McCaskill targets 'dumping,' clarifies
stance on unemployment benefits
By Jo Mannies, Beacon political reporter
Posted 11:31 pm Wed., 8.10.11
During her meetings this week with Missouri manufacturers, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.,
says she's heard good news about job-creation -- and beefs about the lack of government
protection from overseas "dumping."
"Dumping'' is a practice where other countries sell items in the United States at a lower price
than what they cost to produce. The aim is to undercut domestic producers, and eventually drive
them out of business.
McCaskill said in an interview Wednesday that she's heard complaints alleging the "dumping'' of
nails and transformers.
What's worse, she said, is that the United States has anti-dumping laws on the books -- "with
civil and criminal penalties" -- but manufacturers are telling her that the government is reluctant
to enforce them.
"These are the kinds of things I love to sink my teeth into,'' she said.”Manufacturers across
Missouri are continuing to be victimized."
The practical problem, McCaskill added, is that the responsibility lies ultimately with Immigration
and Customs Enforcement, which also under pressure to focus primarily on battling illegal
She also plans to press for congressional passage of a bill that would require people staffing
call centers to identify to callers where the call center is situated. "We need to require them to
tell you where they are speaking to you from," McCaskill said.
Such a requirement also may encourage more companies to situate their call centers in the
United States, the senator said, noting Missouri's growth as a call center site.
As for unemployment benefits, McCaskill sought to correct some media reports that she said
mischaracterized her stance.
McCaskill said she supports providing unemployment benefits up to 26 weeks, at minimum, but
opposes federal extensions beyond 99 weeks. Some Democrats have proposed the extension
because millions of Americans who lost jobs early on during the recession have been unable to
find new ones.
"I'm being realistic about helping people,'' the senator said, noting that over the past 2-plus
years, "a huge chunk of government spending has been for unemployment benefits."
She added, "We need to make sure that we don't morph this (aid) into another entitlement."
Balanced budget amendment: deficit
cure-all, political 'cover' or gridlock
By Robert Koenig, Beacon Washington correspondent
Posted 12:08 pm Wed., 8.10.11
WASHINGTON - Founding father Thomas Jefferson liked the idea. Former U.S. Sen. Paul
Simon, D-Ill., championed it for years. Germany has one, and so does nearly every American
state. And proponents of one version or another range from tea party stalwarts to moderate
The concept that unites that disparate list is a constitutional balanced budget amendment
(BBA). But these amendments have so many variations that the term itself can be misleading.
While some supporters describe BBAs as deficit cure-alls, critics contend they mostly serve as
political "cover" to mask specific budget-cutting decisions -- and, in some cases, limit the
government's options in times of economic crisis.
One thing is clear: Under the debt-ceiling deal, Congress may well vote on a balanced budget
amendment by year's end. The second phase of the debt-limit hike won't happen unless
Congress adopts the deficit reductions recommended by a new "super committee" or approves
a BBA. Lack of action on those options would trigger automatic, across-the-board cuts to
military spending and some social programs.
Even though President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders such as Sen. Dick Durbin,
D-Ill., argue that a BBA is not needed, surveys show that the idea is popular with many
conservative and independent voters. But there are major hurdles to achieving a BBA: It would
need to be approved by two-thirds of the members of the Republican-led House and
Democrat-controlled Senate. Even if a BBA is approved, 38 states would then need to ratify it,
so that a BBA would likely not go into effect for several years.
All versions of the BBA share the same basic concept: a constitutional rule requiring that the
government cannot spend more than its revenue in a given fiscal year. But contrasting versions
have many different variations and exclusions -- including capping spending to a percentage of
gross domestic product (GDP) and requiring supermajorities in Congress to approve any tax
increases or any exemptions to the balanced-budget requirements.
House Republicans filed at least 10 different BBA bills this year, and several versions are in the
Senate, including the major Republican BBA sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah -- and
backed by Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill. -- and a new Democratic BBA
sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and cosponsored last week by Sen. Claire McCaskill,
D-Mo., and others.
What follows is a brief history of the balanced budget amendment, a description of the main
versions, and evaluations by economists and others of arguments for and against an
'Pay-as-you-go' liberal Simon backed BBA
The first known congressional BBA effort was led during the high-deficit New Deal by U.S. Rep.
Harold Knutson, R-Minn., who introduced an unsuccessful joint resolution in 1936 that would
have imposed a per-capita limit on federal debt.
But a study by the conservative Heritage Foundation reports that the first time a BBA got
anywhere in Congress was in 1982, when a two-thirds majority of the Senate approved an
amendment crafted by Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C. The companion measure died in the
While conservative Republicans have tended to dominate the BBA debates over the years, a
few "pay-as-you-go Democrats," such as the late Sen. Simon of Illinois, have also been leading
In arguing for the BBA, Simon liked to quote Jefferson, who wrote in 1798: "I wish it were
possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution . . . taking from the Federal
Government the power of borrowing." At another point, Jefferson wrote that "one generation
should no more be willing to pay the debts of a previous generation than to pay the debts of
During his tenure in the Senate from 1985-97, Simon worked with Hatch and Thurmond on a
BBA, which in 1995 would pass the House and fail by just one vote in the Senate. It said federal
outlays could not exceed total revenue unless Congress approved the excess spending by a
three-fifths vote. The balanced budget rule would be waived if Congress declared war or voted
that the nation was under military threat.
Among the U.S. House Democrats who voted for Simon's BBA in 1995 was Rep. Jerry Costello,
D-Belleville. Last month, Costello voted against a different version of the BBA that was included
in the House Republicans' "Cut, Cap and Balance" bill -- which passed the House but was
tabled by the Senate on mostly party-line votes.
"In 1995, I was one of only 72 Democrats to vote for the balanced budget amendment
considered by the House," said Costello in a statement explaining his vote. "I would vote for a
straightforward BBA today," but he said the "cut, cap" version "does not meet this standard."
Because "cut, cap" would hold government spending to 18 percent of GDP and exempt defense
from major reductions, Costello contended it would "ensure massive cuts to Social Security,
Medicare and Medicaid."
But conservative Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood, contends that the "cut, cap" version of the BBA,
which he cosponsored, was the right version of the amendment because it would help wean the
nation from what he describes as its "addiction" to deficit spending.
"If the problem is radical deficit spending," Akin told the Beacon in a recent interview, "the
solution that I know of that works politically is the same solution that's done in 40-something
states. And that is constitutional amendments to balance the budget and limit the size of the
government. That's what we do in Missouri, and it works well for us."
Akin was one of the Republicans who pressured Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to add a BBA
to the debt-ceiling legislation, and Akin voted against the eventual debt compromise in part
because it did not include the "cut, cap" version.
"While this new proposal has a balanced budget amendment as one option for a future debt
ceiling increase," Akin said in a statement, "I do not believe that the president or Democrats in
Congress will be willing to support a balanced budget amendment while there are other paths
available to them that allow for continued deficit spending."
In the Senate, Blunt and Kirk both backed the "cut, cap" version of the BBA, which was adapted
from the one championed by Hatch and cosponsored by most Senate Republicans.
On the Democratic side, McCaskill and several other Senate Democrats are cosponsoring
Udall’s version of the BBA, which Udall says could be voted on by the Senate later this year.
Economic impacts of a balanced budget amendment
Would a balanced budget amendment have made any difference in Friday's decision by the
Standard & Poor's ratings agency to downgrade the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+ for the
first time in the country's history?
Not according to S&P managing director John Chambers, who told CNN on Saturday that such
a measure could end up harming more than helping the nation's credit rating. "In general, we
think that fiscal rules like these just diminish the flexibility of the government to respond" to
crises, he said.
The editorial boards of many national newspapers oppose a BBA. Opined the Washington Post
in a recent editorial: "The constitutional cure, while superficially tempting, would be worse than
the underlying disease. A balanced-budget amendment would deprive policymakers of the
flexibility they need to address national security and economic emergencies. It would revise the
Constitution in a way that would give dangerous power to a congressional minority."
While some economists view the BBA as a way to move the federal government toward a
balanced budget, others worry about the restrictions on government action in the event of a
severe recession or depression. Economist Robert Samuelson wrote that "the trouble with a
constitutional amendment is that it would probably fail -- in the sense that it would not discipline
government -- while having undesirable side effects."
Last month, five Nobel laureates in economics and other leading economists warned in a letter
to Obama and congressional leaders of both parties that the "escape hatches" in BBAs
requiring congressional supermajorities are "recipes for gridlock."
