Missouri Supreme Court Concocts Duty Out of Thin Air

“I have the right to write for the Missouri Intelligencer.”  This right is founded in natural law and on that basis has been codified in our state constitution.  More generally it’s referred to as Freedom of Speech.   Freedom of speech is just one of the rights that our founders secured for us in our Missouri Constitution.  There are others located in Article I, Bill of Rights.  Many are recognized as natural or organic rights.  Some natural rights, such as the right to move freely about our state or the right to breathe Missouri air, are so basic that they weren’t even reduced to writing.  Your right not to read what I write or listen to my opinions is one of these. Nonetheless these rights exist as natural law, and no just law, written or unwritten, can prevent you from moving or breathing or exercising them, unless you are infringing on the rights of others.

Natural rights confer no responsibility or duty upon anyone else, except not to interfere or infringe upon your rights. In other words, you have a right  to attend church, to assemble peaceably, to negotiate, to contract, and to breathe; but no one else is constitutionally obligated to assemble with you or build a church building and hire a preacher for you, or provide a venue for you in which to assemble peaceably, or enter in a contract with you, or buy you a tank of oxygen. You may try to convince others to join you in these activities or find a willing party with whom to contact for goods and services, but no one has the duty to listen or respond to you. Is this not sound reasoning?

Guess what the Missouri Supreme Court recently said about this reasoning?  On November 20th, the court effectively said in response to my opening paragraph: “The absence of such a duty (requiring others to read) would render meaningless the right (of me to write) under article I (of the Missouri Constitution).  In the reviewed case, Fraternal Orders of Police v. City of Chesterfield and University City Nos. SC91736 and SC91737, the court ruled that municipalities have the duty to negotiate with the exclusive bargaining representative of policemen solely because the Missouri Constitution states, in Article I, Section 29, That employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing. This decision violates the long-standing precedent of Quinn v. Buchanan (298 S.W.2d 417 Mo. banc 1957.) This precedent clearly held that the right of employees to organize does not imply the affirmative duty of a city to bargain collectively. If a public employer chooses to bargain, then the legislature may establish the bargaining framework. In dissent Judge Fischer points out that this framework is a matter for the legislature, not the courts. If courts overrule this precedent, they are infringing on the separation of powers.

This opinion is preposterous and absurd.  I exercise my right to state that the officers of this state have a duty, under their oath, to rectify or ignore the court’s ruling (or power grab.) Out of thin air, which each of us has the right to breathe, the court has concocted a duty where none exists.  Wonder if they will concoct a duty to read my condemnation of their opinion?

Bruce Hillis                                                                                   


Forget Greece – Is Illinois in our future?

A world of hurt for Illinois and lessons for Missouri

Illinois’ state pension system is broken so badly that, as reported November 15 by the AP, a recent memo of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago termed it unfixable. According to the former Attorney General, Tyrone Fahner, the Civic Committee president:

“The pension crisis has grown so severe that it is now unfixable. We do not make that statement lightly. It is an honest statement that no one – not our legislators, nor our governor, nor labor leaders – is willing to say publicly.”

In a detail reported by Reuters but not by the AP, the Committee expressed disappointment that the election resulted in a veto-proof Democrat majority in the state legislature, which will make any reform very difficult.

The current debt or unfunded liability of the five pension plans  is $83, $86, or $96 billion,  depending on the source. To pay current obligations and start to pay down the mountain of debt used for previous obligations, Illinois would have to devote 20% of its general revenue for 2013 and more than 40% for 2020. The state has long raided its required pension contributions for more politically palatable purposes and has granted overly generous “benefit enhancements,” such as very early retirements and double-dipping. In plainer English the pension plans have been mismanaged since the early 1980s by Democrat politicians and a few Me-Too Republicans in bed with the teacher and other public-sector unions. The pension plans of the city of Chicago are in a similarly parlous state.

State mismanagement has created other unfixable fiscal problems. The State Budget Task Force  flatly states that “Illinois’ budget is not fiscally sustainable.” Illinois has “the worst unfunded pension liability of any state.” Medicaid obligations have doubled from 2000 to 2011. With dwindling Federal dollars and an unreformed and stagnant tax revenue base, Illinois has gone over the fiscal cliff and is approaching free fall.

