Barbour's Ambitious Posturing | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Barbour's Ambitious Posturing

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Gov. Haley Barbour (left) talks to fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant (right). Barbour is playing politics with Mississippi's share of the federal stimulus.

Gov. Haley Barbour has been a vociferous opponent of the Obama administration's stimulus package, especially when it comes to accepting the $2.3 billion allocated to Mississippi. His reasoning centers on a requirement that would extend unemployment benefits beyond the state's current 13 weeks to 26, and would include those who lose part-time work.

Barely hidden under the surface of Barbour's argument are his corporate allegiances and his continued blind-faith alliance with failed Republican economic policy. Barbour is standing with one hand in the hip pockets of his corporate donors and his feet in his personal political future. His free hand seems to be simultaneously covering his eyes and ears to the condition of people in his own state.

In December 2008, Mississippi ranked No. 13 in unemployment, at 8 percent of the population. That amounts to more than 277,000 people, not counting the thousands who haven't worked in the past year, who haven't actively sought employment in the four weeks prior to the survey, or who lost part-time jobs. As a largely agricultural state, Mississippi has always had a large percentage of seasonal farm workers, for example, who aren't qualified for other work and have never worked full time. We also have an inordinately large population of single mothers, who often must work part time because they can't afford full-time day care for their children.

But Barbour is framing his argument against extending unemployment benefits as if the unemployed would much rather live off the dole than find work, so offering more benefits would surely swell the unemployment roles to unmanageable size as the eligible sit around fat and happy collecting their government checks. And, besides, once the federal dollars are spent, where would the money come from for all those slackers? Mississippi would surely need to raise employment taxes on businesses.

That's a tired southern-strategy argument, sounding a lot like the one about "states rights" during the civil-rights era. Complaints about "raising taxes on the rich and corporations" has become 21st century code for keeping the have-nots a "safe" distance from ever prospering. It's pure posturing for the sake of Barbour's corporate cronies and his own blind ambition.

Mississippi has a long, bad history of keeping its minority African American and poor populations "in their place." But the midst of the worst recession in decades is not the time for continued political and ideological posturing. It's time, governor, to set your ideology aside and do what's necessary to ensure the well-being of the people you serve. Mississippi, and America, needs what the stimulus package offers.

Previous Comments

ID
144201
Comment

Sam Hall quotes this editorial on his blog and adds the following comment: What’s the true shame is that Barbour is essentially lying about the stimulus money. He wants to scare everyone by saying when the stimulus money runs out the state will be forced to raise taxes. That is patently false, and the governor should admit his lie.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-03-02T10:12:53-06:00
ID
144204
Comment

I am no fan of Barbour but I am less of a fan of tax increases, especially on businesses. If it is true that once the stimulus money is spent the extended unemployment benefits would stop. Wouldn't the JFP and others then run stories about how the Governor is throwing people off the unemployment dole? How these people need help and we should raise taxes to increase the benefits to what those people had been enjoying until the money ran out? I can hear it now, we aren't asking for anything new, only what they had been receiving before the money ran out.

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-03-02T11:29:00-06:00
ID
144207
Comment

Whatever Barbour is arguing about is simply not true. It's just political grandstanding at its best (or worst). Barbour has already demonstrated that he's not interested in helping citizens at a time when they need it: cutting people off of Medicaid, diverting Katrina money that were designed to rebuild homes to rebuild the Port of Gulfport, not swapping the regressive grocery tax for cigarette taxes and now this.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-03-02T12:16:53-06:00
ID
144210
Comment

I can hear it now, we aren't asking for anything new, only what they had been receiving before the money ran out. That's interesting logic, WMartin. I wish I had your crystal ball. Do you really think that helping people now--in the midst of the worst economic crises in decades--somehow translates into extending benefits when jobs are available again? And even if it does, so what? Mississippi has the worst unemployment benefits of any state in the union. Extending our paltry benefits by a few weeks and a few dollars just brings us up to national standards. Seeing the needs, many states have already added benefits for part-timers as well. The "trickle-down" economic policies of the past have failed, including NOT taxing businesses (or giving them so many loopholes they end up not paying anything). When two-thirds of all business currently don't pay ANY state or federal taxes (including most of the biggest global corporations), I, for one, say it's about time. Why should they be exempt for shipping jobs overseas, for example?

