Category Archives: Politics

Can The Centrist Project pioneer a new way?

By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Forty-four percent of Americans are independents, according to Gallup, but only 2 percent of United States senators are, and one of those is Sen. Bernie Sanders, who’s really a Democrat. Could a few more independents form a decisive voting bloc that would force Republicans and Democrats to solve problems?

That’s a question Joel Searby and the other founders of The Centrist Project are trying to answer.

Searby ran the 2016 independent presidential campaign of Evan McMullen, a former Republican congressional staff member and ex-CIA officer who won 21 percent of the vote in Utah and 1 percent in Arkansas.

Now, Searby and others with The Centrist Project are trying to recruit and strategically fund credible independent candidates in 2018, with one focus being the U.S. Senate where they could make the most difference.

$23.33 less debt

By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

The past couple of weeks showed two different ways to react when you don’t have enough money coming in: the Arkansas state government reaction, which is relatively effective, and the federal reaction, which isn’t at all.

Why the difference? One big reason is that Arkansas has a structure for responding to budget shortfalls and, more important, a culture that respects that structure. The federal government has neither nor the structure nor the culture.

Let’s start with Arkansas. The state’s budgetary decisions are governed by the Revenue Stabilization Act, a law passed in 1945 that is amended by the Legislature each budget cycle and sets the parameters for a balanced budget. Under the act, state spending is divided into categories: an essential Category A and a much smaller, spend-it-if-we’ve-got-it Category B.

Can work be added to Arkansas Works?

Cindy Gillespie is director of the Department of Human Services.
By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Next week, legislators will meet in special session to change the Arkansas Works program to encourage its recipients to work for their benefits and, eventually, no longer need them.

Changing the program will be reasonably easy. Changing the recipients will be much harder.

Arkansas Works, formerly known as the private option, uses federal Medicaid dollars to buy private insurance for 311,000 Arkansans with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $17,000 for an individual. The state pays 5 percent of the program’s cost this year and 10 percent by 2020. The federal government pays the rest.

It was created through the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, which expanded Medicaid. Many Republican-leaning states declined to participate. Arkansas instead obtained a waiver from the Obama administration allowing it to buy private insurance rather than simply enroll recipients in Medicaid.

The death penalty: At least change it

By Steve Brawner
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.

Arkansas’ attempt to execute eight inmates in 11 days has led to a lot of discussion about whether the death penalty should continue to exist, and that discussion should continue. But given that polls show a strong majority of Arkansans support it and the governor is ready to enforce it, the more immediate discussion should be about how to administer it far better than it is has this month.

As you and a lot of people in the United States and the world know, Arkansas’ plan would have set a recent record for most executions in the least amount of time. This was done because the inmates had reached an end point in the appeals process at the same time the state’s supply of one of its three death penalty drugs, midazolam, was about to expire at the end of April. The drugs are hard to obtain because the manufacturers didn’t make them to be used in executions and don’t want to sell them for that purpose, in part because it gets them in trouble with the European Union, a much more important client than Arkansas.