Gov. Haley R. Barbour joined the leaders of the world's biggest corporations at the 9th Annual Forbes Global CEO conference in Kuala Lumpur this week.

Barbour, Gov. Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico), and millionaire businessman Steve Forbes (R-Money) led a discussion of U.S. politics and world affairs. Barbour's schedule included visits to the Port of Singapore and Japan.

The convergence of policy and politics on a stage of economic development is Barbour's element. If the medium is the message, this Pacific trip communicates what has been the constant campaign and governing theme for Barbour: job creation.

Barbour measures and promotes policies according to their ability and potential to increase economic development and create jobs. This is not to say his values and beliefs are not ideologically conservative (I believe they are), nor is it to suggest he embraces materialism (rather than, say freedom) as the answer to societal woes. But, Barbour's brand of pragmatic politics always points to jobs.

It doesn't hurt that job creation is politically popular. The economy consistently rates high in voter issue polls. A recent Rasmussen Reports poll says 65% of Americans believe job creation is more important than taking steps to stop global warming. People vote their pocketbook. They reward job creators (Barbour 2007) and punish job losers (Musgrove 2003).

So it was interesting to watch Barbour earlier this month when in one week's time, he used significant policy forums to examine the economic development and job impact of health care reform, energy policies, and tort reform.

On Tuesday Sept. 15, Barbour hosted a small business forum in Jackson sponsored by the Mississippi Economic Council, Mississippi Manufacturers Association, and the National Federation of Independent Business. He led discussions on the job threats of proposed Democratic health care and energy policies, and provided alternatives. On health care rather than fining small businesses for being unable to provide health care benefits to employees, he suggested rewarding employees for purchasing health care insurance through tax incentives. Rather than forcing Americans into a government managed plan, he suggested allowing workers to secure their own private insurance that belongs to them and not their employer or Uncle Sam. He again encouraged legislators to pass his Mississippi Health Insurance Exchange program to provide more affordable health care opportunities for small businesses in Mississippi. Nationally, he stressed that true cuts in health care costs could not be achieved without tort reform. His message was health care policies should remove obstacles and not impose burdens on small businesses.

On energy, Barbour rebuked federal mandates that would require Mississippians to pay millions of dollars for transmission lines to import expensive electricity as a substitute for our own cheap power. Barbour urged Mississippi to embrace our traditional energy sources like nuclear, coal, natural gas, and petroleum and add to that local renewables like wood and agricultural biofuels. He said Democratic energy policies would push manufacturing out of America to countries with cheaper power like China, where the production of a ton of steel creates ten-times the pollution as it does in the United States. Rather than making the environment cleaner, these Democratic policies would increase dirty production elsewhere while crippling America's economy and work force. His message was smart energy policies should aim to lower costs, not drive up electrical prices that would increase unemployment.

Three days later, Barbour addressed The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC on "Protecting Consumers and Enhancing Economic Growth" using Mississippi's comprehensive tort reform as a model. Barbour noted that Toyota said publically they would not have chosen - or even considered - Mississippi had we not passed tort reform. As a result of Mississippi's improved business climate and the attention given by Toyota, Barbour said General Electric, Paccar, and steel plants came to Mississippi and brought with them new and high paying jobs.

Four days later, Barbour was back on energy policy as he led a national webinar for the Republican Governors Association entitled "Energy 101: The Hidden Taxes in Cap and Trade Legislation." Barbour serves as Chairman of the RGA. Thousands of Republican activists and interested citizenry tuned in online.

These forums compliment a number of columns Barbour has authored recently in the national press.

Barbour has created a high profile for himself on the national stage to discuss energy and health care, but he always returns those policies to how they create or destroy jobs. As Republicans approach the 2010 and 2012 elections, many will suggest Barbour for president, or vice president, or in the cabinet of a Republican president, or again as Republican National Committee chairman.

Barbour could legitimately consider any of those options, not because of his politics, of which he is an undisputed master, but because his policies for job creation resonate with Americans. As Barbour often says, "good policy makes good politics."

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at