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Politically Speaking: Show Me Institute's Brenda Talent discusses her group's 'free market' agenda

Brenda Talent
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On this week’s edition of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome the Show-Me Institute’s Brenda Talent to the program for the first time.

Talent is the CEO of the Show-Me Institute, which for roughly 10 years has served as the state’s premier “free market” think tank. A co-founder of the Show-Me Institute is retired financier Rex Sinquefield, one of Missouri’s largest political donors over the past decade.

The Show-Me Institute tends to weigh in on economic and educational matters. It has been ardent in support of “school choice” and against some economic development tax incentives. The group also has favored getting rid of the earnings tax in St. Louis and Kansas City, an issue that will be before voters of both cities next year.

Brenda Talent is the wife of former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, a Republican and former state legislators who ran in three heavily contested statewide elections in the span of six years. (He won his Senate seat in 2002 and lost his re-election bid in 2006 to now-Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.)

Brenda Talent received her law degree from the University of Chicago, and later earned a LL.M. from Georgetown University. Having obtained a ROTC scholarship, Talent served for several years as a military JAG officer.

Unlike her spouse, Brenda Talent had one foray into electoral politics: She was elected to the Parkway School Board and served for a single three-year term.

Here’s what Brenda Talent had to say on the show:

  • Talent, a tax lawyer, jokingly said that she took the job at the Show-Me Institute in 2010 as she was going through a “mid-life crisis." She said she could either buy a red convertible or “do something different.”
  • Heading the Show-Me Institute offered "an opportunity for me to get involved, and get involved in an area where I have a high comfort level,” she said. “I wouldn’t say I’m interested in going through the rigors myself of running for office. But this is a way where you can impact public policy from an objective perspective.”
  • She contends St. Louis and Kansas City’s earnings tax puts both cities at a competitive disadvantage. One way to make up for the lost revenue if those taxes went away would be to pare down municipal tax incentives given to corporations, she said.
  • Talent says it’s “absolutely criminal we’ve let generations of students suffer in underperforming schools.” She said her group is looking into “education savings accounts,” which could give the parents of certain students more flexibility with educational options.
  • She shares the views of many conservatives, and some liberals, when it comes to how to fund a new football stadium on the city's riverfront. Talent is cool to the idea of spending public money on such a project. “I have a real problem with taxpayers subsidizing the ultra-wealthy in their sports pursuits,” she said.

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow the Show Me Institute on Twitter: @ShowMe

Music: “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.