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Blackmon's jobs plan: No thanks

By By Buddy Bynum / editor
October 19, 2003
Barbara Blackmon, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, scheduled a campaign stop and news conference at Meridian Community College last week, part of a statewide tour promoting her candidacy against incumbent Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck.
Blackmon outlined a 30-point jobs plan that is full of great-sounding platitudes under the general theme of "education plus economic development equals opportunity."
Crack in the foundation
That comment is the crack in her plan's foundation. The one thing Mississippi doesn't have at this moment is a lot of new money for the sorts of new programs she advocates.
Even Blackmon, a well-educated, well-spoken member of the state Senate who makes her living as a personal injury lawyer, could not say how much her plan might cost or from where the money might come.
That doesn't quite fit the definition of the word "plan," especially coming from Blackmon, who says she has successfully managed two businesses. One is a law firm that has sued corporations doing business in Mississippi.
Blackmon is a successful lawyer. She is married to a lawyer, Edward Blackmon, and the couple has two children, one a student at Tougaloo College in Jackson and the other a student at St. Andrew's Episcopal School, a private religious school in a Jackson suburb.
In the courtroom of public opinion, where voters are beginning to shape their opinions of candidates this year, some things need to be said. And the Blackmon jobs plan is a good place to start.
I've read every word of what she calls a plan for economic development in Mississippi. Forget the fact that Gov. Ronnie Musgrove says we already have a plan. Blackmon, surprisingly, like Republican gubernatorial nominee Haley Barbour, seems to think we just need a better plan.
At its core, Blackmon's plan introduces the prospect of more government intervention in the economy under the guise of new loans, grants, tax credits and other devices. She touts new incentives for small businesses, much like the mega-incentives that helped attract major corporations, such as Nissan.
Organized labor
She says Mississippi needs a Labor Commissioner and pledges to work closely with the AFL-CIO, public employee associations, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, Mississippi Economic Council, chambers of commerce and other groups.
Nothing wrong with working with all groups, but opening the door to a state Department of Labor scares the widgets out of many business people in Mississippi. One of the biggest draws for Nissan and many other corporations is that Mississippi is a right-to-work state.
Blackmon says Mississippi needs to promote tourism. There's a whole division in the Mississippi Development Authority that's supposed to be doing that already.
She proposed a rebate on a percentage of unpaid student loans if the student opts to stay in Mississippi after college and work. She doesn't know how much that might cost.
Blackmon's plan contains many elements, some more palatable than others. But, ultimately, it is little more than a collection of words neatly typed on 11 pages of 81⁄2 by 11-inch paper. It belies her record of voting in the interests of small business about a third of the time, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.
It's as if Blackmon somehow wants to magically transform herself into a real advocate for small business.
Well, political campaigns tend to do that as candidates try to re-make themselves into something akin to a commodity that can gain acceptance in the marketplace. In short, they'll say anything to win.
My own view is that government tends to get in the way of small business development. Government never creates a private sector job, while taxes and regulation two burdens barely touched by Blackmon's plan can drive business away.
In the case of small business development, Blackmon has a record a poor one and this unfunded plan of hers just won't re-start the engine.