Sunday, June 26, 2005


Missourians bludgeoned by a Blunt

We're coming up on the first six months of Matt Blunt's occupancy of the Governor's Mansion here in Missouri, and I'm not impressed. Not that I thought I would be. The guy is 34 years old, for crying out loud, younger than I am. I've got dead plants on my front porch because I can't remember to water them, and this guy is the chief executive of a midsized state. The very thought frightens me.

And look at the guy. You can just bet he was one of those weasly College Republican types about 12 years back. Surely you remember them from your own varsity days, wearing suits and power ties to weekly meetings, pretending to be junior Trumps or at least weak imitations of Alex P. Keaton, discussing the brilliance of supply-side economics and swiping Clinton election signs out of people's yards.

So you say those are really dumb reasons to dislike the guy? OK, you're right. Instead, let me provide you a list of 10 good reasons why you shouldn't like Matt Blunt, Boy Governor. If you're not from Missouri, read on anyway. Matt Blunt represents the effort to spread Bush's extremist anti-people agenda down to the state and even local level. Take for example:

1) Blunt ran for governor while serving as secretary of state, the overseer of elections in Missouri. Not shy at all of the potential conflict of interest, Blunt spent $48,000 in taxpayer money to put ads in newspapers urging folks to vote. With his name in big letters on the ads appearing on election day, he essentially gave himself free advertising, courtesy of you the taxpayer. He also blocked early voting in St. Louis, a Democratic stronghold, and ruled that overseas military personnel (who typically vote Republican) could e-mail(!) their votes.

2) In choosing Dale Finke as director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Blunt appointed a screening panel of industry insiders to interview Finke prior to the appointment. Although one of Finke's primary jobs is as a protector of us the consumer, no consumer advocacy representatives were invited to serve of the panel. The panel was made up of a registered lobbyist for the Missouri State Medical Association, an insurance agent, a Blue Cross-Blue Shield executive, a registered lobbyist for the American Family Insurance Group and a physician. At least three of the parties represented on the panel were Blunt contributors and one served on his election campaign.
Jay Angoff, insurance director under the late Gov. Mel Carnahan, told the Columbia Daily Tribune that he'd never heard of a watchdog candidate prescreened by the industry he would be charged to regulate. "I think it's shockingly inappropriate," he said.

3) If there's any question about what kind of insurance director this industry-friendly prescreening gets us, consider what happened in April. Finke, once named Missouri Insurance Man of the Year, went to court to stop Secretary of State Robin Carnahan from yanking the securities trading license from insurer Waddell & Reed for its improper sale of annuities that basically cheated its customers. Finke was successful in having W&D's license restored. By the way, representing W&R were attorneys Andy and Amy Blunt, brother and sister of our governor.

4) Speaking of insurance, Blunt named an insurance defense attorney as director of the state's Labor and Industrial Relations Board. As a partner in the Kansas City office of Evans and Dixon, which mainly defends businesses against workers' and crime victims' compensation claims. His primary job as labor director is to represent the public interest in such cases. Conflict? Hmmm.

5) This Friday, 100,000 Missourians will lose their Medicaid benefits as one of the more extreme measures in Blunt's austere budget. The hatchet job cuts off folks from such necessities as dental care, podiatry, rehabilitation services and even prosthetic devices. The same legislative Republicans who voted for this budget slashing measure apparently saw nothing wrong with continuing themselves to receive taxpayer-financed healthcare benefits. Although Blunt said this move amounted to a tough choice made during tough times, apparently there was enough money to buy two new SUVs for the governor's family and pay for a $117,000 redecoration job on his personal offices.
Click below to read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's list of the "Shameless 20" who voted to cut off Medicaid to thousands of their constituents but have continued to accept healthcare benefits from the taxpayer:

6) One person who will be noticibly absent Friday when all those people are tossed off the Medicaid rolls is Blunt's social service's director, Gary Sherman. Sherman started his tenure March 7 by immediately taking a five-month leave of absence. Either that or he has an 825-mile daily commute to Jefferson City from Laramie, Wyo., where he's teaching at the University of Wyoming. Blunt assures us that Sherman will get to work August 7. In the meantime, Sherman has been collecting a $103,000 salary for a job he isn't doing. I guess there' s no rush. Providing social services isn't exactly Blunt's greatest priority.

