Jefferson City News-Tribune, Nov. 15
We agree with Gov. Mike Parson and the Missouri Legislature’s attempts to plug federal aid into the state budget to fight a pandemic that’s spinning out of control.
The amount of money being added, $1.2 billion, isn’t too little. But is it too late?
Last Wednesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Missouri broke a “litany of records on Tuesday for COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.”
Hospitalizations have more than doubled since July to more than 2,000 patients. As of this writing, the state has seen more than 3,300 deaths.
Of the $1.2 billion being budgeted, the vast majority is coming from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and must be spent by Dec. 30. About $12 million will come from the state’s general revenue fund.
The biggest chunk of the funding, about $140 million, will go to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to ramp up testing and contact tracing, reporting and other related expenses.
Much of the rest will go toward social welfare programs.
One problem with the relief package is that the federal government is giving us - and other states - money it doesn’t have.
So what’s another $1 billion or so when the country’s debt already tops $26 trillion?
The late U.S. Sen. Everett McKinley reportedly cautioned federal spending had a way of getting out of control, saying, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”
That was before he died in 1969 when the federal debt was measured in billions (it was roughly one-third of a trillion).
These are unprecedented times, with little questioning about unprecedented spending.
No doubt, the money will help. But if the federal aid was forthcoming earlier, why are we waiting until now?
Some experts have predicted the worst is yet to come this winter, but the virus will start to dissipate early in 2021.
So, while much good still can be done with the money, it seems to us the biggest bang for the buck would have been to use it to further ramp up testing and contact tracing earlier. Perhaps we wouldn’t be in the dire straits we’re in now.
So let’s put the money to good use, and do so quickly.
The Kansas City Star, Nov. 15
How odd that some of the biggest “Back the Blue” supporters pay no attention at all to police when it comes to a subject they happen to know a lot about: guns. Somehow, the same people who like to say that “Blue Lives Matter” and that violence would be curbed if only law enforcement had more resources also tend to disregard everything police have to say about keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
A new Star investigation into gun violence, and specifically domestic violence, details how fatally that scourge plays out in Springfield, Missouri, the 11th most violent city in the country. Springfield is also the domestic violence capital of a state that’s second only to Alaska for its per-capita rate of men killing women. And women whose abusers have access to a gun are five times more likely to be murdered.
Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams, who is highly focused on and forward thinking in his approach to intimate partner violence, sees a direct link between the spike in all kinds of violence and the relaxation of gun laws in Missouri in recent years.
In 2016, as president of the Missouri Police Chiefs Association, he and the association he headed strongly opposed the passage of the Missouri law that tossed out the concealed carry permitting requirement. “We had something that worked really well, and responsible gun owners know the value and danger of a firearm. We should do safety training and background checks,” Williams told The Star.
As he said in an interview with The Star Editorial Board, “We had a really good concealed carry statute, and we did away with that. And we’ve seen a proliferation” of all kinds of violent crime in the years since “that’s somewhat tied to that. What I’ve seen is people turn to using a firearm to settle problems” a lot more automatically since the law changed. His police organization “fought that long and hard, but I don’t see us going back.”
Though Williams is probably right, there’s no reason that it has to be that way. The only thing precluding commonsense curbs is political squeamishness about doing anything to limit gun ownership. Asked about red flag laws that would take guns away from domestic abusers, Williams said, “removing the possibility of a firearm from a domestic violence situation can have nothing but a positive effect.”
When Missouri Gov. Mike Parson was asked about red flag laws earlier this year, he said, “The red flag laws, and whatever the definition of a red flag law is, I haven’t been supportive of that. I don’t even know what the definition of that is, and I don’t think a lot of people know. The bottom line, I’ve been pretty clear. When it comes to law-abiding citizens, I’m going to protect the Second Amendment. Period.”
Domestic abusers are not law-abiding citizens, though, even if they aren’t often prosecuted until the charge is homicide. Protecting lives is important, too, isn’t it?
As a Springfield police officer told Janice Thompson when she called to report yet another violation of her protective order, “Ma’am, until there’s a chalk outline around your body, we aren’t going to do anything.”
Which is ugly, but all too often accurate. As that comment makes obvious, more police training is needed, too, even in places such as Springfield, where they’ve been teaching victim-focused, trauma-informed handling of domestic violence cases for years.
But police do know better than anyone other than victims themselves that lives would be saved by taking guns away from those with a history of domestic violence. If more Missouri lawmakers and Gov. Parson listened to them, they’d know that taking guns away from abusers is no threat to the Second Amendment.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 16
As the pandemic worsens and coronavirus cases surge in Missouri, pleas from overworked and increasingly overwhelmed medical professionals continue to fall on the deaf ears of Gov. Mike Parson. Like President Donald Trump, Parson continues to view the coronavirus through the prism of politics, discussing mask mandates in terms of liberty instead of the life-saving tools in a once-in-a-century global health crisis that they are.
“The wolf is at the door,” warned Herb Kuhn, president and chief executive of the Missouri Hospital Association, in a letter to Parson on Friday. “Missouri’s hospitals urge you to issue a statewide masking mandate.”
Kuhn was echoing pleas from the head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, Dr. Alex Garza, who was even more direct: “We’re at war. And right here, right now, the virus is winning.”
Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of Americans support a nationwide mask mandate. It is only a vocal, mostly right-wing fringe element that stands in opposition, fueled by a lame-duck president who denies science as well as his own election loss. To date, Parson has sided with the fringe over science and has denied the requests of doctors and hospital administrators, leaving Missouri’s mayors and county executives to fill the leadership void and take the political blowback that Parson is avoiding.
The state requires citizens to do any number of things for the common good, from wearing seat belts and having car insurance to abiding by posted speed limits. This ill-timed philosophical debate over the perceived authoritarianism of mask mandates has real-life ramifications. Hospitals are filling up. Medical staffs are overwhelmed. Elective surgeries are being postponed. And people will start dying at higher rates. Unnecessarily.
The “personal responsibility” political shield Parson has hid behind is the governor’s way of running from his own responsibility. With Thanksgiving just days away, thousands of unknowingly infected Missourians will sit down, unmasked, with close family members. Health professionals are bracing for the disaster that will follow, which is why they are begging Parson to show leadership before it’s too late.
Masks alone aren’t a cure-all. But political resistance to even this most simple of solutions is one of the reasons America leads the world in coronavirus cases and deaths.
The nation’s physical and economic health depend on leadership at the state and national levels. Parson must not wait until it’s too late, and the numbers no longer allow him to deny the science. He must not wait until local leaders have no choice but to close more businesses and schools to ease the load on overwhelmed hospitals and cause even more economic harm.
Parson can swallow his pride and listen to the medical professionals. He can demonstrate the political courage to do what is right in order to save lives and the economy. History will judge whether he embraced his personal responsibility as governor or ran from it.
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