Preposterous Promises Taking over Politics?

Standing on the promises….

No, not those promises, but the promises of politicians.

Consider these current promises from the Democratic candidates for president.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is promising to make college and university attendance free for students for families earning less than $125,000 per year. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s promise is to forgive up to $50,000 in student loans for graduates who make less than $100,000. Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris of California promise to subsidize college costs.

As you might expect, such promises appeal to many. TheHill.com  reported that a majority of voters support free state college and canceling student debt, citing a recent Hill-HarrisX poll. “The survey found that 58% of registered voters said they would support a proposal that would make public colleges, universities and trade schools tuition-free. The same group also said they would back a plan eliminating all existing student debt.” The breakout by party showed 72% of Democratic voters in favor, 58% of independents, and 40% of Republicans.

Among the leading Democratic presidential contenders Sanders and Warren are promising Medicare for All that would replace the current public/private health insurance system with a single government-run system. But all promise to create more publicly funded options for health care, such as allowing people to buy-in to Medicaid.

Lower cost health insurance appeals to many too. A survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation this month found that 53% of Americans favor a national single-payer health insurance plan. “We have found broad support for proposals that expand the role of public programs like Medicare and Medicaid as well as a government-administered public option,” the foundation said. The breakout by party showed 77% of Democrats in favor, 53% of independents, and 19% of Republicans.

There are more, like Warren’s promise to provide subsidized child care for all families earning below 200% of the poverty line and entrepreneur Andrew Yang’s promise to give every American family $1,000 a month.

You get the idea.

Preposterous promises you say.

Hmmm.

Well, not that long ago Donald Trump got elected president by making preposterous  promises that appealed to his base. These included making Mexico pay for “the wall,” balancing the budget quickly and eliminating the national debt in eight years, growing the economy 4% a year, and saving the coal industry.

Of course, none of those promises are coming true. Raided military construction projects and taxpayers are funding the wall, not Mexico. Budget deficits and the national debt are escalating. While the economy got an initial kick from Trump’s tax cuts, growth is averaging under 3% annually. And the coal industry continues to collapse.

Presidential candidates have often been unable to deliver on campaign promises due to a reluctant Congress or changing circumstances. But those cited above seem all too willing to make appealing promises they have little chance to deliver.

We’re seeing the gap between politics and upright character traits integrity and honesty grows wider and wider.

While this trend is regrettable, we have been cautioned  – “Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight,” Proverbs 12:22, and should know whose promises we can truly rely upon  – “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man,” Psalms 118:8.

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Preying catching on in Washington, D.C.

Let us prey.

No, not “pray,” but “prey,” like in prey upon the poor, elderly, ignorant, and ordinary citizens.

More preying of this sort seems to be an in thing in Washington these days.

So, it’s okay for human traffickers to get away with forcing children into prostitution? “Several federal efforts to combat human trafficking in the U.S. have slowed under the Trump administration, according to government data and human trafficking advocates,” reported Axios.com, adding that the Trump administration has cut back on prosecutions of these crimes.

So, it’s okay for unscrupulous offshore drillers to put coastal residents at risk by skipping tests designed to prevent disasters like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill? Time.com reported the Trump administration has announced plans to “loosen off-shore drilling regulations” and remove “the requirement for the Interior Department to externally verify safety operations and equipment used by offshore drillers.”

So, it’s okay for unscrupulous medical groups to prey on the sick? “The bipartisan desire to protect insured consumers from unexpected bills is now facing fierce headwinds after persistent attacks from well-funded providers and dark money groups over August recess,” reported Politico.com.

So, it’s okay for unscrupulous private colleges to prey on students? InsideHigherEd.com reported the Trump administration’s final borrower-defense regulations, promulgated by Education Secretary Betsy Devos, add a new three-year time limit on claims borrowers were defrauded with each case will to be considered individually “even if there is evidence of widespread misconduct at an institution.”

So, it’s okay for unscrupulous loan companies to prey on the poor? “Payday lenders have a predatory business model where they profit while families are plunged into an unaffordable debt trap of loans at rates that reach 400 percent APR or higher,” CNBC quoted a consumer advocate after the Trump administration rolled back protections set to make payday loans less risky.

So, it’s okay for unscrupulous debt collectors to prey on borrowers? The Trump administration’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, reported the Washington Post, has proposed rules that would give the debt collectors permission to send borrowers unlimited amounts of texts and emails.

So, it’s okay for unscrupulous businesses to put the public at risk by emitting hazardous air toxins like benzene, dioxin, and lead that cause health problems such as cancer and birth defects? The New York Times cited a report saying the Environmental Protection Agency “took a dramatic step toward deregulating some major sources of toxic air pollution, which could have huge implications for public health.” (Permitting pollution near streams and wetlands is next up.)

So, it’s okay for unscrupulous plant operators to stonewall local responders when chemical spills put communities at risk? Reuters reported the Trump administration suspended regulations requiring companies to coordinate with local emergency responders.

And don’t forget the general inaction from DC that enables the unscrupulous to prey on children, the elderly, and the ignorant via Internet, email, social media, and telephone scams and pornographic solicitations.

Hmmm, scary stuff.

Then there’s Ezekiel 34:29 where the Lord God pledges to free His people from those who prey on them. “They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid.”

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What Issues Will Matter Most to Voters in November?

What issues will matter most to voters when choosing Mississippi’s next governor?

Republican nominee Tate Reeves wants to convince voters that his opponent is a tax and spend, anti-Trump liberal. Democratic nominee Jim Hood wants to convince voters that his opponent is a self-serving politician who cares more about corporate cronies than average Mississippians.

It’s going to be that kind of race, with lots of money spent trying to convince voters what’s wrong with the other guy.

But are these negative issues the ones that matter most?

As Sid Salter pointed out, Reeves successfully framed Bill Waller as “too liberal” to take him down in the Republican primary runoff. Salter expects Reeves to “double down” on that same theme against Hood. Indeed, Reeves started out his campaign blasting Hood and only focused on Waller when the runoff became a reality.

While that tactic helped Reeves win the runoff, Waller’s more positive campaign on substantive issues garnered 46% of the vote. Will Reeves’ “too liberal” gambit bring those voters to his side in November?

As Reeves emphasized, Waller’s focus on fixing roads and bridges, increasing teacher pay, and saving hospitals are many of the key issues pushed by Hood. If a lot of Waller Republican voters care most about these issues and go with Hood, Reeves could be in trouble in November. Indeed, early polls showed Hood beating Reeves.

Or will President Donald Trump favoring Reeves be the biggest issue for Mississippi voters? There is no doubt Trump will endorse Reeves. The only question is how many Trump visits and Trump family visits to Mississippi will occur over the next two months.

In this vein, Reeves will try to nationalize the race by highlighting his support for Trump and his policies and playing on Mississippi disdain for national liberals.

In contrast, Hood will try to keep the focus local by using his faith-based oratory to highlight issues important to working men and women and playing on Mississippi esteem for pro-life values.

Indeed, the values issue could be in play too. During the primary Reeves emphasized his support for “Mississippi values” as a key theme. Hood emphasizes Christian values and regularly blends Bible verses into his comments.

Underlying all these issues is one key contrast that has defined these candidates over their careers. Few have been more pro-business than Reeves. Few have been more pro-consumer than Hood. Reeves talks about business opportunity while Hood talks about opportunities for working men and women. Reeves has championed business tax cuts and de-regulation. Hood has championed workplace safety and children’s issues and has proposed cutting sales taxes on groceries.

Then, there is this issue as highlighted by Wyatt Emmerich. “If you hate golf, you probably aren’t going to be good at it,” he wrote. “It’s as though some Republicans hate government. As a result, they aren’t very good at it. Cut, cut, cut may have been good medicine after 120 years of Democratic reign, but the anti-government tilt is tipping too far.

