This Is Why We Have The Right-Wing Government We Have

While it is absolutely proper to focus on the disintegration of our democracy, in terms of how Tr-mp and his defenders aided and abetted (and still are) Russia’s attack on our electoral process and Putin’s poisoning the well of trust in the mainstream press, I think I should point out something happening here in my own state. We have our own version of Tr-mp and Tr-mpism. Our governor is a mini-Tr-mp. Our legislature is a mini-House Freedom Caucus. Reactionary forces dominate our state as if, as I have said before, we were Louisiana.

The Kansas City Star published a story this morning (“Thousands of Missourians are about to be cut from prescription drug program“) that is breathtakingly sad for a couple of reasons. Here is how the story began:

More than 60,000 elderly Missourians got a letter from the state last month informing them they were about to be cut off from a program that had helped them pay for prescription drugs.

Marjorie Prunty, 74, of Platte County, remembers what she thought when her letter arrived.

“I’m going to die.”

Now, think about that. An elderly citizen, a citizen of our state, a citizen of the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the face of the earth, fears for her life. And she fears for her life because of this:

In May, state lawmakers voted to save $15 million in the state’s $27 billion budget by cutting a state program called MORx.

Those earning between 85 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty level, or up to about $22,000 a year for an individual, had previously qualified for MORx, which covered 50 percent of out-of-pocket prescription drug costs.

Now those 63,000 people — including more than 6,000 in Jackson County alone — are no longer eligible.

Way back in 2006, when MORx was created as a “wrap-around” benefit to George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D prescription drug entitlement program, our Republican governor, Matt Blunt, said:

We are pleased to help low-income seniors and those with disabilities continue to receive their needed medications.

Here in 2017, Republicans are no longer pleased to help low-income seniors and disabled Missourians. That’s how far we have fallen as a state, how far the GOP has fallen as a political party. And Marjorie Prunty, 74, of Platte County, now thinks, “I’m going to die.” That is pathetic. It is sad. But what is more pathetic, what is sadder than that, is how the Star story ended:

Prunty says she’s been reaching out to her representative and the governor’s office to share her story. She doesn’t believe she has much hope, but has no ill-will towards politicians in Jefferson City.

“I voted for these people. I’m not mad at them,” she said. “They just don’t understand. They don’t know what it’s like to be poor. They can’t identify with us.”

What do you say to someone who thinks that way? She fears for her life. She knows why she fears for her life. But apparently because she “voted for these people,” she isn’t “mad at them.” This isn’t a case of a low-information or stupid voter not knowing what is going on. This woman, Marjorie Prunty, knows what is going on. And despite her fear she will die, despite knowing who is causing her fear that she will die, I can just about guarantee you that when it comes time to vote next year, she’ll vote for the same people who threaten her life with their right-wing cruelty.

Whatever it is that makes Marjorie Prunty think the way she does explains why we have not only a cruel right-wing state legislature, but a cruel Republican-led national one—and why we have Tr-mp-Pence-Putin in the White’s House.

I have no words to explain this reality. I can only just walk away, head down.


Missouri, And America, Apparently Need Some European Socialism

Everywhere you look, Republicans fear what they often call “European socialism.”

Here in Missouri, right-wingers, who dominate the legislature, are cutting taxes mostly for corporations and wealthy folks. And then they are asking voters to approve a regressive sales tax. They refuse to expand Medicaid (socialized medicine!) and give health insurance to folks who need it. Meanwhile, look at this:

When it comes to measuring health systems, Missouri is 44th among the states and the District of Columbia in terms of “access and affordability, prevention and treatment, potentially avoidable hospital use and healthy lives.” Get that? This state is almost at the bottom. The only states below us are Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. Think about that. Missouri isn’t that much better than Mississippi, in terms of our health system. Yikes. And people are dying because of it. The Commonwealth Fund estimates as many as “86,000 deaths a year would be avoided if some states improved their health systems.” Yikes, again. (For an “estimated impact of improving performance” for Missouri, go here.)

