EDITORIAL: Stimulating recovery

Gov. Barbour’s federal-stimulus-money summit last week in Jackson provided additional details about the $2.7 billion allocated to Mississippi for recovery from the recession.
Tough economic times are adversely affecting state revenue, programs, policies, plans and expectations.
In sum, the $787 billion program passed by Congress is complex and requires adherence to many rules and mandates, including safeguards to ensure honest spending, contracting and application of the funds to needs ranging from education to road construction.
State agency leaders participating in the summit didn’t sugarcoat difficulties, and none of them stuttered about the necessity of receiving every entitled dime and putting it to work.
The whole of state government programs is subject to reduction because Mississippi tax collections not only aren’t meeting original projections, they’re running behind the last budget year’s revenue. Our situation is worse than anyone expected, and the governor, as required, has made cuts.
No one likes budget cuts. They dash hope and stall expectations. The federal funds won’t make everything whole, but they will help immensely if not wasted or misused.
We Mississippians – Republicans, Democrats and independents – often bash the federal government and its myriad rules and laws even as money pours into our coffers in good times and bad.
The seldom-stated fact is that our state couldn’t make it without federal money – in good times and bad.
First, there’s every category of entitlement payment: Social Security, other government retirements plans, program money used in the state’s budget context, Medicaid, and, of course those infamous earmarks so many criticize and which none refuse.
Some leaders in other states last week decried the federal role and its rules, even as those particular states spent the recovery funds due them.
Disagree politically with the Obama administration’s approach to recovery, but remember that without the federal investment the pain surely would be worse than now. Free speech allows us to condemn and bite the hand that feeds us, but without largesse from Washington we’d be further up the proverbial creek.

Remember Katria aid
We Mississippians didn’t complain in 2005 – and continuing today – as federal funds underwrote the recovery and rebuilding of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Most of us believed that we were entitled to Washington’s generosity in the aftermath of natural catastrophe.
In the sense of being an equal partner in the Union of states, we are entitled. We had no massive resources to rebuild. Bipartisan work crafted what was directed to us and equally hard-hit Louisiana: More than $150 billion is expected to have been spent on hurricane recovery by the end of 2009.
That funding also drove up the deficit and the debt, and almost everyone agrees it is justified, even if in disagreement about administrative particulars.
Our federal government is designed to respond as it did to Katrina – and as it is responding to the recession, banking and credit crisis, and the mortgage fiasco.
Yes, free politics plays a role, but politics goes beyond partisanship when it seeks or wishes for a program to fail because it violates a particular ideology.
If the recovery fails, the ultimate outcome will be additional deficit spending, debt – and unemployment.

Bipartisan shoes
Put the shoes on both kinds of political feet. Mississippi Republicans, during the Senate campaign in 2008, endlessly blasted Democratic former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove for statewide job losses during the administration.
Will Republican Gov. Haley Barbour take the blame for the job losses in Mississippi during his second term in this recession, to date?
We doubt it, and he doesn’t deserve it. Barbour didn’t cause the economy to tank any more than Ronnie Musgrove caused economic problems during his administration.

Recovery in Mississippi
Many people in both parties refuse to see that we’re in this leaking boat together.
Bipartisan recovery efforts aren’t likely in Washington, the most politically toxic city in the world.
Bipartisan recovery could happen in Mississippi – if decision makers forget about the next election and worry about people without jobs and declining nesteggs, and focus on making the most of opportunities we can create together.

 

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