“We need a good, competitive two-party system in Mississippi. This one-party domination deal is for the birds. It allows the entrenched party to loaf.”

Will voters choose Hood, the Democrat, to re-balance government or stick with Reeves, the Republican, to keep things as they are?

Lots of issues for voters to consider.

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Reeves strong in rural counties; reaches out to Waller voters

Interesting tidbits from the Republican primary runoff won by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves by a 54% to 46% margin over former Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller:

In 2015, the runoff vote total was 54% of the first primary total. This year that percentage jumped to 87%.

The GOP runoff total of nearly 325,000 votes even topped the nearly 290,000 Democratic vote total in the first primary. Remember, the Republican first primary vote total of nearly 375,000 had topped Democratic primary turnout for the first time

Tate Reeves retained nearly 97% of his 183,000 first primary vote in the runoff. Waller increased his 125,000 vote total by 120% (based on unofficial returns). 

Waller once again beat Reeves in his home county, Rankin.

As expected, the real margin in the race came from rural counties. Of the big 12 counties that provide most Republican votes, Reeves carried seven with Waller winning five. The net margin in those counties was 8,622 votes. Reeves won 59 of the other 70 rural counties; Waller 11. That padded Reeves’ margin by another 19,150 votes.

Mississippi Today reported Reeves spent at least $6.2 million of his campaign war chest to get by Waller. In comparison, Waller raised and spent about $1.4 million. The newspaper estimated Reeves’ balance after the primary to be down to about $3 million.

During the waning days of the runoff a skirmish between former and more recent Republican Party chairmen erupted.

Former chairmen Jim Herring, Billy Powell, Mike Retzer, and Clarke Reed castigated more recent chairmen Joe Nosef, Arnie Hederman, and Brad White for promulgating a letter that labeled Waller a Democrat. That’s “reckless and wrong” said the former chairmen. Waller had been endorsed by party leaders and hailed as a conservative when running for the state supreme court.

In his victory speech Reeves moved to try to heal differences. “I am determined to bring this party together in November,” he said. “A lot of good people voted for him (Waller) today, and what I want to say is this: I heard you.”

In March, 31 hospitals located in 30 counties were identified to be at risk of closing. Waller made saving these hospitals a key issue in his campaign. But, Reeves carried 29 of those counties.

Still, Reeves felt the need to tell his victory audience, “If you believe in helping our rural hospitals and doing it in a smart and conservative way, then you need to join our team.”

Last October the Mississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction identified 17 counties with significant bridge closures due to structural deficiencies. Bill Waller made addressing road and bridge problems another key issue in his campaign. But Reeves carried all 17 of these counties.  

Still, Reeves told his victory audience, “If you believe we need to fix our roads and keep our economy strong, hear me out.”

Addressing another Waller priority, he added, “If you believe we need to raise teacher pay and balance our budget, come with me,” then concluded, “let’s do it together.”

Reeves will need those Waller voters to join him in November to beat Attorney General Jim Hood, the Democratic nominee.

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Taylor Says Skills Training Should Begin in 8th Grade

“The paradigm of get a job and we will train you is gone,” says Louisville’s Lex Taylor. He is talking to a large multi-county group of business, education, and government leaders at the The Dome, Louisville’s new community safe room.

Understand that Taylor is no common businessman. He is the third-generation leader of one of Mississippi’s great rural industry successes.

In 1927 W. A. Taylor, Sr. opened a small family-owned automotive and repair business in Louisville. In 1937 he produced his first conventional timber skidder, then pioneered a mobile skidder and loader called the “Logger’s Dream.” The 1950’s brought the development of “Yardster” forklift trucks. A line of pulpwood handling equipment, including the “Pulpwood Dream,” followed. By the early 1970s, Taylor Machine Works, under the second generation leadership of W.A. “Bill” Taylor Jr., had developed one of the most advanced machine shops in the South with heavy investments in modern machine tools. New products included a complete line of heavy duty trailers (for transporting gravel, soil, etc.), numerous agricultural implements, reforestation equipment, log loaders, and other specialized machines.

