Favorite

The scourge 

0115dumas_image1.gif

Members of the Arkansas General Assembly arrived at the Capitol Monday without the proper welcome that hastened the lawmakers on their journey into history nearly every odd-numbered year for the last quarter-century. That was a cartoon by George Fisher — in the Arkansas Gazette until 1993 and then the Arkansas Times until his death in 2003 — warning the public of the coming scourge.

Each of the cartoons was a brilliant variation on the same theme, which was that a sitting of the legislature was dangerous to the public welfare. Fisher's parodies grew no kinder as a session progressed and he saw fulfilled his expectation of self-interest, greed and bigotry.

Only occasionally was the legislature quite as unredeeming as Fisher made it. There actually were a few legislatures marked by modest to remarkable achievement. But Fisher operated from a knowledge of the past, particularly the 1950s and '60s, when the resurgent shibboleths and suspicions that had dogged government from statehood forward guided state policy.

Better than anything else, the history of this lawmaking every two years furnishes an accounting for the condition in which Arkansas has always found itself, which is, relative to other states, poor and ignorant.

Grudgingly, I have to acknowledge that the legislature by fits and starts has gotten a little better almost from the time that Fisher began caricaturing it, and there is some reason to hope that the trend will continue with the 87th. The demographic evidence alone is encouraging. Twenty-three percent of the legislators, an Arkansas record and a share that is higher than all the surrounding states, are women, and 10 percent are African-Americans. Forgive the generality, but women tend to be less anchored in the status quo and African-Americans for sure are.

Every time that the state legislature gathers it has but one overarching purpose, which is to expand the opportunities for people —  as many of the 2.9 million that it can and in whatever ways that the rosy or grim conditions of the time allow. To the extent that the state is poor and backward or advanced, it is a reflection of how faithfully past legislatures, in collaboration with executive leaders, have pursued that goal.

So what are the prospects that the 87th will enlarge rather than shrink the possibilities of better living? The new speaker of the House of Representatives was encouraging. He said every member ought not to just sit there but try to do something, and his own expectations were to make education more than just adequate and equal, which is the constitutional injunction, expand the state's woeful health-care safety net, create a lottery that will actually help people instead of only exploit them and expand broadband into poor rural areas of the state. If the legislature does all of those things it will have met the historical test.

But the prospects are just as large that the legislature will thwart opportunity rather than promote it. The nativist element is out at every session to kick immigrants off the ladder of success. A Hot Springs Republican introduced a bill requiring everyone to run the gauntlet of the federal verification system to get an identification card of any kind from an employer or a government agency. One goal is to keep the children of immigrants who don't have papers from getting a college education or getting a leg up in any other way from the taxes they pay.

There is a strategy for economic development. Keep them ignorant and unemployed. A far better case can be made for giving them a scholarship. Such will be the tests for the 87th legislature.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Tags:

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Tax tales

    The easiest task in the world may be to persuade people that they are paying higher taxes than folks in other communities, states and countries, but there is never a shortage of people taking on the task.
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • Stifling dissent

    Whenever Donald Trump in his serial bouts with failure decides he must re-energize his base of white nationalists by doing things like demonizing black athletes who protest discrimination, the mainstream press falls for it and gives him maximum space and time. We're addicted.
    • Sep 28, 2017
  • 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.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • No tax help for Trump

    The big conundrum is supposed to be why Donald Trump does so well among white working-class people, particularly men, who do not have a college education.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Dollars and degrees

    Governor Hutchinson says a high graduation rate (ours is about the lowest) and a larger quotient of college graduates in the population are critical to economic development. Every few months there is another, but old, key to unlocking growth.
    • Aug 25, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Tax tales

    The easiest task in the world may be to persuade people that they are paying higher taxes than folks in other communities, states and countries, but there is never a shortage of people taking on the task.
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • Stifling dissent

    Whenever Donald Trump in his serial bouts with failure decides he must re-energize his base of white nationalists by doing things like demonizing black athletes who protest discrimination, the mainstream press falls for it and gives him maximum space and time. We're addicted.
    • Sep 28, 2017
  • 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.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

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 31  

Most Viewed

  • Cotton to CIA?

    Political junkies without a real election to overanalyze fill the void with "what if?" scenarios. With the State Fair underway, consider this column a helping of cotton candy for such readers.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The casting couch

    • sigh............ I would argue that the idea of 'freedom from fear' is part of the…

    • on October 19, 2017
  • Re: Caution: government at work

    • As to the AR Chamber of Commerce-DO NOT FORGET it supports passage of SJR8, which…

    • on October 19, 2017
  • Re: The casting couch

    • Freedom from fear is a human right.

    • on October 19, 2017
 

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