Those economists argued that most BBAs "would mandate perverse actions in the face of
recessions. In economic downturns, tax revenues fall and some outlays, such as unemployment
benefits, rise. These so-called built-in stabilizers increase the deficit but limit declines of
after-tax income and purchasing power. To keep the budget balanced every year would
But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other BBA backers list several economists and
political scientists who support the concept. A recent post on Boehner's website quoted
economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth -- director of the conservative Hudson Institute's Center for
Employment Policy -- as endorsing a BBA because "additional certainty about fiscal policy
would make investment and consumption decisions easier, and would facilitate economic
growth and job creation." Several fiscal watchdog groups, including the National Taxpayers
Union and Citizens Against Government Waste, also back a BBA.
Indeed, BBA proponents say, it is one of the only effective ways to restrain congressional
spending. "House and Senate passage of the balanced budget amendment will make reckless
borrowing a thing of the past and will ensure that our children enjoy futures full of opportunity,"
wrote House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in a recent op-ed.
But a BBA might also spur court challenges. The same year that Congress came closest to
approving a BBA, the Clinton-era Justice Department warned in 1995 that the lack of proper
enforcement mechanisms in BBAs "could result in the transfer of power over fundamental
political questions of taxing and spending to the courts. This would represent a substantial
reordering of our basic constitutional structure." As an alternative, the department suggested
less sweeping alternatives such as legislation allowing the president to veto line items in the
One common argument in favor of a federal BBA is that nearly every U.S. state has some sort
of a balanced-budget provision. If BBAs work in most states, the argument goes, why not at the
For one, economists draw a distinction between federal and state budgets and powers. Unlike
many state constitutions, which permit borrowing to finance capital expenditures, the federal
budget makes no distinction between capital investments and current outlays. Some worry that
a BBA would prevent federal borrowing to finance spending for infrastructure, education,
research and development and similar investments.
Also, the Nobel laureate economists contended in their letter, a BBA would invite Congress to
enact what are called "unfunded mandates," requiring states, local governments and private
businesses to do what the federal government is unable to pay for itself. A BBA also would open
the door to "dubious accounting maneuvers" -- for example, selling more public lands and other
assets and counting the proceeds as deficit-reducing revenue -- and other budgetary gimmicks.
A good example of BBA problems at the state level is Illinois, whose constitution requires that
"appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be
available during that year." Despite that provision and a recent state income tax hike, Illinois'
budget is in the red -- by about $7.4 billion -- and the state faces massive liabilities for pensions
and bond payments.
According to a Chicago Tribune analysis, Illinois has been able to get away with such deficits
because legislative leaders have resorted to tricks such as deliberately underestimating
expenses, overestimating revenue and applying the balance due into the next fiscal year, so
that it does not count against appropriations going forward.
And, of course, the budgets of Illinois, Missouri and most other states are heavily subsidized by
payments from the federal government for various programs.
Even so, there are examples of BBAs that work in other countries, such as Switzerland -- which
has a much smaller and wealthier economy -- and more recently in Germany, which in 2009
amended its Basic Law (or constitution) with a BBA-like "debt brake" that applies to both the
federal and state governments. Starting in 2016, the provision will bar Germany's national
government from running a deficit of more than 0.35 percent of GDP, and four years later, the
states will be forbidden from running any deficits.
Chances of congressional approval appear slim
While the House might be able to muster a two-thirds majority for some version of a BBA,
vote-counters say chances of Senate approval appear to be slim. Already, both sides are laying
the groundwork for political "cover" to defend their votes.
With indications that Republican political strategists plan to use votes against BBAs in their
2012 campaigns against Democrats, Udall's moderate version has attracted support from
McCaskill and other Senate Democrats who face tough races, including Sens. Joe Manchin of
West Virginia, Bill Nelson of Florida and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.
In her announcement last week, McCaskill called this BBA version "a responsible,
commonsense plan that would hold Congress accountable, get the country's fiscal house in
order, and make sure everybody has some skin in the game."
Udall, a centrist Democrat, said his amendment would:
1 require the president to submit a yearly budget that is balanced;
2 create a "Social Security lockbox" that protects Social Security revenue and outlays from
any balanced-budget requirement;
3 prohibit Congress from giving income-tax breaks for people earning more than $1 million
a year unless there are federal surpluses.
The balance rule would be waived if Congress declares war. It could be suspended in other
cases only if three-fifths of the House and Senate vote to allow it.
Most Senate Republicans vigorously oppose Udall's BBA, in part because of the prohibition of
tax breaks for the wealthy. If a BBA vote is triggered under the debt deal, they are likely to rally
around the Hatch plan, which would limit spending to 18 percent of GDP and require
congressional supermajorities to raise taxes.
While Senate GOP members would back the BBA, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., doubts that
enough Democratic votes exist to reach the two-thirds threshold. In a recent Senate speech,
McCain said that senators who believed a tough BBA could pass the Senate are "worse than
Prospects appear to be slightly better in the House. There, the two BBA versions with the most
backing were developed mainly by Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va. The stricter version -- with the
18 percent limit and the requirement of a two-thirds vote in Congress to raise taxes -- was in the
"cut, cap" bill that House Republicans passed.
While that tough BBA "has broad Republican support," Goodlatte said recently that "it's not
going to get the 290 votes needed" to meet the two-thirds requirement for a constitutional
amendment to pass the House.
However, Goodlatte has said he has been talking with moderate House Democrats and he
believes that some BBA version might attract enough votes to pass. He told the New York
Times that there is "a tremendous amount of interest in this issue."
Blunt suggests reducing FEMA
Federal government needs to get spending under control, he
5:39 AM, Aug. 11, 2011
Sen. Roy Blunt thinks one way to reduce spending would be to look at the number of disaster
declarations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
He said if some disasters could be dealt with locally, that could save money for the larger ones
such as the May 22 EF5 Joplin tornado.
"We need to make sure we're not exhausting all our resources," he said in Springfield on
Blunt was in Springfield to talk to county and city officials about a new Public Safety building
that's in the works.
He said the Joplin tornado reaffirmed the need for such a center, which is designed to withstand
an event of that magnitude.
"We've always known something like this is needed," he said.
The center will provide central space to help coordinate disaster efforts for more than 70 federal,
state and local response agencies.
Director of Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management Ryan Nicholls said
plans for the center hadn't changed because of the Joplin tornado, but the 2007 ice storm had
revealed emergency planning weaknesses.
"We had a lot of disasters before we started the planning process," he said.
The center is scheduled to open next spring, Nicholls said.
The federal government contributed $3 million to the project. But Blunt said that people
shouldn't expect that sort of money in the near future because of a push to spend less money.
"We've got to get the spending under control," he said.
That's when he said that one solution would be for FEMA to respond to fewer disasters.
He said he believes the number of federal disaster declarations has increased in the past
decade and had increased in the decade before that.
The FEMA website shows that the number of federally declared disasters has increased
steadily since 1953, when there were 13 disasters.
In that decade, there were an average of 14 disasters per year. This past decade that average
has increased to almost 60 disasters per year -- and that is up more than 10 disasters per year
from the previous decade.
"I may ask for a study on this," Blunt said.
Hartzler defends ‘no’ vote on deficit
deal at town hall meeting
August 11, 2011 | Missouri News Horizon | Posted by: Dick Aldrich
CALIFORNIA, Mo. – In the aftermath of Congress’ controversial decision to cut the
deficit and increase the nation’s debt ceiling last week, many U.S. Representatives have
returned home to hostile constituencies this week.
But things were a little milder on a rainy day in mid-Missouri as the state’s 4th District
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler hosted 60 people in a crowded meeting room at the
California City Hall. Hartzler’s constituents complained to the first term conservative
Republican about continued foreign aid to countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan,
expressed worry about the future of Medicare and Social Security, and wondered if
there was something Hartzler could do about getting government off the backs of small
“I’m hearing common sense from the heartland, because I think that’s what Washington
needs,” Hartzler said after the forum. “It needs less Washington bureaucracy and more
of our common sense.”
Speaking to an overflow crowd, Hartzler was careful to explain her opposition to the
debt ceiling bill passed by congress last week. She was one of three Missouri
representatives to vote “no”.
“The final version that ended up coming up last, I felt like, had the wrong priorities for
Missouri’s 4th (District) and I voted ‘no,’” Hartzler said. “For two reasons; I felt it didn’t
go far enough with spending cuts…and secondly it had the wrong priorities.”
Hartzler said the compromised bill left open the possibility of hundreds of billions of
dollars in spending cuts to the defense budget. It’s a decision she fears could directly
impact the Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri
She voiced concern about Standard and Poor’s report that states the credit-rating
agency may reduce the United States’ bond rating even further if the joint legislative
“super committee” doesn’t come up with more thorough strategies to tackle the national
debt. But she also does not support congressional action to reduce the influence of
Standard and Poor’s.
“That’s ridiculous, you don’t kill the messenger just because you don’t like the
message,” she said. “What you do is you listen to the message and you change course,
and that’s what Washington needs to do.”
