Rangel comments dim hope for positive change

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 13, 2006

Remarks Thursday by New York Democrat congressman Charles Rangelrankled Mississippians and rightly so. His words were inappropriate- especially following Tuesday’s election and the nationaluncertainty that naturally follows such a sweeping politicalchange.

A hallmark of good leadership in changing times is one thatattempts to soothe frayed nerves and builds consensus whileproviding a vision for the future. Republicans came up short onthat ability, thus the successful sweep Tuesday by Democrats ofboth the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.

Rangel’s comments show he does not understand the concept.

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For those who may have missed the controversy, the New Yorkcongressman is the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and MeansCommittee, which puts him in line to chair the powerful committeeafter January. That committee dictates where and how federal moneycan be spent.

Being one of the key leaders in the new Congress, his words arewatched carefully by those with frayed nerves and concerns aboutthe changing times.

His comment, “… who in the hell wants to live inMississippi?,” came as part of a New York Times article inwhich he questioned the amount of money our state receives from thefederal government. He said Mississippi gets more than its fairshare.

Our own Third District Congressman Chip Pickering respondedangrily in demanding an apology.

Fourth District Congressman Gene Taylor’s response was moreconciliatory in trying to sweep Rangel’s comments under the rug.Taylor, a Democrat, of course is playing the party line.

Going beyond the insulting comments of the New York congressman,what might be of more concern to Mississippians is the factualityof his words.

Rangel is correct our state receives more money from the federalgovernment than we send in.

That money goes to help the poor, the elderly and theunfortunate. It goes to fund government programs such as educationand health care. Unfortunately, in most of our 82 counties, thelargest source of income for our citizens is from transfer payments(government checks) and not from salary checks.

The New York congressman is correct Mississippi does depend toomuch on the other states. The only way to correct that is strongereconomic development, which creates more jobs -something theleadership of this state is working relentlessly to provide.

From a political standpoint, what is of interest in Rangel’scomments is that he appears to suggest to us that under the newDemocratic-controlled Congress, he will work to cut back on thosegovernment checks here in Mississippi. That would create a quandaryfor state Democrats trying to rebuild their base.

But all of this aside, regardless of your political persuasion,the results of Tuesday’s election bring hopes of new leadershipthat builds consensus and puts the needs of the country ahead ofthe needs of the individual political parties.

If Congressman Rangel’s comments are any indication, those hopesmay just be that – a hope.

Meanwhile, Mr. Rangel, as a good Southerner would properlyrespond to your inappropriate comments – we are embarrassed foryou.