Today, under the third generation leadership of Lex and his brother Robert, Taylor Machine Works is now one division in the Taylor Group of Industries, Inc, that includes national defense product, power system, logistics, leasing and rental, and “sudden service” divisions. The company has operations in Alabama, Florida, Texas, Wyoming, and multiple locations in Mississippi and is a major player worldwide in materials handling equipment.

“Taylor competes on a world stage, now, with its products and services, and like all businesses here and our surrounding areas, we need a pool of trained, ready-to-work labor,” says Taylor, “workers that with minor orientation on the job can be productive day one.”

That was the purpose of the meeting in Louisville, to kick-off and promote a four-county initiative to begin building pools of ready-to-work labor.

Rural counties Choctaw, Kemper, Webster, and Winston banded together to pursue and win a competitive POWER grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission. The objective of this project is to begin to build local labor pools at the high school level, then to establish community-based access to fundamental skills training oriented to the needs of local industry within each county.

Driving the project were the local economic developers, Lara Bowman, executive director of The Enterprise of Mississippi that includes Choctaw and Webster counties, Glen Haab, executive director of the Winston County Economic Development District Partnership, and Craig Hitt, executive director of the Kemper County Economic Development Authority.

Key partners were community colleges to provide training and testing services – East Mississippi, East Central, and Holmes; high schools to provide the students – Choctaw County, French Camp Academy, Kemper County, Kemper Academy, East Webster, Eupora, Louisville, Nanih Waiya, and Noxapater; career and technology centers to provide training sites – Choctaw County, Louisville, Webster County, and EMCC; and the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District to handle fiscal matters.

This is a beginning, but Taylor hopes for more. He wants to put work skills and soft skills education into school curricula beginning in the 8th grade.

“Workforce development is now, more than ever, one of the most critical tools in driving the American economy to the greatness it once commanded,” he says. “Skills training is the answer.”

As an industry leader who competes successfully worldwide, Taylor seems like someone we should listen to.

 

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Are GOP Candidates Willing to Tackle Rural Issues?

Rural Mississippians, as I wrote last week, will have a big say in the August Republican primary runoffs. Politicians who ignore their plight may be in for a big surprise.

Take, for example, Tippah County on the northern border of the state. Republican voter turnout in the first primary was up 4,809, a 732% gain. A key issue in Tippah County appears to be delay after delay to four-lane Highway 15.

The future economic growth of Ripley could depend upon completion of the project, Mayor Chris Marsalis told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. “I know of three (businesses) that passed on our initial location because access to a four-lane highway was too far away,” Marsalis said. His sentiment was echoed by Doug Martin, the mayor of Blue Mountain.

Ashley Furniture chairman Ron Wanek said, “Highway 15 is long overdue to be improved,” calling it hazardous, challenging, and dangerous.

Lack of funding for highways in Mississippi is why the project has been delayed, said Mike Tagert, the outgoing northern district transportation commissioner. “You’ve got to pay for the system that you want to build and maintain,” he told the newspaper. He added that the fairest and most equitable way to do that “is through a fuel tax increase.”

Of the two candidates in the GOP runoff for governor, only Bill Waller has shown a willingness to do that, proposing to offset an increase in fuel taxes by reducing personal income taxes. His opponent Tate Reeves continues to reject any increase out of hand.

Similar stories can be found in rural counties with struggling hospitals, teacher shortages, and mental health challenges. Waller has put forth ideas to address these issues while Reeves has not.

Interestingly, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor Delbert Hosemann also favors addressing these issues. Hosemann has said he is committed to the construction and maintenance of our roads and bridges, wants to reform Medicaid to ensure all Mississippians have access to affordable, quality healthcare and mental health care, and wants to increase teacher pay to deal with the teacher shortage. Hosemann hopes to pay for much of this from savings generated by “running the government better.”

