Op Ed

Recent Publications

 

U.S. far from becoming a socialist state 

Marilyn Beasley (The Joplin Globe, Sept. 21) expresses concern about socialism and the United States becoming a socialist state. Many Southwest Missouri residents share that concern. However, I believe there is good reason not to be concerned.

Our first reassurance is that the “We will bury you!” prediction by Nikita Khrushchev, cited by Beasley, turned out just the opposite. The USSR along with its brand of socialism was buried, not our democracy with its capitalist economy. Today, Russia is a pairing of capitalism run by very wealthy individuals, the Russian oligarchs, and authoritarian rule that supports those oligarchs.

So, what does Beasley mean and what do most of us think when we hear the word socialism? Do we know what it is, or do we have some vague notion that it must be bad because the Soviets were socialists, and they were our enemy? Does it make you afraid of or angry at Democrats when they are — wrongly — accused of being socialists? That narrative fits into the belief that social programs designed to protect and advance the opportunities of citizens are socialistand, therefore, dangerous. This belief is not true. The idea of protecting our society from disruption or revolution by assuring the well-being of all citizens predates the theories of communism and socialism.

One of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Paine, launched our social-democratic tradition in the 1790s. In his pamphlets, “Rights of Man” and “Agrarian Justice,” Paine outlined plans for combating poverty that would become Social Security (bill moyers. com). The admonition to provide for our fellow man goes back further. From the biblical book of Ruth: “When the owner of a field has his grain cut, he is not to cut the corners of the field, but to leave them for the poor, the needy and the stranger to come and reap for themselves.”

It is important to know the difference between governance systems and economic systems, and the difference between programs designed to contribute to society’s well-being that are socialist and those that are not.

Socialism is an economic system,not a governance system. Governance systems include democracies, democratic republics, totalitarian dictatorships, monarchies, etc. Economic systems are the various ways the products of a country are owned and controlled. Economic systems we recognize are capitalism, communism and socialism. Contrary to what many think, there has never been a purely communist state(businessdictionary. com).Capitalism and socialism can exist under any of the systems of governance.

Socialism is “a theory or system of social organization in which the means of production and distribution of goods are owned by the government” (thefreedictionary. com). Examples include the Veterans Administration, the U.S. Park Service, the post office and local school systems. If you get a W2 from a government entity, you are part of a socialist system. Many people mistakenly think social programs such as Medicare are socialist because the federal government is involved in funding those programs. Medicare services are purchased from private providers. The government does not own the means of production. Money spent on services does not go to the governmentbut to doctors and health care workers who invest in local economies, buying goods and services.

Those who seek to establish a socialist system by having the people choose that system through democratic means are democratic socialists. I believe the vast majority of liberals and Democrats prefer democratic capitalism. Advocates of democratic capitalism believe society is served best when the economic engines of capitalism drive the economy and when a portion of the benefits are used to contribute to the well-being of citizens. Such contributions, e.g., support for higher education, fuel the economy even further.

We have the responsibility of determining which, how much and in what form we provide goods and services to the public to assure basic freedoms and economic growth.

This is what our discourse should be about. Discourse should be an informed, reasoned and rational discussion based on facts and conducted in good faith that we all want what is best for our country.

DOUGLAS BROOKS lives in Joplin and is a former member of the executive committee of the Democratic National Committee.

 

Revelations of Traumatic sexual assault convincing

I am a 78-year-old heterosexual man who was happily married for 47 years; my wife died 5 years ago. Throughout my adult life, I thought I had a more or less accurate understanding of the relations between men and women.

But the #MeToo movement has gradually opened my eyes. As incident after incident has come forward in the news, I find I am more and more amazed by what I am hearing and understanding. I believe that, as so many men have, I had been sheltered from the truth — that nature of the relations between the sexes has been invisible to me largely because I am male.

I now find great credibility in the women coming forward in the last year to accuse various men of sexual harassment or rape. The coherence of so many stories that have similar narratives is very convincing. The pain of so many women, often held in for years, is convincing. By and large, these stories ring true. And most importantly, I now believe that offensive male behavior, once taken lightly as a joke or simply not believed, is actually a deep and widespread social problem.

I have listened to the details of Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing — what he says and what Christine Blasey Ford says. Ford and some of her friends have filled in the details of her life since the incident. I have listened to her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

At the time, she kept the memory a closely guarded secret. Then a few years later, she was struggling in college when a close friend asked her why she was behaving so self-destructively — what was the matter with her. This pushed her into a change of direction and to a major in psychology. She focused on the study of trauma and depression, which helped her deal with her own nagging problem. Eventually, she was married and told her husband about what had happened. Eventually,they went to a therapist where she spoke fully about the incident for the first time.

When she heard that Kavanaugh might be nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court, she seriously looked into leaving the country with her family. When she wrote her Congresswoman about the incident, she was clear that she did not want to be publicly identified; it was too traumatic for her. She tried hard to keep this from becoming public. She and her family have suffered death threats and have had to go into hiding.

She pleaded for an investigation by the FBI. Why didn’t the majority party and Kavanaugh want an FBI investigation so he could go to the court with his name clear? Considering that women always suffer in very traumatic ways when they report these matters, why would Ford bring all that on herself and her family unless she was horrified at the thought of him being elevated to the Supreme Court?

I believe her, and I believe that such a judge is unfit for the Court.

Elliott Denniston lives in rural Webb City.

 

Elections

Lundstrum for 161st District

In my opinion, voting is one of the most important rights we have as American citizens. On election days, it is important to vote and to vote for the right candidates. We all need candidates who are honest, and will fight tooth and nail for what is best for the community.

We need someone who can respectfully disagree with and compromise with the people on the other side of the aisle. We need representatives and senators who understand what it is like to be a resident in Southwest Missouri. For the people living in the 161st Missouri state House district, I believe that candidate is Elizabeth Lundstrum.

Elizabeth is the mother of three children and has been a teacher for longer than I have been alive. I can’t think of anyone who is more committed to our community than Elizabeth. I have had the privilege of working on Elizabeth’s campaign for state representative since the beginning of last summer. And I know that there is no one that you can count on more to represent you and your family. Whether she’s speaking at a campaign event or talking candidly with friends, her desire to bring the community together and work to better people’s lives is always there.

 

I can’t wait to see what Elizabeth Lundstrum does as a state representative, but she can’t get elected unless we all support her and what she stands for. Election Day is Nov. 6, make a plan to get out and vote.

Josiah Horn Joplin

 

Amendment an insult to election workers

Our legislators propose to fix a problem that doesn’t exist with Amendment 6 to the Missouri Constitution. Here’s what it will say on the ballot in November:

“Shall the Constitution of Missouri be amended to state that voters may be required by law, which may be subject to exception, to verify one’s identity, citizenship, and residence by presenting identification that may include valid government-issued photo identification?”

Amendment 6 supporters claim that the special identification is needed to eliminate voter fraud. The type of fraud addressed happens when a person votes more than once either as themselves or by impersonating other people. There is no evidence that the outcome of any election in Missouri has been changed by such illegal voting. There are, after all, procedures in place to prevent it. Voters are already required to verify their legal status by presenting identification before getting a ballot. The amendment only authorizes the state to require special “government-issued photo identification.” Implementation will require more legislation, more regulation and more staff. Is this expensive expansion of government what you want?

This amendment is also a stinging slap in the face of the fine Missourians who have conducted our elections. It insults all of Missouri’s secretaries of state (James C. Kirkpatrick, Roy Blunt, Matt Blunt, and Robin Carnahan); and their staffs; every county clerk who has served (including in Jasper County: Jeff Davis, Jim Lobby, Margaret Bull and Bonnie Earl) and all of those election judges.

These people served the voters of Missouri with diligence and integrity election after election. They worked long hours, took their duties seriously and performed them honorably. The local election boards know the voters in their districts, they verify their registration status and they hold up any person whose credentials are in question. This amendment implies that those people have not done and cannot do their jobs competently.

So go to the polls on Nov. 8, greet your friends and neighbors on the election board and go through the process of verifying your registration. Then get your ballot and mark “no” on Amendment 6.

Joe Cowen lives in Joplin and is a former Chair of the Jasper County Central Democratic Committee.

 

Because of my faith

I have a “Because of my faith I vote for Democrats” bumper sticker. I believe that the values I was taught in Methodist Sunday school are closely aligned with things I see the Democratic Party trying to accomplish. I have friends from other faiths who learned similar things in their religious education and choose to be Democrats because they believe that the heart of the party is in the right place. We believe that we can be people of faith and also be Democrats.

Imagine our surprise to learn that if we do not embrace Donald Trump as “God’s chosen one” that we are condemning ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren to “curses like you have never seen,” according to evangelist Mary Colbert on “The Jim Bakker Show” in April 2017. Others have mirrored her condemnation of any who do not accept Trump as the 21st-century messiah or any who criticize his policies and behaviors.

The Trump ascension preached by evangelicals and other rightwing Christians is perplexing. It requires what Amy Sullivan labels “theological gymnastics” (Politico, Jan. 27). Their reasoning is that in 2016 God wanted only a Republican president, so whoever won the Republican primary must be God’s chosen emissary. Since Trump won, his sins and character disorders must be overlooked because God is at work (somehow) through him. Regardless of how vile Trump’s behaviors become, it would be very difficult for his followers to admit being wrong about that.

Meanwhile, I will continue to vote for people who champion the things I learned about in Sunday school. Those who want to help the poor, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take care of the sick, welcome the stranger.

They will respect the “Love your neighbor” and “Do unto others” rules. They will uphold basic principlesof honesty, integrity, compassion, humility and value the worthof all humankind.

Political parties should not purport to be emissaries of God. But voters can examine the policies, attitudes and actions of political parties to see how well they embody our values and how earnestly they try to accomplish the right-things-todo that we were taught in religious education. No party will meet all of the criteria, but we should evaluate their overall positions on things that guide us as people of faith. Because of my faith I vote for Democrats.

Sherry Buchanan

 

Republican plans for 2019

Lots of people have been talking about what would happen if the Democrats win the House this November. But there’s not as much chatter about the consequences
of Republicans keeping control of theHouse, which is likely given gerrymandered districts, their ability to suppress the vote and the closeness of the polls.
So what would happen?

“Republicans admit they’ll slash Medicare, Social Security to pay for their tax cuts,” says a headline a month ago (ThinkProgress, Aug. 21). And the evidence
is there.

Last year, when planning their tax cut, they knew from several studies they would be increasing the deficit by more than $1 trillion. As they passed the law,
they said they would come back and cut entitlement programs to restrain deficit growth. House Republicans were too divided, and they fell short by a few votes
of paying for their tax cut. Largely as a result of the tax cut, Medicare will not be able to sustain its payments beyond 2026, eight years from now.

The budget they drew up last June shows their priorities. That plan called for remaking Medicare by giving seniors the option of enrolling in private plans
that compete with traditional Medicare. That would be an attempt to begin moving Medicare toward total privatization. And Social Security would be cut by $4
billion over the decade by eliminating concurrent receipt of unemployment benefits and Social Security disability insurance. Democrats pointed out the dangers
of this budget. “The 2019Republican budget scraps any sense of responsibility to the American people and any obligation to being honest,” said Rep. John
Yarmuth of Kentucky, the top Budget Committee Democrat. “Its repeal of the Affordable Care Act and extreme cuts to health care, retirement security, anti-
poverty programs, education, infrastructure, and other critical investments are real and will inflict serious harm on American families” (Erica Werner, AP,
June 20).

