By Bill Crawford / Guest Columnist
The Meridian Star
Do you favor politicians who vote for earmarks funded with borrowed money? How about those who vote for tax increases?
If your answer is “no” and you want to throw the rascals out, then there won’t be many Republicans left in the Mississippi Legislature.
Yep, Republican legislators regularly vote to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in borrowed money for earmarks – for zoos, museums, cemeteries, colleges and universities, and more. They consistently vote in favor of allowing local tax increases and voted for increased tobacco taxes in 2009 and taxes on hospitals in 2008.
Oh, and amongst those Republican legislators who voted for earmarks and tax increases is a state senator named Chris McDaniel.
All this points out two things: One, a lot of our Republican legislators talk a stronger conservative game than they play. And, two, McDaniel is nothing special when it comes to earmarks and taxes.
But wait, that last point deserves a second look.
You see, McDaniel in his campaign for the U.S. Senate portrays himself as a special candidate, one with strong character who takes principled stands with “no compromises, no surrenders.” He calls his candidacy part of “one last great stand for liberty.” A lawyer and former talk radio host, he does have a gift for compelling rhetoric.
While compelling rhetoric aligned with courageous stands indicates steadfastness, compelling rhetoric at odds with real behavior indicates something more shifty.
McDaniel proclaims his opposition to earmarks, calling them an “unfair and costly practice.”
But, since taking office in 2008, records show he has voted for nearly $50 million in earmarks funded by borrowed money – for pet legislative projects like the Jackson and Hattiesburg zoos, the Ohr-O’Keefe and B.B. King Museums, and the Port of Greenville. And that doesn’t count hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks for colleges and universities. Not bad projects, but earmarks just the same.
The Greenwood Commonwealth called his hand on this, pointing to McDaniel’s vote last year for a $2 million earmark for the Grammy Museum in Cleveland: “What we do criticize is the apparent hypocrisy of McDaniel’s campaign. He may say now what his tea party fans want to hear, but some of his votes before he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate say something else.”
McDaniel also proclaims his opposition to tax increases, saying he “will never vote for a tax increase.”
But, he has often voted for tax increases. Most votes were to authorize local tax increases, but he also voted for the controversial hospital tax to help fund Medicaid and he voted for the tobacco tax increase before he voted against it. A tax increase is a tax increase.
McDaniels’ record on earmarks and taxes is at odds with his compelling rhetoric.
Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.