Mittens Romney tried to use socialism to scare Americans in 2012, when he told us that President Obama was “taking us down a path towards Europe.” Would that be so bad? some might ask, especially some in Missouri who don’t have health insurance. To answer that question, I will end with an extensive quote from a recent column by Robert Reich, in which he explained how bad the Canadians and Europeans have it:

Most of them get free health care and subsidized child care. And if they lose their jobs, they get far more generous unemployment benefits than we do. (In fact, right now 75 percent of jobless Americans lack any unemployment benefits.)

If you think we make up for it by working less and getting paid more on an hourly basis, think again. There, at least three weekspaid vacation as the norm, along with paid sick leave, and paid parental leave.

We’re working an average of 4.6 percent more hours more than the typical Canadian worker, 21 percent more than the typical French worker, and a whopping 28 percent more than your typical German worker, according to data compiled by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.

But at least Americans are more satisfied, aren’t we? Not really. According to opinion surveys and interviews, Canadians and Northern Europeans are.

They also live longer, their rate of infant mortality is lower, and women in these countries are far less likely to die as result of complications in pregnancy or childbirth.

But at least we’re the land of more equal opportunity, right? Wrong. Their poor kids have a better chance of getting ahead. While 42 percent of American kids born into poor families remain poor through their adult lives, only 30 percent of Britain’s poor kids remain impoverished – and even smaller percentages in other rich countries.

With results like that, it is too bad that President Obama isn’t “taking us down a path towards Europe.” I know some folks in Missouri who wish he would.

Missouri Is Only One Vote Shy Of Insurrection Insanity

I’ve tried to avoid talking about it, but I can’t anymore.

Missouri, the state I’ve called home for more than twenty years now, the state that is in a tax-cutting, service-reducing race to the bottom against my old home state of Kansas, is an embarrassment to anyone with an IQ that exceeds air-conditioned room temperature.

And that embarrassment comes at the hands of extremist Republicans who, because there is a lot of apathy and even more electoral laziness in this state, overwhelmingly control the state legislature, even though, for now, we have a Democratic governor.

I speak of a successful vote—I said: successful vote—by the Missouri House to override Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of one of the most obviously unconstitutional and one of the stupidest bills in the history of governance by otherwise sane members of the Homo sapiens species.

As the Associated Press summarized the bill—which late Wednesday night failed by only one vote—one bleeping vote!—to get the needed two-thirds margin in the Missouri Senate to override—it is breathtaking in its affront to our federalist system of government and in its indifference to the Civil War in our past, not to mention a profound indifference to civilization:

The legislation declares any federal policies that “infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms” shall be invalid in Missouri. It allows state misdemeanor charges to be brought against federal agents who try to enforce those laws or against anyone who publishes the identity of a gun owner.

The AP continued:

Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, also raised concerns last week about the ramifications of a potential veto override. He said a court likely would strike down the nullification provision but could leave intact other sections of the bill that could potentially prevent local police from cooperating with federal authorities on crimes involving guns. He said the bill also could open Missouri police to potential lawsuits from criminals if they refer gun-related cases to federal authorities.

CNN opened a story on this nuttiness like this:

The Missouri state legislature is one step closer to accomplishing something that’s never been done: passing a law that will technically not only let residents own a machine gun, but also arrest federal agents if they try to take it away.

The Springfield News-Leader added this:

Democrats who spoke in opposition said the bill would “shred” the First Amendment, criminalizing the actions of journalists involved in the publication of the names of gun owners.

