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Thanks to blog reporting, fans of Arkansas politics were treated to an illustration this week of the core dishonesty of some conservatives. The theme boiled down to this: Cut my taxes and everybody else's spending, but don't touch my government handout.
The poster child for conservative Republican hypocrisy was state Rep. Justin Harris of West Fork, an appropriate successor to Secretary of State Mark Martin, who ran up huge expense reimbursements as a legislator for the same district while ostensibly fighting to reduce government.
Harris is in the news this week for his bills to bar all state services to people who can't provide proof of citizenship and to ban in-state tuition for those without proper papers. The college bill would cover even long-time Arkansas residents with Arkansas high school diplomas and good academic records.
Harris makes a living running what he calls a "church preschool," Growing God's Kingdom. In addition to preaching the Gospel, he preaches the word of reduced government spending and lower taxes. He reportedly once remarked government spending never created a job. Funny thing, though. Harris' business depends almost entirely on taxpayers for its existence and the money he and other family members make from it. The Blue Hog Report did some digging into the small business and found this:
Harris' business operates on almost $900,000 a year and serves about 150 kids. Of that, all but about 6 percent comes in the form of state and federal dollars in a program aimed at developmentally disabled and poor children. The money provides Harris and his wife almost $60,000 a year in salary and benefits. It also covers the mortgage on his privately owned building and rent payments to the Harrises.
So the government spending hawk lives on government spending, a double dip of payroll, perks and rent payments.
Thanks to conservative blogger Jason Tolbert, we know of another bit of Harris hypocrisy. Tolbert reported — in defense of Harris — that a University of Arkansas lobbyist had been putting out the word that somebody might make hay of the fact that Harris has perhaps a dozen undocumented students among his 150 pre-schoolers. Maybe they're legal, maybe not. He is not required to prove citizenship to provide taxpayer-funded services to these kids and thank goodness for that. Blogger Tolbert seemed perturbed at the UA's tough lobbying against Harris' legislation to provide a little kindness to older Arkansas children on college costs.
No defense of Harris was possible. An anti-tax, anti-government-spending, anti-illegal-alien legislator is living off a government program that includes payments for kids who haven't produced proof of citizenship.
His defenders say Harris runs a wonderful program for deserving kids, end of story. If only virtue was enough. Try that argument on your average Tea Partier sometime, particularly when it's a government program THEIR family isn't profiting from.
The bankruptcy of the Koch-financed Tea Party movement was further illustrated by the reflexive defense of Harris by paid Arkansas mouthpieces. A little waste and hypocrisy can be overlooked when it's by a legislator who supports a broad-range of government crippling measures that are vitally important to the Kochs. These include cutting the capital gains tax — a windfall for the wealthy. Someday, Harris might sell that building the government is buying for him. He wouldn't want to have to pay a tax on the capital gain. The building is a monument, really. Not to free enterprise, but to a man who knows first-hand the benefits of lavish government spending and taxpayer-funded services for undocumented children. Terrible, isn't it, Rep. Harris?