Missouri’s Race To The Bottom Gets National Attention: “There`s No Liberal Or Progressive Opposition Really In This State.”

Regular readers know that I have tried, when my mental state permitted, to follow the race to the bottom between Kansas and Missouri. Each state is attempting to outdo the other, in terms of reactionary politics and bad governance. It’s very sad to watch.

Since nobody does it better than St. Rachel, I present the transcript (uncorrected) from her Wednesday show, which went into the god-awful details of what is wrong with not only this state, but so many red states across the country. Please read the following, but try not to get too damned depressed:

MADDOW: In the year 2008, the great state of Missouri got rid of its limits on campaign contributions. They said rachelanyone could give any amount for candidates and election issues in that state. And when Missouri made that issue in 2008, they got — drum roll, please — they got their own Missouri version of the Koch brothers or their own Sheldon Adelson, their own Art Pope.

Once Missouri said anybody could spend anything they wanted on Missouri politics, they got their own homegrown Missouri zillionaire who thought the policies of the whole s state should be remade in his own image. And this is a new species in American politics, right? Since we started getting rid of all the campaign finance rules. We`ve got these zillionaire guys, all of the country, a lot of them operating in national politics, some of them operating in just their home state.

But the one that Missouri got, he turns out to be a doozy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX SINQUEFIELD, RETIRED FINANCIAL EXECUTIVE: You know what, there was a column written, and I hope I don`t offend anyone, but a published column who was a farmer judge in Missouri. He now owns and writes for a newspaper in central Missouri called the un-terrified Democrat. What a name. And it`s is Osage County, Missouri.

And he starts off and it`s something like this. He said, a long time ago, decades ago, the Ku Klux Klan got together and said, how can we really hurt the African-American children, l permanently? How can we ruin their lives? And when they designed was the public school system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That man`s name is Rex Sinquefield, he`s the conservative zillionaire trying to use his own money to remake politics in the great state of Missouri.

He made that remark on tape there in February of 2012 when he explained it must have been the Ku Klux Klan that invented the public school system to really hurt African-American children permanently. The Klan invented public schools. He said that in 2012. He later apologized for it, saying he was sorry for making that reference.

rachel 2But after Missouri got rid of its campaign finance rules in 2008, that guy`s money is the money that has absolutely dominated Missouri conservative politics ever since. “The Wall Street Journal” profiled him in 2012. Actually, it was a few months after he made the Klan comments. “The Wall Street Journal” called him one of the super PAC men, comparing him to Sheldon Adelson or the Koch brothers.

By then, by the fall of 2012, Mr. Sinquefield had already spent over $20 million of his own money, all in Missouri, all since they dropped the campaign spending limits in that state. So, just between 2008 and 2012, he had already dropped more than $20 million of his own money, with plans to spend a lot more.

And that kind of money goes a long way in a single state. He said at the time that his two priorities for things he wanted to change in Missouri, were schools, which again you heard him say he feared were invented by the Ku Klux Klan to enslave people, schools and taxes.
In 2012, he personally bankrolled a ballot measure that would have basically killed all income taxes in Missouri altogether. No more personal income taxes, no more corporate income taxes. It would get rid of taxes altogether in terms of income and replace them all with a sales tax.

He got — he was working on getting that in the ballot, and unfortunately for him, polling indicated that people in Missouri basically hated the idea. And when the polling turned out really bad for his ballot measure on getting rid of all income taxes, he pulled that ballot measure in Missouri.rachel 3

But at the time, he said he thought he might be able to get Missouri to get rid of all its taxes anyway, even without this ballot measure idea that he had that didn`t work out. And he thought he might be able to get it done in Missouri anyway, because of something that was going on next door in the deep read state of Kansas.

Kansas, you probably know is in almost Oklahoma territory when it comes to how red a state it is. In 2008, President Obama won a grand total of three counties in Kansas. In 2012, he won a grand total of two counties in Kansas.

In Kansas, the Republicans control the statehouse by an almost 3-1 margin. They control the state senate, 32-8, and, of course, the governor is a Republican as well. The governor is former U.S. senator and former Republican presidential candidate, Sam Brownback, who won election in 2010 by more than a 30-point margin in Kansas.

But now, even in a state that is that red, even after Sam Brownback won the governor`s race in 2010 by more than 30 points, Governor Brownback now looks to be at risk of losing his seat this fall. He`s up for re-election in November. He`s running against a Democrat named Paul Davis, who was one of those very few Democrats in the Kansas statehouse.

The Real Clear Politics average of polling on that gubernatorial race shows that Sam Brownback is basically within the margin of error. He`s within 2 1/2 points of this very little-known Democratic challenger he`s got.rachel 4

The last Public Policy Poll in Kansas was in February. It had Paul Davis beating Sam Brownback by two points. Kansas is so red that Attila the Hun ought to be able to win an election in Kansas if he only had an “R” listed after his name on the ballot.

Sam Brownback is apparently no Attila the Hun, because Kansas is against him. His approval rating as governor is hovering around 33 percent. You think in a state that red, President Obama would have a terrible approval rating, you`re right, he does a terrible approval rating in Kansas. But Sam Brownback`s approval rating is even lower than President Obama`s is.

And some of Kansas`s bad feelings about their governor may be about all the recent reporting on a big FBI investigation into Mr. Brownback`s inner circle in state politics, including his longtime chief strategist. The FBI is reportedly looking into whether there`s pay-to-play corruption around Sam Brownback`s way of governing in Kansas, whether lobbying dollars and campaign contributions have been leveraged or even coerced in an illegal way as Governor Brownback has pushed through his legislative priorities.

So, that may be part of it, those FBI stories. There have been no indictments or anything yet, so nobody really knows what that reported FBI investigation is going to come to.
But regardless of whether team Brownback in Kansas got their favored policies passed through some illegal means or not, we`ll find out when the FBI finally speaks about what they`re looking into, whether or not they got those things, the things they got passed, passed by illegal means, the fact is, they did get a heck of a conservative agenda passed. And Kansas really seems to hate that agenda. They seem to hate those policies.

Like, this is from the internals on that Public Policy Poll. “Do you think public schools in Kansas are adequately funded or not?” Not, by a 28-point margin.

“Do you think Sam Brownback`s tax plan has been successful or not?” Not, by another giant 21-point margin.

Kansas is under complete Republican control. It`s Sam Brownback in the governor`s office, Republican control in the House, Republican control in the Senate. Their entire congressional delegation is all Republican as well.rachel5

And even after they had that total Republican control, in 2012, Sam Brownback went on a campaign of cleansing fire and worked actively to get Republicans who weren`t conservative enough ousted from the state Senate. He got nine Republicans in the Senate replaced with more conservative Republicans.

He`s not only got complete control in terms of party affiliation, he`s got complete control in terms of conservative Republican affiliation. And with that complete control, he pushed through the most important item in his agenda for the state, the biggest tax cut in Kansas history. By some measures, it is the biggest tax cut of any state in America in multiple decades.

And when Sam Brownback pushed through that really radical tax plan in 2012 and popularity expanded it in 2013, that was the policy move that got Rex Sinquefield, the Klan-invented public schools guy in Missouri, that`s what got him so excited about what might be possible next-door in Missouri.

He called what Sam Brownback did on taxes in Kansas, he said, it was, quote, “unbelievably brilliant.”

Mr. Sinquefield said in “Forbes” magazine that Sam Brownback`s visionary leadership was, quote, “schooling Missouri on tax policy.”

Sam Brownback himself wrote an op-ed claiming that his biggest tax cuts in history would be a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy. And his biggest cheerleader, other than himself, was across the state line to the east in Missouri, this guy, Rex Sinquefield, who wanted Missouri to get rid of all of its taxes, too. And he thought Kansas` experiment, Kansas` Sam Brownback government experiment would go so well that Kansas getting rid of all of their taxes would be such an economic boon to Kansas that the state next door to the east would have no choice but to follow suit.

That was the thinking. And that`s how Missouri was going to get to zero taxes, by watching how wonderfully it worked out in Sam Brownback`s all-red Kansas. That was the plan.
Turns out what Sam Brownback did in all-red Kansas has turned out to be a disaster. In January, a big warning flare was fired by the nonpartisan research service from the Kansas legislature. They found that cutting all the revenue, cutting all the income out of the state budget meant — surprise, that there was no revenue in the state budget. There was a giant hole where the revenue had been. That was the official state report in January.

Then, in March, it got much worse, when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that by law, by the state constitution, Kansas needed to increase what was it was spending on public schools, where is that money going to come from.

And then, in April, there was a huge shock in Kansas state government when the state realized that it was going to be taking in almost $100 million less that month than it expected for the month of April.

Revenues were already down a half billion year to year since last year, and then, oops, in April, it turns out, another $100 million they thought they were getting, guess we`re not getting that. That was last month. That was April.

And then, last week, the real hammer fell, when the Moody`s credit agency downgraded Kansas`s bond rating, citing Kansas` relatively sluggish recovery compared with its peers and specifically calling out Sam Brownback`s magical thinking around these huge, unprecedented tax cuts, for which he apparently had no plan for the impact of. Quote, “Eliminating a tax that`s been in place for many years and has accounted for a large share of revenue entails risks,” says Moody`s.

So, Sam Brownback has created a mess in Kansas. And “The Kansas City Star,” they say he is suffering from a political brownout between the FBI investigation into his inner circle with and his right-hand man, forever, and into how he got all of these policies passed, the state bond rating getting downgraded, the governor`s plummeting popularity. They say, you take it all together, and this amounts to, quote, “new doubts about whether Governor Brownback`s ability to win a second term in a state that is as red as any in the nation.”

On the same day that Kansas got its bond rating downgraded, in the neighboring state of Missouri, the governor there, was named Jay Nixon, he vetoed a Republican proposal to cut Missouri`s taxes the way Sam Brownback cut Kansas` taxes. Missouri is one of the few states in the nation that has a solid AAA bond rating. Governor Nixon said, listen, we`re not going to jeopardize that by doing something as reckless as what Kansas just did when they flushed their economic prospects down the toilet with a tax thing like this. Jay Nixon said Missouri Republicans are, quote, trying to follow Kansas down the fiscally irresponsible path. He said he would not stand for it and he vetoed the Republican tax cut proposal in Missouri.

But now, now, Missouri Republicans overrode that veto. They have thereby forced through a Kansas-style fiscal disaster plan for the neighboring state of Missouri.

Even with a Democratic governor, Missouri has taken a real right turn under the tender ministrations and the tens of millions of dollars of Rex Sinquefield, right? The well-funded, newly emboldened Republicans in the state of Missouri, they blocked Medicaid expansion, which led to this dramatic protest in the state capital yesterday. The protesters actually shut down business in the state senate over the Medicaid decision.

rachel 6Republicans in Missouri are trying to enshrine strict scrutiny for gun rights into the state constitution. And that may not sound like much, but that is such a fundamentalist approach to gun rights that it has really wide implications that have scared other states that have tried this. But Missouri is steaming straight ahead to put that in their state constitution.

Missouri is down to one last abortion clinic in the entire state. This year, Republicans in the Missouri legislature introduced 32 separate pieces of legislation against that one clinic. They`ve got one abortion clinic left, 32 bills this session to try to shut down or curtail the activities of that one last clinic.

With no campaign finance limits anymore and with an eager conservative godfather funding every step they take further to the right, Missouri is doing everything it can to try to turn itself into a deep-south style red state, but with what they just did on this tax issue, did they just make a decision to follow Kansas off the cliff?