Let’s look at the pension system for school teachers. Teachers contribute 9.4% of their gross pay towards their pensions. Their school districts contribute another 0.58%. The state is obligated to make up any shortfall for current retirees and to make contributions towards fully funding the plan. But TRS pensions were only 46% funded for 2011. The Democrat Governor’s leadership consists of a website using a cartoon character, Squeezy the Pension Python, to outline the predicament. In contrast the TRS Board of Trustees  “no longer has confidence that the State will be able to meet its existing funding obligations” and insists that

“The impact of any proposal…must be determined using generally accepted actuarial principles and not the funding scheme and pension bonds limits currently in Illinois law.”

It is clear that Illinois retirees and taxpayers will inevitably suffer, no matter what reforms are adopted. Recently bankrupt California cities have already cut back on pension benefits. Unfortunately Illinois retirees have not paid into the Federal Social Security program and will not be able to receive any benefits.

There is an alternative to this disaster. In 1981 and 1982 employees of the Texas counties of Galveston, Matagorda, and Brazoria were permitted to opt out of Social Security in favor of a market-based solution called the Alternate Plan . Under this pension plan, assuming 40 years of work:

  • A worker earning $26,00 at retirement would receive $1,826/month instead of Social Security’s $1,007.
  • Another earning $51,200 at retirement would receive $3,600/month versus $1,540.
  • And a high-income worker maxing out Social Security benefits at $2,500/month would instead collect $5,000 to $6,000.

Employees pay 6.2% of their gross with a matching amount from the county. There can be no unfunded liabilities since the county obligation ends with the matching contribution. The worker owns his own account. There are death, survivors, and disability benefits comparable to or better than Social Security’s. Employee contributions are pooled and bid out annually. One of the conditions is that there should be a guaranteed base rate of return, usually 3.75%. The Alternate Plan is an option for all state and local government retirement plans currently outside of Social Security. Illinois and Chicago could switch tomorrow. But then the politicians would have fewer revenues to play with and the unions could not justify their high dues. But current teachers, given that their current cushy benefits are about to shrink,  might prefer, if given the choice:

  • 6.2% out of my salary instead of 9.4%
  • No union dues
  • Retirement benefits 1.8 to 2.5 times higher than Social Security
  • No risk of reduced benefits or political interference
  • No possibility of unfunded liabilities

Illinois taxpayers, also on the hook, might also prefer this system.

The bottom line: real people in Illinois are being hurt by government malfeasance. (Of course these real people also elected the irresponsible politicians promising current benefits, but not mentioning future woe.)

What are the implications for Missouri? Many Illinois businesses will be moving to other states with a friendlier business climate, including Missouri. But Missouri is a forced-union state with a union-friendly Democrat Governor and a cumbersome tax system. Many western Missouri businesses have already moved to the friendlier climes of Kansas and Oklahoma for similar reasons. It is essential that the Missouri Legislature should take advantage of its current veto-proof majority and make Missouri a Right to Work state as its first order of business. Requiring generally accepted actuarial principles for future obligations and gimmick-proof budgeting procedures should quickly follow. A third item for immediate attention is reform of the tax system to produce a steadier and business-friendlier revenue stream in good times and bad. Illinois has provided many good lessons for those who have eyes to see.


Bright ideas from our government


It is well known that our betters in Congress have for environmental reasons promulgated the ukase that the incandescent bulb shall be outlawed in favor of the Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL.) A well placed protest has come to light from Howard Brandston, a retired professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute affiliated with Rensselaer’s world-class Lighting Research Center. Prof. Brandston, a past President of the Illuminating Engineering Society, points out that the CFL is inferior to the incandescent bulb in several ways:

  • negligible energy savings
  • greatly increased cost
  • the presence of mercury, a known pollutant and health hazard
  • the light spectrum of the incandescent bulb is full and resembles natural daylight, while the cold, pale light of the CFL is not close

He decries the fact that the consumer, up against a monopoly, has no choice in the marketplace.