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2009-03-02T13:06:01-06:00
ID
144214
Comment

My crystal ball is not good. It can't pick lottery numbers worth a dang. But yes, I think some will take advantage of the opportunity to make that play. Mainly those folks who want to see those benefits increased or just don't like Barbour. I don't really believe it's that big of a leap, logically speaking. The point that you didn't say you wouldn't write a story like the one I described and then used two paragraphs to tout increasing unemployment benefits and taxes isn't lost on me, however. I am not sure what you mean by the last two sentences? Are you advocating taxing companies located in other countries? Tariffs?

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-03-02T13:54:40-06:00
ID
144215
Comment

Sad fact is that there ARE some people who abuse Unemployment benefits. The "I only need this job for six months to qualify for unemployment." - said ON the job interview to the interviewer!!! But, that is no reason to punish the entire state. Most people here WANT to work. We DO need to re-work out unemployment benefits and application process. A friend was recently told at the unemployment office that they were "the wrong color" to get unemployment benefits. If the corrections to Mississippi Unemployment is a requirement on the package - Bravo! It is just sad it takes National government intervention to correct our system.

Author
BobbyKearan
Date
2009-03-02T14:01:28-06:00
ID
144221
Comment

What I don't get is why the Obama administration requires the extension of unemployment benefits as a condition. Just dole out the money; you just gave AIG another $30 billion.

Author
QB
Date
2009-03-02T14:27:43-06:00
ID
144223
Comment

I am not sure what you mean by the last two sentences? Are you advocating taxing companies located in other countries? Tariffs? I'm not advocating either of those options. I'm talking about great big U.S. "multi-national" corporations that have big overseas operations and foreign companies operating in the U.S., who don't pay any taxes, according to a GAO study published last year. The Government Accountability Office said 72 percent of all foreign corporations and about 57 percent of U.S. companies doing business in the United States paid no federal income taxes for at least one year between 1998 and 2005. More than half of foreign companies and about 42 percent of U.S. companies paid no U.S. income taxes for two or more years in that period, the report said. During that time corporate sales in the United States totaled $2.5 trillion, according to Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, who requested the GAO study. 'Splain this to me, please... The point that you didn't say you wouldn't write a story like the one I described and then used two paragraphs to tout increasing unemployment benefits and taxes isn't lost on me, however. I didn't say I wouldn't write a story? Huh?

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2009-03-02T14:35:48-06:00
ID
144227
Comment

Nope, you never said you wouldn't. ;-) It means I get it. You want increased benefits extended even beyond what the stimulus pays for and if it takes raising the tax business pays to get the money for it then you think that will be swell.

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-03-02T15:59:54-06:00
ID
144241
Comment

WMartin, you confused me with your double negative. Not "swell" at all. But here are my questions for you: Why are businesses sacrosanct in your opinion, and why should they be immune from paying their share of taxes on their income, i.e. profits? I don't specifically "want" higher taxes for anyone. What I want is a more inherently fair economic system instead of the one we currently have, which is heavily biased toward making more money for those that already have money. If that means some people (and businesses) have to pay higher taxes, so be it. Haven't we proven that the current system is broken? Don't we have more individuals who are wealthier and more who are poorer instead of the promised "trickle-down" equity of Reaganomics and Free-Market capitalism? It seems to me that the tax code and other government "incentives" have done everything possible to benefit big business and the wealthy while disregarding the working class and poor, giving them the perverbial shaft; they're worse off than they have been in decades. The stimulus represents some ideas that we haven't tried in a long, long time, and others that are brand new. Seems to me we ought to give it a chance before knee-jerking back into the same old b.s. economic rhetoric that has brought us to this point in the first place.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2009-03-02T18:18:07-06:00
ID
144252
Comment