Joining us now is David Helling, political reporter for the “Kansas City Star.” Mr. Helling, thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate your time tonight.

DAVID HELLING, KANSAS CITY STAR: Great to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: So, what did push Missouri lawmakers to proposal these very, very deep tax cuts, even as Kansas was really flaming out because of them?

HELLING: Well, part of it is Rex Sinquefield, as you suggest. He`s been heavily involved for years, Rachel, in trying to push a no-income tax agenda in the state of Missouri, as you suggest. He`s tried to get that on the ballot. He`s really a supporter of turning to sales taxes instead of income taxes.

But part of it is just philosophy. Missouri, as you also point out, really had a choice about ten years ago, will we be Arkansas and Mississippi, or will we be Iowa and Minnesota? Missouri, as you might know, is almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats in most
years and then about 10 years ago, it started its slide into conservatism and it is firmly there now.

So, you put that sort of ideological approach together with Rex`s money and you get what you got this week in the legislature.

MADDOW: In terms of that path, that sort of decade-long path that you just described there, is there any equivalent force on the left or to strengthen the Democrats` hand in Missouri? Is this a transformation that`s really taken place entirely within conservative politics? Is there any counter-game?

rachel 7HELLING: Democrats have a role in Missouri, unlike Kansas where they`re virtually nonexistent. Democrats in Missouri do have some voice. Claire McCaskill, of course, is the senator, Jay Nixon the governor, both Democrats.

Republicans have not done extremely well at the statewide level. They lost the race for governor. They do have the lieutenant governorship in the state. But Democrats in Missouri have a unique challenge. They must appeal — if they are to win, they must appeal to rural voters as well as urban voters in Kansas City and St. Louis and to some degree in Columbia, in Jeff City. So, even people like Claire McCaskill and Jay Nixon strike a populist, conservative, in some senses, moderate tone with voters in the state.

There is no real — with one or two exceptions, there is no real progressive movement in the state, and that showed up in the last state elections for the legislature, the House and the Senate. Jay Nixon has virtually no working ability in that statehouse at all, Rachel, owner to
sort of convince lawmakers by the sound of his voice, to change their views. And they often listen to Rex Sinquefield, the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, also has a heavy presence in Missouri, as well as Kansas.

So, those are the voices they hear. There`s no liberal or progressive opposition really in this state.

MADDOW: I feel like I have heard that, really, just in my observations of Missouri politics, particularly with Claire McCaskill on the federal level. I continue to believe that she would make a very credible national level candidate for the Democrats.

Not because I agree with her on lots of policies. She`s nowhere near liberal like I am, but simply because she does talk in populist terms, very central terms, and she`s made that case, I think it was the Missouri Democrat way of talking to a big, broad audience.

And that`s why I was so surprised to see Governor Nixon making this case. Hey, we can`t do this. They just got their bond rating downgraded. We`ve got a AAA bond rating, we`ve got to hold on to that. That seems to me like sort of the ultimate fiscal conservative, centrist, kumbaya message, and yet, it just didn`t go anywhere.

HELLING: Right, and for that matter, Jay Nixon is a big fan in some instances of tax credits, tax breaks for big business. He tried to get the Boeing plant to come to St. Louis. He offered a huge package of tax breaks for that. He gave incentives to the auto companies to stay in the state, Rachel.

Again, that`s kind of a traditional country club banker Republican mentality. Give big incentives to big business to create jobs. That`s his approach. Again, he gets a bit of a pass, because Missouri is just that kind of a state. It`s hard to believe that an out-and-out progressive liberal candidate has any chance at the statewide level, and I think Jay Nixon senses that.

Now, a lot of — he`s not really popular among some Democrats. For example, he`s had a sort of a low-level feud with McCaskill for years about who really control s the party in the state. And Jay Nixon, to a degree, like McCaskill, really looks out for himself. You know, his own re-election is more important than electing more Democrats to the legislature so you wouldn`t have to go through what he just went through.

That`s a criticism you`ll hear of Jay Nixon. But, again, there may be a lot of self-preservation in that. Missouri, as I suggested, and as you suggested as well, is much more Southern in its approach to politics than it is industrial Midwest or in north of the state border.

MADDOW: And as you point out, that was a choice. That outlook was a choice and it has been a fascinating transformation to watch.

Dave Helling, reporter with the “Kansas City Star” — I really enjoyed your reporting on this, Mr. Helling. Thank you fore being here. I appreciate it.

HELLING: You bet. My pleasure.

How Long Will The Excluded Wait?

Robert Reich begins his latest column this way:

People ask me all the time why we don’t have a revolution in America, or at least a major wave of reform similar to that of the Progressive Era or the New Deal or the Great Society.

Middle incomes are sinking, the ranks of the poor are swelling, almost all the economic gains are going to the top, and big money is corrupting our democracy. So why isn’t there more of a ruckus?

Revolution? Ruckus? Well, why aren’t people making more election-changing noise? Reich gave three reasons, which I will list without most of his supporting material:

1) “…the working class is paralyzed with fear it will lose the jobs and wages it already has…No one has any job security. The last thing they want to do is make a fuss and risk losing the little they have.”

2) “In prior decades students were a major force for social change. But today’s students don’t want to make a ruckus. They’re laden with debt…record numbers are still living at home.”

3) “Third and finally, the American public has become so cynical about government that many no longer think reform is possible…It’s hard to get people worked up to change society or even to change a few laws when they don’t believe government can possibly work.”

That last reason for a reluctance to raise a ruckus can be documented by the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, which found:

confidence in washington

As you can see, Republicans have done a good job of poisoning the well of governance, with their obstructionist tactics and willingness to sabotage the economic recovery and their refusal to do anything to address the income and wealth gap in America. But such tactics, although successful in bringing Democrats down, have damaged the Republican Party’s image profoundly. The poll found that only 36% of Republicans have significant confidence in their own party. Think about that.

But think, too, about the fact that a large part of the reason that even Republicans don’t have much confidence in their own party or their party’s leadership is that extremist teapartiers think the GOP hasn’t gone far enough in its obstructionism. Many of those folks think that John Boehner has sold them out. For God’s sake, many think that Mitch McConnell is too liberal.

As crazy as that sounds, things are actually worse. Consider the right’s reaction to Pope Francis. When the boss man of a gazillion Catholics dared to criticize increasing income and wealth inequality, when he called out “trickle-down theories” for their failure to deliver “greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” his words were branded as “pure Marxism” by Rush Limbaugh. Other right-wingers called him a socialist and FoxNews.com annointed him “the Catholic Church’s Obama.” Just a few days ago a News Editor for FoxNews.com, himself a Catholic, said that,

Pope Francis has declared war on those who aspire to provide a better life for themselves and their families, expressing the misguided snobbery of a man for whom money has never been an issue.

Such feelings run deep on the right. That FoxNews.com editor went on to say that, “the only charity the pope supports is forced redistribution.” Ahh. That’s the real offense the Pope committed. He thinks, and he thinks Jesus thinks, governments ought to be involved in seeing to it that there is a more equitable distribution of wealth. He can see with his presumably holy eyes that if the world’s poor and underserved are to utterly depend on the generosity of the rich to keep them afloat, they are a most miserable lot indeed. The Pope says trickle-down economics,

expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.

All of which leads me back to Robert Reich’s column. How long will the excluded wait? Reich listed three reasons why more people don’t make a bigger fuss about the breathtaking economic inequities we see here in America and the fact that “big money is corrupting our democracy.” But he should have included a fourth reason: the big money corruption itself. Rich people, particularly rich conservative people, are buying this republic and the politicians who manage it, as well as influencing low-information voters who fall for the slick and misleading advertising that big money buys.

If you have the stomach for it, I invite you to read one the most depressing articles I have read in a long time. The Mother Jones piece, titled “Meet the New Kochs: The DeVos Clan’s Plan to Defund the Left,” chronicles how a wealthy Michigan family, whose billions were acquired through the pyramid-like distributing company Amway, was able to purchase the votes necessary to pass union-crippling right-to-work legislation in a state that was once union friendly.

I will confess that after reading the article, my usual political optimism was shaken. I fear for our future if something isn’t done to restrain the flow of money into our politics. The 87-year-old Richard DeVos, who cofounded Amway, and his eldest son Dick DeVos should not be able to do what they did in Michigan. And what they did has effects beyond the obvious race to the bottom in terms of workers’ wages and working conditions:

Passing right-to-work in Michigan was more than a policy victory. It was a major score for Republicans who have long sought to weaken the Democratic Party by attacking its sources of funding and organizing muscle…So DeVos and his allies hit labor—and the Democratic Party—where it hurt: their bank accounts. By attacking their opponents’ revenue stream, they could help put Michigan into play for the GOP heading into the 2016 presidential race—as it was more than three decades earlier, when the state’s Reagan Democrats were key to winning the White House.

It’s pretty simple. Republicans believe that if they can weaken, if not destroy, labor unions, they can control the country’s politics:

the Michigan fight has given hope—and a road map—to conservatives across the country working to cripple organized labor and defund the left. Whereas party activists had for years viewed right-to-work as a pipe dream, a determined and very wealthy family, putting in place all the elements of a classic political campaign, was able to move the needle in a matter of months. “Michigan is Stalingrad, man,” one prominent conservative activist told me. “It’s where the battle will be won or lost.”

That Michigan fight is going on here in Missouri. The very first hearing this year in the Missouri House, which is dominated by right-wing Republicans, was used to promote anti-union legislation, in this case falsely titled the “Freedom To Work Act.” The only “freedom” written into this bill is freedom for workers who benefit from union representation on the job to opt out of having to pay any fee to the union for its collective bargaining services. In other words, this bill, and other so-called right-to-work legislation, establishes that there is, after all, such a thing as a free lunch.eric burlison

The idea, obviously, is to starve unions of needed resources, even though the Missouri bill’s sponsor, a Springfield Republican, claimed that the legislation “would make unions stronger.” Let me state the obvious here: If a right-winger tells you that a bill he is sponsoring will make unions stronger, he is lying through his gold teeth.

It’s equally obvious that if unions are starved of funds and can’t afford to defend the interests of working people, both on the job and during the election cycle, then rich Republicans will have their way. That is why rich Republicans pour so much money into these efforts, with 24 states now having such laws as the one being crafted here in Missouri. And if more states follow the trend and engage in a race to the bottom, the situation Robert Reich described—sinking middle incomes, growing poverty, and rich people realizing most of the economic gains—will get worse.

And if it gets bad enough, the ruckus, or the revolution, will come.

A Peep Inside The Strange Minds Of Two Missouri Legislators

Jeffrey Messenger was elected in 2012 as a Republican in Missouri’s House of Representatives. He represents the 130th legislative district, about 50 miles east of Joplin. He lives in the town of Republic.

Thanks to his last campaign bio page, we learned that Messenger is a hard working guy with roots firmly planted in rural America. We also learned he owns a business that makes prosthetic limbs for those unfortunate folks who need them, and we found out he “is in the process of building another full time facility in Joplin, Missouri.” Good for him.

And we also learned that Messenger claimed his experience in the prosthetic limb business would somehow make him a better legislator:

Since being involved in Kessler Heasley Artificial Limb Co. Jeff has been able to increase his knowledge in the benefits as well as the pitfalls of Medicare, Medicaid, and Private Insurance, and understands the frustration for individuals when it comes to insurance coverage…

Jeff decided several years ago he wanted to get involved in politics. He feels he has the experience and the know how it will take in Jefferson City to get the job done.

