Happy Halloween, in September!
The recent report by the National Bureau of Economic Research-that the “great recession ended in June 2009”-would be funny, if they weren’t so painfully false. Missouri continues to suffer the impact of fewer jobs and higher unemployment. Layoffs this summer at Boeing reflect changes in defense spending, while more-recent layoffs at ISS Facility Services Inc., a janitorial service, indicate companies are still cutting back on external services.
Higher unemployment means fewer taxable dollars, which in turn means declining municipal revenue. For East St. Louis, Illinois (part of the metropolitan St. Louis area) that has meant a 30% cut in police staff. For a city already plagued by crime, this situation is ripe for an escalation of violent activity-as greater need drives some to take greater risks in the face of diminished enforcement.
Mayor Alvin Parks said that “the weak economy has robbed the city of badly needed money,” (St. Louis Post Dispatch, July 2010). Others suggest it is unchecked local, state, and federal governments which have robbed people of money-expanding already-unsustainable budgets during the ’04-’06 high property-tax years.
Mission Control, We Have a Problem!
The good news is that mass layoffs across Missouri fell in August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But fewer layoffs do not mean more jobs-just that the bloodletting among employers has slowed. Elementary and Secondary schools saw the highest levels of unemployment in August, however; a further indication that municipalities continue to feel the deep impact of economic duress.
Help from Washington, even if desired-which it is not-appears unlikely. Consider the negative impact of the Obama Tax Plan on the state of Missouri, as reflected in these charts by the Heritage Foundation. If current tax cuts are allowed to expire at the end of 2010, as President Obama desires, the results would be a loss of 13,694 jobs annually with household income declining by $4,825 (The Heritage Foundation).
From Washington to Missouri…without the Love.
These very real and pressing issues serve as the backdrop to the November 2 elections. But will these elections effect any real change for the Show-Me State? In a state Senate race, Roy Blunt (R) is running against Robin Carnahan (D) on the platform of a “promise to listen,” and a fight for jobs…but Blunt’s proposed solutions are lacking in concreteness and specificity.
For her part, Carnahan doesn’t offer any alternative. She’s all for “protecting consumers…businesses, and investors.” That begs the question-when did people cease being people? Not consumers or investors, just people? Carnahan has done her best to discredit Blunt over his role in the 2008 Wall-Street Bailout-but it was her own party which led the charge in passing that bill through the Democratic-led Senate.
This November, There is Nothing New Under the Sun
At the end of the day, there is very little that Blunt, Carnahan, or any of the nine U.S. Representatives elected (or re-elected, as the case might be) can do. As long as the prospect of reelection is certain, the impetus for change by politicians is absent. And as long as individual power, personal advancement, and public approval drive decisions in Washington or in St. Louis-the will of individuals to lead is simply not there.
In many ways, The U.S. is still living out of the vacuous shell of the twentieth-century, when “the political politician would inherit the earth” (Paul Johnson, Modern Times). When that day finally comes to an end-it is uncertain whether justice and “right-wiseness” will prevail or not. Either way, the truth will be played out on the streets of St. Louis and across the rest of Missouri long before any government agency bothers to issue a report.
Joel Hathaway lives in St. Louis, MO. He holds a BA in English Literature with minor emphases in Art and Creative Writing. He lives online at www.joelhathaway.com.