Freedom is an “all American” value, like motherhood and apple pie.  Some have concluded that government is at the root of their personal problems, so personal freedom must lie in “getting government off their backs”.  This line of reasoning leads many political candidates to take the easy route of promising to weaken the very government of which they are aspiring to become a part.

Freedom means so much more.  One dictionary definition is “The opportunity given for the EXERCISE of one’s rights, powers, desires.”  In an1861 speech John C. Calhoun told the US House of Representatives, “Freedom requires EFFORTS, it presupposes mental and moral qualities of a high order.” 

To remain a free people requires that we exercise our freedoms.  To remain a free people requires acknowledging that we are the government. Solutions do not lie in electing candidates who promise to “get government off our backs”.  Solutions are found when a free people put forth the effort to fix government.

Healthcare needs fixing.  Currently, medical benefits are only available to select groups.  In the United States it remains difficult to go to the doctor unless you are old enough to qualify for Medicare, lucky enough to have employer health insurance coverage or veteran’s benefits, or rich enough to buy private insurance.

 On the national level, the Republican congress is working to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.  They have no plan to provide healthcare for the American people.

The Missouri legislature has refused to accept millions of dollars in expanded Medicaid that would allow another 100,000 Missourians to have affordable healthcare coverage –at no additional cost to the state.  And they have cut support for nursing care services and prescription drug coverage for seniors.  For many Missourians, freedom would simply mean not having to decide between food and medications.  Freedom would mean not being forced into bankruptcy due to medical bills.

We the people can fix our healthcare woes by electing candidates who care about healthcare for all Missourians.

Safety for our school children needs fixing.  For many, freedom lies in their second amendment rights.  Freedom also means not having to worry about your children’s safety at school.  On the national level, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, advocates spending education dollars to arm teachers.  As an experienced classroom teacher, I predict arming teachers will create far more tragedies than it prevents.

Solutions can come at the state level.  That might mean dollars for resource officers in our schools.  It might mean legislating background checks that are adequate to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. 

It is our responsibility as free citizens to make sure government finds the solutions to keep our children safe in their schools.  Elect candidates who will actively work for the safety of our school children.

Full funding for PUBLIC education needs fixing as Republican legislators continue to shrink education dollars.  On the national level, Betsy DeVos advocates a $20 billion initiative to expand private school vouchers nationwide.  “Voucher schemes drain hundreds of millions of dollars away from public school students to pay the private school tuition of a select few” (NEA Today, August 2018).

The Republican-led 2018 legislative session has seen continued interest in tax-credit schemes to move your tax dollars to private schools with Missouri senate bill 612 and house bill 2188.

Locally, the Neosho City Council bought into National School Choice week, an event designed to encourage using tax dollars to pay private school tuition.  Mayor Ben Baker signed a proclamation designating January 21-27, 2018 as School Choice Week in Neosho (Neosho Daily News).  Using your tax dollars to pay private school tuition would be a tremendous windfall for local private schools.  However, the loss of revenue to Neosho R5 and other southwest Missouri schools would be devastating.

Elect candidates who support full funding of the school formula for Missouri elementary and secondary education and who oppose school voucher and tax credit schemes to pay for private school tuition.

As the mid-term election approaches, Southwest Missourians have a choice between Democratic and Republican candidates.  Make the effort to find out which candidates reflect your values on issues like education, healthcare and school safety.  You just might find that the Democratic candidate more closely reflects your own values.  Exercise your “rights, powers and desires” as you vote for candidates who pledge to help you fix government rather than weaken it.  This is the very essence of freedom.

- Susanna Smith writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.