Experience and know-how.  He can get the job done, he said. He “understands the frustration for individuals when it comes to insurance coverage,” he claimed.

Wednesday evening in Springfield, at a town hall with other Missouri legislators, Jeffrey Messenger, the man who understands people’s frustrations “when it comes to insurance coverage,” explained to those gathered why he is opposed to Missouri expanding insurance coverage under ObamaCare.

As reported by the Springfield News-Leader:

Messenger pointed out what he views as potential problems with expansion.

Messenger said that larger businesses will be penalized under the Affordable Care Act if they fail to provide health insurance to employees working 30 hours or more. To avoid the penalty, companies will cut employee hours down to under 30, he said.

These workers, because they work fewer hours and make less, will be more likely to qualify for an expanded Medicaid, and this will add an unanticipated strain to the system, Messenger said. He described it as a kind of loop.

“It just keeps growing and growing and growing,” Messenger said.

You get it? Businesses will screw their employees out of hours so they don’t have to provide them with health coverage, which will in turn make those employees candidates to get health insurance under Medicaid expansion, and therefore we shouldn’t expand Medicaid to help them. It’s all very simple, really. And very cruel.

Messenger not only “understands the frustration for individuals when it comes to insurance coverage,” he is willing to ignore that frustration, or really, to exacerbate it. Oh, by the way, Messenger’s campaign web page informs us that Jeff is “Pro-Life 100%.” Thank God.

As grievous as Messenger’s message to Missourians was during Wednesday night’s town hall, by far the dumbest and most offensive comment made about Medicaid expansion in Missouri was made by another Republican legislator, Lyndall Fraker, who represents folks east of Springfield and lives in Marshfield.lyndall fraker

But before we get to his dumb and offensive comment, Fraker’s campaign bio indicates that he proudly managed the Walmart store in Marshfield, which is interesting since Walmart is planning on taking cynical advantage of ObamaCare by excluding workers who work less than 30 hours a week from its health insurance plans.

Now, Fraker is not responsible for what Walmart honchos do, but he did say his Walmart experience made him realize “what a passion he had to serve others.” Goody, goody, now we’re ready for his comment on Medicaid expansion.

Here is the News-Leader’s account:

Fraker said it would be hard to roll back expansion once it’s happened.

“It’s hard to take candy away from a baby,” Fraker said. He used the metaphor of him and his wife buying a refrigerator. He said if his family couldn’t afford it, their approach would be to wait and see.

Candy from a baby. I can see where health insurance is like candy, can’t you? Sure it is. And people who need health insurance but can’t afford it are like babies. I can see that. And by God we can’t give those babies candy because it will be hard if we have to take it back. They’ll whine and cry and stuff.

And I can see where health insurance is like buying a new refrigerator, can’t you? Absolutely it is. If you can’t afford a new fridge, just wait and see what happens. And if you don’t have a fridge that works, you could store your food in an ice chest. Just don’t count on a Republican legislator to provide you with the ice. And if you don’t have a refrigerator and don’t have any ice, you can just stop eating. Eventually you won’t have to worry about the fridge or the ice.

The News-Leader reported that someone in the town hall “took offense to Fraker’s characterization, and he apologized.”

For what? Why did Lyndall Fraker apologize? For revealing how his mind works? How he really thinks about this issue?

We all should write him and thank him, and Jeff Messenger, for a moment of honesty. This is who these people are, my friends, this is who they are.

Missouri And Sequestration

The White House released what it says will be the effects of the so-called sequester on the state of Missouri:

MISSOURI IMPACTS

If sequestration were to take effect, some examples of the impacts on Missouri this year alone are:

♦ Teachers and Schools: Missouri will lose approximately $11.9 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 160 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 17,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 60 fewer schools would receive funding.

♦ Education for Children with Disabilities: In addition, Missouri will lose approximately $10.8 in funds for about 130 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.

♦ Work-Study Jobs: Around 1,280 fewer low income students in Missouri would receive aid to help them finance the costs of college and around 750 fewer students will get work-study jobs that help them pay for college.

♦ Head Start: Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 1,200 children in Missouri, reducing access to critical early education.

♦ Protections for Clean Air and Clean Water: Missouri would lose about $3,745,000 in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Missouri could lose another $1,184,000 in grants for fish and wildlife protection.

♦ Military Readiness: In Missouri, approximately 8,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $40.3 million in total.

♦ Army: Base operation funding would be cut by about $56 million in Missouri.

♦ Air Force: Funding for Air Force operations in Missouri would be cut by about $14 million.

♦ Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds for Crime Prevention and Prosecution: Missouri will lose about $298,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.

♦ Job Search Assistance to Help those in Missouri find Employment and Training: Missouri will lose about $758,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning around 25,460 fewer people will get the help and skills they need to find employment.

♦ Child Care: Up to 700 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care, which is also essential for working parents to hold down a job.

♦ Vaccines for Children: In Missouri around 2,500 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $171,000.

♦ Public Health: Missouri will lose approximately $572,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events. In addition, Missouri will lose about $1,300,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 3300 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the Missouri State Department of Health & Senior Services will lose about $211,000 resulting in around 5,300 fewer HIV tests.

♦ STOP Violence Against Women Program: Missouri could lose up to $127,000 in funds that provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 500 fewer victims being served.

♦ Nutrition Assistance for Seniors: Missouri would lose approximately $419,000 in funds that provide meals for seniors

Missouri Medicaid Expansion: A Matter Of Life And Death

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon was here in Joplin on Wednesday.

Susan Redden of the Joplin Globe reported that Nixon was in town “to assert that Medicaid expansion would be a good business decision for the state.” From the story:

With officials of area hospitals and health care providers standing behind him, Nixon told a Joplin crowd that rejecting the Medicaid expansion available under the Affordable Care Act would send tax dollars collected in Missouri to other states where the coverage has been expanded.

“The question is narrow: Will we bring back those federal tax dollars to help the state or not?” the governor said in a presentation at the Robert W. Plaster School of Business at Missouri Southern State University. “If we don’t, other states will get the help, and we’ll pay the bill.”

The article notes that some 300,000 Missourians will benefit from the expansion of Medicaid, and in the words of Governor Nixon,

the people it will help are working folks who otherwise are going to end up in the emergency room.

Naturally, since the expansion will help “working folks,” many Republicans are against it, including leadership in our right-wing-dominated legislature. But the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and some local chambers, but not yet including Joplin, are on board because they recognize the foolishness of rejecting the expansion, just to spit in the eye of Barack Obama.

Expanding Medicaid happens to be good for business and employment:

Nixon cited a study by the University of Missouri suggesting that the additional funding for health care would create 24,000 new jobs in Missouri the first full year of the expansion. And, he said, states that don’t expand coverage could be put at a competitive disadvantage when small businesses are looking to add jobs, which often start on the lower end of the wage scale.

“If businesses are paying the same wage, and workers are getting health coverage in one state and not another, it could make a difference,” he said.

Medicaid expansion is projected to bring back to the state $1.8 billion in the first full year of coverage, and $5.7 billion over three years, Nixon said. “If we take a pass, Missouri residents pay that money in taxes, but it goes to other states,” he said.

As most of us know, the Supreme Court, in upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, ruled that the provisions in the law that required states to expand Medicaid coverage to folks earning below 138 percent of the federal poverty level went too far. The Court’s decision allowed states to opt out of the expansion, even while staying in the Medicaid program.

Some Republicans claim our state can’t afford to expand Medicaid. But the entire cost of the expansion is covered by the federal government from 2014 through 2016. Then, until 2020 the states have to cover 5% of the annual cost, and after 2020, the states have to cover 10%. And that’s it.  Providing health insurance to 300,000 working folks in Missouri is a damn good deal.

And it’s a good deal for hospitals and other health care providers, who clearly recognize the foolishness of keeping poor people from getting health insurance. Those poor folks often seek care—expensive care—at emergency rooms, and much of that care—mandated by EMTALA—is uncompensated.

The federal government, through Disproportionate Share Hospital allotments, provides support to hospitals (“safety-net hospitals“) that treat the uninsured who can’t pay. In 2011, that support amounted to $11.3 billion, a little more than one-fourth of the estimated cost ($41.1 billion) to hospitals for providing care to those who can’t afford it.

The Affordable Care Act, because its purpose was to insure people and reduce uncompensated care, lowers federal payments to hospitals that treat those who can’t pay. But because the Supreme Court made the expansion voluntary and because many Republican governors and legislatures hate Obama and ObamaCare, the states who opt out are burdening the hospitals in their states with extra costs.

That’s why here in Joplin Governor Nixon met with local hospital leaders, who have given him their blessing. One of those leaders, Paula Baker, president of Freeman Health System, said,

He didn’t need to sell us on it.

But beyond the finances of the Medicaid expansion, there is the human element. Consider this from The Incidental Economist, a blog dedicated to studying America’s health care system:

First of all, Medicaid is good for health. Let’s start with a simple truth: having health insurance is better than not having health insurance. Not only is health insurance good for health, but it actually saves lives. Medicaid is, of course, health insurance. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that studies show Medicaid improves health. Now some people have garnered a lot of attention by claiming that Medicaid actually hurts people. They’re citing studies that show correlation, not causation. Medicaid doesn’t cause bad health; people who qualify for Medicaid are more likely to have bad health for other reasons. There’s a huge randomized controlled trial of Medicaid going on in Oregon right now, and that’s the kind of study you’d do to prove causation. It’s showing that Medicaid is good for health.

Expanding Medicaid is not only a good thing to do in terms of finances, it is “good for health.” It is good public policy. It is the right thing to do. And it does save lives, as was suggested in the Globe article. A woman named Patricia Bailey was visiting a local Joplin clinic that serves a significant number of folks on Medicaid:

Bailey, 61, of Joplin, said she has been on Medicaid for the past four years. Without it, she said, she wouldn’t have sought treatment that included three hospitalizations.

“I couldn’t have afforded it. I think I’d probably be dead,” she said.

More than the money, more than anything else, as Missourians, as Americans, we should expand Medicaid coverage because for some folks, it is a matter of life and death.

The Joplin Globe Gets Early Voting Kudos

Because I have sometimes been highly critical of the Joplin Globe’s editorial positions, I feel I have to offer up some praise when the local paper gets it right.

Perhaps coming out of its Romney-endorsing funk, the Joplin Globe has embraced an idea that every American should, but doesn’t, support: early voting.

Missouri doesn’t really have early voting, except for those willing to swear they can’t cast a ballot on election day. Those folks can vote absentee. But Secretary of State Jason Kander is trying to find ways to expand early voting, and to that end he put together a commission—which includes the mayor of Joplin—that will study the issue and hopefully come up with a plan.

Kander said:

We have to preserve security in our elections while increasing efficient access for eligible voters. An affordable plan for early voting could help alleviate long lines at the polls on Election Day by adding a much-needed convenience for Missourians across the state.

Who, besides scared Republicans, could oppose that? Thankfully, the Joplin Globe is on board:

Early voting speaks to the disenfranchised voter and sends the message that the system does not have to be so inflexible.

Speaking to disenfranchised voters is not exactly in the Republican playbook, but Voter ID is. And on that controversial issue, the Globe gets it right again:

Voter ID, on the other hand, is a solution looking for a problem. We don’t see that it is necessary.

The House will be taking up the issue of voter ID this week. We would challenge legislators to focus on laws that make voting easier and more efficient.

