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Lost jobs get attention in Monticello debate

MONTICELLO — Representatives Chip Pickering and Ronnie Showssquared off in front of a capacity crowd at the Lawrence CountyCivic Center Tuesday during a debate for the new hotly-contestedThird District.

The debate lacked the fireworks seen recently at the NeshobaCounty Fair, but addressed many issues of importance to the peopleof Lawrence County.

Throughout the debate, an oft-times emotional Shows touted hiswillingness to vote his conscience and not the party line, whilePickering touted his friendly relationship with the Mississippi andfederal leadership.

The congressmen answered a series of questions by a panel andthe audience and were given three minutes for each response.

Pickering was first to field a question about what they could tohelp the economy.

More than 700 jobs were lost in the local area as a result ofthe North American Free Trade Agreement and more than 41,000 jobswere lost in the state. Neither congressman was in office whenNAFTA was passed.

Pickering said he had recently worked to stabilize the timbermarket and protect it from Canadian trade. Canada had been dumpingtheir timber on the American market and driving prices down. Hesaid he worked with other legislators to add a 30 percent tariff toCanadian timber in order to stabilize the market. He also mentionedhis work on protecting the catfish industry against Koreaninfluence and opening the Russian market to U.S. poultry.

Shows spoke of the national trade deficit and how it hasincreased significantly under the current leadership. He cited theopening of trade of China as one such negative move.

Shows said the U.S. trade deficit with China had more thandoubled since the vote to open permanent trade relations. He votedthe bill to open permanent trade relations with China, he said, andhis opponent voted for it.

Pickering responded that he did vote for the bill when it wasfirst passed, but when it came up for renewal the next year hevoted to repeal it.

Shows also said he opposes giving more trade policy power to thepresident. He said the recent poor choices in trade policy wouldonly be increased if Congress did not have a say in trade policy.He added that he was involved in passing a bill to help communitiesrecover from the effects of NAFTA and to encourage further economicdevelopment in those communities.

Both congressmen said they were heavily in support of theHighway 44 bridge project and the four-laning of Highway 27. Bothsaid a strong infrastructure was a key element in economicdevelopment.

“I will be very glad to support them and work them,” Pickeringsaid. “I think those are the key elements in the building block ofthe state.”

Shows agreed

“You’ve got to have those four-lanes,” he said. “Highways arethe base for any infrastructure.”

When asked about prescription drugs, the congressmen agreedsomething needed to be done. But they differed on how to solveit.

Shows said he did not support a law recently passed by Congressbecause it placed too much trust in the medical field’s ability tomanage themselves.

“I do not trust HMOs or the big pharmaceutical companies,” Showssaid.

He said a bill designed by Democrats was never taken off thetable.

Pickering said he supported the new bill.

“I trust Mississippi hospitals, nurses, physicians and nursinghomes – who happen to support the bill we passed,” he said.

The bill, Pickering said, would benefit everyone, but targetedthose on a fixed or low income. Mississippi is one of the statesthat will benefit the most from the bill, he said.