By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Congressional candidates Travis Childers and Alan Nunnelee both rank jobs as the No. 1 issue facing north Mississippi.
The region has faced a double-digit unemployment rate for more than a year with a current average of 10.2 percent, according to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
Up until August, the jobless rate for most of the 1st District had averaged 12.8 percent, peaking with February’s 13.7 percent. In July, the rate was 13.4 percent.
But while both candidates say they want to put more men and women back to work, Childers and Nunnelee differ on how to accomplish that goal.
“I am convinced a lot of this recession is driven by fear,” said Nunnelee, the Republican candidate and current state senator, during a congressional debate last week at the University of Mississippi.
Nunnelee said business owners could invest in their companies and in the work force, but they’re afraid of the regulations, taxes and national debt coming out of Washington.
He specifically blamed the Health Care Reform bill and the stimulus bills – as well as the pending expiration of the Bush tax cuts – for fanning the fears of business owners.
Nunnelee, who owns a small business himself, said the best way to revive the economy is to lower taxes, loosen regulations and curb federal spending. Only then will companies feel safe enough to grow and hire more workers.
“If we calm businesses’ fears about the future,” Nunnelee said in his jobs plan, “we can turn this economy around.”
Childers has his own jobs plan. Since entering Congress in May 2008, the Democrat has voted on a host of pro-jobs legislation that earned him the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit of Enterprise Award.
And like Nunnelee, Childers also favors extending the Bush tax cuts for those who earn more than $250,000 a year. But Childers wants only a one-year extension; Nunnelee wants it permanently.
But Childers voted for the stimulus bills that his GOP opponent criticized – an $800 billion package in 2009 and one for $26 billion this year. While Nunnelee claims they add debt and worry to the market, Childers said they created jobs and spurred the economy.
“We put 2,000 teachers back to work,” Childers said, referring to the more recent stimulus.
He also called Nunnelee, who is chairman of the state Senate Appropriations Committee, a hypocrite for having used more than $500 million of the first stimulus bill to plug holes in the state’s fiscal year 2010 budget.
Childers, also a small business owner, agreed with his opponent that Washington must rein in the national debt. He voted for pay-as-you go legislation and against congressional pay raises.
But Nunnelee claims Childers hasn’t done enough to protect the economy: “We can’t afford another 22,000 lost jobs in the 1st Congressional District. We can’t afford another $800 billion of debt,” he said during the debate.
Childers said Nunnelee hasn’t done much better in the state Legislature: “Alan Nunnelee has a 16-year failed record,” he said during an interview in August.
“My focus has been on jobs and the economy,” he added. “Every person who wants a job has one; that’s my mission and I won’t stop until I achieve it.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.