Way to go, Joplin Globe. Here’s hoping that this is a sign the paper, after forsaking its 2008 Obama endorsement, has come back to its senses.

Guns And Planks

Look at this headline from a couple of weeks ago:

Mexico: Towns Arm Themselves For Self-Protection Against Organized Crime

From the story:

While the argument that American citizens will take up arms against its government, or create militias to patrol unsafe streets seems like something out of a science fiction novel, but Mexican citizens in small towns in Mexico are doing exactly that.

Now, we can look down our collective noses at a country in which its citizens feel the need to take the law into their own hands, but consider the following headlines from today’s news across our own country:

At least 1 shot outside Texas courthouse

Teen Who Performed At Inaugural Events Fatally Shot

Alabama school bus shooter is a survivalist with anti-government views

Police searching for suspect who shot 3, killing 1 in Arizona office building

6 wounded in shootings overnight across Chicago

And here is an outrageous headline and lede from here in Missouri:

Dan Brown, Missouri State Senator, Wants Gun Education In First Grade

A Republican state senator in Missouri has proposed legislation that would make gun safety a mandatory part of the first-grade curriculum.

And, perhaps most outrageous of all, the following story aired on NPR this morning:

Milwaukee Sheriff: ‘You Have A Duty To Protect Yourself’

A top law enforcement official in Wisconsin is urging people to arm themselves for their own protection.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is airing a new public service announcement telling residents that due to budget cuts, calling 911 for help is no longer their best option.

I will leave you with some wisdom from Jesus of Nazareth as applied to American civilization:

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

 

Have Gun, Will Teach

Wouldn’t you know that the state of Missouri, with extremist Republicans wielding real power in the legislature, is on the cutting edge of 18th-century progress:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - More than two dozen Missouri lawmakers are backing legislation that would allow teachers and administrators with concealed gun permits to carry weapons in schools…

Missouri law currently prohibits concealed guns at schools unless approved by the local school board or a school official.

Earlier this week, Republican Rep. Stanley Cox, of Sedalia, suggested that people might think twice about attacking schools if they knew that teachers or administrators could be carrying guns.

Yes, people might think twice about slaughtering school kids if there were a danger of getting shot in the head. Oh, but the latest killer shot himself in the head. So, maybe Rep. Stanley Cox and like-minded gun zealots in Missouri should themselves think twice about the effectiveness of arming educators.

And while they are thinking twice about that, perhaps they can think once about what the call for arming educators says about our gun-crazed culture, not to mention what it says about our unwillingness to address, as a social problem, people with serious mental health issues.

On the local front, just a stone’s toss from Joplin, we have this response to weaponizing teachers, from an, uh, “educator”: 

“We need to evaluate, not react,” states Dr. Phillip Cook, Carl Junction School Superintendent. 

Cook says his school has already made safety improvements which includes making sure all doors into the school and classrooms are locked. He says, every option should be considered when it comes to student safety.  

“If someone can convince me that that’s the appropriate thing to do to keep our kids safe, then I’ll be in favor of it,” states Dr. Cook.  

Who would have thought, here in the 21st century, that an educator, especially one with a “Dr.” in front of his name, could be persuaded that school teachers ought also to be gunfighters.

What a state some of us find ourselves in. 

Tuesday The Thirteenth

Todd Akin, like one of those Jasonesque characters in a sequel-begetting fright flick, just won’t go away.

A sometimes Democrat-friendly polling firm, Public Policy Polling, finds that Akin is only down 48-44 to Claire McCaskill (women support Claire 55-38), even after Dr. Todd shared his pre-Neanderthalic understanding of rape and the female reproductive system with Missouri voters.

The survey found that although Akin’s favorability rating is at only 29%—that’s not a typo—his good standing among Republicans in this state has gone up from 74% to 79%. Apparently, a vast majority of Missouri Republicans have decided that Akin’s medieval pseudoscience, which claims that women’s bodies have special recognition devices that can detect sperm planted through “legitimate” violence, is the kind of science that GOP Jesus loves.

Surprisingly, among independents the race is, uh, tied, 46-46. What that means is that some of those who claimed they are independents are lying through their conservative teeth or don’t have the slightest idea what “independent’ means (not out of the question here in Missouri). Those who claimed they were not Republicans or Democrats amounted to 32% in this survey. And no one can convince me that 46% of true independents are voting for the pre-Neanderthal in this race. If that is so, Allah help us.

Also, it appears some extra dough is finding its way into the state in support of Dr. Todd.  The New York Times’ “The Caucus” reports that Akins “is receiving an influx of more than $2 million in the final days of his campaign.” The skinny:

Nearly a million of those dollars on television ad buys are coming from Mr. Akin’s campaign, while the rest is from outside groups, and there is speculation that organizations that previously distanced themselves from the six-term Congressman could be behind some of the new spending.

One of those organizations suspected of sending Akin money is the National Republican Senatorial Committee (chaired by Texas Senator John Cornyn, who is so conservative that he once almost compared homosexual marriage to a man marrying a box turtle—I kid you not), which had pulled the plug on Akin when it appeared he would not survive his lecture on evangelical gynecology. But now that he is, like Jason, alive and well, Cornyn may be funneling money to the state Republican party, which has never stopped its support of Dr. Todd.

But I want to pass on something that may help those of you who, like me, have feared that the pre-Neanderthal can pull off a win and not only embarrass Missouri, but help speed up the ongoing erosion of women’s rights.

On Sunday, I was helping to contact local potential McCaskill voters. Several times we ran across Republican women who were voting for Claire, despite the fact their husbands were not. One woman said to us:

Tell her I am a rock-ribbed Republican but I am supporting her.

I took that as good news that although the race will be mind-mindbogglingly close—considering what kind of candidate Akin is—there is a goodly number of Republican women out there who haven’t yet lost their minds.

Possum Trot, Missouri

Just to give folks not from around here an idea of how conservative the area of Southwest Missouri is, I want to note an article in Friday’s Joplin Globe about the race for the 158th District Missouri House seat, a seat that would represent the good folks of Barry, Lawrence, and Stone counties, just east and southeast of Joplin.

Respectively, the biggest towns in each county are Monett (pop. 8,873), Aurora (pop. 7,014), and Kimberling City (pop. 2,253). The lucky guy or gal who will represent this august area will also represent places like Coney Island (pop. 94) and, I kid you not, Possum Trot, which Wikipedia defines as “a former town” and, sadly, relates:

Only the remains of a church and a house are left.

What dreams died in Possum Trot, we will never know.

In any case, my point here is to show just how little choice folks around here—almost all of them white—not only have, but how little they actually want, in terms of politics. It goes from awful to God-awful, since very few Democrats even bother to put up an electoral fight.

In the 158th District, the Globe reports a battle between a Republican and a Constitution Party candidate. Here is a sample of their respective positions:

REPUBLICAN: “During a time when the federal government is in such a state of dysfunction, as it is now, the role of the state Legislature becomes ever more important. The most important job of a state legislator in the current environment is to protect the state and its people from the ways of a reckless federal government.

“We have to get government out of the way, not just at the federal level but at the state level as well, so that businesses can grow. It is as simple as that.”

CONSTITUTION PARTY: …she would “promote constitutional legislation that will move us in the direction of state sovereignty. I will examine bills that seem to solve problems but in the end restrict our liberties and cast my vote accordingly, even if it goes against what seems to be popular at the time. Reform our welfare program to include lifetime collection limits and a cap on per-child benefits.

“Lowering tax rates for all is the key … (along with) inching our way towards state sovereignty and saying ‘no thank you’ to federal government funds that have strings attached in the form of regulations.”

There you have it. Your choice in these counties is between a Romney-like candidate who wants to turn the government over to business interests, or a Ryan-like candidate who wants to put lifetime limits on welfare, including capping benefits for kids.

And that’s the way most folks around here like it, even if all there is left in Possum Trot is a rundown church and house.

Leading From Behind Todd al-Akin

How many times have you heard Republicans criticize President Obama for “leading from behind”? A bunch. Here is an example of what right-wingers mean by their criticism:

To sum it up, Barack Obama’s foreign policy is based on the belief that we have surrendered or had taken from us our leadership role in the world. He’s operating intentionally as a failure.

Yeah, that’s our president, alright. He’s not only a failure, he’s means to be one!

Yesterday I heard Dan Senor, a foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney and a man ass-deep in Bush’s decision to not lead from behind and start a foolish war in Iraq, criticize President Obama on TV  for failing to get Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to “step down.

My, my, my. I wonder why al-Assad won’t listen to the President of the United States and do what he is told? Maybe it is because Mr. Obama is a defective leader? A failure? Yeah, that’s it. I mean, if a leader asks a bad actor to get off the stage and that actor chooses to remain in the spotlight, it’s the leader’s fault, right? He has failed to lead, right? He’s a wimp, right?

Well, okay. Here’s what Dan Senor’s boss said about Todd Akin, Missouri’s torturously Talibanic Republican candidate for senate—and part-time gynecologist—after Akin’s ignorance and/or stupidity was revealed to the world:

As I said yesterday, Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country. Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race.

That was on August 21. Naturally, being a leader of epic proportions, Romney’s declaration that Akin should “step aside” immediately caused Akin to, well, step aside, right?

Not exactly:

Todd Akin (still) staying in Missouri Senate race

Despite calls from Republican Party leaders to step down, Rep. Todd Akin announced he will remain in the Missouri Senate race against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Dammit! What’s wrong with Mittens’ leadership? If President Obama is expected to snap his fingers and have a miscreant like Bashar al-Assad disappear, then making a little twerp like Todd Akin go away ought to be easy pickin’s.

But nope, Akin remains with us, which, of course, means Mittens has failed as a leader. And not only did Akin defy him, but others have kicked sand in Romney’s face.

Among the sand-kickers are Akin’s reactionary friends who are coming to his aid, folks like Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Jim DeMint, Phyllis Schlafly, and, no surprise, the author of the infamous “Blunt amendment“—a blatant and reactionary attack on women’s health choices—Roy Blunt:

Blunt backs Akin’s Senate bid after deadline to exit race passes

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) announced his support for Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-Mo.) Senate bid after the deadline passed for Akin to exit the race.

In a statement released late Tuesday night, Blunt, a venerable figure in Missouri politics and the GOP establishment in Washington, flipped on his earlier call for Akin to exit the race.

“Congressman Akin and I don’t agree on everything, but he and I agree the Senate majority must change. From Governor Romney to the county courthouse, I’ll be working for the Republican ticket in Missouri, and that includes Todd Akin,” he said in the statement.

Not too long ago Blunt said in a joint statement with other Missouri Republican “leaders” the following:

We do not believe it serves the national interest for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in this race. The issues at stake are too big, and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside.”

Dammit! There’s that pesky phrase “step aside” again. Blunt tried and failed to get Akin to quit and that means Blunt is also a wimpy leader. Shoot, when it comes to Akin, there are wimpy Republican leaders all over the place. In terms of revealing leadership qualities, little old Todd Akin is the Bashar al-Assad of the GOP!

But in Blunt’s case, instead of moaning and groaning about Akin’s tin ear, instead of telling Akin to go straight to hell, Blunt, being a resourceful, if wimpy, leader, has chosen to follow Akin and help him get elected.

Now that’s what I call leading from behind!

Godspeed, Todd al-Akin!

The Scary Negro Socialist Is One Hell Of A Capitalist

 very ignorant person from Missouri was quoted in a Politico article today, and his comment shows, in an important way, what the hell is wrong with Missouri politics, if not politics across the country.

