Thursday, March 22, 2012
Sinquefield: It is time that I got my money's worth
If you don't believe that, take a look at the legislation that is being pushed through the Missouri General Assembly and the proposed constitutional amendments that have been submitted.
As usual, there is an attack on Missouri public schools. Efforts are being made to use the dire situation in the Kansas City School District to open the door for vouchers to private schools.
Jane Cunningham, who is leading the voucher movement in the Senate, and Rep. Scott Dieckhaus have once again sponsored bills which would eliminate teacher tenure, replacing it with a merit pay system that would be based primarily on the scores from poorly written standardized tests. (Not to mention the cost that would occur since only math and reading are tested at the present time.)
Both Mrs. Cunningham and Dieckhaus have received major infusions of Sinquefield cash.
Sinquefield is also behind a constitutional amendment to remove teacher tenure.
But the biggest move the retired billionaire is making is his effort to eliminate Missouri's income tax and replace it with an "everything" tax, a sales tax that would not only cause more harm for those with lower incomes, but would make life easier for those who exist in Sinquefield's rarefied atmosphere.
If there is anyone who doesn't believe that money is having a negative effect on politics, take a look at the priorities of our legislature.
At a time when our state is low on money and the future is not looking bright, we are taking seriously an everything tax that would cut money right and left from vital programs, including our public school systems.
As hard as it is to believe, our legislators understand that the Everything Tax is a nightmare waiting to happen.
Some of them simply don't care.
Several weeks ago, I was talking to a couple of Joplin area businessmen about the Everything Tax. One of them told me about talking to a state representative and asking him why he was in favor of the proposal.
"He told me he knew it wouldn't work, but the (Republican) party leadership wanted it because if they didn't support it, they would lose a lot of money from that guy in St. Louis." The businessman was, of course, referring to Rex Sinquefield.
I received the same message from someone close to another Joplin-area legislator. "(He's) not sure which way to go on this," the source told me. "Sinquefield is saying he's tired of spending all of the money he is spending and not getting any results."
For so many years, we have heard politicians saying there is no quid pro quo involved in campaign contributions. I have had one after another tell me the special interests give them money because they agree on the issues. Obviously, that is not what motivates Rex Sinquefield, and I have a hard time believing that the motives of other special interests are that pure either.
Sinquefield's money may not have achieved lasting results to this point, but it has allowed one man to buy the agenda for the state legislature. The evidence is indisputable. Despite the lip service our elected representatives have given the last few years to jobs being the primary emphasis, we have instead been bogged down with educational vouchers, anti-union measures, eliminating the income tax, and one attack after another on public schools- all items that are high on Rex Sinquefield's agenda, but far down the list of priorities for the average Missourian.
During the past few years, our legislators have scrapped the limits on campaign contributions that were wisely put into place by voters, replacing them with a Wild West system in which the bully with the biggest gun and the most willingness to use it, Sinquefield, has the power
Is it any wonder that Sinquefield has poured more than $175,000 into the campaign account of Speaker of the House Steve Tilley, the man who controls which legislation is discussed in that chamber? His other targets have been the chairmen of key committees that handle his pet bills.
The time for meaningful ethics legislation not only has arrived, it is years past due. When one man, unanswerable to the people, has that much power, then we all have reason to fear.