How the RCGA Is Ruining St. Louis and What Businesses Can Do About It

Everyone knows and accepts that government does stupid things. Sometimes it feels like people institute governments and delegate them certain powers just to give us something to complain about. governmentdemotivator

Government stupidity, scandal, and corruption hits different people in different ways. Government hyperactivity keeps poor people poor by limiting opportunity and by building barriers to exiting poverty programs.  “If you take that job, you’ll lose your health insurance.” Compassion my non-qualifying asset.

Government induces moral complacency by telling otherwise decent people not to help their fellow humans.

Perhaps most insidiously, government steals opportunity from future generations for the benefit of generations that can and should take care of themselves.

Traditionally, business people, among others, watched and checked government.  They did this through local chambers of commerce, like the RCGA in St. Louis.

According to this article on Harvard Business Review:

Chambers of commerce are the oldest surviving business organizations. The earliest in the English-speaking world were set up in the 1760s in New York City and the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey. Charleston (SC), Manchester and Liverpool (UK), Quebec, and Jamaica followed in the 1770s, with the chamber model diffusing to all major towns and cities by the 1920s.

Chambers of commerce organized out of anger against government stupidity and growth.

Their earliest business leaders were angry protesters against the Stamp Act, taxation of the colonies, and military coercion on America. They were responding to a period of extreme contention between economic and political interests. A chamber of commerce provided a new model to shape anger and protests into more effective, reasoned, and sustained economic lobbies to the imperial government in London.

Somewhere between Stamp Act protests and Aerotropolis, though, chambers of commerce switched teams. They become lobbyists who curry favor with politicians in order to win unfair advantages for certain members of the chambers. According to economist Stephen Moore:

The Chamber of Commerce, long a supporter of limited government and low taxes, was part of the coalition backing the Reagan revolution in the 1980s. . . . [M]any chambers of commerce on the state and local level have been abandoning these goals. They're becoming, in effect, lobbyists for big government.

That certainly seems to be the case in St. Louis. 

The RCGA, which once helped revitalize areas of town like Laclede’s Landing, Soulard, and Dog Town, now focuses on transferring tax dollars from future generations or from tax payers in distant Missouri counties into the pockets of the RCGA’s favorites players.

In the process, St. Louis has fallen in almost every category.  Population is declining in both St. Louis City and St. Louis County.  City schools are a discredited shambles.  St. Louis County is shedding tax payers to adjacent counties thanks to its insatiable appetite for fees and taxes. The St. Louis region has fallen dramatically in job creation.

Instead of working to get government off the backs of businesses and improving the region, the RCGA is focused on growing government and shifting business risk to the tax payers.  That’s not only bad for business and bad for the region, it’s bad for the soul.

Stephen Moore says St. Louis’s RCGA is not unique:

In as many as half the states, state taxpayer organizations, free-market think tanks, and small business leaders now complain bitterly that, on a wide range of issues, chambers of commerce deploy their financial resources and lobbying clout to expand the taxing, spending, and regulatory authorities of government.

The reason I and many other Tea Partiers oppose the Republican Establishment is because we’ve seen how that Establishment has gutted American cities like St. Louis. The Republican Establishment is almost indiscernible from various chambers of commerce.  Neither advances limited government, free markets, and fiscal responsibility.

Conservatives like me have a knee-jerk tendency to defend all private businesses against all accusations.  But that’s a knee-jerk reaction, not a wise consideration of facts and consequences.

Big businesses are famously myopic.  We’ve all heard the woes of companies that look only to the fiscal quarter or year, not to the long-term value of the business.  Many conservatives have oversold themselves on certain aspects of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations without ever trying to square those ideas with his other work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

As a result, we on the right have become de facto enablers of big government, defending big business in their efforts to gain advantages through activist governments.

Stephen Moore found a small business owner in Maryland who’s had enough with his local chamber and the big businesses using it to destroy everyone else:

"I used to think that public employee unions like the NEA were the main enemy in the struggle for limited government, competition, and private sector solutions," says Mr. Caldara of the Independence Institute. "I was wrong. Our biggest adversary is the special-interest business cartel that labels itself 'the business community' and its political machine run by chambers and other industry associations. [emphasis mine]"

Luckily, that Harvard Business School piece offers some solutions.  I’d like to responsible and serious St. Louis businesses start a rival chamber to advance these 7 principles of business-friendly government:

  1. Set an ambitious new vision for engagement with the deepest irritations among chamber members; involve non-members to aid recruitment.
  2. Build capacity among staff and volunteers to manage protest.
  3. Recognize that government "bads" and threats are usually a far more influential force on businesses than government "goods": avoid the US "pork barrel" and do not be trapped by the UK or EU incentives to "chase the funding". This just gets non-profits to follow politicians' agendas.
  4. Focus on where threats, risks, and anger are highest; most businesses are not interested in the minor or trivial.
  5. Use new technology to expose contention and open new avenues to welcome protest. Take on the tough problems and avoid easy solutions. Use business networks, social media, and crowdsourcing to re-engage business communities at low cost.
  6. Prepare for long term and sustained campaigns; policy victories are rarely won quickly.
  7. Expose policy incompetence, look for public programs that do not work and press for termination; but celebrate policy successes, especially where businesses and chambers have contributed. Use blogs and networks to keep up to date and monitor feelings. [emphasis mine]

If you’re interested in starting such a chamber, please enter comments below.