There are many ways to control the deficit other than at the expense of the least able among us — the poor, the disabled, the elderly and all those who have
had the deck stacked against them. For example, Congress could make small, careful cuts in the huge military budget; they could increase the tax rate of the
top 1 percent; they could raise the cap on the amount of wages that are taxed for Social Security and Medicare and bingo — we would be on the road toward
bringing the deficit under control in a fairer and more reasonable way.

Once past the elections, things will be different next January if the Republicans stay in power in the House. They will be able to make these brutal cuts to
please their base.

Elliott Denniston Webb City

Trump brought wrong message to Springfield

Ten-thousand people cheered President Donald Trump at his rally in Springfield last week when he told the crowd that “a vote for any Democrat empowers
dangerous and crazy people.”

He continued, “They aren’t just extreme. They are frankly dangerous, and they are crazy.”

Trump has been spreading this venom for years throughout the country. At a recent rally in Montana, Trump said, “Democrats want anarchy, they really do, and
they don’t know who they’re playing with folks.” These are just two recent examples. Trump has been fanning the cultural and racial wars for years.

I have lived in Southwest Missouri nearly all of my life, and I don’t think this tribal hatred has much sway in the community I know. We should keep it that
way and stand up and make noise to let our leaders know that we will not go down this dangerous road. What is the purpose of exhorting us to hate one another
with labels such as “dangerous” and “crazy”? I have seen Trump on television whip his supporters into frenzied anger at Democrats or the news media or
immigrants, and it frightens me that we have a president who would appeal to our darker instincts. I know there are Democrats that have called Trump dangerous
and crazy, or much worse, but we didn’t elect them as president to lead us forward together to be a great nation. I understand why Trump’s supporters are
angry. I think we should all be angry at the mess in Washington, which can be blamed on both parties. For many, the Great Recession and our leaders’ response
reinforced the belief that the game is rigged to protect the wealthy.

While the government’s response saved our financial system and restored our economy, it was highly unpopular. Banks were bailed out with huge government
loans.

The 2016 election presented voters, who had been shafted by the bailout, a chance for payback. Among the 18 or so presidential candidates, several proposed
sensible programs that would have really helped working people, but voters did not want more government programs that were seen as bailouts to the undeserving
elite and handouts to the undeserving poor. They wanted to disrupt a system they thought was stacked against them.

Where’s Billy?

On March 4, I stood in the blustery wind on South Range Line with fellow demonstrators entreating U.S. Rep. Billy Long to hold a town hall.

We were requesting a meeting open to all interested constituents, not just those invitees who could afford tickets to that evening’s Lincoln Day banquet. I stood there with my flag and my “Where’s Billy Long?” sign thinking how sad it was that at this stage of life I was impelled to participate in a public protest because my representative will not interact with audiences aside from stalwart Republicans and campaign contributors.

I remembered driving to Springfield before last fall’s election to hear Mr. Long debate his two opponents for the 7th District congressional seat. Unbeknownst in advance to the public or to the Missouri State University hosts, Mr. Long had decided not to participate and was represented by an empty podium at the debate.

I also recalled attending an earlier event that was advertised as a town hall and sponsored by the Jasper County Republican Committee. I was greeted at the door by a surprised, though not unfriendly, Republican acquaintance who said: “Sherry, what are you doing here?” I responded that I assumed town halls were for all constituents and was allowed to stay and listen. Questions or comments from the floor were supposed to come from select Republicans only, although one gutsy outsider did manage to lodge a query about health care. I have subsequently been told by a staff person at Mr. Long’s office that they didn’t know the meeting had been billed as a town hall because he doesn’t participate in such events.

As I looked around at fellow protesters that evening in March, I remembered the numerous letters, phone calls and emails requesting the courtesy of face-to-face open meetings with Mr. Long. Without exception, our inquiries had been ignored or rejected. The services of his staff had sometimes been offered instead, but access to Mr. Long in a public forum where he could hear our stories, answer our questions and perhaps even benefit from our wisdom has been routinely denied.

Now that Mr. Long has voted to revise health care in ways that could be disastrous for many of his constituents, I feel even more strongly that he needs to reassess this policy. I wish that he would talk to Sen. Claire McCaskill to find out why she views town halls as an essential responsibility of her office. She has a solid history of open meetings and held eight of them during the last congressional recess.

Another “in district” congressional recess is coming up. That would be a good time for Mr. Long to hold town halls to explain his Trumpcare vote and to hear other constituent concerns. There are no indications that he will do this, so I will keep my “Where’s Billy Long?” protest sign handy.

Sherry Buchanan lives in Joplin and is the Treasurer for Southwest Missouri Democrats.

 
So they voted for Donald Trump.

He told them that government was corrupt and that our leaders were stupid and wanted to destroy our country and take away their guns and their freedom.

Many Trump supporters argue that in spite of the president’s obvious faults, he is a good president because of the things he has or will accomplish. They
wanted a president who would be a disruptor, and Trump has certainly been that. To be fair, disruption can sometimes be positive, and a knee-jerk rejection to
all things Trump is not helpful.

While it is possible that something good may emerge from the chaos of Trump, many of the his policies either are or will soon be damaging ordinary people. For
example, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, nearly three-quarters of Trump’s huge tax cut will go to the top 20 percent. This tax cut will
explode the deficit. The deficit for 2018 is projected to be almost $1 trillion, compared with $441 billion for the last year of the President Barack Obama
administration.

Also, Trump is promising to destroy Obamacare and to replace it with a better and cheaper plan that will cover everyone with pre-existing conditions. But he
has no plan — all he has is a vague promise. If Trump carries through with his promise to destroy Obamacarewithout an alternate plan, many average working-
class voters will be devastated, and those with pre-existing conditions will be without insurance.

But the greatest harm from Trump is that he is destroying our trust and confidence in on another and in our institutions. In addition to exhorting us to fear
one another, in his Springfield rally he continued his attack on the Justice Department and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation by calling it a
“cancer on the country” and promising to root out the “lingering stench” at the Justice Department and the FBI.

Americans know that the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump is not the right path and will not make America great.

The miracle of America is our ability to resolve difficult issues peacefully at the ballot box by electing sane and thoughtful leaders who will work together
with those who have different views. We have such an opportunity in November. Now is the chance to have your voice heard. Don’t just vote out of habit. Don’t
vote for name callers or ideologues. Be an informed voter. Vote for leaders who tell the truth and who can bring us together, not tear us apart.

CHARLES BUCHANAN is a Joplin attorney.

CHARLES BUCHANAN

Examine the candidates to elect our best

Missouri’s primary election is Tuesday, and it is incumbent upon all of us to be informed and to vote. Our democracy depends upon educated citizens, and you,
as a voter, will have to chose not only candidates who reflect your values but also which ballot to request. Will you automatically ask for the one you have
always used, or is it possible you may have seen or heard candidates from the other party that seem a better fit for your current values?

At a local level, why should party affiliation matter in the election of a surveyor, a judge or a county commissioner? Isn’t it more important to elect a
person with integrity and expertise? Party “hacks” won’t necessarily get the work done well or efficiently.

We often complain about government not living up to our expectations. But aren’t we the problem? Voters who elect candidates because they have an R or a D
next to their names without considering their other qualifications do a disservice to us all. I know that is the easy way — no research is needed. But who
said democracy was easy.

Even on a state and national level, do you want a candidate who is a rubber stamp and doesn’t think for her/himself? One who has never held a town meeting?
One who never listens to constituents with differing views or worse yet, calls them names? One whose votes reflect only the needs of his donors and party? Or
one who seems to be a “one-issue” candidate?

It is time to look for candidates with integrity, qualifications for the job and the guts to seek real solutions for real problems. In the current political
climate, this may seem impossible. But if enough Americans start demanding solutions instead of party loyalty, we could change the tide of division and
inaction in our government.

Our cities, states and country all need effective governments that serve the needs of all our people, so we, the voters, need to step up and do our jobs to
elect people who will do theirs — not ideologues who put party loyalty before all else. Ignoring the ideas from the minority party means we lose ideas that
may hold the key to solving a problem.

When I was growing up, my father always promoted individual initiative in life, my uncle was very active in state and national GOP politics, and my
grandfather lobbied for the Burlington Northern Railroad in the state legislature. They all supported the goals of the following Republican platform and so
did I for many years:

“We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs — expansion of social security — broadened coverage in
unemployment insurance — improved housing — and better health protection for all our people.”

“Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex.”

“Extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws.”

“Continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment.”

“Protect more effectively the rights of labor unions, management, the individual worker, and the public. The protection of the right of workers to organize
into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the (Republican) Eisenhower Administration.”

“The Republican Party supports an immigration policy which is in keeping with the traditions of America in providing a haven for oppressed peoples,”

However, the Republican Party began to change under President Ronald Reagan and again under President George W. Bush. But even Bush touted being a
“compassionate conservative.” That is not a moniker I would use for our current president. Today, the Republican Party seems to be about restricting
immigration and labor unions, reducing social security and health insurance, and enhancing the profits of corporations rather than the ability of workers to
make a living wage — although much of this is done under the guise of increasing jobs through economic growth and profits.

Just as the goals and aspirations of political parties change, so do the values of people. During a recent, local survey taken in a high school social studies
program, students were surprised to discover that many of the values they hold dear no longer correspond with the political party with which they thought they
were affiliated. We may not have access to this survey, but we certainly can independently examine all our own values and those of today’s political parties
and candidates. Don’t be swayed by one or two hot-button topics used to keep your party loyalty if your other values don’t match up.

2018 is a year of opportunities with many choices on our ballots. We must take advantage of these choices by doing the necessary research to unearth
pragmatists who can get the job done rather than ideologues who insist on their own way. We can’t complain about inadequacies in government if we don’t do our
job

Kate Rhoades lives in Neosho

 

Solution to detention centers will happen at polls

Afew weeks ago our grandchildren spent a week visiting while their parents attended a conference. Six-year-old Colin had a great time playing with his sister
and cousins during the day. But each night he woke up anxious because he couldn’t internalize how much longer until his mommy came to get him.

As Colin sought comfort in my bed those first few nights, my thoughts went to the thousands of migrant children on our southern border. If my grandson is
whimpering for his mommy in the safety of grandma’s bed, what traumas are those children suffering?

At the time of my grandchildren’s visit, those migrant children were being held in detention centers and foster homes with no assurance that they would ever
be reunited with their parents. Those children are pawns in President Donald Trump’s failed zero tolerance policy intended to use cruelty as a deterrent to
anyone seeking to immigrate to the United States. The worldwide outcry against the Trump administration was so great that he was forced to rescind his policy
on June 20.

