Note: What follows is specific to one radical-reactionary running on the Republican ticket in the 2014 November elections in the state of Arkansas. However, you may have an equally wing-nut candidate running in your state or district. Feel free to compare your right-wing extremist to mine.
The best thing we have to look forward to is the certainty that we’ll have someone other than Tom Cotton to represent us in Arkansas’s 4th district. His voting record has been an embarrassment to humanity. When his House record was brought up as an issue after he announced his candidacy for the Senate, he accused his opposition of slinging mud. At least we know that Tom Cotton is honest: he acknowledged what his voting record looks like.
Mr. Cotton voted against the Farm Bill, which everyone knows is vital to Arkansas. Why? Because it still contained food stamp appropriations! Contrary to popular conception, more whites receive food stamps than blacks. Single mothers and children are the primary recipients. Proper nutrition is essential for the development of the mind and body. A well-nourished child is more likely to become a well-educated student and a productive adult. Since Mr. Cotton is Harvard-educated, we should not allow him to claim ignorance on this.
It would be admirable if Mr. Cotton were seeking ways to make food stamps less necessary. Does he support efforts to get Walmart, McDonalds, et al. to pay employees a living wage? Does he support the meager increase of the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from only $7.25? (Even though that’s much better than $7.25 an hour, ask yourself whether it’s still enough to pay your bills.) Does he support putting millions of unemployed workers back to work by creating well-paying jobs to improve America’s crumbling infrastructure of roads, bridges, dams, parks, and electrical grid? (The construction of Interstate 69 across southern Arkansas is still unfunded!) Since he’s not doing any of these, it seems that he just doesn’t care.
Mr. Cotton agrees with many Arkansans that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) needs to be repealed. It appears to be a vote-getter to have the callous belief that in the USA only those wealthy enough or lucky enough to have a job that provides health benefits should be able to get insurance. However, by the end of this year, ten to twelve million people will have signed up for policies they couldn’t afford before. Also, in states like Arkansas that expanded Medicaid coverage, hundreds of thousands who otherwise would be without now have coverage (unlike those unfortunate enough to live in the wrong states). Are we really going to just take away all these people’s insurance?
Does Mr. Cotton want to replace the ACA with something better? Is he recommending universal health care: Medicare for everyone? Medicare is already fully operational for seniors, it works fine, and it’s less expensive. (Many of those who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 have never forgiven him for not fighting for universal Medicare. Instead, President Obama immediately opted for the Republican plan proposed by the right-wing think-tank Heritage Foundation.) No. Mr. Cotton has actually voted to extend the Medicare eligibility age to 70, privatize it, and turn it into a voucher system! That’s a not-too-subtle method to destroy it altogether.
The Republican contribution to the ACA was the requirement mandate and the use of for-profit insurance companies. It’s doubtful Mr. Cotton and his Fox-Republican-Tea Party colleagues would really get rid of these. They both benefit the insurance companies. Remember, the Republicans asked Mr. Obama to delay the employer mandate for one more year; he agreed to their request; then they filed suit against him for doing what they asked! So they obviously support the mandate. Don’t you just love them?
There are ACA provisions Mr. Cotton and company would likely not include if they offered a replacement program. They would be the Democratic contributions in the ACA that benefit the people rather than the companies. Do you really want to say goodbye to these? 1. You can’t be kicked off your policy if you get sick; 2. You can’t be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition; 3. Women can’t be charged more than men; 4. If unable to get a job with health coverage, your son or daughter can stay on your policy until age 26; 5. The elderly can’t be charged more than three times what is charged to younger policy holders; 6.The donut hole (the time when there is a gap before being covered again) in seniors’ Medicare drug programs is being closed; and 7. No more than 20 percent of your premiums can go to overhead, profits, and CEO salaries.
One of Mr. Cotton’s most shameful votes was his opposition for aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Here in Arkansas, we have our fair share of natural disasters: tornadoes, droughts, and floods. When we need federal aid, we need to have a representative in Washington with the credibility to ask his colleagues for support. Tom Cotton doesn’t qualify. I don’t recall his ever claiming to be a “compassionate conservative,” which seems to be an oxymoron anyway, but we need a representative who is capable of showing empathy to those in need.
Mr. Cotton insists he votes according to his principles. But his anarchistic principle of opposing democratic government of, by, and for the people while favoring plutocratic rule is not a principle that I admire. I find deplorable his sociopathic principle of doing everything he can to help his corporate benefactors like the Koch brothers while sacrificing the rest of us. Nor can I find any redeeming value in his dog-eat-dog, every-man-for-himself principle. His principle of refusing to compromise helped make him a successful soldier but has made him an incompetent and irresponsible legislator. His muddy voting record definitely reflects those principles.
by David Offutt
A version of this essay was published in the October 23, 2014, edition of the Arkansas Times as a letter to the editor.