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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers

July 31, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Arkansas newspapers:

Southwest Times Record. July 29, 2018.

When Paul B. Beran arrived at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith in 2006, he saw a very different university than the one he’ll say goodbye to at the end of August.

Much credit for the university’s growth and development in the past 12 years goes to Dr. Beran, who is leaving his role as chancellor to become executive director and chief executive officer of the South Dakota Higher Education Board of Regents. He arrived in Fort Smith when the school was just a few years removed from being known as “Westark College” and still coming into its own as part of the University of Arkansas System.

The changes in that time vary from educational (an expansion of bachelor’s degrees and addition of a graduate program) to athletic (the Lions joining the Division II ranks and annual trips to the postseason) to structural (construction of Windgate Art & Design, expansion of Boreham Library and creation of the Recreation and Wellness Center). Expansion plans continue, including for more housing for students as enrollment (and graduation rates) continue to rise. UAFS currently holds the distinction of being the most affordable university in the state, according to recent numbers from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, something that surely will attract even more students to Fort Smith in the coming years.

And while Dr. Beran certainly had a strong supporting staff at UAFS to bring these endeavours into reality, it’s the chancellor’s job to oversee, encourage and support what’s happening at a university. No one can walk into the beautiful Windgate building, attend a concert or cheer on the Lions volleyball, basketball or baseball teams and be unaware of the impact the university has on this town. It’s amazing to see where the university is today compared with its beginnings as Fort Smith Junior College. Dr. Beran is who UAFS needed as its leader for the past dozen years, and its students and alumni, as well as Fort Smith as a whole, have reaped the benefits.

“Our Fort Smith campus has made tremendous strides both in the depth and quality of their programs under the leadership of Dr. Beran,” Donald R. Bobbitt, University of Arkansas System president, said as news of Beran’s departure became known. “I want to thank Dr. Beran for his commitment and hard work toward making UAFS an attractive, state-of-the-art educational option for Arkansans, and an important contributor to the UA System’s institutional portfolio. I wish him much success in this new professional challenge as we look to find someone to continue building upon the strong foundation Dr. Beran has put in place.”

Dr. Beran additionally made a name for himself by being a leader within the community, not just at the university. As foster-care numbers in our area grew, he committed to serving as chairman of the Restore Hope Alliance of Sebastian County. He also served as a member of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority and was a vocal supporter of a millage increase to support Fort Smith Public Schools (which voters passed in May). In 2017, he and his wife, Janice, served as honorary chairmen for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. In short, Dr. Beran was an advocate for our community, and we thank him for that.

Dr. Beran leaves UAFS — and Fort Smith — a better place. Our community will lose a true leader when he departs Aug. 31. We wish him well and thank him for his contributions to our city. Best of luck to the person who is hired to fill Dr. Beran’s position. It will be a difficult task.

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Texarkana Gazette. July 31, 2018.

Former — and possibly future — presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has been a proponent of “Medicare for all” as a way of ensuring Americans have access to adequate health care.

The idea is that such coverage would likely cut down on medical costs since a single payer — the U.S. government — could better negotiate fees for health care services and administration costs. Which sounds really good — in theory.

The problem — which supporters and Sanders himself avoid addressing — is how much it would cost and how to pay for it.

The Mercatus Center, a free-market think tank at George Mason University, tackled that question, and in a study released Monday they put the price tag at $32.6 trillion_yes, trillion_over 10 years.

The report showed the plan would have significant savings on prescription drugs and overall health care administration. But it added that increased demand would drive overall costs higher because all Americans would be required to have coverage and there would be no co-pays or deductibles under the Sanders plan.

So where would the money come from?

No one can say. But according to the Mercatus Center, doubling taxes on individuals and corporations wouldn’t cover the cost of “Medicare for all.”

Sanders, of course, rejects the study.

In our view, ever-rising health care costs and insurance premiums, along with the millions who remain without any coverage at all, is a problem that needs to be seriously addressed. But government single-payer coverage without a way to pay for it_save for overburdening taxpayers_is not the way to go. While there is a limit to what people can pay for health care, there is a limit as well to what they can afford to pay the government to handle it for them.

