The Jefferson City News-Tribune, June 28
An exchange this past week between Gov. Mike Parson and a reporter over the coronavirus has highlighted the divide between liberals and conservatives over the role of governing.
“Do you feel any personal responsibility for the people who have been infected and don’t recover after you chose to reopen the state?” a KOMU reporter asked the governor.
The question alone split liberals, who cheered the reporter for asking a tough question, and conservatives, who viewed the question as a biased cheap shot, another example of liberal media.
Parson responded: “I don’t even know where you come up with that question of personal responsibility as governor of the state of Missouri when you’re talking about a virus. That’s no different than the flu virus, or do I feel guilty because we have car accidents and people die every day. No, I don’t feel guilty about that. Each person that gets in that situation, things happen like that in life. They do. I could say the same thing for the media. Maybe you don’t do a good enough job really telling people the facts. Do you feel responsible for that?”
The governor was obviously, and understandably, frustrated by the question. After all, he’s trying to walk a fine line between keeping us safe and keeping us employed.
The Democrat Party was quick to pounce. In a statement, Missouri Democratic Party spokesperson Kevin Donohoe said: “The governor’s refusal to take any responsibility for the state’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his decision to compare COVID-19 deaths to the flu and car crashes is deeply offensive and represents a stunning lack of compassion. Parson has insulted the 966 Missourians who have lost their lives to this pandemic. The governor needs to immediately apologize for his callous and offensive comments.”
What if the tables were turned? What if we had a Democrat governor who opted against reopening the state? Perhaps a conservative-oriented question from the media would be: “Do you feel any personal responsibility for shutting down the economy, which has ruined careers, businesses and lives?”
After all, if Missourians can’t work, we can’t earn a living. If we can’t earn a living, we can’t put food on our families’ tables.
Parson’s handling of the pandemic hasn’t been perfect, and our state government needs to continue to do more to protect its residents from the virus. But, all in all, Parson is doing his best to manage a pandemic that, in many ways, is a no-win situation.
For that, he owes no apology. As for personal responsibility, it’s not something we can abdicate to government. Ultimately, each of us must decide the best course forward for ourselves and our families.
The Kansas City Star, June 29
The attorneys general in Missouri and Kansas are continuing their pointless campaign to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act — in the middle of a pandemic that has claimed more than 1,200 lives in the two states.
Eric Schmitt of Missouri and Derek Schmidt of Kansas both signed a Supreme Court brief insisting the entire act, also known as Obamacare, must fall. That includes protections for patients with pre-existing conditions, leaving young adults on parents’ policies, even nutritional information at some restaurants.
Because Congress set the tax penalty for not having insurance at $0, the brief says the entire ACA must collapse. Kansas and Missouri are two of 18 states arguing against the law.
It isn’t clear why. Are residents in either state clamoring for an end to the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic? Save for a few on the very fringe, the answer is no. Most Kansans and Missourians have come to accept the ACA and rely on the benefits it provides.
In fact, in less than six weeks, Missouri voters will decide whether the state should expand the ACA’s benefits by offering Medicaid to an additional 300,000 residents. We’re confident they’ll do so because it’s the right thing to do.
If Schmitt’s view prevails, on the other hand, Medicaid expansion will be in jeopardy. So will existing insurance for more than 185,000 Missourians who now use ACA tax credits to buy coverage on an exchange. Almost 75,000 low-income Kansans would be similarly affected.
But it’s even worse than that. The ACA now says insurance companies must cover patients with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure or heart disease. That protection will go away if the law dies.
There is growing evidence that patients recovering from COVID-19 can suffer long-term health issues related to the disease — compromised lungs, brain damage, heart and kidney dysfunction. Without mandated coverage for pre-existing conditions, recovered coronavirus patients might be denied insurance, perhaps for decades.
That, apparently, is what Derek Schmidt and Eric Schmitt want.
They’ll deny that, of course. Both have said in recent months that Congress will “revisit” pre-existing conditions coverage if the Affordable Care Act is struck down. How? Republicans have had a decade to explain how they might provide that protection. We’re still waiting.
While filled with misinformation, the Supreme Court brief does provide a moment or two of clarity. At the end of the filing, the anti-ACA states ask the court to strike down the law in every state — not just in those that have signed on to the lawsuit.
Why? Because limiting the remedy “would force citizens of (those) states to heavily subsidize other states with their general tax dollars,” the brief says.
Wow. That’s exactly what Kansans and Missourians do now, of course: They subsidize states that have expanded Medicaid, while getting no benefits in return. We must remember to thank Schmitt and Schmidt for explaining how wrong that is.
Critics claim the two attorneys general want to end the Affordable Care Act for personal political reasons. Even as politics, though, the crusade seems wrong: Obamacare has never been more popular, and health care may be the most important issue in government for years to come.
And both men are wasting money. Missouri and Kansas are slashing their budgets, while the offices of their attorneys general pursue this silly crusade.
Derek Schmidt of Kansas and Eric Schmitt of Missouri are wrong to pursue this case: wrong on the facts, the law, logic, politics, and the needs of hundreds of thousands of people who live in their states.
They should drop the case.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 29
What could Mayor Lyda Krewson possibly have been thinking? On Friday, during a Facebook Live event, Krewson read names and addresses of people who’d called for St. Louis to “defund the police.” This newspaper has disagreed with such calls, but that’s not the point. It’s never acceptable for the city’s elected leader to publicly subject individual citizens to potential intimidation or retaliation for practicing their constitutionally protected right to seek redress of grievances from their government.
Krewson’s apology didn’t go far enough. She must explain more fully why she did this, and she should consider sitting down in person with the people whose addresses she publicized.
A video of Krewson’s remarks, made in her office, has since been deleted from the mayor’s official Facebook page, but it survives elsewhere online with the protesters’ names and addresses silenced out. In the video, Krewson recounts meeting demonstrators outside City Hall in what she said “wasn’t really a two-way conversation” because of “a very loud response from the demonstrators.”
Then she begins reading, in deadpan fashion, from written papers that some of the demonstrators gave her with their city budget suggestions — most of which include zeroing out police funding.
That isn’t a realistic approach to much-needed police reform, and Krewson says as much in the video. But what was the point of publicly reading off the addresses of those making that controversial suggestion?
Krewson’s move drew national attention and prompted an online petition drive demanding her resignation. She posted an apology “for identifying individuals who presented letters and comment cards to me at City Hall as I was answering a routine question during one of my updates earlier today. While this is public information, never did I intend to cause distress or harm to anyone.”
Yes, letters submitted to the city are public information, but that doesn’t mitigate the recklessness of a mayor specifically citing citizens’ addresses while discussing such an explosive issue.
The potential for violence was aptly demonstrated Sunday, when protesters who gathered outside Krewson’s home demanding her resignation were greeted by a neighboring couple, one of whom brandished a rifle while the other pointed a handgun at the crowd. (Anyone tempted to retort that Krewson’s address is public is missing the differing transparency obligations between elected officials and private citizens.)
These tense, angry times require, more than ever, calm and measured leadership from elected officials. Krewson’s mistake, stunt, brain cramp — whatever it was — failed that test. And her anemic apology failed to fix it.
Resigning over one blow-up with protesters would be an overreaction. But Krewson owes the protesters and public a better explanation. Her tendency to act first and think later is an ongoing source of concern. If she can’t muster the minimal leadership traits required for this job, she should consider forgoing any reelection attempt next year.