Plan two was to keep the children with their parents in detention camps for indeterminate amounts of time. To that end, the Trump administration asked for
limited relief from the decades-old Flores settlement, which limits the length of time minors can be held in detention to 20 days. Judge Dolly Gee ruled that
the government’s application “is a cynical attempt to shift responsibility to the judiciary for over 20 years of congressional inaction and ill-considered
executive action.” The application was denied. It had not occurred to government officials that they would need to reunite those now traumatized families, so
there was no plan to do so. However, a court order issued by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw directed the Trump administration to reunite the children younger
than 5 with their parents by July 10. And children 5 and older are to be returned to their parents by July 26.

According to The Washington Post, “The reunited families will then be released (with ankle monitors) and allowed to stay in the United States pending further
immigration proceedings — the exact opposite of what President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had hoped to accomplish when they launched the ‘zero
tolerance’ effort in May.”

On July 10, Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabian was in Sabraw’s courtroom explaining why just 54 of the 102 youngest childrenhad been returned to their
parents. Reasons consisted of difficulties coordinating between government agencies; a time-consuming process of vetting the parents, which included DNA
testing; and the inability to find all parents, including some who had been deported.

Sabraw stated, “These are firm deadlines; they are not aspirational goals.” Still, despite the frustrations and delays, Sabraw sounded a positive note,
suggesting that he would be inclined to extend the July 10 deadline given the work that Fabian presented.

Returning the approximately 3,000 older children by the July 26 deadline will indeed be a daunting undertaking. As long as the government can show it is
making progress, how many extensions will Sabraw have to grant? How many more nights will those thousands of children lie awake anxiously wondering when their
parents will come to get them?

When President Trump was asked his opinion of his administration’s failure to meet the July 10 deadline for reuniting the youngest children with their parents
he quipped, “Well, I have a solution. Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That’s the solution. Come like other people do. Come legally.”

It should be noted that a separate Trump administration policy has also sought to halt asylum-seekers entering the United States legally.

The established Immigration and Customs Enforcement directive provides that asylum-seekers must pass a “credible fear” interview to convince authorities that
they face a threat of persecution at home.

If they pass, they are usually eligible for release pending a hearing. However, immigration policy under Trump ignored this ICE directive resulting in 100
percent of legal asylum-seekers being held in detention indefinitely in five ICE field offices.

In a legal setback for the Trump administration’s immigration policies, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., has ruled that the government
may not arbitrarily detain people seeking asylum. The established ICE directive must be followed for people who, in Trump’s words, have “come legally.”

Trump is attempting to use cruelty as a deterrent to those who cross the border illegally, as well as those legally seeking asylum in the United States.

While the courts can temporarily block Trump’s cruel immigration policies, the real solution is to elect senators and representatives who have the resolve to
reverse “20 years of legislative inaction” and pass sensible immigration laws. Our current GOP-controlled Congress has demonstrated it does not have that
resolve.

SUSANNA SMITH lives in Neosho.

Missourians have many reasons to be worried

Just before the 2017 legislative session, Todd Richardson, speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, outlined goals: “a Missouri that respects individual freedoms, … that has a stronger, more vibrant economy, … that seeks more good, quality jobs for all its citizens, … has a strong education system for every student, no matter where they were born or where they live in the state.” He also mentioned ethics reform as a high priority.

These sounded like goals we could all endorse, but history with our Legislature led me to suspect that they meant different things to Richardson and his Republican comrades than they do to some of the rest of us. As they wrapped up the session on May 12, I saw that my worries were well-founded.

For example, “individual freedoms” didn’t include the freedom to marry, regardless of whom you love. Or individual freedom for reproductive health care. Or freedom to practice religions outside of conventional Christianity. Or the freedom to exercise your right to vote without providing proof of citizenship again. Or freedom from sexual exploitation at work.

Numerous bills were filed to further restrict access to safe abortion. Equal protection for LGBQT Missourians was once again denied. Meanwhile, some legislators tried to codify discrimination, asserting it as a “right” disguised as religious liberty. Others blindly promoted the right to bear arms, even on college campuses, in bars, at day care centers and other places where guns are not a wise idea.

What greater individual freedom than the right to vote? Yet, Republicans perpetuated the myth of voter fraud, which has repeatedly been shown to be a voter suppression strategy. And though Missouri voters now need specially issued state IDs, the Legislature failed to find sufficient money for providing the IDs or for voter education about the new restrictions.

Did Richardson’s “vibrant economy” with “good, quality jobs” mean living wages with health insurance benefits, a skilled workforce, safe working conditions, labor laws that benefit workers and an infrastructure that could attract new businesses? Not so much.

The Legislature and our new governor giddily passed a misnamed right-to-work law. Sen. Ron Richard said this was the “highlight” of his political career and called it “pro-worker.” It is certainly not “pro” for the workers who choose organized labor and are willing to pay their fair share of the costs of bargaining for better compensation and working conditions. And it’s certainly not pro-worker if you consider the lower wages and the increased injury and mortality rates that are documented in other right-to-work states.

The party that supposedly cherishes limited government and local control pre-empted the right of St. Louis or other local governments to set a minimum wage higher than the state’s. Legislators also changed standards for safe construction of public projects by removing project labor agreements. They weakened regulations that help provide safe working conditions and made it harder to hold employers accountable for discrimination and abuse. They also failed once again to fund transportation infrastructure, essential to “a vibrant economy.”

Regardless of Republican interpretation, it is difficult to see any of these measures as ways to provide “good, quality jobs” for Missourians.

A “more vibrant economy” was also belied in the struggle to finalize a balanced budget because of disastrous deficits in revenues. Though Republicans blame rising Medicaid costs, the shortfall is caused, in large part, by unaffordable corporate tax cuts from 2014 that have cost 10 times the original projection. Revenue are also depleted by overly generous tax credits to entities that do not create jobs and rejection of millions of dollars each year of federal money because of refusal to expand Medicaid or fund Planned Parenthood. Instead, cuts to vital services for poor, disabled and elderly Missourians were debated as solutions to our budget woes. Budgets are sometimes referred to as moral documents. They certainly reflect priorities.

“A strong education system for every student, no matter where they were born or where they live in the state” had several caveats. This didn’t mean resolute commitment to public schools, considering several Republicans pushed the expansion of taxpayer-funded vouchers for private alternatives. Even though they celebrated full funding of the state formula for K-12, this victory came only because they lowered the funding target during last year’s session. And higher education took more than a 6 percent cut after almost a decade of dwindling state support, making it harder for middle- and lower-income residents to obtain a college education.

All in all, there was no progress on ethics reform. Last November, voters passed a cap to campaign contributions, perhaps without realizing that rich donors can avoid the limits by contributing to nonprofit organizations that serve as political action committees. These groups do not have to disclose their donors, so dark money whose source is unknown became more powerful than ever. The governor has been questioned repeatedly about sources of his campaign funds and has repeatedly refused disclosure. In spite of campaign promises of ethics reform, he is now ardently defending secret contributions. Instead, he is engaging in public feuds with legislators, at times with help from a dark-money group formed as a political action committee for him. There were suggestions of pay-for-play allegations pointed at our own senator, followed by his “kiss my a–” retort. Though the Legislature finished the session without scandals of sexual misconduct, it passed legislation making it more difficult for victims of sexual exploitation to hold supervisors and employers accountable.

Gov. Greitens claimed this was the “most successful start to a conservative administration in a generation.” Speaker Richardson perhaps feels equally proud. Their special-interest associates may have profited from this year’s action, but most Missourians did not.

 

Sherry Buchanan lives in Joplin.

Healthcare
Taxpayers are subsidizing pharmaceutical ads

Am I just imagining that more and more slick ads for drugs with alphabet-soup names are punctuating the nightly news? They suggest that their products will
give rise to romantic walks on the beach with my husband, fun and games with the great-grandkids, shopping trips with friends and adventures in foreign
places. Happiness in a pill — provided you dodge one of those side effects they enumerate at the ad’s conclusion, such as death.

No, I’m not imagining it. Pharmaceutical companies’ spending on TV ads went up 6.7 percent in 2017; they spent a whopping $6.1 billion on all direct to
consumer pharmaceutical advertising, according to Kantar, a media monitoring and measurement company.

The Food and Drug Administration oversees DTCPA and is charged with keeping the ads honest and transparent, but the rules have been relaxed significantly
(particularly in 1997 when the rules for DTCPA on TV were overhauled), and as they have relaxed, the growth of spending by Big Pharma has increased from a
mere 12 million in 1980 to the current $6.1 billion. Meanwhile, the FDA’s oversight was weakened in 2002 when the “Secretary of Health and Human Services
(HHS) began requiring that all regulatory warning letters (to pharmaceutical companies about their ads) be reviewed and approved by the FDA’s Office of Chief
Counsel before they are issued,” according to the P&T Journal. This legal review development caused delays in warning letters being sent, sometimes not until
after the ad campaigns hadended.

Increased advertising by pharmaceutical companies and lack of FDA funding — hence lack of employees — has further hamperedeffective oversight. In 2009, a
staff of 59 full-time employees could only review a fraction of the 71,759 industry submissions. According to an article in the American Journal of Public
Health, “In 2010, the industry’s budget for DTCPA alone was reportedly nearly twice the entire budget for the FDA.”

At a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said, “We’re the only country in the world besides New Zealand that allows the
pharmaceutical industry to advertise prescription drugs and deduct the cost of it.” “(The tax bill) kept that in place for them — but there is absolutely no
relief for Missourians in terms of drug prices.”

In March, she introduced legislation called the End Taxpayer Subsidies for Drug Ads Act, S 2478. The legislation reads “To amend the Internal Revenue Code of
1986 to deny the deduction for advertising and promotional expenses for prescription drugs.” It was referred tothe Senate Finance Committee, but Its chance of
getting out of committee and passing is slim; too many legislators are beholden to Big Pharma for campaign contributions. In figures released by the Federal
Election Commission on June 11, 2018, the pharmaceutical/health sector donated over $16 million to candidates during the 2017-2018 election cycle. During the
2015-2016 election cycle, it donated over $29 million to Congressional campaigns.

But I applaud Sen. McCaskill for making the effort and wish our other senator and representatives would support her in removing this reprehensible “perk” for
pharmaceutical companies from the tax code. Committee chairs decide which bills move out of committee, so if you have an opinion about this matter, contact
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chair of the Finance Committee, and urge him to move S2478 out of committee.

JOAN BANKS lives in rural Joplin.

JOAN BANKS

Americans deserve access to affordable health care

Crowdsourcing to pay medical bills is becoming common. It is estimated that 1 out of 3 GoFundMe accounts is an appeal for health care assistance, even from people with insurance who are facing unaffordable deductibles, co-pays, pre-existing conditions, annual or lifetimes caps, loss of income for patients and caregivers, and incidental costs of seeking medical care.

At local businesses, we see donation jars for those with medical expenses. We hold fundraisers and take up collections at church for neighbors who cannot afford care.

Even more heartbreaking, we know those who go without necessary care or medicine because of costs.

Illness contributes to many Americans’ financial ruin, even those with insurance. Some studies show that illness is already the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy in our country.

Some conservative politicians and policymakers argue that this is just reality, that there will always be winners and losers in health care as well as in other aspects of life. They see health care as a privilege for those who can afford it.