Congressional pages from St. Louis
area lament passing of the program
BY BILL LAMBRECHT • Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau Chief > STLtoday.com |
Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2011 12:07 am
WASHINGTON • Jordan Fox realizes that the rest of his summer might not measure up after
witnessing the historic House vote to raise the debt ceiling, shaking hands with Vice President
Joe Biden and seeing Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' emotional return to the House chamber
after being shot.
All in a single day.
Little did Fox know when he got back home to Wood River on Saturday from six weeks as a
House page that other 17-year-olds won't have the same opportunity?
"It's very sad that they're canceling it, especially after 200 years," he said.
Like official Washington, former pages were caught by surprise this week when House Speaker
John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced the end of the page program, a
Washington institution that survived scandals while schooling thousands of budding
professionals since the early 1800s.
In their joint announcement, Boehner, R-Ohio, and Pelosi, D-Calif., said that most duties of
pages no longer are needed with the arrival of the Internet and email.
They cited the program's $5 million yearly cost at a time when austerity is taking hold on Capitol
Hill. Seventy pages at a time received a monthly salary of about $1,800, a part of which paid for
room and board at a nearby residence hall.
The announcement brings to a close a House program that has its roots in the First Continental
Congress in 1774, when delegates deployed messengers. The term pages was first used in the
Congress that convened in 1827, according to the House clerk.
The program has been buffeted by bad press on occasion, most notably from a scandal in the
early 1980s when two House members admitted to sexual relationships with pages. In 2006,
Mark Foley, a Florida Republican, resigned after disclosure that he had sent inappropriate
messages to male pages.
But the page program provided a training ground for future members of Congress and business
leaders, among them Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, a page in 1972.
Former Rep. Bill Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, who died in 1996, held the distinction of being
one of the pages on duty when the floor of the House came under gunfire in 1954. Five House
members were wounded, one critically, when four men identified as Puerto Rican nationalists
opened fire with handguns from the House gallery.
Emerson's widow, Jo Ann Emerson, who succeeded him in the House, recalled that he went to
Washington as a youthful supporter of President Dwight Eisenhower under the sponsorship of
Tom Curtis, a GOP House member from Webster Groves from 1951 to 1969.
"It was, for him, the most important political experience of his lifetime and led him to his political
career," she said.
"It's sad," Emerson said of the program's demise. "For so many young people, it not only opens
their minds to potential careers in the political realm, but it also is a wonderful learning
experience. But so many of the duties pages used to have are done now by computer and
Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, a past chairman of the House Page Board, said he
supported the decision even though it saddened him.
"Every page, past or present, I have spoken with has always talked highly of the program,"
Shimkus said in a statement. "These students got firsthand experience at the inner workings of
our government, something they would not have received from textbooks or other intern
programs. However, in tough budget times, tough decisions have to be made."
Frank Mitchell, of Springfield, Ill., became the first appointed African-American page in 1965,
thanks to former Rep. Paul Findley, a Republican from Pittsfield, Ill.
Mitchell, 62, said he was disappointed that the program will end. "I think there should have been
a way found to save it, maybe cutting some other things out," he said. "It's an excellent way for
young people to learn the system. I hope they give as much frugality to other cost-cutting
'SAUSAGE BEING MADE'
Abby Halley, 21, a junior at Washington University, recalled her most vivid learning experience
as a page — sitting in the midst of protracted debate on the $300 billion-plus farm bill in 2007
during an interlude from her studies at Metro Academic and Classical High School in St. Louis.
"It was like watching sausage being made, but you couldn't look away. I think I learned more
about how government really works than at any other time in my life," she said.
Halley said she thinks the decision is right. "But I think that if they don't replace it with something
that gives young people the chance to experience Washington as we did, it would be
reprehensible," said Halley, who was sponsored by Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis.
Sydney Everett, who will be a junior at Metro Academic and Classical, said she might major in
political science after serving as a page this summer answering phones and running errands on
Capitol Hill. She was sponsored by Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis.
"I think this is an opportunity everybody should have," she said. "In high school, you're taking all
these courses about government, but you really don't know what it is like."
Austin Heckemeyer, a rising senior at St. Elizabeth, Mo., High School, returned last weekend
from his summer stint as a page. He was among a half-dozen pages with the choice assignment
of dispensing bills and calendars to members, raising the Capitol flag and operating the system
of bells summoning members to vote.
"Only 70 kids in the whole country get the opportunity. We got to see something nobody has
ever seen before —the debt crisis and the threat of default," said Heckemeyer, who was
sponsored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth.
"Before I went, I had a cynical view, I guess, of congressmen and congresswomen,"
Heckemeyer said. "But seeing them up close, they all do care, and they are all very
compassionate. Congress is not as corrupt as some in the public believe."
A year out, political attacks focus on
image -- not issues
By Jo Mannies, Beacon political reporter
Posted 6:08 pm Wed., 8.10.11
The media frenzy over a photo of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder with a former Penthouse
Pet-turned-bartender -- and her subsequent disparaging interviews -- plays into typical August
antics in a non-election year.
Candidates busily raise campaign cash. Officeholders host sometimes-contentious town halls.
Political parties and operatives focus on defining the expected opposition.
Kinder's allies -- who, like the lieutenant governor, are publicly saying nothing -- claim privately
that the latter may be at work in the admittedly damaging episode regarding the bartender.
They assert that Democrats orchestrated the circulation of the photo as part of a broader move
to raise questions about Kinder's character. The lieutenant governor, a Republican, has been
expected to challenge Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, in 2012.
Democrats deny it, although most also decline to go public with their comments. "If we were
doing this, we'd be doing it in January 2012, not now,'' said one top local party official.
In any case, the incident exemplifies what political science professor David Kimball calls "politics
by other means."
"The aim is to create a bad first impression,'' said Kimball, with the University of Missouri-St.
Louis.”Certainly, a big part of campaigning is trying to define your opponent."
Examples abound. There's the Republican Party's successful decimation of the war-hero image
of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, which was countered in 2008 when
Democrats painted GOP nominee John McCain as an aging, out-of-touch politician who didn't
even know how many houses he owned.
Tainting a candidate's image can kill off his or her political prospects, by making it less likely that
the public will pay attention to the candidate's stands on issues.
Republicans go after McCaskill's integrity
In Missouri, Kinder isn't the only one facing personal attacks. National and state Republican
groups already have tagged U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., with the moniker "Chameleon
Claire" -- using it in almost every verbal volley.
The GOP narrative is that McCaskill changes her stances, depending on her audience, and that
she says one thing while doing another. The most glaring example in the latter category was her
family's failure -- now corrected -- to pay St. Louis County personal property taxes for several
years on a plane they co-owned and hangared in the county.
Said the National Republican Senatorial Committee in a typical recent release: "As with her
troubling ethical lapses, Show-Me-State voters are going to hold McCaskill accountable for her
broken promises and failed tax-and-spend agenda."
Explained Kimball: "With her, the aim is clearly to weaken her image as an auditor, to weaken
her integrity. If she didn't pay her taxes, that puts a dent in that image."
Speaking in general, McCaskill -- who first disclosed the unpaid taxes -- says she's distressed
by what she calls "this smear match'' already underway.
She asserts that getting personal is unnecessary, given the stark policy differences between
Democrats and Republicans on many of the critical issues the country faces.
McCaskill already has been the target of TV and internet attack ads. Most have been launched
largely by two independent groups -- American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS -- that get
their money from anonymous donors.
Some of her allies contend that some of that cash comes from companies upset with
McCaskill's focus on scrutinizing federal contracts for waste, fraud and abuse.
The senator said the anonymity of the money bothers her more than the attacks. "The most
frustrating part about the personal negative attacks is that you don't know who's paying for it, so
you can't make a judgment about the bias."
McCaskill contended that her campaign has avoided making any personal jabs at her two
announced Republican rivals -- former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and U.S. Rep. Todd
The senator often, however, has used the words "extreme'' or "extremism'' in describing
Republican stances -- although she hasn't specified particular candidates.
National Democratic operatives also are already in Missouri to collect potentially damaging
personal information about Steelman and Akin.
The congressman has come under fire over accusations that he had continued to vote in Town
and Country after moving to Wildwood. He also faced a wave of criticism in June over his
assertion on the radio that "at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God."
But such controversies pale next to Kinder's troubles.
Hotels, bars and urban lifestyle
All sides agree that the focus on the bartender has, at the moment, made it impossible for
Kinder to campaign on issues -- or effectively attack Nixon.
Kinder is still recovering from last spring's press attention over his travel expenses, which
included at least 329 nights in St. Louis hotels during his six years in office. Kinder and his staff
have maintained the lodgings were for official business -- even if some political events also were
on the schedule -- and note that the hotels involved were on the state's list of recommendations.
