Life After Boehner

The political world came to a screeching halt last Friday, when Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) announced his plans to retire from Congress on October 30th of this year. Immediately, there was a frenzy within the chambers of Congress, as Democrats congratulated Boehner for his years of service and Republicans began to look for their new leader. Over the course of the weekend, several potential candidates for Speaker, such as Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) stepped back or appeared weak with support. The Tea Party wing of the party insists they will put up a strong alternative, but as it currently stands Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the current Majority Leader, is the clear frontrunner. Democrats are on the edge of their seat, waiting for some kind of brawl, while Republicans are cautiously optimistic that the Establishment favorite can win the speakership.

But regardless of who becomes the new Speaker, the culture in Washington needs to change. Over the past six and a half years, Americans have seen some of the least productive Congresses to ever serve. While occasionally legislation breaks through, it is rare to see real negotiations take place; everything is associated with a blanket partisan position, instead of comprehensive analysis of the issues at hand. In lieu of real debate, we have seen legislators turn their attention to hot button issues, like Planned Parenthood and Climate Change, but not in order to propose legislation that stands a chance of getting the president’s signature. Instead, legislators are interested in taking hardline positions that are in sync with reality or with what the American people want.
While Speaker Boehner is not the sole culprit in creating this environment, his inability to control the House turned it into a toxic chamber where legislation rarely came out. The next Speaker needs to be willing to cast aside the partisan red meat in order to actually create an environment where compromise and debate can flourish. That task will be difficult, seeing how tensions are high and many members of the Republican caucus appear uninterested in any form of working together with President Obama. But being Speaker should mean a greater obligation to country than party. Democrats should recognize this as well, doing their best to work with the new Speaker, whoever it may be.

In a country facing adversity both home and abroad, dealing with issues ranging from student loan debt to civil rights to inequality, America deserves a Congress that will take these issues head on. Of course there will be disagreements, but the purpose of debate is to help identify common ground and craft legislation that can only take America forward. Speaker Boehner had this vision, but he couldn’t remove enough of the toxicity and vitriolic rhetoric from Washington. And while I’m sure Speaker Boehner and his critics are relieved to see him retire in just over a month, I don’t think most of the country gains any relief from this at all. Hopefully the next Speaker can find a way to bring universal relief to the American public, not just the Congress and a few loud pundits.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/28/politics/kevin-mccarthy-running-speaker-freedom-caucus/index.html

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/29/in-late-spurt-of-activity-congress-avoids-least-productive-title/

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/09/house-republican-leadership-scalise-mccarthy-boehner-price-214184

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The Direct Approach

When talking of job creation, many will likely have noticed the vacuous nature of the economic conversation. Whether you are a conservative proposing tax cuts and regulatory cuts or a liberal advocating increased education and infrastructure spending, job creation is always cast in the same light. It is depicted as the derivative result of some other policy.

Just take the following examples. Increased education spending, it is said, will increase the economy’s capability to produce the high-tech jobs of tomorrow (whatever they might be). Tax cuts will cause investors to spend more on factories and equipment resulting in more hiring. Boosting social programs will allow consumers to spend more in economic downturns. Cutting regulations will allow jobs to be created more easily. Starting to see the pattern? In a sense, these policies can be referred to as “indirect” job creation efforts. Job creation is the result of some ripple effect caused by a government policy or project that does something else in the immediate time frame. Both the left and the right rely on these assumptions and arguments and they form the basis of neoclassical economic theories on government policy.

Note. The White House released a report in May 2009 that estimated job gains from the Recovery Act. It had three definitions of government sponsored job creation: direct, indirect, and induced. Direct jobs are those created strictly for a particular project (paving a road). Indirect jobs are those created in the industries providing supplies for the project (cement manufacturers). Induced jobs are those created elsewhere in the economy through various ripple effects caused by increased income (a local restaurant profits from increased nearby activity). My definition of indirect job creation invokes both the latter two.

