I'm flabbergasted! Finally, there's an idea issuing from U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's discombobulated brain with which I can agree. Last week, in a modification of her preposterous proposal that red states divorce from the blue, she offered that red towns and counties could secede from the shackles of toxic blue states.
In reverse, that could work well for Northwest Arkansas.
For one, those folks down in the state Capitol and the governor's mansion seem to care little for the state as a whole, what with their voucher-espousing education bill sure to negatively upend education access for kids in the poorest parts of the state. Theoretically it makes sense to offer alternatives to under-performing schools -- until you wonder from where the educational alternative infrastructure is to arrive in places like Desha and Chicot counties.
Most Arkansas educational professionals are categorically against the LEARNS bill even considering the monumental pay increase for teachers in the state. A key selling point: The $50,000 starting salary would put Arkansas in the top echelon of teacher pay, behind Washington, Hawaii, New Jersey and the District of Columbia. Given Arkansas' lower cost of living compared to those expensive places, our teachers could become effectively the highest paid in the nation. The spin is that this helps school districts retain and recruit. The flip-side: Such high pay becomes de facto combat pay if the bill's voucher system kicks in, skimming the best and brightest from public systems while leaving academically challenged, even problematic, kids behind.
And there's more to come. Arkansas Republicans are putting us in lock-step with spoon-fed legislative issues dished out at American Legislative Exchange Conference (ALEC) workshops: LGBTQ bashing, bathroom policing and aspersions cast upon public education said to be run by indoctrinating leftists. Republicans are new masters at stirring up their voting base with -- voila! -- solutions for non-existent problems they themselves stitched out of whole cloth.
Meanwhile, with resources and attentions diverted to "woke mob" ghosts and goblins, real issues lie unattended. For example, are the levees in good repair at Helena and is Jonesboro prepared well enough for the next big shake from the New Madrid Fault? And when will that slow-moving parking lot (Interstate 40) between West Memphis and Little Rock be expanded to six lanes?
Our elected officials have no time for tactile issues. With appetite whetted by conservative punch-list victories thus far, Gov. Sarah Sanders and her tribe surely will be taking on rampantly woke Northwest Arkansas. What with the University of Arkansas flagship campus, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and its edgy Momentary venue and major international corporations serving customers of all stripes and colors around the globe, we're already on the Far-Right Mafia hit list for our uppity, college-educated ways.
On the heels of the LEARNS and bathroom bills, the Legislature is set to pass Senate Bill 41 by Sen. Rick Hill, R-Cabot. Similar to other ALEC fill-in-the-blank bills in Texas, West Virginia and elsewhere, SB41 (amended as HB1307) would demand that state investments like employee and teacher retirement systems be rid of stocks of companies straying from conservative values. A state oversight committee would develop removal lists of financial service providers that discriminate against energy, fossil fuel, firearms or ammunition companies or otherwise refuse to deal based on environmental, social justice and other governance-related factors. Translation: If it's woke, sell it. The Arkansas Teacher Retirement System's fiduciary performance is rated among the top 10 percent of its peers nationwide, so tinkering with such success is totally illogical unless you consider underlying political gamesmanship.
Even less logical is that if this becomes law, the state would divorce itself from the very face of Arkansas business: Walmart. The national financial press has suggested that Walmart top guy Doug McMillon is the most "woke CEO" in the country because of forward-thinking policies to better serve customers, employees and shareholders in today's business climate.
But since Walmart stores no longer sell guns and their trucks are going "green," the WMT ticker symbol could be a target for state divestiture.
In self-protection, Northwest Arkansas needs to divest ourselves from the state and follow Rep. Greene's amended plan. A checkpoint at the south end of the Bobby Hopper Tunnel will turn away drivers in MAGA hats or vehicles with "Let's Go, Brandon" stickers to protect us from self-destructive craziness beyond our new borders.
Even with our hippy organic farmers gathered about the Fayetteville Square, Bentonville transplants arriving with odd West Coast notions and Coachella-like art and music events, we may be a beacon of sanity and common sense worth protecting.