Wednesday, April 7, 2010
In the first glimmer of good news Mississippi has seen over its lagging tax revenues, the State Tax Commission reported an increase in collections of about a half a percentage point over the previous month. After 18 months of gloomy news about falling revenues and budget cuts, it could have been an opportunity to allow a little light to shine in the darkness of the current recession.
Instead, Gov. Haley Barbour chose to sent out an immediate warning against any kind of optimism, once again solidifying the Republican Party's nickname: "The Party of No."
"I caution against thinking this one month means our economy has turned the corner and that our budget problems are cured," Barbour wrote in a statement. "In March, corporate income taxes inexplicably exceeded the estimate by $30 million, or 22 percent. The tax commission is examining possible causes for this spike."
Granted, a half-percent increase isn't a lot to celebrate, but at a time when more than 12 percent of the people in Mississippi are unemployed and even more are underemployed, the people would welcome a little good news, even if it is cautiously delivered.
On a national scale, the jobless recovery seems to be catching up to the growth in America's economy. The later has been growing for the past six months, while jobs continued to stagnate or fall. In March, the nation saw small employment gains in manufacturing, construction and many service industries, according to the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit public-policy organization.
Part of Mississippi's recovery, like the revival of the nation as a whole, must be a rebuilding of the people's collective confidence. We've been buffeted on all sides for far too long by bad economic news and joblessness. As we begin the long, slow climb back to prosperity, it's in our best interest to do so with our eyes open wide, vigilant for the kind of unregulated overspending and mindless optimism that got us into trouble in the first place.
It's never that simple, of course, but leaders have a choice in how they will react to good news: They can continue to bang the drum of gloom and doom, or they can begin to help us restore the confidence we need to move forward. Mississippians will rise to the challenge of rebuilding our communities—smarter, better and stronger than before, tempered by adversity instead of weakened by it.
How quickly we rise will be, in part, a reflection of the leadership we follow. Should Barbour decide to be that leader, citizens would welcome it. If not, we should look around to find someone who will.