“Show-Me” the state of Missouri, and I will show you a microcosm of George Bush's domestic agenda for America. Under Governor Matt Blunt, Missouri is rapidly implementing laws reminiscent of the Gilded Age, when corporations ruled and the people were disposable cogs in their profit-making machines. Virtually each day I pick up the newspaper, Blunt has advanced this despicable agenda still further. Watching my former home state (and current neighboring state) become an ally to the American plutocracy in their bid to sweep away the remains of the progressive, humanitarian advances of the 20th Century leaves me deeply sickened and saddened.
From the plutocratic point of view, businesses and corporations simply cannot make their owners, executives, or shareholders obscenely wealthy enough without breaking the backs of the poor and working class. For the affluent to afford multiple multi-million dollar homes, cars that cost more than many homes, yachts, trophy wives, and jet-setting lifestyles, the poor must remain extremely poor. Freeing businesses (and corporations) of pesky impediments like paying taxes, having to negotiate with labor unions, and legal accountability for death or injury resulting from their products or services are essential to ensuring astronomical profits to fulfill the extravagant “needs” of the rich. Cutting “socialist government hand-outs” to the poor enables the plutocrats to give themselves additional tax breaks. In the New Corporatcracy, the elderly, the working class, victimized consumers, the homeless, minorities, the disabled, the sick, and the poor will increasingly discover that they are on their own as Social Darwinists implement “survival of the fittest” (with the fattest wallets) policies through the government.
Friends in high places, including Dad and himself…
In 2004, Matt Blunt narrowly won the Missouri gubernatorial race by garnering a mere 51% of the popular vote. Did he really win the election though? Unlike George Bush in the 2000 presidential election, he did not need Katherine Harris to hand him a false victory. He had himself. Missouri Secretary of State Matt Blunt retained his office through the election, meaning he certified the results his own narrow victory in the governor’s race. In Bush-like fashion, Blunt seized the reins of the state of Missouri without an objective measure of how the people had truly voted. Our wealthy, elite rulers were not taking the chance that the “herd” would make the “wrong choice.”
Throughout Blunt’s campaign for governor, Bush and Cheney both heavily endorsed Blunt to ensure that Missouri would be fertile ground for instituting their domestic agenda at the state level. Roy Blunt, Sr., Matt's father, is the House Majority Whip in the US Congress. From that position, he wields a great deal of power and has forged close ties with the Bush administration. While both Blunts assert that Roy's status and connections were not factors in Matt's rise to power in Missouri, facts and logic belie the depth of their denial. During Matt's 2000 campaign for Missouri Secretary of State (the position which propelled him into the governor's mansion), he received contributions from numerous sources from outside of Missouri. State records show that several of the out of state donors had legislation beneficial to them under review by Congressional subcommittees on which Roy Blunt sat. Most reasonable-minded individuals would call that a conflict of interest, but in a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich, it is business as usual.
Who were some of these individuals and entities with such a burning interest in the outcome of the Secretary of State race in Missouri, where they did not reside? Executives from Freddie Mac donated $4,000.00, while two of their lobbyists (who were from Virginia) donated $1,000.00 each. A lobbyist for Phillip Morris donated $1,000.00. Many contributions came from companies and corporations operating in industries encumbered with heavy government regulations. Records also indicate that $65,000.00 of Matt's campaign contributions came from 84 of Roy's colleagues in Congress. And Matt Blunt bristles at the implication that he rode his father's coat tails into office? If I did not know better, I would conclude that Bush, Blunt, and major corporate interests colluded to position Matt to begin imposing their Social Darwinism at the state level, but in a democracy based on the “freedom and liberty” we are spreading to Iraq, this would not be possible.
Now that Blunt is comfortably nestled into the cozy confines of the governor's mansion, he has begun to systematically engage the perverse social agenda of the Bush administration. In the new “pull oneself up by one’s boot straps” paradigm, laissez faire capitalism and gross socio-economic inequality are beginning to predominate in Missouri. Blunt's pretexts for creating a haven for avaricious corporations and dramatically cutting assistance to the poor are to prevent tax increases and to create jobs in Missouri. In true Social Darwinian form, Blunt has rationalized the enrichment of the “haves” and the abandonment of the “have-nots.”
“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
--John Kenneth Galbraith
Some of Governor Blunt's first targets were those dependent on Medicaid for their basic health needs. In Blunt's short tenure, Missouri is preparing to cut 100,000 from the Medicaid rolls. First Steps, a $27 million program to aid 8,000 children with severe disabilities is fading into history. As a part of this program, the federal government matched the state dollar for dollar. The funding paid for sorely needed therapy and equipment for special needs children. Blunt’s Medicaid cuts will also target children adopted through the state's foster care program, which will most likely reduce the number of those willing to adopt children who desperately need parents. Obviously, in a corporatacracy like the one Blunt is forging in Missouri, the poor, the adopted, and the special needs children (who lack the good fortune of having been born to affluent parents) do not have the right to proper medical care.
You can fool some of the people some of the time….
Blunt's justification for the cuts was two-fold. He stated it would enable him to avoid raising taxes and that it would reduce fraud in the Medicaid system. Neither assertion holds water.
Medicaid spending cuts do project the image that Matt Blunt is a fiscal hero for preventing tax increases. However, leaving that many people uninsured places a financial burden of another kind on those fortunate enough to have insurance. Medical costs for the uninsured receiving treatment without the ability to pay are passed on to the rest of society through increases in prices by providers and higher health insurance premiums. The uninsured people who opt not to get treatment because they are too poor become more infirm, and ultimately become a financial drain on society. The lesson here for the plutocrats is that besides the moral imperative for society (and hence upon our government, the manager of society's public coffers and the makers of society's rules) to care for the weaker and less fortunate, there is a pragmatic imperative to offer medical insurance to the poor.
