Most Everything You Need To Know About Why Black Folks Are Afraid Of Greitenstan—I Mean, Missouri

By now, most folks in Missouri (and most outside) have heard of the NAACP’s travel advisory involving my state. Most people, however, probably haven’t read the actual text of the travel advisory, the first ever issued by the group at the state level. So, because this is the Internet, here is part of it (first issued by the Missouri NAACP State Conference), which I have slightly edited:

A travel advisory has been issued in the State of Missouri due to the
sad passage of Senator Gary Romine’s Jim Crow Bill – SB 43 – and
recent events throughout Missouri.

The advisory means each individual should pay special attention
while in the state of Missouri and certainly if contemplating spending
time in Missouri. Unlike seasonal weather advisories, where no
unnecessary travel on city streets or parking might be directed, the
NAACP wants to make Missourians and our visitors aware of looming
danger which could include the following by example of what has
happened to some residents and visitors:

Tory Sanford who recently died in a jail cell but was never arrested
after running out of gas when he traveled into the state accidentally;

Racist attacks on University of Missouri students while on the states’
campuses – as the University of Missouri System spoke in favor of
Romine’s Jim Crow Bill;

Missouri’s legislature Representative Rick Bratton argued that
homosexuals are not human beings according to his faith;

Black high school students in St. Louis have been attacked with hot
glue while denigrated racially;

Two internationally born men gunned down outside in Kansas City
after their killer thought them to be Muslim;

According to the Missouri Attorney General African-Americans in
Missouri are subjected to excessive traffic – 75% more likely to be
stopped and searched based on skin color than Caucasians,
Public threats of shooting ‘Blacks’ that terrorized University of
Missouri students and members of the public.

Individuals traveling in the state are advised to travel with extreme
CAUTION. Race, gender and color based crimes have a long history
in Missouri. Missouri, home of Lloyd Gaines, Dred Scott and the
dubious distinction of the Missouri Compromise and one of the last
states to lose its slaveholding past, may not be safe…

The Missouri State Conference NAACP asked that you do the
following:

warn your families, co-workers and anyone visiting Missouri to
beware of the safety concerns with travel in Missouri,

notify members of your trade associations, social and civic
organizations that they are traveling and living in Missouri at their own
risk and subject to unnecessary search seizure and potential arrest,
and file and seek help on any existing claims for discrimination,
harassment, retaliation, and whistle blowing ASAP…

Now, you can investigate all of the incidents listed in this advisory and decide for yourself if the advisory is warranted. But I will focus on SB 43 itself—which is now law in the state after our Tr-mpian governor signed it in June—and show why it is that this law is not just a Jim Crow-type law for African-Americans, but why it represents a danger to all those who have been at least partially protected by Missouri’s anti-discrimination laws.

But the first thing you need to know about this ridiculous law—which amends the Missouri Human Rights Act—is that its sponsor, Republican Senator Gary Romine (whose district comprises counties south of St. Louis) is the owner of a business in Sikeston called Show-Me Rent to Own. That business is one of those “Don’t Need a Loan, No Credit Required” furniture and appliance stores where you can rent a couch or a coffee table or a TV or a potted plant for a week or a year or whatever. In my experience, places like that tend to prey on those with poor credit, which usually means, of course, the poor. So, let that speak or not speak to the character of Sen. Romine.

In any case, allow me to quote extensively (you should read it all) from an April story involving Romine that was written by Sarah Fenske of the Riverfront Times:

In March 2015, a man who used to work at Show-Me Rent to Own in Sikeston, Missouri, filed a lawsuit alleging that his supervisor regularly used racial slurs against him, telling him, among other things, to “quit acting like a n*gger” — and Related imagethat a map on the wall of the store circled a majority black neighborhood with the words “do not rent” written next to it.

The owner of the business is state Senator Gary Romine (R-Farmington), and in response to the suit, his lawyers acknowledged that, yes, a map in the back of the store had those very words written upon it. Everything else, he pretty much denied.

In any other state, that kind of admission might be a scandal — or at least grounds for future questioning. “Hey, Senator Romine! Who was redlined by that ‘do not rent to’ directive? And did any employees tell you about the allegations against your supervisor? If so, did you take any action?”

But hey, this is Missouri. And instead of Romine’s business practices forcing him into the hot seat, he’s instead using them as the basis of a folksy anecdote about “frivolous litigation” to advance legislation that would gut workplace protection against racial discrimination in Missouri…

Sarah Fenske goes on to describe what now is the law. She calls it,

a toxic stew: a mess of bad provisions that manages to exempt state employees from whistleblower protections, gut workers’ ability to allege racial discrimination, and protect Romine’s own interests, all in one package.

