Campaign rhetoric – Chapter 1

From time to time in the months ahead we might pause to examine some of the buzz phrases that fall effortlessly from the mouths of those who want our votes. They amount to bumper sticker campaigning and often are intended to strike an emotional chord that might or might not be valid if the voter really thinks about it. Of course, that’s what bumper sticker politics hopes to avoid.

We begin with a phrase that we often hear in the legislature and on the campaign trail alike:

“The people know better how to spend their money than the government does.”

Let’s test that idea with a reader participation test. You can send us your answers by responding at the end of this entry. You have to log on to do it but we promise not to sic any politicians, merchants, special interest groups, or purveyors of various salves, creams, and herbs onto you if you take part in this little test.

Let’s assume that you don’t have to pay income taxes. There are some people who think we should ban income taxes in Missouri anyway. So this exercise might be more relevant in that climate.

We’re going to go through The Missouri Roster, a publication of the Secretary of State that lists state agencies, divisions, commissions, boards, etc., and we’re going to list many of them (we can’t list all of them because we’d never get this note posted and you’d spend more time than you want to spend doing this).

We want you to pretend that once a year you sit down with your checkbook and you write a check to any of these agencies or institutions that you think deserve some of your money. Tell us how much PER PERSON IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD you would send to each of these entities–becasue, after all, YOU know better how to spend your money than the government does.
How much would you give:

  1. Office of Administration (Division of Accounting, Division of Budget and Planning, Division of Facilities Management, Design, and Construction, Administrative Hearing Commission, Children’s Trust Fund, Governor’s Council on Disability, Missouri Ethics Commission, Office of Child Advocate)
  2. Department of Agriculture (State Milk Board, Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority, Missouri Wine and Grape Board, State Entomologist, State Grain Inspection Program)
  3. Department of Corrections (Division of Human Safety–including Employee Health and Safety, Religious/Spiritual Programming, Volunteer Services, and Planning, Division of Offender Rehabilitation Services, Division of Adult Institutions, Board of Probation and Parole)
  4. Department of Economic Development (Division of Business and Community Services, Missouri Arts Council, Division of Tourism, Division of Workforce Development, Office of Public Counsel)
  5. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Division of School Improvement, Division of Career Education, Division of Teacher Quality and Urban Education, Division of Special Education, Division of Vocational Education, State Schools for the Severely Disabled, Missouri School for the Blind, Missouri School for the Deaf)
  6. Department of Health and Senior Services (Special Investigative Unit, State Public Health Laboratory, District Health Offices–there are 5, Center for Emergency Response and Terrorism, Division of Community and Public Health, Division of Regulation and Licensure, Division of Senior and Disability Services.
  7. Department of Higher Education (State Anatomical Board, University of Missouri system, Colleges and Universities–there are ten 4-year schools, Community Colleges–there are twenty 2-year schools, Two-year Technical college–there is one)
  8. Department of Insurance, Financial Regulations, and Professional Registration (Consumer Affairs Division, -Division of Insurance Solvency and Company Regulation, Division of Insurance Market Regulation, Division of Finance, Division of Credit Unions, Licensing Agencies–there are 40 regulated occupations)
  9. Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (Division of Employment Security, Division of Labor Standards, Division of Worker’s Compensation, Missouri Commission on Human Rights, State Board of Mediation)
  10. Department of Mental Health (Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Advisory Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Division of Comprehensive Psychiatric Services, Hospital systems—the state maintains 11 hospitals for treatments of various mental disorders, Advisory Council on Comprehensive Psychiatric Services, Division of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, Habilitation Centers–the state has 8 of them, Regional Centers–12 of them)
  11. Department of Natural Resources (Soil and Water Conservation Program, Soil and Water District Commission, Dan and Reservoir Safety Council, Environmental Improvement and Energy Resources Authority, Division of Environmental Quality, Air Conservation Commission, Clean Water Commission, Hazardous Waste Management Commission, Land Reclamation Commission, Safe Drinking Water Commission, Division of Geology and Land Survey)
  12. Department of Public Safety (State Veterans Commission, Missouri Veterans’ Homes, Veterans’ Cemeteries, Division of Alcohol and Tobaco Control, Division of Fire Safety, Adjutant General (National Guard), State Emergency Management Agency, Highway and Water Patrol)
  13. Department of Revenue (Taxation division–there are plenty of other taxes left, Motor Vehicle and Driver Licensing)
  14. Department of Social Services (Children’s Division, Family Support Division, Mo Healthnet Division (Medicaid), Division of Youth Services)

Whew! And that’s just part of the list. We haven’t asked you how much you would write a check for to each of all of these divisions within departments although you are welcome to tell us. We didn’t include Conservation and Transportation Departments because they are largely funded by special sales or use taxes. If you’d like to tell us how much in sales taxes you’d like to pay to support these agencies, please do. And we didn’t list scads of other divisions and boards and commissions.

So get a big cup of coffee and tell us how smart you could be with YOUR MONEY. And as you do this exercise, ask yourself if this is a hassle you’d want to go through every year or if it’s something you’d rather hire somebody to do for you, namely the people you elect as your Representatives and Senators.

But let us know how you’d spend your money because if we listen to the campaign rhetoric you know how to do it better than the people you elect do.

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