The Associated Press
St. Joseph News-Press, Dec. 7
Cool bistate tensions
Two governors, two political parties, one border. It’s natural to expect conflict, right?
Perhaps, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it or approve of it.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback appeared insensitive when he didn’t consult with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon before reviving this 30-year-old big idea: tapping the Missouri River at White Cloud and building a 360-mile aqueduct to carry life-supporting water to dry western Kansas.
Gov. Nixon, in turn, responded too harshly to this suggestion by dismissing it out of hand as “ill-advised” — not just the idea, but even the notion of Kansas studying the project at a cost of $300,000 to be shared by Kansas and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
This followed, by two weeks, Gov. Nixon’s big speech in Kansas City on the need for a moratorium on offering tax incentives to entice companies to move across the Missouri-Kansas state line. Kansas officials who had been working on this issue behind the scenes were caught off guard, and said so.
If this is a high-stakes version of tit-for-tat, we’re not well served. The two governors reside on different ends of the political spectrum and in states with significantly different challenges. But if relations were functioning as they should, neither of these recent dustups would have occurred.
Citizens should expect both governors to do more to keep the lines of communication open. We think they also need to appreciate their two states are forever closely linked and they should proceed as though they are close allies, not feuding neighbors.
Concerning the river, Kansas is entitled to consider all of its options when it comes to providing water to its drought-prone regions. Gov. Brownback, in fact, campaigned on water policy and already has won support for conservation measures and steps to extend the life of the important Ogallala Aquifer.
The Kansas Aqueduct Project would employ a series of lift stations and canals that would carry water past Perry Lake, through the Flint Hills and into western Kansas. It would be a multibillion-dollar project that would take years, if not decades, to accomplish.
All seven states through which the Missouri River passes or forms a border should be concerned about how this project might affect management of the river. But while there is cause to be apprehensive, a scientific study that examines the important issues should be welcomed, not discouraged.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 6
New university chancellor faces serious funding challenges
In July, Brady Deaton and R. Bowen Loftin were among 165 university chancellors and presidents representing all 50 states to address a letter to President Barack Obama and Congress asking that our national leaders improve funding to institutions of higher learning.
On Thursday, Mr. Loftin, formerly the president of Texas A&M University, was named the new chancellor of the University of Missouri in Columbia. He replaces Mr. Deaton, who had been chancellor since 2004.
The letter signed by Mssrs. Deaton and Loftin urges Congress to undo the harmful effects of the sequestration cuts, specifically in terms of its damage to research and development. It further pointed out that the U.S., once the world’s leader in higher education research, was in danger of falling behind other nations, creating what the university leaders call an “innovation deficit.”
“Our nation’s role as the world’s innovation leader is in serious jeopardy,” the university leaders wrote. “The combination of eroding federal investments in research and higher education, additional cuts due to sequestration, and the enormous resources other nations are pouring into these areas is creating a new kind of deficit for the United States: an innovation deficit.”
Here’s what the university leaders are talking about:
While U.S. investment in university research has stayed stagnant or, in some areas, declined, other countries are pouring huge percentages of their gross domestic product into research.
For example: Nine nations spend more on research and development as a percentage of overall government spending.
Between 2000 and 2008, research spending increased by 250 percent in South Korea and 330 percent in China. U.S. spending on research increased only 45 percent during that time, and as a percentage of the overall budget actually decreased. …
As Mr. Loftin takes the reins at the state’s flagship land-grant university, he knows all of this.
Here’s what he also needs to know:
The problem is just as bad, or worse, when it comes to state funding. No matter how you define state support for higher education — per capita, per income, as a percentage of state budget — Missouri ranks near the bottom in every category.
In the same way as national funding has declined, state support for higher education has dropped as a percentage of state funding for two decades now. That means students and parents are bearing an increasingly higher burden of overall university costs. …
The Kansas City Star, Dec, 6
Low wages hurt lives
Fast-food workers and their supporters braved sub-freezing temperatures in Kansas City on Thursday to join a nationwide protest against unfair pay.
The day before, President Barack Obama addressed the issue as part of a speech on income inequality.
“We know that there are airport workers, and fast-food workers, and nurse assistants, and retail salespeople who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty,” he said. “That’s why it’s well past the time to raise a minimum wage that in real terms right now is below where it was when Harry Truman was in office.”
This focus on unlivable wages, barriers to upward mobility and income inequality is exactly on point. The nation needs to do more to help workers. Too many Americans are unemployed, worried about losing their jobs or working low-wage jobs and struggling to make ends meet.
No economy will thrive under those conditions. And the burden on government will be more, not less. A Congress that won’t work together on policies to ensure fair pay for workers should not seem so aghast when many of those workers end up on food stamps.
As the president noted in his speech, the top 10 percent income level in America takes home half of the nation’s pay. The average CEO makes 273 times more than the average worker. A child born in the bottom 20 percent income bracket has less than a one-in-20 chance of climbing to the top.
Here’s news that should embarrass and alarm every American: A child born in Canada, France, Germany or a number of other wealthy nations has a better shot at upward mobility than a child born into poverty in America. That’s a shameful departure from our history as a land of opportunity.
We need better pay, better education and tax policies that enable government to invest in people. We need a lot of things. A boost in the minimum wage — widely supported by most Americans — would be a great place to begin.
The Joplin Globe, Dec. 4
Legislators playing it safe
Adding an amendment to a 25-year-old law that prohibits firearms that could evade a metal detector should not become a national debate.
But it would appear that a common-sense amendment to close a loophole is going to create a lot of political posturing that, in our view, is unnecessary.
The House on Tuesday voted to renew the Undetectable Firearms Act for another 10 years as it is written now. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill Monday after returning from its Thanksgiving break. That vote will come the day before the act expires. So quick action is necessary, and that will likely be the reason this law gets renewed without an amendment that would strengthen it.
Because of new technology, guns can now be made out of plastic. Some Senate Democrats want to amend the act so that all guns must have at least one piece of metal in them so they can be detected in places such as airports and federal buildings.
According to The Associated Press, the NRA issued a statement before Tuesday’s vote that it opposes any expansion of the law, including applying it “to magazines, gun parts or the development of new technologies.”
With that said, legislators who normally would have done the right thing are jumping for cover.
Technology hasn’t stood still for the past 25 years. Law enforcement officials have warned for years that the day would come when undetectable plastic guns could be produced.
Some legislators, Republican and Democrat alike, want the old law passed without the amendment, largely because they are worried it will be seen as an attempt at gun control rather than what it is: a measure meant to protect the public. They are more worried about being re-elected than doing what’s right.
We are all for discussions on how to make this act better. We doubt that will happen.