She then quotes Representative Steve Roberts, a Democrat from St. Louis:

“I honestly don’t understand how this hasn’t gotten more media attention.” He notes that when he questioned Romine about being sued for discrimination, the senator had a telling answer: “Which time?”

“It’s so bold to have a senator who’s been sued for this, multiple times, leading the charge,” Roberts says. “It is clearly self-dealing.”

Clearly. But even if it wasn’t, the law is horrific. I’ll allow Fenske to describe why because I think she does it so well:

SB 43 would gut the state’s Human Rights Acts (which is already fairly limited — among other things, sexual orientation is not covered). But under these new provisions, instead of showing only that race or gender are “a contributing factor” to discrimination, Missouri residents would have to show that it was “the motivating factor” (emphasis added).

So let’s say someone works for … just to come up with a totally random example … Gary Romine’s rent to own business. And let’s say they were subjected to the barrage of invective described in the lawsuit against Show-Me Rent to Own, which includes phrases like “black people are the worst to work with,” “black people are the worst to rent to,” “as long as I am manager, there will never be two black people working here again,” and, of course, the n-word. (Romine, for the record, didn’t respond to either a phone message or email seeking comment yesterday.)

Then let’s say the employee was fired. Under the new law, it wouldn’t be enough to show that race was one of the reasons he faced termination. His lawyers would have to show it’s the single biggest reason — an incredibly difficult standard.

I have to stop here and tell you that as someone who has occasionally represented employees who filed complaints of workplace discrimination, Fenske is absolutely correct to emphasize how difficult it is under ordinary discrimination laws to win a judgment against an employer. And she is also correct in emphasizing how harder it will be under SB 43 to win such a case. It will essentially require a business owner to stand up and say, “Yep, I fired the black guy because I don’t like n*****s.” It’s really that bad. Thus, that’s part of the reason the NAACP referred to it as a Jim Crow law.

But the law is bad for an even more onerous reason, one so bad it caused my own local state representative, a reactionary named Bill White, to reject it. Here’s how The Missouri Times reported that part of it:

The bill also removes provisions that would prevent the actual discriminating party – be it a supervisor or fellow employee – from being named in the case, which horrified Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin.

“What this bill does in its current form, the person who hung the noose in somebody’s locker, that person doesn’t get named in this case in this bill,” White said, citing a specific discrimination case in which a white employee racially discriminated against a black employee.

Kudos to Bill White for having at least some limitations on his shortsighted, radical conservatism. (And I think I’m being way too generous to say he has some limitations; maybe this is the only one).

If all that wasn’t bad enough, the law also limits damages in cases where a complainant actually wins. So, even if you get the owner to admit he fired you because you’re black and he hates blacks, his liability is capped. And that’s not all. This law doesn’t just make it harder for African-Americans to sue for discrimination, it also makes it harder for those pursuing age or sex or religious discrimination. If you’re an old fart no longer wanted because you’re old, a woman no longer wanted because you’re a woman, or, say, a Muslim working in a “Christian” environment, well, too bad for you. Businesses need protection from the likes of you and your ambulance-chasing, litigation-loving lawyers!

Which, of course, is how this damned thing, which was rammed through the legislative process in the most unseemly manner imaginable, was justified. It’s good for business. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce has been demanding this law for years. And here’s how The Missouri Times reported that angle:

“It was a priority for us and it’s been a priority for us for over a decade,” House sponsor Rep. Joe Don McGaugh said after session. “When you talk to the business community, the examples that they share are pretty broad with the number of people who come in and say, this was a real factor for businesses coming into the state. So, hopefully, it has a pretty quick impact.”

Rep. Kevin Engler, who has carried the legislation in the past, noted during floor debate the bill was needed to ensure Missouri remained competitive with other states.

“Privately, this is a number one cost driver,” Engler said. “We have to make Missouri a better place to bring jobs and development and workers.”

So, there you have it. We have a test case here in Missouri, similar to the “experiment” conducted by Sam Brownback and radical Republicans in Kansas. That Sunflower State experiment was a miserable and enduring failure, and the deeply unpopular Brownback is hightailing it out of the state for a job Tr-mp offered him in the federal government, a strange job of promoting “religious freedom” around the world. Good riddance. But meanwhile, we can now sit back here in Missouri and either watch the jobs flood in and government revenues increase because businesses are much freer to discriminate, or we will watch a continued decline in Republican-dominated Missouri, reflected in this AP report in June:

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — New data show it’s unlikely Missouri revenues will grow enough to fully fund the budget passed by lawmakers last year.