Blunt's specious argument that the Medicaid cuts will reduce fraud is a pitifully weak when one examines the facts. In 2004, the state of Missouri registered 243 cases of Medicaid fraud that cost about $1 million. 974,559 Missourians were on Medicaid. At .02%, Missouri Medicaid fraud hardly rises to the level of a crisis or warrants an overhaul of the system. Matt Blunt needs to go back to the drawing board if he wishes to come up with a truly convincing justification for his selfishness.
Why worry about human suffering when there are profits to be had?
While many of the poor scramble to obtain basic health services, corporations and businesses are basking in the radiant sunshine of Matt Blunt's state level corporatacracy. $250 million in tax credits for businesses create a virtual paradise. In March, Governor Blunt signed a law making it more difficult for employees to qualify for worker's comp benefits. Under Blunt, collective bargaining rights for state employees are a thing of the past. Is this a precursor to similar laws aimed at the private sector? Handing a gift-wrapped package to the insurance industry, Blunt allowed several executives from major insurance companies help him interview the finalists to become head of the Missouri Department of Insurance, the state department that acts as a watchdog over the insurance industry. Some of the interviewees were also Blunt campaign donors. Blunt has made great strides toward a corporatacracy in his short tenure. Remember the Chicago song “Only the Beginning”?
Fortunately for the working people, not all entrepreneurs agree with the grossly immoral actions of our plutocratic leaders like Matt Blunt. According to Missouri Budget.org, Garland Land of Jefferson City wrote:
We own a small business that collects sales tax on the merchandise we sell. What most people may not realize is that by state law we get to keep part of the sales tax we collect. Our business, like most, is computerized. It just takes a few minutes each month to complete the form and send the check to the state. I calculated that the state is paying us over $800 per hour based upon the amount we keep and the amount of time it takes us to process the form.
I question whether it is morally right to keep the sales tax when others are losing services due to the state’s budget problems.
I have decided that keeping part of the sales tax is not doing justice for others. We have decided to send 100 percent of the sales tax we collect to the state. Our decision will not significantly affect the profit margin of our business and it will not make much difference for the state budget, but it is the right thing to do.
I laud Mr. Land for his stance, and hope that other business owners follow his lead.
What other tricks does he have up his sleeve?
Virtually all consumers and voters are vulnerable to some of Blunts other “social evolutions.” Blunt has paved the way to higher utility costs by easing restrictions on rate increases. Thanks to the new governor, it is now more difficult for victims of medical malpractice to receive compensation and justice. His tort reforms are even more draconian than the ones former Missouri governor Bob Holden vetoed in 2003 and 2004. Mr. Blunt vetoed legislation that would have made campaign contributions more transparent. The man who purportedly did not ride to office via questionable campaign financing wants to limit public scrutiny of sources of campaign money. How astounding!
In keeping with the tactics of his mentor in Washington, Governor Blunt weaves pleasant fictions to pacify the masses. In May, he spent two days traversing the state to tout his $158 million increase in education spending, "proving" he made good on his campaign promise to improve Missouri schools. The truth is, he was taking credit for something that would have happened whether he had been governor or not. Over 70% of that $158 million stemmed from increased tax revenue that was already committed to education funding (i.e. casino taxes). Is Karl Rove on the Blunt payroll?
Tom Kruckemeyer, an economist with the non-profit Missouri Budget Project commented: “All or virtually all of this money is from tax sources that are dedicated already to K-12 education, and it is money they had to give them.”
Blunt shows them how he really feels
Slapping the 650,000 black residents of Missouri in the face, Mr. Blunt decided to allow the Confederate flag to fly at a Higginsville, MO historical site in June. While one can argue that the flag has multiple meanings, to most black Americans, and to many others, it is a symbol of hatred. The designer of the flag was a South Carolina Congressman who advocated secession from the Union and was an ardent supporter of slavery, one of the most evil institutions in mankind's history. Just as Bush has little regard for the rights or interests of black Americans (other than social conservatives like Condoleezza Rice or Clarence Thomas), Governor Blunt has shown his lack of concern for this segment of the population.
Cake is made to eat, isn’t it?
Blunt’s governorship in Missouri makes it apparent that Mr. Bush intends to apply the “Trickle Down Theory” in a new way. Under the rule of the Social Darwinists, only the "fittest" (and richest) possess the "inalienable Rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness". Blunt exemplifies that their power grab is “trickling down” to the level of state government. With the current Supreme Court vacancy, the plutocrats will move to complete their inevitable seizure of control over the third branch of the federal government. Some have even raised the possibility that Marbury vs. Madison will be overturned, rendering the Judicial Branch virtually insignificant. Middle and working class Americans are witnessing their final shield from tyranny disintegrate. However, the plutocratic and corporate interests are not content simply dominating the federal government. They are shrewdly seeding state governments with men like Matt Blunt to exercise their agenda. To satisfy many amongst their conservative, libertarian constituency, they will need to cede more rights to the states. With men like Matt Blunt waiting in the wings to further the plutocratic agenda, they can safely diffuse their power while still enjoying the delectable fruits of Social Darwinism. America's wealthy are setting out to prove the axiom that you can have your cake and eat it too. Fortunately, it is not too late for the working people, poor, and minorities to prevent that from happening, and I believe we will.
Jason Miller is a 38-year-old freelance activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. He is a husband and a father to three boys. His affiliations include Amnesty International, the ACLU and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He welcomes responses at firstname.lastname@example.org or comments on his blog at: http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.
Other Articles by Jason Miller