Robert Butler has worn many professional hats during his life and has lived and traveled all over the world. The 66-year-old from Marmaduke is hoping the voters in Arkansas’ First Congressional District will let him wear one more hat and live in one more place – Washington D.C.
Butler told Talk Business & Politics he will seek the district’s Democratic nomination. Mike Nelson has already announced he’ll seek the same nomination. The winner will challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, next fall.
“I’m not running against Mike Nelson. I’m not running against Rick Crawford. I’m running for the office,” Butler said. “I’ve always had an interest. I have the time. I’ve run out of excuses not to run.”
This will be the first political office Butler has sought. Should he be elected, one of his prime objectives will be to craft legislation to completely overhaul the U.S. healthcare system. He wants to eliminate Medicare and Medicaid and revamp the entire insurance and health provider system. In 2015, about $3.3 trillion was spent in totality on healthcare in the country, and the system is too costly and coverage and end results aren’t good enough, he said.
Every single American citizen and legal immigrants would be covered from birth to death in this new system, he said. A National Health Insurance Trust Fund would be established. A tax on sugar, salt, alcohol, tobacco, and other health altering ingredients would partially pay for the program. A tax on healthcare services would be another possible revenue stream, he said.
The system would have a national board overseeing it, he said. The board would be comprised of insurance company executives, doctors, and other private sector partners with a vested interest in the healthcare system, he said. Congress would appoint the board, but wouldn’t have any authority over its decisions, he said.
Insurance companies could keep providing insurance and would be paid a fee, per person, each month from the fund. For catastrophic care, such as cancer treatments, the insurance companies would have to send a bill to the fund to get the expense approved. Insurance companies would only be allowed to extract a 10% profit from these services. There are many details that have to be ironed out, but his plan is good start, he said.
Butler supports term limits for Congress, and if elected he would work to overhaul the the federal government. He might even support changes to the U.S. Constitution such as changing the president’s term to a single, six-year term. Butler said the electoral college should be abolished, and Congress needs to pass a balanced budget amendment. He said he’s not anti-Republican, and would work with the GOP on legislation he thinks will be good for the country.
He may have never served in elected public office, but he’s had a lot of real-world experience, he said.
Butler spent eight years as an accountant in the public and private sector. He spent seven years in restaurant college food service sector and taught high school English for 12 years. Butler has worked as a security officer, and worked in the maintenance department at the Arkansas State University Convocation Center.
During his life he’s lived in states across the country, and lived for a time in Venezuela and Columbia. His varied work and living experiences have helped him to develop an understanding and an empathy for people who come from varied backgrounds and walks of life, he said.
In his spare time Butler is an avid golfer, and works or runs at least five miles per day. He likes to write short stories, novels, screen plays, stage plays, and others. He has three adult children.
Butler doesn’t know when he first decided he would seek public office, but he does have one vivid political memory. He was a teenager, living in Louisiana. He’d just finished playing a game of basketball when President Lyndon Johnson made a surprise announcement on television. The sitting president told the nation he would not seek or accept his party’s nomination in 1968.
Those around Butler burst into applause.
“Everybody was turned off by the Vietnam War … a lot of people remember where they were when Kennedy was shot or where they were when 911 happened. I remember that,” he said.