Recent Missouri Editorials

Written by Muleskinner Staff

The Associated Press
The Springfield News Leader, June 25

Our view: Marriage equality good for Missourians
Gay marriage is legal in Missouri.
Those words could not have been less true in 2004 when voters passed an amendment to the state constitution banning unions between same-sex couples.
There was hope they would become true late last year, when two different judges ruled that Missouri’s same-sex marriage ban violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Marriages from other states were recognized, and licenses from St. Louis County were recognized by the state.
It’s with gratitude to five U.S. Supreme Court justices that we can say those words are true today in Missouri and across each of our United States.
No longer will our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers need to cross state lines (for some, permanently) in order to legally declare their love and intention to lead a life together. No longer will these couples be forced to explain to their friends at the wedding when they will actually be legally married. No longer will they have to seek special dispensation to care for their ill partners, or worry about losing everything if they lose their spouse.
No longer will marriage need a modifier to describe those entering into the union.
Opponents of same-sex marriage have done nothing to prevent couples from living together, raising families together and growing old together. They’ve only made it more difficult for people seeking to make their life in our state.
In the majority opinion, Justice Andrew Kennedy wrote, “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”
As we stare down a host of problems facing our community, state and nation, we can use all the greatness we can get.
As we applaud our nation’s highest court in Washington D.C., we bring our eyes back to 840 N. Boonville Ave. While this ruling granted new rights for some, those same citizens of the United States can be fired, evicted or denied public accommodations based on their sexual orientation. After the SOGI bill was overturned in April, Springfield is still far from a safe place for the gay community.
It took 11 years and justices in our nation’s capital to come to the right conclusion on marriage in Missouri. City Council should make a point of correcting these issues of protection and access with haste.
The Joplin Globe, June 19
Our View: Coming crisis of spending and national debt
A report released this week puts front and center an issue that few politicians — including presidential candidates — are discussing. Yet this issue dwarfs the significance of anything else that has overtaken the national conversation. We’re talking about federal spending and the national debt, which is now at $18 trillion.
Currently, the debt held by the public is at 74 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. That is money that is borrowed on the open market from domestic and foreign investors and is owed back. The rest of the national debt is internal debt, meaning it is money our government has borrowed from itself, such as when it raids Social Security’s trust fund. But that, too, is money collected from the public in the form of taxes with the promise that it will be there when needed.
Unless something changes, the national debt will exceed the gross domestic product by 2040, according to projections from the Congressional Budget Office. That may sound a long way off, but given that it has taken us decades to get into this mess, 25 years is a short time frame to make a difference. One-third of that time — eight years — could be consumed by the next person elected president.
A recent Concord Coalition analysis determined: “Achieving the same level of debt relative to the economy by 2040 as we have now would require a $210 billion cut in spending or increase in revenues — about $1,450 per person — every year for 25 years from the levels assumed in current projections. To reduce the debt to its 50-year average (38 percent of GDP) would require a $480 billion cut in spending or increase in taxes every year.”
. By the end of the next president’s second term — should he or she have one — “the major health and retirement programs, along with interest on the debt, will account for over two-thirds of total spending — up from 58 percent of spending in 2017.”
. “In 2017, when the next president takes office — the nation will spend $331 billion just in interest payments on that debt, an amount that grows to more than $800 billion by the end of the next president’s possible second term.”
Just so you know, the interest payment on all that debt will be more than the current federal spending on defense, education, transportation and medical research combined.
No matter where the candidates stand on other issues, none of it will really matter unless they can stand up to runaway federal spending. In the end, it’s even less about the candidate than it is about each of us. What choices, commitments and sacrifices are we willing to make in order to avoid the coming national debt crisis? Are we willing to demand that our next president make spending and debt the top priority?
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 29
“Opportunity gap”? “Income inequality”? Same coin, different sides
Back in February, four months before he officially announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, former Gov. Jeb Bush made a startling statement:
“The opportunity gap is the defining issue of our time,” he told the Detroit Economic Club. “More Americans are stuck at their income levels than ever before. It’s very hard for people to go from the bottom rungs of the economy to the top or even the middle. This should alarm you. It has alarmed me.”
It was startling because it sounded very much like a speech given 14 months earlier by President Barack Obama.
In December 2013, the president spoke at an event organized by the left-leaning Center for American Progress, describing a “dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain — that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.
