Arkansas income: Unequal and getting worse | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Arkansas income: Unequal and getting worse

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 6:56 AM

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Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
 has issued a new report on how income inequality hurts Arkansas. Highlights:

The top five percent of Arkansas earners make ten times as much as the bottom 20 percent of households.

From the late 1970s to the late 2000s, the most well-off Arkansans saw their incomes grow almost twice as fast as the poorest.

The typical Arkansan’s income has stagnated; in 2012 the median family income was only about five cents an hour above recession levels.

Some ideas to address the gap:

enacting a state earned income tax credit;

making sure everyone pays taxes based on their ability to pay;

investing in programs, such as education, that increase mobility;

raising the minimum wage; and

strengthening the unemployment insurance system.

Based on actions yesterday relative to the private option expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare — led by retrograde Republicans such as Rep. Nate Bell —  I'd simply say, "Good luck with that."

Succor for the working man and woman is not part of the agenda for the GOP's Mean Caucus.

Consider: We have a landmark expansion of health care for working people in America. The Mean Caucus couldn't beat its implementation in Arkansas so they've set about strangling it.

* They won't allow it to be advertised or to employ people to sign up working people for benefits. This is explicitly intended to depress participation.

* They want to limit help in getting sick poor people without cars to their doctors.

* They want to exact a pound of flesh from the very poorest working people, by requiring co-pays by people making as little as $6,000 a year.

If these conditions aren't imposed, the Mean Caucus would end the entire Medicaid program in Arkansas, shut down Arkansas government, even, on the strength of a vote from a mere 25 percent of a body nominally intended to provide democratic governance, not tyranny of the minority.

It's a measure of how bad things are that leaders such as Gov. Mike Beebe and House Speaker Davy Carter  — people with good intentions and considerable political skill — think they have no option but to surrender to bullies like Bell and the rest of the Mean Caucus.

Punishing working poor by keeping them from getting insurance and rides to the doctor and requiring co-pays of the desperately poor will only exaggerate the broad and growing income gap. If you think Nate Bell and his pals care, think again.

Cry the beloved Arkansas.

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