But they have their limits. For one thing, talk of full employment has utterly faded from the policy world and from the economic catalog of the mainstream left. And we can see the results. Throughout the developed world, employment recovery has been agonizingly slow even as economic growth (sort of) returns, corporate profits soar, and stock markets approach their previous highs. In parts of Europe, employment recovery is nonexistent and unemployment remains at depression levels. In America, while unemployment rates might have dropped, underemployment is abnormally high. Many people are stuck with low paying, low-skilled jobs that will do nothing to secure their long term finances.

Clearly, our policy prescriptions have been limited in their effectiveness. Now, none of this is to say that pursuing indirect job creation is a bad thing. As I said, all kinds of government policy (even policy not specifically targeting employment) depends upon economic ripple effects. But the fact remains that current Western efforts haven’t adequately addressed long-term employment problems. And more needs to be done.

As you can probably tell from this article, that something revolves heavily around direct job creation efforts, government policies and projects done with the sole purpose of increasing the number of employed people and jobs. I drew my initial inspiration from the Roosevelt Institute itself. One of its namesakes, FDR, become a modern liberal icon precisely because of jobs he directly created through the New Deal. Other sources include the Congressional Progressive Caucus which has released several proposals containing direct-hire public works corps. These kinds of policies are incredibly varied. They can include anything from expanding the military, rehiring conventional public sector employees, to recreating the Civilian Conservation Corps.

In whatever form it might come, reviving direct hiring would not only create more jobs more quickly, but it would tear open the political straight jacket the left trapped itself in by supporting austerity. But there’s another plus. Full employment, a goal that’s been neglected by progressives since the 1970s, could be revived as a legitimate vision. The damning statistics behind unemployment fail to convey the massive costs to society of long-term joblessness, costs that hinder current indirect job policies: skills deterioration, loss of employability, disengagement from economic life, etc. Ending mass joblessness via direct hiring represents one of the many proverbial silver bullets needed to tackle these and many other societal ailments.

I’ll end with this. Direct hiring has its political weaknesses. Those must be addressed but first, there needs to be a definitive model with firm academic backing. There is and it’s the one I’ll address next time: the government becomes an employer of last resort through a job guarantee.

 

Playing Defense: Tribulations of the Left

Europe. American progressives have, for years, hailed the continent as an icon of social progress. Europe, to us, represents visionary governance, an image of what public sectors can do to alleviate the worst afflictions of modern society: hunger, poverty, inequality, and illness. Universal healthcare, free tertiary education and generous social safety nets constitute the tools of this Social Democratic project, tools many American Progressives have struggled to import. 

The admiration is so deep that the quip, “I’d be a conservative in Europe,” is chanted wistfully even on the most liberal of American campuses. And it’s not without some truth. The line between the right and left in Europe, to the advantage of working people across the continent, isn’t demarcated over the existence of a welfare state. But American activists need to be increasingly cautious about any identification or praise for European political parties, even those on the left. For all their achievements, these parties are slowly walking away from the very institutions that made them so alluring. 

Austerity measures are cutting welfare payments, restructuring pensions, reducing public sector employment, slashing wages, and curbing investments in infrastructure. Despite the competition between traditional center left and right parties, both sides have generally continued this trend. The British Labor Party is arguing internally over whether it should agree to welfare caps imposed by its Conservative rivals. Francois Hollande’s French Socialists have suffered their own internal divisions over spending cuts. Germany’s SPD leader, Sigmar Gabriel, strongly blasted Greeks for voting against European Bailout Provisions (containing required austerity measures). Even the Greek radical left government of Alexis Tsipras seemingly betrayed its own heritage as an anti-austerity movement when it finally agreed to the humiliating bailout deal. 

