The utterly useless Governor of Missouri, the utterly useless Mike Parson, gave a State of the State address a few days ago. The utterly useless governor’s office didn’t release a transcript, and I’m not about to watch it on video, so I’m going by news stories about what he said.
The news lead is that Gov. Useless bragged about the state’s huge budget surplus, as if he had had something to do with it. Missouri is still sitting on $2 billion of unspent federal money from the American Rescue Plan.
Thanks President Biden! Thanks, congressional Democrats! No, Useless didn’t say that. What he did say was “When other states will be filling spending gaps and budget shortfalls, we will be making investments in the future, because in Missouri, we took a common sense approach to the pandemic, never shutdown businesses, and have always had a conservative and balanced budget.”
“Convservative approach” basically means “we’ll let the state rot before we spend money on it.”
Let’s talk about the pandemic, the thing on which money was not spent. Currently, Missouri is somewhere in the middle in the state rankings of covid deaths per 100,000 population. According to the Mayo Clinic, the state currently has a 32.7 percent positivity rate, and 54 percent of residents are fully vaccinated. Omicron hasn’t peaked here yet; hospitalization and death rates are still going up in most of the state.
And what is Parson doing about any of this? Absolutely nothing. Missouri is fortunate in that most of the state is rural and sparsely populated. The urban areas did institute mask mandates and other mitigation efforts to attempt to keep the pandemic in hand. This may be why St. Louis currently is experiencing 142 new cases daily per 100,000 population, while state capitol Jefferson City has 314 cases per 100,000 population every day (source).
Remember also that mostly rural southwest Missouri was the epicenter of a delta surge that spread to several other states.
The governor, who throughout the pandemic has advocated for personal responsibility and a hands-off approach at the state level, spoke of the pandemic primarily in the past tense Wednesday. The state “accepted the challenges and prevailed” against the virus, despite “endless critics” who “tell us how we could have done it better.”
Those remarks come as Missouri faces a wave of the virus led by the omicron variant, a defining characteristic of which has been staff shortages and closures at schools. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has been an aggressive opponent of masking and quarantine orders in schools, threatening districts with litigation if they continue to enforce such guidelines. House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, a Springfield Democrat, zeroed in on Schmitt’s decision-making with regard to schools while criticizing the administration’s pandemic response Wednesday evening.
This is what makes me crazy. So the state decided not to respond to the pandemic. The state also has fought with county and city governments that do want to respond to the pandemic. St. Louis city and county have practically been at war with state Attorney General Eric Schmitt these past two years. Schmitt wants no restrictions on anyone’s “freedom” whatsoever. Mask mandates have been overturned and re-instated so many times by so many courts St. Louisans practically have whiplash. The most recent ruling responding to one of Schmitt’s many lawsuits has the mask mandate back in place.
And as schools struggle to say open because of Omicron, Schmitt is suing school districts all over the state to end school mask mandates.
The suits allege that school districts do not have the authority to impose public health orders for children. Several parents within the districts are named as plaintiffs in the suits that were filed in the counties where the school districts are located.
The lawsuits are part of Schmitt’s ongoing effort to force Missouri schools to drop mask mandates and other COVID-19 mitigation policies. Schmitt is a Republican running for U.S. Senate.
“Parents and families, not bureaucrats, should have the power to decide what’s best for their children,” Schmitt said in a press release Friday.
In most cases the “bureaucrats” are elected school board members, as in the elected representatives of the people of that city or county. Can’t have people deciding things for themselves, nosirree.
Did I mention Schmitt is running for Roy Blunt’s Senate seat and wants to get his name on Fox News? I believe I have.
CBS reported a couple of days ago that 25 percent of people hospitalized for covid in Missouri are children. See also At least 62 Missouri school districts have temporarily closed in January,
In the state of the state speech, Useless said, “Government should lead, not dictate,” he said. “Government should support, not mandate. And we must all remember that.” That sounds grand, but in truth what that means is that the only policies allowed, at state or local level, are whatever the state Republican Party approves.
Local governments are not allowed to institute local covid policies no matter how desperate the pandemic is at the time.
The state legislature keeps trying to force right-to-work laws on the state in spite of a 2018 referendum in which the voters clearly opposed right-to-work laws.
Voters passed a referendum calling for the state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and the state refused to do it. They didn’t have the money, they said (see above about $2 billion in unspent federal dollars, plus the feds pay for most of Medicaid). Late last year the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the state had to expand Medicaid, anyway. They are sorta kinda doing it, but the enrollment process is unnecessarily cumbersome (I walked through it myself), and the legislature is considering more restrictions, such as a full-time job or so many hours of volunteer work a month in order to qualify for Medicaid. Those undeserving poor people need to step up, I guess.
Not all of Useless’s proposals for the surplus of money are bad. He wants to raise teachers’ salaries and send more money to schools and state colleges, for example. But the notion that the state doesn’t impose itself on the will of the people is a joke.
See also: The Technowizard Governor and the Hack