Favorite

Merry Christmas, but what about the new year? 

Legislators and the governor rushed to get before TV cameras last week at a feel-good media event.

Legislators and the governor rushed to get before TV cameras last week at a feel-good media event.

They'd brought Christmas gifts to distribute to the 4,600 or so Arkansas children in foster care.

Leave it to me to be the Grinch.

Politicians beamed in camera lights the same week the governor rolled out yet another task force, this one aimed at making the Department of Human Services "more efficient."

This behemoth of an agency, mostly financed by U.S. dollars, has a nearly impossible task of serving the vulnerable young, the infirm elderly, the physically and mentally challenged, the sick and the poor. Undoubtedly, there is waste. Undoubtedly, there is some duplication. Indisputably, mistakes sometimes are made, sometimes with awful human results.

But the continuing theme of Gov. Asa Hutchinson is that the agency is rife with overspending. The state can do more with less. Already, children are suffering from our current effort. The number of children in foster care is rising. Some case workers have been added, but their number remains far below a sufficient level and the pay contributes to the lack of allure for an already difficult job.

The same week, another Hutchinson task force also recommended the continuation of Arkansas's use of Obamacare to expand Medicaid coverage for poor working families. But a condition for Hutchinson will be to make the program more punitive and to effectively drive some people off coverage, whether with new fees or other disincentives. He also promises to cut some $800 million from existing state programs for the needy — not because the money isn't available, but just, well, because. Inevitably, some share of those savings won't be in loss of profits for nursing homes or salaries for health care workers, but services lost to families least able to find other ways to obtain them.

The legislature learned, too, last week of the rising number of mothers who've given birth to children who tested positive for drugs (two-thirds of them marijuana). This new law can lead to removal of still more children from homes, in theory when other complicating factors are found. The randomness is striking to me. Alcohol testing is not done on newborns, by the way.

When you find sick and abused children, you find disproportionate poverty. So the Christmas gifts rang somewhat hollow to me from politicians who left the bottom 40 percent of wage earners in Arkansas out of the 2015 income tax cut and who also rejected a state earned income tax credit for poor working families.

Against all this is a backdrop of raging debate about child protective services. Cases abound of system failures, none more high-profile and politically tinged than that of Rep. Justin Harris (R-West Fork), who gave away adopted children to the home of a sexual predator. Still, some legislators argue that the state moves too aggressively in removing children and that parents are punished, for example, for education deficiencies that aren't of their making.

Culturally, Arkansas is more inclined to turn to paddles and punishment than therapy and education when it comes to children in need. We are a national leader in defense and use of battery of children (corporal punishment). Sunday, Chad Day of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wrote of the appalling number of judges who lock up young status offenders with young criminal offenders as a recipe for dealing with truancy, parental disobedience and runaways.

So, thanks for the Barbie dolls and basketballs, politicians. But what you do the other 364 days of the year is a whole lot more meaningful. If only the cameras were always rolling.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of Department Of Human Services, Asa Hutchinson

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 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 Max Brantley

  • Aid politics

    The still-unfolding catastrophe in Houston is, first, a human tragedy. But when politicians try to tell you that a time of enormous human tragedy is not a time to talk about politics, it likely means the politics are embarrassing to them.
    • Aug 31, 2017
  • Save the statues!

    The Democratic Party of Arkansas has called for relocation of Confederate monuments from public places, such as courthouse squares and the Capitol lawn, to history museums or private grounds.
    • Aug 24, 2017
  • Charter secret

    These are hard times for those who believe in traditional public schools, run by democratically elected representatives, open to all on equal terms.
    • 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 Recent Comments

  • Re: Sex on campus

    • Once again commentators blame the victim. Social scientists, of whom I am one, regularly find…

    • on September 22, 2017
  • 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
 

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