“I believe this is the defining challenge of our time: making sure our economy works for every working American.”
So defining-challenge-of-our-times-wise, what’s the difference between Mr. Bush’s “opportunity gap” and Mr. Obama’s “dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility”?
Nothing. They are two sides of the same coin.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama were describing the same reality, but Mr. Bush was parsing his language more carefully. That’s because among certain Republicans, “income inequality” means “class warfare” and them’s fightin’ words. Consider Rush Limbaugh’s take on March 28, 2014:
“Income inequality is income redistribution from those who work for a living to those who vote for a living. Plain and simple.”
This ignores all sorts of reality. First, income already has been redistributed, upwards (“There is class warfare, all right,” said Warren Buffett in 2011. “But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”) And two, the reality is that those who don’t work also don’t vote in massive numbers; they are less likely to vote than middle-income Americans and far less likely than upper-income Americans.
The problem is that middle-income Americans, for a variety of reasons, often vote against their own economic interests, for candidates who support policies that have created the widest income disparities since the Great Depression.
But “income inequality” doesn’t poll well. Americans, for the most part, don’t begrudge someone his success. But they’d like a better shot at success for themselves.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll reported in early May that: “By a greater than 2-to-1 margin, however, Americans said they’re less worried about the income gap, per se, and more worried about how middle- or working-class Americans can get ahead financially.”
Americans don’t realize it’s a false choice.
Thus Mr. Bush’s stress on the “opportunity gap,” as if it bears no connection to the fact that Federal Reserve data show that in 2013, the median wealth of the nation’s upper-income families ($639,400) was nearly seven times the median wealth of middle-income families ($96,500). And the median rich guy’s $639,400 was nearly 70 times that of the median low-income guy.
Between 1979 and 2007, the top 1 percent of households took more than half (53.9 percent) of the total increase in U.S. income. In that same period, the average income of the bottom 99 percent of U.S. taxpayers grew by 18.9 percent. That of the top 1 percent grew by 200.5 percent.
So if you can’t get ahead, there’s a reason: Too few people are keeping too much of the money. If you’re born into a family in the bottom fifth of income distribution, it’s 70 percent you don’t make it to the middle class.
If your kids don’t get a good preschool education, chances are they won’t get ahead. If they go to bad schools, they won’t get ahead. If they can’t afford college, they won’t get ahead.
Yes, you can get stuck because of poor choices made by you or your parents, but most often you get stuck because of poor policy choices made by lawmakers invested in the opportunity gap status quo.
We can’t grow our way out of “the defining issue of our time,” not when 1 person in every 100 is taking 38 percent of all the growth in income, and the next 9 guys are taking another quarter. Particularly when they think the other 90 are deadbeats.
The Columbia Daily Tribune, June 27
Trade Authority: Good news from Washington
Congressional approval of fast-track trade authority is a victory for President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, an odd couple to be sure.
Unanimity could even be seen between our own Missouri senators, often distant cousins politically. Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Roy Blunt voted for the crucial Senate go-ahead.
President Obama is in the final crucial stages of negotiating the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. U.S. participation depends entirely on the ability of the president to make a deal likely to emerge successfully from our legislative process. Fast-track rules allow Congress to vote the entire agreement up or down but not amend its provisions.
Fast-track has been a staple procedure without which international agreements would be nearly impossible. As we have seen recently, a lot of political pushing and pulling occurs before final trade agreements, but once concluded, pact parties must have confidence the president’s promises will stick.
It’s beyond reason to expect all of us to second-guess the tortuous provisions of such an international agreement. That kind of involvement even is beyond most members of Congress, who must act through the chief executive. Terms of the pending agreement are shared with key members, but it would be hopelessly unworkable to debate the whole thing on the floor of Congress.
So, from a distance we primarily ponder the very idea of international pacts intended to increase the flow of trade. Such agreements inevitably will find mixed reactions among the parties and will have to be ratified out of a belief free — or freer — trade is beneficial to all. History shows that it is.
Richer nations like ours are likely to make unpopular concessions. In the recent argument, U.S. labor unions and environmentalists raised objections, fearing the trade deal would ship jobs overseas and would not put enough pressure on other nations, particularly China, to increase protection for the environment. But to stay out of the deal would have been to cede control to China, the other big player. In the end, members of Congress must assume U.S. negotiators have made a reasonable deal.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not the end of international trade negotiations. In years to come, maintaining fast-track authority is important, giving a U.S. president clout in the talks.
We should be glad combative players in Washington were able to get on the same side, not an ordinary accomplishment these days.