Favorite

Mere anecdotes 

click to enlarge Rep. Brandt Smith
  • Rep. Brandt Smith

"Are we now going to govern by anecdote?" the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) asked in 1995 in response to stories of a small number of women on welfare "gaming" the system in a manner similar to the so-called "Welfare Queen" President Ronald Reagan warned us about. Today, just as it was 20 years ago, it seems too many in government tend to propose sweeping legislation based on one or two tales they have heard that, if all of the data is examined, are actually outliers.

Here in Arkansas, Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville) wants to upend the entire Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for everyone, including veterans, and cost the state and grocery stores hundreds of thousands of dollars because a few poor mothers out there put Mountain Dew or Pepsi in their child's sippy cup. Rep. Brandt Smith (R-Jonesboro) feels the need to spend considerable effort and time trying to pass a "Sharia Law" bill due to vague information communicated by one of his supporters about a custody case in Maryland, since overturned, where a dad allegedly lost custody due to the judge referencing international law. Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) claims to want to make our schools safer, yet disregards the wishes of police and ignores data about the dangers of guns on campuses to press ahead with his "campus carry" bill based on the slim chance of an attack by an active shooter who could only be stopped by a gun-toting student or faculty member.

President Trump, in an effort to diffuse the brutal numbers coming out of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office regarding the proposed replacement to the Affordable Care Act, met with a dozen of the "victims of Obamacare," as he called them. These 12 people represent the small percentage of individuals and families who saw a sharp rise in premiums or loss of coverage after the passage of the ACA. Trump holds these people out as proof the ACA is a disaster while ignoring the data that shows millions of people are now covered and many lives have been saved by this increased coverage and lower premiums. Instead of leading an effort to tweak the law and fix some of the problems, he wants to scrap the entire thing and replace it with a plan that, as research is showing, will lead to millions of Americans losing coverage and seniors seeing a sharp rise in premiums.

Trump has made a similar play with immigration reform. Ignoring the data that shows immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than nonimmigrants, he frequently trots out a couple of stories of horrible crimes committed by immigrants and whips his base into a "let's deport 'em all now" frenzy. These offenses are outliers, just like the stories of those who were hurt by the Affordable Care Act. They should not be swept under the rug, but they must be viewed in context with comprehensive data and facts when deciding how to move forward with policy.

An appropriate response to a law's unintended consequence is the recent bill sponsored by Rep. Jana Della Rosa (R-Rogers*) and Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R-Little Rock) proposing a change to our drug paraphernalia statute. In 2011, due to an oversight, Arkansas ended up with a law that resulted in low-level drug offenders facing more prison time for the baggie containing the drugs than the drugs themselves. Most prosecutors across the state understand the absurdity of the law, but a few prosecutors use it and use it often. Della Rosa and Hutchinson are not proposing repeal of the entire statute or all of our drug laws (although, personally, I wish they would, as I believe we need to stop criminalizing addiction). They address the problem by proposing a narrow solution.

I get it. Facts are boring. Efficient government is boring. A small fix to existing legislation is boring. Salacious stories of extreme outcomes and outrageous waste are captivating and play well in committee meetings, stump speeches and addresses to Congress. Fear and outrage rule the day. While there is tremendous value in individual constituent stories and first-hand accounts of the effects of laws and regulations, as the late Sen. Wellstone pointed out, mere anecdotes without data and research to back them up should not be the driving force behind legislation.

*A previous version of this story misidentified Rep. Jana Della Rosa's hometown.
Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Autumn Tolbert

  • Time for a coalition

    While Hurricane Trump wreaks havoc on everything that is good and decent and democratic, another storm in the Democratic Party just won't let up. Many of us hoped the turmoil between Hillary Clinton's supporters and Sen. Bernie Sanders' supporters had finally subsided as both groups rallied together over the past few months to fight draconian changes in health care policy and the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • Cotton's plan

    With the amount of recent hand-wringing by the Republican Party, you'd think its members were getting ready to do something. It seems that every week, one or more GOP members of Congress come out with a statement denouncing the words or actions of President Trump or his supporters.
    • Aug 31, 2017
  • Home is where the hatred is

    According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Hate Map," a chapter of the Christian American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is headquartered in Hoxie, a small town in Lawrence County that also holds the distinction of being the first battleground of the segregationists in the fight to integrate Arkansas schools.
    • Aug 17, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Wrasslin' Trump

    I first thought the Sunday morning video clip of President Trump wrestling was something from one of the many parody accounts on Twitter.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
    • Jul 20, 2017

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Latest in Autumn Tolbert

  • Time for a coalition

    While Hurricane Trump wreaks havoc on everything that is good and decent and democratic, another storm in the Democratic Party just won't let up. Many of us hoped the turmoil between Hillary Clinton's supporters and Sen. Bernie Sanders' supporters had finally subsided as both groups rallied together over the past few months to fight draconian changes in health care policy and the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • Cotton's plan

    With the amount of recent hand-wringing by the Republican Party, you'd think its members were getting ready to do something. It seems that every week, one or more GOP members of Congress come out with a statement denouncing the words or actions of President Trump or his supporters.
    • Aug 31, 2017
  • Home is where the hatred is

    According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's "Hate Map," a chapter of the Christian American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is headquartered in Hoxie, a small town in Lawrence County that also holds the distinction of being the first battleground of the segregationists in the fight to integrate Arkansas schools.
    • Aug 17, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

September

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Viewed

  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Storm president

    It's undeniable that President Trump's public approval has improved since the moment Hurricane Harvey came ashore in Texas the last week of August; polls showed his popularity up by approximately 2 points.
  • Can't afford to gut ACA

    The Affordable Care Act was passed into law with the promise that it would make insurance affordable. Because of bipartisan leadership in Arkansas, we continue to strive to achieve that goal. While rhetoric abounds, it is important to understand the Arkansas experience.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Time for a coalition

    • Shiny, nobody is saying that Hillary isn't entitled to speak. Shit, the more she talks,…

    • on September 21, 2017
  • Re: Bad health care bill, again

    • Its hard to tell what the GOP in Arkansas care about beyond making life worse…

    • on September 20, 2017
  • Re: Time for a coalition

    • I am very glad to see a lot of women running for government positions in…

    • on September 19, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation