Elect me and I will create new jobs and reverse the job loss Ronnie imposed on the state's economy, Haley promised Mississippi voters. Thousands of Mississippians evidently bought Barbour's pitch and elected him, re-electing him in 2007.
Did Barbour miraculously produce those jobs he promised back then and stop the state's economic decline? Well, not exactly. The U.S. Bureau of Labor job statistics show a different story.
When Musgrove left office in January, 2004, the state had 177,500 manufacturing jobs, Employment Service reports show. In 2010, the last complete year in Barbour's reign, the state had an average of 136,400 manufacturing jobs.
Do the math and you find a loss of 41,500 manufacturing jobs under Barbour.
In total jobs - including both manufacturing and service jobs - Mississippi had 1,108,300 people employed in January 2004, and now only 1,075,300. That means 33,000 fewer Mississippians working now than were working seven years ago.
What about the state's unemployment rate? When Musgrove left office, Mississippi had a 5.6 percent unemployment rate. The state's latest unemployment rate is 10.4 percent, and for the entire year of 2010, the state unemployment rate averaged 10.7 percent, reaching as high as 12.1 percent for two months early in the year.
Of course, we all know from news reports that the entire nation is still in a slow recovery from the Great Recession that hit in December 2007 and lasted until July 2009. But how is Mississippi faring in the national jobless parade, with maybe-wannabe president Barbour at the helm?
In April (the last month for comparison), Mississippi's unemployment rate was exceeded by only four other states in the entire nation. Notably, in every one of 84 months Barbour has been in office, Mississippi's jobless rate has exceeded the national unemployment rate, by 1.5 to 2.5 percent.
Barbour might claim that Mississippi's dim jobs picture is the result of the 2008-09 economic recession. However, in 2003 when Barbour hammered Musgrove about job loss during his term, he cut Musgrove no slack that the nation in 2001-02 was in an economic recession, plus the fact that NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) sucked hundreds of Mississippi's garment factory jobs overseas.
Ronnie, amazingly, didn't capitalize in his campaign on the fact he had landed Nissan in 2001, the state's first auto manufacturing plant, creating 5000 well-paying manufacturing jobs and more than 2000 supplier jobs.
Historically, national economic recessions and high unemployment have reached Mississippi only after hitting most other states, but they have lasted longer here. This time we seem to be in the same boat with everybody else in the dangerously slow pace of recovery. Even slower here, says state economist Darren Webb in the June edition of "Mississippi's Business" published by the University Research Center. He reports that Mississippi was among the slowest growing states in 2010, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The Great Depression of the 1930s was devastating to Mississippi as elsewhere in the Deep South. How well do I know, growing up in small towns of southeast Louisiana, just a few miles down the road from Pike County. My father, a typesetter/printer on small newspapers, was out of a job four years in the early '30s until Franklin D. Roosevelt's WPA (Works Progress Administration) came along.
Only World War II really pulled America out of the decade-long Great Depression. When the economy looked better and the jobless rate dropped in 1937, FDR yielded to GOP pressure to cut taxes and spending. Very quickly, the economy was back in the dumper and he had to back off the cuts. Now, it's like dampéjampá vu all over again: Republicans - Haley Barbour among them - are again demanding tax and spending cuts while holding the nation's debt limit hostage. All we need to reduce America to a second-rate world power is to bring back Hoovervilles, as in Herbert.
Columnist Bill Minor has covered Mississippi politics since 1947. Contact him through Ed Inman at firstname.lastname@example.org.