They use inflammatory terms such as “government takeover of medicine” to manipulate voters. They fail to explain that changing the way we pay for health care is quite different from government control over the provision of care.

Some also argue that government should not interfere with the free-market medical industry. An example is the rule against Medicare being able to negotiate for cheaper drug prices. In a recent letter to my husband, who had asked whether this should change, Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., said that he did not favor negotiation because it would “limit competition” among drug companies. The result of this free-market approach is that we pay much more for drugs than other countries do.

Those on the other side of this argument contend that good health care is essential for “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” They see access to affordable health care as a moral obligation for a nation that is more than rich enough to afford it.

Polls show that Americans are increasingly in favor of single-payer reform and universal coverage. Large numbers of us already benefit from single-payer through reimbursements such as Medicare, the Veterans Administration or Government Employees Health Assurance. Ironically, the elected officials who argue most harshly against change are themselves covered by some of these.

Regardless of one’s political or moral stance, current health care costs and the reimbursement system are not sustainable. Our costs are three times those of other industrialized nations, often with worse outcomes. We spend up to 20 percent more on administrative overhead than other nations, which can amount to $300 billion per year in useless spending. And parallel to all these excessive expenditures, more and more Americans find themselves unable to afford insurance.

There is evidence that switching to a single-payer system such as Medicare for all would bring cost savings in the long run. Proponents of single-payer cite lower administrative costs and increased negotiating power for hospital charges, provider fees and drug costs as examples of possible savings. They believe that single-payer universal coverage would be a fairer way for our country to pay for health care and that it could actually be cheaper than the almost $3.5 trillion we currently spend each year covering only part of our citizens.

Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act and, despite Republicans’ relentless efforts to kill it, have helped to reduce our uninsured rate to about 13 percent. The ACA is protecting people with pre-existing conditions and providing subsidies to many middle-class families to help pay for premiums. Compared with trends based on past years’ data, it has flattened the curve of projected health care costs.

Unfortunately, Democrats bowed to Republican demands against universal coverage and single-payer reimbursement. We are left with a costly mishmash reimbursement system of multiple payers and multiple insurance plans, while about 13 percent of our citizens remain without coverage.

We need elected officials who will confront costs. They need to question Big Pharma and insurance companies’ profits and assess whether hospital and provider fees are reasonable. They need to insist on negotiating drug costs and reimbursement rates. Imagine the negotiating power of 300,000,000-plus enrollees and the savings that could be achieved by changing to a single-payer system.

We need officials who see that single-payer universal health care could actually be cheaper than the price we are currently paying through employer costs, individual premiums, out-of-pocket costs and lost productivity. And with cost containment and a more efficient reimbursement system, we could provide access to quality healthcare for all our citizens, not just those who are lucky enough to have it.

We need elected officials who believe that all Americans deserve access to affordable health care, that keeping people well and treating the afflicted are compelling principles of community, that a healthy workforce is essential to our economy, and that we can afford such a change.

Please let health care be an issue that guides your vote on Nov. 6.

Sherry Buchanan lives in Joplin and is Treasurer for Southwest Missouri Democrats.

 

Right to Work

When you drive across a bridge, send your child to a public school or enter a public building, you have faith that the structures won’t collapse. You want to know that skilled, well-trained workers have constructed them. Thanks to Missouri’s prevailing wage law, the odds are heavily in your favor.

Missouri is one of 29 states with a prevailing wage law that ensures fair wages for our laborers, carpenters, electricians, bricklayers, masons, boilermakers, steelworkers, and plumbers and pipefitters when they are working on public projects such as roads, bridges, schools and other public buildings. Having this standard helps make sure that Missourians get the most-qualified workers for these public projects.

Prevailing wage laws also protect local jobs by ensuring firms that bring in lower-cost, out-of-state labor do not outbid companies using a Missouri labor force. When West Virginia was debating its prevailing wage law, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy concluded that prevailing wage laws help “ensure that government-funded construction projects are done with highly skilled workers from the community, increasing productivity and strengthening the economy with good-paying local jobs.”

Studies repeatedly show that in prevailing-wage states, construction jobs are completed more quickly and more safely and come in under budget more frequently.

Repealing Missouri’s prevailing wage law will have certain negative affects. According to a 2016 study, “The Adverse Economic Impact of the Repeal of the Prevailing Wage Law in Missouri” by Dr. Michael Kelsay of the University of Missouri, Kansas City, its repeal:

  • Would produce a loss of income and revenue between $225.3 million and $360.7 million annually.
  • Would not result in any cost savings in school construction costs as alleged by the opponents of prevailing wage.

The study also discovered that real compensation packages, health benefits and pensions are higher for workers in prevailing wage states than in non-prevailing wage states.

Furthermore, states that repeal prevailing wage laws, such as Kansas, find that skilled workers flee to find better jobs. With their loss comes a shortage of qualified workers.

Studies show that there is a positive effect for all residents in states with prevailing wage laws: Higher wages in public construction help raise other workers’ wages. In addition, well-paid workers are good consumers, boosting our economy. Furthermore, the prevailing wage changes the total cost of a job only slightly because the labor costs are on average only 20 to 25 percent of the total cost of construction.

So why would our state Legislature be intent on repealing the prevailing wage law in Missouri? Corporate influence is to blame because corporations believe that prevailing wage hurts their interests; the law’s repeal allows them to pay their skilled workers less. The Missouri House has already abandoned working people by passing HB104 to repeal the prevailing wage, and the Missouri Senate is now considering passing the bill for Gov. Eric Greitens to sign.

We must act to ensure that Missouri stands strong for its working people. Call your state senator and voice your support for our prevailing wage laws. (To find a list of your legislators, visit www.senate.mo.gov.) Let your state senator know that you respect our skilled workers and think they should be paid a decent wage for quality work.

 

Krista Stark is the executive director of Southwest Missouri Democrats.

Prevailing Wage

When you drive across a bridge, send your child to a public school or enter a public building, you have faith that the structures won’t collapse. You want to know that skilled, well-trained workers have constructed them. Thanks to Missouri’s prevailing wage law, the odds are heavily in your favor.

Missouri is one of 29 states with a prevailing wage law that ensures fair wages for our laborers, carpenters, electricians, bricklayers, masons, boilermakers, steelworkers, and plumbers and pipefitters when they are working on public projects such as roads, bridges, schools and other public buildings. Having this standard helps make sure that Missourians get the most-qualified workers for these public projects.

Prevailing wage laws also protect local jobs by ensuring firms that bring in lower-cost, out-of-state labor do not outbid companies using a Missouri labor force. When West Virginia was debating its prevailing wage law, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy concluded that prevailing wage laws help “ensure that government-funded construction projects are done with highly skilled workers from the community, increasing productivity and strengthening the economy with good-paying local jobs.”

Studies repeatedly show that in prevailing-wage states, construction jobs are completed more quickly and more safely and come in under budget more frequently.

Repealing Missouri’s prevailing wage law will have certain negative affects. According to a 2016 study, “The Adverse Economic Impact of the Repeal of the Prevailing Wage Law in Missouri” by Dr. Michael Kelsay of the University of Missouri, Kansas City, its repeal:

  • Would produce a loss of income and revenue between $225.3 million and $360.7 million annually.
  • Would not result in any cost savings in school construction costs as alleged by the opponents of prevailing wage.

The study also discovered that real compensation packages, health benefits and pensions are higher for workers in prevailing wage states than in non-prevailing wage states.

Furthermore, states that repeal prevailing wage laws, such as Kansas, find that skilled workers flee to find better jobs. With their loss comes a shortage of qualified workers.

Studies show that there is a positive effect for all residents in states with prevailing wage laws: Higher wages in public construction help raise other workers’ wages. In addition, well-paid workers are good consumers, boosting our economy. Furthermore, the prevailing wage changes the total cost of a job only slightly because the labor costs are on average only 20 to 25 percent of the total cost of construction.

So why would our state Legislature be intent on repealing the prevailing wage law in Missouri? Corporate influence is to blame because corporations believe that prevailing wage hurts their interests; the law’s repeal allows them to pay their skilled workers less. The Missouri House has already abandoned working people by passing HB104 to repeal the prevailing wage, and the Missouri Senate is now considering passing the bill for Gov. Eric Greitens to sign.

We must act to ensure that Missouri stands strong for its working people. Call your state senator and voice your support for our prevailing wage laws. (To find a list of your legislators, visit www.senate.mo.gov.) Let your state senator know that you respect our skilled workers and think they should be paid a decent wage for quality work.

 

Krista Stark is the executive director of Southwest Missouri Democrats.

 

Follow the money on right-to-work legislation

How would you like to have your wages cut by $1,558 next year? If you’re a working class Missourian, that’s the lowest estimate of the average amount you stand to lose if Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of right-to-work legislation is overridden this month. Many people would lose an even larger chunk.

When passed in other states, right-to-work legislation has harmed economies and lowered wages. For example, annual wages for teachers in our neighboring states that have right-to-work laws average $3,111.67 less than annual wages for teachers in Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri, which haven’t passed right-to-work legislation. Is this a plan we want to follow? Should we take a page from the playbook of those states where workers take home less?

If right-to-work legislation will so clearly hurt middle and working class Missourians, why did so many Missouri Republican legislators (including all of our house representatives from Southwest Missouri as well as Sen. Ron Richard) work so hard to pass it even when they knew it would meet with the governor’s veto pen? Why are they now so intent on overriding the governor’s veto?

To answer this question, follow the money. Why would billionaires and corporations pour millions into right-to-work laws if this did not benefit them?

Right-to-work legislation is ALEC-patterned legislation. ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council. According to www.alecexposed.org, “Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve model bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.) Yet, corporations fund almost all of ALEC’s operations.”

ALEC, as a group, writes pattern or model legislation and distributes it to state and federal legislators. Corporate members of ALEC include Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Reynolds, American Pfizer Inc., AT&T, United Parcel Service, Koch Companies Public Sector LLC, ExxonMobil, and State Farm Insurance. However, this is by no means a full list of ALEC members. According to websites devoted to the research of this organization, “ALEC keeps its membership, activities and communications confidential.”

Missouri lawmakers worked with two identical right-to-work bills (H.B. 116 and H.B. 569) that borrow language from ALEC and were sponsored by two Missouri legislators who are members of ALEC, Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield,  and Rep. Bill Lant, R-Pineville. Senate Bill 127 was introduced by Missouri Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, another ALEC legislator, with key portions taken verbatim from ALEC. A side-by-side comparison of Missouri’s bills and the ALEC patterned legislation can be found at www.prwatch.org/news/2015/03/12766/alec-right-work-bills-move-through-states#sthash.ROJzP4NY.dpuf.

Perhaps you have never heard of ALEC, but maybe you have heard of Missouri billionaire Rex Sinquefield. Sinquefield’s organization Pelopidas has bankrolled ALEC, sponsoring ALEC’s 2013 Annual Meeting to the tune of six figures. He has also given hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions to ALEC legislators in Missouri.

Many of our other area legislators, including Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar, and Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, are also members of ALEC. State Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, is the Missouri chairman for ALEC.

