peaking at the Stennis Institute & Capitol Press Corps luncheon this week, Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said he doesn’t care for labels like “pro-business and anti-business” that get thrown around. He argues keeping rates low for small businesses is pro-business, even if it comes at the detriment of publicly regulated utilities and their economic development projects, actions others may term anti-business.
But if you look at Presley’s style, roots and philosophy the clear label for his politics is “populism” – a throwback to the rural Hill County anti-corporationism and common man appeal of former Governor and Senator James K. Vardaman (minus Vardaman’s racial politics). In his definitive book “Southern Politics in State and Nation,” V.O. Key, Jr. quotes Vardaman: “Millionaires produce paupers – the concentration of riches in the hands of the few breeds poverty and squalor among the many.” Similar words could have been said by Presley Monday at the Capitol Club in Jackson when he railed against Mississippi Power’s new Kemper coal plant. “This is the greatest transfer of wealth from customers to a monopoly in the history of the state of Mississippi,” Presley said.
Peppering his speech with references to little old ladies, senior citizens and waitresses “wiping down the table at Waffle House,” Presley bragged of going after a utility’s use of corporate jets, advertising and his next target: “bloated executive expense and salary packages.”