Recent Missouri Editorials
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 17
Editorial: Making America hate again
Supporters of President Donald Trump bristle at the mere suggestion that the words he tweets and speaks affect the actions of America’s radical-right hatemongers. Those supporters would have us believe that the dramatic upswing in hate speech, anti-Semitism and racist assaults around the country since Trump entered the White House is merely coincidental.
The numbers suggest otherwise, and the suspected mastermind of Friday’s horrific attack on mosques in New Zealand suggested he had the United States in mind when he launched his anti-Muslim shooting spree.
Hate speech and white supremacist racism are on the rise and have been going up dramatically since Trump launched his “birther” attacks on President Barack Obama and began his presidential election campaign.
Two groups that closely monitor white supremacists and anti-immigrant movements — the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League — have independently released reports in recent days warning that the racist resurgence continues unabated.
The law center identified and tracked the actual number of radical-right hate groups operating in the country, while the Anti-Defamation League sought to document specific incidents of hate crimes or overt acts of racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance. The law center said the total number of hate groups in America reached 1,020 in 2018. After a sharp dip from 2012 to 2014, the number of hate groups has increased by 30 percent in the past four years.
The law center’s report, issued Feb. 20, suggested the increase wasn’t solely attributable to Trump, who drew national condemnation for, among other things, expressing empathetic remarks about white supremacists after they staged a deadly protest in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. Other prominent Republicans helped fuel the flames of hatred, such as anti-Muslim and racist statements by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, anti-immigrant outrage by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and white supremacist sympathies expressed by Rep. Steve King of Iowa.
Trump, however, set the tone in early 2018 with his quoted reference to Haiti and other black-majority countries as “shitholes,” which drew statements of approval from the likes of white supremacist David Duke.
The Anti-Defamation League documented and mapped “an all-time record” of 1,187 “literature drops” containing white supremacist “alt-right” propaganda and 91 events in which white supremacist groups marched or created public spectacles in 2018. Evidence of activism by white supremacist groups like Identity Evropa and Patriot Front surfaced at the University of Missouri, Missouri Southern State University, Truman State University, Washington University and Webster University, the report stated.
By the league’s count, there was a 187 percent increase from 2017 through 2018 in propaganda efforts by white supremacists. Regardless of whether you believe politicians like Trump played a role, the resurgence of these groups should be alarming to all Americans.
Their agenda is clear: to make America hate again.
The Washington Missourian, March 14
Is Missouri a Backward State?
If you look at our deteriorating infrastructure, especially roads and bridges, the answer is yes.
Gov. Mike Parson has proposed a plan for a state bond issue of $350 million to replace or repair about 250 bridges. The plan is stalled in the General Assembly, which really has not come up with an answer to the problem. Rep. Kip Kendrick, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, called the governor’s plan a “nonstarter.”
Perhaps he should have said the Legislature on many issues is a “nonstarter.”
We don’t like to see more state debt but what other plan is there that would tend to the problem? We said tend because the bond issue would not solve the infrastructure needs.
Republican House Committee Chairman Cody Smith is pushing a program to set aside $100 million in general revenue each year for roads and bridges. That plan has the support of the Senate’s Conservative Caucus. It probably is a “nonstarter” and would only be a partial “fixer.” His plan would mean $100 million less for other state programs.
Missourians voted down a gasoline tax increase last year which would have been a partial “fixer.” The governor’s proposal would not require a tax hike to retire the bonds at the rate of $30 million a year over 15 years. The state would pay about $100 million in interest over that period.
Infrastructure is vital in economic development. We haven’t quite reached the backward status in that category but we are getting close.
The Columbia Daily Tribune, March 14
Tribune’s View: Walters finally makes the right call
Joel Walters is stepping down as director of the Missouri Department of Revenue.
It’s about time.
We learned (last) week that his department considered warning state taxpayers last fall there was a problem on the horizon they needed to take action on.
Instead the revenue department patted itself on the back for fixing a problem that didn’t exist.
The Tribune discovered from a records request that the department last fall wrote a news release with a headline that encouraged taxpayers to increase their withholdings due to a tax table error. That warning never reached Missourians. Instead it was replaced by a Sept. 21 news release saying the department was updating the state’s tax tables.
The unreleased draft was certain to elicit attention, and the one released was sure to elicit yawns. It matters little now that both were wrong.
The fact remains that Walters had no idea why state tax receipts were off the mark. And he had no intention of ringing the alarm bell and notifying the public after learning of the problem.
For months Walters and company thought there was a longstanding tax withholding issue stretching back 15 years. It turns out the problem was a drop in state taxes owed. Walters testified before the Missouri General Assembly on 10 occasions blaming a withholding error. The eleventh time legislators and the public finally heard the truth, and that Walters was spreading misinformation for months.
Walters has faced repeated criticism for not being transparent enough about the perceived problem when the Department of Revenue first became aware. After reviewing documents obtained through a Sunshine Law request, we can now say with certainty that criticism is spot on. The department failed to act quickly and transparently. Now Walters is leaving. Some would have us believe the two situations are unrelated. Common sense says otherwise.
It wasn’t until this newspaper broke the original story Dec. 30 that the tax collection situation started being noticed, more than three months after the Department of Revenue realized Missourians needed to be notified.
The department says it tried to notify Missourians of the problem, but it wasn’t much of an effort. The department sent emails to 26,377 taxpayers. For those of you who enjoy math, that’s less than 0.9 percent of the state’s 3 million-plus taxpayers. But what about the 217,118 flyers mailed to employers? That only shifted the burden of responsibility from the state.
Had the Department of Revenue been serious about issuing a warning to taxpayers, Missouri’s media organizations would have been glad to help spread the word. But that was sure to bring with it bad press, so instead the problem was downplayed for months until a reckoning couldn’t be avoided.
Fortunately, claims it was all due to a withholding error were wrong, because by the time Missourians learned of the perceived problem it was too late for them to adjust state tax withholdings for 2018.
Walters should have been transparent since the beginning. Damage to the department’s reputation and Walter’s could have been lessened. Instead Walters pushed a false narrative for so long that Gov. Mike Parson even bought in and accused lawmakers of grandstanding when they repeatedly called on Walters to testify before various committees.
Walters lost the confidence of taxpayers, the legislature and likely even Parson. Those reasons alone demanded change at the Department of Revenue, and fortunately Walters finally made the right call for Missouri.