Are Missouri legislators elected to work only for Missouri’s billionaires and America’s huge corporations, or are they elected to work for us, the people of their state?

This is a bipartisan issue. If you agree that legislators should represent working Missourians and that they should not push the veto override of a harmful bill, please contact me as soon as possible at 417-437-8443 to sign the “Let the Veto Stand” petitions. These petitions will be delivered to our local legislators starting on Sept. 9, a week before the veto override session begins.

Krista Stark is executive director of Southwest Missouri Democrats and chair of the 7th Congressional Democratic District.

Right-to-work would hurt Missouri middle class

Right-to-work legislation is again being debated in the Missouri Legislature, and on Thursday, April 30, members of the Jasper County Republican Central Committee passed a resolution in support of right-to-work legislation at a quarterly meeting of the group.

According to an article in The Joplin Globe by Susan Redden, Jimmy Morris, committee chair, called the measure “a job creator and not anti-union.” The bill is before the Missouri Senate after being passed in the House of Representatives.

As a Globe guest columnist, Morris had previously written supporting a right-to-work measure on Feb. 17. I feel he needs to heed the words of former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y.: “You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.”

Morris wrote a column advocating Missouri become a so-called right-to-work state. Many assertions made in the article are simply not true.

First, his statistics are wrong. Secondly, he fundamentally misunderstands how unions work.

Let’s address the statistics first. Anyone who knows me can tell you that math is not my strong suit, so I have checked and rechecked these numbers.

In his column, Morris asserts that Missouri lost jobs to bordering states between 2009 and 2013, the most difficult time of the great recession. He asserts the states of Nebraska, Oklahoma and Tennessee “gained 200,000 jobs during that time while Missouri lost 24,000.”  Morris credits no source for this information, but examination of data from a variety of sources indicates his information is incorrect.

While it is unclear what period of time is included in “between 2009 and 2013,” it could be three to five years, I chose to use the most conservative interpretation and used the years 2010, 2011 and 2012. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, during that period of time, Missouri added 63,464 jobs (http://www.bls.gov/regions/mountain-plains/missouri.htm).

According to the Missouri Department of Labor, Division of Employment Security, during that period of time, total wages paid in Missouri rose by $6.4 billion, and “since 2009, the number of unemployment claims has dropped by more than 46 percent” (http://labor.mo.gov/sites/default/files/2014AnnualReport.pdf).

Morris believes the job gains in the three states he writes about are due to the advantages of being right-to-work states. However, when we look at the bigger picture, it appears Morris has cherry-picked the states he used in his comparison. Using Bureau of Labor Statistics for the other states, let’s compare all of Missouri’s right-to-work neighbors with Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois, states without so-called right-to-work status. When we compare these two groups, we find the average job gain in non-right-to-work states was 45,215 more than in right-to-work states during the period I examined.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, throughout the past year, unemployment decreased in non-right-to-work states by an average of 1.7 percent, while right-to-work states decreased only .86 percent. When we use the low employment point in each state during the great recession and the recovery up to January of this year, non-right-to-work states added an average of 139,973 jobs while right-to-work states added an average of only 67,229 jobs. Using Mr. Morris’ own measures, we would have to conclude that Missouri has gained jobs rather than lose them and that Missouri and the non-right-to-work states bordering Missouri produced more jobs than bordering right-to-work states.

While number of jobs is important, the wages those jobs produce is more important. Jobs that produce more disposable income are the jobs that put more money in the pockets of local small businesses. If we look at the wages produced in non-right-to-work states compared with right-to-work states, the advantage goes to non-right-to-work states. Annual wages for all occupations, including CEOs, lawyers, physicians, teachers and so on in Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri averaged $3,111.67 more than in our neighboring right-to-work states. When we compare selected occupations representing lower incomes, the non-right-to-work states averaged $3,224.67 more than right-to-work states. According to the AFL-CIO, workers in states with right-to-work laws earn an average of $5,971 less a year than workers in other states.

Morris also shows a misunderstanding of how unions work. A right-to-work law makes it optional for workers to pay dues to a union in a company in which the workers are protected by a union contract, even though those who don’t belong to the union reap the benefits from the contract. It is folly to think that most people will pay for something they can get free. The result will be fewer members in the union.

Morris concludes that removing members of a union “makes it stronger,” but that simply isn’t true. A union is called a union because workers must stand united. It is through this “union” that they gain the strength to bargain for fair wages and safer working conditions. To the extent that workers don’t join, it will demoralize those who have joined together. The solidarity of the union will break down. Of course, this breakdown is the very intention of those who are pushing for right-to-work and who would like to see union membership be optional.

Morris certainly has the right to oppose unions; however, weaker unions result in lower wages and living standards for all workers in the state.

We believe that because of the weakening of unions, tax policy favoring the wealthy and corporate welfare, Missourians’ relative income, like that of the rest of Americans’ has remained stagnant throughout the past three decades while income for the top 1 percent has skyrocketed. This process has resulted in the income gap that has recently been in the news. We need to move Missouri’s middle class forward by keeping right-to-work legislation out of Missouri.

Krista Stark is the executive director of Southwest Missouri Democrats.

 

Leave prevailing wage alone

Once again, Republicans are trying to repeal Missouri’s prevailing wage. This law protects standards for decent wages, guarantees a fair bidding process, and demands safety and quality for public projects. The Kansas City Star recently called repeal efforts “the political lunacy of advocating for middle-class wage cuts during an era of stagnation and rising inequality.”

Prevailing wage protections started in 1931 when the Davis-Bacon Act was signed by Republican President Herbert Hoover. The act came about after two congressmen teamed up to protect their states from contractors who were bringing in low-paid labor from Alabama to do work on taxpayer-funded projects. Not only did the congressmen object to displacing local labor, they also recognized that these migrant workers would not be long-term taxpayers, consumers and constituents. They recognized that paying the lowest wages was not good overall economics.

Missouri’s prevailing wage law requires workers, union or nonunion, to be paid set wages on taxpayer-funded projects such as schools, jails and bridges. Wage rates are determined county-by-county from voluntary annual wage reports submitted by contractors who work in those counties. Those who pay union rates and those who do not are included in the average. So essentially, the “prevailing wage” in each county is the local going rate for various types of labor.

Because trade unions have successfully bargained for higher compensation, and because union-skilled labor is preferred by many local private and public builders, local wages are higher than they might otherwise be.

This irks many Republican legislators who argue that wages need to be as low as possible, union-trained labor is not needed and that taxpayers cannot afford prevailing wages. So instead of a county’s local wage rates, they propose paying state or federal minimum wage, whichever is higher. This measure has already passed the House of Representatives and has been sent to the Senate. Interestingly, it is such a bad piece of legislation that even 20 house Republicans voted against it.

Proponents claim that taxpayers could get the same quality of construction for much lower costs if they could repeal prevailing wage. These arguments are easily debunked. Think about consequences of repeal. Contractors with union-trained skilled labor could be underbid by contractors willing to employ minimum-wage workers whose skills might be questionable. Labor costs are only a minor part of construction costs, so a contractor who wants to save big bucks might also compromise materials or methods, jeopardizing the quality of the project. Skilled workers at prevailing wages, union or non-union, are much more likely to reject shoddy materials, unsafe equipment and slipshod methods because of the pride they take in doing a good job, on schedule, for a fair wage.

Repeal would empower out-of-state contractors, so local workers go on unemployment, are not paying state income taxes and do not have income to spend with local businesses. And who is stuck with costs of repairs if the company produces an inferior product?

Indiana repealed its prevailing wage law in 2015. Studies by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute and Colorado State University show that wages have shrunk, worker turnover has increased and Indiana’s productivity growth has increased 5.3 percent less than neighboring states. And ironically, nonunion contractors have not gained a greater share of the public works market.

Look also at the recent bridge collapse at Florida International University that killed six people and will cost millions to repair. The university tried to cut costs by engaging Munilla Construction Management, a politically connected company hostile to labor unions. Who knows what quality of labor or materials was used. There are currently investigations into whether the company’s huge contributions to Gov. Rick Scott and other Republican candidates gave them an advantage in the bidding process or led state agencies to be lax about safety requirements.

It all boils down to this: What kind of state do we want?

Republicans seem geared toward getting rid of unions, keeping wages as low as possible and deregulating safety measures. They argue that prevailing wage is bad for Missouri, that we can save tons of money by getting rid of it, that lower wages will create more jobs, and that we can get the same quality of public projects without prevailing wage.

They fail to admit the dire impact on Missouri’s workers and their families. When unfettered capitalism is allowed, the rich get richer, workers get treated badly and the middle class fails to flourish.

I want public policy that protects workers’ ability to make living wages so they can pay taxes and be vigorous consumers, helping our businesses and economy to prosper in ways that are good for everyone, not just the rich. I want public policy that supports a fair bidding process for contractors and rewards contractors willing to do quality work. I want public policy that guarantees safe construction of schools, roads, county jails and bridges. I want policy that supports spending local taxes to pay local workers who, in turn, spend locally.

If you agree, tell state Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, to leave prevailing wage alone.

Sherry Buchanan lives in Joplin and is Treasurer for Southwest Missouri Democrats.

Keep unions viable

I have heard throughout my years in industry that if Company A has a union workforce and Company B is nonunion, then the wages and benefits for both companies are about equal.

The reason: the nonunion company does not want the union in its plant, and the best way to keep the union out is to make wages and benefits comparable.

So if we take the union out of Company A, then guess where the wages and benefits go? Down. The point is that unions help workers other than those paying union dues. But unions have to remain viable and strong to provide this leavening of the wage scale bread.

Enacting of the so-called right-to-work law undermines the principles of collective bargaining. The law would allow people to work at a union shop without paying those union dues that go toward negotiating their work agreement with management. According to this law, a worker is free to mooch off of union shop benefits without paying his or her fair share. Please vote “no” on Missouri state Proposition A. Stop the so-called right-to-work law from going into effect.

Hugh Shields

 

Do homework on Proposition A

On Aug. 7, we Missourians will be making an important and far-reaching decision about the future of the state’s economy and the health and safety of our workers.

Proposition A, the deviously named right-to-work law, has been designed to persuade voters to answer “yes.” That’s because it was intended to serve the wealthy and was written by their lackeys. Also, Prop A was deliberately made difficult to understand unless you already have a good grasp of how these issues work. So accept the word of the organizations and individuals who are sympathetic to workers. Go to https://www.propafacts.org for the details.

If you believe that the pay and the safety of Missouri workers should be protected, you must vote “no” on Aug. 7.

Also, if you live in Joplin, don’t confuse it with the Joplin Prop A. The right-to-work proposition has the phrase “right to work” in its first sentence.

Elliott Denniston

Economic benefits of right to work are fallacy

Our Republican legislators are advancing a right-to-work law for Missouri, alleging it will be to the state’s economic benefit.

Unfortunately, our legislators are poor statisticians, or more likely, unknowing dupes of the purveyors of model legislation aimed at weakening unions and, ultimately, the middle class.

The fallacy in the statistics they swallow is that they don’t look at enough variables, according to one sociologist. To make her point, she says that research shows you can actually find a correlation between an increase in the stork population and a rise in human birth rates. But, she points out, “once we control for other factors that create this seemingly causal relationship, it disappears entirely — as is the case with the false relationship between right-to-work laws and economic and job growth.”

