- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Kansas City Star, May 6

Gov. Eric Greitens is almost out of chances. And he’s running out of time.

Missouri’s embattled and disgraced chief executive has but one more opportunity to do what’s right, and that’s to resign. He has an opportunity to go down in history as a governor who, under pressure, voluntarily stepped away for the good of the state as opposed to one who was forced from office largely by members of his own party.

That’s not a huge distinction, but it’s a difference worth noting.

Both chambers of the General Assembly last week sent the unmistakable message that Greitens now stands on the brink of the ultimate political humiliation. Legislative leaders announced Thursday that 138 members of the 163-member House and 29 of 34 senators had signed petitions calling for a special session to consider Greitens’ impeachment. It was the first time in Missouri history that the General Assembly made such a move, and the strong majorities that united to act were overwhelming.

Signatures of three-quarters of the members of each chamber were required for a special session. Both chambers mustered a robust 85 percent.

The call for a special session doesn’t by itself mean that Greitens will be removed from office. But it’s a strong signal that members are willing to seriously consider that possibility once the special session begins May 18.

A faster timetable would have been preferable. The House will start its proceedings 30 minutes after the end of the 2018 regular session. Lawmakers said they first wanted to focus on the business of passing bills without the distraction of the Greitens’ crisis.

That’s understandable, but it also buys Greitens time, and it’s time that ranks as perhaps the only friend he has left. With each passing day, the resolve to remove Greitens could dissipate. The delay allows Greitens’ trial for felony invasion of privacy, slated to begin on May 14, to play out. A not guilty verdict could cool impeachment passions.

That would be a grievous mistake. Let’s be clear: The governor should be forced from office even if he’s found not guilty of photographing a half-naked woman who has accused Greitens of physically and mentally abusing her. Those credible allegations were disgraceful enough.

Add to that the damning findings of a special House investigative committee last week concerning Greitens’ alleged theft of a donor list from The Mission Continues, the charity he founded for veterans. This state has seen enough, and its citizens have been forced to endure more than enough. Greitens, who has ignored numerous requests for him to resign, can’t go soon enough.

Missouri stands at a pivotal moment, one that demands accountability. The state can continue to drift with its discredited governor. Or the General Assembly can take decisive and needed action and protect the state’s future. Lawmakers can’t lose their nerve now.

In moments like this, guidance from the state’s senior Republican establishment would help. But so far, former Sens. John Ashcroft and Kit Bond have stood silent. Former Sen. Jack Danforth has ties to Greitens’ defense team and is precluded from discussing the matter. Sen. Roy Blunt has repeatedly declined to weigh in on whether the governor should resign.

“There is a process designed to deal with these issues,” Blunt said.

That’s not helpful. And it’s not how leaders respond in moments of crisis.

If Greitens refuses to do the right thing, Missouri must rally to remove its unfit governor. Only then can the state push forward to a new day.


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 6

President Donald Trump has had some trouble with his promise to “end the war on beautiful, clean coal.” Coal companies are doing well, but only about 600 of the 42,000 miners who lost their jobs between 2012 and 2016 have gone back to work, government statistics show. Trump has falsely claimed that 45,000 mining jobs have been restored.

Lying didn’t work, so now the administration is considering direct taxpayer subsidies to the coal industry, and possibly the nuclear power industry. Bloomberg News reports the president may invoke the Defense Production Act of 1950, declaring that national security requires nationalizing the energy industry. Here’s an idea that tree-hugging liberals and free-market conservatives can all hate.

The Defense Production Act was passed in 1950, at the outset of the Korean War, to give the president permission to seize vital industries in wartime - something presidents had done without permission during both world wars.

The act has been invoked several times since 1950 for short-term emergencies. During the oil crisis that followed the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-80, the act was amended to include “energy” as a “strategic and critical material.”

But the United States isn’t at war today, not in any sense that would disrupt energy supplies. Thanks to shale oil and gas, and to the growing use of wind and solar power, the nation has a surplus of generating capacity. As older coal-fired and nuclear generating stations are taken out of service, new gas-fired plants and alternative energy sources have more than replaced their capacity.

So if Trump were to declare that national security requires that taxpayers prop up coal-fired plants, coal mines and older nuclear stations, it would be for political reasons, not because of any threat to national security. Indeed, the opposite is the case. The Pentagon says that global warming - to which atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning coal is a major contributor - is a major security concern.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., whose state has lost 8,000 coal mining jobs since 2008, has urged Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act. At times of peak demand, Manchin argues, “coal-fired and nuclear power plants continue to do a lot of the heavy lifting.”

Again, peak demand is usually caused by extreme weather, which owes a lot to global warming.

Trump’s policies may not be helping miners, but they’ve been good for shareholders and executives of coal companies, including Peabody Energy Co. of St. Louis, which is buying back stock. Its chief executive, Glenn Kellow, was paid $20.6 million in 2017, having guided the company through a lucrative bankruptcy. He hardly needs a taxpayer bailout.

Coal is not in trouble because of government regulation but because of environmental and economic factors inherent in the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Any bailout would be money up in smoke.


The Joplin Globe, May 5

Americans are increasingly paying for health care not once, not twice, but three times.

It has to stop.

They pay for public-sector health care, which many in the private sector can’t use, so they also pay for private insurance. But more and more, we learn that it won’t cover some major medical expenses. So they have to pay for health care out of their own pocket.

That we pay for two systems in our country - public and private - is the way we have agreed to do things to make sure the poor, the elderly and the least among us can get medical treatment.

Fair enough.

That we are paying for it a third time - that’s when it is time for lawmakers to intervene.

One recent example of this triple whammy is attempts by large insurers such as Anthem to deny payment for emergency room care that was ultimately determined not to be an emergency. In other words, if you thought you were having a heart attack, but it turns out you weren’t after running expensive tests, well … better luck next time. Oh, and here’s a bill for thousands of dollars.

Both Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, Missouri’s U.S. senators, also have promised to look into the staggering bills some Missourians are receiving because insurance will not always cover air ambulance transports.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has been telling the stories of these people, such as that of Ben Millheim, who fell during a camping trip in 2016. He was having seizures and bleeding from the brain and was airlifted 100 miles to St. Louis.

He is now fine, but because the air ambulance was out of network, the family got a $32,000 bill and have exhausted all appeals to Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“The whole reason for having insurance is to cover this type of stuff,” the dad said.

McCaskill said she also wants to know why the cost of air ambulance coverage in the country has doubled in the past four years, from around $15,000 to $30,000 per transport.

Please understand that we are grateful for the lifesaving work these teams do, but patients need help.

“This financial burden being placed on insured consumers appears to be driven in large part by the inability or unwillingness of some private health insurance providers and air ambulance providers to agree on terms for reimbursement,” McCaskill noted in a letter last week to nine health insurance and air ambulance companies. “While the importance of robust air ambulance service for patients in emergency situations cannot be overstated, particularly for patients in rural communities, the costs for these services are rising at an alarming rate.”

“No family should be financially devastated by a medical emergency,” Blunt told the St. Louis paper in an email.

Let’s hope they can help.

Missourians who already are paying for public-sector coverage and private insurance shouldn’t get slammed again.

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