The Arkansas Green Party nominated candidates for all four U.S. House races in Little Rock today, including two candidates who have run multiple races.
Meanwhile, Fred Smith, the former Harlem Globetrotter whose attempt to run as a Democrat was voided by a judge’s ruling in April, will run for House District 50 as a Green.
The following candidates are running for the U.S. House:
First District – Jacob Holloway, a 24-year-old ASU student
Second District – Barbara Ward of Little Rock, who works at the Historic Arkansas Museum
Third District – Rebekah Kennedy, an attorney from Fort Smith. Kennedy ran unsuccessfully for attorney general in 2006; for U.S. Senate in 2008; and for attorney general in 2010
Fourth District – Josh Drake, an attorney from Hot Springs. This is Drake’s third consecutive attempt to be elected to this seat.
Independent Arkansas caught up with Kennedy, Drake and Ward at the convention and was able to get video interviews with Kennedy and Drake. The three were realistic about their chances. Drake even said, “I joke that if I had a chance of getting elected, my wife wouldn’t let me run.” But Kennedy in particular promised a vigorous campaign.
The three believe in Green Party values – stopping climate change, nationalized health care, a reduction of corporate influence in Washington. Drake was more passionate about health care while Kennedy focused on energy and the environment.
Asked why they aren’t running as liberal Democrats, they all said they believed in the Green Party. Kennedy and Drake asserted that there’s not much of a difference between Democrats and Republicans, anyway.
Kennedy said it would be more effective to compete with Democrats from the left than to simply lose to “prepicked” candidates in the primary. She said both parties are so poll-driven that they won’t do much to change the status quo – in particular concerning her primary issue, climate change.
“Instead of having an intelligent conversation among the people of this democracy about where we want to go in the future, we just have people rehashing the same things over and over, and unfortunately, it’s not true that you can leave well enough alone and never change everything and everything will stay the same,” she said.
Drake said, “You’d rather run with a party that stands for ideals that you can believe in, that you can be proud of, rather than always apologizing for the lesser of two evils that the Democratic Party has become.”
Smith’s earlier Democratic candidacy was thrown off the ballot after a circuit judge ruled that he had not provided proof that his felony conviction for theft had been dismissed or expunged by the filing deadline. It’s a long story, so if you want more, here it is.
All told, the Greens nominated 14 candidates in Arkansas and endorsed Dr. Jill Stein for president. Roseanne Barr – yes, that Roseanne Barr, was a candidate.
Warren Buffett has gotten himself involved in politics, and he’s probably going to be sorry about it.
Buffett, the billionaire investor, has made the point lately that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. He’s talking about the unfairness of the tax system and, indirectly, the budget deficit.
President Obama has proposed a “Buffett Rule” that would place a minimum tax on million-dollar salaries. Republican Sen. John Thune has proposed his own “Buffett Rule” that would allow people to pay extra money to reduce the federal debt. Arkansas Sen. John Boozman is one of the co-sponsors.
Thune’s bill is a waste of time and a personal attack. In effect, Republicans are saying, “If you want to pay more taxes, Mr. Buffett, go right ahead.” But that would not solve the problems Buffett was pointing out.
I asked Sen. Boozman for some time to talk about this and sent him my questions, which were not softballs. He called me that day ready to answer them, and to his credit, he didn’t back down from any of them. Even when my questions were a little more direct than they should have been, his tone never changed. Man, he’s a cool customer.
Boozman’s main policy point was that Obama’s Buffett bill won’t address the problem Buffett was discussing because Buffett will still take advantage of the loopholes and deductions he uses now to pay a lower tax rate than his secretary. What’s needed are less spending and tax reform, he said.
Here’s more in my Wednesday column for the Arkansas News Bureau.
Several hundred Occupy Little Rock protestors marched through the streets of the state’s capital city Oct 15, and while lots of people, particularly Republicans, are dismissing them, they shouldn’t dismiss their concerns.
