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He'll be missed 

It's disturbing to recognize that Mike Ross is now the best Arkansas has in the U.S. House of Representatives. It's devastating to ponder his impending replacement by somebody worse.

A Blue Dog (that is, part-time) Democrat, Ross is stepping down at the end of the year, and he'll almost certainly be succeeded by a Republican of the same type as Arkansas's other three House members — Rick Crawford, Tim Griffin and Steve Womack. That means, another far-right friend of the privileged, madly partisan, resistant to reason, contemptuous of compromise.

On several House roll calls lately, Ross's was the only honorable vote cast from Arkansas. There was a proposed escalation of the Republican War on Women, for example. Purportedly extending the 1994 Violence against Women Act, the House Republicans' bill would omit provisions found in a bipartisan bill approved by the Senate. Those provisions would expand protection for battered women who are aliens; for American Indians who are assaulted on reservations, and for lesbian and transsexual victims. (The Republican War on Minority Women is particularly intense.)

Ross was the only Arkansas congressman to vote against the House Republicans' dreadful budget bill, drafted by the dreadful Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Wisconsin has long been a Jekyll-and-Hyde sort of state in its selection of public officials. The Hydes are firmly in the saddle at the moment.

Ryan's bill would privatize Medicare and raise the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67; repeal the new health care act that was sponsored by President Obama and is now aiding millions, and slash spending for most domestic programs, including subsidized child care (so that parents can work) and Meals on Wheels. A poorer, sicker and hungrier America seems to be the goal.

While punishing the needy, the Ryan budget would permanently extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich, giving the average millionaire an additional tax cut of $150,000 a year.

Ross sounded like a fulltime Democrat in explaining his vote:

"We need to cut spending, but I will not vote for any budget that punishes seniors in the process. The Republican budget shifts the rising costs of health care onto the backs of our seniors who did nothing to get us into this mess in the first place. When the Republicans tried to privatize Medicare last year with their budget proposal and when they tried to partially privatize Social Security under President Bush, I fought them every step of the way because Social Security and Medicare are valuable programs that keep half of all seniors out of poverty. Now that the Republicans are coming after Medicare again, I will continue to fight their efforts."

After Jan. 1, the fight to save Medicare and Social Security will probably be even more one-sided, sad to say, at least in Arkansas.

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