Socialized medicine, like “free college for all,” sounds good. But the numbers just don’t add up.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. July 31, 2018.

Why, how could this be anything but good news? And top-of-the-front-page good news at that. How often does good news make it above the fold?

The story was in all the papers, and even on CNN, if you can believe it. The United States’ economy accelerated in the last quarter at what’s called an “annual rate of 4.1 percent.” In lay (newspaper) man’s terms, that’s called chugging along with a full head of economic steam. The gross domestic product was anything but gross in the second quarter of the year. It was beautiful.

Aw shoot, might as well allow the president to brag on this one. So many criticize him for his exaggerations, why not let him spike the ball when he’s earned it? Reports allege that even Mitt Romney cuts loose once in a while.

“We’re on track to hit the highest annual average growth rate in over 13 years,” President Trump triumphantly announced. “And I will say this right now and I will say strongly: As the trade deals come in one by one, we’re going to go a lot higher than these numbers.”

We’ll see. What’s not up for debate is that 4.1 percent from the last quarter. That’s in the books.

Yet there are many, including those who study economics, the dismal science, who simply won’t give the president credit--for this or anything else. There are many of us who feel free to criticize Donald Trump when he tweets something offensive. Why not give him credit when things are going swimmingly?

For the numbers don’t lie: The American economy of April-June was the best since the third quarter of 2014. Can this be explained by tax cuts, tax reforms and the easing of regulations under this administration? Well, those policies don’t hurt. We suspicion that all those who won’t give this president credit when things are this good would have no trouble yelling bloody recession if the GDP number had been closer to 1.1 percent.

Maybe some folks just get reflexively angry when the president and his supporters seem happy. It reminds us what Baron Macaulay once said about bear baiting: The Puritans didn’t hate it so much because it hurt the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.

But it’s hard to be upbeat in the dismal science. So a number of explanations were trotted out last week to curb our enthusiasm:

“We believe quarter two will represent a growth peak as the boost from tax cuts fades, global growth moderates, inflation rises, the Fed tightens monetary policy and trade protectionism looms over the economy,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. How’d you like him to plan your party?

“The second quarter was a strong quarter, but it was juiced up by the tax cuts and higher government spending,” said another chief economist, Mark Zandi at Moody’s Analytics. “We will come pretty close to stalling out in 2020 because the growth we are seeing now is not sustainable.”

Quoth another economist from some outfit unfortunately called the Economic Cycle Research Institute: “President Trump should celebrate (last week’s) number because it is going to ease from here.”

Gosh, gentlemen, tone it down.

So, if we have this straight, the consensus seems to be: The country’s economy is doing great right now, but every silver lining has a dark cloud. The country can’t keep up with this kind of good news. And compared to last quarter, things are only going to get worse. (They can’t get better.) So start collecting anything with a pointy end. The zombie apocalypse awaits. And if Arkansas beats Alabama 63-0 in one week, they’ll never score that many points against Auburn the next. Things are always looking . . . dismal.

In the last quarter, consumer spending drove the bus as people spent more of their own money--thank you, tax cuts. Exports grew. Critics quickly pointed out that exports may have got a major boost because exporters wanted to rush some products, like soybeans, out of the country before they get caught up in a trade war. Which is fair criticism. The president’s people may want to point that out to him, to try to convince him that tariffs will hurt Americans in the long run. Maybe the president can be convinced to keep this winning streak going, no matter how it distresses certain economists.

Once, an American thinker named Mencken looked out across the political landscape and noted how silly things can get on frequent occasion: “Here politics is purged of all menace, all sinister quality, all genuine significance, and stuffed with such gorgeous humors, such inordinate farce that one comes to the end of a campaign with one’s ribs loose, and ready for King Lear, or a hanging, or a course of medical journals.”

Or maybe a course in economics, Mr. Mencken. Anything to take our minds off good news.

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