7) In an ironic twist, Blunt signed a law this past Friday that in his office's words "improve's Missouri's First Steps program." The program provides aid to children with developmental disabilities like mental retardation and autism so they can be addressed when children are young and have the best chance for improvement. What makes this ironic is that the bill directs families to apply for Medicaid, which Blunt of course says is strapped for cash.

8) Blunt fired the state's official consumer advocate John Coffman after Coffman did his job by criticizing Blunt's and the legislative Republicans' agenda as anti-consumer. Coffman said he was given no reason for his termination and Blunt's people refuse to discuss it. Coffman's firing followed his protests over two specific pet bills of Blunt's before the General Assembly, one that would relax phone company regulations and another making it easier for public utilities to impose rate hikes. Coffman was replaced by regulatory law judge Lewis Mills Jr. The Associated Press reported, "Blunt spokesman Spence Jackson said Mills was better equipped to advance Blunt's goal of creating an entrepreneurial climate in Missouri."
You know what that means, don't you? It means screw the consumer. Why does aiding entrepreneurship always have to be win-lose game to conservatives? They win. We lose.

9) During last year's campaign, opponent Claire McCaskill pledged to initiate a drug-importation program to make inexpensive prescriptions from Canada available to Missourians. Blunt expressed interest and promised to "study" the issue. As you might suspect, the study apparently has been sucked down the black hole where studies seem to always go and hasn't been heard from since Election Day. I contacted the governor's office to check on the status of this alleged study and still await a reply. Whether I ever hear anything remains questionable. After all, I'm only a resident and taxpayer of this state, not a six-figure contributor.

10) Blunt's attack on the state's budget included axing monthly child support payments for adoptive parents, a $250 monthly payment first approved to encourage foster parents to adopt children who might have otherwise bounced through the system year after year. So much for family values, huh?

So there you go, 10 reasons I don't like Matt Blunt, Boy Governor. Let me say, I really don't think he's an evil, rotten, horrible person. Probably, he's nice enough. And let me say, I wasn't a big fan of Blunt's Democratic predecessor, who was often whiny and petulant and used school funding as a means to get back at Republicans in the Legislature. Although Blunt sometimes plays hard and fast with the public trust, I think he's really one of those well-meaning conservatives who really thinks he's doing the right thing for Missouri.

But it's so clear whose side he's on. I don't think it's ours. And with all this I've discussed and only six months down, what do the next 3 1/2 years have in store?

Mail call

A writer is outraged that I would dare quote some of the outrageous, mean-spirited things Republicans choose to say. The writer especially takes issue with my quoting Karl Rove's own words. The writer responds:

You say, hatefulness and divisiveness, I say, truth. Is it hateful to tell the truth? I didn't see any "hatfull" attitude. While you're bringing up "hatefulness and divisiveness," don't forgot Senator Dick Durbin's quote (what conservatives have really been talking about - not Howard Dean) How on earth can the party of Dick Durbin, Teddy Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, and Michael Moore even mention anyone else as hatefull and devisive? Y'all wrote the book. Here's Durbin's quote:

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings."

Actually, I think Lee Atwater and Rush Limbaugh wrote the book. As I recall, conservatives were gleeful in their acceptance and even embrace of these cheap rhetorical tactics. It was conservatives who turned talk radio into a all-day attack machine which continues today. As for Dick Durbin, his comments were extremely poor. As I've stated before, liberals need to quit throwing around words like gulag and Nazi. They merely detract from any truth they are trying to impart and give the Dick Cheneys and Donald Rumsfelds of the world an opportune vehicle to deflect criticism and further obfuscate. As I've also stated Howard Dean apologized for his comments and Dick Durbin's tearful apology was about as unequivocal and eloquent as an apology can be. Meanwhile, Karl Rove refuses to accept responsibility for his mean-spirited and gross mischaracterization of Move On's resolution presented in the wake of 9/11.

If conservatives really are God's chosen as they so brazenly claim, I wonder when some of them plan to start acting like it.

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