The piece, titled “Obama ‘fear’ drives social conservatives,” focuses on Talibanic teapartiers—big dog media types here in America are obliged to call them “social conservatives” —who aren’t excited at the prospect of a Romney administration but are so “angry at about what’s going on” and have such “total fear” of Barack Hussein Obama that nothing, not even an uninspiring, inept, lying Republican ticket, will stop them from beating a pious path to the polls in November to stop that Scary Negro from getting a second term.

The Politico story managed to capture the hysteria that afflicts about half of the voting population in Missouri:

Mark Luther, 38, of Kennet, Mo., said Obama will take the nation closer to socialism.

Most GOP voters he knows, he said, “are afraid of a second [Obama] term, so much so that they think if Obama gets reelected, the country will become socialist.”

Now, perhaps it is that Mr. Luther has been living in one of Missouri’s famous caves the past four years and he hasn’t noticed that  free-market capitalism is thriving under that pigmented Kenyan socialist in the White’s House.

I can’t think of a more representative symbol of American capitalism than Wall Street, can you? So, let’s look at what has happened on Wall Street since the socialist became Prez:

Dow Jones Industrial Average opening on January 20, 2009: 8,279

Dow Jones Industrial Average opening on March 6, 2009: 6,470

Dow Jones Industrial Average closing on September 14, 2012: 13,588 

Chuck Todd flashed a graphic on TV this morning that tells a better story:

If you doubt the importance, to capitalists, of these numbers, then don’t. None other than Capitalist Magazine, an Ayn Randish rag and defender of laissez-faire, eat-or-get-eaten capitalism, said this about stock prices as measures of national economic health:

Stock price appreciation is fueled by good economic news and the expectation of continued good economic news in the future. As such, the stock markets are, to some degree, leading indicators of economic health. 

Capitalist Magazine especially pointed to the Wilshire 5000, a broader measure of thousands of stocks, as opposed to the 30 that comprise the Dow Jones average, as an even better indicator of economic health. The Wall Street Journal says that the Wilshire, “reflects the combined value of all publicly-traded stocks in the U.S.

So, let’s look at Capitalist Magazine’s favorite metric:

Wilshire 5000 opening on January 20, 2009: 8100

Wilshire 5000 opening on March 6, 2009: 5,850

Wilshire 5000 closing on September 14, 2012: 15,354

That close last Friday is very close to a record high of 15,807, set on October 9, 2007, as this chart demonstrates:

As you can see, Obama is one strange socialist. He should turn in his Communist Party card and apologize to all the socialists in the world.

By the way, Capitalist Magazine, which said, “Stock price appreciation is fueled by good economic news and the expectation of continued good economic news in the future,” inexplicably has on its site an article written last week—last week!—titled,

America’s Fascist Economy

Go figure.

Finally, I will leave you with the lede from an article published by The Wall Street Journal on January 20, 2009, the day socialism came to America:

Bush’s final week as president left the Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Index — as of Friday’s close — down 5.5% on an annualized basis during his second term. In combination with the 1% gain eked out during his first four years, Bush leaves office with the stock market down 2.3%, annualized, over eight years.

The devaluation of the stock gauge gives Bush the dubious distinction of being the first president of the past five to oversee any decline at all, according to Wilshire Associates.

I’d like to ask that factless Missouri guy if he prefers George W. Bush’s capitalism over Barack Obama’s socialism, but he’s probably out campaigning for Todd Akin, who, I must inform you, is holding tight with Claire McCaskill in the polls.

And the inexcusable ignorance and irrational fear of Mark Luther from Kennet, Mo., is what makes the words, “Senator Todd Akin,” a chilling possibility, even if the Scary Negro gets to stay in the White’s House.

Seven Democrats And One “Visibly Distraught” Republican

Birth control is basic health care and is an economic issue for Missouri women and families. To make a woman pay for birth control on top of premium payments has real economic consequences.”

—Missouri State Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur.

aking a brief timeout from national politics, I want to call attention to what Republicans here in Missouri shamefully pulled off on Wednesday. From the AP:

Missouri lawmakers enacted new religious exemptions from insurance coverage of birth control Wednesday, overriding a gubernatorial veto and delivering a political rebuke to an Obama administration policy requiring insurers to cover contraception.

Overriding Governor Jay Nixon’s July veto wasn’t easy. In the House, Republicans had exactly the votes they needed—109—and not one vote more, thanks to seven Democrats—yes, I said Democrats—who unbelievably voted against Missouri women and reproductive freedom.

Governor Nixon said,

By their act today, the legislators who voted to override this veto are standing between women and their right to make their own personal decisions about birth control.

The deciding vote, as it turns out, belonged to Republican Chris Molendorp, of Belton. The Kansas City Star pointed out that Molendorp, an insurance agent,

was the only member of his party to oppose the birth control bill when it originally passed in May.

The only member of his party. The only one. And he caved into pressure from his fellow Republicans and, when it counted most, voted against Missouri women. The Star describes Molendorp’s behavior after the vote:

A visibly distraught Molendorp left the House floor and did not participate in a Republican press conference after the vote. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

If you want to try to reach Mr. Molendorp for comment or just to express your displeasure with his inexplicable vote, here is his Jefferson City contact info:

Phone: 573-751-2175   Email: Chris.Molendorp@house.mo.gov

Fortunately, a lawsuit has been filed by a Kansas City firefighter and the Greater Kansas City Coalition of Labor Union Women, asking a judge to restore some sanity to Missouri politics and toss the law out.

For the record, here are the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of the Democrats—Democrats!—who chose religious oppression over women’s freedom:

Ron Casey, from Crystal City. Phone: 636-937-5075    Ron.Casey@house.mo.gov

Joe Fallert, from Ste. Genevieve. Phone: 573-751-7735     Joe.FallertJr@house.mo.gov

Ben Harris, from Hillsboro. Phone: 636-221-1798         Ben.Harris@house.mo.gov

Paul Quinn, from Monroe City. Phone: 866-439-1422        Paul.Quinn@house.mo.gov

Ed Schieffer*, from Troy. Phone: 573-751-9459                     Ed.Schieffer@house.mo.gov

Tom Shively, from Shelbyville. Phone: 573-633-2484   Tom.Shively@house.mo.gov

Terry Swinger, from Caruthersville. Phone: 573-333-1861   tswinger2000@yahoo.com

______________________________

A special note about this Democrat from the AP:

In the House, Rep. Ed Schieffer, D-Troy, arrived in a wheelchair after suffering a staph infection from knee surgery in order to vote for the veto override.

If only he cared as much about the rights of women.

Todd Akin’s Hunger Games

The Big Lebowski, Jeff Bridges, was on Morning Joe this morning talking about child hunger in America. Appearing with Bill Shore, of Share our Strength, Bridges shared this sobering stat:

Almost 16 million American kids—one in five—live in poverty.

From the Share our Strength website, we can follow the progression of what happens if kids—students trying to learn—go without food:

1. That child who doesn’t have enough to eat isn’t going to do as well in school.

2. And is likely to get sick more often.

3. She’s less likely to graduate from high school and go on to college, which will have a negative impact on her economic future.

4. If this happens, then twenty years from now, she’s much less likely to be able to earn enough to feed her family.

Seen that way, combating child hunger, apart from the obvious morality of it, is simply an investment in America’s future well-being.

And Mr. Legitimate Rape, Todd Akin, is on the wrong side of this moral and practical issue, too.

According to an article in the Forum section in Sunday’s Joplin Globe, 646,000 Missouri students received free or reduced-price meals at school in fiscal year 2011. A lot of those kids benefiting from that Truman-era federal program live around here, in conservative Republican-dominated Southwest Missouri, and from its beginning the federal school lunch program was opposed by—guess who?—conservative Republicans.

Todd Akin is one of those.  The Joplin Globe reports:

According to a report in The Columbia Daily Tribune, Akin said he wasn’t opposed to feeding children, but that it wasn’t the federal government’s job to pay for it.

The state, he said, is responsible for education, and if providing breakfast and lunch was important then state and local governments could pick up the tab.

If providing breakfast and lunch was important? Huh? The Globe continued:

Akin was one of only 13 members of the House of Representatives to vote against a resolution expressing support for the National School Lunch Program. In March 2010, Akin voted against House Resolution 362, a resolution expressing support for the goals and ideals of the school lunch program.

Those 13 “members” who voted against expressing support for the school lunch program were actually all Republicans, and they represent many of the nuttiest of the nutty Tea Party conservatives. Here’s a partial list, just to give you an idea of the kind of company Akin is in:

♦ Ron Paul (Yep! that one from Texas)

♦ Paul Broun (of GA; he once suggested Mr. Obama was ready to establish a Marxist dictatorship)

♦ Jason Chaffetz (of UT; this federal school lunch hater is a big-time Romney surrogate)

♦ Virginia Foxx (of NC; who once suggested that old folks would be “put to death by their government” if Democrats’ health reform passed; she also said we have more to fear from it than “any terrorist right now in the country”)

♦ Scott Garrett (of NJ; creationist birther)

♦ Doug Lamborn (of CO; Big Bird hater; the most partisan man in Congress and a man who suggested President Obama was a “tar baby”)

♦ James Sensenbrenner (of WI; introduced The Patriot Act in the House; if that ain’t enough, he referenced the First Lady’s “big butt”; to give you a sense of his temperament, Jon Stewart said after a weird episode in the House: “Oh my God, he literally took his gavel and went home; we are officially being governed by children.”; Rolling Stone referred to him as “the dictator”)

♦ John Shadegg (formerly of AZ; a man who called the health care reform effort, “full-on Russian gulag, Soviet-style gulag health care,” and believes Muslim spies are invading Congress

You can see that Akin, given his history of reactionary weirdness, can hold his own with these folks, and you can also see that his opposition to the federal lunch program is based on some strange moral principles that, for now, only a tiny minority of Republicans in Congress hold.

As far as “state and local governments” picking up the tab for school lunches, the Globe cites the Columbia Daily Tribune as saying,

ending federal subsidies for school lunches in Missouri would add $260 million to state spending. Budget and education officials say that money is not available, and Missouri requires a balanced budget.

Missouri has already made cuts for school buses, Career Ladder programs, teacher professional development and Parents as Teachers.

So, it is clear that there is no money in the budget and no chance that Missouri legislators, overwhelmingly Republicans, would raise the revenue necessary to keep kids from going hungry at school.

And Todd Akin, who is as we speak representing Missouri in the House of Representatives and wants to represent our state in the U.S. Senate, knows that. He knows that if his opposition to the federal school lunch program ever became the GOP majority view, if his party successfully killed it, that Missouri students would go hungry.

He knows that. And all Missourians should know that he knows that.

______________________________

For her part, Claire McCaskill, who supports the federal school lunch program—which over this year will cost about the same as two month’s worth of the Afghanistan war does right now—said,

Do I want the federal government to spend less? Yes. But I don’t want to turn out the lights and go home on the most important parts of our economy.

Goodbye, Kansas, And Missouri May Be Right Behind Ya

The state of my birth and Missouri’s now radical neighbor to the west has officially become the property of Koch-sponsored fanaticism.*

And Missouri, with Rep. Todd Akin becoming the state’s GOP offering to unseat moderate Democrat Claire McCaskill, may soon join Kansas—which when I lived there actually could elect a Democratic governor!— as a place where teapartiers try to out-tea party each other in their efforts to destroy 21st-century government.

