One big difference between what happened in France in 1789 and America in the summer of 2011 was that the have-nots rose up to take power from the haves in France while in the U.S. it's the reverse. Here, the haves were allowed to keep what they've got and government was left to being financed on the backs of the have-nots.
Folks down in the far reaches of the South tend to view any squabble in Congress as business as usual that won't affect them. Well, it was not. The deadlock over raising the debt ceiling (a commonplace action in both Republican and Democratic administrations) was turned into a hostage-taking by Republican extremists. It was only broken when President Obama let deficit hawks loot the store without putting a nickel in the pot.
Where were these deficit hawks in 2003 when George W. Bush recklessly launched a war against Iraq on the false pretense that Saddam Hussein threatened our national security? That war cost the U.S. $10 billion a week, put on the credit card, sending the deficit through the ceiling and tripling the national debt. More important, it was the first time in history America went to war without increasing taxes to pay for it. Conversely, Bush twice cut the income tax. Tea Partiers sipped their tea while it happened. Now they scream for budget cuts because of the debt.
For Mississippi, a state that depends on transfer payments - federal dollars-as its primary source of individual income, nothing would be worse than starving federal programs that are so important to Mississippians.
In mid-July, a bar graph compiled by The New York Times from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Moody's Analytics and Bureau of Economic Analysis, showed that 26.2 percent of Mississippi's personal income came from government payments. The state was second only by a hair to the state of West Virginia. An accompanying article explained how federal stimulus money, much of it from extension of unemployment benefits, had helped to keep money in people's wallets.
With unemployment benefit extensions slated to soon expire, the article points out that many states face yet another economic jolt. Nationally, 14 million people are out of work. Mississippi's jobless rate of 10.3 percent stands more than 1 point higher than the nation's average-making the picture for the state's new administration beginning next January quite dismal unless more money is put into circulation to prop up consumer spending and produce sales tax revenues.
Back to the debt ceiling debacle: We'll probably never know how close Obama and House Speaker John Boehner came to a backroom bargain making a $4 trillion long-term deficit deal that included both cuts and revenues. Once the far-right got on Boehner's tail, the scent of new revenue killed further talks.
It's absolutely absurd as some spout as gospel that any tax increase in a down economy is an automatic job-killer. Bill Clinton raised the top bracket of the income tax to 39 percent in the early 1990s and that decade saw the greatest era of prosperity the country has seen since World War II (even Mississippi shared in it) and creation of a record 22 million jobs.
The pusillanimous debt deal on Capitol Hill was so much akin to the French mob rule of 1789 that calling Congress dysfunctional is an understatement. And just think: Five of Mississippi's six delegates in that body were enablers.
Columnist Bill Minor has covered Mississippi politics since 1947. Contact him through Ed Inman at email@example.com.