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Recent Missouri Editorials

July 9, 2019

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 7

President’s reckless diplomacy eliminates back-channel routes to cooperation

For years, the United States officially abhorred the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his bumbling successor, Nicolas Maduro. The two sides fought openly, even to the point where Chavez once stood before the U.N. General Assembly after a speech by President George W. Bush and complained that the lectern “smells of sulfur,” implying that Satan had just been there.

Yet the two governments still cooperated closely on regional counter-narcotics operations.

The United States clashed openly with Russia regarding that country’s blatant violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty. And yet, the two countries cooperated on sanctions against Iran and efforts to address the civil war in Syria.

In the diplomatic world, there’s a working practice called “compartmentalization” that enables countries with strong disagreements on one issue to nevertheless work in concert on other matters of pressing international importance. They effectively agree to disagree but keep lines of communication open.

Whoever advised President Donald Trump upon his entry into the White House apparently skipped over that section of the diplomatic briefing book. The president apparently has no qualms about blowing up cooperative relationships in order to score political points on entirely different issues. As a result, America’s lead in international diplomacy has deteriorated to the point that other countries no longer take the United States at its word.

Trump started down this reckless road by declaring the Iran nuclear deal null and void. He ordered harsher economic sanctions on Tehran even though he couldn’t cite specific ways in which Iran had violated the accord. European nations, China and Russia all stood by the accord. Trump cited an unrelated issue — Iranian military adventurism around the Middle East using proxy militias like Hezbollah — as his rationale. Now, the hard-fought nuclear deal is in tatters, perhaps never to be recovered, and military tensions are escalating.

Or consider the compartmentalization that allowed the United States and Mexico to renegotiate terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In May, that deal came to a screeching halt because Trump wanted a way to pressure Mexico on completely unrelated immigration issues. For several days, it appeared a trade war was in the offing between two countries that had celebrated an unprecedented, uninterrupted, 25-year span of free trade.

Trump ultimately backed down after waving a piece of paper and claiming to have reached a “secret” deal with Mexico that Mexico’s foreign minister denied existed. Trump claimed victory as a way of deflecting from the heavy criticism he received from top Republicans in Congress for threatening trade sanctions of Mexico.

Trump fools only himself in believing that such mix-and-match tactics work in the diplomatic world. In reality, they destroy pathways to cooperation and make even America’s closest allies think twice about engaging with this administration. The damage he’s inflicting could take years to repair.

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Jefferson City News-Tribune, July 3

Missourians should be proud of their elected state officials, who put their federal counterparts to shame in at least one area: controlling government spending.

Last week, State Auditor Nicole Galloway released a report showing Missouri is complying with the Hancock Amendment. That’s a 1980 amendment to the Missouri Constitution that restricts the amount by which fees and taxes can be increased and also limits the amount of personal income used to fund state government.

The amendment shifts much of the decisions to tax Missourians directly to them, through statewide votes. Because of the amendment, lawmakers are extremely limited in how much they can increase taxes and spending.

If the state’s income and spending exceed the amendment’s formula, then state government must give refunds to taxpayers — as it did in the 1990s.

Galloway’s office said that for the 2018 fiscal year, total state revenue was approximately $3.9 billion under the refund threshold. As a result, the state was found to be in compliance. Missouri has not exceeded the limit since 1999.

This isn’t to say we approve of everything in the budget. But Missouri is not deficit spending — the Missouri Constitution requires a balanced budget — and the Hancock Amendment is helping lawmakers do that.

The federal government, on the other hand, appears incapable of controlling spending.

Congress continues to burden future generations with an unsustainable amount of debt. It might sound like hyperbole, but it could one day be the downfall of our great country.

The U.S. national debt stands at $22.4 trillion, according to usdebtclock.org.

On Monday’s KWOS Morning Show, host Austin Petersen asked U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer about the debt. Luetkemeyer essentially said while Republicans want to cut spending, they have to compromise with Democrats.

The fact is neither party can control spending. All politicians know they can’t get elected by promising not to spend. As a politician, tough love isn’t going to get you anywhere. No one wants to hear the hard truth.

So what can be done? More and more, we’re convinced that no Congress or president will ever have the political will to balance the federal budget, much less knock down the debt.

That leaves it up to us. Most U.S. states and some other countries have balanced budget requirements in their constitutions. This might be our best chance to put the brakes on our spiraling debt.

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The Kansas City Star, July 8

‘Quitting isn’t an option’: Act now to put repeal of Missouri abortion ban on the ballot

For decades, abortion rights opponents have argued that the issue should have been decided democratically instead of by “unelected judges.”

Now, of course, they are determined to keep a referendum that might repeal Missouri’s new abortion ban off the 2020 ballot. And as President Donald Trump remakes the Supreme Court, those “unelected judges” are looking better all the time.

To get a referendum question on Missouri’s near-total abortion ban on next year’s ballot, opponents need to collect 100,000 signatures. They have to do this before the new law takes effect on August 28. But they couldn’t even start collecting signatures until after an appeals court ruled in their favor on Monday. (The court said Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft must approve ballot language within 15 days. But the state could still appeal the decision to the Missouri Supreme Court.)

On Sunday, the ACLU launched their effort anyway — not yet collecting signatures, but organizing the petition drive, so that as soon as ballot language is approved, volunteers can get right to work. Missourians who want to repeal this extreme law, which does not allow abortion after eight weeks of pregnancy even in cases of rape and incest, have no time to spare.

At the Sunday kickoff event in Kansas City — one of five across the state — an obstetrician, Dr. Mae Winchester, told the crowd gathered in a downtown bar about a recent patient of hers with cervical cancer who would not have been able to get an abortion if the ban had already been in effect.

“This law would have killed her,” she said, because though it does make exceptions in medical emergencies, “she wasn’t dying that day,” so her condition wouldn’t have qualified as such.

Missouri state Rep. Judy Morgan thanked Planned Parenthood “for standing up to that weasel Randall Williams,” director of the state health department, in refusing to perform a second, medically unnecessary pelvic exam on patients 72 hours before an abortion. On that one issue, the state backed down after criticism while still trying to close the state’s only abortion provider, a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis.

Morgan, a Kansas City Democrat, said abortion rights supporters “can repeal every single bleeping word” of the effective ban, which outlaws the procedure so early in pregnancy that many women still don’t know they are pregnant. “We’re sad, we’re hurt, we’re angry, but quitting isn’t an option.”

Among the several dozen potential volunteers who came to the event was Barbara Beier, who has collected signatures as a volunteer several times since 2016. “I was heartbroken” by the ban, she said. To her, Republican lawmakers in Jefferson City are using the abortion issue “to bring out voters. They don’t care about the issue and they certainly don’t care about the people it affects,” which is why “there’s so little support for children” once they’re no longer in utero.

Beier, who works full time, is proud to have collected the second-highest number of signatures for last year’s Clean Missouri ethics reform initiative. “I’m just an ordinary person, and I want ordinary people to know they can make a difference” in this way.

On Monday, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that Ashcroft was “without authority” in rejecting referendum applications to put the abortion law on the ballot. Ashcroft had said that couldn’t happen because one part of the law, on parental notification, is already in effect.

The ACLU argued that the emergency clause that Republicans used to make that one aspect of the bill effective immediately was invoked “not because of an immediate need to preserve the public peace, health, or safety,” as the law requires, “but rather in order to defeat any attempt to refer the bill for voter approval or rejection under the fundamental right of referendum.” The court almost immediately ruled in their favor.

If you think “ordinary people,” should have a say, now is the time to get involved.

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