Prior Pryor record needs recast


Lately, it seems that Arkansas’ embattled Sen. Mark Pryor can’t catch a break. Critics from both the right and the left — each donning the requisite sheep’s clothing — have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars telling us why Pryor hates the people of his home state.

Regardless which side of the divide attracts your convictions, it’s pretty safe to say that Pryor doesn’t hate Arkansas. He simply doubled-down on a hand of political fashion and lost. He tried to be all things to all people. We need not tarry upon the folly of that rocky path.

We just expected better. We liked the Pryor who was self-assured and consistent. We just want him to be true to himself, even if that means a message that doesn’t boil down to sound bites.

The two issues that currently dog him are his stance on gun control, in spite of what the majority of Arkansans wanted; and his stance on the Affordable Care Act spiting what the “other” majority of Arkansans wanted.

The first issue is one that isn’t amenable to much debate. It’s largely dichotomous: yeah or nay. It’s the latter issue where he has the power to make up ground. He and his staff have simply chosen not to do so.

The ACA otherwise known as “Obamacare” could be an enormous public health and economic boon to Arkansas, but to this point Pryor has failed to articulate a cogent argument.

For better or worse, he’s let folks like the RAND Corporation do it for him. Newsflash, Senator: Most people don’t have dog-eared copies of RAND reports crammed into their bedside table. Even so, there’s one released recently that all Arkansans ought to peruse.

Authored by Carter Price and Eric Saltzman, the research report, The Economic Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Arkansas, provides strong proof that Pryor was on the correct side of this issue.

One need not read much past the preface to understand why. As Price and Saltzman state, “We found that by 2016 about 400,000 people will be newly insured, net federal payments to the state will amount to $430 million annually, and the total gross domestic product will be a net increase of $550 million.”

Even so, there are innumerable conclusions that bear restatement. Such as the authors’ observation, “With an additional 190,000 people on Medicaid in Arkansas with the ACA, Arkansas might expect as many as 1,100 fewer deaths per year.”

Regardless of one’s political stripe, it’s hard to argue with 1,100 fewer funerals and needlessly broken families.

Of course, we could still sink the ship if the Legislature continues down its pointless symbolic point-making path. As the report states, “Should the Arkansas legislature not expand Medicaid to everyone under 138 percent of the federal poverty level, the number of people with coverage will be substantially smaller and the federal funds being directed to the state will also be lower, making the economic impact proportionately lower and potentially negative.”

Somehow we find it hard to believe that the families of those 1100 people not saved by supporting the ACA will take much comfort in the Legislature’s sanctimonious moral certainty.

For those who stake their claim on the grounds of fiscal conservancy the local projections suffice. According to the RAND report, by 2016 Jefferson County should realize an additional $21 million in additional exchange subsidies; $23 million in additional Medicaid spending; a $31 million reduction in federal spending; and an overall boost to the local Gross Domestic Product of $17 million.

With all this ammunition, it’s hard to understand how Pryor has managed to turn this one into a loser — particularly in places like Pulaski and Washington Counties, where the projected GDP rise will be in excess of $48 million and $43 million respectively. In short, if the Senator can’t be true to himself, he ought to at least be true to the numbers.