In 2001, Oklahoma passed right-to-work legislation, and some people, looking at too few variables, have touted its economic benefits.

In fact, however, the growth of the Oklahoma economy has been because of the health of the gas and oil industry.

Right to work has not spurred new manufacturing jobs. By May 2015, manufacturing jobs had dropped 22 percent. The rich got richer. Rank-and-file workers didn’t reap benefits — just lost more jobs.

An Economic Policy Institute study that controlled for 42 variables “found that right-to-work laws result in lower wages and a lower likelihood of health care and pensions for union and nonunion workers. It also shows right-to-work laws have no impact on economic growth.”

Right-to-work laws are said to draw companies to a state. So let’s look at Oklahoma again. It ranked 48th in its attractiveness to high-wage manufacturers, according to the 2014 State New Economy Index. What attracts high-wage-paying employers, according to the index, is not right to work but skilled workers, technological innovation and good education systems.

You do not find these factors in states where workers are poorly paid, when education funding is cut.

Instead of emulating Oklahoma and other right-to-work states, our legislators should use Massachusetts as a model. It is ranked first in its attractiveness to high-wage manufacturers. It is not one of the right-to-work states.

Is it too much to ask that our legislators learn how to detect self-serving model legislation from corporate leaders? Is it too much to ask that our legislators do some research? Is it too much to ask that our legislators do their due-diligence before voting lockstep against the welfare of the majority of their constituents? It is apparently too much to ask, and yet we keep sending them back to Jefferson City.

Right to work might be more rightly called “right to work for less.” Unions helped establish the middle class in our country. Unfortunately, the middle class is now under assault; the country is polarized. Right-to-work legislation is likely to widen the divide in Missouri between the top 1 percent and the working poor.

If you feel closer to the working poor than the top 1 percent, phone your legislator and tell him to vote against right-to-work legislation.

 

Joan Banks lives in Joplin.

 

Responsible Gun Legislation

Armed students a foolish notion

Allowing armed students into college classrooms seems foolish to me, but not so to Missouri state Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, who has introduced a bill to allow students licensed to carry concealed weapons on campus.

I call it foolish because a young person’s brain does not mature until his or her early 20s.

“The parts of the brain responsible for more ‘top-down’ control, controlling impulses and planning ahead — the hallmarks of adult behavior — are among the last to mature,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. “There seems to also be a stronger disregard for risk. Guns and young people don’t mix very well.”

Inadequate sleep as well as drug use can also contribute to impulsive behavior.

It’s possible that armed students might decrease the numbers killed in a mass shooting in a school by a lone-wolf shooter, but do we really think arming students will keep another incident from happening? No guarantees on that: The shooters are often on glorified suicide missions to begin with. And what if one of those armed students has been radicalized or has no early warning signs of mental illness? We will have invited him into the classroom with the method for his madness.

It’s easy to get a concealed carry permit, according to an article in Mother Jones (“How I Got Licensed to Carry a Concealed Gun in 32 States by Barely Trying,” Sept./Oct. 2013)

Writer Tim Murphy says, “I was clueless, hungover and totally worthless with a firearm. Four hours later, I was officially qualified to pack heat.”

No one checked on his mental health.

Other questions arise: Who is going to verify that those students entering classrooms with concealed weapons are licensed to carry? Who will protect a teacher from the wrath of his student who is about to get dropped from the football team because he is flunking? Who’s to say that some of the people in the arenas of mass shootings weren’t already caring concealed weapons? Drawing a gun when a shooter is strafing the area with bullets may be the last thing on anyone’s mind.

The unintended consequences of arming young people in the classroom seem like a prescription for disaster to the armed-but-innocent. The student who stands his ground to fire may be the first victim. Do you want that to be your child? And if not, will his bullets kill innocent people in a hail of gunfire?

No magic bullets will solve this problem. Schools must be made safe in other ways. It’s for us to decide how to do that, but arming students isn’t a logical answer.

One step in the right direction is to get better at identifying young people who have mental health issues or are being bullied or marginalized. That requires more funding for mental health and, perhaps, a return to residential facilities for mentally ill people. It also requires more funding for education, not only to make buildings safer but also to provide more trained people to assess students at risk of becoming dangerous.

In the meantime, please let your legislators know that you oppose allowing armed students in classrooms.

 

Joan Banks lives in Joplin.

 

Laws have impact on firearm-relate deaths

Geoff Caldwell opines (The Joplin Globe, Oct. 15) “there will always be evil in this world and no amount of laws will ever stop it.”

The evil to which he refers was the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Well, Mr. Caldwell, as Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan would say: “You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.”

There are facts that help to determine whether laws can be used to reduce the number of firearm-related deaths. An FBI Active Shooter Report (Sept. 24, 2014) estimates there has been an average of 37.4 deaths per year in the United States over the previous 13 years from mass shootings, and the number is increasing.

According to gunpolicy.com, deaths in the United States caused by firearms not related to a mass shooting averaged 32,057 per year from 2005 to 2014. About half of these were suicides.

To evaluate the impact of gun legislation, I selected 10 developed countries around the world, two each from Asia, Northern Europe, Southern Europe, North America and Oceania.

There are many statutory requirements in these countries impacting gun ownership. The following were used for comparison: background checks required for all private gun purchases; a reason for ownership is required; the right to own guns guaranteed; the number of guns a person owns may be limited; gun registration is required; committing domestic violence prevents a person from owning a gun; and firearm safety training is required.

A score for each country was established based on the number of these restrictions imposed on gun owners.

That score was then correlated with the number of gun-related deaths in each country. The correlation between the number of gun regulations and gun deaths per 100,000 population was significant. This means that the more of these regulations a country has, a significantly fewer number of gun-related deaths occur.

The number of firearm-related deaths ranged from 10.56 per 100,000 per year in the U.S. to .06 per 100,000 per year in South Korea. The U.S. has none of the listed restrictions and South Korea has all but one.

Perhaps the clearest place to see the impact of firearm legislation is Australia.

In response to a mass shooting in 1996, Australians overhauled their laws regulating firearms to a system that imposes all the restrictions listed above.

In addition, a national buyback program for prohibited weapons took place in 1996-1997 and resulted in more than 700,000 weapons being taken out of circulation. Before these laws were enacted, the average rate of gun deaths in Australia was 3.7 per 100,000 per year, and since then it has been 1.25.

A 2012 study by Andrew Leigh of Australian National University found a drop in firearm suicide rates of almost 80 percent in the following decade. Data presented by gunpolicy.com indicate the total number of suicides per 100,000 per year dropped from 13.05 to 11.75 after the law was passed. This supports the fact that people did not simply find a way other than guns to commit suicide.

According to australiaguncontrol.weebly.com/australia.html, in the 10 years before the implementation of the 1996 law, there were seven mass shootings resulting in 117 deaths. In the 20 years since the law went into effect, there have been no mass shootings in Australia.

In our country, we do not know what combination of restrictions might reduce gun violence and suicides while maintaining the least restrictive level of regulations governing firearm ownership. Since 1996 (the year Australia enacted its law), the U.S. Congress has prohibited research on gun violence.

That legislation said “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control” (American Psychological Association). More recently, Public Radio International reported that last month the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee voted to reject an amendment that would have allowed the CDC to study the relationship between gun ownership and gun violence.

It is not the purpose of this piece to advocate for any specific gun control legislation. Rather, it is to provide information demonstrating that gun deaths are, in fact, impacted by such legislation. It is folly to try to reduce this complicated subject to the simplistic, unknowable and uncontrollable notion of evil that Mr. Caldwell claims “no amount of laws will ever stop.”

Doug Brooks of Joplin is the chairman of the Southwest Missouri Democrats.

Slippery slope’ arguments don’t always pass tests of logic

The gun rights people like to use the slippery slope argument to convince us no restrictions should be placed on Second Amendment claims. They appeal to our emotions by saying once a limitation on guns is made, then we have started a chain reaction ending with a knock on the door by government agents coming to take away our guns.

The slippery slope argument suggests taking a small action will lead to major and probably disagreeable results. So, obviously, the conclusion the gun rights folks would have us draw is that we should put no restrictions on guns in the first place.

But by defaulting to this slippery slope argument, we avoid discussing the issue at hand. For example, if the issue on the table is background checks and we automatically revert to a scenario of the government taking away our guns, then we don’t get anywhere with the subject of background checks. While such a showstopper may be OK with the gun rights folks, it fails to bring about meaningful action.

Other examples of slippery slopes come to mind. As a teen in Alabama during the civil rights era, I, having some Midwestern background, was puzzled by the racist argument “if we give ’em an inch, then they’ll take a mile.” I always wondered what that “mile” meant, and what exactly the white male had in mind “giving.” It was not logical to assume that by integrating public places we were going to revisit Nat Turner’s rebellion, yet that was what the phrase implied.

In 1965, Ronald Reagan, using a slippery slope argument, warned his listeners to stop the proposed Medicare legislation saying it would lead to “other government programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country until one day as Norman Thomas said we will wake to find that we have socialism” (Wikipedia, “Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine”).

In the 50-plus years since Medicare became law, it has expanded freedom for many people. Young people don’t have to support their elderly parents, and the elderly have some peace of mind about their medical needs.

Reagan’s logic was not so keen: The slippery slope had no direct evidence that socialism would result from Medicare.

Yet another example of illogical slippery slope thinking might be the literal interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis. Some Christians would have us believe that unless we take those accounts of creation literally, we have started on the road to unbelief. The spurious nature of that argument is that many people have turned away from Christianity because that literal interpretation has been a stumbling block to seeing the good news.

Slippery slope arguments didn’t pass the logical test, whether presented by bigoted whites in Alabama, Ronald Reagan’s view of capitalism, or advocates of young earth creation dogma. Similarly, there is no evidence that the first statement (background checks) leads to the extreme hypothetical — the government taking away our guns. We can expect our elected officials to take positive steps to reduce gun violence while upholding the use of guns for hunting, sport shooting and home defense. We can work toward the day when our government is responsive to the will of the people and limits the use of assault weapons.

Charles “Hugh” Shields lives in Joplin.

 

Equality

Taking a knee a way to bring about social change

May 1766, New York City: The Declaratory Act, an act designed to assert the king’s authority over the colonies, has been passed. The government is pressuring the colonists to demonstrate their respect for his authority by declaring loyalty to the king, and many people gather to do so. But a radical group, the Sons of Liberty, has asked to put up their symbol of resistance to the king, the Liberty Pole. The Common Council has refused permission. Now some of the radicals are talking about burning the king in effigy.

You consider yourself a patriot and loyal to the king, but your son has joined the Sons of Liberty. His actions make you angry. By participating, he may risk losing his income and his friends, who will be angry at him for not being a good citizen. He may even lose his life. (You couldn’t have known it then, but four years later in 1770, defense of the Liberty Pole resulted in bloodshed that helped launch the American Revolution.) Is your anger justified? Is he showing disrespect to the throne? If so, are the injustices committed in the name of the king worth his stance?

Today, we face the same question in the action of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before a football game. Is his anger justified?

