Quoted of the Day:
“Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.”
“It is just as important that business keep out of government as that government keep out of business.”
“Wisdom oft times comes of knowing what to do next.”
If you’ve been around the blog awhile, you know TB’s brain travels to weird places when I’m on the road. Today, somewhere around Pelahatchie, I was listening to a radio program debate the pros and cons of the Obama mortgage rescue plan. Other than philosophical purists against any governmental intervention, most of the opposition seemed to center around people who didn’t want others to be “bailed out” for their reckless or unwise decisions while responsible people are left with nothing but increased future tax bills. Its really an unassailable position, though I take the parallel view that preventing foreclosures will help property values for everyone, thus timely bill payers like me will benefit indirectly. But mainly, my mind ignored the debate at hand and moved on to bailouts in general, spurred in that direction when the moderator mentioned Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s posturing about not wanting the money from the stimulus plan. I was thankful for my friends and family that he did not take that position when the Feds bailed out property owners on the coast after Katrina.
As I reflected on Barbour’s talking points, it dawned on me that Mississippi and our Katrina bailout really set the stage for all we are seeing now. After all, federal money came in to fill the insurance void saving insurers from a public backlash that could have changed the laws affecting their business practices in Mississippi and beyond and more obviously saving Mississippi’s coastal economy from collapse by injecting massive amounts of cash into the hands of most homeowners. It was similar in many ways to the current mortgage bailout proposal that will reward a small cohort of citizens and a specific industry, this time banking and finance. I remember back then my anger at radio hosts and callers who thought the problems of these people were of their own making by choosing to live on the coast and having inadequate insurance and that nobody else in the country was getting anything out of the deal. Each subsequent bailout has been a little different in the details, but has followed the same basic model and given rise to the same basic and widespread and legitimate complaints.
Bailouts aren’t the first important political storm that saw its genesis in Mississippi. The Republican Revolution of 1994 was presaged by Kirk Fordice’s election as Mississippi’s first post Reconstruction Republican governor in 1993. In 1999, the race for Governor between Mike Parker and Ronnie Musgrove was thrown to the Mississippi House of Representatives after the popular vote ended in a virtual tie. Then in 2000, we saw Bush v. Gore and hanging chads in Florida. And in 2007, Democratic Congressman Travis Childers won a race to fill the seat of Republican revolutionary Roger Wicker in a district that votes heavily Republican in national races, an early indicator of the Democratic wave that occured in 2008.
All of that is interesting, but this last one is a bit disconcerting. In 1927, Mississippi was struck by a great flood that remains the worst natural disaster to hit this country. Among the many lasting consequences of that flood, it contributed to and preceded the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. Katrina, the storm that topped Camille struck in 2005, preceded the stock market crash in 2008. Mississippi, partly as a result of Katrina experienced an increase in foreclosure activity beginning in 2006, beating the rest of the nation to the punch by one year. And both the Bush and Obama administrations have been telling us we are on the brink of another era of Depression.
So is all this just coincidence or is there underlying data to tie all these events together, proving my observational but undocumented and otherwise unsupported thesis? I don’t know, but as I get older I believe less and less in coincidences.
ed. note–If you’ve never read “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America” I recommend it highly. Among many consequences of the flood, the author provides evidence of how the storm and its aftermath helped lead to banking collapses, particularly in New Orleans, and was a major factor in the coming Depression.