Blame game, half truths, fuzzy math

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and his Republican challenger, Haley Barbour, have been drilling the economy into our heads. They both are playing the blame game, saying the other has contributed to the overall loss of Mississippi jobs and weak state fiscal situation.

But let’s get real for a second. Neither one of these two are telling the whole truth, and that is because neither one of these two have been in a powerful enough situation to make all the difference in the world.

NAFTA proponents had

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plenty of friends

Take Musgrove’s claim that Barbour and his former lobbying firm helped secure American jobs for Mexico. That is a flat-out lie. Barbour’s firm started working for Mexico after NAFTA was drafted, passed, signed and put into effect.

The NAFTA debate is what Musgrove is hanging his hat on in the &8220;It’s The Economy, Stupid&8221; arena. But, as Barbour has reminded us so often in his campaign ads, former Vice President Al Gore broke the tie with his vote in the U.S. Senate, and former President Bill Clinton signed the piece of legislation.

Of course, Barbour seems to have left out a key piece of his history lesson: Barbour’s friend, former President George H.W. Bush, first pushed the legislation during his only four years in office.

That’s right. A Republican-drafted bill was pushed through by an out-of-left field Democratic president from a Southern state. So, Musgrove and Barbour both are wanting to pin NAFTA’s woes on the other by playing the guilty-by-association card. Trouble is, they are both guilty by association.

Gore’s fuzzy math trickles down

to Mississippi

And what of the economic state of Mississippi? How many jobs have been lost? Whose numbers are right? Whose numbers are wrong?

Better question: who really cares? Any voter with any lick of sense knows that these two went negative from day one and have not looked back since.

Barbour, it can easily be said, has not done anything directly to adversely affect the deficit our state now faces. Unfortunately for the GOP hopeful, the same can be said for Musgrove.

Again and again I have said these two cats do not have what it takes to affect real change in the state budgeting process. This is not a statement on their political and leadership abilities. It is a direct reflection of the state constitution, which leaves our governor with little to zilch power when it comes to budgeting and other legislating authorities.

The best either can hope for is that they can build consensus among legislators to push through better budgets than have come in the past. Of course, we have seen that which Musgrove is capable in budgeting &045; nothing &045; and Republicans do not have the numbers in the House to do what it takes &045; which puts Barbour at a disadvantage.

Perhaps budget cuts would work

Still, what governors can do is help affect change by being a strong, sensible voice who plays on public sentiment. Former Gov. Kirk Fordice did as much with his &8220;bully-pulpit mentality,&8221; and to Musgrove’s credit, he did the same with funding education first and fully this year &045; which I still maintain was a cheap (though effective) political stunt.

But can we expect anything in the budgeting arena from our 2003 candidates?

Musgrove’s budget proposals have been as laughable as the Legislature’s actual passed budgets. Have we not forgotten how last year Musgrove said he would not raid the Tobacco Trust Fund to pay for state services? That’s because he was going to intercept the payments before they ever got deposited into the Tobacco Trust Fund. Such logic and word mastery is worthy of Clintonian Logic.

Still, neither Barbour nor Musgrove have said how they are going to balance the budget through cuts. They have just said they will do it. Swell.

With that logic, they can say just about anything but not back it up.

Oh yeah. So far, they have.

Sam R. Hall

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