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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Previous to World War II, this bucolic paradise was basically the Third World. Like much of the rural South, Yell County had hardly any paved roads, and no electricity, telephones or public utilities. Also no physicians, dentists nor even veterinarians. People grew what they ate using horse and mule power. They raised chickens, butchered hogs and steers, canned vegetables, made their own clothing, music and booze. Education was rudimentary. It’s easy to be nostalgic about this kind of life if you’re never tried it.

Then came the accursed federal government with its highway- and bridge-building, its rural electrification, sewer and water grants, its agriculture agents and crop insurance, its Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, its Ozark and Ouchita National Forests, its Arkansas River navigation system and Lake Dardanelle. Along with state parks, public universities, Pell grants, student loans, food stamps, and more.

All a terrible mistake, judging by Cotton’s rhetoric: wasteful government spending, encouraging parasitism and sloth. His campaign slogan may as well be: “Back to 1935.” He even voted to slash food stamps, although nearly 25 percent of his Yell County neighbors—nearly all white—receive assistance. He’d decimate government expenditures to restore a libertarian paradise that never existed.

You’d think even a mushmelon like Arkansas’ Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor could make Cotton look foolish.

But only if he talks like a Democrat, which brings us back to President Obama. There are signs that the president may be coming around. In recent speeches, Obama has called for the kinds of public investments that once made this country the envy of the world.

“We’ve got more than 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare,” he said in Illinois. “And yet, as a share of our economy, we invest less in our infrastructure than we did two decades ago.”

At a time when corporations are squeezing workers dry, Obama also called for a sharp increase in the minimum wage.

No, House Republicans won’t vote for any of this. They won’t support anything sensible or realistic. So Obama needs to talk over their heads. People have forgotten the economic policies that made America great.

It’s the president’s job to remind them.

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

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