Archive for May, 2009

RR: Tax targets: Alcohol, Coca Cola

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

I often tell people my column can be very cathartic and it certainly was this week. Everywhere you look, our governments are raising taxes exactly when we need it the least: during tough economic times.

It turns out, cigarette taxes are not enough, now special interest groups are urging the government to increase taxes on “Big Alcohol” to raise revenue, reduce consumption, and reimburse the government for alcohol related expenses: same language they used against tobacco. The federal government is even looking at excise taxes on every can of Coke or Pepsi because the sugar - you guessed it - causes obesity and increases healthcare costs. The Illinois legislature, that gave us all Barack Obama, just passed taxes on candy - as I call it - “Big Sweet.”

You can read this week’s column online at the Neshoba Democrat: Perry / Tax targets: Alcohol, Coca Cola

The Economist: The United States of Entrepreneurs

Monday, May 25th, 2009

This is a great read from the March 12 issue of the Economist.

For all its current economic woes, America remains a beacon of entrepreneurialism. Between 1996 and 2004 it created an average of 550,000 small businesses every month.

America was the first country, in the late 1970s, to ditch managerial capitalism for the entrepreneurial variety. After the second world war J.K. Galbraith was still convinced that the modern corporation had replaced “the entrepreneur as the directing force of the enterprise with management”. Big business and big labour worked with big government to deliver predictable economic growth. But as that growth turned into stagflation, an army of innovators, particularly in the computer and finance industries, exposed the shortcomings of the old industrial corporation and launched a wave of entrepreneurship.

America has found the transition to a more entrepreneurial economy easier than its competitors because entrepreneurialism is so deeply rooted in its history. It was founded and then settled by innovators and risk-takers who were willing to sacrifice old certainties for new opportunities.

American companies have an unusual freedom to hire and fire workers, and American citizens have an unusual belief that, for all their recent travails, their fate still lies in their own hands. They are comfortable with the risk-taking that is at the heart of entrepreneurialism.

The article lists four American economic advantages: a mature venture-capital industry, a close relationship between universities and industry, a historically open immigration policy, and “venturesome consumers.

Americans are unusually willing to try new products of all sorts, even if it means teaching themselves new skills and eating into their savings; they are also unusually willing to pester manufacturers to improve their products. Apple sold half a million iPhones in its first weekend.

The Economist suggests several items that threaten America’s “entrepreneurial ecology”: “patent trolls” and a burdensome legal system, a complicated tax system, and a rising xenophobia “making the coutnry less open to immigrants.” It contrasts these threats with what has already happened with “Old Europe.”

Europeans have less to gain from taking business risks, thanks to higher tax rates, and more to lose, thanks to more punitive attitudes to bankruptcy (German law, for example, prevents anyone who has ever been bankrupt from becoming a CEO). When Denis Payre was thinking about leaving a safe job in Oracle to start a company in the late 1980s, his French friends gave him ten reasons to stay put whereas his American friends gave him ten reasons to get on his bike. In January last year Mr Payre’s start-up, Business Objects, was sold to Germany’s SAP for €4.8 billion.

European egalitarianism, too, militates against entrepreneurialism….The Europeans’ appetite for time off does not help….Europeans are also much more suspicious of business…entrepreneurs have to grapple with a patchwork of legal codes and an expensive and time-consuming patent system. In many countries the tax system and the labour laws discourage companies from growing above a certain size. A depressing number of European universities remain suspicious of industry, subsisting on declining state subsidies but still unwilling to embrace the private sector. The European venture-capital industry, too, is less developed than the American one.

The article goes on to discuss how Europe is changing toward an entrepreneurial mind-set and to briefly address “Slowcoach Japan.” You can read the full article at the Economist online: A special report on entrepreneurship: The United States of Entrepreneurs

RR: GOP’s Yerger honored

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

As the May 12 Republican Pioneer Dinner honoring Wirt Yerger approached, I was fortunate to spend some time and get to know better Mr. Yerger.  I wrote about him and the dinner this week and here are a few excerpts:

I first met Wirt Yerger, Jr. in 1999. I was political director at the Mississippi Republican Party and there were two desks in my office. One was a very functional, large, circa late 1950s metal desk. Its broad top was perfect to support the computer, printer, and workspace holding the Republican voter databases and used to generate walk lists and voter target materials.

Yerger walked into my office and introduced himself. I recognized him from his picture on the wall. He was the MSGOP’s first chairman serving from 1956 until 1966: an Eisenhower Republican. He had come by, I think, to see the new building. The Party had just moved from rented offices at the corner of Tombigbee and South State Street to a purchased building on the corner of Yazoo and Congress Street in Jackson.

We spoke and he looked over at the voter file desk and remarked that was his desk when he was chairman. The Party had new digital phones, but the main line number (601-948-5191) were the same digits secured by Yerger when he opened the first Republican Party office.

Ten years later, I have been privileged to get to know Yerger and his family better.

