Missouri Governor Mike Parson seems a little confused lately.
Decades into a political career of faithfully resisting such scourges as health care and jobless benefits for poor people, Parson has stumbled upon a handout he can get behind: welfare for people who would rather lose their jobs than get vaccinated for COVID-19.
But that can get a little fuzzy.
Parson let it be known through a spokesperson that he’s “mulling” the idea of granting carte blanche unemployment benefits to the oppressed and marginalized vaccine resisters of Missouri. Perhaps Parson is really mulling someone else’s idea, likely from a national Republican think tank. Parson seldom gets confused with Socrates on policy matters.
Catch up on Ray Hartmann's latest columns
Doesn’t matter. These downtrodden souls employed in Missouri sometimes face the ultimate tyranny: having an employer curtail their right to endanger the health and lives of whomever they please, whenever they please and wherever they please, so help them God.
That’s simple enough. But so are the rules laid out by the Parson Administration at the website of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations
“To be eligible for unemployment benefit payments, you must Lose your job through no fault of your own OR quit for good cause related to the work or the employer.”
Some Missouri employers have taken to telling its workers that they must become vaccinated against COVID-19 or — lacking that — work remotely or submit to weekly testing. These evildoers are clearly trampling the “right to spread.”
Parson will not sit still for this. The governor has no choice but to take the principled stand of rejecting all the principles of his career.
Parson has postured as an unwavering advocate of reducing the role of government in the lives of citizens. He constantly drones on about how businesses large and small are the backbone of the state. He stands against greedy workers trying to game the jobless-benefits system.
Parson is an anti-welfare man and anti-big-government man. So, of course he wouldn’t change the laws governing jobless benefits to accommodate people who choose not to get vaccinated. Or of course he would. The most important thing to understand is that whatever Parson is doing, or attempting to do, it’s for the higher cause of freedom. Or maybe not freedom. All rationalized as fighting rules from the Biden Administration that haven’t even arrived.
It’s a tad out of character for Parson to stand tall for greedy workers wanting to skirt the laws of government unemployment benefits. It’s even more unnatural for Parson’s state government to dictate to employers that they can’t set their own workplace rules based on their own needs.
If it were any more of a bizarre departure from his own philosophy, Parson would need a disclaimer stating he hasn’t been taking shrooms. It would provide more comfort if he were.
At the start of the pandemic, Parson resisted all calls to extend Missouri’s lowly unemployment benefits. And just three months into the pandemic, Parson saw to it that the state was among the first to reinstitute work-search requirements for those lazy freeloaders.
At the time, Parson was concerned that the real problem wasn’t this overhyped pandemic but rather the damage caused to the economy because some fools thought they’d be risking the lives of themselves and their families by returning to unsafe workplaces. Where did they get that idea? Fake news.
Parson wasn’t going to be captive to any of that. He was one of the few with the courage to point out in June 2020 that the pandemic was already winding down to almost nothing. As if it had ever really been that bad.
It was basically over. Why just a month later, Parson — unmasked as usual — famously told a Sedalia audience, “You don’t need government to tell you to wear a dang mask. If you want to wear a dang mask, wear a mask.”
Less than three months later, Parson was vindicated and totally exonerated when he and First Lady Teresa Parson contracted COVID-19. Well, sort of vindicated and totally exonerated. They lived, after all.
But at least the governor remained consistent in his hostility to masks and proudly can say he was one of only eleven governors in the nation who refused to impose some draconian mask mandate. Fair enough. It’s not like unmasked people were getting COVID-19. Or something.
OK, so logic hasn’t been the governor’s strong point on this. But passion has been. The man is a freedom fighter when it comes to the pandemic, and he’s not about to allow state government to trample anyone’s right to their own health-care expertise.
The key here is to understand that vaccine-resistant employees must be treated differently — meaning better — than the vax heads. The vaccine resisters are heroes, you know, front-line workers in the struggle to prevent the nation from reaching herd immunity during a Democratic administration. These are patriots.
And why shouldn’t everyone be treated the same? We can all agree on that, can’t we? That’s as American as inventing lies of fraud when you lose an election: The unvaccinated must be treated the same as the vaccinated.
Of course, there is an opposing view from some in government.
“To try to treat vaccinated people the same as unvaccinated people and not recognize there is a difference, totally is irresponsible. To us, to the leaders of this state and health-care workers, we need to make sure people understand there’s a difference between the two and not treat them the same.”
Ah, but enough from Parson. Yes, that was him in July
, talking about how disgusting it was for places like St. Louis, St. Louis County and Kansas City to impose mask mandates last spring. The problem with that, he said, was this:
“These policies that don’t consider vaccination status reduce the incentive of getting the vaccine and undermine its integrity. The vaccine is how we rid ourselves of COVID-19, not mask mandates that ignore common sense. We know (the vaccine) works.”
Exactly. We know the vaccine works. Businesses know the vaccine works. Employees know it, too. But wing-nut politics work better for politicians like Parson. That’s why it’s so easy for him to discard the presumed principles of an entire career to hop on a national bandwagon of a Republican Party that has lost its soul.
No rationalization and no phony bastardization of “liberty” can conceal the worst part of what is happening. That is vaccinated opinion leaders such as Parson literally sacrificing the lives of people who put their trust in them to achieve the next short-run political goal.
Sadly, I don’t believe Mike Parson is confused about that at all.
Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).