The protestors were a more diverse group than many would expect. I didn’t see a lot of the aimless young hippies they have been painted as being. They certainly weren’t a “mob,” as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called them, “anti-American,” as Herman Cain called them, or “the FLEA party,” in the words of a Democrat-Gazette columnist who wasn’t at the protest.
The protestors represented a variety of political persuasions, judging by the signs – everything from the Ron Paul-ian “End the Fed” to the Marxian “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
The protestors directed their anger mostly at big corporations and the government, and I agreed with a lot of what they were saying. Any American who is not outraged at the bank bailout hasn’t been paying attention. As the columnist Nick Kristoff put it, “The banks have gotten away with privatizing profits and socializing risks.”
But we don’t want America to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Most corporations aren’t causing the world’s problems; they just provide needed goods and services and employ people.
Finally, if the Occupy Little Rock protestors really want to accomplish their goals – and right now, it’s not clear what their goals are beyond expressing their anger – they need to organize and work within the system as the TEA Party has done.
As they marched along the street, the protestors chanted, “This is what democracy looks like!” I thought, “Well, really, this is part of democracy, but democracy really looks like people voting, running for office, and contacting their legislators.” If Occupy Little Rock doesn’t evolve into that, it won’t accomplish much.
I publish a magazine for the state’s two engineer associations, the Arkansas Society of Professional Engineers and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Arkansas.
These are good folks, they work hard, they are mathematically inclined, and sometimes they are a little nerdy. I wish they would run for Congress.
You won’t see a road-building project stalled because engineers refuse to budge on some side issue. You won’t see a project fail because one faction of engineers wanted to embarrass the other.
Engineers build bridges and roads; our current congressmen can’t even agree how to fund them. In fact, Congress is two years late passing its latest highway bill.
It’s time to replace these rigid ideologues and political game-players with practical problem-solvers who know how to get the job done. That’s why I’m endorsing Arkansas’ engineers for Congress.
When only a small percentage of voters goes to the polls and those that do vote tend to be the most partisan parts of the electorate, guess what happens? Partisan elected officials get elected.
Here’s what turnout has looked like in the past few Arkansas elections:
2010 midterms – 48 percent
2010 primaries – 29 percent
2008 presidential – 65 percent
2008 presidential primary – 35 percent
2008 general primary – 18 percent
That means lots of people are voting in the general election for candidates that were chosen by the most partisan voters on the left and the right in the primaries. The result is a partisan Congress – and the mess we saw on the debt ceiling deal.
Voters can’t complain about their choices if they sit out the primaries. A more diverse Congress would be less partisan. And for that to happen, more people must vote in primaries and midterm elections.
The writer Rita Mae Brown once shared a piece of wisdom that has been used so many times that it’s become a cliche: “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
If that’s so, then if Americans keep electing officials like they have been, then the country truly has gone nuts.
In 2012, there will be a new way. Americans Elect is creating an online nominating process where voters can register as delegates at the effort’s website and then eventually select a nominee. The group is collecting signatures – including 1.6 million already collected in California – to get on the ballot in all 50 states.
Americans Elect is a nominating process, not a political party. Delegates who register at the website are asked a series of questions to determine their political views and will be connected to like-minded voters. Six candidates will emerge from that process to compete for the group’s nomination in June. Each must name a vice presidential running mate who is a member of a different party or is an independent. At that point, Americans Elect’s job is finished and the nominee will run his or her own campaign.
The effort has strong backing so far. It says it has raised $20 million, including $1.55 million from investment executive Peter Ackerman, who’s son, Elliott, is the chief operating officer. Its chief executive officer, Khalil Byrd, is a Republican strategist. Its board of advisors includes former CIA chief William Webster. Its chief technology officer, Joshua Levine, did that same job at E-Trade.
More in my column this week for the Arkansas News Bureau.
Here’s a very informative story in the Los Angeles Times.
And, once more, here is the Americans Elect website, www.americanselect.org.
The debt ceiling debacle received most of the attention this past few months, but Congress and the president have failed to do their jobs in two other critical areas: highways and education.
Washington is two years late reauthorizing the surface transportation law and four years late reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which created No Child Left Behind.