On Tuesday, Kansans settled the war in the Republican Party between moderates (yep, these days that’s what we call GOP conservatives who won’t quite put a full set of teabags on their hats) and the Brownbacks (as in Governor Sam), those hard-core Koch-heads who want to dismantle large parts of the government and ask some folks to live like 19th-century settlers.

Most prominent among the moderates defeated in the GOP primary was Senate President Steve Morris, who waged something of a resistance movement, in alliance with Democrats, to stop some of the draconian legislation—wild-eyed anti-abortion and anti-union and anti-education bills, for instance—that the extremists were otherwise very close to passing.

That’s not to say Morris was a left-winger. He and other “moderates” went along with tax cuts (read about that sordid tale here) that will end up crippling the state and enrich Koch-heads at the expense of working folks and kids, as well as a voter ID law that would have made it difficult for my late mother, a former poll worker, to vote.

But enough about Kansas. It’s too late to save that state. Missouri? There’s still time, and defeating Todd Akin would be a good place to start our comeback. Remember in April when President Obama said, as reported by HuffPo:

“I’m always interested in how folks talk about this issue,” he said. “You’ve got one member of Congress who compared student loans — I’m not kidding here — to a stage three cancer of socialism.”

Obama tried to repeat the phrase but broke up laughing.

“I don’t know where to start? What do you mean? What are you talking about? Come on!” he implored, eliciting loud applause. “Just when you think you’ve heard it all in Washington, somebody comes up with a new way to go off the deep end.”

Yep, that’s right. He was talking about—no laughing at—Todd Akin, a U.S. Congressman who once suggested Obama should be impeached and who said this about the President:

He is a complete menace to our civilization.

Obama is not just a menace, you see, but a complete menace.

In any case, as Claire McCaskill said before Akin was officially anointed  as the state’s freakiest conservative (he’s always held that title in my book):

Missourians are going to have a really clear choice: Somebody who’s moderate and believes in compromise, or somebody who believes we need to turn out the lights on the federal government and go home.

Among the larger lights Akin wants to turn out are Medicare (voucherize it) and Social Security (privatize it). Go to truthaboutakin.com and read the details. Can’t wait to see those first McCaskill ads explaining to voters how Akin wants to flip the switch on those wildly popular government programs.

Finally, Democrats in Missouri should ignore the polls, especially this late faulty one that showed Akin with a slight lead in a match-up with McCaskill, but which also showed John Brunner beating Akin by 16 points!

Which leads me to say that Todd Akin did Democrats a favor by beating Brunner. Missourians were bombarded by Brunner ads—$8 million worth in our mailboxes, on our radios and constantly on our TVs—and he would have been a stronger general election candidate than Akin. But Akin will have plenty of money spent on his behalf, mostly to darken McCaskill’s complexion, if you know what I mean.

So, my progressive friends, let’s all cough up a little dough and send it Claire’s way. While she hasn’t been a force for liberalism in the U.S. Senate, the alternative is unthinkable.

______________________________

* I suppose it is only fair that the Koch’s get first dibs on buying the state, since Koch Industries—the nation’s second largest privately held company— is headquartered in Wichita.

Legal Darkness

For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

—Jesus

f you think national campaign finance rules are screwed up, Missouri’s are worse.

Today I received in the mail campaign literature from an outfit known as Missourians for Conservative Values PAC.  Here is a shot of one page:

I wondered who this group was and, more important, where it got its dough to finance such a slick and nasty ad. I found it also had a video out:

Now that’s pretty rough stuff and you all know I don’t care at all about Peter Kinder’s political career, except to see it end as soon as possible at the hands of a Democrat. But this ad was not, obviously, financed by any Democratic group. The point here is that whoever is behind the ad ought to have a face.

So, who is behind the financing? Beats me and good luck finding out in this state. From the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

Editorial: Trail of dirty money continues to pull Missouri into the mud

This is what democracy looks like in Missouri:

Last Friday, Denise Young of High Ridge formed a nonprofit corporation, Better Government for Missouri.

Later that day, Better Government for Missouri gave $100,000 to Missourians for Conservative Values, a St. Joseph-based political action committee.

On Tuesday, Missourians for Conservative Values posted a political video on YouTube recounting Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder’s dalliances with a former East St. Louis stripper. It’s the sort of negative and nasty ad that builds on the arguments made by state Sen. Brad Lager of Savannah, Mr. Kinder’s opponent in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor.

Mr. Lager’s campaign, of course, said it had nothing — nothing — to do with the ad. Politics ain’t beanbag, as they say, but politicians generally want plausible deniability when their friends and allies throw mud on their behalf.

Here’s the rub: There is no way of knowing who spent the $100,000 to slime Mr. Kinder.

The “sleaziness,” as the Post points out,

is not a result of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United ruling. It’s purely a Missouri problem.

In 2005, when Missouri politicians, Republicans and Democrats, started pushing to get rid of campaign donation limits in the Show-Me State, their main argument was that it would bring transparency to campaign finance in the state.

If donors could give whatever they wanted, the logic went, there would be no incentive to launder money through multiple committees, as long had been the practice. The flaw in the argument was clear: There would be no transparency if lawmakers didn’t also pass measures to ban committee-to-committee transfers, like the example above.

Now we have limited transparency and unlimited money. It’s a dangerous combination.

The editorial notes that failure at the federal level to enforce rules that were designed to limit groups like Better Government for America from “active involvement in electoral politics” is also partly to blame for the problem. Such negligence allows “dirty tricksters” to pretty much “operate in the dark” here in Missouri.

It turns out that in addition to the initial $100,000 which went to the sliming of Peter Kinder, there was more, according to Randy Turner:

Five days after Better Government for Missouri was formed, it gave another $200,000 to Missourians for Conservative Values for a direct mailing against Kinder, according to the eight-days-before-election report filed with the Ethics Commission.

Prior to the formation of Better Government for Missouri, the St. Joseph PAC only had $5,140.01 in the bank. After spending the $300,000 and an additional $115 for expenses, the PAC is left with $5,025.01, according to the report.

Where’s the money coming from? Who is behind it? Apparently, here in Missouri the public’s right to know is strictly limited to those who need to know, which doesn’t include you and me.

Not only is all this an affront to Missouri democracy, such secrecy, which is also going on at the national level, undermines our cultural confidence  in the realization of Lincoln’s majestic prayer for our form of government:

that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

What a shame that should American democracy perish, it just might be at the hands of wealthy Americans who can do their nastiness in a very creepy—and legal— darkness.

Call It “ClaireCare” If You Want, McCaskill Should Say

I will take Claire McCaskill at her word that she is not skipping the Democratic National Convention because she is afraid to cavort with Mr. Obamacare himself and other Democrats who don’t enjoy overwhelming popularity here in Missouri.

She told Morning Joe:

I’ve never gone when I’ve had a contested race. You’ve got to say to people at home, which is more important: Going to a place with a bunch of party honchos and having cocktail parties, or being at home talking to them? So this has never been a hard call for me. Everybody is trying to make this a big deal and narrative. It’s just stupid.

All of the chatter about McCaskill’s reasons for not going to North Carolina later this summer, along with the  expectation that the Supremes will rule on the Affordable Care Act tomorrow, has me wondering just why it is that here in Missouri, as elsewhere, the concept of “ObamaCare” is relatively unpopular, even while its constituent parts are not. My conclusion is that such dissonance is attributable to a failure to properly—and constantly—educate an inattentive public.

Which, of course, made me wonder, for instance, what Ms. McCaskill has said about the ACA and how she has tried to educate Missourians on the virtues of the law.

Well, she did make an effort to do so in March, sort of. Here is how TPM began a story about it:

Grilled about her support for the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) told a home state radio interviewer that the law’s core structure is “exactly” like the House GOP Medicare privatization plan that conservatives support and liberals detest.

Hmm. That’s not exactly a good way of selling ObamaCare to liberals, now is it? She went on:

“The irony of this situation is that these are private insurance companies people will shop to buy their insurance. It’s not the government,” she told KMOX of St. Louis on Wednesday. “It’s exactly what Paul Ryan wants to do for Medicare.”

“It’s subsidized by the government — premium subsidies — which is exactly, this is the irony,” continued McCaskill, who faces a tough reelection battle this fall. “You think what Paul Ryan wants to do for seniors, you think it’s terrific. But when we want to provide private health insurance for people who don’t have insurance with subsidies from the government, you think it’s terrible.”

Her point here is, of course, unassailable. There is a lot of Republican hypocrisy associated with the debate over health care reform, particularly since almost the entire scheme that is now called ObamaCare is made up of ideas that once were dreamed up in the minds of right-wingers.

But that doesn’t let Claire off the hook, in terms of her responsibility to educate folks about the law. I looked on her campaign website and I found the following under “Healthcare“:

Claire has fought for expanded health insurance for all Missourians, from children to seniors. In her first term, Claire helped protect children with pre-existing conditions from being refused insurance and saved seniors from paying too much for prescription drugs by helping to close the Medicare Part D “donut hole.” Claire strongly believes that affordable health care is necessary in a successful economy and will continue to fight to make sure all Missourians have access to it, while also fighting to ensure those who chose not to be insured don’t pass along their medical costs to other Missourians.

This paragraph constitutes a summary of the details that follow on the page, but what we see here is essentially an explanation of the Affordable Care Act, of ObamaCare, but without the name attached. Now, while it is understandable that she would want to stay away from terms that Republicans and their moneyed funders have tainted via their propaganda campaign against “ObamaCare” and the ACA, what McCaskill is doing is essentially furthering the public’s misunderstanding of what is the health care reform law that goes by those names.

I can’t help but wonder what public opinion about the ACA might be today, if folks like McCaskill would not only consistently tout the parts of the law that people like, but aggressively defend the idea behind the one part they don’t like, the dreaded mandate.

Something like the following would be in order, coming from the moderate Missouri Democrat who voted for the ACA and who gets constantly attacked for doing so:

You’re damned right I voted for ObamaCare. And I’m proud of that vote. Hell, I wish they’d call it ClaireCare, so proud I am to have voted for it.

You know why?

Because it helps protect Missourians with pre-existing conditions from getting screwed by insurance companies;

Because it protects Missourians who get sick from getting booted off the insurance they had before they got sick;

Because it provides insurance for Missourians who can’t afford it and who would otherwise go without it and get sick and die or who would end up in an emergency room with a horrible and horribly expensive disease that we’d all end up paying for;

Because it allows about 40,000 Missouri kids to stay on their parents insurance until they are 26;

Because it has already “saved 111,815 Missouri seniors on Medicare an average of $627 per person on their prescription drugs by closing the Medicare Part D ‘donut hole‘” (quote from her website);

And because it has already “provided 431,945 Missouri women with free mammograms, bone density scans, and cervical cancer screenings with no co-pay” (quote from her website);

As I said, you’re damned right I voted for what you derisively try to call “ObamaCare,” and I couldn’t be prouder. Tell me, my critics, which one of the above “becauses” would you like to repeal? Huh?

And I’m even proud of the fact that I voted for the hated mandate because it was at least an attempt to get folks to stop gaming the system and help pay their own way. Aren’t you tired of some people trying to get something for nothing?

Any bleeping questions?

Keeping An Eye On The Rush Bust

Perhaps you have heard:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri House has spent more than $1,100 in taxpayer money on a security camera to keep watch over a new bronze bust of conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, the House clerk said Thursday.

Now, I have not written much about the embarrassing fact that Rush Limbaugh, whose colossal intolerance is robust enough to give bigotry a bad name, is now firmly ensconced in the Hall of Famous Missourians, thanks to Missouri House Speaker Steven Tilley, a Republican from Limbaugh’s part of Missouri.