State Budget Director Dan Haug on Friday announced state revenues grew 2.6 percent through May compared to the same period last fiscal year.

That’s well under the 7 percent needed to fully fund spending outlined in this year’s budget and the 3.4 percent legislators originally estimated.

Revenues also are below the scaled-back 3 percent-growth mark that Republican Gov. Eric Greitens and lawmakers predicted in January.

Lower-than-expected growth means funding cuts made by Greitens and his predecessor, former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, likely will stay in place.

“Funding cuts.” Sound familiar? It should. That’s the kind of language used in Brownbackistan. Soon we will have our own Show-Me state version: Greitenstan.

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Where’s Thomas Crapper When You Need Him?

The population of the United States, every man, woman, and child, is about 319 million and counting. Think about it. That is a lot of folks.

But if you double that number, you have just about the number of people in India who poop outdoors. I’m not kidding. From The Wall Street Journal:

Some 620 million people across India defecate outside, the largest number world-wide. About 70% of rural Indians don’t use toilets, and 28 million children have no toilet facilities in school, according to Unicef. It is common practice for India’s mothers to dispose of their children’s waste in the open.

crapperSo, why is it that 70% of India’s rural population still don’t use indoor toilets, particularly since India’s rural economy is, according to Forbes, “booming”? The magazine says that rural wages “have risen by close to 15% per annum over the past ten years, compared to city wages which are down more than 2% over the same period.” So, again, why do these folks resist indoor dumping? The Wall Street Journal offers us a reason:

In rural areas, defecating outside has been the natural choice for centuries, said Vijayaraghavan Chariar, a sanitation expert at Delhi’s Indian Institute of Technology. “There’s a reason it’s known as ‘nature’s call,’ ” he said. “Some feel suffocated by toilets, and don’t see a connection between open defecation and poor health.”

That may seem odd to us. How can anyone, even rural people, not see the obvious health benefits of sanitary, poop-disposing plumbing? Why would anyone want to do their dirty work out in the open when they don’t have to?

Before we get too judgmental, maybe we should look at something that happened here in my state, in rural Missouri, that I will connect to those rural folks in India who prefer defecating in public.

Rosebud is a little town in the east central part of Missouri and, as per the 2010 census, boasts a population of 409 souls. Those souls are, overwhelmingly, animating white bodies. It would be difficult, probably impossible, to find in Rosebud one soul inhabiting an African-American body. And, knowing what I know about small towns in Missouri, most of the white-bodied souls in Rosebud belong to, or claim they belong to, Jesus, their savior and, presumably, their behavioral compass.

It happened last week that a group of about 75 demonstrators passed through Rosebud on their way to Jefferson City. The 134-mile demonstration march, organized by the NAACP and called “Journey for Justice,” began in Ferguson. The demonstrators, as USA Today reported, hoped “to bring light and attention to the disproportionate number of African-American men and boys who are killed by law enforcement officers across the country.”

But many of the white, Jesus-fearing folks of Rosebud—and of a neighboring city called Gerald, four miles away, population 1,345 and just as white—didn’t much appreciate the light and attention that the marchers, both black and white, were bringing through their town.

According to St. Louis Public Radio, the demonstrators “were greeted with the words ‘Shoot Thieves’ spray-painted on a large container.” In Gerald, they were greeted by, among others, these two good ol’ boys:

photo from Missouri net

Rhea Willis, a public school instructor in St. Louis, was one of the marchers, along with her 15-year-old daughter. As St. Louis Public Radio reported, they and others had to endure being called “thieves” and yells of “Get a job! Get off welfare!” Then there was this:

One of the most disheartening sights, Rhea said, was seeing a young boy, about the age of 8, hold up a sign that said, “Go home, nigger.”

“It wasn’t a shock because I know how these small counties in Missouri are,” Rhea said. “I exchicken melon and beer in rosebudpected it, but it wasn’t until you actually see it. Wow, it was amazing.”

While their bus was stopped and empty, someone shot at a window and shattered the glass. Some townsfolk left out 40-ounce beer cans, chicken wings and watermelon. Rhea said one woman was supportive and told them, “Good job!” But a man next to her said, “Yea, they are good niggers.”

It’s easy for Americans to look down on or even pity those rural people in India who have been defecating outside for centuries, who “feel suffocated by toilets, and don’t see a connection between open defecation and poor health.” But what happened last week in rural Missouri is just another kind of long-standing tradition, another kind of open defecation, another kind of human behavior that is connected to poor social health.