Locally, where all of our state legislators are rabidly right-wing and thus out of their minds, I suppose we can sort of praise Joplin senator Ron Richard—the Republican Majority Floor Leader in the Missouri Senate—who voted against overriding the governor’s veto on Wednesday night, except that Ron Richard, stupidly, voted for the bill originally. Here’s how the Joplin legislator, who wants to be governor of the state someday soon, explained his unexplainable position on this ghastly piece of legislation:

“The attorney general made some valid points about its constitutionality,” he said. “And after reflecting, reading it again, and talking to a lot of people including those in law enforcement, I’m not sure Missouri needs to be the only state in the union to impose this unconstitutional bill.”

He’s “not sure”? Oh, I guess that means if other states join us, Richard would have no problem with machine guns all over the place, and putting FBI agents and journalists in the hoosegow. But he wasn’t done explainin’:

Richard said officials in law enforcement with whom he talked were uneasy with a law that would nullify federal gun laws in the state and would make it a crime for federal agents to enforce them in Missouri.

“They said, ‘You’re going to force us to arrest an FBI agent,’” he said. “That’s not going to work.”

You think? You don’t think state cops arresting federal cops for being federal cops is going to work? Brilliant, Senator Richard. What a brilliant insight. You should be Missouri’s governor with a brain like that. More:

The senator, who earlier was speaker in the House of Representatives, said he did not regret votes to pass the initial measure, which he said “makes a statement the feds need to stay out of state business.”

Yeah, that’ll show those meddlesome feds! Dammit, if you come near Missouri again, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll let citizens shoot you with their machine guns! And the senator, who earlier noted the bill was “unconstitutional,” nevertheless said “he did not regret” voting for it in the first place. Wow.

It’s insanity.  I feel like I’m living inside of Franz Kafka’s worst nightmare. This state is falling into a black hole of right-wing reactionary ridiculousness and every single one of my local representatives is contributing to it. And there isn’t a damn thing that can be done about it as long as Democrats, and other sane and civilized people, sit at home in large numbers on election day and let these people ruin our state.

By the way, a supporter of this insanity, Senator Brian Nieves, says “we’ll be back to visit it again”:

This fight ain’t over, it ain’t over, it ain’t over.

Kafkaesque, I tell you.

One vote, people. We’re only one vote away.

Creepy Always Comes In Threes

Perhaps this past week you have seen or heard about three strange stories related to preserving Iron Age dogmatism, which is the root of much mischief, if not evil.

First, we have Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, who is upset that Catholic employers might be required to follow the law and provide to their employees access to birth control. He metaphorically gave Jesus a divine dope-slap by uttering this rather ungodly threat:

If these mandates click in, we’re going to find ourselves faced with a terribly difficult decision as to whether or not we can continue to operate…As part of our religion, it’s part of our faith that we feed the hungry, that we educate the kids, that we take care of the sick…We’d have to give it up because we’re unable to fit the description and the definition of a church by, guess who? The federal government.

Ah, that evil federal government, from which the Cardinal and his Catholic Charities and its affiliates received nearly $3 billion dollars from taxpayers in 2010.  But how weird is it that Dolan would hold “the hungry, ” the kids,” and “the sick” hostage in order to retain unsullied the Church’s rather creepy dogmatism on contraception?

Second, and speaking of creepy dogmatism, there is the story of yet another nutty North Carolina pastor, Charles Worley, who a few weeks ago in a well-received sermon (lots of amens and other affirmations) offered a Bible-supported Final Solution to nature’s tendency to produce non-heterosexual folks:

Build a great, big, large fence—150 or 100 mile long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out, feed ’em,  and you know what, in a few years, they’ll die out. Do you know why? They can’t reproduce!

At least Pastor Worley offered to “feed ’em,” which is more than Cardinal Dolan offered to do for the hungry his Church is supposed to be serving.

Finally, since creepy dogmatism always comes in threes, there is the following story, courtesy of our Missouri legislature:

Disturbing a worship service could become a crime in Missouri under legislation headed to Gov. Jay Nixon.

