One way politicians get their constituents to vote against their best interests is to play into already existing fears. It's a time-honored, if not somewhat dishonest way of keeping people from even attempting to distinguish a politician's words from reality.
Mississippi, America and, indeed, the world, is suffering from what's been dubbed the "Great Recession." At the risk of stating the obvious, people have lost jobs, businesses have shuttered their doors, and retirement investments have lost big, shark-bite-sized chunks. We can't ague with any of those facts.
Together, all those facts have threatened the livelihood and security of Mississippians, putting them into a place where they're ready to accept anything. Many people are afraid, and rightfully so. To play on those fears, however, is an underhanded way of keeping people "in their place," and our own governor is a master of the game.
Gov. Haley Barbour began his State-of-the-State address last week by regaling the audience with the accomplishments of the state's businesses. From Entergy to Chevron, Mississippi's utility and oil companies are doing just fine, we heard, and we can all thank the quality of our work force, "who can be trained" to "fill the pipeline" of the jobs Barbour is bringing into the state.
From the good corporate news, Barbour segued directly into the financial bad news, which is, of course, that revenues are down. The state's annual
tobacco-settlement payment is down by $10 million although he didn't indicate why. Barbour said that he did not want to raise personal taxes, then proceeded with a mind-numbing litany of the money that won't be available to Mississippi: $150 million in federal stimulus funds in 2010 and $350 million in 2011; two-thirds of the rainy day fund; $35 million from the tobacco settlement trust fund; a recommendation not to establish a tax amnesty (which produced $9 million in 2004); and a current $371 million budget shortfall.
Barbour ended the bad-news section of his speech with a prediction that the shortfall will be, at 8.1 percent, $437 million by the end of the year, "… and I frankly fear it may be worse," he said.
Having brilliantly set up his audience, Haley then went full throttle into his real message: that the state Legislature should give him the power to cut state agency budgets by 10 percent, doubling his current authority of 5 percent. As an example of why he needs the additional power, Barbour said cutting the budgets for Corrections "would require 3,400 to 4,000 convicts to be let out of prison." And hell, who would vote for that.
Mississippi's governor is a master of political spin. For some of us, the spin is transparent: business and prisons, good; public anything, bad. We urge citizens not to simply accept everything Barbour is saying. Let's take care not to grab on to the first idea that looks like a lifeline. It may turn out to be a snake.
As long as the majority of the citizenry remains politically naive, and continues to vote and support programs and policies not in our interest and oppose those programs that are in our interest, we will continued being used. Someone said "We get the Goverment we deserve". I can't blame Barbour, he is just doing what has always worked. Why change?