Of course, these are not the only issues facing rural counties: decreasing population, particularly from the loss of young people, while the proportion of elderly residents continues to surge; opioid addiction coupled with increased drug abuse and suicides; and physician shortages now coupled with nursing shortages are among the other issues causing rural distress.

If Republicans choose candidates unwilling to do what it takes to tackle rural issues, Democrats are ready to jump in.

Jim Hood wants to expand Medicaid to strengthen rural emergency care and provide more rural mental health care, raise teacher pay to deal with the teacher shortage, raise the gas tax to fix and build new roads and bridges, and force opioid manufacturers to help pay for opioid addiction treatment.

Jay Hughes, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, wants to expand Medicaid to increase healthy outcomes and save medical jobs in rural areas, increase teacher pay to deal with the teacher shortage, and favors construction and maintenance of our roads and bridges.

Will rural voters weigh in on these issues?

The real question is when, on August 27th for Republican solutions or on November 5th for Democratic solutions.

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Sonny Saw Others as Potential Allies, Not Enemies

The day before election days harried politicians scurry to and fro making last minute connections and headlines to squeeze out those last few votes.

The first “day before” this year for Mississippi elections landed on August 5th. That is also the birthday of a Mississippi politician who seldom had to scurry for last minute votes. The late Congressman G.V. ‘Sonny’ Montgomery would have turned 99 this year. That’s also about the margin of his tightest race, his 1955 election to the Mississippi State Senate over then Lauderdale County School Principal Donald Williamson.

In remembering Sonny, the stark contrast between him and today’s state and national politicians stands out. Aggressive partisanship embraced today casts those from the other party as enemies. Sonny was above partisanship, seeing others as potential allies. Indeed, Sonny worked tirelessly to unite, not divide.

Former Senate Majority Leader and Republican Senator Trent Lott said at Sonny’s 2006 memorial service, “A long-time Democrat, Sonny was truly above party. And no one, on either side of the aisle, ever questioned his sincerity, his integrity, or his independence. A loyal son of Mississippi, one of ours, from his birth to his passing, he really belonged to the nation. For although he saw things from the wisdom and experience of Mississippi’s people, what he always looked out for was the national good.”

Hmmm.  “Above party … national good,” attributes all but erased from today’s politics.

Sonny believed there were some things too important to leave to partisan politics. One was the absolute necessity for the transition from the draft to an all-volunteer military to succeed.

Army historian, Col. Michael Meese, Ph.D., explained, “Transitioning to the All-Volunteer Force was the most important change the Army made since WWII; the Montgomery GI Bill was the policy vehicle that allowed this to happen.” This comes from a book appropriately entitled “Across the Aisle.” It chronicles Sonny’s persevering seven-year bipartisan leadership to get this historic legislation enacted.

The unabashed partisanship of today suggests there are no decisions needed in Mississippi or Washington that are too important to leave to partisan politics.

If so, leaders like Sonny must no longer be needed.

In a letter to Sonny, former Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia wrote, “You are one of the most reassuring things I have found in congress. Your honesty, your statesmanship, your commitment to your country & your love of God will be sorely missed.”

“We loved his humor, we loved his patriotism and we loved his faith,” said the late and former First Lady Barbara Bush at Sonny’s memorial service.

Those of us who knew and worked with Sonny saw and appreciated these attributes. He was a true peacemaker (Matthew 5:9).

We miss you Sonny and do need more like you.

(For you history buffs, Sonny’s next closest vote occurred after his 10 years of service in the state senate during his first race for Congress. In the 1966 Democratic primary, Sonny won in the first with about a 99 vote margin over three other candidates. He won the general election with 65% of the vote, the next general two years later with 70%, four of the next 11 with over 90% with the other seven uncontested. He won in 1992 with 81% and in 1994 with 68%. Sonny retired after 30 years in the Congress in 1997.)

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