AR-01: Debate Wrap-Up

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    Saturday’s “so-called debate” between Democratic candidates for AR-01 did not offer much in the way of differentiation between the candidates according to The Baxter Bulletin.  I guess the author of the article was hoping one of the candidates would wear a clown suit or speak with a Cockney accent, because I see plenty in the article to separate the group.

    First, when asked what America’s greatest problem was, Terry Green said:

    [T]the biggest problem in America is moral decay depicted in low and declining church attendance. “If moms and dads don’t get up and in church on Sunday morning, it will be hell to pay[.]

    [Candidate Ben] Ponder echoed Green’s sentiments and added Congress to the liturgy. “If our hearts aren’t right, our policy won’t be right,” Ponder said. He said Congress has become somewhat complicit with “a celebration of greed” in the America.

    Sigh.  Look, if you want to go to church, then go to church.  If you want your kids to go to church, take them with you.  I fully support your right to do so.  But save your cries of religion as a panacea for “moral decay.”  Or, better yet, explain how dogmatic adherence to the tenets of institutions that promote bigotry, cover pedophilia, exalt in greed, foster misogyny, teach homophobia, encourage violence, and demand willful ignorance of science from their followers will somehow stop this “moral decay” that is gripping America.

    I know a number of people who attend church regularly, and I know just as many who do not.  Some of these people, I would trust with the lives of my children; some, I would not trust to maintain my lawn.  And, you know what?  The trust (or lack thereof) is completely independent of that person’s church attendance (or non-attendance).  Assuming that, because someone goes to church regularly, he or she is “good” or morally superior to someone who does not is the same kind of arrogant certitude that gave us an extra four years of George W. Bush.

    But I digress.

    Getting back to the article, Tim Woolridge continued to demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the health care reform bill.

    Wooldridge said he would have opposed the Affordable Health Care for America Act had he been a member of Congress when it was adopted in March because of the law’s arbitrary requirement for small businesses to furnish health insurance for employees and because of the law’s $920-billion price tag.

    First of all, I assume that Wooldridge meant $940B, which is what the Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill will cost over the next decade.  As long as we are using the CBO’s numbers, it is worth noting that Woolridge ignored some other important data.

    Estimates vary as to the precise amount of deficit reduction that we can expect from health care reform. On the low end is the estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, which does not take into account any efficiency improvements stemming from the legislation.
    CBO’s “score” (budget lingo for an evaluation of the budgetary costs of a piece of legislation), which only includes direct changes in spending and revenues, has health care reform reducing the deficit by between $920 billion and $1.7 trillion over the next two decades.

    Harvard University health economist David Cutler suggests, however, that the savings are likely to be much larger than that once the efficiency and modernization improvements contained in the bill take hold. He estimates that the total budgetary savings from now until 2030 will total around $6.5 trillion.

    The scope of our budget problems is such that even $6.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 20 years is not enough to fully solve them. There is no question that passing health care reform right now is only the first step in addressing the long-term budget gap. But the
    fact remains that the [bill]  is the largest deficit reduction measure Congress has seen in more than a decade. (emphasis added)

    From my perspective, the candidate who emerged looking the best was David Cook.  Cook said he would have voted for the health care bill; that he feels Washington should function under the same type of required balanced budget as Arkansas does; and that he favors another round of stimulus spending, as he believes that highway improvements and new fiber optics for nationwide broadband access will deliver more economic stimulus than any other projects.  Compared with the positions taken by everyone else in the race, Cook might represent the best (only?) chance the people of AR-01 have to upgrade from Marion Berry.