Kaepernick believes it is. He says his decision to take a knee is based on “perceived societal wrongdoings against African-Americans and minorities in the United States.”

He says: “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” His stated goal is to bring about social change by bringing the problem to the public’s attention. As Kaepernick’s friend Eric Reed points out, quoting James 2:17: “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Public protests such as Kaepernick’s have brought about policy change in this country from its inception. Raising the Liberty Pole, for one. Burning the flag during the Vietnam War created a discussion about the war itself and whether we were justified in being there. The marches and sit-ins during the civil rights movement brought major changes in our system.

These actions evoked strong emotional responses that prevented some from being able to consider the merits of the issues involved. However, we are encouraged by our Founding Fathers to engage in reasoned discussion rather than emotion in response to such acts. Revolutionary Thomas Paine expressed it in his radical pamphlet, “Common Sense.” In his struggle to persuade the colonists to oppose the king, Paine asks the reader, to “divest himself of prejudice and prepossession.”

It’s not an easy task to divest ourselves of prejudice and replace it with reason or common sense. For one thing, many people fear change — in particular, change that challenges the belief systems in which they find comfort and security. When we approach a question in a black-and-white or fundamentalist way, it feels safe because it requires no change in our behavior or belief system.

That is the “our country, be she right or wrong” approach, which abolitionist Charles Sumner believed was “a sentiment dethroning God and enthroning the devil.”

Is Kaepernick’s cause just? Paine encourages us to consider the facts and come to a conclusion based on reason. If the facts of Kaepernick’s position are correct and enough people pay attention to the issues involved, minds and policy may change, just as the majority of U.S. citizens came to be opposed to the war in Vietnam and to support the end of segregation.

Unfortunately, too many people, including President Donald Trump, don’t give sufficient consideration to the issues Kaepernick is responding to. The president has said the actions of Kaepernick and other football players who are supporting his example “show a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect for everything we stand for.” For the president — as he would like it to be for the rest of us — the reaction is emotional, and the issue is disrespect for authority. He has no interest in evaluating the merits of Kaepernick’s assertions or pursuing social justice.

Is it disrespectful to question our country? I am proud to be a United States Marine, and I believe people who use nonviolent means to effect social change, even if it involves our national symbols, are performing acts of patriotism. I see no disrespect to me personally or to the country I served. Nor do I believe I am being unpatriotic by affirming Kaepernick’s choice to protest.

Nate Boyer, a former member of the Army’s Special Forces (Green Berets) and an NFL player said: “I respect the decision that (you’re) making. That’s something that we fight for, and that is what this country is all about. That is what this flag and anthem means to me. I look forward to the day you’re inspired to once again stand during our national anthem. I’ll be standing right there next to you. Keep on trying … De Oppresso Liber.” (to liberate the oppressed — the Special Forces motto).

May 1766, New York City: The Declaratory Act, an act designed to assert the king’s authority over the colonies, has been passed. The government is pressuring the colonists to demonstrate their respect for his authority by declaring loyalty to the king, and many people gather to do so. But a radical group, the Sons of Liberty, has asked to put up their symbol of resistance to the king, the Liberty Pole. The Common Council has refused permission. Now some of the radicals are talking about burning the king in effigy.

You consider yourself a patriot and loyal to the king, but your son has joined the Sons of Liberty. His actions make you angry. By participating, he may risk losing his income and his friends, who will be angry at him for not being a good citizen. He may even lose his life. (You couldn’t have known it then, but four years later in 1770, defense of the Liberty Pole resulted in bloodshed that helped launch the American Revolution.) Is your anger justified? Is he showing disrespect to the throne? If so, are the injustices committed in the name of the king worth his stance?

Today, we face the same question in the action of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the playing of the national anthem before a football game. Is his anger justified?

Kaepernick believes it is. He says his decision to take a knee is based on “perceived societal wrongdoings against African-Americans and minorities in the United States.”

He says: “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” His stated goal is to bring about social change by bringing the problem to the public’s attention. As Kaepernick’s friend Eric Reed points out, quoting James 2:17: “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Public protests such as Kaepernick’s have brought about policy change in this country from its inception. Raising the Liberty Pole, for one. Burning the flag during the Vietnam War created a discussion about the war itself and whether we were justified in being there. The marches and sit-ins during the civil rights movement brought major changes in our system.

These actions evoked strong emotional responses that prevented some from being able to consider the merits of the issues involved. However, we are encouraged by our Founding Fathers to engage in reasoned discussion rather than emotion in response to such acts. Revolutionary Thomas Paine expressed it in his radical pamphlet, “Common Sense.” In his struggle to persuade the colonists to oppose the king, Paine asks the reader, to “divest himself of prejudice and prepossession.”

It’s not an easy task to divest ourselves of prejudice and replace it with reason or common sense. For one thing, many people fear change — in particular, change that challenges the belief systems in which they find comfort and security. When we approach a question in a black-and-white or fundamentalist way, it feels safe because it requires no change in our behavior or belief system.

That is the “our country, be she right or wrong” approach, which abolitionist Charles Sumner believed was “a sentiment dethroning God and enthroning the devil.”

Is Kaepernick’s cause just? Paine encourages us to consider the facts and come to a conclusion based on reason. If the facts of Kaepernick’s position are correct and enough people pay attention to the issues involved, minds and policy may change, just as the majority of U.S. citizens came to be opposed to the war in Vietnam and to support the end of segregation.

Unfortunately, too many people, including President Donald Trump, don’t give sufficient consideration to the issues Kaepernick is responding to. The president has said the actions of Kaepernick and other football players who are supporting his example “show a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect for everything we stand for.” For the president — as he would like it to be for the rest of us — the reaction is emotional, and the issue is disrespect for authority. He has no interest in evaluating the merits of Kaepernick’s assertions or pursuing social justice.

Is it disrespectful to question our country? I am proud to be a United States Marine, and I believe people who use nonviolent means to effect social change, even if it involves our national symbols, are performing acts of patriotism. I see no disrespect to me personally or to the country I served. Nor do I believe I am being unpatriotic by affirming Kaepernick’s choice to protest.

Nate Boyer, a former member of the Army’s Special Forces (Green Berets) and an NFL player said: “I respect the decision that (you’re) making. That’s something that we fight for, and that is what this country is all about. That is what this flag and anthem means to me. I look forward to the day you’re inspired to once again stand during our national anthem. I’ll be standing right there next to you. Keep on trying … De Oppresso Liber.” (to liberate the oppressed — the Special Forces motto).

Doug Brooks lives in Joplin and is the Chair of Southwest Missouri Democrats.

Time to deal with our racist past

When my mother was born in New York City in 1910, her parents brought a box of Virginia soil to their home so that the first dirt her feet touched was from their “country.”

The Confederacy was far from dead.

Two of my great-grandfathers fought gallantly, I was told, for the Confederacy, and I grew up proud of that family heritage. As a young boy, when I entered my grandmother’s home in New Jersey, immediately in front of me was a handsome portrait of Gen. Robert E. Lee. My family implicitly taught me to admire him.

My parents had the respectable values of a decent middle-class family in an affluent white suburb of Philadelphia. I was privileged in every way — I was a white male living in one of the safest and most privileged communities in the country. In an abstract way, I hated racism but hardly ever had to deal with it. I went to a private all-white boys school where there was hardly any opportunity for racism. With one exception: There were Jewish boys at the school, and one day a boy named Drayton started making cruel anti-Semitic comments to a Jewish boy named Frankie. It was disgusting. Suddenly Frankie turned on Drayton and attacked him furiously right in the middle of the class. I loved it.

When I was very young, my father mentioned in conversation that he was not racist, that he was very friendly with the black elevator operator at his place of work. Even then, I knew that was a feeble example of tolerance. In college, a friend from Georgia said he thought that Northerners treat blacks worse than Southerners do. Hmmm, maybe so, I thought, but I also realized that he was one of those paternalistic “we take good care of them” Southerners.

As our society aged and the civil rights era came. My eyes opened — but very slowly. It was a long time before I came to understand Reconstruction. Later, I learned from some new research the degree to which slaves remained slaves after the Civil War. In many Southern states, blacks were put in jail simply because they were unemployed and were kept there as slave labor or “leased” out to iron foundries and other hard labor jobs for unlimited time periods. Only under Franklin Delano Roosevelt did federal prosecutors finally begin to put an end to this particular form of racism.

Sadly, much of what I was taught as a boy was racist. Even in recent years, I have been slow to understand how racist our society still is. The videos of police shooting blacks, the attitudes shown during the campaign and election of Donald Trump and the events in Charlottesville have crystallized my thinking.

The Southern states started the Civil War by breaking their vows to be a part of the Union. They committed treason in their desperation to maintain their slave-based economy. Monuments to Confederate leaders were almost all erected in the 20th century for the purpose of telling black Americans that the South is not abandoning its old, racist values. These monuments, which are so insulting to blacks and also to all other Americans who value equality, should rightly be dealt with, though each community will have to wrestle with the when and how.

If we believe that they should be kept as part of our history, then they should be moved out of the public eye — probably to museums, battlefields or other historic places — and the plaques placed next to them should tell the whole truth. Then they could tell the story of our real history.

In the meantime, we must all move forward to deal openly and tolerantly with our racist past.

Elliott Denniston lives in rural Webb City.

Education

The role of public schools

For decades, politicians have declared war on our public schools and declared them a failure. They say our teacher quality has fallen short and other nations outpace us. Rather than trying to improve our schools, many states and districts have reacted by cutting educational budgets, teacher salaries and investments in the physical infrastructure of our schools.

President Donald Trump’s budget proposes $9 billion in educational cuts, including after-school programs that serve mostly poor children. Instead, he promotes increased funding for school-privatization efforts such as vouchers.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is promoting school choice and privatization. This is driven by the ideology of privatizing all government services and providing an open market for huge private school corporations to divert millions in public funds into the coffers of their executives and investors. Many organizations, such as American Legislative Exchange Council along with wealthy individuals such as the Koch brothers, have invested millions lobbying state and federal legislators to reduce all areas of government spending including education, in order to reduce their business and personal taxes.

Despite this dark narrative, our public schools have actually increased graduate numbers, expanded missions, improved test scores and are nothing close to the disaster portrayed by politicians.

With the politicians’ dancing to the tune of their well-heeled supporters who push privatization for their personal agendas, we have neglected civic education — one of the primary roles of our public schools. Thomas Jefferson understood that a functioning democracy requires an educated citizenry and, crucially, saw education as a public good.

John Adams, another proponent of public schooling, urged: “There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the expense of the people themselves.”

The courts have regularly affirmed the special status of public schools as a cornerstone of the American democratic project. In “School: The Story of American Education,” Diane Ravitch writes that “one of the greatest glories of the public school was its success in Americanizing immigrants.”

At their best, public schools did even more than that, integrating both immigrants and American-born students from a range of backgrounds into one citizenry. In the past few decades, we have allowed schools to grow more segregated racially and socioeconomically. Charter schools, far from a solution to this problem, are far more racially and socioeconomically segregated than traditional public schools.

