further punish those who’ve been so unfortunate as to lose their jobs or incur catastrophic medical expenses. Charge-card companies and other members of the creditor class contributed millions to political campaigns — principally President Bush’s — in order to get this bankruptcy “reform” law that will make it easier for them to harvest their pounds of flesh. Once again, Snyder voted no. (The fourth member of the Arkansas House delegation, Republican John Boozman, voted as he always does, like a highly partisan, right-wing Republican. Ideology and party loyalty are what pass for principle with Boozman.)
The news release from Berry’s office on the estate tax could have been written by Tom DeLay: “Once again family farmers and small business owners can grow their business and pass it on to their survivors without fear of unfair taxes destroying the nest-egg they have worked so hard to create. … Death taxes destroy family-owned farms and ranches …” Utter drivel, of course, and Berry knows it. No family-owned farm or ranch has ever been destroyed by the estate tax. Even the Farm Bureau could find no record of such a thing. Most heirs don’t pay any estate tax, and most of those who do pay, pay modest amounts. But the limited amount of revenue produced by the tax is enough to provide a tiny bit of medical care for the sick, a morsel of food for a hungry child, perhaps a leaky roof over someone’s head. It seems little enough to ask of the most privileged Americans.
For Democrats, saving the estate tax and preventing the bankruptcy scam should be what the Religious Right calls “salt and light” issues — things that separate their party from the other. Vic Snyder votes conviction and compassion, and gets re-elected. So might Berry and Ross if they had the courage to try.
Ted Suhl was sentenced this morning by federal Judge Billy Roy Wilson on four counts of attempting to bribe a state official to help his mental health business supported by Medicaid money. He received 84 months and a $200,000 fine and is to report to prison in early January. He will appeal.
Blogger Russ Racop raises an interesting question, as he sometimes does, about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' gift of free tickets for North Little Rock cops to attend a Dallas Cowboy football game.
Little Rock police responding to a disturbance call near Eighth and Sherman Streets about 12:40 a.m. killed a man with a long gun, Police Chief Kenton Buckner said in an early morning meeting with reporters.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is installing Sol Lewitt's 70-foot eye-crosser "Wall Drawing 880: Loopy Doopy," waves of complementary orange and green, on the outside of the Twentieth Century Gallery bridge. You can glimpse painters working on it from Eleven, the museum's restaurant, museum spokeswoman Beth Bobbitt said
Ted Suhl, the former operator of residential and out-patient mental health services, has lost a second bid to get a new trial on his conviction for paying bribes to influence state Human Services Department policies. Set for sentencing Thursday, Suhl faces a government request for a sentence up to almost 20 years. He argues for no more than 33 months.
We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.
Are you sick of the election yet? One thing that seems certain is that our politics remain as hyperpartisan and dysfunctional as ever. I may be naive, but I think Arkansas has an opportunity to help lead the country back toward pragmatic progress on the issues that will make our families and communities stronger.