Mississippi’s love/hate relationship with “free” money

E.J. Dionne, writing for the Washington Post, identifies Mississippi’s personality disorder with respect to federal funding.  As a “conservative” state, Mississippi rejects federal waste, unbalanced budgets, and pork.  At the same time, the state benefits from, if not relies upon, federal money.

The U.S. Senate primary race between Sen. Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel is forcing the issue.  Cochran has made a name for himself as a master appropriator and is in line to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee should the Republican Party take the Senate in November.  McDaniel has fashioned himself a warrior against federal debt, excessive spending, and pork and has won the support of a host of Tea Party groups advocating the same.

According to Mississippi State’s Marty Wiseman, “Our anti-Washington politics has been to make sure that we got as much of it here as we could.  You’ve got the tea party excited that they’ve corralled a big spender, but he was bringing it back to Mississippi. That’s the paradox of all paradoxes.”

Democrat Party Chairman Ricky Cole is quoted, “If Mississippi did what the tea party claims they want . . . we would become a Third World country, quickly.  We depend on the federal government to help us build our highways. We depend on the federal government to fund our hospitals, our health-care system. We depend on the federal government to help us educate our students on every level.”

Dionne identifies the apparent victor in this battle:  “Yes, Childers could run as a Thad Cochran Democrat — except he wouldn’t be saddled with the need to appease an ideology that has to pretend federal spending doesn’t benefit anybody, least of all the people of Mississippi.”

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Don’t tell the GOP establishment: Mississippi is a “welfare state”

Based on a WalletHub study, Mississippi is the state most dependent upon federal funding and brings in $3.07 of federal funds for every $1 in taxes sent to Washington, DC.  Per the Tax Foundation, federal funding accounts for 45.8% of Mississippi’s revenue.

Although Mississippi is considered a “Red State,” or politically conservative, it ranks among the highest in federal dollars received per tax dollar paid.  With a political ideology that decries government hand-outs, Mississippi is “having its cake and eating it too.”

Influential leadership in Congress over the last 60 years has contributed to Mississippi’s current fiscal situation.  Sen. John C. Stennis (D) chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1969-1981 and the Senate Appropriations Committee from 1987-1989.  Former Sen. Trent Lott, even though a Republican, continued that legacy started by Stennis and rose to Senate Majority Leader before his resignation in 2007.  Likewise, Sen. Thad Cochran (R) has also done much to bring federal funds into the state and, if re-elected to a 7th term, is in line to chair the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

The WalletHub study didn’t include just welfare payments but also included federal contracts and federal employees’ salaries.  With the benefit of over a half-century of federal dollars and jobs pouring into the state, Mississippi still ranks near the bottom in several performance measures.

According to Politico and Cottonmouth, state Sen. Chris McDaniel has even identified Mississippi as a “welfare state.”  With endless campaign ads currently touting Cochran’s ability to bring federal funds to the state, Sen. Cochran tweeted this:

Wow.  Did Cochran just undermine his entire record?  Ever wonder why our country is $17 Trillion in debt?

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CHRIS CHOCOLA: Thad Cochran has a liberal record in the U.S. Senate

In an op. ed. for the Sun Herald, former Indiana congressman and President of Club for Growth Chris Chocola painted Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) as having a liberal record during his 42 years serving in Washington, DC.  He cites the American Conservative Union as having given Cochran the lowest conservative rating in Congress during the Obama era.

While some assertions are misleading (Mississippi receives more federal dollars than it sends to Washington so it is not reasonable to say that Mississippi tax dollars go to other states), the principles are right on target.  For every dollar in pork Sen. Cochran has brought to the state, he has voted to send many more dollars of pork to other states to receive those states’ Senators’ support for his pork.  Chocola writes,

A lot is made about projects in Mississippi that Thad Cochran got federal money for. What his supporters (many of whom are lobbyists who are paid to get politicians like Cochran to appropriate money for one project or another) fail to mention is that for every building in Mississippi Sen. Cochran voted for, he also had to vote to spend Mississippi tax dollars on things like a Woodstock Museum in New York or a Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Oklahoma or a Lobster Institute in Maine. All of which, like Sen. Cochran’s pork projects, received millions of dollars paid for by Mississippi taxpayers.

In the words of Milton Friedman, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  And the U.S. has a $17 Trillion dollar credit card bill to show for it.

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TANF drug testing bill passes Miss. Legislature

On March 12th, the Mississippi Legislature signed a bill that requires drug testing for all new TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) applicants if there is suspicion of drug abuse.  The intent is to provide the proper help for those struggling with addictions while ensuring proper use of the cash provided by the state managed federal grants.

Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to sign the legislation into law.

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State Reps Vote on Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients

The Mississippi House of Representatives passed House Bill No. 49 requiring drug testing for recipients of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).  The bill passed with all Republicans voting “Yes” and most Democrats voting “No.”  Before becoming law, the bill must be passed by the state Senate which is expected to act on the bill later this year.

Under the proposed law, applicants for TANF who are at risk for drug use must submit to a drug test at state expense.  Refusal to submit to drug testing would terminate the benefit unless that person enters an approved substance abuse treatment program.

TANF is a federal cash program administered separately by the states.

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