That the right in Europe would advocate scaling back Social Democratic structures is easy to understand. The rising influence of free-market economics laid the blame for sclerotic growth squarely at the feet of the supposedly inefficient public sector. Center-right parties, with their inevitable friendliness to business, easily took up the mantle of promoting efficiency and competitiveness. But why the left would advocate similar policies is harder to fathom. It has partly to do with the fact that the influence of free market orthodoxy affected social democratic parties too, hence the rise of third way movements represented by politicians like Manuel Valls or Tony Blair who argue that moving to the center is critical to winning elections. But the dual combination of the Eurozone Crisis and the Great Recession played an even larger role. Even as they came to power opposing austerity measures, center left parties felt obliged to implement less stringent measures anyway. The argument, often dubbed by economists as TINA (There is No Alternative), is a powerful one precisely because it holds true for countries who want to stay in the Euro but can’t possibly convince Brussels and Berlin to push the kind of fiscal union necessary to make it work. 

So the mainstream European left is stuck. It’s witnessing seventy years worth of policy achievements being whittled away. But the best it can argue with its electorates is that it represents a supposedly ‘kinder’ way of implementing austerity. It won’t (or can’t) argue for policies like increased fiscal stimulus, jobs programs, or even more robust welfare. Whether these parties were forced into this position or not is moot. Their actions are affecting the electoral vitality  of the European left. Francois Hollande, the Socialist French President, is extremely unpopular. The British Labor Party just received a sound drubbing this past May. And the Syriza Coalition may just fracture or disappear as the Greek PASOK party did three years back. This trend isn’t limited to Europe. Center left parties in Canada, Australia, and even Israel haven’t been doing well at the polls precisely because they haven’t been presenting major alternatives to current economic policy. 

The lessons for the United States are indicative. The Democratic Party, especially at the state level, is struggling to defend welfare systems against public spending cuts. In many cases, it’s actively implementing them. In the long term, especially if party activists truly hope to import the best that Social Democratic policies have to offer (and its debatable if they do), this is a flawed strategy. There’s a limit to arguing that defending the public sector as a positive force is best achieved by cutting its funding and staff. Europe is actively playing host to those limitations now with catastrophic results for its economy and integration efforts.

The answer, both for Europe’s future and our own, is for the left to actively tackle the orthodoxies that plague centrist politics and to seriously promote the very programs it has long dreamed of and, in Europe’s case, actually achieved. For them, it would mean renewed efforts to repair damaged social safety nets, completely reversing austerity, and refusing to accept a Eurozone without the fiscal transfers to make it work (backed by a willingness to leave the currency if need be). For us in America, rejecting the triangulation of the Clinton era must go hand in hand with energetically supporting and pushing for measures like the restoration of Glass Steagall, single payer, free tertiary education. 

The short lesson is this. To have any chance of achieving one’s political desires, one’s views must at least exist in Justice William O’Douglas’ “marketplace of ideas.” We are at a point in history where the market is ready to hear these ideas and to take them in; we must oblige. The alternative is a social democratic movement permanently on the defensive and, inevitably, on the decline. 

 

The Need for Keynes. Repeated.

It’s not everyday that one finds economic opinion piece like this in Reuters. Anatole Kaletsky, an economic writer and author of Capitalism 4.0 penned an article with the same thesis that under-girded every one of my previous policy articles: that government spending in the Western world is both necessary and too low to revive economic growth. I welcome this piece, but there are a few things to comment on. But first some context.

The Context

Both the United States and Europe are still “recovering” from the effects of the Great Recession. In terms of GDP figures, the United States has generally performed better than Europe since it was willing to run extremely high deficits in the first three years following the recession. Europe took a different track. The periphery countries (think Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain which will henceforth be known as PIGS) undertook incredibly harsh austerity measures. Public spending was slashed, public employees were sacked, and state assets were liquidated,all of this in the context of tax increases and wage cuts.

In a recession, when most private entities are cutting back spending, the only way to maintain or increase unemployment is if somebody steps in and spends enough to revive sales which in turn revives hiring. In the absence of private spending, Keynesian thought turns to the government as the “spender of last resort.” If the government tap is shut off as well, then economies can take ages to recover; or they can enter into multiple and repetitive recessions (look up Triple Dip Recession). What’s worse is that not only did Europe cut off the tap of spending, but its tax increases and wage cuts further reduced the capacity of individuals to spend. It’s a cycle that’s producing political instability across the continent and is allowing our generation to witness, for the first time since World War II, a major revival of far-right parties in major European countries.

