BOBBY HARRISON: Look down the path where Mississippi's been

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – In 1966 during a visit to the University of Mississippi, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy said that then-Gov. Ross Barnett asked federal officials to point a gun at him during the integration of Ole Miss so that it would look at if he was doing everything possible to stop the event.
According to Kennedy’s version of events – denied by Barnett – the Mississippi governor wanted his constituents to believe he was doing everything he could to prevent actions that in truth he knew were inevitable.
The issue today is no longer integration. Let’s be clear that the issues today – no matter how important – pale in comparison to the issue of integration and civil rights. And nobody today is taking any action that should be construed as racist. Let me repeat that one more time – nobody is taking any action that should be construed as racist or in violation of a person’s civil rights.
It also should be pointed out that unlike in the 1960s nobody is shooting at anybody else over public policy or political differences.
But efforts to resist federal authority against overwhelming odds continue to be the modus operandi for some politicians – especially Mississippi politicians.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Perhaps, Democratic President Barack Obama will have a change of heart, hold a prime-time network address to announce he is undertaking efforts to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That would be just like him to do it on Super Bowl Sunday and interfere with the game.
Maybe, the Democratic majority in the Senate will join with House Republicans – and they would need some Democratic help in the House, too – to repeal the health care law so despised by so many Mississippi politicians.
Or perhaps Republicans could win in 2016 and repeal the law.
But safe money is that Obamacare – as it is known by many – is the law of the land from hence forth.
Part of that dreaded law establishes health insurance exchanges where people who do not have insurance or small businesses that want to offer insurance can theoretically shop around and get the best deal possible. The first person I heard advocate for health insurance exchanges was former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour.
The exchange should not have an impact on people who already have insurance.
The Affordable Care Act allows the states to run an exchange under specific federal guidelines. But if state officials opt not to run an exchange, then the federal government will do it for the state.
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, a Republican, reasoned that if an exchange is going to be operated in Mississippi, then it should be done by state officials using federal dollars that are made available. Chaney, like most Mississippi politicians, has a distrust of the federal government. That is why he says he wants the state to operate the exchange.
Bryant is trying to block that effort. He contends that he does not want the state to in any way participate in Obamacare.
The only problem is that by the state not participating the people of Mississippi are not spared Obamacare, and they are not spared the opportunity to find the lowest price for health insurance. The exchange still is going to be operating in Mississippi – just by federal officials.
But at least the governor honestly can say to Mississippians that he did everything he could to save us from the evils of Obamacare and the opportunity to shop for the lowest insurance rates.
And who knows, maybe, the governor – just like a predecessor – thinks if all the Republican governors ban together and resist helping to develop the exchanges in their individual states then the federal government will be overwhelmed and the effort will be abandoned.
Again, Mississippi has traveled down this path before of massive resistance to federal authority. It should be pointed out it did not work too well then.
Maybe it will be different this time.
Bobby Harrison is the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau Chief. Contact him at or call (601) 353-3119.

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