Looking ahead to 2004

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

2004 should prove to be one of the more interesting years in the history of this country.

Fighting terrorism is necessary, dangerous, unpredictable and expensive.

The federal and state elections this coming fall will test the voters' capability of cutting through the chaff -- so-called campaign laws or not. Already major advocates of campaign-finance reform are getting around the concept of soft money by setting up separate corporations while nonincumbent candidates are handicapped by gerrymandering and free-speech limitations.

Only statewide races -- president, U.S. senator, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer and attorney general -- will not be affected by the gerrymandering that will benefit the incumbent state senators, representatives and U.S. representatives who will be running in computer-driven carved-up districts.

It's been said that only 18 to 35 congressional districts in this country will have competitive races. The rest are either safe Republican or Democratic districts.

Missouri is unusual as the sitting Democratic governor, Bob Holden, has a serious primary opponent: State Auditor Claire McCaskill. And the Republican candidate, Matt Blunt, will have no serious primary candidate.

All of the state races will be competitive and this will create an interesting year for the Missouri Legislature, which faces an improving but still tight budget.

The Missouri media have been doing a good job of reporting the budget situation and lack of agreement on projecting the revenue for fiscal year 2005 which is to be budgeted in this coming session but which will not start until July 1. Are the voters following the discussion? To date, a consensus revenue figure, as speculative as such an estimate might be, has not been agreed upon. And a governor's budget proposal based upon Missouri voters passing sales-tax increases is not a balanced-budget proposal.

We can expect a major debate as to increased revenue sources (read taxes or fee increases) or even the need for same.

Kentucky's new governor, Ernie Fletcher, has promised to use zero-based budgeting to reduce expenditure. The Texas Legislature used zero-based budgeting to lower its expenses by $10 billion last year.

Missouri has used a hybrid of zero-based justification against last year's expenditures for a number of years.

No matter what you call it, when cuts or reductions (justified or not) are suggested to last year's revenue allocations, the affected agencies rally their supporters to fight the proposed action.

All of this activity will be undertaken in the last year of the major rollover of some of the most experienced legislators in the Missouri House and Senate, who will be term limited out after this session -- for better or worse.

Soul searching: "Men who believe themselves to be good, who do not search their own souls, often commit the worst atrocities. A man who sees himself as evil will restrain himself. It is only when we do evil in the belief that we do good that we pursue it wholeheartedly."

-- David Farland

"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."

-- George Bernard Shaw

Teaching methods: People learn in many ways. Joanne Jacobs, on her excellent education blog joanejacobs.com, relays this story (which came via the SCSU Scholars and Wicked Thoughts blogs) about "a private school where senior girls were kissing the restroom mirror and putting on lipstick, leaving prints that had to be cleaned every night. Finally, the principal called the girls to the restroom. To demonstrate how difficult it had been to clean the mirrors, she asked the maintenance man to show the girls how much effort was required. He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it. Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror." The tale concludes, "There are teachers, and then there are educators."

-- World magazine

Almost famous: Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but are famous because they are great. We come closer and closer to degrading all fame into notoriety. -- Daniel J. Boorstin,

The Image

Happy new year!

Gary Rust is the chairman of Rust Communications.

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