The House gave final approval Friday to a bill making it a misdemeanor to intentionally disturb or interrupt a “house of worship” with profanity, rude or indecent behavior or noise that breaks the solemnity of the service. The Senate passed the bill in March…

Violators could face fines of up to $500 and six months in jail. Repeat offenders would face increasingly harsher penalties of up to five years in state prison.

Now, I don’t know whether this law would cover profane preaching, like Pastor Worley is guilty of, or rude or indecent preaching, like Cardinal Dolan is guilty of, but if it does, I’m all for it.

Remarks And Asides

The press secretary for Vice President Joe Biden said that Biden was not really napping during Obama’s budget speech yesterday, merely auditioning for a job as an air-traffic controller.  Good luck, Joe!


The Right’s fixation on Islam and Sharia is finally bearing fruit here in the talk radio-saturated Ozarks.

According to the Springfield News-Leader,

Leaders of the Islamic Center of Springfield say they received a threatening letter targeting Muslims on Sunday and earlier that day found charred remains of three Qurans.

In January, someone painted on the walls of the center, “You bash us in Pakistan. We bash you here.”  The paper also reported that “other messages were sexual, including drawing of a penis near the women’s entrance and a reference to Allah being gay.”

That’s nice. The extremists have figured out a way to get the most out of their graffiti dollar by insulting Muslims and gays in one spray.

Jamil Saquer, a board member of the Islamic Center and a professor at Missouri State University, had this to say about the perpetrators:

They are just acting out of darkness.

What a perfect description of the Right.


Speaking of talk radio saturation and acting out of darkness, yesterday Rush Limbaugh called Obama supporters “savages” and “walking human debris.”  Not one Christian Republican will utter a word of criticism of this man, however.  Praise Jesus.


It’s hard to tell whether Missouri Republicans in the state legislature are treating the unemployed like dogs or the dogs like the unemployed, but one thing is clear: neither the dogs nor the unemployed can count on Missouri Republicans to do the right thing.

Republicans—including every one of our local legislators—have sided with Missouri’s extensive puppy-mill industry and against the welfare of the animals.

And they have sided with Missouri’s extremists in the right-wing ideology industry and against the welfare of the unemployed.

From two stories in today’s Joplin Globe:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri lawmakers capped an emotional debate about dog breeding and gave final approval Wednesday to legislation replacing many of the provisions in a law approved by voters to tighten regulation of the industry.

…Backers of that law argued that Missouri’s existing laws were too weak, allowing breeders to keep dogs in stacked cages and exposed to excess heat and cold.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.— Thousands of Missouri residents cut off from long-term unemployment benefits will soon get federal payments again..but anyone laid off beginning next week will see reduced state jobless benefits… The cut in state benefits was part of deal to end a filibuster against the federal benefits by four Republican state senators upset about federal spending and deficits.

It’s too bad the dogs can’t vote, although given the prevailing politics in this part of the state, more than half of them would vote Republican.  I’m sure clever GOP canine operatives could convince a majority that living in stacked cages, exposed to the heat and cold, is a small price to pay for allowing breeders to make a fast capitalist buck.


Right To Freeload Legislation Uncertain In Missouri

I watched a simultaneously hopeful and disturbing clip of Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley this morning on the issue of the Right to Freeload* legislation that just passed through a Senate committee.  The clip was posted by Missouri News Horizon and you’ll see why I found it both hopeful and disturbing in a minute.

Missouri Senate President Pro tem Rob Mayer is trying to figure out a way to not only get freeloading legislation passed through his chamber, but get it passed by a veto-proof margin.  Democratic Governor Nixon will, of course, nix any such freeloading law, and since no Senate Democrats will support it either, that means Mayer will likely need all Senate Republicans to support it in order to overcome Nixon’s veto.  That will be tough to do, hopefully.

But what I want to focus on is the pro-business agenda the Missouri legislature is currently pursuing.  Obviously, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with trying to attract businesses to this state or any state.  We need jobs.  The problem arises when the pro-business agenda trumps all other considerations.  In other words, The Missouri Chamber of Commerce should not be running the state legislature.  But that’s how it seems.

