August 13, 2013

586 words 3 mins read

What Can Missouri Legislators Learn From 19th Century St. Louis Politicians?

I’ll let one of my favorite thinkers, St. Louis native Don Peppers, tell about St. Louis in 1850:

My hometown of St. Louis, Missouri was the largest city west of the Mississippi River in 1850, and the second largest port city in the entire country. Only New York handled more tonnage than the riverboats that docked, often more than a hundred at a time, at the St. Louis levee. Among other things, the riverboats supplied equipment, people, horses, and other materials to a burgeoning population of pioneers who rode wagon trains out from St. Louis, pushing westward.

With America expanding west and the Industrial Age springing to life, you’d think St. Louis would become a world-class city and the center of everything in the Midwest.

But that didn’t happen. Somehow, St. Louis became a second-tier city and Chicgo—a much younger town—dominates the middle of America.

Why, Don. Why?

About this time, a variety of railroads began trying to build their own networks to the West, but the St. Louis city government refused to grant the permits required for constructing railroad bridges across the river at their location, even though St. Louis was the logical choice and would have been a perfect place for a rail hub. Apparently, the politicians in St. Louis felt their duty was to protect the riverboat industry, at that time their life and blood, from any and all competition.

Politicians picking winners and loser.

Only politician suck at picking winners and losers. Look at how many Republican politicians pulled their groins in the race to endorse Mitt Romney.

So the railroads turned to Chicago, building immense rail facilities and attracting the businesses that drove Chicago to become one of the fastest growing cities in the entire world throughout the rest of the 1800’s. Today Chicago is the third largest city in the US, almost ten times as big as St. Louis, which still calls itself (ironically) “the Gateway to the West.” St. Louis was indeed a gateway once, but of course in its effort to prolong and protect the status quo, it turned itself into the “Roadblock to the West,” instead.

Missouri’s politicians still like to pick favorites. Some, under pressure from the Missouri Hospital Association and other industry lobbying rackets, want to pave the way for Obamacare by passing Medicaid expansion in Missouri. Missouri–the state the interrupted Obamacare with Prop C in 2010.

Politicians love picking winners and losers.

A couple of years ago, a state rep from St. Louis County called me a “yay-hoo” for opposing the first attempt at healthcare exchanges in Missouri. It happened at the national convention of Pachyderms in St. Charles.

“We worked so hard,” she told someone about five feet from me. “It was probably the best bill I’ve ever worked on. But these yay-hoos don’t understand the complexities of insurance.”

That’s right. A Republican legislator telling people the people are too stupid to understand insurance. I’m sure she endorsed Romney, too.

That’s I filled out a testimony form from Ron Calzone’s awesome legislative testimony machine. Generic Witness Form:Witness form link for Medicaid

You should, too. Now. Unless you think politicians are the best people to pick winners and losers. After all, they picked steamboats over railroads and China Hub over existing businesses. They routinely give your tax dollars to Walmart to build supercenters in otherwise pleasant suburban cities.

Fill out the form. You shouldn’t have to, but your country needs you.

And tell me about your experience at The After Party Thursday at Hacienda.