Governor Bobby Jindal rolls out plan to eliminate the Louisiana State Income Tax

Bobby Jindal rolls out State Income Tax Reform with Travis H. Brown’s How Money Walks Data. The Data used by both Governor Jindal and Executive Director of the Louisiana Department of Revenue Tim Barfield can be found in the How Money Walks ebook and app.

Exploring the Life of Lithographs

By Travis H. Brown

This month, I noticed that the Milwaukee Art Museum is featuring their “Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec and His Contemporaries” special exhibition from June 1st until September 9th, 2012.  I am not aware if this collection will be coming to the Saint Louis Art Museum, but I would certainly lobby hard to have it there.

Several years ago, I negotiated the purchase of a few antique lithograph posters used for advertising from the 1890’s into the early 1900’s.  I find these advertising posters intriguing because their widespread European use helped modernize mass marketing campaigns during the industrial revolution.

The art techniques behind lithography is also a bit of a lost art, since it usually starts with oil and water cast over large limestone tablets.  One of my posters is from the famed Italian Leonetta Cappiello, celebrating another favorite sommelier topic – absinthe.    Cappiello’s use of black for large contrasts may have helped spread the popularity of his style since they were often easier to scan from a distance.

While some lithographs are still used, it seems to take more effort to find it today.  The Smithsonian Associates Art Collectors Program has a few examples that I like, such as this commissioning of the National Air & Space Museum “History of Flight” tribute.

To find more historical works in Saint Louis, Missouri, it is always worth a look at the Missouri History Museum’s  Guide to the Photographs and Prints Collection of the Missouri Historical Society.  Southeast Missouri State University also has some lithograph works in Cape Girardeau, but I have yet to view those in person.

Even the famed Missourian Thomas Hart Benton has a few lithographs on displays, which have been featured in my hometown of Ste. Genevieve in past years.  The next time you see a reproducted print as a poster, think about whether a lithographer helped bring this image to life.

A Small French Wine Name to Remember: Cornas

By Travis H. Brown

Last fall, our wine buying trip took us up and down the Rhone River in the South of France.  Thanks to a fellow Sommelier Guild member in Chicago, I did find the off-the-beaten vineyard of Mas Daumas Gassac.  This Grand Cru Bordeaux style blend of red was amazing in the Languedoc region, close to virtually nothing else halfway between Barcelona and Lyon.  Quel plaisir!

After that drive, however, we anchored in near Gordes, France, in the Luberon mountains (Cotes des Luberons) in Provence.   Going from the bottom up, we tasted most of the Grenache-driven areas, including Gigonda, which we have enjoyed.  However, to our surprise, we found that our taste buds kept us going north, into the Cote-Rotie (or “Roasted Coast”) for more and more syrah-driven reds.  The Rhone river is to France what the Mississippi is to America’s heartland.   During one minute, the central artery may showcase biodynamic grapes on a steep, narrow slope.  During the next, you might pass a high-tech nuclear reactor.

Not far from this unique Northern Rhone domain known for its viognier/syrah symphonies is a small town called Cornas.  The terroir and micro-climate from these river banks seems to weave a beautiful tapestry of earth notes into this grape that my wife and I now seek out.  Finding a Cornas can be like truffle-hunting I suppose:  you need to be a good sniffer on all wine lists, and you need to be at the right place at the right time.

The Rhone valley is likely less understood to most American consumers that perhaps Bordeaux or even Burgundy.  Since our visit, we have found a few cellars primarily in New York City and one in South Carolina to carry a Cornas appellation.  The pride and history of this wine’s tradition have kept its quality high and its profile stable across the several vintages that we’ve tried so far.  Since the area under French wine law is so discrete to its town, Cornas, there’s a great chance you’re finding a great local producer if you spot it on the menu.

On a more basic level, any wine enthusiast trying to understand the vast difference between a red wine being earth-driven, vs. fruit-forward, can simply try pairing any French Syrah against an Australian Shiraz or Napa Valley Syrah.  The differences are stark and obvious to even most vino neophytes.  If you want berries and fruit, you’ll stay in the New World with future selections.  If you want spice of the earth, you’ll be looking for the Old World again.  Que Syrah Syrah!

