Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.


Of AT&T's bonuses, Trump tax cuts and Valentine's Day wishes

Rep. Jason Smith was in Cape Girardeau Monday to tour the AT&T call center, where its 240 local employees received $1,000 bonuses end of last year. The bonuses were “because of the tax plan” passed by Congress and signed by President Trump, said John Sondag, president Missouri AT&T. In Smith’s congressional district, more than 600 AT&T employees received the $1,000 bonus.

Nationally, said Sondag, more than 200,000 AT&T employees received the bonus. That’s an infusion of $200 million into the pocketbooks of American workers (not accounting for tax withholdings). AT&T also recently announced increasing its capital investment in the United States from $21 billion in 2017 to $25 billion in 2018, according to Jomo Castro, regional director for AT&T. The “tax cut and jobs act,” championed by Republicans and partially written by Smith, was cited for the increase in investment.

During the tour, Smith poked fun at Democrat opposition, in particular minority leader Nancy Pelosi, by asking some of the AT&T workers if the $1,000 bonus was “crumbs,” which is what Pelosi called it. The emphatic answer: No.

Smith originally planned to visit the local call center Friday morning but was delayed in Washington when the budget debate extended through Thursday night, closing the government briefly.

“I didn’t sleep for 48 hours,” Smith said, as the Senate was slowed down by a filibuster, and the House waited to vote. In the end, Smith voted against the budget deal, the only Republican in House leadership to do so.

“I won’t be very popular this week” with the Trump White House or party leaders, he said. But Smith described the deal as giving away too much in spending. Funding the military “to the level that Gen. Mattis requested” was a win, he said, but little the Republicans championed was actually unpopular with Democrats, for example: increased funding for community health centers. Meanwhile, there were items that Democrats requested and received, that weren’t necessary.

Smith used the opportunity at AT&T to talk with Sondag and staff about the importance of rural broadband.

“Broadband access west of highway 67 is awful,” said Smith. “In Shannon County, it’s less than one percent. Access to broadband is like what rural electrification was: vital to jobs and the rural economy.”

Smith pointed to modern farming, as well as to schoolwork and entrepreneurial business, as requiring access to broadband Internet in order to take advantage of modern equipment, skills development and personnel recruitment.

“Infrastructure is not just highways and ports; it’s access to broadband,” he said. “More cell towers would be good for Southeast Missouri.”

How Smith squares his opposition to expanding the deficit, as exhibited in the vote against the budget deal, with the need for more infrastructure investment will be interesting to watch. President Trump unveiled his infrastructure plan Monday.

A quick note about Valentines Day. To my wife, you are amazing. Thank you for how beautifully you manage our family while excelling at work and research. It’s fun living with you (and the girls). You inspire me.

Our plans for tonight include dinner with good friends in downtown Cape. For those who haven’t traveled to the riverfront lately, you should plan a trip soon. The area is bustling. From the new, fine dining intimacy of Gabriel’s Food + Wine (a romantic space with delicious food) to the brilliant creations at Celebrations (under the new ownership of longtime executive chef DeWayne Schaaf) to 36 Restaurant and Bar (a delight) to The Bar (fun and trendy) to more relaxed favorites like Minglewood, Port Cape Girardeau, Broussards, Bel Italia, Cup & Cork, and the list goes on ... downtown Cape has turned into quite the culinary destination.

I hope your Valentines Day is the best it can be. One of my saddest, I must say, was exactly 17 years ago. Then, three days later, I met my wife-to-be at church and everything changed. We will be celebrating our 16th anniversary in April. One never knows what’s around the corner.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian.