The Washington Missourian, Nov. 23
Before military cuts ... an answer
Our top military commanders are discussing cuts in pay and benefits for our servicemen and -women. The Pentagon's budget doesn't have the money to continue with its status quo in spending and is looking at what can be done to live within its anticipated revenue.
There have been published reports that an agreement has been reached by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to curb the growth of pay and benefits for housing, education and health. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the cost of military personnel would rise to 60 percent of the defense budget. The general said we don't pay or provide for our military enough, but "we have an institution to manage."
He is in the same situation that many leaders of public entities are in — trying to manage with the same amount or declining revenue, while operating costs are up.
Most Americans would agree that we should do more for our military. The pay and benefits have improved over the years, but to continue the growth in those areas can't be done unless more revenue is available.
An initial thought is, why not cut our foreign aid 10 percent or more, and use the funds saved for our defense budget? We must take care of our own needs first. They must be given the top priority. When did you hear last from a member of Congress calling for a general cut in foreign aid? The aid goes on and on!
We should do what we can in humanitarian aid to foreign countries where it is needed the most. But we can't neglect our military and defense programs — not in this dangerous world.
The Joplin Globe, Nov. 22
Why we remember Kennedy
John F. Kennedy, 50 years after his assassination, continues to hold the attention of Americans, many of whom were grade-schoolers on the day he died.
Why is it that we continue our fascination, our devotion or our conspiracy theories about the 35th president of the United States, how he lived and how he died?
The Kennedy family itself was a study of history. The Irish Catholic Kennedy family was bigger than life and commanded the limelight.
Kennedy's assassination and the decades of investigations, hearings and interviews have failed, at least in some people's minds, to answer the question of whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone when he shot the president. That question, along with a long list of conspiracy theories, has held the nation's attention, at least to some extent.
But if on this 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, you are looking for his legacy to this nation, we offer you the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
When he became president, blacks throughout the South were still being denied the right to vote and were barred from restaurants and restrooms alike.
Change was certainly on its way with or without Kennedy.
But in June of 1963 when Alabama Gov. George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door to prevent two black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama, Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard.
What followed was a defining moment of the civil rights crisis.
In August of 1963, more than 200,000 Americans celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation with the March on Washington. Soon after the march, Kennedy sent a bill to Congress that became the 1964 Civil Rights Act, one of the most important pieces of legislation to come about as a result of his presidency.
In remembering this president, we should look beyond the Hollywood hype.
He changed our nation in a way that made it a better place for all to live.
The Springfield News-Leader, Nov. 20
Push Medicaid expansion
At least one Republican state legislator isn't afraid of Obamacare.
State Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, deserves credit for creative thinking about expanding Medicaid eligibility in Missouri.
Now all he has to do is persuade his colleagues to go along.
During last spring's legislative session, Barnes made a genuine and serious effort to develop a Missouri alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, and Democrats in the General Assembly, indicated a willingness to discuss options.
But Barnes withdrew his proposal in the waning days of the session, blaming the Missouri Senate for not having the "stomach to pick up a Medicaid transformation bill this year."
That was unfortunate, although politically understandable given all of the energy state Republicans have put into opposing meaningful health care reform that would dramatically expand the availability of insurance.
Earlier this month, Barnes presented a new analysis to the House Interim Committee on Medicaid Transformation, which he chairs. His plan involves several steps, including:
—Adding about 225,000 adults to Medicaid rolls by expanding eligibility to all who are at or below the poverty level.
—Helping another 82,000 adults — those making between 100 percent and 138 percent of poverty — buy private insurance through the federally run insurance marketplace.
Missouri would actually save money — gaining $42 million in general revenue by the 2021 fiscal year, according to Barnes' analysis. The gain is due in part to the federal government picking up most of the tab for the expansion — but other gains would come from added income taxes and sales taxes paid by the additional people who would be employed in health care systems around the state.
As we have said repeatedly, Missouri would be wise to look to Arkansas as a model for taking advantage of the federal government's financial assistance with Medicaid while finding a results-based alternative that has more flexibility and encourages people to make better health care choices.
Other typically "red" states also have developed their own plans for Medicaid reform, customized to fit their needs.
We encourage others to join Barnes in the effort to expand coverage for the uninsured.
Missourians deserve better, more affordable, health care — and the bonus is that it will generate an overall increase in state revenues.
The Kansas City Star, Nov. 20
Missouri should stop state-sanctioned killing
Of the many reasons to oppose the death penalty, the simplest and most compelling is that it is morally wrong for the state to take a human life.
That was the case just after 6 a.m. Wednesday, when Missouri executed Joseph Paul Franklin, a paranoid schizophrenic who hated blacks and Jews. He was convicted of killing eight persons around the country between 1977 and 1980, including Gerald Gordon in a sniper shooting outside a St. Louis synagogue.
And it will be the case if Missouri carries out its scheduled Dec. 11 execution of Allen Nicklasson, known as the "Good Samaritan killer" because he murdered a man who stopped to help him after his car broke down.
Both men committed horrible acts and deserved to live out their lives in prison. But executions do nothing to cure mental illness, prevent brokenness in human beings or make the public any safer. They are acts of state-sanctioned vengeance, and they are wrong.
That belief — held by growing numbers of people — is what forced Missouri to conceal important information about the identity of the compounding pharmacy that prepared the dose of pentobarbital used to kill Franklin. The company was listed as a member of the execution team, which by state law is granted anonymity.
For good reason, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly unwilling to be partners in executions. The European Union is boycotting the use of drugs manufactured there for the purpose of killing inmates.
Pentobarbital's manufacturer, Akorn Inc. of Illinois, won't authorize its product to be used for executions. But the drug can be mixed in small doses by a pharmacy that prepares specialty medicines. These places, compounding pharmacies, are unregulated and controversial. Some have been responsible for outbreaks of illness. In Kansas City, former pharmacist Robert Courtney is in prison for diluting chemotherapy medications.
A bill calling for more regulation of compounding pharmacies has recently cleared Congress. But it does nothing to stop the businesses from preparing execution drugs.
Missouri is on shaky ground here, enlisting an unnamed pharmacy to mix a drug normally used to euthanize animals and injecting that drug into the veins of a condemned man. The secrecy and the act itself are wrong.
Studies have consistently shown the death penalty is costly, used disproportionately against minorities, and risky as an irreversible outcome of a flawed criminal justice system. Missouri legislators should end it in favor of strict life sentences for those who commit the most heinous crimes.