To some, the real damage from that controversy was that it highlighted Kinder's strong urban
ties -- a fact that might not play well in rural Missouri, where most Republican voters reside.
The latest episode over the photo feeds into a potentially damaging urban-playboy image for
Kinder, who is single.
The photo was first published last week in the Riverfront Times and shows a smiling Kinder with
an attractive bartender, who works at a St. Louis bar that advertises its "pantless nights'' -- for
the staff, not the customers.
(A spokesman for Kinder has said it's unlikely that the lieutenant governor was in the bar on
But more damaging was the bartender's disparaging comments this week about Kinder, which
helped spark a flurry of speculative reports in news outlets -- and prompted a "worst person''
award for Kinder from liberal cable TV commentator Keith Olbermann.
The episode has touched off a Twitterfest, with a special site set up to gig Kinder. Many of the
commenters are Democrats.
Democrats appear to be focusing publicly on the silence of Kinder -- and of the Missouri
Typical is a statement from the national Democratic Governors Association: "In the ensuing
days, the story has gotten worse with new allegations. But Kinder refuses to offer any
explanation for his behavior."
The release contained linked to various stories that all stem from the Riverfront Times' original
So far, Kinder has declined to comment on the bartender, although allies hint at possible legal
action. Some of those allies add, however, that his continued silence may not be golden.
Potentially more damaging has been internet-circulated speculation that Republican leaders
concerned about the episode's political fallout might seek to replace Kinder as the favored
Nixon challenger, or -- at minimum -- not discourage rivals in next year's Republican primary.
But two Republicans mentioned as potential contenders -- state Sen. Ron Richard of Joplin and
St. Louis businessman John Brunner -- denied any interest in running for governor next year.
Brunner is sticking with his plan to jump into the U.S. Senate race, a spokesman said.
While some Republicans privately predict the photo-generated frenzy will cease, a few are
engaging in gallows humor.
The best way for Kinder to quell the controversy, quipped one Republican ally, would be for his
camp to ignore the bartender's racy past -- and discern whether she owed any back taxes.
Steelman calls for Congress to get
back in session, offers to drive
By Jo Mannies, Beacon political reporter
Posted 12:18 pm Wed., 8.10.11
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman may be campaigning, but she says it's
unseemly for her two rivals already in Congress: U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and U.S.
Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood.
Steelman, Missouri's former state treasurer, said the duo -- and their 533 colleagues -- should
be back at work in Washington dealing with the nation's economic problems.
"Last Friday our nation’s AAA rating was downgraded for the first time in history because of the
complete incompetence of Congress," Steelman said in a statement emailed around the state to
supporters and the press. "Today we learn that Senator Claire McCaskill and Congressman
Todd Akin are vacationing and throwing $5,000 a plate fundraisers. I could not imagine a more
perfectly stated encapsulation of the problem in this nation. Congress should be ashamed."
Actually, McCaskill has been traveling this week to meet with businesses around the state, while
a spokesman said Akin -- who also is running for the U.S. Senate -- has been holding tele-town
halls this week with constituents. Both did hold major fundraising events Tuesday night.
Steelman said she "was outraged'' by the 5-week recess, which she dubbed "a 5-week paid
"Congress has spent us into a 14 trillion dollar hole; unemployment is over 9 percent; our
creditworthiness is now ranked behind Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France,
Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Luxemburg, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and the United
Kingdom, and we still don't even have a budget for this year or next," she said.
"People are fighting to be able to pay their bills, and Congress is on a 5-week vacation and out
raking in more millions for their campaign accounts. If airfare is a problem, I'll drive them back to
Missouri's high-risk pool will see
decrease in health-care premiums
By Robert Joiner, Beacon staff
Posted 9:25 am Wed., 8.10.11
When Missouri set up a new high-risk health-insurance pool last year, officials projected that the
program would serve about 3,000 people. In fact, fewer than 600 have signed up, with many
others saying they cannot afford the premiums.
That's part of the reason state insurance officials have announced rate reductions averaging 23
percent for new and existing participants. The rate reductions are funded with $81 million in
federal funds and premiums by policyholders.
John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, says the new rates mean
monthly premiums will now range from $137 to $601. The amount will depend on the person's
age and number of deductions. Previous rates ranged from $178 to $780.
"Our aggressive rate reduction is intended to make this much-needed health coverage more
affordable," Huff said in a statement. "This pool is now insuring more than 550 Missourians who
previously had no health coverage because they could not find affordable coverage in the
Even if all eligible Missourians took advantage of the program, it would make only a small dent
in the state's uninsured population, which exceeds 700,000. Even so, Huff says the reductions
"will make comprehensive health-care coverage more accessible to Missourians with
pre-existing medical conditions."
The pool was set up last year and is supposed to bring relief to a relatively few until the
Affordable Care Act takes full effect in 2014. That law is supposed to provide health insurance
to most Americans by making them eligible for an expanded Medicaid system or through
insurance exchanges and other programs.
Missouri is not alone in having problems signing up members for the new pool. A year ago, the
Department of Health and Human Services projected that at least 200,000 people nationwide
would take advantage of the program. But the Associated Press reports that 24,712 had
enrolled as of May 31.
This pool is one of two in Missouri. The first is not federally funded. It was set up by state law in
1991, and it serves more than 4,100 members through funds from premiums and fees assessed
on health insurers doing business in Missouri. Both pools are governed by a nine-member
board appointed by Huff as director of the state insurance system.
Payday loan fee proposal could go to
Petition calls for annual interest rates to be capped at 36 percent.
Written by Roseann Moring Springfield News-Leader
5:35 AM, Aug. 11, 2011 |
A group frustrated by legislative inaction wants Missourians to vote on a proposal to regulate
payday loan fees.
Payday loans are loans of up to $500 that are due within a month. The average payday loan in
Missouri is made at $307.54 with an interest rate of 444.61 percent. That is $52.45 for a 14-day
The secretary of state Tuesday approved for circulation a petition that would cap the annual
interest rate at 36 percent.
"For me, it's an ethical issue -- it's a justice issue for the poorer people in society," said Jim
Bryan, a spokesman for Missourians for Responsible Lending, which submitted the petition.
Companies that administer the loans say they're a necessity for people who need a short-term
fix, such as a car repair. They and their proponents also say the loans are cheaper than credit
card fees or a bank overdraft.
They say that those companies would shut down if this initiative becomes law.
Payday loan interest rates have been the subject of much debate in the General Assembly over
Recent proposals to regulate payday loan companies have been mostly propelled by Rep. Mary
Still, D-Columbia, but have been blocked by Republicans.
Still's proposal was similar to the ballot initiative.
"The public is appalled by this," Still said during a House debate on the issue during the last
State Rep. Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston, sponsored an alternate bill that restricted some aspects
of the loans but did not reduce the cap on fees nearly as far as Still's proposal.
"If you don't have credit and you don't have security or just need a small loan, you really have
no type of business to go to other than a payday loan," said Brandom during the House debate.
Still and others say those companies could charge less and remain afloat.
The House passed Brandom's bill last session, but it died in the Senate.
The federal government caps payday loans at 36 percent annually for military families, and at
least one other state -- Montana -- has imposed a 36 percent cap by ballot initiative.
To get the issue on the ballot, the group sponsoring it must collect a little more than 90,000
signatures. If they do so, it would most likely be voted on in August or November of next year.
SLU sues Department of Education
over Pell Grant dispute
BY TIM BARKER • firstname.lastname@example.org > 314-340-8350 STLtoday.com | Posted:
Thursday, August 11, 2011 12:00 am
ST. LOUIS • St. Louis University is suing the U.S. Department of Education over a $2.8
million financial aid dispute that's been going on for more than a decade.
The lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court here, centers around a 1998 audit that
said the school gave too much Pell Grant money to students from 1994 to 1996.
The money was awarded through a process known as "professional judgment." That
allows a school to override the federal financial aid process and award extra money to a
student, based on unique needs or special circumstances.
The audit found that the school went too far in more than 120 instances during the two
years that were studied. Since then, the $2.8 million claim has been debated, rejected,
reinstated and ultimately upheld late last year by U.S. Education Secretary Arne
In its lawsuit, SLU disputed the notion that it exceeded the professional judgment
provision of federal financial aid rules. The school offered several examples of incidents
where it was accused of excess. Among them was the case of a student, identified as
GR-2-121, who was part of a family of 10 supported by a single wage-earner who lost
The suit also says the audit was part of a larger effort by the Department of Education to
persuade Congress to "severely limit or eliminate entirely" the discretion given to
schools when making aid decisions.
The school issued a statement Wednesday in which it said the Education Department
"has not only overstepped its legal authority, but also that the department's actions, if
upheld, could have a chilling effect on the future ability of colleges and universities to
assist families with financial need in affording a college education."
