RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

Blunt Trauma


Poor GW. The Democrats are asking for apologies, and apologies are one thing he just can't do. Can't apologize for the CIA leaks. Can't feel sorry for getting us into Iraq. Can't apologize for Katrina, for high oil prices or excessive cronyism. If one, just one of his heroes, John Wayne, let's say, had just leaned into the camera and said, "Sorry darlin', I'm gonna change my cheatin' ways," or whatever he'd say, well, maybe he'd have a role model, drop the cool pose, act human.

But he can't imagine it. The house of cards is beginning to tumble, and just when there's time for a breath of fresh air he finds that heathens have filled the moats with alligators and surrounded the walls with terrorists in U-Haul trucks. It's a scary world.

His dad's smartest advisors -- Tom, Dick and Karly -- say he should hold steady, but they're all implicated. When they say, "We'll hang together," they mean hang.

But there's a whole new generation of advisors just ready to help him. Trouble is, they're all from the same genetically identical cesspool.

For example, take Roy Blunt. Please.

This latest installment of D.C. hubris walks a path strewn with arrogance for the law and abuse of privilege. In Missouri, his rise to the top was meteoric, fueled by corporate donors. His resume includes stints at government jobs and a few years running Missouri Baptist University. He went to Washington in 1996 as a representative.

Last month, Roy Blunt took over as House majority leader for Tom DeLay, who was indicted Sept. 28 by a Texas grand jury for "conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme." Blunt brings a similar past to the office of House majority leader. Last September, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) named Roy Blunt as one of the most corrupt members of Congress.

Famed for his ties to industries that pay his way, Blunt went to D.C. hugely indebted to Altria Group, which owns (hack hack) Philip Morris. Altria contributed $100,000 to Blunt's campaign for the House. In return, Blunt does what he can for the cancer-stick company. He tried to insert a provision into the Homeland Security Bill protecting Philip Morris from discounted tobacco sales over the Internet. He said that illicit tobacco sales fund terrorism, but even his fellow R's didn't believe him and took the provision out.

At the time, Blunt was dating Abigail Perlman, Washington lobbyist for Altria Group. In a few months, the good Baptist Blunt divorced his wife of 35 years, the mother of his three children. The following year he married Ms. Perlman.

With the Blunts, taking money from Altria is a family affair. Son Andy is an Altria lobbyist in Missouri. Matt Blunt accepted $24,000 from Altria for his successful campaign for Missouri governor.

Altria owns more than tobacco companies. Altria owns a majority of both Miller Brewing and Kraft Foods. That means that there are more than tobacco policies at stake. Kraft monopolizes big-box store sales of cheeses (think Kraft slices and Philadelphia cream cheese). Kraft also enjoys a hearty position in artificially flavored and preserved, mechanically-extruded meat products (Oscar Mayer) and coffee (Maxwell House).

To the mega-food corporations, sustainable agriculture is a four-letter word. So, in Missouri, one of the first edicts from baby Blunt cut the sustainable agriculture and organic certification programs from the state budget. This effort to kill the fledgling sustainable ag industry was aimed at killing independent farmers, but wait! There's more!

There was a wee contribution of just over $100,000 that the state made to match nearly $428,000 in federal moneys for nutrition programs for WIC moms and elderly people shopping at the farmers' markets. Despite escalating poverty and hunger in our state, Gov. Matt Blunt cut those funds. That means that moms and seniors will spend the little money they have at the big-box stores, getting flavorless, wimpy processed foods that have traveled halfway across the world to get here. The cut also sliced away an estimated $4,000 to $6,000 from each farmer selling at markets in our state's urban areas.

To further prove he hates poor people, Matt Blunt initiated changes that will take 90,000 people off Medicaid. The eligibility standard, now lowered to about an $86-per-week income, is the lowest allowed by law. The move prompted someone to print up bumper stickers that said, "Governor Blunt: WWJD?" [meaning "What would Jesus do?"]

Blunt might answer, "How much did he contribute?" Blunt doesn't care about theology, unless the message is about money. The state has made a deal with Enterprise, the car rental company with the green E on the bumper and the company that has contributed over $230,000 to R's in Missouri. Now, when state employees need a car, there's no need to use the state car pool or to shop around. Blunt requires all state-paid travelers to use Enterprise.

Every now and then, somebody suggests that state politics don't matter and that citizen lobbyists should spend all our time working the feds. Wrong. The state government is training ground for those who sell the public trust to the highest bidder. Voters in your state might not be as oblivious as Missouri, which produced both John Ashcroft and Roy Blunt in the same decade, but state politics matter.

Margot Ford McMillen farms and teaches English at a college in Fulton, Mo. Email

From The Progressive Populist, Dec. 1, 2005

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