Recently calling a college student a “slut” and “prostitute” for daring to speak her mind on the availability of contraception, Rush apparently upgraded his credentials for admission into what we will now definitely have to call the Hall of Both Infamous and Famous Missourians.

When Rush was officially inducted this week, the event, which traditionally is open to the public, was a secret affair attended only by Republicans—because only Republicans were invited! That’s some honor! Congratulations, Rush! You’re such a special Missourian that only other special Missourians understand what you mean to the state. The rest of us just understand that you’re mean.

In any case, as police stood guard to make sure the orgy of  adoration was not interrupted by reality, Limbaugh, never missing an opportunity to show off his Missouri humility and humanity, said of his critics:

They’re deranged. They’re literally deranged.

Ah, a proud moment in Missouri history!

Finally, I learned today that not only will taxpayers foot the bill to keep Rush’s marble head under surveillance every minute of every day, it is the only marble head in the place that actually needs a security camera! Kudos, Rush!

House Clerk Adam Crumbliss told the Associated Press:

We recognize that there was a level of controversy around it, and we want to make sure that property is protected.

No, no, no. That’s not what the camera is for. It has nothing to do with “controversy.” As everyone knows, marble is susceptible to acidic substances, and I have it on good authority that the real reason for the camera is to keep adoring Republicans from making love to Rush’s mug when the lights go out.

Smoooooch!

Missouri And The Minimum Wage

There is a ballot initiative underway in Missouri that—if voters approve—would raise our state’s minimum wage to $8.25 an hour in 2013, as well as provide an annual cost of living adjustment in the following years.

On Thursday a judge rejected claims that the summary written by the secretary of state to explain the initiative to voters was faulty:

“We think it’s good news. We’re one step closer to making sure that the will of Missouri voters is being respected and we all get a chance to vote on this,” said Lara Granich, director of Missouri Jobs with Justice, which is backing the initiative.

Just why is this push to raise the minimum wage important? Take a look at the following, courtesy of Remapping Debate:

As you can see, and as Remapping Debate points out, the federal minimum wage “is significantly less in real terms” than in 1968. There are no provisions in the law that would allow the minimum wage to keep up with inflation and thus the purchasing power of those wage earners erodes over time.

Speaking of purchasing power, Remapping Debate also provided a comparison of the “family poverty threshold” between 1968 and 2011. It ain’t pretty:

The above green gap—which represents the shortfall between the earnings of someone working minimum wage and trying to support a family of four at the poverty threshold—is not something to be proud of, but at least it is better than it was in 2007:

Although there is no chance that a Tea Party Congress will raise the minimum wage at the federal level, Missourians can take matters into their own hands, should the ballot initiative succeed.

Get The Plunger!

Just how far down the crapper has Missouri’s Republican-dominated state legislature gone? A couple of items in Wednesday’s Joplin Globe give us some idea:

A bill that proposes allowing school districts to sell advertising on school buses has passed the Missouri House and has been referred to the Education Committee of the state Senate.

You see, here in Missouri we have a problem. The state is not following the law, in terms of funding Missouri schools. So, rather than raise any kind of tax (our cigarette tax—a mere 17 cents a pack!—is the lowest in the country) to help with the funding problem, we would rather sell some ads!

Maybe in St. Louis, the schools could sell ads to Verlin’s Bar and Grill, which was Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder’s favorite strip bar—and the main reason he is not running to be the real governor of Missouri. The bar certainly needs to get the word out that is has moved:

This Soulard establishment recently relocated to Vandeventer, but never fear, the ladies behind the bar are as scantily clad (read: not wearing pants) as ever. It’s a destination bar for dudes…With dollar longnecks, Saturdays are a sure bet. And keep your eyes peeled for Missouri politicians: A little birdie told us they like the view at Verlin’s, too.

That ad ought to be easy to explain to the kids!

Come to think of it, since our Lt. Gov. is seeking another term, perhaps he could put up a campaign ad next to the Verlin’s ad. Imagine seeing the following on the side of your kid’s school bus:

The idea is growing on me.

The second item that gives us a clue as to how far down the toilet our legislature has gone is this one:

The Missouri House endorsed legislation Tuesday that would make it a crime for undercover activists to produce videos portraying poor conditions at livestock farms or other agricultural facilities.

Get that? Small-government Republicans (with some Democratic help, for God’s sake!) are hell-bent on creating a brand new crime: reporting on the sometimes deplorable conditions along our food chain! Can’t have that!

More:

The Missouri legislation would apply to a wide variety of agricultural entities, including livestock and poultry farms, processing facilities, markets, exhibitions or even the vehicles used to transport the animals. It also would apply to fields of crops, orchards, greenhouses, gardens, grain elevators, barns, warehouses or any other land or buildings that are part of a commercial crop enterprise.

This breathtakingly un-American law—called an “ag-gag” law—should raise the hackles of anyone in Missouri who may want to know the whole story about how food gets to our tables, or anyone who thinks the government ought to be supporting more food-industry transparency not less.

As About.com pointed out, Republican-controlled Kansas—gasp!—was the first to enact such a law (there are now other states that have them), and here is a brief description of what’s wrong with them generally:

These bills are troubling not only to animal protection activists, but also to those concerned with food safety, labor issues, free speech, and freedom of the press. The bills would apply equally to journalists, activists and employees. By prohibiting any type of undercover recordings, a farm’s own employees would be prohibited from attempting to record food safety violations, labor violations, sexual harassment incidents or other illegal activity.

What is there to hide that would make industry lobbyists press Republicans for such a law? Ah, just shut up and eat!

What’s next? How about a law to shut down journalism altogether? Get all those reporters out of the state capitol! Mustn’t see what’s going on in there! No more uncomfortable facts in the newspaper or on television. No more nasty scandals for politicians to worry about.

Maybe Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder would support that idea:

A National Popular Vote?

Chuck Todd did a 10-minute segment this morning on an important issue: The Electoral College and the popular vote.

Todd’s guest was Dr. John Koza, originator of a proposal to move to a national popular vote in presidential elections (nine states with a total of 132 electoral votes have signed on so far).  Koza deftly defended his proposal, as Todd asked him all the relevant questions.

Interestingly (I did not know this) here in Missouri, Joplin’s own Sen. Ron Richard introduced a bill last month that would, if passed, ratify Koza’s proposed legislation, which essentially is a compact among the states to agree to certify electors (thus the Electoral College remains intact) who would vote only for the winner of the national popular vote.

A bipartisan National Popular Vote bill was also introduced in the Missouri House in February, as reported by the St. Louis Beacon:

In a rare bipartisan move, the Missouri House’s top Republican and Democrat have signed on as cosponsors to a bill — part of a national movement — that seeks to commit the state to awarding all of its presidential electors to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.

House Speaker Steve Tilley, (far right) R-Perryville, and Democratic Minority Leader Mike Talboy, (near right) D- Kansas City, are among the co-sponsors of the bill, filed this week. The chief sponsor is Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-Eureka.

Called the “National Popular Vote bill,” national supporters say it “would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire United States. The bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.”

During the segment on MSNBC, John Koza pointed out that under our present system, 200 million voters are essentially disenfranchised. Yikes.

In the Missouri House the bill has been referred to the Elections Committee and no hearings have been scheduled. In the Senate, the bill has been has been handed to the Financial and Governmental Organizations and Elections Committee and no hearings appear to be scheduled.

I urge everyone to watch the informative segment below and if so inclined, contact Senator Richard at (573) 751-2173 or email him. If you live outside the Joplin area but still in Missouri you can contact your own state senator (or representative) by going here.

In the House,

Joplin representative Bill White’s phone is (573)-751-3791 or 417-623-0038 and his email address is Bill.White@house.mo.gov or wew@cableone.net

Bill Lant’s phone is 573-751-9801 or 417-623-5286. His email address is Bill.Lant@house.mo.gov or lantsfeed@netins.net

Webb City/Duquesne rep Charlie Davis can be reached at 573-751-7082 or 417-825-1193.  You can email him at Charlie.Davis@house.mo.gov or charliedavis@cableone.net


Missourians Mooing Over Sacred Cows

Let’s start with this:

The U.S. Department of Defense has been pressed to cut its budget by President Barack Obama and by a compromise Congress passed last summer to raise the federal debt ceiling.

To make those cuts, the Defense Department recently submitted to Congress a budget that requests authority to do base closures and realignments in 2013 and 2015.

At a Senate hearing in Washington last month, Undersecretary of Defense Dorothy Robyn said base closures are needed as the U.S. draws down operations in Iraq and elsewhere overseas.

“The math is straightforward,” she said. “Force reductions produce excess capacity, excess capacity is a drain-on resources.”

Now, with all the talk out there about cutting the deficit and reducing the debt our children will have to pay one day, all of the above sounds like a common sense way to reduce federal government spending, right?

Wrong.

Vicki Hartzler, Todd Akin, and Blaine Luetkemeyer are three of the most conservative legislators in the House of Representatives, if not the Milky Way.

All have enthusiastically supported the Ryan-Romney budget plan, which Paul Krugman characterized as possessing “inconceivably cruel priorities.” All three are enemies of Big Gov’ment. All three have pledged to save our kids from deficit spending.

Here is Hartzler from her website:

It is time to get runaway spending under control. The current situation is simply not acceptable…It is immoral to keep borrowing today and to pass the bill along to future generations…The U.S. Constitution puts forth a very lean vision of government…

Here’s Akin’s website blowing on about how the Congressman is gonna chop down the big government tree:

Every dollar of new deficit spending represents new compounded interest that this generation’s children – or their children – will have to confront…As a member of the fiscally conservative Republican Study Committee, the Congressman continually works on solutions to actually reduce the size of government while performing core government responsibilities more efficiently.

Luetkemeyer says:

Over the past few years, the federal government has ballooned to an unsustainable level and has spent taxpayer dollars recklessly. ..Because of the federal government’s out-of-control spending, I have supported numerous measures to freeze funding for, and often cut, federal programs.

Now, after all that deficit hawk-talk, one might be surprised to read this:

Jefferson City —Three more members of Missouri’s congressional delegation on Wednesday signaled their opposition to possible military base closures or realignments in the state, moves that are being considered as the federal government looks for ways to save more money.

Guess who those “three more members” were. Yep:

Speaking at the Missouri Capitol, Republican U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler told a crowd of businesspeople, state and local officials and former military personnel that programs at Whiteman Air Force Base and Ft. Leonard Wood are too important for military planners to consider either for cutbacks or closures.

They are “too important” because:

Hartzler’s western Missouri district encompasses both of the state’s biggest military installations. The freshman congresswoman was joined at the state Capitol by fellow Republican U.S. Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Todd Akin, who is running for U.S. Senate this year.

This kind of fiscal duplicity is not uncommon on the right. They do this stuff all the time. They don’t mind cutting government to the bone, as long as the bone is on a part of the body they’re not using.

And to be fair, our own Senator McCaskill, who has fashioned herself as a Democratic deficit hawk,  has come out strongly against the potential base closings here in Missouri. She reportedly said at that Senate hearing in March that there was “absolutely no room for compromise” on the issue of base closings.

An item on her website dated March 21, 2012, began this way:

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill told top military officials today that, as Chairman of the Senate panel with jurisdiction over base closures, she will not allow any plan to move forward this year to close U.S. military bases here at home.