A Proud History of Flying Missouri Bombers

By Travis H. Brown

These days, lobbying for defense contracts within the U.S. Air Force is big money for the Saint Louis RegionBoeing St. Louis appears to have scored a large contract for C-17s, a great flying aircraft that I have had the pleasure to operate (at least from their very elegant flight simulator at Lambert Field).

I believe that aviation can touch all of our lives in meaningful ways, even if it is primarily-designed for our Armed Forces, and not Southwest Airlines.  One great way to share these experiences is from looking backwards into our past.

To experience aviation history, our Saint Louis Science Center has wonderful exhibits that go back at least to Charles Lindbergh here.  Other wonderful collections, such as Boeing Field’s Museum of Flight, also have a wonderful array of living metal history.

But, let’s be clear:  nothing beats flying the real thing off a runway.  This week, in Jefferson City, Missouri, of all places, was an authentic B-17 Flying Fortress.  The notion that aviators (like my uncle in WWII) could equip gunners to invade the Pacific or Berlin in this tail-dragging plane still seems amazing.

If you get a chance to kick the tires of this aircraft, or even fly in one with an EAA aviation program like this one in Jefferson City, jump on it!  Along the way, if a veteran helped make your adventure possible, give him or her thanks for his/her services for our freedoms.

Here’s a quick video lobbying you in case you can head up near the State Capitol to see this bird in person.

Grapes, Grasshoppers, & Grafting

By Travis H. Brown

As a native of Ste. Genevieve County and their Route Du Vin, it is pleasing to report that Missouri now has more than 100 local wineries in production.  As regions such as Hermann, St. James, and Augusta lobby hard for local tourism dollars and regional respect, many Missourians may not realize how much le monde du vin (the world of wine) owes to Show Me State discovery.

In the 1860’s, an aphid-based plague known as phylloxera ravaged most of Europe’s most precious vines.  It was to grapes what the black plaque was human civilization, threatening to ruin entire populations of varietals within a few growing seasons.  It is such an important threat the Institut Francais de la Vigne et du Vin (IFV) has numerous research studies on its impact still today.

Then our Missouri valentine arrived.  Enter a bug doctor – Charles Valentine Riley, to be precise, Missouri’s first state entomologist.  Thanks to Riley’s tedious study of grasshopper infestations across various states, he lobbied hard for our United States Department of Agriculture to advance many of his biological control methods.  Riley helped develop a grafting technique using native Missouri rootstocks resistant to the pest, which arguably saved the world of fine wines.

I am told that Missouri had more than 200 active wineries prior to the government policy swing brought by the Prohibition Era.  A curious political twist of fate from this movement was that the alliance between the women’s temperance movement and anti-saloon league to ban alcohol ironically helped propel a national income tax.

So, the next time you met a French viticulturist, remind him that he should thank Missouri for giving his vineyard strong American roots.  If the comments back were like mine years ago in Sancerre, you’ll be saying “a la vache!”

Why Job One for All is Growth

By Travis H. Brown

It was a pleasure to join this economic growth conference (excerpt by CSPAN above) thanks in part to Amity Schlaes and former Ambassador Jim Glassman.  While many economists, policymakers, governors, and various coalitions must wrestle with such debates, I believe that it is incredibly important for all citizens to understand a few basic facts related to realizing the American dream.

As I speak to many other small business employers, it is easy to share their frustration that Missouri ranks 48th in relative economic growth.   As the 4% project clearly states, the problem of job creation should be broken down into smaller policies that can and should align the right incentive structures.   If our state leaders expect to grow above 3% a year like Tennessee, we should look at the policies that have worked, versus the laws that have held back production.

We have many thought leaders eager to debate such topics directly with you, if you have a venue where this is of interest.

“Columbus did not seek a new route to the Indies in response to a majority directive.”

 – Milton Friedman