On May 12, a thousand Republicans from five decades packed the Jackson Marriott to honor Yerger as founder of the modern Mississippi Republican Party, and to salute him as “Chairman Emeritus.” Many guests called the dinner more a family reunion than fundraiser.

Speakers recounted the opposition faced by Yerger in creating the Republican Party: character attacks, public ridicule, even death threats. Barbour said the reason was simple, “race.” The white power structure in the Democratic Party feared a Republican Party would split the white vote in Mississippi. Yerger was more concerned with conservative principles that had no home with the Democrats than race, and when asked by a television reporter in 1964 if blacks were welcome in the Mississippi Republican Party, Yerger answered, “If they’re conservative, they are.”

I think inordinately about that desk in the office: strong, steady, enduring and supporting the tools and resources the Republican Party uses to win elections. It is still there.

Cory Adair, the current political director of the Mississippi Republican Party, uses it. There are pictures of Yerger at Republican headquarters: one as chairman, now one as chairman emeritus, and soon to be a group shot from the dinner with everyone living who has served as chairman from Yerger in 1956 to White today. But in my mind, that desk is the most fitting tribute to Yerger: still solid and sturdy, and still working to elect Republicans.

You can read the full column at the Madison County Journal: Perry / GOP’s Yerger honored

Accusations in Jackson Mayor’s Race

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Today is the primary run-off in cities and towns across Mississippi. In the capital city, former two-term mayor Harvey Johnson is making a comeback run facing off against city councilman Marshand Crisler. Its been a typical Jackson campaign with lots of accusations, allegations, and anonymous attacks. Some anonymous group said that Johnson bought the endorsement of former Senator John Horhn by agreeing to help retire his campaign debt. Crisler denounced that group. Then Horhn accused Crisler of actually trying to do the same thing.

Haley Westbrook from Fox 40 News asked for my analysis regarding the accusations. Essentially, it is not uncommon for a candidate to assist in the retirement of a campaign debt of defeated former opponent who endorses him. But I would be very disturbed by an explicit quid pro quo: offering an elected official a financial incentive in exchange for an endorsement. Its a fine line to walk but ultimately, an allegation like this coming out the day before the election does not hold much credibility. If Horhn were concerned with ethics and good government, he should have made this accusation last week when all camps could have responded, and not made the accusation after he had endorsed Crisler’s opponent.

RR: Melton made for good TV

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Good or bad, Frank Melton was one of those unique and amazing political characters that keeps politics interesting. His story is a movie ready to be made, or at the least a television episode to be ripped from the headlines. I looked back at his antics this week in Reasonably Right. Here is an excerpt:

Melton came from Texas to lead Jackson’s WLBT as CEO in 1984. His community activism and “The Bottom Line” commentary made waves in the black and white communities.He made drug dealers famous. He stalked dangerous neighborhoods and saw the thugs the police were not arresting. He called them by name on television. He put their faces on billboards that said “This Man Sells Drugs.”

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove named him Director of the Bureau of Narcotics. Melton promptly dropped a dragnet around the State Capitol putting up roadblocks and checking drivers’ licenses while the legislature was in session.

After he left MBN, Melton needed some kind of credible law enforcement status. He accepted a badge from the Jefferson Davis County Sheriff as a deputy, or sheriff’s reserve deputy, or honorary deputy sheriff: to Melton, those details were inconsequential. It mattered little that Jackson was sixty miles from his “jurisdiction.”

Melton ran for mayor and defeated the two-term incumbent Harvey Johnson by a two-to-one margin. Johnson was the anti-Melton, the kind of bureaucrat’s dream who would establish a commission to study a strategy to plan options to discuss solutions. Jackson wanted action. Frank Melton delivered.

Mayor Melton became a sort of post-urban superhero. He conducted “knock and talks” at seedy hotels, raided strip clubs and sex stores, patrolled in a mobile command center with armed staff, body armor, and an ever changing crew of young vigilantes more akin to an Old West gang: sometimes legal posse, sometimes lynch mob.

He pulled over school buses to hug children. Calling it an issue “bigger than the Constitution,” he declared war on kids wearing saggy jeans. The ACLU accused Melton, Jackson’s second black mayor, of racial profiling against blacks. To avoid costs and delays, he burned condemned structures choosing to ask forgiveness rather than permission.

Melton traveled on commercial flights: armed. He acquired a U.S. Capitol Police badge so he could walk the Halls of Congress in Washington, DC: armed. He entered a no-contest plea for going to the Mississippi College School of Law: armed.

After beating a state trial and surviving a federal mistrial, Melton faced another round of federal prosecution for allegedly directing and participating in the physical destruction of what he called a crack house.

Melton operated at a hundred miles an hour leaving lawsuits, investigations and indictments in his wake. Unproven rumors and gossip and reported accusations of bribery and intimidation bounced off his armor.

