Some of our readers really get the fact that when state Republicans try to bring their small-government rhetoric to life there can be a real impact on the quality of life in Missouri.  Take, for instance, this comment on an earlier post by Michael Bersin:

I believe that the progressive community ought to be paying attention to the fact that Missouri lost about $133,000,000 in Federal unemployment money because the bill we passed this last session was did not comply with Federal law.

This is a serious matter not only to the families of the unemployed people who need the money but to the entire state economy; 133 million not being chicken feed.

There is a remedy.  The Governor could call us into special session to rectify the problem.  I believe that he should and believe that we can get the job done right.

In any event, it is a subject that is right on topic for your wonderful blog.

Chris Kelly

What Kelly is talking about is the fact that our Republican state legislators refuse to modernize the Missouri laws that determine who is eligible for unemployment benefits (more background here). Without such changes, Missouri cannot meet the federal requirements for the stimulus funds. The ostensible reason Republicans won’t act is more of the same tired, old anti-tax bunkum: when the stimulus funds run out, they claim, funding the expanded benefits would need to be picked up by the state:

“We do not think that we should be held hostage by the federal government,” said Rep. Kevin Wilson, R-District 130. “We made a commitment to not having a lasting tax on small businesses just so we can get short-term benefits.”

Of course, if giving those in need survival funds, which are almost guaranteed to be immediately spent, put that money back in circulation it might have a beneficial effect on tax receipts as well as creating demand — and jobs — so that when the federal funds dry up, the expanded benefits would be no problem at all. Consider this fact:

One dollar put towards unemployment benefits contributes about $2.15 to economic growth.

Sounds like it might just be a smart thing to do to help insure that those small businesses Republicans worry so much about can actually stay in operation.

Others have also noted that if the legislators were doing their job, they would reform the entire tax structure which is seriously in need of updating.  See for instance the Missouri Budget Project Report, issued December 2008, which, along with a call to modernize our tax structure, recommends that we “extend unemployment benefits, enhance food stamps and other supports”.

Finally, just ask yourself what keeping taxes really, really low has done for Missouri when you look at the big picture.  It is true that business taxes in Missouri are down there on the floor:

Missouri has one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, boasting the 48th lowest business tax burden per worker, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

And what have these low taxes done for us?  Many measures of economic well-being over the past few years don’t look that good.  For instance, between 2001 and 2007, the state’s median income decreased $5,432, and unemployment has been high relative to other states for a long time.  In 2005, when national unemployment was at its lowest point since 2001, 31 states had lower unemployment rates than Missouri; in July of this year, Missouri had more unemployed than 38 other states.

This decline took place during the heyday of Republican stewardship — the same guys that are watching out for our tax dollar so diligently that they can throw away $133,000,000 without blinking. Maybe somebody ought to tell them that low taxes are not all that is required to attract business. — Governor Nixon, perhaps, through the medium of a special session as Mr. Kelly suggests?