Update:  Perhaps Joe Reagan will changes things.  I forgot that the RCGA recently replaced long-time CEO, Dick Fleming.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

In the course of our lives, we sometimes lose our way. We wander off the good path. Or we fail to blaze the trail we should. GhostOfChristmasYTC

THE Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

"I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?" said Scrooge.

The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.

--Dickens, Charles (2004-08-11). A Christmas Carol (p. 53). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Nations are no different.

Dickens warned us about the dangers of putting money before God, about worshiping wealth rather than using wealth to do good.

Sometimes, the luxuries that surround us blind us to the real purpose of wealth. I’m not talking about charity, and certainly not about government redistribution. I am talking about the good society.

Liberty, the right to pursue happiness and acquire property, lead to wealth—a surplus of goods and currency.Our wealth literally buys our futures. 

If we invest in earthly things, things that gratify our temporal sensations, our investments will rot and blow away with the wind.

If we invest in higher things, our investments will be repaid. 

Scrooge invested in things of the earth. They made him miserable and despised. Just as his treasured decayed, so did his soul. And his body.

Simon Sinek, a man who’s dedicated his life to helping others find their purpose, learned the Scrooge lesson in Iraq. He shared his story in an amazing video.

Just before the the appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, the Ghost of Christmas Present introduced Scrooge to two wretched little children, dirty and pale, who clung to the spirit’s legs.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

"Spirit! are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.

"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!"

"Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge.

"Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses?"

The bell struck twelve.

--Dickens, Charles (2004-08-11). A Christmas Carol (pp. 50-52). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Do we dread or celebrate our glimpses of America’s future?  Is our Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come bright or dark?

Midnight approaches, America. 

The Evil of Debt

The debtor is a slave to his lender.   Americans hold hundreds of billions of dollars in credit card debt alone.  To this add automobiles, student loans, mortgages, medical, and myriad personal loans and you arrive at the staggering figure of $2.55 trillion with a 't'.  

This massive debt--encouraged and backed by the US Government--makes us miserable.  Seriously.  Are you happy?  

If the debtor is slave to his lender, then the US Government is slave to China and Japan.  Want to know why we ignored Tienenmen?  Because our master told us to. 

The US Government is on the hook for another $10 trillion, and that number is increasing at a rate of $1 trillion per month.  Unless someone stops the madness, we'll be, as a nation, $22 trillion in debt by this time next year--more if the ecnomy worsens.

Good Government Doesn't Run on Debt

I am not a balanced budget purist.  I understand that wars and other emergencies sometimes require deficit spending. But the current wars don't cost $22 trillion.  Not even $1 trillion, unless you use New York Times math.  So what's the excuse?

Americans Are Spoiled Brats

We want what we want, and we want it now.  We've borrowed our way into slavery.  When we hit our credit limits, swindler politicians offer to extend even more credit.  So we become slaves to Congress, to the Department of Health and Human Services, to the EPA, and to every other government department and agency.  

It's humiliating, disgusting, and embarrassing.  

What's the Answer?

Stop borrowing.  That means you, me, the government, your husband or wife, kids, everyone.  Let the big banks fail; they are our pushers, our needle providers, our crack houses.  But they only offered the easy credit with painless terms.  They only offered a free t-shirt in exchange for our servitude.  They only held out the pen.  We took it into our eager little hands and signed over our lives.  

Knock it OFF!  

Every time you vote for a politician who "brings home the bacon," you're selling yourself to yet another master.  Last fall, the masters got together and decided to yank on the chains that bind you to them.  It hurt, didn't it.  It hurts still.  And it will hurt worse over the coming years. 

The government has absolutely no plan to pay off its loans.  Have you noticed?  It has no intention of paying off.  Know why?  Because there's no difference between goverment debt and personal debt.  You will pay the $22 trillion AND the $2.55 trillion because YOU SIGNED FOR THE LOAN!

Three Simple Steps

1.  Don't borrow another dime.  Not for a car, not for college, not for a house, not for a television, gasoline, groceries, clothes, vacations.  Stop borrowing.  If you need help, read Dave Ramsey's books The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness or Financial Peace Revisited

2.  Have at least $1,000 in savings for true emergencies

3.  Pay off all of your debts as fast as you can, one at a time, beginning with the smallest balance and ending with the largest balance.

3.b.  Elect politicians who will put up 100 percent of their personal assets (house, cars, savings) if they ever vote for a deficit budget outside of war.