Obviously, none of this discussion takes government debt into account, the obvious justification for the aforementioned austerity policies. I’ve written in the past on the West’s ability to run deficits, but for now I’ll leave you with two possible assumptions to put your collective minds at ease. With near zero interest rates, governments can run deficits without serious fiscal risk for the time being. For the economically risque, let’s also assume that governments like America’s (with control of their own currencies), can run deficits ad infinitum provided that their present monetary structures continue unchanged.

The Commentary

With all that in mind, it’s worth noting that the article isn’t entirely correct about the United States’ fiscal policy. Before the sequester, the Budget Control Act of 2011, or the Fiscal Cliff, we had it at the state level. Public spending cuts, wage and pension cuts, mass public sector layoffs, and restrictions on unionization all started before the Federal Government lifted a finger to cut spending. And by nearly every indication, they’ve hamstrung Federal efforts to revive hiring. Nearly every state has some sort of balanced budget provision which means that they can’t even consider spending extra without taxing more; and with anti-tax sentiment pervading the political right even that becomes a nonstarter. The result is an orgy of decimation for what’s left of our government services and an economy that continually lacks the necessary orders to force businesses to hire.

Then there’s a different problem. Kaletsky ends by remarking that we have arrived in another era of Keynesian dominance. Have we really? You could have fooled me. Europe may have slowed down on cuts but nobody, here or there, is about to start ramping up spending in any significant way. All incoming governments, left or right, are busy convincing voters they can be fiscally prudent. Germany, the bulwark of current European economic policy, is still as intransigence as ever to any paradigm shifts. Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe’s fiscal stimulus is running aground against a coming sales tax hike. And the American public is likely about to return a reactionary, economically illiterate set of politicians to control the Senate. To top it off, any “Keynesian” policy now will just be governments running higher deficits in and of themselves.

That’s not enough. Remember that many Western nations run foreign deficits of some sort (trade, balance of payment, or current account deficits) which all involve local currency leaving the economy to purchase foreign products. At minimum, government deficits need to be at least high enough to fill in the gap and that’s if we want the private sector to be in the black. We do by the way.

But even then, that wouldn’t be enough. The United States ran effective deficits for a few years after the recession. But recall that unemployment never fell fast enough before we started cutting spending. Yes, GDP rebounded.. But GDP, while it’s the most common valuation method for economic activity, isn’t directly linked with our most important social indicators. POLICY matters as well. For example. The Obama stimulus was divided between tax cuts, social safety net measures, and lack luster infrastructure building projects. Economists at the time noted that the monetary value was likely insufficient and once the spending petered out, the positive effects on the economy began vanishing. Something permanent and renewable is needed. It has to be something that permanently reforms our economy away from a pure reliance on monetary policy or sole private sector investment as a source of growth. More on that next time. If there’s a takeaway from Kaletsky’s blog article and my own, it’s the following. It is the height of foolishness to disregard the largest entity in any economy, an entity with the largest amount of funds, an entity that makes the rules in an economy, and the entity that has stepped in to save it countless times before.

Chirag

Advances.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in a majority of states. After the Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the appeals of several judicial decisions, 32 states now allow same-sex couples to marry, representing over 60% of the country’s population.. Several more states merely require state-level cases to validate federal circuit-court rulings. The inevitability of this social shift seems confirmed, but resistance to same-sex marriage is especially strong in the Southern and Midwestern states. In fact, broad swaths of the Midwest and the South were affected by the Court’s decisions, with many more states still embroiled in legal disputes over the future of marriage rights within their borders. Despite its landmark (in) decision, the Supreme Court is still looked to by both sides to resolve the issue of constitutionality? Yet some advocates, in the wake of this most recent development, now fear that a Supreme Court ruling has the potential to do far more practical harm than good if the court rules against same-sex marriage or ambivalently. Likewise, the position of many opposing groups have flipped; those who have been decrying “judicial activism” and “overruling the people” now turn to the Court to undo what they see as damage done by lower courts. Either way, it is likely that this country will have a decisive ruling on the matter within a year. But until that moment, we are going to see conflict, particularly in those states where judicial decisions are being sought or appealed over the issue.

Much like past battles over discrimination policies, ethnic voting rights, and women’s suffrage, the current patchwork of states that allow, deny, or are sorting through their stance on same sex marriage almost demands resolution by the federal courts. Take Arkansas, for instance. The Natural State holds many of the same bogus interpretations of “natural law” as others in the Bible Belt. Arkansas proudly boasted 75% popular support for 2004 amendment to the state constitution limiting recognition of marriage to those between a male and a female. In arguments before Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza in 2014, the state argued that the amendment and an accompanying law were vital to protecting children, tradition, and procreation. Thinly veiled religious arguments were insufficient in the eyes of the court, and Piazza ruled against the ban and the amendment:

A marriage license is a civil document and is not, nor can it be, based upon any particular faith. Same-sex couples are a morally disliked minority and the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages is driven by animus rather than a rational basis. This violates the United States Constitution (Piazza, 2014).

The next few days were filled with stories of hundreds of same-sex couples receiving marriage license. The last few months have seen an eventual stay on the marriages until the Arkansas Supreme Court rules on the issue, their public endorsement/denial by elected officials and county clerks, and outpourings of support and vitriol from opposing sides. Piazza may have made himself the most hated person in the state for upholding constitutional law over the ever-so- scared “will of the people,” at least among those who can’t seem to quite grasp the notion of judicial review.

If I seem touchy on this subject, it’s because I am deeply ashamed of how many of my fellow Arkansans seem ignorant of or willing to ignore the provisions of the Constitution in order to preserve a system of discrimination. Like the cry of “States’ Rights!” heard in national debates, “The Will of the People” is little more than code for local majority tyranny, and has been the half-legitimate argument against every advancement in civil rights since the 1950s. But I digress.

Aside from its Supreme Court case, Arkansas also has a case set to go before a federal judge on this issue. Both cases, however, are overshadowed in most people’s mind by the inevitable decision form the US Supreme Court. It is tempting for advocates and opponents alike to let the state and federal cases rest until the constitutionality of the issue is decided. However, abandoning the fight for equality grants a de-facto victory to the proponents of discrimination. As we await a Supreme Court ruling, there are millions of citizens in this country whose rights are either protected or stripped away based on which side of state border they stand on. Every day this remains the case is day we the people shame the legacy of freedom and equality left to us by preceding generations.

A local conservative editorialist masquerading as a libertarian once penned a column on what comes after marriage equality. He seemed to be of the opinion that the evil homosexual agenda would never rest until honest, God-and-Gays-fearing ministers were arrested for preaching on the subject. I would like to note that the local fight over hiring/firing LGTBQ people based on their sexuality or gender identity is only just beginning, and it hardly seems the stuff of conservative nightmares. Well, unless those nightmares consist of a world in which businesses can’t hire, fire, or mistreat employees because of who they are. The recent ordinance in Fayetteville extends existing employment, housing, and accommodation protections to LGTBQ citizens. Churches are exempt from many of the provisions, so the dreaded “gaystapo” (not my word) will not be busting down church doors demanding to use opposite-sex restrooms.

We live in a deeply divided nations, and an even more deeply divided state. On the one hand we have a tiny minority and those who believe they are citizens with the rights of citizens. On the other hand we have those who have lived and worked beside this minority for the entire history of this country without suffering any harm at their hands whatsoever, and yet believe that acknowledging their rights would spell disaster for the family, children, and general morality. While we await what I sincerely hope will be a Supreme Court ruling in favor of those rights, we must not forget that this is not over. We should fight beside our fellow citizens for their rights the day before the Supreme Court rules and the day after. We must carry this fight on until everyone enjoys equal liberty under the law.

The Statistics Aren’t Enough

In the past few weeks Janay Rice has been infamously known for suffering abuse at the hands of her fiancée, NFL quarterback, Ray Rice. Janay Rice’s intimate life and privacy were targeted and violated as she experienced weeks of vulnerability, pain, and distress. Stories such as these are stories about failure—failures in decency, jurisprudence, compassion, empathy, ethics, and judgment.