I don't believe businesses are sacrosanct. I think doing business is one of the most natural things people do. There is nothing holy about it. If there was no government there would be still be people doing business. I am no anarchist either, I understand that the services the government provides need to be funded. But I also understand that when you tax something you get less of that something. Taxing cigarettes is commonly used to get people to smoke less. The same thing happens when you tax economic activity. The more you tax businesses, the less of them there will be. Most people don't get how small the profit margins are in most businesses. So it really doesn't surprise me that sometimes a business doesn't pay Federal Income taxes because sometimes they don't make a profit to be taxed. There are loopholes in the tax system usually put there as some sort of incentive to do a certain thing, invest a certain way or as an oversight in an extremely complicated system. You said earlier that not only do some businesses not pay Federal Income tax that they don't pay ANY state or federal taxes but that simply isn't true. If they paid their employees wages then the employee paid Federal Income tax and the company matched it. So the company pays, whether the tax is fair depends on which side of the check book you are on. And that is only one of the taxes a business is liable for. You also have other Federal fees depending on the type of business, state taxes (only one of which is the Unemployment tax) and local municipality taxes and fees. Most of those aren't scheduled around if the enterprise made a profit or not so they get paid regardless of whether the owners or shareholders made a dime or lost their shirts and most businesses do fail in the first five years. With all that being said I don't believe a business can just do anything it wants. I don't believe they should be allowed to poison our environment, kill or injure people with products that are known to be shoddy, defective, laced with dangerous diseases or otherwise lie, cheat or steal. I believe it's the proper role for government as a watchdog against that kind of behavior. I think Bernie Ebbers and Ken Lay got some of what was coming to them and should have gotten more and I would hope some people would get jail time for the current mess no matter who or how many are found to be responsible. No, I don't believe the current system is completely broken there are certain elements that are broken. I think oversight and regulation are needed. I think our culture is broken. The idea that we can buy now and pay later is as big a factor in this mess as anything else. The notion that the only thing of value in our society is money is wrong. The idea that we are owed something simply because we draw breath and live in America is a problem. I think JFK would be laughed at today if he told people to ask what they could do for their country if he was even heard over the people and special interests screaming what are you going to do for me. Those special interests include businesses as far as I am concerned. Free Market economics doesn't mean to do everything to help businesses. Laissez-faire means to let do. Not prop up, give special advantage, look the other way, cut them a break or anything like that. It has been bastardized by the greedy for their own profit at the tax payers expense. I am not against the stimulus. I am not even against extending the benefits for unemployment ,although philosophically I have issues with someone benefiting from unemployment, that the stimulus pays for but at the point where it becomes a back door tax increase after the President said he would not raise taxes on small business, at least in the short term, I do have a problem with that.

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-03-03T10:47:30-06:00
ID
144275
Comment

Great post, WMartin. Very clear. I also understand that when you tax something you get less of that something. ... The more you tax businesses, the less of them there will be. This part of your argument doesn't hold up for me, though. Your example, the cigarette tax, is clearly meant to be punitive, while most taxes are not, regardless of how any one individual may perceive them. Most American businesses were doing just fine (arguably better than they are now) before all of the tax cuts enacted over the last 20+ years. What they didn't do prior to that time--and I'm talking mostly BIG business here--was pay their CEOs and fund managers thousands of times more than they paid their average worker. What they didn't do was pay dividends on convoluted funny-money generated by Wall Street. What they didn't do was create monolithic "global" companies that pushed small, local businesses to the edge and beyond. WalMart is a modern Wall Street invention (or, said another way, WalMart as we know it couldn't have happened without Wall Street as we know it), not any kind of traditional business model. And Wall Street has only one purpose: make more money. I agree that we need more regulation and oversight. I also agree that our culture is broken when people think that money is the only thing in life worth pursuing. Funny how that bit of broken-ness corresponds with Wall Street's only purpose, don't you think? I'm suggesting that the entire conversation about taxes is purposeful redirection. When you look behind the curtain, it's all about cutting taxes for the wealthy and big business, framed in such a way as to get small business people and "average" Americans to rally behind the rhetoric. Estate taxes became "death" taxes, for example, because scary is effective. It's very similar in that way to the "family values" rhetoric, where somehow we've made the "moral dilemma" over who loves whom more important than whether our children are getting a decent education, for example, or whether we're destroying our environment with our greed. It's all just more smoke and mirrors, or to quote the immortal Bard: "sound and fury signifying nothing."