More details are available here.

All this courtesy of governmental illuminati whose wisdom:

  • mandated ethanol in gasoline, a net loss in energy and mileage, causing a significant rise in food prices worldwide
  • refuses to abandon daylight savings time, costing us 1% more in energy than if the clock were left alone
  • gave us toilets with not enough water to flush properly and miserly showerheads
  • decreed carbon dioxide a pollutant (while mandating mercury!)

We cannot wait until the Feds take full control of the insurance and medical segments of our economy. 


George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

…it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor…

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be…

The complete text is available here.

A blessed Thanksgiving season to all.

Update November 21, 2012. In today’s Wall Street Journal (p. A15) Melanie Kirkpatrick gives some insight into what a typical Thanksgiving meal around the time of George Washington might have been like:

Thanksgiving feasts in New England at the time of the nation’s founding were similar to those today, says Charles Lyle, director of the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum in Wethersfield, Conn. The museum recently hosted an 18th-century-style Thanksgiving dinner using recipes supplied by a local food historian, Paul Courchaine. Turkey and pumpkin pie were on the menu, along with venison pie, roast goose, roast pork, butternut squash, creamed onions, pottage of cabbage, onions and leeks, and Indian pudding, made from cornmeal and spices.

In a bow to contemporary tastes, several wines were served at the museum but not the one Americans were likely to have drunk in the 18th century–Madeira, a high-alcohol-content wine fortified with brandy. Before the Revolution, Madeira, which came from the Portuguese-owned Madeira Islands, was considered a patriotic beverage, since it was not subject to British taxation. It was Washington’s favorite drink.



Musings on today’s local news

The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that a nine-year old girl playing in her back yard was grabbed by a would-be kidnapper. He was described as a black man wearing a mask, jacket, and blue jeans. A Highway Patrol canine unit failed to locate the suspect.

The Tribune also reports that a 13-year middle-school student waiting for a school bus was dragged towards the woods in Riverside, a suburb of Kansas City. Cries from others nearby caused him to flee the scene. He was described as Hispanic, in his thirties, 5’8″ tall, with a thin goatee.

Do any of us not believe that these men will attempt future kidnappings and that they will eventually be successful? What would be an appropriate penalty had these men been apprehended?

TV station KOMU, the outlet for the University of Missouri’s journalism school, carried a story about mandatory sentences of life without parole for people convicted of first-degree murder. A recent Federal Supreme Court ruling states that this policy is cruel & unusual punishment when applied to criminals younger than nineteen. The TV coverage centered largely on an interview with one Eddie George. Given the extent of the coverage, one might think he was being portrayed as the victim of an unjust system, not as a vicious mrderer. Sixteen at the time of the premeditated murder in 2006, George now claims he is no longer the same person. But for a previous Supreme Court decision (which reversed an earlier one,) he would likely now reside on death row.

It should not be the business of the US Supreme Court to overrule state law in this manner. Life sentences are far from unusual. Nor are our prison conditions cruel. Far from it. These issues should be left to the states and not federalized by unelected judges. Chronological age is an uncertain guide for serious decisions in cases of horrific murder.

Most journalistic coverage of issues like this one neglects to consider justice, which should be the primary concern. Not someone’s age, murderer or victim, not the prisoner’s possibly having changed for the better, not claims he was created that way. Justice should be served, first and foremost.

Child predators and pedophiles are notorious for indulging their murderous and sadistic sexual fantasies until well into their seventies. Is the death penalty not an appropriate response and just punishment? Would not any other punishment be unjust?

We hope that Mr George is indeed somehow reformed. But it is disingenuous to claim that he is not the same person who wielded the knife on his best friend’s mother. The sentence is just. Should he not simply accept it and work on his own redemption within the penitentiary? He is barely four years away from the trial. Our justice system already has a method for him to gain parole: the Governor has been given that authority precisely to handle cases such as George’s may turn out to be far in the future. Mr George should be grateful that having been spared the death penalty he now has the opportunity to do much good while in prison. The media should bring the concept of justice to the fore in their reporting. Empathy with murderers is very bad form.