Rice was initially suspended for two games. Now that the second video has been leaked, Ray Rice has been released from the Baltimore Ravens and has been suspended from the NFL indefinitely. However, law enforcement has failed to intervene and provide Rice with the punishment that he deserved for knocking out Janay and dragging her body like a rag doll.

It will not be long until there will be another professional athlete, or actor, or singer who commits an act of domestic violence, and the same conversations will arise. The victim will be interrogated for her choices. The perpetrator’s behavior will be rationalized. People will stare at the images of a woman’s bruised or limp body that the media releases. And then we will proceed on to the next story. It is a distasteful cycle and it is time to break away.

Domestic violence is such a problem that there are “fact sheets” effortlessly summarizing the extent of the problem. These statistics have been amassed to illustrate the reality of domestic violence. These statistics have been compiled as if quantifying the problem might make a difference. So far, it has not. We know the statistics, but they bear repeating. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence survey estimates that there are 42,420,000 victims of such violence in the United States. One in four women and 1 in 7 men suffered severe physical violence by an intimate partner. 9.4 percent of high school students experience violence from an intimate partner in 2010.

There are always more statistics. There are always more ways we can quantify suffering, but we seemingly have no idea what to do with this information. To this day, most domestic violence goes unreported. Statistics are not enough. Statistics don’t make victims of domestic violence feel safe enough to share their stories or get the help they need. We have given them no reason to feel safe. Domestic violence shelters across the country struggle to serve the victims in need because there are so many, and these shelters are working with so little. Law enforcement seems ill equipped when providing the necessary safety and support a woman needs to level charges against her abuser. Prosecuting these crimes and negotiating the justice system introduces further complications, if the crimes are prosecuted at all.

And, of course, we have rather grand and indulgent ideas about what women in abusive relationships should do. We have opinions about what we would do in her situation, as if our opinions or beliefs have any resemblance to the actual experience. She should leave him, we say. She should press charges. She should get a restraining order. She should go to a shelter. And when a woman doesn’t make the choices we approve of, she, rather than her abuser, is left with the responsibility and cause for her suffering. So very little empathy or kindness for women in abusive relationships is provided. People do not want to hear real stories about what it’s like endure such relationships. People do not want to hear how love and fear and pride and shame shape the decisions made in abusive relationships. People do not want to hear the truth because it is too complicated. Abused women are left with nowhere to go. They are forced into silence and invisibility.
In a perfect world, yes, a woman should leave an abusive relationship. She should have the emotional, physical, and financial means to do so. She should be supported by law enforcement and the justice system. She should receive counseling and emotional support. She should be given safe passage to a new life. However, we do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world where Janay Palmer was not believed to be abused until there was hard evidence—the appalling video of her being knocked out with a single blow by an NFL athlete. Even with such brutal evidence, Ray Rice still has his defenders, and he will likely get third and fourth and fifth chances.

Grace

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/

Steven, Ebola, and Texas. Thoughts of a Mystic Man.

Today is one of those days where I feel like talking for a little while about several things, rather than talking for great long while on one thing.

So, let’s start off where we left off, or rather, with what we left off. You see, the topic of last week’s blog, Zaire ebolavirus, has managed to find its way into a new country. Specifically, Texas. Yes, the good ol’ Lone Star Republic is the proud home of yet one more thing the rest of the country doesn’t have (or want). If I seem to be striking a lighthearted tone, you’re on to something. I’m sure that by the time this post goes up, the Internets will be ablaze with more formless conjecture, ill-informed terror, and honestly stupid solutions than you could pan out of a Texas Board of Education meeting (Ok, I’ll stop messing with Texas; next week I’m coming after Iowa).

