The Power of One

Any one of us can make a difference.  If you ever doubt that, remember two words: Mel Hancock.

He died Sunday at his Springfield home.  He was 82.

In the late 1970s this burglar alarm salesman—actually that’s kind of a dismissive description; he founded a company that sold bank security equipment–became convinced government spending needed to be brought under control.  He started a grass roots movement that put an issue on the ballot limiting state government income and voters approved it in 1980.  It took years for the courts to determine exactly what the amendment meant.

He tried to make things even tighter about fifteen years later and in doing so he pushed Governor Carnahan and the Farm Bureau to put an alternative plan before voters limiting tax increases without a public vote.  It passed, too.

Mel Hancock was a one-man Tea Party whose tax control efforts landed him in Congress for eight years where he struggled to convince others to adopt his philosophy.  He once voted against a bill containing almost three billion dollars for disaster relief even though some of the money would go to his district.  But it meant the federal deficit would be increased and Hancock wasn’t having any of that.

Thirty years after its passage, the Hancock Amendment is still cursed by those who believe it has forever relegated Missouri to a lower tier of states in terms of services to citizens.  Others are just as passionate in describing Hancock’s amendment as a blessing that forces government to set priorities instead of setting higher tax rates, and protecting local taxpayers from being forced to pay for local services the state has ordered local governments to provide.

Some people take to the streets and shout slogans.

Mel Hancock seldom shouted–although his deep Ozarky voice rose sometimes with passion, often followed by a hearty laugh.

Mel Hancock was one person. And he did make a difference.

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