Missouri Gov. Nixon plans to return
Aug 11, 5:01 AM EDT Southeast Missourian
JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is returning to Joplin to discuss funding for
schools in the tornado-ravaged city.
Nixon scheduled a visit Thursday afternoon to the Joplin 11th and 12th Grade Center - an
empty big-box store that will house the two grades while the high school is rebuilt.
He'll be joined by Superintendent C.J. Huff and members of the Joplin Board of Education in
touring the building and making the announcement on funding for the upcoming school year.
Joplin's high school was among thousands of homes, businesses and other buildings damaged
or destroyed in the May 22 tornado, which killed at least 160 people.
Mo. prison parents program expands
to other states
Aug 11, 5:01 AM EDT Southeast Missourian
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- A University of Missouri program that helps imprisoned parents keep
their families intact is expanding to three other states and the nation's capital.
University outreach workers started the family support program in 1999 at the state's maximum
security prison in Potosi. The program is known as the Living Interactive Family Education
program, or 4-H LIFE.
Besides Potosi, it's now offered at Missouri's Vandalia prison and the Algoa Correctional Center
in Jefferson City.
Program leaders now plan to tap a federal grant to offer 4-H LIFE in Alabama, Louisiana, New
Hampshire and Washington, D.C. The effort will also expand to other state prisons in Missouri
Two state park swimming beaches
temporarily closed because of
Wednesday, August 10, 2011 | 7:09 p.m. CDT
BY The Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY — Two swimming beaches at Missouri state parks have been closed until
further notice because of high bacteria levels.
The state Department of Natural Resources released a notice Wednesday that the Monsanto
Lake beach at St. Joe State Park has been made off-limits for swimming. The park is located in
the southeastern town of Park Hills.
High levels of E. coli bacteria have also forced the closing of the Hermitage swimming beach at
Pomme de Terre State Park in southern Missouri.
Officials said Pim Lake in St. Joe State Park and the Pittsburg swimming beach at Pomme de
Terre both remain open for swimming.
CEO promotes rural wireless
broadband Mobile Future coalition supports
Ray Scherer, St. Joseph News-Press
POSTED: 10:12 pm CDT August 10, 2011
Mobile broadband continues on an unrelenting growth spurt, and parts of rural America such as
Northwest Missouri shouldn’t be left out of the picture.
That was the message Wednesday from a leading national proponent of wireless broadband
Brian Fontes — chief executive officer of the National Emergency Number Association and
former staff member for the Federal Communications Commission — moderated 15
policymakers and business leaders in a discussion on mobile broadband.
For the purposes of the roundtable at Stoney Creek Inn, Mr. Fontes represented Mobile Future
— a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of technology and communications companies and other
groups that support wireless development.
The session was co-sponsored by the St. Joseph Metro Chamber and the Mid-American
Communications Alliance. Alliance executive director Todd Abrajano said the group represents
120,000 consumer members in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
“It’s pretty remarkable to see what’s changing in the world of wireless,” Mr. Fontes told
roundtable members. “The next big frontier is machine-machine communications.”
The talk came amid progress on a broadband initiative intended to cover all of Missouri. Two
organizations, the Mo-Kan Regional Council and Green Hills Regional Planning Commission,
are studying individual programs this week meant to assess broadband needs in their areas. A
broadband update for Mo-Kan’s territory will be discussed today in St. Joseph. A statewide
strategic plan is due in January.
Mobile applications are now no longer the province of Silicon Valley, according to Mr. Fontes,
who said applications are also being developed in the Kansas City area.
He grew up in a rural area of California, where he said farmers came to rely on soil analysis and
smooth operation of water irrigation systems as crucial for their livelihood. He asked panelists
how wireless technology has become relevant to their businesses and organizations.
St. Joseph Agri Services Manager Donnie Miller said his business utilizes Global Positioning
System technology for such uses as fertilizer application. A GPS reading offers unheard-of
accuracy in depicting precise measurements, Mr. Miller said. It’s but one example of how Agri
Services leans on technology to conduct its daily business.
“If our Internet goes down, we’re done,” he told the panel.
Dr. Frank Veeman, director of the Small Business and Technology Development Center in
Maryville, said the need to instantaneously respond to client e-mails is challenging.
“They’re expecting their answer in five minutes,” he said.
Green Hills executive director Randy Railsback used other terminology to describe the
phenomenon’s impact on his agency.
“We may be going home (at the end of the day), but we’re never out of contact with staff,” he
said. “There’s about 10 different ways of providing broadband.”
State Rep. Pat Conway, D-St. Joseph, expressed concern for the safety of electronic databases
of communications, such as those created by constituents interested in legislation.
“The history of that e-mail is there forever,” he said.
The common denominators drawn from the gathering include a desire for efficiency, better use
of time, and a need to filter the incoming information, Mr. Fontes said.
Mr. Abrajano said he intends to follow up with participants. Mr. Fontes suggested the group
meet again in six months for a review on how best to develop wireless for the region’s rural
Milestone for bridge project
by Bob Priddy on August 11, 2011
The state’s plan to replace 800 of its worst bridges has hit another milestone. The
state transportation department’s plan to replace 802 bridges by the end of 2013 is
on pace to be finished a year early. About two months after the program reached
the halfway point, it has replaced the 500th bridge. The latest milestone bridge
replaced is over a Perry County Creek on Highway 61.
Rainy weather and flooding have provided some problems for construction crews,
but department spokesman Bob Brendel says crew just move on to a bridge that
doesn’t have those problems and work on it. The end result is going to be a record
year for new bridges in Missouri–350 of them.
The department says the average bridge replacement results in a road closure of
almost three months. But the advance planning for and common design of the
replacement bridges cuts that time to an average of 40 days.
Brendel expects the 600th bridge to be replaced well before the end of the year, with
only about 150 bridges left for next year.
Search for missing trooper,
guardsman scaled back
By Allison Blood on August 11, 2011
The Highway Patrol is scaling back search efforts for fellow officer and National
Guardsman Fred Guthrie. Guthrie is presumed to have drowned in the Missouri
River flood waters. Seargent Bill Lowe says the patrol will scale back the search, but
not by much.
There will still be troops in boats around the clock, and a plane will fly over the area
twice a day.
Lowe says the biggest problem is how swift the current is in the area where the
patrol thinks he went in. He says the patrol has made their own levees to calm the
water in that area, but so far they haven’t found anything promising. Guthrie has
been missing for ten days.
He is a water patrolman for the Missouri Highway Patrol and also serves with the
Search for girl missing from
by Jessica Machetta on August 10, 2011
The FBI and Dunklin County Sheriff’s office continues to look into clues into a
missing 3-year-old Senath girl, who disappeared while on her bicycle Saturday
afternoon. Breeann Rodriguez is described as an Hispanic female approximately
34 inches tall and weighing 30 pounds.
Witnesses say she disappeared from in front of her house on in Senath at noon
Saturday. FBI spokeswoman Rebecca Wu tells Missourinet affiliate KZIM KSIM
they are now focusing on a construction van that was seen in the area a few days
Authorities say they believe it’s an older model panel van with no windows and a
ladder on the back for roof access. But they don’t have much to go on in that search.
They don’t know the make, model, or license plate of the van.
Rodriguez was last seen wearing a pink shirt, pink pants, and riding a pink bicycle
with training wheels near the intersection of Ode Johnson and Caneer Streets.
Senath Police Chief Omar Karnes says the mother was inside making lunch and the
father was at a local auction at the time. Her 5-year-old brother came inside to get
some water, came back 20 minutes later and his sister and her bike were gone, he
A $45,000 reward is being offered for her discovery.
St. Louis company buys Sara Lee
by Jessica Machetta on August 10, 2011
Some $545 million in cold cash has gotten St. Louis-based Ralcorp into the cold dough
business. Ralcorp is buying Sara Lee’s refrigerated dough unit. The unit makes pizza,
pie crusts, toaster pastries, crescent roles, and biscuits. The unit had sales of $300
million last year. Ralcorp makes a lot of private-label foods that are sold under generic
names or store names.
Another Republican preparing to
challenge Sen. McCaskill
By Cameron Joseph - 08/10/11 12:39 PM ET — Ballot Box – The Hill’s
Republican businessman John Brunner's announcement that he will run for the Senate in
Missouri is "imminent," according to sources close to him.
Brunner's campaign will immediately shake up what had been a head-to-head campaign
between Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and former Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman in their quest
for Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-Mo.) seat, a top Republican target this year.
Brunner's announcement is likely to come sometime after this week.
The wealthy owner of Vi-Jon Laboratories, best known for producing the Germ-X hand
sanitizer, Brunner will be able to help fund his campaign.
