Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, has a voice that sounds as rich and Southern as ribs coming hot off the grill. His rumored presidential aspirations are often judged based on how strongly the rest of the country might react to such an avatar of the deep South. Barbour would prefer to be judged on his record, and came to CPAC to remind us of how much Republican governors have been getting done at the state level, while Washington Democrats assure us meaningful reform is impossible.
Barbour views the 2010 midterm elections as “the greatest repudiation of a president and his party in American history,” and credits “the policies of the Left” with the dramatic improvement of Republican fortunes. The Democrat agenda is an attempt to “fulfill the pent-up frustrations of every liberal group, at the expense of the public good.”
“Every dollar of tax taken by government is a dollar that can’t be invested,” he said, noting how public sector growth inevitably crowds out the private sector. He has little use for the liberal belief that “every dollar belongs to the government,” or the collectivist fantasy that “reducing taxes is some kind of government giveaway to taxpayers.” The loss of jobs due to a contracting private sector comes as no surprise to him.
Barbour emphasized the importance of winning the Senate and White House in 2012, necessary steps to “doing what needs to be done,” instead of just mounting effective resistance to what shouldn’t be done.
His own experiences as governor make him confident that the answer to the deficit lies in reduced spending. “Our problem is not that we tax too little, it’s that we spend too much,” he declared, laughing that notion that anyone could “spend themselves rich.” He answers those who claim economic growth won’t be enough to close the budget gap by saying “it’s a lot easier to grow yourself out of a deficit than spend yourself out of one.” He acknowledged that the “failure to control spending occurred under Republicans as well as Democrats,” but sees no evidence the Democrats are prepared to be part of the solution.
Barbour proudly hails the successes of Republican governors as pointing the way for Washington. His own record includes “eliminating the deficit without raising anyone’s taxes,” and he saluted Indiana governor Mitch Daniels for a similar achievement. He had special praise for New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who has “shown us responsible spending cuts can be popular, even in a blue state.”
Part of his success comes from streamlining programs like Medicaid, and eliminating fraud. He achieved a 20% reduction in Medicaid claims by “making sure everyone on Medicaid is actually eligible.” He also reduced his state’s error rate for submitting Medicaid claims to about half the national error rate for Medicare, and hopes Washington could save big money by bringing a similar level of competence to federal programs. Barbour sees “courage” as the crucial ingredient for enacting such reforms.
He’s especially concerned about President Obama’s energy policies, which he called “the job killer you don’t hear about.” Noting that “energy affects one hundred percent of our economy,” he warned that “American manufacturing could be crushed” by high prices and supply shortages, as a result of the President’s cap-and-trade initiative – one of several areas where “the Obama Administration is trying to achieve through regulation what it can’t pass through Congress.”
He wonders how we can provide the energy to fuel economic growth when “permits to mine coal are harder to get in America than a heart transplant.” He calls the Administration’s energy policies “catastrophic,” and says “what we need is more American energy.”
He also made a point of clearing up any questions about his pro-life stance, proudly declaring Mississippi “the safest place in America for an unborn child.”
Barbour encourages voters to judge leaders “by their results, not their intentions.” Heralding 2012 as “the year of decision,” he says conservatives should be confident in asserting their principles, remembering “the American people agree with us on the issues.” Those issues “unite us as conservatives, Republicans, and Americans,” and if they are front and center in the next election, “independents will join us again.”
He concluded by observing that he was speaking on the 202nd anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and reminded the audience that Lincoln established the Republicans as “the party of freedom” to create “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” instead of “a people controlled by their government.” Control has never brought about the kind of results Haley Barbour stands ready to be judged on.