The Missouri Chamber has outlined its priorities for this session in its Fix the Six agenda, which includes weakening our state’s minimum wage law, limiting the rights of injured workers, and making it easier to fire employees.  This anti-worker agenda is, of course, advanced under the rubric of “promoting jobs” in Missouri.  Fair enough. The Chamber of Commerce has a right to promote its agenda on behalf of businesses, just like labor unions have a right to promote theirs on behalf of workers in the state.

But in Missouri, now dominated by Republicans, the only agenda that matters is the business agenda. In the clip I saw this morning, House Speaker Steve Tilley classified the Right to Freeload legislation as “not a priority.”  That’s good, at least for Missouri workers.  That is the hopeful part of the interview.

However, it appears that the Chamber of Commerce wishes it would have named its pro-business agenda, “Fix the Seven,” since it now sees an opportunity to push through the Right to Freeload in Missouri, what with all the concerted attacks on unions by various Republican governors and legislatures around the country.

Either “Fix the Seven” didn’t resonate well with Chamber marketers or they just didn’t think they had a snowball’s chance to get freeloading through this session.  Whatever it was, the Chamber didn’t originally include the Right to Freeload on its agenda and Speaker Tilley made that point in the short interview:

Tilley: My concerns is [sic] that when you have the business groups come together and said,”Here’s our top six things,” it wasn’t in the top six things and so my thought process is try to address what they think are the top priorities and then when once we’re done with those things, then we can take a look at it.

Question: The state chamber came out, though, late last week, and said they do back right to work…

Tilley: All I know is when they submitted—I agree—and I’m not saying that there’s not a lot of people in the House that wouldn’t support it.  I’m just saying that right now we’re going to focus on the things that the business coalition sent us at the beginning of the year that we can find some compromise.  And I think in the “Fix the Six,” I think what you’ll see is, you know, you’ll see bipartisan support for quite a few of those, maybe not all of them, but quite a few.

Okay.  What we have here is Tilley acknowledging that he wants to concentrate on what is already on the Chamber’s wish list, without adding something new to it.  But look at that language he used:

“…try to address what they think are the top priorities…”

“…we’re going to focus on the things that the business coalition sent us at the beginning of the year…”

That is the disturbing part.  What is it that gives the Missouri Chamber of Commerce such sway over legislation in Missouri?  Why should it have such sway?

What if a Democratic Speaker said this:

“…we’re going to focus on the things that the labor unions sent us at the beginning of the year…and when we’re done with those things then we will take a look at their other desires…”

No, a balanced approach, recognizing both the needs of business and the wellbeing of workers, is the proper way to conduct the people’s affairs in this state or any state.  But here in Missouri it’s all one-sided, and, truthfully, it has been for years.

Fortunately, polls are showing that the people around the country are siding with workers and their unions.

In a CBS/New York Times poll, 60% oppose killing collective bargaining rights and 56% are opposed to cutting pay and benefits to reduce state budget deficits.

By a 42-31 margin, the public supports public sector unions against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, in a Pew Research Poll.  Those who identified as Independents supported the unions by a narrower 39-34 margin.

I did find even better news in the Pew poll.  If you look at the results below, those folks with modest incomes overwhelmingly support the unions because they apparently understand that unions represent the best hope they have of moving up the income ladder. 

Also, younger folks are overwhelmingly supporting the union by a difference of 33%.  That is a good sign. Perhaps we haven’t yet seen the end of the era of unionism, but only if unions can win the propaganda battle as workers age.  Republicans and pro-business zealots are very, very good at this kind of propaganda. Here are the Pew poll results:


* For those who don’t know, Right to Freeload, or as it is widely known, Right to Work, is a state statute that allows workers to obtain benefits obtained through union advocacy without having to pay union dues.  I suggest you never go out to eat with a Right to Freeload supporter because he will always—always—expect you to pick up the check.

