Bill Crawford

BILL CRAWFORD

Choosing to appease the insatiable desires of grasping businesses and consumers, politicians spew ever more promiscuous policies from our nation’s capital.

As noted in recent columns, hindrances to unscrupulous businesses preying on consumers are diminishing while preposterous promises of succor to consumers are expanding. Predatory practices are the dark side of Republican pro-business policies on the one hand while preposterous promises are the dark side of Democratic pro-consumer policies on the other. Regrettably, there is no third gripping hand present to yank the other two back from intemperance.

These dichotomies will be great theater throughout the presidential election next year. But will promiscuous predatory and preposterous policies be in play in the Mississippi gubernatorial election now through November 6th?

Certainly, but to what degree?

No question Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves is the pro-business candidate and Attorney General Jim Hood is the pro-consumer candidate. For example, Reeves has championed tax cuts for business, passing $620 million in such cuts during his tenure as lieutenant governor. Hood has now proposed cutting the sales taxes on groceries, the state’s biggest tax on consumers, and has championed consumer issues as attorney general.

Let’s look deeper.

As I wrote two weeks ago, one of the more egregious examples of Washington policies allowing businesses to prey on consumers was the Trump administration rollback of protections established to make payday loans less onerous. “Payday lenders have a predatory business model where they profit while families are plunged into an unaffordable debt trap of loans at rates that reach 400 percent APR or higher,” CNBC said.

In 2016, the Mississippi Legislature under Reeves’ leadership loosened rate restrictions on payday lenders, in particular allowing them to charge up to 263.4% in finance charges on some 30-day loans. Mississippi’s Catholic Bishops called such rates “predatory.”

As I wrote last week, Democratic presidential candidates are making preposterous promises to provide free or reduced costs for higher education, from making college and university attendance free for many students to forgiving student loan debt up to $50,000 for others. “It’s one more step toward an America where the people who benefit from something get somebody else to pay for it,” said Reason.com.

Hood has called for a state-funded program that would provide tuition-free community college to Mississippi’s high school graduates.

Hmmm.

Reeves’ position on payday lenders matches that coming from Washington Republicans. Hood’s position on free tuition sounds similar to Washington Democrats, but there is a difference. Hood’s proposal closely resembles a Republican proposal put forward by state Rep. Jerry Turner of Baldwyn that passed the GOP controlled House in 2014. (It was killed in Reeves’ Senate.) It also resembles the “Tennessee Promise” program championed by Tennessee Republicans in 2014.

While revealing, this “promiscuous policy” analogy is not the only perspective voters may consider. For example, Reeves has taken a more pro-consumer stance on gas taxes than Hood. Reeves has said that under no circumstances will he increase gas taxes to pay for roads and bridges. Hood has said he will consider doing so as a last resort.

Nevertheless, the Washington analogy will take center stage when President Trump and/or his disciples show up to tout Reeves and his allegiance to their policies.

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously,” 2 Cor 9:6.

BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicated columnist from Meridian. Readers can contact him at crawfolk@gmail.com.

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