And although, fortunately, there aren’t as many people around these days who defecate in public, metaphorically or otherwise, there is still much work to be done to help ensure that human waste, whether it comes out of one end or the other, is not polluting the commonweal.

Fanaticism In Missouri

Let’s start today’s adventure into the strange world of fanatical belief with Pat Robertson of 700 Club fame. As Daily Kos reported, Robertson, who is 84 years old, took a question on his program from a woman who, along with her husband, is also in her eighties. She said the couple had an old car that had just broken down and they had to borrow the money to fix it. Plus, they “both need dental work, but can’t afford it.” Add to that the claim that they have to use their “credit card to pay for medical needs.” They wonder what they could be doing wrong, since they have demonstrated their faith by declaring “that this is our time of prosperity”—a confessional requirement in the so-called “prosperity gospel” business movement. She said they also “have no unforgiveness” in their lives, which answers an excuse prosperity gospel preachers offer to their followers who don’t experience any promised prosperity.

Oh, and most important, she says she and her husband “give willingly and our tithe is over 10 percent.”

Got it? These older folks love Jesus, give a helluva lot of their income to God, and have a junky car and no money of their own to pay for their health needs. So, naturally, Robertson, who specializes in giving wise Godly counsel, gave these desperate folks some wise Godly counsel:

Ask God to show you some ways of making money. There are many ways of making money, even at 80 years old. You know, you can get on the telephone, people are hiring.

Words fail me.

Our next adventure in fanaticism, though, deserves many words. It is happening here in Missouri.

Mother Jones published an article today (“Missouri Republicans Are About to Pass One of the Harshest Abortion Laws in the Country“) that reports on the fact that next week Missouri legislators, most of them fanatical Republicans, will meet in a special session to attempt, among other outrageous things, to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of their fanatical legislation that would essentially rob Missouri women of their right to exercise what reproductive rights they have left in this state. As MJ notes, that legislation “would force women seeking an abortion—including victims of rape and incest—to wait 72 hours between their first visit to a clinic and the procedure itself.”

Yes, even victims of rape or incest would have to wait three days—currently they are forced to wait 24 hours—to avail themselves of their fading constitutional right to not be further violated by having to bear the offspring of rapists or relatives. But that is only the latest restriction on reproductive rights here in this state:

Missouri lawmakers proposed more than two dozen abortion restrictions this year, all of them targeted at the St. Louis clinic. Missouri already has more abortion-related restrictions on the book than almost any other state in the country. Abortion providers must offer women the opportunity to view an ultrasound of the fetus, and abortion clinics in Missouri must meet the requirements of an ambulatory surgical center; these requirements are expensive to meet and they are not medically necessary for most abortions. These laws have resulted in the closure of all but one of the state’s clinics.

The sponsor of the bill in the House, a man—I repeat: a man—from nearby Nixa, Missouri, said,

Taking it from one day to three days? I don’t think it’s creating an extra obstacle for the mothers.

I wonder if this man, whose name is Kevin Elmer and who was elected in 2010, the year that just keeps giving and giving, would want to wait for three days if he had been raped and impregnated? Oh, sorry. Not applicable. And that is the point. But it doesn’t stop Mr. Elmer, and apparently nearly every Republican man (and woman) in the legislature, from taking it upon themselves to force their fanaticism on Missouri women.

Elmer says:

I believe that life begins at conception. And I’m not to discriminate against any life because of how it was conceived. I don’t disregard the significance of the tragic events that those women suffer from. But we’re still weighing that against the right of the unborn child to live…We’re asking all mothers just to give it another 48 hours to think about what is it they’re doing when they kill their unborn child.

First of all, Republicans aren’t “asking” the “mothers” to do anything. They are forcing them. Forcing them to “think.” Forcing them to think about killing “their unborn child.” Now, it seems to me that if you really believe in your bones that zygotes or embryos or fetuses are unborn children, then allowing women—”mothers” in Elmer’s certainty-plagued eyes—one day or three days or thirty days is too many days. They simply shouldn’t be allowed to kill their kids at any time, for any reason. It is absurd to say that mothers have permission to kill their children—if they take sufficient time to think about it. But that is what these confused zealots are actually saying.

Let’s be clear. What Republicans are doing, all over the country, is using the power of government, through various restrictions on female reproductive rights, to essentially force women, even women who have been impregnated by rapists, to become mothers.

Oddly, when Mr. Elmer was running for office, he said the following:

I believe in smaller government that is limited in its taxes, regulation of businesses and controls of local communities…People know what is best for their families and businesses not the collective thought of a government. 

Okay. Now, again, words fail me.

 

 

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?

 

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