At the same time, we have neglected instruction on what it means to be citizens of a democracy. Until the 1960s, U.S. high schools commonly offered three classes to prepare students for their roles as citizens: government, civics (the rights and responsibilities of citizens), and problems of democracy. Particularly after the passage of No Child Left Behind, the classtime devoted to social studies has declined steeply. Most state assessments don’t cover civics, and in too many cases, if it isn’t tested, it isn’t taught. Civics knowledge is in an appalling state: According to a survey conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, only a quarter of Americans can name all three branches of government, the poorest showing in a half dozen years. Nearly a third of Americans cannot name any of the three branches of government. “Those unfamiliar with our three branches of government can’t understand the importance of checks and balances and an independent judiciary,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of APPC.

As a democratic republic, we need educated, knowledgeable voters who understand how our democracy functions and the value of every vote. In this era of growing fragmentation, along with an increased desire for a more authoritarian form of government, we need a determined commitment to our public schools that includes civic education that benefits individuals as well as our society as a whole.

Nick Kyle is a retired Missouri Southern State University professor with 45 years of experience in public education.

In our best interest to keep our schools public

Powerful wealthy corporate interests want to take control of your public schools. Working through political channels such as American Legislative Exchange Council, a partnership of America’s state legislators and powerful business corporations that write legislation for states to use in advancing free-market enterprise. ALEC, through our state legislators, hopes to discredit our schools in hopes of privatizing them and making millions of dollars by opening and managing charter schools.

This appears to be an ideological goal of Missouri’s new Gov. Eric Greitens. It is also a major life goal of the new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. By ignoring and not fixing the existing problems in the schools, they use the excuse that they are helping constituents by giving them a voucher to attend another school of their choice: private, public or charter. The goal is to privatize public education by transferring millions of your tax dollars through vouchers to parents.

Charter schools are private schools. Most charters are operated by huge national corporations that have only one goal: to make money for their investors. In the process, we are allowing them to destroy a successful public school system that has served this country well and putting your tax dollars in their pockets instead of solving the problems of our society. Although your tax money is financing the charter schools, you and the school system lose control of your school and your tax money. They do not have to follow the same rules in hiring and firing teachers, nor do they have to disclose how your money is being spent. That also goes for how and what students are taught. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good charter schools. However, in reality, statistics show most charters do no better than the public schools they replaced, and many of them hurt poor children living in poverty rather than helping them.

We hear arguments from national school reformers that our schools don’t perform up to expectations because some educators have given up on tough-to-reach children and educational policies driven by politicians and bureaucrats have contributed to a culture of low expectations. The fact is that the success of a school system generally reflects the poverty rate of the area such as the percentage of students on the free lunch program. The so-called reformers solution ignores the influence of poverty, the home and community on student outcomes. To them, socioeconomic factors are not an excuse for failure. They are just using these results for an ulterior motive. It allows them to perpetuate the American myth of meritocracy and continue the privatization movement under the guise of improving our schools while not addressing deeply entrenched inequities that exist in our society and are perpetuated in our schools.

These are just some of the factors that influence the performance of a school. Other issues that affect a student population in poverty is they tend to have a higher mobility rate such as those students in a given year that move within or between districts, combine that with higher absentee rates, the myriad social issues caused by poverty, hunger/malnutrition, abuse, homelessness, incarcerated parent, departed parent, crowded home with no privacy, drugs and crime — they all affect students’ mental/physical/emotional well-being in the classroom.

This income inequality is brought on by lack of high-quality jobs. Communities with few or low-paying jobs are less prosperous. Given the current trend, it will only get worse. Around 80 percent of the jobs have been lost because of automation, not just shipping jobs to other countries. Some 59 percent of current manufacturing jobs could be automated. Also, 53 percent of retail jobs could be done by machines. How many of you have used the self-checkout at many retail stores? This is only the beginning. Self-driving buses, cabs and drone delivery to your door are just around the corner. This leaves a future of very low wage earners or unemployed residents.

Corporations say our schools are failing and that is why we are losing jobs to other countries. That line of thinking is a self-serving excuse. Unless something changes the inequality of our economic system where fewer people are needed to work, we will have a future of increasing poverty and more failing schools. We have to spend more to reduce poverty in order to improve our public schools.

Rather than cutting budgets, closing schools, firing teachers or privatizing our public schools, we should be ensuring that the schools have adequate resources and wrap-around services to meet the needs of our students. Providing tuition vouchers for students to attend private schools or corporate charter schools is not the answer and only drains badly needed public school funds into private corporate coffers. Programs that allow our teachers to get the mentoring and professional development they need to be successful are necessary. The working conditions of the schools must be conducive to learning.

With these reforms, there needs to be larger community initiatives and programs that cure the root causes of poverty. Anything else is only a bandage.

 

Nicholas Kyle lives in Carthage and is a retired Missouri Southern State University professor.

 

Taxes

Legislators should stop making the poor pay

A headline in the Globe (Sept. 25): “State budget options include cutting tax credit for seniors.” Our Republican-dominated Legislature is unwilling to generate sufficient revenue, so legislators must plot ways to juggle state finances. They expect underprivileged Missourians to pay for the deficits they create.

Last spring, legislators failed to find a way to cover costs for in-home and nursing home services for low-income Missourians. Without a permanent plan, they cobbled together a one-time solution that would use unspent money from several state agencies to cover these costs for fiscal year 2018.

Gov. Eric Greitens vetoed the bill because it was not a permanent solution and legislators failed to override his veto. Service for 8,000 needy Missourians was jeopardized.

Republican leadership is now discussing ways to recoup money from other sources so that these services can be restored. Good goal, but they are promoting a plan where our least well-off elderly and disabled would bear the financial burden.

The proposal is to claw back money from housing tax credits established to give low-income seniors and disabled people help with rent or costs of home ownership. Credits are now capped at $1,100 for homeowners and $750 for renters. Republicans are exploring ways to lower the caps on these credits or increase eligibility criteria.

No one gets rich from these credits, but they ease the challenges of staying independent, paying for shelter while juggling costs of medications, food and other necessities. This helps prevent institutionalization that comes at a much higher cost to taxpayers.

Imagine being an elderly homeowner. You and your ailing husband have an annual income of about $24,000.  You are not quite able to care for him by yourself. Twice-weekly in-home health care has helped him stay out of a nursing home. Last summer you were told by Greitens and our Republican-controlled Legislature that the in-home health services were to be stopped. Now you are finding out that they might restore the in-home services, but the tax credit that helps you keep your home will be cut to pay for this.

Some may say: “Well, money is tight, they must balance the state budget, so something’s got to go.” This argument might be valid if there were not so many other places that money could be found without punishing those who can least afford it.

Missouri ended FY 2017 with a $250 million deficit. In his inauguration speech, Gov. Greitens called out tax policies that are stealing much-needed revenue from our state. One of the first things he did was to appoint a governor’s Committee on Simple, Fair and Low Taxes.

The panel studied the hundreds of millions of dollars doled out each year through tax credits, tax deductions, outdated tax rates and other detrimental policies. Though in agreement that taxes should not be higher than necessary, the panel concluded that many of our current practices are unaffordable. A preliminary draft of its report said that millions of dollars are “giveaways” to projects and companies that do not need subsidies and that are not held accountable for producing a positive return on investment.

Interestingly, many of the recommendations in their draft disappeared before the final report was published. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial speculated that “political influence of big tax credit recipients” annihilated the recommendations and that the kinds of reforms originally recommended would have required “more courage than Missouri’s politicians have been able to summon.”

Over the years, these ill-advised tax policies cost billions. Here are a couple of examples cited by the governor’s committee. In FY 2016, we gave $115 million in discounts to vendors for remitting sales tax receipts on time and another $29 million to employers who sent their quarterly withholding deposits on time. The committee criticized this giveaway because we should not need financial incentives for simply following the law.

Another example is our low-income housing tax credit, one of the two largest in the country. Developers and investors have produced a disproportionally small number of affordable housing units, while claiming almost $102 million in tax credits for FY 2016, over $1.3 billion in the past 10 years.

The governor’s committee cited many other giveaways and unaffordable tax policies. There is where our legislators should look for money to cover in-home services for needy Missourians (as well as money to restore prescription drug assistance and other services being cut from under our most vulnerable). Instead, they propose reducing a valuable housing tax credit for needy Missourians.

It seems that Missouri’s less fortunate need more of the political influence mentioned in the Post-Dispatch and that our politicians need more of the courage the newspaper accused them of lacking.

Sherry Buchanan lives in Joplin.

Get rid of the estate tax?

Congress is once again considering eliminating the federal estate tax. Consider the history: Taxes on transfers of wealth and property at the time of death have been written into law throughout U.S. history. Since 1916 they have been a constant feature of the U.S. tax code.

Now, unless you are a true anarchist, you believe that the federal government should have the money to pay for the military (its largest budget item) and for at least certain other items, such as the huge interest on our debt in order to keep our credit good.

So the question becomes: “What is the best way to raise that money?” I believe it is through the estate tax. This tax affects only the heirs of the very wealthy. It makes small reductions in the large inheritances of people who usually have done nothing to earn them except to be born into the “right” family. Isn’t taxing that inheritance more fair than taxing someone who has earned their money with their own effort and talents?

Most Americans don’t realize that under current law, taxpayers are able to pass on $5.5 million to their heirs tax-free; for couples that’s $11 million tax-free, and those minimums keep increasing about 2 percent every year.

For those having more than those minimums, lawyers can protect a lot of it from the estate tax through trusts and deductions.

For example, money left to charity avoids the tax. In fact, there are so many large charitable bequests that charities would lose about 20 percent of their income if the tax were repealed.

In short, the estate tax hits no one except the heirs of the very wealthy. Despite all this, most middle-class Americans favor abolishing the tax; apparently they can’t bear to think of the pain that the superrich would suffer.

More likely, though, they perhaps don’t realize that the tax applies only to the mega-rich.

Tax-haters argue that the estate tax involves being taxed on the same money twice but this is essentially untrue.

Most of the money of the wealthy is not taxable income because most is unrealized capital gains, so the estate tax will be the first time it will be taxed.

For those people who own farms and have over the minimum amount to be taxed, their wealth is at least 95 percent in investments other than the farm. So they have no trouble paying their estate taxes and keeping their farms (money.cnn.com). In fact, only about 50 small businesses and farm estates in the country will face the tax in 2017 and they will pay an average of only 6 percent tax on amounts over the exempt limits (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).

Finally, perhaps the most profound reason for the tax is that it helps prevent the growth of hereditary elites. Part of the Founders’ quarrel with the British was with their system of inherited wealth and privilege through their aristocracy. We did not want family dynasties but instead wanted Americans to be inspired to earn their money.

Although we do have some family dynasties, the estate tax helps limit their wealth and their number. As The Washington Post put it, America is a country that values people “for their inherent wealth, not their inherited wealth.”

Warren Buffet, one of the wealthiest Americans, who has given most of his fortune away, believes that his kids should have “enough money to do anything but not enough money to do nothing.”

The huge and growing gap between rich and poor signals a growing “aristocracy” in America. Eliminating the estate tax would be one more step in that unhealthy direction.

Elliott Denniston lives in rural Webb City.