While he has not previously run for elected office, Brunner has long been involved with Missouri
Republican politics. He worked for Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign in 1996 and has
donated to many GOP causes over the years.
He and Akin also have a long-standing relationship. Akin spoke at he funeral of Brunner's father
in 2006, and Brunner has donated more than $30,000 to Akin's campaigns over the years. As
recently as this spring, Brunner described Akin as a "fantastic guy."
A source close to the Akin campaign described the two as "close friends for a long time." He
said they have not spoken recently, but that Brunner had long been mulling a run.
"A lot of it has to do with Brunner was expressing interest a long time before Todd was in," said
the source. "He surrounded himself with a team of people who said 'you've got to do this, you're
the guy to do it,' and once they've got their hooks in you they’re not going to let go."
The source close to Brunner agreed that the two have a good relationship, and said Brunner
wants to run because he believes his business experience is needed in the Senate.
"John’s been an Akin supporter for years — Todd’s voting record for the most part is something
John appreciates," siad the source. "The question really is, in a time like this is the public
looking for and needing someone with a fresh, different perspective altogether, or is it a time for
folks who have a whole lot of political and government experience to step forward?"
Democrats have derided Akin as being too conservative for the state and a poor campaigner,
and Steelman has come up short in fundraising so far, with less than $200,000 cash on hand
for the race.
While Brunner could fizzle on the stump or struggle with handling the spotlight once the
campaign gets going, he could be a tougher candidate than the other two, say some Democrats
in the state.
"With Brunner, the fact is that he doesn't have a record, he doesn't have the baggage of taking
tough votes," said one senior Missouri Democratic official. "In an economy like this having
someone walk out and say 'I've created x number of jobs, Claire McCaskill hasn’t created a
single one,' that’s pretty good with the economy being the way it is."
But Missouri Democratic Party senior spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki predicted that a tough
primary would scuff up Brunner's image.
"The Republican primary is going to be a lengthy and bruising endeavor for anyone who
decides to run, but especially for a candidate who would bring his own, unique vulnerabilities to
what is expected to be a divisive primary," she said. "Before Brunner can be taken seriously as
a candidate, Missouri voters look forward to learning his extremist positions on all the tough
issues, as well as taking an in-depth look at his professional background and personal beliefs."
McCaskill won by just a two-point margin in 2006, and Missouri, a swing state, has been
trending away from the Democrats — it was one of the only swing states President Obama did
not win in 2008, and his approval ratings there are worse than in most traditionally purple
The primary will not take place until next August.
EDITORIALS … & Letters to the Editor
Editorial: Federal power grab in
education will actually benefit states
By the Editorial Board STLtoday.com | Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2011 12:00 am
In clutching at federal authority that Congress likely never intended for him to possess, U.S.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan actually is doing a favor for Republicans who would like to
see the powers of the federal Department of Education diminished.
A contradiction? Not quite.
Mr. Duncan announced this week that he intends to override the key component of the failed No
Child Left Behind law by granting waivers to any state that requests exemption from meeting the
2014 proficiency requirements.
There's little doubt that nearly every school in the nation will fail to meet the standard. The law
requires schools to be 100 percent proficient in key subject areas by 2014, as measured by
standardized tests given at select grade levels.
That's just not going to happen.
Republicans and Democrats agree that the law has failed for two primary reasons. First, its
standards were set so high that they actually provide incentive for states to "dumb down" their
own testing requirements to avoid running afoul of the law. And, second, No Child Left Behind
gave the federal government sweeping powers to affect the futures of schools that fall below the
standards, but it failed to provide the resources necessary to help those schools that weren't
Thus, Congress has been trying for several years in bipartisan fashion to fix the law and
maintain the goal of making public schools more accountable when they fail.
But these days, Congress isn't accomplishing much at all, much less in a bipartisan fashion. So
with the support of governors of both parties across the country, Mr. Duncan has decided to
give states the ability to develop their own accountability standards. He will grant each of them a
waiver from meeting the expectations of No Child Left Behind.
This is a positive development that will push states to develop more meaningful standards that
allow parents to see how their school compares to others. It also will give administrators
guidance on what needs to be done to improve.
Missouri, Illinois and 39 other states have signed on to a set of principles that education leaders
in those states believe should guide federal education law in holding public schools
accountable. Among those principles:
• Making measurements of school performance transparent and easy for parents to understand.
• Developing curricula that make students more college- and career-ready.
• Requiring state-level intervention for schools that are in the lowest 5 percent of performance
• Tracking student performance in categories, including race and poverty, to help administrators
identify learning gaps.
This is how testing programs should be used. For the most part, tests are a snapshot in time of
one school's performance compared to another's, not empirical evidence of a school's success
But developing such standards is a difficult process, even on a state level. Missouri education
officials, for instance, have delayed adopting new standards because of push-back from
teachers and school administrators.
Being freed from having to meet strict federal standards of making arbitrary "adequate yearly
progress" should help this process, not hurt it.
That's why we applaud Mr. Duncan's somewhat unusual federal power grab. In the end, it is
likely to accelerate state-level advancement of workable standards to measure long-term
performance in public schools.
Thursday, August 11, 2011 - seMissourian.com
Do you have a garden? If so, you might want to register it with the Missouri Department
of Agriculture's AgriMissouri program.
The program is being promoted through the 10,000 Garden Challenge. The challenge
encourages individuals and groups to get involved with agriculture, promotes local
produce and eating healthy foods. Additionally, those who register a garden can enter
contests to win prizes, including gift certificates, tools and gardening supplies. More
than 4,400 gardens from around the state have been registered so far, with 24 of those
coming from Cape Girardeau residents.
There are many benefits to gardening, ranging from healthier eating to reduced stress
and overall happiness. If you would like to learn more about starting a garden or read
more about the challenge, go to www.agrimissouri.com/gardens.
Refine school measures
1 Our opinion
Editorial – St. Joseph News-Press
No Child Left Behind — if nothing else — has shown how difficult it will be to quickly raise
quality at every school and to a universally acceptable level.
And now we have this week’s statement from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who
notes the federal law is “forcing districts into one-size-fits-all solutions that just don’t work.” It’s a
welcome acknowledgement here in Northwest Missouri, where most districts continue to show
improvement but not enough to keep up with the rising bar of federal standards.
Consider that five schools in the St. Joseph School District met their overall targets a year ago
and none did this year even though more than a dozen showed improvements in
communication arts and math. Consider that only 16 percent of the approximately 300 schools
on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metro area met the federal definition of “adequate yearly
The danger is the drive to improve school accountability will lose popular support because it is
coming off as top-down, lacking common sense, unable to appreciate successes and unwilling
to acknowledge campuses and communities start at different places. Parents, teachers and
school leaders rightly are judging the effort as well-intended but increasingly out of touch with
what really is happening in the schools.
There are ways to make things better without rejecting the idea we need better results from our
schools. We support both of these:
Secretary Duncan signaled the Obama administration is open to allowing states to
escape sanctions built into the federal law by adopting other meaningful accountability
standards. Missouri should ask for this opportunity and strive to incorporate best
practices from those districts with the most success in raising student performance.
More than 30 states have signed on to the Common Core State Standards Initiative,
which aims to make clear what students must learn and what teachers should be
teaching. This effort, which includes Missouri as a participant, would align our state’s
rigorous MAP tests with similar assessments in other states, thus ensuring fairness from
one state to another.
Guest commentary: The cargo cult in
By Douglas K. Rush STLtoday.com | Posted: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 12:00 am
Every February 15th on remote Tanna Island in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, villagers
dress in homemade U.S. military uniforms and dance, bang on pots and parade across a short,
simulated dirt runway covered with bamboo effigies of cargo aircraft. They are celebrating John
Vanuatu and other pacific island nations during World War II served as staging bases for United
States military operations. The inhabitants of those islands lived a primitive existence and rarely
were exposed to Westerners or to large amounts of commercial products before the arrival of
U.S. forces. The onset of the war led to interaction with Western military personnel and access
to seemingly unlimited supplies. This led to the development of what anthropologists call a
classic "Cargo Cult."
Kirk Huffman, who studied the John Frum cargo cult, reports in Smithsonian Magazine that
cargo cults develop when indigenous tribes with limited access to the outside world suddenly
are exposed to large amounts of material wealth. The tribal people don't understand where the
seemingly endless amount of food, clothing, Jeeps and other supplies originate and suspect
that the goods arrived on their island because of powerful magic forces in the spirit world. When
the war ended, the forces withdrew and the islanders were left with the belief that John Frum (as
in John from America) one day would return from the spirit world to deliver valuable material
wealth in the form of "cargo" to their island. Their devotion to John Frum has continued,
unfulfilled, for more than 60 years.
