DAVID ROSMAN: Returning state surplus to citizens makes poor fiscal sense

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:48 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Between budget cuts, layoffs and an improving economy, Missouri’s budget surplus may be as much as $400 million. Give the citizens their money back. Yeah, that’s the ticket to make Missouri legislators look like heroes.

So it goes as one listens to the commercials voiced by Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.

That appears to be at odds with state Rep. Rick Stream, R-St. Louis, Missouri’s House Budget Committee chairman.

As a fiscal conservative, he, too, would like to give the money back to the people: “But sometimes, you also have to spend money on big capital improvements to move the state forward.”

Thus the conservatives are once again fighting to see how conservative one can be.

Missouri is not the only state struggling with a few extra bucks, but eyes are focused here on what our legislators will do during their not-so-special session come September.

A bad idea

It is unfortunate that the “Give it Back” movement has the money, thus the voices, to make one think that returning money to the citizens is a good idea.

It is not.

Consider these three facts about small fiscal windfalls for citizens:

  1.  It is expensive to write all of those checks. Even if the state could return the majority of the money electronically (all cheer for technology!), the cost of returning the funds is wasting the very good money that is being designated for the citizens.
  2.  Low- and lower-middle-income families will not spend their money on new material goods. Most will spend the few extra bucks paying past-due bills, purchasing medication or food or, if the timing is right, buying clothes for their children in school.
  3.  There will be no new jobs. The money will not stimulate the economy, and it will not create jobs, as the fiscal conservatives believe. To do that, the money must be put to work, repairing the damage caused by past budget shortfalls.

Let’s use the money to repair our infrastructure. Missouri is the crossroads of the United States; we are the truly the middle of Middle America. With six interstates in the state and close to a dozen major federal highways crisscrossing, commerce is dependent on Missouri to maintain the byways.

Better options

Let’s use the money to bolster education. The state has woefully underfunded K-12 for years, tapping into education to balance budgets and placing additional burdens on local school districts. Buildings need repair, teaching materials need to be replaced and revised. Instead of using the crayons to write me a check, let’s give them to the kids to learn math, science and the arts.

Let’s use the money to reinvigorate the Missouri’s Second Injury Fund, which providing funding for those with pre-existing injuries or disabilities aggravated further through new work-related injuries. Yes, the governor just signed a bill that would “shore up” the fund, but as more men and women go back to work, the fund will once again be challenged.

Let’s use the money to help those in need to pay for health care. Wait. Our conservative legislature hates the idea of Obamacare so much that its members tried to make it illegal in Missouri, and they rejected the extension of Medicaid for millions of Missourians in need.

No cure-all  

This list continues, but $400 million can only go so far, and it will not cure all of Missouri’s ills. But spending money to return money does not make a whole lot of sense.

It makes about as much sense as SB 253, which would have reduced state income taxes only to have them replaced by a sales tax. Doing the math, the sales tax would cost the lower- and lower-middle-income citizens more than they would save.

Taxes are an easy target, but they are a poor target if a state wishes to advance. It seems that our state Chamber of Commerce has forgotten the basic adage of all business: You gotta spend money to make money.

Giving money away can make you a short-term hero, but if the mission of the chamber is to “protect and advance Missouri business,” giving away money does neither.

I urge you to write your state representatives and senators and demand that they think with their heads and not their wallets. Use the surplus to put and keep Missourians at work, not make false heroes of legislators.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. 

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Richard Saunders July 24, 2013 | 11:00 a.m.

Never mind that taxation is theft, and is thus wholly immoral as well as unethical.

Nope, just pretend that mob rule is a valid replacement for social harmony while complaining about the inevitable collapse it causes.

And how only ever more crime can be the cure to all of our social evils.

Other than pure apathy, I don't understand how evil-do(good)ers can function, as to any ordinary person, the cognitive dissonance would simply be overwhelming.

I guess that's why political passion is called "Hopium."

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield July 24, 2013 | 11:54 a.m.

Impressive. One minute you're asking for donations, and the next you're putting your money where your mouth is -- literally and figuratively -- by advocating that the state keep more of what you earn.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders July 24, 2013 | 1:09 p.m.

Lew Rockwell has written an excellent article on the anti-human evil that Mr. Rosman is advocating.

Perhaps Mr. Rosman might stop taking certain things for granted so that he might see how his belief system is failing him, as well as society as a whole? Or, he can remain firmly rooted in his beliefs, with my criticism serving only to "strengthen his resolve" as he unwittingly carries water for the professional criminal class that do nothing but to destroy as they steal.

(Report Comment)
David Rosman July 24, 2013 | 3:07 p.m.

Perhaps, Mr. Saunders, you would stop repeating yourself and understand that immoral and unethical are the same thing. And if taxes are so immoral, then how do you expect to pay for the police, fire protection, repair of roads, education of your children, and this list goes on.

I would rather have the excess taxes used to assist others that have $100 in my pocket for less then 30-seconds while I pay another medical bill.

Mr. Buffett, you certainly can afford to donate to my personal cause, but this column has nothing to do with me, it has to do with the citizens of Missouri.

It is so unfortunate that you both and others of your ilk are so selfish, so self-centered that you cannot see past your own nose. But I digress.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield July 24, 2013 | 4:46 p.m.

