Mississippi editorial roundup

News,Science and Technology

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

Feb. 8

The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss., on Department of Revenue legislation:

The Legislature has a tremendous opportunity to save millions of taxpayer dollars while at the same time investing millions of dollars in rejuvenating the downtown of our state's capital city — a win/win.

Yet the politics of a single, powerful lawmaker are standing in the way.

House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, pushed through one of the more irresponsible bills we've ever seen him take up with HB1337, which would give the state the authority to "acquire" the South Pointe Center in Clinton as the new location for the Mississippi Department of Revenue.

Neither Gunn nor any other lawmaker supporting the bill could tell how much the building would cost, and the bill did not contain a fiscal note to cap the amount of taxpayer money that would be spent.

We can only hope that the bill, at least in its present form, will die in committee in the Senate.

It is also odd that so many lawmakers would vote for such a bill, especially given the existence of Senate Bill 2763, which would relocate DOR to the Landmark Center in downtown Jackson. The proposal is identical to one that unanimously passed the Senate last year. This time, it received only two "no" votes. ...

We understand that most lawmakers do not hold local Jackson problems in high esteem, if for no other reason than most lawmakers do not represent Jackson. However, our capital city is a reflection of Mississippi for those who come here to do business. Investing in its infrastructure and downtown revitalization would benefit far more than just Jackson.

More so, when the investment is actually less than we are currently paying and the most affordable proposal on the table, the investment is not only prudent, it's almost a moral imperative.

The Landmark Center is a beautiful building, and it would easily accommodate not only the needs of DOR but also allow Mississippi to consolidate other state offices into one area, saving the state further money. ...

We completely understand Rep. Gunn's desire to locate a major state office complex in the city he represents. But Gunn, however, has a duty not only to the people of Clinton but to the people of Mississippi as a whole. We hope he will allow House lawmakers to vote on SB2763. Furthermore, we hope he will work behind the scenes to ensure its passage.

It is the most fiscally responsible approach to take in this matter, benefiting taxpayers and Mississippi's capital city.



Feb. 7

The Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth on job loss trends:

The Associated Press recently moved a provocative series about the changing landscape for jobs in the United States. It made a good case that middle-class jobs eliminated by technology and the recession aren't coming back.

This is not the first time to hear such dire warnings. Imagine the fuss in the horse carriage industry 100 years ago as it tried to compete with the fledgling automobile. More recently, the typewriter vanished after being conquered by the personal computer.

Generally, a disruptive improvement such as the automobile winds up creating more jobs than it eliminates. Historically, such changes have been good for the economy.

However, the AP report indicates that this time may be different — due to the rapid improvement in computer software that allows machines to do more jobs with greater accuracy.

Another difference is that a lot of the jobs being eliminated, such as an accountant or office manager, involve a college degree. So far, the recent improvements in technology are eliminating more jobs than they are creating.

The statistics bear out this argument. The United States lost 7.5 million jobs in the recession that started in late 2007. So far, only 3.5 million jobs have been created, but few of them in the so-called "mid-skill, mid-pay" category. Most new jobs are in lower-paying, lower-skill categories.

Furthermore, startup companies that have traditionally been the backbone of new job creation are hiring fewer workers when they open. A Labor Department study last year said new businesses employed an average of 4.7 workers when they began operations. In the 1990s, that figure was 7.6.

The AP report is informative because it addresses a subject that politicians were unwilling to in last year's elections. It's easy to say that all the jobs are going to China, but a more accurate answer is that some of them are not going anywhere. They're just disappearing. ...

Economists and technology experts who are upbeat about the future say it may take five or 10 years to sort through all this. Having endured more than five years of a difficult economy, that's a lot to ask of Americans. The bet is that new ideas will save the day, as they have so often before.



Feb. 10

Enterprise-Journal, McComb. Miss., on federal nullification legislation:

One of the dumbest ideas in a while to come down the pike of the Mississippi Legislature — a frequent source of dumb ideas — has thankfully been shelved. A House committee chairman wisely used the pocket veto to kill a proposal to create a legislative mechanism to defy the federal government's authority.

Republican Rep. Scott Delano should be commended for his prudence. It was a refreshing contrast to some members in his party — notably Reps. Gary Chism and Jeff Smith and Gov. Phil Bryant — who have pushed this wacky idea of nullification, which is not only unconstitutional but has earned Mississippi national ridicule.

Chism and Smith wanted their fellow lawmakers to create a Joint Legislative Committee on the Neutralization of Federal Laws to review existing federal laws and executive orders and recommend those to be ignored. Then, under the proposal, if the full Legislature concurred, Mississippians would not be obligated to abide by these federal dictates.

This nullification idea, which Bryant also has supported, is the old states' rights argument in new clothing — an argument that has caused great misery in Mississippi ever since the Civil War and fostered a national image of a backward, recalcitrant state.

Prompting this latest display of defiance is the unpopularity among tea partiers and other conservatives to some of the policies and priorities of President Obama, particularly those dealing with health care and gun control.

It is fine for conservatives to challenge the ideas of the Democrat in the White House, but there are proper venues for doing so — Congress and the federal courts. What states can't do, and what Chism, Smith and Bryant were pretending they can, is ignore federal law or pretend it has no more weight than state law. That is simply untrue. When a state law and federal law are in conflict, the federal law always take precedence unless it is revoked by Congress or overturned by the federal courts.

Before Bryant and his legislative friends further encourage law-breaking by citizens of this state, they should refresh their memories on the oaths of office they took. They swore, among other things, to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which gives supremacy to the federal government. What part of that oath didn't they understand?


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