The day before Mississippi's statewide elections, U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper spoke at the Stennis-Capitol Press Luncheon at the University Club in Jackson. Harper began his conversation with a prediction the Ole Miss athletics press conference that day would announce his district director Chip Reynolds as the new University of Mississippi Athletic Director, and his military academy appointment coordinator Steve Guyton as the new head coach for the Rebel Bears. "Oh, no...I accept, I accept!" Guyton exclaimed to a room of laughter.

Harper, a Republican in his second term representing Mississippi's Third Congressional District, said a bad day in Mississippi is better than the best day in Washington DC where, "people speak about things they don't understand, nobody listens, and then they argue about it...the bad ninety percent [of congress] give the rest of us a bad name."

Harper said he has been working to dismantle the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC). HAVA (Help America Vote Act) - the legislation resulting from the 2000 presidential election recount debacle in Florida - created the EAC as an agency to oversee and disburse three billion dollars in grants to states over a period of three years. Now, the agency has completed its work, operated for nine years, doubled its staff, and has not added new responsibilities. Harper said it was an example of what President Ronald Reagan called the closest thing to eternal life this side of heaven: a temporary government agency. Harper authored a bill (HR672) to terminate the EAC but it failed when no Democrats voted for it (it was considered "on the suspension calendar" reserved for non-controversial legislation but requiring a two-thirds vote to pass). Harper previously wrote his legislation would save taxpayers $33 million over five years and he criticized the EAC as wasteful of taxpayer funds for wasteful spending, hiring discrimination lawsuits and costing more in management than the program funds it administers.

Harper criticized President Barack Obama's demands that congress pass his job bill. He said if the President truly wanted legislation to produce a job friendly environment, he should call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) and ask him to consider for Senate vote the "Forgotten Fifteen": fifteen (Harper said now closer to twenty) pieces of legislation mainly dealing with regulatory relief and energy production passed by the House of Representatives. Harper said, "If we get the EPA off our back you'll see an immediate improvement in the economy" through energy jobs. Instead, he said, we have federal agencies like the National Labor Review Board (NLRB) blocking the creation of thousands of private sector jobs. (The NLRB wants Boeing to expand its current operations in the union friendly Washington State rather than the non-union facility in the right-to-work state of South Carolina.)

Harper said Obama's bill is "Stimulus 2: Stimulus Lite." He said Obama's first stimulus plan was supposed to fund infrastructure and was promised by the White House to prevent unemployment from exceeding eight percent; instead, little went to infrastructure and unemployment exceeded ten percent. "We've tried this," Harper said of Obama's plan, "it does not work."

Harper said he is unsure what the "super committee" for deficit reduction would determine but, "revenue is not the problem...it is spending that has gone through the roof." Harper said the deficit was $168 billion a year in 2006 when President George W. Bush had a Republican congress; $480 billion a year when Bush had a Democratic congress in 2008; and $1.5 trillion a year when Obama had a Democratic congress. Harper expects some form of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to be considered in the House of Representatives soon.

Harper noted a personal interest of his - due to his son Livingston's "Fragile X" genetic condition - is assisting children and young adults with special needs. He said while an attorney, Harper opened his office to students with special needs from Pearl High School for internships. When he arrived in Washington DC, he found congress had no intern program for similar students. He worked with Mason Life - a program of George Mason University - to develop a pilot program in five congressional offices for interns with special needs. Harper said it has expanded to a permanent program, now in twenty offices, at zero cost to taxpayers.

After his speech, Harper fielded a number of questions. He said he favored all three ballot initiatives; opposed cutting congressional or staff salaries but consistently kept his office under budget; supports a major change in our tax code be it flat tax, fair tax or overhaul in the existing code; and is unsure if now is the right time to pull out of Iraq, "It depends on who you ask. We won't know till later. We'll know in six months or so [if this was the right time]." A lot can happen in six months, just ask Ole Miss athletics.



Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.