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‘Anti-business’ is usually a scare tactic by label

June 14th, 2010

You know, we do it to ourselves.
We label ourselves to such an extent that it is impossible view an opinion as being one that isn’t right, left, liberal, conservative or whatever.
I was reminded of this last week when I went to hear Brandon Presley speak to the capital press corps.
Presley is the Northern District public service commissioner that voted twice against the approval of the Kemper County Coal Plant.
Both times, he was outvoted, and the plant will be built for as much as $2.8 billion.
Presley has stated on many occasions that he isn’t necessarily against the plant, he’s against the people of South Mississippi being on the hook for that kind of money for a plant which has technology that owners can’t guaranty will work.
Yet, because he has a view that is contrary to building a multi-billion-dollar plant that will employ about 150 or so people, he has been labeled as an anti-business politician.
Presley points out that when this plant is built, rates will go up by at least 33 percent, but it could be more.
That, he contends, will make it harder for small business people to pay their electricity bills, therefore passing along the rate hike to their customers who already are paying a rate hike at home for the new coal plant.
And isn’t this country built on the backs of the small businessman?
Yeah, there are always two sides of the story, and this column really isn’t to slam the coal plant.
It’s about labels.
And Presley isn’t anti-business for voting the way he did. He is looking out for a part of the Mississippi business community that isn’t getting attention from a different side.
He points out, as the former mayor of Nettleton (the hometown of Boston Red Sox outfielder Bill Hall — sorry, but I had to throw that in there.) that if his city’s electricity bill goes up, that money has to be offset somewhere else in the budget.
Again, if that goes to taxes, the businesses and residents are charged with the city’s higher rates, which they are already paying at home.
It’s a vicious cycle; trickle-down economics, if you will.
Presley is no more anti-business for his vote than the other two public service commissioners for seeing the business opportunities the way they have seen them.
Yet, we like to throw around these labels to make ourselves feel better about the decisions we make.
If we label ourselves as pro-business, then we must be right, and anyone that has an opinion unlike ours must be anti-business.
All of that brings me to a story about me.
Seriously, I wrote a column many months ago that drew the ire of a particular professional association in Mississippi. The president of the group happened to be a guy I grew up with a hundred years ago. We are friends. Our families are friends, the whole nine yards.
Yet, I had taken a stance that wasn’t necessarily in line with his association.
We chatted.
He was mad.
I tried to appease him.
“But, Ross, how can a pro-business publication like yours take such an anti-business stance?”
Well, first and foremost, I said, the Mississippi Business Journal is neither a pro-business nor anti-business publication.
We are a business publication that prints all business news that has to do with Mississippi.
My friend and I chatted a little longer and then he was shocked to find out that I was willing to allow him to send a rebuttal to my column.
It’s about getting business information, or in this case, an opinion about Mississippi business in our publication.
It doesn’t have to be about pro-business or anti-business.
It should just be about business and having all the information to make the right decision.
In Presley’s case, his business opinion was based on different information than the other two commissioners.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

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