And this is scary, if only really terrifying for a very sick man and the family he came to visit. But, as I said last week, this disease has been a daily horror for thousands of people long before it passed through our golden doors. And, in typical American fashion, we have pretty much ignored it. The one exception to that noble redirection of attention came, of course, when we brought our own infected doctors home for treatment, which elicited thoughtful suggestions that they be returned immediately to Sierra Leone. So if I appear to be treating the suffering and likely death of a fellow human being as something of little consequence, something to be made light of, I would counter that we as a nation have treated the largest and deadliest outbreak of one of the deadliest diseases on the planet pretty darn lightly until now. And I would further argue that we have done this because we are, or we have been, above all, safe. We have considered ourselves, our concerns I can trust in the medical officials in charge of this case to keep me and the rest of this country safe from the spread of this virus.

And maybe I do take a little perverse pleasure in the fact that this disease has arrived within the borders of a state that is exceptionally proud of its supposed independence from the rest of the country. Coming from a state that used to make similar “all-we-need-we have” noises, I understand the desire to brag about what we don’t need to take rather than examine what we can give. Of course the US, and to a lesser extent Texas, doesn’t need other nations or states to care for this man. We are pretty much safe; I can afford to make light. But there are about 22 million people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone -and now a dozen or so more in Dallas- who cannot.

Speaking of Texas, I’d like to take a moment to discuss some ball. Last week’s Texas A&M/Hogs game had the predictable outcome, but a much more complex road to Aggie victory than most foresaw. The Hog’s were actually winning for a shining moment; hell, we were 14 up at the end of the third! That is, until the fresh Aggie defence came in during the fourth quarter with a near-perfect counter to our running game. Now I am no expert, but I know people who are, and they and my eyeballs were in agreement over the pitiful shortfalls of said running game. Needing to make significant yardage in each play, with little or no effective alternatives, the Hogs were finally stopped by a defense that simply refused to allow them to run down the freakin’ middle. Again. If that’s all in takes to shut down our offense late-game, maybe we should encourage the good coach Beiliemia to reconsider his focus on a power running team. This is the SEC; we know how to break short runs.

My secondary point is that this is yet another opportunity to reexamine our priorities when comes to finances and football. Yes, the Hogs are getting better. Yes, the program brings in millions to UA every year. Yes, the athletes work long and hard for their scholarships. And, still yes, the name of the game is Higher Education. The Hogs brought nearly 100 million big ones home in 2013, shattering budget expectations. They took out 92 million in expenses, but that still left a heathy 8 million lying about. That’s enough to double the current scholarships provided by the program. Can we, perhaps, consider reinvesting it in direct financial support for the 20,000+ non-athletes at the U of A? You know, the ones who are there for pure academic attainment. Or even as scholarships for the sports teams who had average GPA’s higher than 3.0. All fourteen of them. All I’m trying to say is that that the football team casts a long shadow for a struggling program. Maybe we should think about moving the rank-and-file, or their co-athletes, out from under it.

And, finally, lets talk about the truth, boys and girls. We are getting philosophic today, because I need more space filled. If you ask the average person (laypeople, priests, your state Representative, members of ISIS), what the truth is, they are likely to point to a set of old writings or an objective, concrete fact. Now, here’s your weekly food for thought:
A woman and a man go into a river. The water is deep and wide, but they find a comfortable place to stand and feel it rushing by them. The man takes a spoon, dips it into the water, and lifts it up again crying “See! I have found the river!” He goes back to village to educate his brothers on the particular properties of his spoonful of water, and to analyze it down to the molecular level. The woman stays in the stream, taking the realities of each spoonful as they come, and letting each slip back through her fingers. What is the truth?

Well, see you folks next week.

http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/s930-ebola-confirmed-case.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2014/09/30/cdc-confirms-first-case-of-ebola-in-the-u-s/

http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/30/health/ebola-us/index.html

http://newswire.uark.edu/articles/23075/razorback-student-athletes-exceed-3-0-gpa-for-eighth-consecutive-semester

http://www.wholehogsports.com/news/2014/jun/05/report-razorbacks-near-100-million-annual-revenue/

http://www.arkansasbusiness.com/article/93095/university-of-arkansas-athletic-department-projects-806-million-budget-for-2013-14