Hey, Missouri citizen. When you woke up this morning and gulped your orange juice, did you obsess about United Nations resolution Agenda 21?
No? Well, you’d better believe your Missouri legislators did. Committees in the House and Senate have OK’d bills that forbid state and local governments from making any land use decisions that might be traced back to the non-binding 1992 environmental resolution.
It may look like a harmless list of suggested ways for communities to conserve natural resources, but none other than Glenn Beck has pronounced it a “global scheme that has the potential to wipe out freedoms of all U.S. citizens.”
Whew! How did a threat like this travel under the radar for 20 years? Fortunately for Kansans, their Legislature passed a proactive resolution aimed at foiling Agenda 21 domination last session.
Increasingly, this is what state lawmakers in these parts do best. They seize a cause from some out-of-state think tank or interest group or nut case movement and impose it on their constituents.
The fixation by tea party legislators with Agenda 21 mostly just wastes time. It’s rather unlikely that any Missouri communities are eyeing “policy recommendations that infringe on private property rights without due process and are traceable to Agenda 21,” as the proposed legislation describes.
But other agendas are much more harmful.
Take the push to lower the state income tax, which is in full throttle in Kansas and picking up steam in Missouri. This drive didn’t come from local business communities. Many local chambers of commerce have publicly opposed income tax cuts, which decimate state services and will likely have to be offset with sales tax increases.
The income tax abolition movement started with the flamboyant Arthur Laffer, who is one-third economist and two-thirds salesman. He found a home for his controversial theories in the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, a group funded by corporate interests and free-market advocates. It holds great sway over Republican legislators around the country.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, whose political career has been entwined with small-government, free-market believers like the Koch brothers of Wichita, is a believer in Laffer and his no-income-tax gospel. Huge Republican majorities in both the Kansas and Missouri legislatures mean there are plenty of lawmakers to crusade for the cause, even though the supposed gains in job growth are hypothetical.
Another example: Legislators in Missouri and Kansas have spent hours debating bills intended to weaken unions.
Why? Most public- and-private sector unions in these states aren’t known for making trouble. In both states, many public-sector employees represented by unions barely earn liveable wages.
There’s been no outcry from businesses begging the legislatures to clip the wings of unions. No, the pressure comes from outside groups. Republican legislators are willing to poison relationships and demean their states’ teachers, public safety workers and others in order to please their out-of-state bosses.
These include the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and National Tax Limitation Committee, both of which sent operatives to Jefferson City this session to fire up Republican lawmakers. Some of the language in the anti-union bills in Missouri and Kansas is strikingly similar to model bills drafted by ALEC.
There are still plenty of serious lawmakers in Missouri and Kansas who work hard to promote the interests of their constituents and their communities. I’m always relieved to see that a newly elected legislator has served on a school board or city council; they are more apt to realize that ideology must sometimes yield to reality.
Increasingly, though, hard-working public servants are being shoved aside in favor of candidates with the right tea party and tax-hating credentials. Their loyalty is to causes, not constituents. But their causes will pay handsomely to see that they remain in office.
U.N. resolution Agenda 21 poses no threat to the people of Missouri and Kansas. The same cannot be said of the anti-tax, anti-worker, anti-government agendas being pursued by malleable legislators.