Missouri politicians are engaged in a similar search for "cargo," which will descend on
Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in the form of goods manufactured in the spirit world of
China. So powerful is the desire to attract this "cargo" to St. Louis that the new Missouri cultists
intend to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits to develop an "aerotropolis" and to
build warehouses to hold the abundant "cargo" that will soon arrive. The cultists ignore the
warning of Greg Lindsay, the co-author of "Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next," that the
development of a successful Aerotropolis in St. Louis is unlikely.
I suggest that Missouri's new cargo cultists take a short trip across the river to Mascoutah if they
are interested in exploring the operation of the last aerotropolis built in our region. MidAmerica
Airport was constructed using more than $300 million in federal and state funds. The facility sits
largely abandoned. Its terminal and warehouses are empty. No passenger flights take off or
land and, except for a few deliveries of heavily taxpayer subsidized South American flowers, no
cargo has arrived.
There is a better way to spend hundreds of millions of Missouri tax dollars if Missouri's
politicians want to attract "cargo" to our state. Why not spend that money to improve the state's
higher education system? Missouri has led the nation in the decrease in funding for higher
education. A recent study issued by the Public Policy Research Center at the University of
Missouri-St. Louis finds that Missouri ranks 47th among states in the per-capita funds spent on
The federal government's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the 2010 unemployment rate
among adults with a college degree was 4.7 percent, compared to an unemployment rate of
10.3 percent for those who had a high school diploma. The bureau also reports that the 2011
median weekly wage for high school graduates was $643; the median weekly wage for college
graduates was $1,141. A college degree is no guarantee of employment. But a simple analysis
suggests that a more educated work force is a higher paid, less unemployed workforce.
Instead of spending millions to attract Chinese spirit world "cargo" by building warehouses with
a few, low-wage jobs, let's use these and redirected tax credit funds from other programs to
restore the University of Missouri higher education system. Let's have a competition that will
result in funding of the best proposals to build research centers and to attract the best faculty
from states such as California that have similarly gutted their state university systems. The
promise of true "cargo" lies in education not in warehouses.
Unfortunately, I fear that I soon will see our new Missouri cultists carrying bamboo effigies of
Chinese 747s as they dance and bang on aluminum pots in their unfulfilled desire for "cargo."
Douglas K. Rush is an assistant professor of Educational Leadership & Higher Education at St.
Kinder: Court should quickly decide
against unconstitutional law
Springfield News-Leader 11:00 PM, Aug. 10, 2011 |
A year ago, Missouri voters went to the polls and sent a clear, unequivocal message to
President Obama and Congress.
By approving the Health Care Freedom Act by a margin of 71-29 percent, voters told the federal
government to stay out of our health care decisions.
The constitutional challenge I filed last year seeks to have the individual mandate in the federal
health care law declared unconstitutional. I believe it's my duty to stand with Missourians who
object to the overreach of that law. Unfortunately, Gov. Jay Nixon has refused to join my efforts
or break partisan ranks with President Barack Obama and oppose his health care plan.
By passing this law, Congress infringed on the constitutional freedoms of all Americans.
My lawsuit now is on appeal in the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where last month 21
states filed a brief supporting the suit. In addition, officials from four states in the Eighth Circuit
also joined a brief in support of my lawsuit.
With fully half the states asking the court to declare the health care law's individual mandate
unconstitutional, the importance of this case is obvious.
It affirms a broad consensus that Congress overstepped its authority by forcing individuals to
buy a specific insurance policy designed by federal bureaucrats.
Because of the law, an additional 16 million people will be forced onto Medicaid rolls beginning
in 2014. In Missouri, estimates are that at least 250,000 people will be added to Medicaid. By
dumping its costs onto state taxpayers, the law uses the same accounting tricks that earned
Bernie Madoff a 150-year prison term for fraud.
In addition to the constitutionality problems with the law, our state simply can't afford the added
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, Medicaid already is the largest
item in state budgets, consuming about 21 percent of annual expenditures. Stretched-thin state
budgets will be at their breaking points once the Medicaid expansion occurs.
Don't expect Washington to fix this mess. The recent debate over raising the nation's debt
ceiling reveals all too clearly how difficult it is to get Congress and the president to scrimp when
it comes to taxpayers' money.
There's an old bit of advice for people who find themselves in a hole:
First, you need to stop digging!
By implementing the onerous federal health care bill, the government is trading in its debt-hole
shovel for a backhoe. The law will cost nearly $2 trillion and is exactly the kind of overreaching
legislation that put us into the financial hole to begin with.
As Missourians, we must continue to fight for our freedoms against unconstitutional government
infringement. It is my hope the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals quickly decides this case
and rules the individual mandate in the health care law is unconstitutional.
Peter D. Kinder is the lieutenant governor of Missouri.
Are differing tax rates a de
facto voucher system?
By David Stokes and Christine Harbin, special to the Beacon
Posted 11:25 am Wed., 8.10.11
This is a tale of two neighborhoods. Both St. Louis suburban neighborhoods are impressive,
and outwardly they look like twins. Hampton Park and Lake Forest sit on opposite sides of
Hanley Road between Clayton Road and Highway 40, and they both boast large, stately homes.
They are equidistant from the region's central business districts. With two exceptions, they have
the same level and quality of public services and the same tax rates. With so many similarities,
you might assume property values would be the same. But you would be wrong.
Hampton Park and Lake Forest illustrate how different people finding different solutions to their
housing and educational needs can have a substantial impact on housing prices.
The two exceptions noted above are the neighborhood school districts and the differing tax
rates they impose. Both neighborhoods are subdivisions of Richmond Heights, but Lake Forest
-- west of Hanley -- is part of Clayton School District. In 2010, Clayton was the highest
performing district in Missouri according to MAP scores. Over the past 10 years, residents have
paid an average tax rate of $3.44 per $100 of assessed valuation. East of Hanley, Hampton
Park is part of Maplewood-Richmond Heights school district. In 2010, the state ranked MRH's
performance 315th out of 556 districts, making it an average district. Over the past decade,
residents paid an average tax rate of $4.48.
Homes in Lake Forest are in a higher performing school district and have lower tax rates than
those across the street in Hampton Park. Do homebuyers react accordingly and by how much?
Of course homebuyers adjust. According to a study of assessed valuations, the difference
between the prices paid for a theoretical house of the same square footage and lot size in the
two neighborhoods is $109,000, or a little more than 10 percent. Homebuyers in Lake Forest
are willing to pay approximately $109,000 more to live in a higher-performing school district with
lower tax rates. Conversely, homebuyers in Hampton Park are paying $109,000 less to live in a
more average school district with higher tax rates.
Economists refer to this kind of difference as capitalization. It is the process that incorporates
tax rates and other variables into the value of a piece of property.
Capitalization is a complex process, especially in regions that have as many taxing districts as
St. Louis. Prospective homebuyers typically take the time to research local school quality and
tax rates, but they usually stop short of researching fire districts. Although homebuyers may not
investigate them, the insurance industry certainly has. A home in an area with a poor-quality fire
district will have higher insurance rates, and those higher rates will be translated into lower
home prices. The combined wisdom of thousands of individual decisions is sorted into a price
that is readily understood by everyone.
Capitalization works in both directions, often simultaneously. A great school district will lead to
higher property prices, while the high tax rates used to fund those good schools will lower the
price. The low crime rates of the outer suburbs will increase prices, while the higher commuting
costs will lower prices. As for Lake Forest, the lower tax rates lead to higher home prices, and
this may result in the same final tax bill as higher rates on less valuable property.
The higher tax rates and lower-ranking school district do not automatically do economic harm to
the residents of Hampton Park. A Hampton Park purchaser may intend to send their children to
private or parochial schools and might be using the $109,000 discount to do just that. This
appears to be the case for many residents, as the MRH school district offers no school bus
service within Hampton Park. In effect, the $109,000 price difference can be viewed as a
voucher toward the cost of private education, the payment of future (higher) taxes, or both.
The larger point is that with the variety of cities, school districts, etc. that we have in St. Louis
County, there is an abundance of choices, making it more likely that everyone can find a
suitable combination of taxes and services. Homeowners vote with their feet -- by leaving cities
that increase taxes too much or fail to offer quality services. This pressures cities to be efficient.
That pressure and competition is reflected in property values, and that benefits all of us.
Gaudiet emptor-- Let the buyer rejoice!
