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Sean Soendker Nicholson Headshot

There's Right Wing Extremism, and Then There's Just Being Cruel

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I've gotten pretty used to terrible ideas coming out of state capitols around the country, including my own in Jefferson City, Missouri. It seems that no theory is too absurd for consideration, provided that it enjoys support from a right-wing radio audience.

This year in Missouri, for example, we've watched our legislators fight back the previously unknown threat of the United Nation's Agenda 21, worry about President Obama's birth certificate (even after his reelection), renew attacks on our fundamental freedoms at the ballot box and workplace, and attempt to pass huge tax giveaways to Missouri's One Percent that would devastate public services and structures for the rest of us.

And then sometimes, we cross over from the ridiculous to the cruel.

Meet Steve Cookson, a two-term state Representative from Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Last year, Rep. Cookson sponsored 'Don't Say Gay' legislation to eliminate any discussion of LGBT-related issues in public schools, prohibit teachers from addressing bullying based on sexual orientation, and likely ban gay-straight alliance organizations.

Cookson's new idea this year is to take away food and other public assistance from children who happen to miss more than 10 percent of their classes in a given quarter, semester or year. As the Huffington Post's John Celock reported Thursday, Cookson would punish a six-year-old child if she happens to get ill, has to stay with relatives or friends because of a family emergency, or misses more school than Cookson deems appropriate for any absence -- excused or unexcused. Just like his previous 'Don't Say Gay' idea, this legislation demonstrates a remarkably narrow view of the world that would cause very real damage if it became law.

Unfortunately, this "Don't Get Sick" bill is a symptom of a larger disconnect between extreme politicians and their constituents, many of whom are too busy trying to keep food on the table, much less pay attention to what's happening in Jefferson City.

In Cookson's hometown of Poplar Bluff, half of the students qualify for free and reduced price lunches because their parents are struggling to make ends meet. But instead of focusing on ways to improve the local economy and help lift thousands of his constituents out of poverty, Steve Cookson is focused on mean-spirited ideas that punish poor kids for being poor.

There are real problems facing Missouri's kids and communities. Let's start working on those, and leave this cruel nonsense behind.