By STEVEN NALLEY
Brad Morris, a Democratic candidate for Mississippiâ€™s first congressional district, visited the Golden Triangle Thursday to discuss his goals and values.
Morris said he wants to provide middle-class and working families with a voice in Congress he believes they do not currently have. Mississippi has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, northern Mississippi has some of the highest unemployment in the state and middle-class families are concerned about providing for their families in such an environment, he said.
â€śThis economy cannot fully get back on track until the middle class of this country is back on track,â€ť Morris said. â€śThe way to do both is with a serious-but-balanced approach to our national debt. We have to address spending, but we also cannot balance the budget on the backs of middle-class and working families. We have to expect the highest earners in our economy to pay their fair share.â€ť
Another way Morris said he wants to grow the middle class is with an economic agenda focused on improving class mobility through programs like Social Security and Medicare. Growing up in rural Itawamba County with his grandparents, he said he saw the value of such government programs first-hand.
â€śMy grandfather worked in a pallet factory, (and) my grandmother was a seamstress (who) worked in local garment factories, but they had jobs,â€ť Morris said. â€śI was personally afforded opportunities because of investments this country made. I had opportunities to move up the ladder into the middle class through an education, through the little (Federal Housing Administration) home we lived in, college aid (and) Medicaid. All those things allowed me (to move) from ... where my life could have gone in any number of directions to being a productive member of society. I want folks coming up now and after us to have those opportunities.â€ť
Third, Morris said political reform removing lobbying influences from Congress will help the middle class grow. Lobbyistsâ€™ interests overshadow the middle classâ€™s agenda as Congress currently stands, he said, and he has three ideas to remove lobbyists from the picture.
â€śThere is a constitutional amendment on the table right now that would ban big corporate money, shady interest groups and wealthy elite from buying our elections,â€ť Morris said. â€śThatâ€™s pending in the Senate; I think we need to get it passed. Second, I think just using the tech that is available right now, we can give people access to government to allow the average citizen to have better insight into whatâ€™s going on in government. Third, I think we need a permanent ban on elected officials becoming lobbyists when they leave office.â€ť
Starkville is part of the third congressional district, but surrounding portions of Oktibbeha County, including Maben, Sturgis and Double Springs, are in the first congressional district. Morris served as chief of staff and senior advisor to former first district Rep. Travis Childers. Morris said Childers taught him local officials are â€śwhere the rubber meets the roadâ€ť in government, so the input of local officials is important to him, especially officials in such rural communities as those surrounding Starkville.
â€śWe live in a world where these small differences between one small community and the other, the town and the rural area or the university and the town are really minute compared to where we are in a global economy,â€ť Morris said. â€śNorth Mississippi has a tradition of looking at things on a regional level. I think working with this area on a broader set of issues that affect the region would be important.â€ť
Morris is running unopposed on the districtâ€™s Democratic ticket. While he is willing to reach across party aisles to accomplish his goals, he said he is opposed to the government-cutting mentality to which Republicans often adhere.
â€śEvery time they cut a teacherâ€™s job or another (government) job, thatâ€™s a paycheck that gets eliminated from our local economy, and that concerns me,â€ť Morris said. â€śAs you go into most of the counties across North Mississippi, the largest employers in just about every one of these counties are the local school system.â€ť