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2009-03-03T15:15:30-06:00
ID
144277
Comment

I think Bernie Ebbers and Ken Lay got some of what was coming to them and should have gotten more Given that Ken Lay died shortly after being convicted, he already got his comeuppance.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2009-03-03T15:34:44-06:00
ID
144281
Comment

This part of your argument doesn't hold up for me, though. Your example, the cigarette tax, is clearly meant to be punitive, while most taxes are not, regardless of how any one individual may perceive them. Regardless of how those taxes may be intended or perceived the effect would still be the same. I think we would both agree that at some level of taxation the effect would be to discourage growth in whatever activity is being taxed. I would even go so far as to say that when economic circumstances are better as they were during the Clinton administration the effect of higher taxes is lessened and individuals and businesses are more amiable to absorbing a tax increase to pay for more services from the government. Funny how that bit of broken-ness corresponds with Wall Street's only purpose, don't you think? It does make you think doesn't it? Another funny thing along those lines is that we (the Federal Government) could not shell out hundreds of billions of dollars fast enough to those same people on Wall Street, who you rightly say only have one objective and that is to make more money, and then we look down our noses at the automakers in Detroit who only ask for a fraction of that and those are the people who actually do produce something of real value.

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-03-03T16:06:54-06:00
ID
144282
Comment

Golden, I still think he got off easy.

Author
WMartin
Date
2009-03-03T16:08:05-06:00
ID
144301
Comment

I think we would both agree that at some level of taxation the effect would be to discourage growth in whatever activity is being taxed. Actually, I don't agree, and here's why: Having started my own business many years ago, what the tax rate was at the time didn't even enter into my thinking, other than to budget for it. I would argue that most entrepreneurs think much more about how their product(s) are going to change things or make things better, or even how they're going to be successful at their particular business venture regardless of the tax rate. It's just something you figure into the bigger picture. Yes, cash paid in taxes can't be reinvested for growth, but then, I'm also not so sure that perpetual growth is any panacea, either. I'm of the mind that having things like clean air and water, good schools and health, and an effective police and firefighting force--all potentially paid for by taxes--are valuable in and of themselves. I believe there should be a payoff for paying taxes and those things aren't necessarily measured in dollars. Now, if you're a big business looking for an optimal tax environment, you might make a decision on where to locate or who you hire based on the tax rate. But that's not growth or innovation; it's just scratching your profit itch. It's like the global furniture company closing their Michigan plant and laying off 350 people there, then crowing about the 125 jobs they're bringing to Mississippi. It represents a net loss, but it was couched in glowing "growth for Mississippi" rhetoric, at least by the guv'nor. Personally, I don't think we should have bailed out either the crooks on Wall Street or the polluting S.O.B.s in Detroit, but I do get your point. Yes, Detroit produces value insofar as their cars go (although if you've ever tried to sell a "new" car, you know the "value" drops substantially the moment you drive it off the lot, suggesting a cars' dollar value is greatly and artifically inflated), but they could have been putting much more of their profits into producing hybrids or other non-polluting technology long before being forced to do so. Public companies make "stockholder value" (i.e., making money) their first priority, which makes them part of the same problem. It easily obfuscates real value when every decision is made answering the question "how much profit it can make?" instead of answering fundamental product questions like "how good is this product?" and "do people need this?" and even "is this the best we can do?" I can't tell you how many times I had to try and "create" the need for a product as a marketer. It's never about the product at that point; it's about invoking fear or envy or greed in potential buyers. I can see why the government decided we had to bail them out, but it doesn't make me happy. As for Ken Lay, my mama taught me it isn't nice to speak ill of the dead, but between you and me, I think his greed killed him.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2009-03-03T17:21:19-06:00
ID
144342
Comment

Barbour's playing some word games in response to the House voting to take the entire stimulus: "Increasing taxes on job creation"??? STATEMENT BY GOVERNOR BARBOUR ON HCR 64 “Business owners and employees across the state should know House Democrats today voted to increase taxes on employment; any economist will tell you that’s about the worst thing you can do in a recession. I’m working as hard as I can to create jobs in Mississippi, and increasing taxes on job creation makes it harder to create more jobs. “I urge the State Senate to reject the House Democrat position because it would require a $16 million a year tax increase on Mississippi employers. It would mean fewer jobs for our working people.” ###

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-03-04T19:07:36-06:00
ID
144348
Comment

RE: STATEMENT BY GOVERNOR BARBOUR ON HCR 64 It seems to me that Republicans really are trying to destroy this country. http://www.amazon.com/Broken-Government-Republican-Destroyed-Legislative/dp/0670018201/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1236225552&sr=1-4

Author
BobbyKearan
Date
2009-03-04T21:59:40-06:00

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