Editor’s note: John Burris is a former member of the Arkansas Legislature and the author of this opinion column.
Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics.
The day of thanks is approaching. President Lincoln designated a Thursday in November as the time to be grateful for things we enjoy. He was right about most things – especially the big ones – so this is an attempt to help some remember what it is for which they should be thankful.
The basics should always be mentioned. Our country is free. People are mostly safe. The system is fair, even if not perfect. We’re largely able to succeed or fail while living the life we choose to live.
Arkansas has a political scene that’s easily engaged and leaders who are generally accessible. Unemployment is down. Workforce participation is up. The income tax rate is lower than it used to be. We now have five insurance carriers instead of one.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson has the privilege of leading us at this moment in time. He can be grateful that the state Legislature isn’t like the Washington D.C. Congress. Here, problems can still be solved, not just talked about.
Some problems are big, but simple. The Healthcare Reform Task Force can thank consultant John Stephen and team for their diligent work in compiling a book of options for Medicaid reform. He laid the path for hundreds of millions of dollars in savings, which conservatives said they wanted. The hard work is done. Only the decisions are left.
Speaking of politics, Arkansas Republicans have much to be grateful for. A record number of candidates and the filing fees they pay will mean continued electoral dominance.
Democrats, meanwhile, should be thankful that the sun always comes up, there’s always a bounce when you hit bottom, and whatever other cliché might apply to a political party with no where to go but up. Barack Obama only has a year left in office. They’ll hope to pretend as if the last eight years have never happened. But you can’t really un-ring the bell. The party is moving leftward, probably permanently, a few Southern holdouts notwithstanding.
For an example see Conner Eldridge, a Democrat in name only, who should thank Bill Halter for not challenging his anointment as nominee for the United States Senate. If faced with a choice, voters might have chosen a Democrat to represent the Democratic Party. Instead, they’ll settle for mediocre representation of style and substance.
Hillary Clinton proves that mediocre representations of style and substance are sometimes enough to win. Sometimes they’re not, a fact for which Marco Rubio can give thanks.
Donald Trump and Curtis Coleman can give thanks for the following of voters who prove some people will buy anything from anyone. They should also be grateful for hats.
Criminals and tire manufacturers should thank the leadership at Little Rock City Hall. As roads crumble and jails overflow, city leaders are trying to raise taxes to solve problems few care about. Apparent priorities include more bus routes, keeping an art center from moving to North Little Rock, and spending a hundred million dollars to add a bunch of glass to the back of Robinson Auditorium. Maybe the plan is for the thieves to be caught because potholes and traffic jams stall their getaway.
Forgetting politics, the Razorbacks are better than they were. We’re nowhere near our low, which came 23 years ago in a loss to The Citadel. The University of South Carolina arrived at that painful place last week. Be thankful we’re somewhere between that place and where we should be.
Arkansans get to witness the beautiful colors of fall from a trail or a road. And no matter where you are, there’s likely a restaurant nearby with character, a friendly server, and a hot cheese dip waiting to be eaten.
The ducks are now flying. The horses of Oaklawn will soon be running.
All of these things, small or large, deserve our thanks.
A man once said he knew of two absolute truths: things are always getting better, but people always think they’re getting worse.
I think he was right, at least about the first part. I am thankful for that.