Riff Raff: Bad habits, predictive journalism, and getting it good and hard

by Michael Tilley (mtilley@talkbusiness.net) 437 views 

Damn bunch of heathens we are, according to state tax collections. Arkansans are drinking more, smoking more and gambling more. Y’all need baby Jesus. Or Buddha. Or a better football program. When’s that medical marijuana become available?

It’s true about our nefarious ways. Figures from the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration show that tax collections for alcohol are up 3.05% in the first five months of the state’s fiscal year. Gambling tax revenue is up almost 10%. And tax revenue from tobacco sales are up almost 2%. It’s a sin trifecta. Our liver, lungs and wallets are as mangled as an impromptu Trump speech.

Increased tax revenue from alcohol, gambling and tobacco amounts to $4.7 million, enough to pay the annual tribute for a football coach. Woo pig sooie, and smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

• Speaking of taxes, Congress is about to approve a re-ordering of the U.S. economy that benefits hardworking Americans. And when they say benefit, they mean bend over and see if this fits.

The legislation is called the “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” because someone had already beaten them to “Let them eat cake.” And yes, I know the cake-eating quote is misattributed to that Antoinette lady, but at least she didn’t say something really stupid like, “Let them eat trickle down cake crumbs.”

An overwhelming majority of economists scoff at the belief that giving the richest among us more money will improve the economy in any significant or long-term way. What it will do is boost the deficit by more than $1.5 trillion. But among the national GOP folks, deficits are no more bothersome than pedophiles because they both are means to preserving power. In more ways than one, they are not concerned about your children.

Here’s the deal. Think of this tax bill as a Monopoly game. The folks who own Boardwalk, Park Place and the railroads and utilities just rewrote the game rules. You hardworking Americans who own Baltic or Vermont Avenues will pay more – or earn less – to pass Go. There’ll be no more Free Parking. Community Chest is now Corporate Money-printing press. Which is all for the best, according to some Senators, because, as we noted with the intro to this essay, you peasants can’t be trusted with money. You’d just spend it on women, booze, movies and other vices.

Arkansas’ Congressional delegation was more than happy to vote for the complex tax bill that literally had amendments illegibly scribbled in the margins. Try turning that shit into your boss or professor.

But let’s not be critical of the six well-heeled white men who represent Arkansas in Congress. We’re to blame. The Arkansas voter to be sure has given them a blank check to make sure our checks are more blank. These six men say the right things about guns, God, gays, the national anthem, job-stealing immigrants, and Muslim terrorists, and in return we praise and re-elect them for voting against our long-term interests.

The great journalist H.L. Mencken saw this coming. He once noted: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

• On the topic of future-telling journalists, y’all should know that Chip Souza is a genius. The extent of the Razorback football disaster was not yet fully realized on Oct. 21 when Souza told me Bielema was out and if the university had any sense they’d hire SMU Coach Chad Morris. Not being a student of college football, had never heard of this Morris fella.

Souza, sports editor at the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, rattled off a long list of reasons Morris made sense for Arkansas. But surely Souza was missing something. It was gonna be Gus, right? Or Leach or Venables or Norvell, right?

On Wednesday (Dec. 6), the University of Arkansas announced Chad Morris as the guy. Can’t wait to take Chip to Oaklawn.

• Back to the issue of medical marijuana, we in Arkansas may yet face another delay in being able to use the natural plant for medicinal purposes. That use was voter approved in November 2016.

Voter-approved medical marijuana was supposed to be available in early 2018. But, gosh, and golly gee, this is complicated, and we’ll have to take it much slower than we allowed opioids to enter the American bloodstream.

It’s safe to say some in Arkansas are concerned that the longer authorities delay the process, the more time it gives U.S. Attorney General Kate McKinnon to block all this reefer madness in the 29 states that have some form of legal marijuana use. Some of the folks in charge of moving forward the Arkansas voter-approved process have made it known they voted against allowing medical marijuana in Arkansas. It could be argued we’ve put Faubus in charge of school integration.

The only problem with the voter-approved amendment was that it didn’t tie the pay of Arkansas’ Constitutional officers and legislators to timely implementation. If that were the case, we’d already have been able to sneak brownies into Razorback games.

Woo pig sooie, and smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

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