The Missouri Senate, catering to the pique manifested by many religious bigots in the wake of the Supreme Court’s thumbs up for gay marriage, have passed on to the House a joint resolution, SJR39 (pdf), that would allow the aforesaid bigots to discriminate in the public business sphere anytime their oh-so-tender consciences are aroused by LBGT folks who want wedding-related – and, potentially other – services. If the resolution is also passed by the House, it will go on to the ballot in November, giving majority heterosexual Missourians the option to modify the state’s constitution so that so-called Christians will have the right to discriminate against a minority in the name of their religion, thus besmirching both the state’s Constitution and Christianity.
The potential for economic blowback has so alarmed the business committee that they are imploring the House to either alter SJR39 or let it die. In the words of the head of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce:
“You can’t ignore the economic backlash that has occurred in other states considering this type of legislation,” chamber President and CEO Dan Mehan said in a statement. “We do not want that in Missouri.”
The Chamber has good reason to believe that freedom to discriminate in the name of religion would hurt the Missouri economy. Indiana is still trying to undo the damage done to its economy after the passage of a similar bill. Estimates are that it will cost Indiana $2 million in public relations spending to undo the damage.
Nevertheless, Missouri’s GOP just doesn’t get it – or just doesn’t care:
. . . Republican sponsor Sen. Bob Onder, of Lake Saint Louis, said, “They seem to be making this general claim that somehow SJR 39 would be bad for the Missouri economy. They’re making that statement without any proof at all.”
Kind of makes you think that Onder doesn’t understand how proof works. But sadly, denial seems to be the way Republicans work when it comes to the gap between reality and their preferred ideologies. Take , for instance, Sam Brownback’s Kansas economic “experiment”:
… . Like the budget plans of every Republican presidential candidate, Brownback’s “real live experiment” proceeded from the hypothesis that tax cuts for the wealthy are such a boon to economic growth, they actually end up paying for themselves (so long as you kick the undeserving poor out of their welfare hammocks). The Koch-backed Kansas Policy Institute predicted that Brownback’s 2013 tax plan would generate $323 million in new revenue. During its first full year in operation, the plan produced a $688 million loss. Meanwhile, Kansas’s job growth actually trailed that of its neighboring states. With that nearly $700 million deficit, the state had bought itself a 1.1 percent increase in jobs, just below Missouri’s 1.5 percent and Colorado’s 3.3.
Those numbers have hardly improved in the intervening years. In 2015, job growth in Kansas was a mere 0.1 percent, even as the nation’s economy grew 1.9 percent. Brownback pledged to bring 100,000* new jobs to the state in his second term; as of January, he has brought 700. What’s more, personal income growth slowed dramatically since the tax cuts went into effect. Between 2010 and 2012, Kansas saw income growth of 6.1 percent, good for 12th in the nation; from 2013 to 2015, that rate was 3.6 percent, good for 41st.
Meanwhile, revenue shortfalls have devastated the state’s public sector along with its most vulnerable citizens. Since Brownback’s inauguration, 1,414 Kansans with disabilities have been thrown off Medicaid. In 2015, six school districts in the state were forced to end their years early for lack of funding. Cuts to health and human services are expected to cause 65 preventable deaths this year in Sedgwick County alone. In February, tax receipts came in $53 million below estimates; Brownback immediately cut $17 million from the state’s university system. …
Kansas is actually losing jobs this year, instead of adding the vast numbers of jobs predicted by Brownback and his GOP legislative pals. The story is similar in Louisiana where ex-Governor Bobby Jindal implemented the same GOP endorsed “supply-side” experiment and ended up trashing the state’s economy. Nor are results that great in other states where Republican governors hold sway.
As Paul Waldman notes, “The trouble is that we’ve been testing their [i.e. Republican’s] theory for some time now, and it isn’t holding up well.” But all this evidence doesn’t stop Missouri Republicans from singing the same old song: Tax cuts and more tax cuts. Missouri GOPers have quite seriously proposed to address crumbling infrastructure, an underfunded educational system, and abysmal social services by cutting revenue. Isn’t it time for us to remind lawmakers like Onder that the proof really is in the pudding (or, rather, the multiple puddings). You can’t just cover your eyes and ears and pretend that the elephant in the room isn’t really sick.
There are any number of areas where these folks seem incapable of separating what is from what they want it to be. And much of the time, it ends up costing their constituents tax dollars with no return (drug testing welfare recipients, for example) or diminishing the quality of life in the state (gun violence). Which leaves us with the question: just who thinks Missouri’s Republicans are fit to make decisions that affect our lives and our pocketbooks? Apart from big campaign donors like Rex Sinquefield, that is, along with others who stand to gain from our pain – although I doubt many of them would go to bat for SJR39.