Scribblings — the evil we know

Yesterday American voters selected as President the evil they knew over the evil (as defined by Team Obama) they did not. The presidential coattails protected many unworthy Democrat candidates and led to the defeat of many good Republican ones.

Below are a few rapidly scribbled reflections on this disaster.

Our big takeaway is that the Democrats peddled an electorally successful mythology; the Republicans had nothing comparable to offer. A mythology can be a useful fiction in the Platonic sense or the Big Lie. Either one can work in the context of a disengaged, disparate, and disinterested electorate. The current Republican mythology is very general and high minded, dealing with the economy and patriotism. The Democrat one veers towards the Big Lie, but hits the targeted interest groups effectively, albeit often symbolically.

Laura Ingraham is right: we need to dump the current Republican establishment, the successors of the country-club Republicans of a few decades ago. Working from the tea-party base spurned by the establishment seems like the right approach. The Republican establishment has given us a succession of moderate, non-conservative candidates, starting in 1988. We have recently been given increasingly weaker and defective candidates, like Bob Dole, McCain the unpredictable flake, and Romney the cautious technocrat. None of these were able to communicate and inspire like President Reagan. They are what we used to call Me-Too Republicans, Democrats light, with a watered down message often indistinguishable from the real thing. We need to start over and take many pages from the Democrats’ playbook.

What are the obstacles? First we have an internal split among cultural conservatives, socially liberal economic conservatives, and libertarians. If the elections had been closer we would be blaming the Libertarians for electing Obama as Ross Perot did Clinton. These rifts can be healed, but since it will take time it needs to be the first order of business. Perhaps changing the drug war to include only hard drugs – something we would swallow hard and accept – would be a good place to start. This should be our watchword: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Second we need an answer to the horrendous press bias. The Sixty Minutes tape proving Obama lied in the debate about Benghazi as a terrorist attack was held back by CBS News until just before the election. The Los Angeles Times has still not released its tape of Obama’s remarks at a dinner honoring PLO apologist Rashid Khalidi. Can we not dream what might have happen if the top Republican donors were to buy a news organization and its syndicated outlets? The news it reported could and should be objective. But reporting on the stories spiked by the mainstream media and keeping after issues, not accepting obvious distortions and lies, would do a world of good. Reporting on the depredations of the media would make for excellent stories, as we have seen from the blogosphere. This needs to be done nationally and on television.

Let’s carry our dream further. The Democrats have many mouthpieces to spread their mythology about Big Business, Big Oil, Big Moneyed interests, Bib Bigot (you, me, and Christians) – all of whom want to harm you, the Little Guy. It’s greed on the dark side and altruism on the side of the angels. How different the climate would be if there were a national outlet reporting on Big Media, Big Labor, Big Education Establishment, and not just Big Government. Would this not restore the proper context in which to debate the better public policy for the Little Guy, me, and my family?

An effective mythology in place would enable creating a ground game equal and then superior to the Democrats’. Without it many voters would only see real, red-blooded Democrats versus Democrats light.

Finally we could not help noticing the energy and passion of the Democrats. This is an appealing trait, missing from the more business-like Republicans, with some exceptions like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. (Hint, hint about where the Republican party needs to turn.) This reminds us of the demonic vehemence and passion of many Communists in the earlier part of the last century, many of whom, like the Rosenbergs, chose death if it would advance the interests of the party. After the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939 and the joint invasion of Poland, the party line was how great Hitler was. After he invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the party line was that Nazi fascism was evil incarnate and Communism the answer for the Little Guy. The Communists, like their successors, the radical Democrats, have no problem adjusting what they say to changed events or new talking points. Their stooges religiously echoed the party line of the moment throughout the world, including the U.S.

It helps to know one’s enemy. The Democrat establishment, promising to change America fundamentally, may be portrayed in concession statements as our friendly rivals in the game of politics. But the stakes are such that we must accept that this worldview is the enemy of American civilization. Having understood the stakes, we must demand that our party leadership adopt a seriousness of purpose equal to the threat faced.