More than a century ago Rep. Willard Duncan Vandiver concisely captured Missouri‘s political sensibility, telling a crowd in Philadelphia that "frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me." Indeed, the Show-Me State has a long reputation for its no-nonsense worldview, but these days, the state is gaining another reputation – as an economic laggard.
When Rep. Vandiver was in office, Missouri had 16 representatives in Congress; today, we have only eight, a testament to the state’s languishing population growth and declining economic fortunes. The state is now ranked 48th in GDP growth and 46th in employment growth nationally, and just last week, an Investor’s Business Daily analysis found that Missouri is the worst-performing “red state” in the country … and the only red state in the bottom 10 of economic performers. (Missouri placed 42nd overall; often-ridiculed California placed … 43rd.)
If Missouri is a “red state,” it certainly isn’t behaving like one – at least not yet. Missouri needs pro-growth, pro-market reforms that empower individuals to take control of their paychecks, their health care, and their children’s education. Our political leaders say they are prepared to make tough decisions to get the state out of its economic doldrums, but I’ll only believe it when I see it.
Policymakers will have to actually “show me,” and you, that they mean business through action, not continued “frothy eloquence.” Given the state’s economic performance and abiding legislative intransigence, there is reason to doubt that commitment.
Patrick Ishmael, St. Louis, Missouri