Dems perpetuate victimhood
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Most people who are poor want to be rich, or at least self-sustaining. But politicians like
President Obama and Sen. Claire McCaskill never talk about fundamental steps of
self-responsibility, self-motivation and self-determination by which one might work their way out
Instead they employ rhetoric that makes being poor a virtue; that keeps the poor bottled up in a
state of victimhood; that rationalizes and perpetuates covetousness, anger, resentment, envy
and hate to be released at the polls. The Obama/McCaskill plan is to keep poor people poor,
hopeless, angry and eternally dependent upon them. Obama/McCaskill preach endlessly that
giving them and fellow Democrats their vote is the most effective means of retaliation against
Today's Democrat political career depends on promoting victimhood. Fifty years of cynical
Democrat manipulation of the poor has led us into a society in which welfare and quotas are
"civil rights;" government handouts are "entitlements;" payments to girls having babies out of
wedlock are "compassionate;" hardworking, ambitious people who are independent and
self-sustaining are scourged as "greedy;" punishment of crime is "oppression;" an independent
thinker who stands for courage and self-reliance is dismissed as an "Uncle Tom" if you're black
and "a racist" if you're white.
Capitalism and communism are at opposite poles. Their essential difference is this: The
communist seeing the rich man and his fine home says, "No man should have so much." The
capitalist seeing the same says, "All men should be free from government manipulation to
achieve as much."
JOHN McMILLEN, Sikeston, Mo.
Emerson squandered opportunity
What statistical improbability exists to explain the complete lack of leadership skills
demonstrated by 16-year member of Congress Jo Ann Emerson?
The single defining issue of the last election cycle was this country's spending problem. Instead
of offering solutions, Emerson wastes her constituents' time by propping up boogeymen and
exploiting her sizable elderly voting base through falsified threats of Social Security cuts, while
playing another round of "kick the can" by voting for more debt. She even stands in the way of
basic common sense deficit reducing ideas like cutting obsolete Saturday mail delivery.
Emerson has verified that she is not a free-market proponent. She and her fellow Republicans
have squandered an opportunity to address runaway spending in a meaningful way. When will
the voters of the Missouri's 8th Congressional District start to consider the negative impact that
the actions of career politicians have had on future generations?
RICK VANDEVEN, Chaffee, Mo.
Letters to the editor, August 11
Posted: Thursday, August 11, 2011 12:00 am | (3) Comments
Share Internet taxes: Will what's collected in Vegas stay in Vegas?
Regarding the editorial "Good state, bad state" (Aug. 7): The original reason for not collecting
sales taxes on Internet purchases was to encourage the expansion of the Internet and because
of the problem of collecting and distributing the tax through 1,500 sales tax districts. Now all
levels of government are eyeing those potential receipts, but we need to question the
assumptions. When I purchase something locally, I can justify the sales tax because I used
public services to make those purchases — roads, police, fire. However, when I buy an item
over the Internet that I cannot purchase in Missouri, then collecting a Missouri sales tax is no
longer justified based on services provided.
Another assumption is that the tax collected in other states would make it back to Missouri and
would be worth the time and effort to collect it. Are we really going to make a small business in
Michigan send in 25 cents in sales tax? Because all governments want these taxes, my guess is
that any taxes collected in Las Vegas are going to stay in Las Vegas.
Richard Mitchell • Columbia, Mo.
Regarding "Group's potential influence on bills is scrutinized" (Aug. 5): Finally, someone has
covered the American Legislative Exchange Council and given it the front-page attention that it
deserves. Who better than state Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, to give an idea of what
ALEC is, whom they represent and the toll it is taking on the middle class, including the upper
Ms. Cunningham voted to rescind the minimum wage and the puppy mill propositions that the
citizens of Missouri approved. A more glaring example of the ALEC influence is that Ms.
Cunningham led the charge to eliminate child labor laws, making her the butt of jokes on the
ALEC is all about irresponsible capitalism. If there were any question about ALEC's corporate
agenda and its part in the legislative turmoil, it is no surprise to find that the "my way or the
highway," "no compromise" legislators are well-funded disciples of ALEC.
Greg Harris • Lake Sherwood
Placed in danger
Congressmen obstructing needed revenue increases by holding their "principle" over what was
best for the country have placed us in danger of increases in interest rates for U.S. borrowing
and for everyone's credit purchases. If that happens, our economy would be in for a longer,
The tax cuts for the wealthy needed to end. Subsidies to oil companies making billions in profits
needed to end. As long as we have the expensive wars to pay for, we need revenue — and not
from funding cuts to the poor and unemployed.
Our only hope is that the obstructionists add the word "compromise" to their vocabulary.
What would the economy be like had there not been the worldwide financial catastrophe caused
by the purveyors of worthless sub-prime mortgages?
Bev White • Kirkwood
Tea Party members have been called terrorists, zombies and cannibals and been likened to the
Taliban. Tea Party members are hard-working, tax-paying citizens concerned with the obscene
irresponsible spending and debt run up by politicians trying to buy votes over the years.
Liberals can't seem to comprehend that our country is dead broke. We spent $1.5 trillion more
than we took in this year. Our debt ceiling was $14.2 trillion, the politicians just raised that
another $2.4 trillion, which they will quickly spend, leaving us $17 trillion in debt. We have $114
trillion in unfunded liabilities. Spending must stop. Entitlements must be reformed. We are
destroying the financial future of our children and grandchildren.
The Tea Party had nothing to do with our situation — only politicians, did. They pass the laws;
they spend the taxpayers' money.
Al Dorn • O'Fallon, Ill.
The Tea Party has been reviled of late. While former President George W. Bush did change a
surplus into a deficit, waged two unfunded wars and passed Medicare Part D, the Tea Party
critics gloss over the gross spending increases since January 2009. Also, Democrats were in
charge of the House from the 2006 election until 2010 election, and still are in charge of the
Any clear-thinking person can say that President Barack Obama's profligate deficits have
something to do with this problem. The Tea Party wanted to tax less and spend less and said
so. Tea Party politicians ran on that concept.
Why are people offended that candidates told the truth for a change? This spoof of a
debt/deficit-cutting bandage is the cause of the credit downgrade. Let's reduce spending
effective Jan. 1, 2012. We can cut spending immediately, not just in 10 years.
Robert L. Barnard • St. Peters
Standard & Poor's has said it was reporting on and reacting to an objective set of facts and,
therefore, had no choice but to do downgrade U.S. Treasury bonds to AA. In reality, of course,
bond ratings are judgment calls, and, in this case, it's a call the other two ratings agencies did
The insufferably pompous declarations by various S&P spokesmen suggesting that they were
just doing their solemn duty are rendered all the more galling by the fact that the company has
zero credibility because it awarded AAA ratings to tens of thousands of essentially worthless
mortgage bonds — bonds that did not have the backing of the full faith and credit of the United
States, and that triggered the financial crisis. S&P was inept or corrupt. Either way, it truly sticks
in one's craw that such an organization has the ability and the will to trigger a set of frightening
circumstances, the extent of which is yet to be understood.
John Terry • Kirkwood
Could be good
Various ratings agencies historically have made major mistakes in their conclusions. We all
keenly recall the AAA-rated mortgage-backed securities debacle of just a few years ago.
Regardless of the downgrade, U.S. Treasury bonds are the only bonds backed by
government-controlled printing presses.
Many major pension plans and large bond funds have very rigid credit policies in place. The
policies specify the average credit quality of the entire bond portfolio that is being managed.
When the credit rating of the AAA holdings drops to AA, the only way to hold the average credit
policy is sell the junk bonds and purchase more AA bonds. This credit downgrade could be a
good thing because the result could lead to major institutions and funds buying additional U.S.
bonds to maintain average credit ratings.
This new demand could drive rates lower in the short term. Inflation remains a long-term threat.
No one knows how the market is going to react, but the obvious conclusion is that U.S. Treasury
bonds still are the safest and most liquid investments in the world, regardless of their credit
Jim Winkelmann • Chesterfield
Thanks to Standard & Poor's for reducing the United States government credit rating to AA. Will
it now also change the ratings on its subprime loans that it rated AAA?
Harvey Hieken • Chesterfield
One of their own
If the Republicans want one of their own in the White House, they need look no further. He's
already there, and his name is Barack Obama.
Barbara Mae Krell • Creve Coeur
USA TODAY MISSOURI NEWS
Monday, Aug. 8, 2011 — No update
Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011 — St. Louis — State sheriff websites hacked by a group known
as Anonymous are mostly back up. Anonymous said in a statement it had hacked into
about 70 mostly rural law enforcement websites and stolen 10 gigabytes worth of data,
including e-mails and credit card numbers, in retaliation for the arrests of its
sympathizers in the U.S. and Great Britain.
Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011 — Jefferson City — Ryan Ferguson, 26, serving a
40-year prison sentence for the 2001 killing of Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor
Kent Heitholt, will get to present new evidence in court to try to prove his innocence. A
jury convicted Ferguson in 2005 largely on testimony of Charles Erickson, a former high
school friend, who got 25 years in the strangling. Erickson now says he acted alone.
Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011 — No update