Missouri Is Fast Becoming Part Of The Old South

In 2009, the Missouri legislature passed something called the Big Government Get Off My Back Act, which essentially was a small business-friendly law that banned for four years some user fee increases and prevented new regulations on businesses with less than 25 employees.

This year, the very first bill approved by the House side* of the Missouri legislature was an amendment of that law, which given the nature of one of the new provisions, we can now call the Barack Obama Get Off My Ass Act.

The BOGOMAA will contain, if the new breed of quasi-secessionist Republicans have their way, the following nullification provision:

(1)  Specifies that any federal mandate implemented by the state must be subject to statutory authorization of the General Assembly;

As Rudi Keller, writing for the Columbia Daily Tribune said, “Missouri isn’t alone in attempting nullification,” and there are other statutes that assert “state authority over federal law.” 

But this one is obviously designed to open up old and ugly wounds in our recent national history.

The theory of nullification—that states can invalidate any federal law they consider unconstitutional—is remembered these days due to its use in the South as a reaction to Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregated schools.  Several southern states claimed they had the power to ignore the decision, notwithstanding the Civil War, which seemed to settle the matter for most sober observers. 

In any case, the Supreme Court eventually and unanimously slapped down the South again—without the necessity of 600,000 dead Americans—and declared that the segregationists would have to find other ways to discriminate against black folks, since Supreme Court decisions constituted the law of the land. 

Addressing the  “illegal, forcible interference…with the continuance of what the Constitution commands,” Justice Frankfurter wrote:

What could this mean but to acknowledge that disorder under the aegis of a State has moral superiority over the law of the Constitution? For those in authority thus to defy the law of the land is profoundly subversive not only of our constitutional system, but of the presuppositions of a democratic society. The State “must . . . yield to an authority that is paramount to the State.”

All of that, as I said, is painfully obvious to the sober-minded.  But the Missouri legislature these days is peopled by a number of anti-government junkies, who have succumbed to secessionist smack out of a fear of The Kenyan Socialist.  One of them, Sen. Jim Lembke said this, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune:

“I look at it the same way I look at bad precedents. Why isn’t the Constitution the supreme law? It is not who won a war or bad decisions in a court. I can read the plain language. I don’t need nine justices to tell me what it says,” he said.

Maybe you don’t need them to tell you what it says, Mr. Lembke.  But when they tell you what it means, you have to listen. 

No matter how many BOGOMAAs you pass.


* Joplin’s Bill White voted for the bill, as did, unfortunately, a number of Democrats.

Missouri Now Safe From Pee-wee Herman

I know I feel better now that I have learned that a local Republican operative, who likes to put on wigs and appear at rallies to lament our loss of liberty, finally managed to succeed in tightening the noose of state government around the neck of the adult entertainment industry in Missouri.

I suppose one man’s liberty is another man’s reason to squelch it, even if the squelcher squeals hypocritically about government tyranny at local Tea Parties.  Only in Jasper County  America.

We consider this a tremendous victory for the health and safety of Jasper County residents,” Peeping John Putnam told the Joplin Globe.

As I have pointed out before, among the new law’s restrictions is one I find manifestly weird.

According to Susan Redden’s reporting in the Globe:

Businesses that show films or videos must be configured so to give the manager an unobstructed view of patron areas.

I don’t know which is more strange: people who would pull off I-44 to watch an adult movie in the store and masturbate, or those who demand that the government tell the business owner to keep an eye on such folks.

Too much for my liberal mind to comprehend.

But I do wish that Republicans like Putnam, now that Missouri is relatively safe from premature ejaculators the porn industry, would be willing to tighten the noose of government around the necks of Wall Street and Big Oil, which, like the porn business, needs someone to watch what’s going on.

Because some of that stuff is much more worrisome than Pee-wee Herman types who have trouble waiting until they get home.

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