With highways, Congress and the president have just been tacking another year on the previous law each year. That’s bad because it makes it impossible to plan for the future.
No Child Left Behind has been a problem because the law holds schools to rising standards of accountability until 2014, when every student in every school in America will be expected to be proficient in math and science. Few schools will meet that impossible 100 percent standard then. More than 400 schools in Arkansas don’t meet it now, with students and taxpayers paying the consequences of the law’s excesses.
On Monday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that states can apply for waivers from some of the law’s sanctions, as long as those states are enacting reforms the department considers worthy. It’s better than nothing, I guess, but a complete rewrite would be better.
Above is Dr. Tom Kimbrell, Arkansas education commissioner, discussing how the state has responded to the ESEA not being reauthorized.
More in my Arkansas News Bureau column this week.
Rep. Tim Griffin is supposed to be embarking on a “Jumpstarting Jobs” tour, but at Philander Smith College Thursday evening, the talk was about the budget deficit.
Two days after President Obama signed the debt ceiling extension, Arkansas’ Republican Second District congressman defended his own vote for the deal. He said that while he wasn’t happy with it and wouldn’t have voted for it had Republicans controlled the White House and Senate, he “wasn’t willing to roll the dice” on the economy had it not passed.
Describing the deal, he said, “It’s like canceling your cable bill when you can’t afford the mortgage.”
Griffin broke with some in his party by saying that he believed the government should increase revenues by reducing the amount of tax deductions. Some Republican leaders have said that rates should be lowered in that case so that there is no net increase.
But he reiterated his opposition to increasing taxes. He said that tax revenues did not decrease as a percentage of the gross domestic product because of the Bush tax cuts. He repeated a favorite GOP line that Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem, punctuating it with a Powerpoint slide showing that while revenues have remained consistent since the 1940s, spending is rising dramatically as a percentage of GDP. Even if revenues were to increase somewhat, he said, there’s no way they can keep up with that rate of growth.
Ultimately, he said, the spending explosion will be addressed – if not by the government, then by its creditors.
Griffin said economic growth was the key to reducing the deficit. He called for a flatter tax, regulatory reform, patent reform, free trade, and pro-growth energy policy.
The debt ceiling deal includes automatic spending cuts if a committee of Republicans and Democrats – dubbed the “Super-Congress” by some – and the Congress as a whole cannot agree on reductions. Griffin said he expects Congress to make those cuts without the automatic trigger.
It was a lively discussion. Griffin opened the evening by asking who in the audience was the angriest and then handed the microphone to a man named Patrick, who read a lengthy statement in support of health care reform and against the Bush tax cuts. Despite it being his fifth event of the day, Griffin energetically engaged his audience. He didn’t shy away from any questions and even gave out his cell phone number.
He also didn’t sugarcoat the realities of the country’s budget deficit problem. Saying Medicare needs substantial reforms, for example, he said, “If you love Medicare, then you’d better reform it because it’s going away.”
The audience of about 60 was fully engaged and highly informed on the debt ceiling debate. And it seemed aware of the nation’s fiscal problems. “Everybody’s going to have to take a big bite of this doo-doo sandwich,” said a constituent named “Edmond” who described himself as an independent.
What Congress should have done is agreed that ending the debt is nonnegotiable. The it should have compromised on the details.
What it did was decide that the details were nonnegotiable. But it compromised on the principle that we should stop passing on the debt to our children.
That’s a subject I tackle in this week’s column for the Arkansas News Bureau.
There’s a bipartisan group called “No Labels” that has been making the argument that it’s time for Republicans and Democrats to stop playing partisan games. Among its leaders is Dave Walker, the former comptroller general under Presidents Clinton and Bush who was featured in the movie “I.O.U.S.A.”
The group is going on the air with the ad, “Enough,” shown above.
Here is the No Labels website.
And if you have never seen the movie, “I.O.U.S.A.,” here is the link. It called attention to the national debt problem way back in 2007, when the debt was $8.7 trillion. It’s now $14.3 trillion.