Despite politicians’ promises over the years to make things better, Mississippi remains a bottom-ranked, low-income state with a high poverty rate.
Mississippi’s low national rankings are old news, but here’s an update. USNews.com shows Mississippi ranked 49th overall, just above Louisiana. More specifically, the state ranked 50th for health care, 49th for economy, 48th for infrastructure, 44th for opportunity, 43rd for education, 41st for fiscal stability, and 33rd for crime and corrections.
The economy ranking was further divided to show the state ranked 50th for employment, 49th for business environment, and 46th for growth.
Then there are those persistent stats showing Mississippi ranked 50th for per capita income and 1st for poverty rate.
Economic success is usually matched with population growth. The opposite is true too. So, it’s no surprise Mississippi was one of only three states to show a population loss in the 2020 Census.
And, it should be no surprise that roughly 50% of Mississippi residents struggle to make ends meet. That’s according to a report released by United Way which combines the 19% poverty population with our 31% working poor population just above the poverty level.
Republicans control state government in Mississippi, so what is their agenda to make things better?
Gov. Tate Reeves wants to eliminate state income taxes. Hard to see how this would benefit people who hardly pay income taxes. House Speaker Philip Gunn wants to cut state income taxes but offset that by increasing sales and other taxes. Hard to see how that will benefit those with limited incomes.
Their theory is these and other tax cuts will help grow the economy by attracting new industry and more jobs. There is little evidence tax cuts alone will do that, and the growth we have had occurred primarily in urban centers, leaving most rural counties behind.
Indeed, with one exception there appear to be no major GOP leaders strategizing to make things better for the 50% of Mississippians struggling to make ends meet.
Then there is Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann. He caught public attention for his speech at the Neshoba County Fair when he said, “The time for simply saying ‘no’ to our options for working Mississippians has passed.” Earlier he said his goals “center around investing in Mississippi’s greatest asset: our people.” Presumably that includes the lower 50% as well as the upper 50% his GOP colleagues tend to focus on.
No doubt that is why he appears open to some form of Medicaid expansion. No economic development project would do more for rural counties and low-income Mississippians. A federal study showed expansion could create 21,700 new jobs and make hospitals and medical services once again community growth engines. Plus it would help alleviate the economic plight of many in the lower 50%.
Yep, Medicaid expansion would do far more to lift us off the bottom of national rankings than income tax cuts.
And Medicaid expansion has never been more affordable with federal bonus dollars available to help cover costs. Also, the state economist projects that the economic impact would generate more than enough new revenue to cover long-term costs.
“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is a sin” – James 4:17.
» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.