Category Archives: U.S. Congress

How do you make a person or country change? Generally not through nagging

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

How do you make a person or a country change?

One option is to use overwhelming force so they have no choice but to bend to your will and eventually maybe even embrace it. It can work but is often unavailable and comes at great cost – for example, when West Germany and Japan became free market democracies after World War II under American occupation. On the other hand, if it fails, it fails big.

A second option is using less than overwhelming force – diplomacy, nagging, the silent treatment. It often results in only partial, pacifying change.

A third option is using influence and persuasion so effectively that the other chooses to change, often while in a state of crisis or transition. It’s the most effective option, but it requires patience, confidence, and the acceptance that others may adopt only some of your suggestions.

After the shooting, a question

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

Many are asking if politics made the shooter crazy. That’s an important question. Another is, what is it doing to the rest of us?

Here’s what we know, as of Thursday morning. A man had lived a relatively normal life, even serving as a foster parent. There had been a few acts of violence and minor run-ins with the law, including one scary episode where he allegedly punched a woman in the face, pointed a gun at a neighbor and then hit him with the stock, but there’s plenty of evidence that he was sane. In recent years he’d become increasingly political and agitated, angrily obsessing over the injustices of a system he could not change. He posted political rants in Facebook’s echo chamber and joined a page pushing to “terminate” the Republican Party. He’d once practiced shooting his rifle outside his home, prompting a neighbor to call the sheriff. He moved to the Washington, D.C., area a few months ago, lived in a van, and frequented a bar where he would sit and drink beer with a creepy smile on his face. Then, on Wednesday, he took his rifle to a congressional baseball practice, calmly asked a congressman which party was practicing, thanked him for his answer, and then started shooting.

Math beats myth, this time

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

Wednesday saw the triumph of math over myth, in one state.

That would be Kansas, where the Legislature overrode Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of tax increases made necessary by his previous tax cuts. We’ll see how this applies to Arkansas later in the column.

What happened in Kansas was in 2012, Brownback pushed through the Legislature huge tax cuts that weren’t accompanied by sufficient spending decreases. He said the tax cuts would spur big economic growth. They didn’t.

The state ever since has been a fiscal mess, and a cautionary tale for other governors. This year it faced a $900 million budget deficit along with an order by its state Supreme Court to increase funding for public schools.

Could Paul Spencer give Arkansas Democrats a shot?

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

Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District just got more interesting, perhaps even almost competitive, and it might point the way for Arkansas Democrats in other parts of the state.

Paul Spencer is forming an exploratory committee to run for that congressional seat as a Democrat. It’s currently occupied by Rep. French Hill, a Republican.

Spencer was a founder of the group Regnat Populus, which tried in 2012 to get an ethics reform measure on the ballot that would limit campaign contributions. The effort failed to collect enough signatures, but legislators did respond by placing on the 2014 ballot a wide-ranging “ethics” amendment passed by voters. It did limit campaign contributions as well as gifts by lobbyists to legislators, but it also snuck in a provision weakening term limits, a measure Spencer later criticized.