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Arkansas state government gears up to kick poor people off Medicaid for not clicking computers while it proposes to give income tax cuts to the state's highest earners.

We must wait to see if the math works.

It will take a lot of newly uninsured poor people to cover $192 million. That's the eventual estimated cost of taking the state's highest income tax rate from 6.9 percent to 5.9 percent. But if there's any state that might possibly prove willing and able to underserve that many have-nots ...

The ruling conservatives of Arkansas look at a social safety net as a disincentive to work. They see poor people choosing to luxuriate all day before a box fan while holding a food stamp and Medicaid card. But the most prominent disincentive to work I've seen lately is a special interest's putting a state senator on a big retainer to do nothing.

The point of that proposed income tax reduction on the top end is to make Arkansas newly attractive to job creators who presumably would move here from Texas and Tennessee and hire that poor person.

Those states have no income tax. The Republican refrain in Arkansas has long been that the state is at a competitive disadvantage with bordering states imposing no income tax.

Why, if Arkansas hadn't had that income tax, Walmart or Tyson might have gotten their starts here.

The theory seems to be that the competitive disadvantage would be significantly less if people could move here for a 5.9 percent top rate rather than 6.9 percent.

I look forward to meeting the Texas employer who pulls up from a zero- rate income tax in the Lone Star State so that he can pay an income tax rate of 5.9 percent rather than 6.9 percent in Arkansas.

Maybe Jerry Jones will move the Cowboys from Dallas to Prescott to honor his quarterback just as soon as Arkansas delivers to him and his millionaire players an income tax rate a point lower.

I was arguing about all of this publicly on Twitter with state Sen. Jim Hendren when a man smarter than both of us chimed in to settle things. He tweeted that Arkansas' problem in attracting high-end jobs is low quality of life, lack of skilled laborers and poor technological infrastructure. None of that, the man explained, gets fixed by a lower top income tax rate.

While Gov. Asa Hutchinson unveils this tax-cut plan for high incomes, his state Human Services Department proceeds toward kicking off 5,000 or so people from Medicaid expansion by the imminent end of this month. That's if those poor folks don't respond to a notice they probably didn't get and click on computers they probably don't have to say they worked or looked for work during the month.

This newspaper told the other day of a homeless man in a shelter who got a notice of imminent health-insurance loss that was plopped on his cot. An official at the shelter tried to help the man at a computer, but the man didn't know his user name or password to get his account clicked on.

So the official at the shelter said she could help the man simply set up a new account. But the man didn't know his policy number. He didn't have his papers.

The official at the shelter told a reporter that a lot of these homeless people get their papers stolen, or lose them as they wander the streets, or never get them in the first place because the papers go to addresses that were applicable before they were--you know--homeless.

If that homeless man gets sick enough to get hauled to an emergency room, we'll treat him and let the hospital eat the cost, at least until it closes.

Groups have filed a federal lawsuit in Washington against the work requirement. If the suit succeeds, as it should because the Arkansas meanness violates the federal statutory mandate for Medicaid, then Arkansas will find it even more mathematically challenging to lower income taxes on its better-off people.

One might wonder how it is that state government manages to be so strict against poor people on Medicaid when it couldn't manage to be strict at all on a bogus so-called religious and work-study college called Ecclesia.

Doug Thompson of this paper's Northwest edition reported Sunday that, in 2015, the governor signed--over a budget aide's concerns--special legislation authorizing the lathering of taxpayer largesse on a religious college--Ecclesia, singularly--only if it happened to hold membership in some "Work Colleges Consortium." That came after the kickback scheme on personal legislative General Improvement handouts to Ecclesia in 2013-14 had begun, but before it was known.

If the Legislature and governor had been more vigilant from the get-go on money to this dubious supposed college, a couple of legislators might not be in prison, though, it turns out, they get better health treatment than a homeless man who forgets his password.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 08/28/2018

Print Headline: Caught up in the math

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