Warrants? Permits? Court orders? Taxes? To Melton, these were just red tape. Rules got in his way; everything was about the bottom line. Melton was the quintessential pragmatist: the ends always justified the means. He was a Wild West frontier boss in the office of a twenty-first century bureaucracy.

Melton’s passion for children led to volunteering with youth organizations, speaking to schools, and pulling children off the street and housing them in his home. Sometimes he called it mentoring. Sometimes he called it protective custody. Sometimes he called it witness protection. Some needed a caring home. Some were under indictment. He impacted thousands of children and they will be his legacy. Maybe some will go to jail; maybe one of them will grow up to be mayor.

This is not a column of praise or criticism and certainly not exhaustive of Melton’s life, of which he would concede, “It is what it is.” In years to come, people will say of Melton stories, if they aren’t true, they ought to be.

Melton collapsed from heart failure 15 minutes before the polls closed on his second campaign and days before his second federal trial. In his mind, he died, undefeated and not guilty.

You can read the full column online at the Madison County Journal: Perry / Melton made for good TV

RGA: Fight for Freedom Call

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

The Republican Governors Association is sponsoring a “Fight for Freedom Call” Thursday night with Governor Rick Perry of Texas and Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina.  Their concept is to conduct a Tele-Tea Party and they expect 30,000 participants. reports on the event: GOP govs plan Tea Party sequel.

You can sign-up to participate in the Thursday night call (May 14 at 7:30pm central time) at

The initiative is part of the Republican Governors Association plan that “the GOP comeback begins with Republican governors.”

UPDATE: South Carolina Mark Sanford was on Greta Van Susteren last night talking about Tea Party 2.0.

Mississippi Republicans Honor Yerger

Monday, May 11th, 2009

The Mississippi Republican Partywill be honoring their founding chairman and now Chairman Emeritus Wirt Yerger. Tomorrow, the Mississippi Republican State Central Committee, Governor Barbour, Lieutenant Governor Bryant, legislators and more will gather at GOP HQ for their quarterly meeting and to honor Yerger.

Then tomorrow night at the Jackson Marriott, a thousand Republicans including all the statewide Republican elected officials, all the living former Mississippi Republican chairmen, legislators, county chairmen, and GOP pioneers will gather at the Jackson Mariott for a dinner recognizing and honoring Yerger’s life and service.

RR: Resurgent Republic

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

I usually blog on my columns after I write them, this week’s column actually came out of one of my most recent post on the new center-right idea factory called Resurgent Republic. I won’t cover the same material as before, you can read the full column at The Neshoba Democrat: Perry / Resurgent Republic - ideas matter

You might also enjoy these two pieces I quote in the column from The Ripon Forum:

Why Ideas matter (February 2007) by Haley Barbour
It Begins with Ideas (December 2006)by Louis M. Zickar

Resurgent Republic

Friday, May 1st, 2009

This week, former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie and pollster Whit Ayers launched a new Republic ideas factory, a policy group of academics, pollsters (including Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group who did Barbour 07 and Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies who did Wicker 08), and political strategists like former National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman George Allen, former National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Bill Paxon, Mary Matalin and our own Haley Barbour.

The mission of the group - Resurgent Republic - is:

Resurgent Republic gauges public opinion about policy proposals under consideration by the White House and Congress. Through a steady stream of national polls and focus groups, Resurgent Republic helps policy makers, think tanks, interest groups and others advocate for policies that are consistent with conservative principles, and to oppose policies that stifle job creation, weaken national security and undermine values that have made America a great country.

Louis M. Zickar wrote about how ideas change things in January 2007, shortly after Republicans lost the majority in the House.

I went to work for the National Policy Forum. NPF was a think tank that Haley Barbour established when he became Chairman of the RNC. Between November 1993 and June 1994, the organization conducted a “Listening to America” tour. It held 70 public meetings in communities across the country. The meetings featured Republicans from all levels of government and focused on many of the same issues the members of C.O.S. would talk about on Capitol Hill. According to Barbour, the objective of the tour was not just to promote the GOP. It was also to promote ideas.

I bring all of this up now because one of the debates underway in Washington these days has to do with why Republicans lost their majority this past November. Some believe it is because the Republican Party ran out of ideas. Others believe it is because Republicans ran away from the ideas that made the Party great.

I tend to think it is the latter and not the former.

Indeed, the core principles that helped Republicans win the majority 12 years ago – principles such as lower taxes, free markets, limited government, and a strong defense – remain vital and salient notions today.

Make no mistake – the results of this past election were not an aberration. They were caused by an abdication of ideas. The key thing now is to begin a new dialogue with the American people – a dialogue based on ideas, and one that will help restore the public trust in the GOP.

Only then will Republicans be in a position to recapture what it took four decades to win and just over one decade to lose.

More than two years later, Republicans are having the same debate, but it seems now, at least with Resurgent Republic, some folks have stepped up to make a change we can think about.

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