Published on June 23rd, 2014 | by TLV News0
It’s Time for a Change in D.C. (by Russ Latino)
Senator Thad Cochran first went to Washington, D.C. in 1973 as a 30-something year old member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Richard Nixon was President. After three terms, in 1978, he ran and won the U.S. Senate seat he has occupied since. During his tenure, Senator Cochran has earned a reputation as an appropriator who maneuvers behind the scenes. He has also earned a reputation as a consummate gentleman. I do not have any reason to disbelieve either characterization.
For the first time since 1984, Senator Cochran faces a formidable opponent in State Senator Chris McDaniel. Several of Mississippi’s elected officials, business leaders and politicos, many of whom I respect and consider friends, have rushed to aid Senator Cochran. That support is not surprising. As a state, we have always valued seniority in Congress. Additionally, an incumbency which has stretched through eight U.S. Presidents has afforded Senator Cochran substantial opportunities to dole out political favors and there is no shortage of Mississippi’s most influential who are indebted to him. Lastly, for many, political courage goes only as far as the prognosticators will allow—meaning people tend to coalesce around the candidate they believe to be the popular pick.
Many have characterized this race as establishment versus anti-establishment or Republican versus Tea Party. As someone who has worked for Republican causes and candidates since before I could vote, I reject those labels. For me, this race comes down to a single question: shall we elect someone who has learned how to deftly take advantage of a broken system or someone who has the heart to try and fix what is broken? If we are to endure as a free and prosperous nation for generations to come, it is not enough to milk the system as the ship goes down. It is not enough to manage the decline. We must fight to restore that which has made us exceptional since the founding—a commitment to limited government rooted in a belief that God ordained man to have liberty. Senator Chris McDaniel wants to work with the likes of Senators Lee, Paul and Cruz to fix the system. He has demonstrated a commitment to a constitutional view of the limited role of government and the dire importance of exercising fiscal restraint. He has demonstrated the fire to fight for, and give voice to, commonsense Mississippians.
There is a sense among some of Senator Cochran’s more vocal supporters that he is entitled to the seat or that it is somehow impolite or uncouth to challenge him. I think we can honor his long service to this state while simultaneously recognizing that the seat belongs to the people. It is a dangerous thought to suggest that any individual is entitled to power. The power in our government comes from the consent of the governed. The men who developed our system did not view political office as a lifelong profession and, in fact, warned against it. They understood that the more power leaders gained, the bigger the government grew, and the bigger the government grew, the less freedom citizens would have. Those principles hold true today, because human nature is the same today.
In Senator Cochran’s 42 years in Washington, the U.S. national debt has grown from $427 billion to over $17.5 trillion. That’s over $150,000 worth of debt per taxpayer. Medicare and Social Security now have long-term unfunded liabilities that exceed $128 trillion. That’s over $1.1 million in future obligations per taxpayer. This fiscal year alone, the U.S. government will take in $2.8 trillion in tax revenue, but will spend $3.5 trillion-meaning that this year’s deficit will be larger than the entire national debt when Senator Cochran took office.
The news gets worse. We have a workforce of approximately 145 million people with a population of 317 million. Over 19 million working-aged individuals are unemployed. We have over 48 million retirees, nearly 15 million people collecting disability, over 47 million people living in poverty, and over 46 million people collecting food stamps. What workforce is left is shifting toward public employment, with almost 25 million government employees now on the payroll. Fewer and fewer people are carrying a heavier and heavier load with no relief in sight.
To be clear, I am not blaming Senator Cochran for all of these woes. I am, however, blaming the system he has participated in, largely without protest, for the last four decades. It is a system that laughs at the notion of limited government and fiscal responsibility. At times, Senator Cochran has been derided by critics as the “King of Pork” for bringing home a slice of the federal government’s largesse to Mississippi. His supporters would point out that historically “pork barrel” spending makes up a small portion of the U.S. budget. They are correct, but they fail to recognize the effect of this spending. It serves as sugar to ease the swallowing of bad legislation that would not otherwise pass—just think of the “Cornhusker Kickback” that facilitated the passage of Obamacare. Supporters of Senator Cochran might also argue that if Congress was not spending this money, the Executive Branch would. This is a false argument if Congress exercises its constitutional authority to restrict spending and restrain the Executive Branch.
Lastly, this mode of operation is ripe for the type of cronyism that makes the well-connected wealthy on the backs of the Average Joe. In 2010, Senator Cochran parted from the Party and was one of only eight Republicans to vote against a ban on this type of corrosive spending.
Supporters of Senator Cochran have questioned where we would be without him? I have no doubt that Senator Cochran has served with a heart for Mississippi and that he has done some real good for our state. However, when he went to Washington in 1972, we were 50th in virtually every statistical category and today we are 50th in virtually every statistical category. No doubt certain people and industries have benefited from his influence, but we have not risen together as a state.
Rising from the bottom is not going to be easy and it is not going to happen overnight, but at some point we must make meaningful strides. In my estimation, that will happen when we begin to reduce our dependence on the forced “generosity” of taxpayers from other states. Economists and conservatives alike have argued for years that many of the programs designed to help the most disadvantaged among us create a moral hazard that damages psyches and leads to dependency. It is peculiar to me that some recognize that logical connection in terms of individuals, but are unwilling to consider that the same logic applies to a state dependent upon the federal government.
As this race heats up, there will be more mudslinging, more distortion, and more distraction. As one political operative recently told me, “negative sells.” At the end of the day, though, I am focused on and compelled by the fact that no one is really speaking for me or my family in Washington, D.C. I am compelled by the desire to preserve America as a “shining city on a hill,” a land of opportunity, for my son. The burden we have allowed to be placed on future generations is immoral. It is the result of drastically overreaching government and crony capitalism. At some point, if we are to see a change, we have to be willing to make a change. I will cast my ballot on June 3rd in support of a vision of limited government, free market capitalism, fiscal restraint, and individual liberty. I will cast my ballot for Chris McDaniel and I hope you will join me.
Russ Latino is a graduate of the Ole Miss Law School and is an attorney in Jackson, Mississippi.