Because Missourians are slowly advancing themselves into the 19th century, McCaskill, who is up for reelection this year, has had to loudly demonstrate how serious she is about cutting the budget. Here is a blurb from her site:

Claire believes the growing national debt is a huge danger to our children’s future. If left unchecked, it will weaken the economy and give too much influence to foreign creditors. She thinks the federal government needs to eliminate wasteful spending and return to the sound fiscal practices that produced budget surpluses in the 1990s.

Again, it appears that “wasteful spending” is not wasteful if it happens in Missouri and “sound fiscal practices” are those practices that should be soundly practiced in other states.

But it would be a mistake to completely equate McCaskill’s position on the base closing issue with that of her conservative colleagues, mainly because she at least supports increasing revenues to help pay for keeping military installations open in Missouri.

All of our Missouri Republicans in Congress—and I mean all of them—are opposed to raising taxes to actually pay for our state’s sacred cows. They just want to slash federal spending  by slaughtering other state’s sacred cows.

In the mean time, with no new revenues and no one willing to kill their own cows, all those cows need more and more hay.

And judging by the way the deficit hawks reacted to only potential base closings here in Missouri, our kids’ haybarn still has plenty to plunder.

Missouri Politics Catch Up

I think I have neglected Missouri politics lately, so let’s catch up:

Whoops! Somebody call the cops!

First, the Missouri GOP caucus mess. For a party that likes to think of itself as the most competent to manage the world’s affairs, including lowering gas prices and taming foreign governments, a St. Charles County Missouri caucus proved more than it could handle:

One of Missouri’s largest Republican Party presidential-nomination caucuses got shut down early — and inconclusively — after a chaotic argument led two Ron Paul supporters to be arrested on Saturday.

Minimum Wage? What’s That?

Steve Benen wrote:

It’s no longer unusual for statewide GOP candidates to oppose the minimum wage, child-labor laws, the existing structure of Medicare and guaranteed benefits, restrictions on torture, collective bargaining, and unemployment benefits.

Not too long ago, this would have been largely unthinkable, and such candidates would have been labeled “extremists,” unable to even compete in a statewide primary.

Benen was referencing Greg Sargent at WaPo, who noticed the sad fact that the three GOP candidates hoping to end the senate career of Missouri’s Claire McCaskill not only didn’t know what the federal minimum wage actually is but two of them—Todd Akin and Jon Brunner—”seemed to come out for doing away with the minimum wage entirely.”

Well, here in Missouri these days it would be “unthinkable” for Republicans to not hold such extremist views.

Stimulus Is Gone, Now What?

Speaking of extremism, let’s look at what our Missouri state legislators have planned for the new session. This is the way the St. Louis Beacon reported the return from spring break of Missouri’s plucky lawmakers:

House Floor Leader (and speaker-in-waiting) Tim Jones, R-Eureka, agrees with Senate leaders that economic development will take center stage again.

But so will the state’s financial problems, which have been softened by federal stimulus aid over the past three years.

You mean the stimulus helped Missouri? That can’t be right because everyone knows that Obama’s stimulus was a failure. Must be a misprint.

Missouri Vaginas Versus “Employers’ Wishes”

Most Missouri women will be happy to know that our legislators have not forgotten about their reproductive real estate and how it might be put to improper use:

Jones said the House and Senate also are working on similar bills that would allow employers to exclude contraceptives from their employees’ health insurance. The aim is “strengthening the employers’ wishes’’ about what they want their insurance to cover, he said.

In Missouri, Republicans are worried more about “the employers’ wishes” than about anything else. And to prove that, please read on.

Workers’ Rights Are Wrong In Missouri Legislature

Late last week, Nixon vetoed two…bills, which sought to tighten the state’s workers compensation laws and to curb workers’ ability to sue employers for discrimination. Both measures had been sought by business groups, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Republican leaders in both chambers, including [speaker-in-waiting Tim] Jones, blasted the governor’s action. But Jones acknowledged in an interview that it’s unlikely the House will override the governor’s vetoes. That means new versions must be crafted or the issues deferred to the next session.

“We spent a great deal of legislative time on two measures that are now gone,’’ said Jones.

Regardless of what Nixon’s vetoes may imply, said Jones: “We didn’t pass these bills to score political points.”

Oh, yes you did.

And thank you, Governor Jay Nixon, for helping to protect Missouri workers.

Republicans Not Too Proud To Make Workers Beg

Republican attacks on Missouri workers continue. The state Senate is itching to pass a “right-to-work beg” law, and “a compromise” between the Republican-dominated House and the Republican-dominated Senate (see? that is what we mean these days by a Missouri compromise!) on the “prevailing wage” issue is predicted by Jones.

Keep your veto pen inked up, Gov’nor.

For Sale: Missouri Legislators

The Missouri Supreme Court recently kiboshed, on technical grounds, ethics legislation designed to make ethics-resistant politicians ethical, or something like that. But Democrats are pushing the issue again this session. On Monday they introduced a bill that would restore at least some limits on purchasing our politicians:

The Democrats’ proposal would set the top donation limit at $5,000 per election, more than twice the old limits.

Perhaps many of you have forgotten that Republicans erased any limits in 2008, when they effectively and arrogantly overturned the will of Missouri voters, who approved Proposition A (The Missouri Campaign Contribution Limits Proposition) in 1994.

When one looks at the results of that state-wide vote (the statute provided for dramatically lower limits than politicians are willing to live with today), it is hard to see why Republicans felt free to give the finger to Missouri voters:

The truth is that Missouri Republicans are so confident that conservative rural voters will keep sending them to Jefferson City, they can flip the electorate the bird with each hand and get back a friendly wave.

The Blind Bleeding The Blind

As for budget issues, let me see, House Republicans are planning to kill “the state’s longstanding assistance for the blind.” Floor leader Jones called this “an extra benefit” (it helps 2,800 blind folks who don’t quite qualify for Medicaid), saying:

in tough economic times, extra programs that are specifically targeted to specific classes of individuals have to be looked at first.

Yes. Here in Missouri the first individuals to get a look in terms of budget cuts are the blind. I suppose somebody has to sacrifice to keep taxes low enough to attract all those bidnesses that never seem to get the message that they should pack up and move to Missouri.

Proper Role?

Speaking of bidnesses who aren’t moving to Missouri, I want to point out something important that House floor leader Jones said:

There’s a proper role for state government to create the environment by which businesses want to move here and create jobs here.

In Missouri, that means keeping taxes low, keeping wages low, keeping unions at bay, weakening already-weak workers’ compensation laws and other workers’ rights.

Oh yeah, I forgot about booting the blind from the budget. That’ll get bidnesses’ attention.

To Tax Or Not To Tax

As the do-or-die deadline for the so-called supercommittee approaches, it is clear, as it has been for some time now, that the fight is over whether Congress will be responsible and raise revenues in some fashion, or whether Tea Party know-nothings, content with watching the country slowly devolve, will have their way.

Monday’s Joplin Globe featured on its opinion page three separate articles on taxes. Dale McFeatters began his column with this:

Slowly, very slowly, congressional Republicans are getting over their total aversion to tax increases, a vital component of any deficit-reduction plan that will really work.

It is true that Republicans on the supercommittee have offered what they estimate to be $300 billion in increased revenues over ten years. They would eliminate various deductions and tax breaks in the code in exchange for permanent cuts in marginal rates, the top rate dropping to 28 percent. 

While that offer isn’t sufficient—it relies too much on cutting spending to achieve the committee’s mandate to trim $1.5 trillion over a decade—it is, as Senate Budget Committee Chairman and Democrat Kent Conrad said, “a step in the right direction for them to just rhetorically cross that line.”

Here in Missouri, we have our own problem with taxes. Monday’s Globe paid a mixed tribute to the late Mel Hancock, the prototype of today’s tax-cutting, budget slicing teapartier. Phill Brooks, director of the Missouri School of Journalism’s State Government Reporting Program, discussed Hancock’s legacy vis-à-vis Missouri’s finances:

Hancock led the successful 1980 petition campaign to impose a revenue limit on state government.

…in political reaction to the anti-tax sentiment Hancock’s petition campaign had demonstrated, the state’s governor and Legislature passed a sweeping package of tax cuts that constrain the state’s budget to this day…

Missouri now suffers from a bust cycle for tax collections. Taxes are growing at a far lower rate than the growth of the demands for state spending.

Brooks referenced Jim Moody, who worked for former Republican governor John Ashcroft as Missouri’s Commissioner of Administration:

In what became known in the Statehouse as the Moody Report, he warned that those post-Hancock tax cuts had ended Missouri’s ability to finance, on a long-term basis, “the basic functions of government” that are defined by law.

And that’s where we are today: unable to finance the basic functions of government.  Brooks mentioned, for instance, how the state is unable to adequately fund our public schools:

…in the past few years the shortfall in state revenues has prevented the Legislature from providing local public schools with the minimum amount of state funds required by state law. Effectively, the state’s system for funding local schools is illegal because of the disconnect between state spending demands and the state’s tax base.

Sad it is that our state representatives—almost all Republicans—refuse to even consider tax increases to help keep Missouri in compliance with its own laws. And sad it is that national Republicans are willing to watch the country deteriorate in the name of low taxes.

That’s fanaticism any way you look at it.

Finally, and speaking of fanaticism, Monday’s Globe also included an editorial, written by the Kansas City Star, that opposed St. Louis zillionaire Rex Sinquefield’s attempt to place on the Missouri ballot a constitutional amendment to eliminate the state’s personal income taxes and replace them with an “everything tax,” which amounts to a 10 percent state and local sales tax. 

Guess who gets the shaft from that gold mine of conservative economics? Yep:

Replacing the state income tax with an expanded sales tax would be great for people with very high incomes. They would gain more in tax savings than the extra amount they would have to spend on food, clothing, vehicles and almost everything else.

Included among those beneficiaries would be Rex Sinquefield, the St. Louis multimillionaire who is bankrolling an initiative petition drive to phase out Missouri’s income tax.

But Sinquefield’s gain would come at the expense of middle- and low-income households, which would not recoup enough in income tax savings to make up for the cost of a higher sales tax on a greater variety of goods and services. Many seniors would receive no income tax break but would pay much more for daily living purchases.

The justification, of course, for this dishonest proposal is that it would create more Missouri jobs and make us more productive and more attractive to businesses. But consider this graph, which was produced by Missouri state auditor and Republican Tom Schweich (click for better view):


As you can see, Missouri has a rather low tax burden and a rather high need for additional revenue. Consider the taxes on cigarettes:

Yikes. We’re dead last when it comes to taxing smokers, many of whom tax the health care system.

It must be noted here that none other than the United States Chamber of Commerce ranks Missouri seventh of the fifty states in its low-tax and regulation category.  A question arises: If low taxes and lax regulation are so damn good for business, where are the jobs? Our unemployment rate is 8.5%.

What all this tax stuff comes down to, ultimately, is whether Americans—no, really it is Americans who vote—will reject the legions of anti-tax politicians who promise that lowering taxes on the wealthiest Americans will solve our economic woes.

A Remarkable Day

“The cameras may leave. The spotlight may shift. But we will be with you every step of the way until Joplin is restored. We’re not going anywhere. That is not just my promise; that’s America’s promise.”

Barack Obama, Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011

There are lots of great pictures of Barack Obama’s inspirational visit to Joplin on Sunday, but I just want to post one that I think captures much about Mr. Obama and the residents hit hardest by the tornado. Former or current Joplinites know what I mean:

Okay. Maybe two photos:

 [Top: AP; Bottom: White House]
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