Of course this column has to do with you. The thesis is, "Please take more of my money so I'm capable of doing even less for myself." How's that workin' out for ya?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 24, 2013 | 5:18 p.m.

Rosman: "...and understand that immoral and unethical are the same thing."

No....they are not.

You've repeated this mistake before, many times.

Ethics is a determination of right and wrong. That determination is generally an individual effort, but we also make laws as a society that reflects our collective ethics.

Morality is whether or not you follow your ethics.

If you believe something is right (your "ethic"), but you act (your morality) contrary to that belief, then you are immoral. If you act in support of that belief, then you are moral.

A determination of "ethic" comes first; what comes next determines the state of your "morality". An "ethic" is a belief; "morality" is an action.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 24, 2013 | 5:28 p.m.

Since the money is already there, it seems rational not to return it, thus saving the cost associated with doing so.

Under no circumstances should any of the funds be applied to NEW programs or initiatives! Seems somebody always wants to do that. Such programs or initiatives weren't present when the funds were collected, so why should they qualify?

Those who consistently dislike and endlessly complain about the actions of the Missouri legislature are reminded that in Missouri, as in other states, the legislature's members are elected by the people.

I need a new dictionary (both cloth bound and on line): According to my sources, "immoral" and "unethical" do NOT have the same meaning. On the other hand, I don't have the advantages of a liberal arts education and must struggle to make do with the pitiful education I received as an engineer.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 24, 2013 | 5:43 p.m.

"It is so unfortunate that you both and others of your ilk are so selfish, so self-centered that you cannot see past your own nose."

It is also unfortunate that your missive (and response above) is an accurate reflection of nanny-state mentality. For example, you don't want that $100 back in your hands to pay a medical bill...a bill for which YOU are responsible; you'd rather a government (i.e., others) pay it for you.

You stated that returned money "will not stimulate the will not create jobs, [and] the money must be put to work'" You fail to understand that when YOU pay that medical bill, that money goes to SOMEONE who doesn't store it under a mattress. They spend it or put it in a bank so YOU can borrow the same money and buy something you want or need. Besides, if money (ANY money) will not stimulate an economy and jobs, why have it at all? Your statement is absurd.

You fail to understand commerce and you fail to understand the velocity of money and how often a dollar changing hands generates a taxable event.

As for the "selfish" part, although I'm retired, JimmyB is not. He has stated many times that he pays LOTS of taxes. It is quite probable he is responsible for many folks....his employees and their addition to his support for folks like you and your medical bills. In his efforts, he's risking it all....just like I did when I had my business.

Is he "selfish"? Perhaps, by your definition because you are an advocate of the nanny state. Folks who "want" something often accuse reluctant givers of selfishness, but I maintain that the person doing the "asking" might be more at risk of selfishness than the potential giver, ESPECIALLY if the recipient is of sound mind and body and has made chronic poor life decisions.

JimmyB selfish?

Not hardly.


The jury is still out but I'm taking bets........

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 24, 2013 | 7:43 p.m.

Michael, Richard, Jimmy:

We need to remember that it is incredibly easy and apparently very satisfying to be generous WITH OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY.

When I encounter such folks I often wonder how well they have their own house in order. They must be doing a super job; otherwise, how would they have so much time to suggest what the rest of us should or shouldn't do.

On the other hand, I sometimes find myself looking forward to the Wednesday Missourian. I suspect I may not be alone.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams July 25, 2013 | 6:50 a.m.

Ellis: Odd that the Missourian has removed the "Recent Comments" section of its opening webpage. There is now no clue about who is commenting on what. The newspaper seems hell-bent on reducing comments to a mere dribble.

I would think the effort would be in the opposite direction, but apparently not....

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 25, 2013 | 7:51 a.m.


Your 5:43pm discussion is a worthy one.

Since I may be covered under "others," I'd like to briefly note that I spent most of my career as an employee (four American corporations); at age 65 I took retirement and went into business for myself - for 10 years. I had no employees, eliminating much federally-inspired paperwork.

[Some engineers have done the same thing for NO remuneration - expenses only. I have known two who did and enjoyed it. I take the tack that if the client is charged for services there's a tendency to pay closer attention. :)]

I received both remuneration (taxable) and expenses (not taxable) - for each individual job. I didn't advertize nor did I need to, as all jobs came from those I'd worked with while in corporate America. I worked no jobs in the United States (only Canada and Latin America). My office was the third bedroom of my Columbia condo.

However, even under those conditions I had one serious expense: liability insurance. A person doing consulting who does not carry liability insurance is an idiot: he/she could lose much of his/her net worth in a law suit.

I could probably still be working, but Im getting too old to be running around in ceramic factories and steel mills. I must confess that I sometimes miss doing that.

Since I didn't need the money I made during the final 10 years (to age 75), I donated part of it to my alma mater. Why them and not a worthy recipient of someone else's choosing? Because it is MY money, and I have no interest in someone telling me to whom it should be given! Mind your own business.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 25, 2013 | 8:03 a.m.


Yes, I think we've all noticed the absence of part of the Missourian's home page (right hand column). I trust it will be restored in due time. :)

Do we expect to see something from George Kennedy this week?

(Report Comment)

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