Give Thanks If You Have a Job

The season of Thanksgiving is upon us. Those of us who have jobs should be especially thankful. Having a job is the new gold standard in America.

Let us pray for those who don’t.

Be prepared to pray for a while. State economist Darrin Webb warns Mississippi employment won’t get back to normal until 2015. He told that to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

You see, this is also state budget season. First, the Senate and House suggested divergent budget approaches. Then, the Governor issued his budget. Now, legislative leaders have agreed on the approach they want to take.

Let’s see.

Governor Haley Barbour says Mississippi has a $637 million structural budget deficit. He says state agencies must take an eight (8) percent cut to balance the budget, Medicaid reimbursements must be cut, and step pay increases for teachers need to skip a year.

Legislative leaders have decided a one (1) percent cut should be sufficient, have yet to mention Medicaid, and aren’t for freezing the step increases for teachers.

Hmmm.

Those look like serious differences.

While the Governor cannot seek re-election, several legislative leaders will be seeking higher office next year, and all will be up for re-election. Reckon anyone’s trying to slide by difficult decisions during an election year?

If this were a federal election, we would expect to hear Tea Partiers jump in about now. Clearly, the Governor’s approach is aligned with the core values of the Tea Party – smaller government, spending cuts, and fiscal responsibility. Legislative leaders’ approach less so.

But, those loud Tea Party voices that ousted two incumbent Mississippi Congressmen (an historic event) over spending and deficits are astoundingly silent.

Here’s what’s going on.

Legislative leaders are digging in every pocket for money they can use to cover costs for one year and, thereby, minimize spending cuts. It’s called using “one-time money” to cover “recurring costs.” This process allows legislators to “balance” the budget in the short term, but it is inherently dishonest and leaves budgets unbalanced over the long term.

Older readers will recall this approach took down the S&L industry. When government does this, it causes “structural deficits” and, invariably, depletes savings or runs up debt.

Mississippi legislators have been doing this for years. That’s how the Tobacco Trust Fund dwindled from $600 million to $100 million when it should have been up to $1 billion by now. That’s why Medicaid deficits never go away and the state retirement fund is under the gun.

Folks, the state needs fiscal discipline just as much as the feds. So, why are Tea Partiers so quiet? Are they more about politics than real reform?

Why, yes, turkeys do hide out at Thanksgiving.

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