June 16, 2014 11:55:29 AM
Now that the Cochran-McDaniel race has gone to a runoff, I feel regretfully compelled to write again on the subject.
As I said in my previous column, this is a choice of ideology or money. McDaniel is the purist and would refuse federal bucks on principle. Sen. Cochran has power and clout galore that will directly benefit Mississippi.
The race has gotten many people riled up and of course the negative campaigning is at a crescendo. No matter what I write, someone will be offended.
Like many Americans, I am alarmed at our $17.5 trillion federal debt. The good news is that Americans own $90 trillion in assets. That's like having a $200,000 house with a $40,000 mortgage.
The other bit of good news is that government spending is declining from its recessionary peak. The deficit is shrinking and the economy is starting to grow again.
Is our government out of control or was the deficit spending a wise move to avert a depression? Economists and historians will be debating this for decades to come just as they still debate the economic policies of the Great Depression.
If there is any core to my politico-economic beliefs, it is that the free market serves the needs of society better than government planners. So I understand where McDaniel is coming from.
But some adages come to mind as well: Don't bite the hand that feeds you. No good deed goes unpunished. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Beggars can't be choosy.
As we all now know, Mississippi gets $3 back from the feds for every dollar we pay in taxes. Sen. Cochran is in line to be the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee should the Republican Party retake the Senate. That is huge.
Take a look at our beautiful campuses at Ole Miss, State, Southern and our other colleges. A lot of that was federal money. Ditto our excellent highways and state-of-the-art medical systems. That's real money.
Sen. Cochran is a class act, a true Southern gentleman, who has done a great service to our state. I hope I don't have to be working that hard at age 76.
Cochran deserves to rest on his laurels, but life doesn't stand still. A new generation is impatient for its crack at leadership. Cochran's unwillingness to jump in the arena and fight has hurt him.
I happened to be at the McComb Rotary Club when Sen. Cochran popped in for a surprise visit. He told an amusing story about his college days, but refused to discuss politics or answer any questions. Come on, Thad, that's what you do!
McDaniel gets credit for refusing to defer to the party's elders. He had the guts to run. His Tea Party message resonates in Mississippi. If Cochran is going to lose, it's too bad others didn't throw their hats into the ring such as Delbert Hosemann.
There is a persistent rumor that Cochran will resign after a year or two and a new senator will be appointed by the governor. That type of closed door wheeling and dealing doesn't sit too well with the electorate.
A politically astute conservative friend of mine is livid about McDaniel's success. He is convinced a McDaniel victory will ensure a Democratic victory in the general. If Cochran is defeated, he says, Democratic PAC money will flood the state. He chafes at the ideological rigidity of the Tea Party. "They're a bunch of Nazis!"
McDaniel seems like a bright young man who has run a good campaign and struck a nerve. I won't lose any sleep if he wins.
But trading an impassioned newcomer for the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee may not be a particularly smart move.
These are complicated issues. Mississippi has been on the dole for generations and we are still on the bottom. Is our culture of dependency undermining our prosperity?
A recent Harvard Business School study argues federal largess crowds out private capital and free market initiatives and actually hurts economic growth.
Mississippi is not a state, it's a club. We take our senators seriously.
At a dinner party, I made the mistake of criticizing Cochran for allowing his name to go on a college building. I proceeded to be lambasted by a fervent former aide of his who told story after story of what a kind, wonderful, fatherly, caring, gentleman he is. She was convincing and passionate.
Another friend of mind confided he voted for McDaniel. "But don't tell anyone," he said. "Cochran's a big deal for my company." This friend had worked with McDaniel when he was in the state Senate. "He's the real deal. Great guy." And so it goes.
About $12 million has been spent on this race, eight million from outside Political Action Committees (PACs).
Over the last few years, the U.S. Supreme Court has been voting 5 to 4 to end restrictions on PAC campaign spending. We are seeing the effects of these decisions.
The PACs are independent of the candidate. They produce their own ads without the advice or consent of the candidates. That's why the courts have struck down regulations. You can't regulate free speech. It is your right as an American, five judges have ruled, to back any candidate you want and run any advertising you are willing to pay for.
The Mississippi Conservatives PAC, affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is backing Cochran. The Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund is backing McDaniel. There are many other PACs: Club for Growth, Mississippi Conservatives, Senate Conservatives Fund, National Republican Senatorial Committee and many others. Powerful outside forces are focused on this campaign.
But in the end, the voters make the decision. Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum came to Mississippi in support of McDaniel. Santorum's new book, "Blue Collar Conservatives," argues that the middle class, who see the ill effects of the welfare state up close and personal, are the core of the Tea Party movement.
Santorum's thesis seems to be supported by the Mississippi election results, where the more affluent regions supported Cochran while McDaniel did better in areas dominated by the working middle class.