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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Clarion-Ledger releases trio of opinions on U.S. Senate race

The Clarion-Ledger released 3 opinions late Saturday night that provide an excellent overview of the Mississippi race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

Robbie Nichols relentlessly blasts Sen. Thad Cochran in he op. ed. Cochran is no conservative.  She paints a very positive view of state Senator Chris McDaniel and a run-down of the big-government, “king of pork,” and pro-Obama lines that the McDaniel campaign is trying to paint Cochran with.

In the opinion Hall:  McDaniel, Cochran race about to get ugly, Sam R. Hall provides the feedback from the recent polls by Rasmussen Reports and Harper Polling that show good trends for McDaniel.  He evenly summarizes both candidates with the following:

McDaniel and his supporters will continue to talk about how he is a true conservative who will stand against run-away spending and constitutional attacks. They will label Cochran as a liberal spender who has been in Washington so long that he has lost touch with Mississippians, evidenced by votes to increase the national debt and his refusing to lie down on the tracks to stop Obamacare.

From Cochran and his supporters, the pro-incumbent message is likely to remain the same. They will continue to remind Mississippians of how much the senior senator has done for the state, how crucial he was in the Katrina recovery and how important his position as chairman of the Appropriations Committee would be if Republicans take back the Senate — something that seems quite plausible right now

The Political Editor for the Clarion-Ledger, Geoff Pender summarizes the needed strategy from McDaniel while identifying the goals of the Cochran camp in Senate race devolves into racism, ‘boobies’.

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4th District Republican Candidate Tom Carter Interviewed on Gulf Coast Mornings

While Steven Palazzo and Gene Taylor are capturing the most media attention, Tom Carter is also in the race to represent the Republican Party in Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District.  The lifelong Mississippian was interviewed on NewsRadio 104.9 FM Gulf Coast Mornings.

Identifying himself as a businessman who has never run for public office (nor voted for nor with Rep. Nancy Pelosi), Carter discussed the need to reduce burdens on businesses to strengthen the economy.  The interview also included Obamacare, the national debt, career politicians, and the defense presence on the Gulf Coast.

Hear the entire interview from the NewRadio 104.9FM website.

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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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Miss. Legislature adjourns with Senate & House Civil War

Geoff Pender’s article “Legislature has adjourned sine die” is an interesting look at the politics between the Mississippi House and Senate.  The House rejected the MDOT budget bill due to it being loaded with pork projects voting 121-1 on Monday, March 31st which all but killed funding for MDOT.

However, Gov. Bryant called a special session during the regular legislative session that allowed the Senate pass the bill last night and then adjourn for the legislative session.  This left the House no alternative but to pass the bill if they were to fund MDOT at all.

The $927 Million MDOT budget included $22 Million of pet projects the House did not like.  One of those projects is the $10 Million Mississippi-25/Lakeland Drive project which happens to be in Rankin County and near the home county of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.

While much of the House was up in arms, the project had its defenders.  Rep. Mark Baker (R-Brandon) said the project has been planned for years to relieve congestion northeast of Jackson.

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NYT: In Mississippi, It’s G.O.P. vs. Tea Party

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times filed a look at Sen. Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel with the article “In Mississippi, It’s G.O.P. vs. Tea Party.”

. . . Mississippi’s power structure is in a bit of a panic. The economically poor state has been rich with powerful politicians in Washington, who have unapologetically protected its military bases and shipyards, built its roads and universities, reconstructed its beachfronts, and dredged its rivers. The state has had only a handful of senators since 1947, including Mr. Cochran, a powerful member of the Appropriations Committee; Trent Lott, a Senate majority leader; and John C. Stennis, whose 41 years of service was marked by military advocacy and the creation of the modern Navy. . .

. . . Policy details are as foreign to Mr. McDaniel as they are natural to Mr. Cochran. Henry Barbour’s super PAC is filling the airwaves with comments Mr. McDaniel made to Politico that questioned whether he would have voted for the emergency relief that Mr. Cochran helped secure for the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Mr. McDaniel now says he supports disaster relief and does not see the need to offset it with other spending cuts. And he has opted not to challenge Mr. Cochran’s military largess. . .

HALEY BARBOUR: Cochran’s foes don’t know Pascagoula from Pontotoc

In rebuttal to Chris Chocola’s March 18th op. ed. in the Sun Herald, former Gov. Haley Barbour wrote Cochran’s foes don’t know Pascagoula from Pontotoc.

Stating that Chocola’s opinion was full of half-truths and hypocrisy, Barbour started with his own.  Barbour states “I expected as much when I read the headline, ‘Thad Cochran is a liberal'” when the headline actually said, “Thad Cochran has a liberal record.”

That aside, Gov. Barbour brings out the following points:

  • Chocola (U.S. Representative for Indiana from 2003-2007) voted for every debt ceiling increase that Thad Cochran voted for during that time.
  • Club for Growth helped oust then Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) in the 2012 Republican Primary which was ultimately filled by a Democrat in the General Election.
  • Sen. Cochran had out-dated disaster assistance laws updated after Hurricane Katrina.
  • Sen. Cochran has voted against Obamacare every chance a bill came to the Senate floor.  Chocola claimed that Cochran’s vote to reopen the federal government was a vote for Obamacare.

Barbour’s op.ed. is finished with the following:

[Sen. Cochran]  was the giant who stood tall and produced for our state at our greatest hour of need after Katrina. . . The great news is Thad is line to be chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee if Republicans win control of the Senate. . . He will again be able to ensure Mississippi [is] treated fairly and the runaway spending of the Obama Administration is stopped. . .

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Gene Taylor interviewed on WLOX

David Elliott interviewed Gene Taylor, candidate for the 4th Congressional District, on WLOX’s “Sunday Night Extra.”  The video was posted to Taylor’s Facebook page.  Elliot asked about Taylor’s changing party affiliation and Taylor said he has always been pro-life, for a balanced budget, and a strong national defense and the Republican Party is a better place for him to be.

Taylor hit his main primary opponent, Rep. Steven Palazzo, for supporting the Biggert-Waters Act and the weaknesses of the Flood Insurance Reform Bill signed into law by President Obama earlier this week.  He also stated that Palazzo voted to cut the Department of Defense budget and says that those cuts are directly responsible for causing the U.S. Air Force to move aircraft from Keesler AFB [the Air Force says it is in response to Army and Marine Corps strength reductions].  Taylor believes that, by voting against Hurricane Sandy relief, Palazzo will not be able to obtain the support of others in Congress when south Mississippi inevitably needs relief in the future.

In 2009, Taylor went against Democrat leadership by voting against Obamacare and pledged to vote for the best interest of the people of south Mississippi.

The Primary Election is June 3rd.

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State debt is a concern for Mississippi

Mississippi’s bonded indebtedness grew from $2.2 Billion in 2000 to over $4.1 Billion in 2012.  In the past 2 years the overall debt has been declining (by about $141 Million) and two recent Sun Herald opinions, Let’s not encourage pushing Mississippi deeper into debt and Debt service is big spending, attribute that to then state treasurer Tate Reeves’ push to reduce dependence on debt.

Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford points out, Debt Service is the 3rd largest budget item for Mississippi at $375.4 Million, 7.5% of the 2014 General Fund.  Only education ($2.8 Billion) and social welfare ($737.9 Million) are larger budget items.

Current state treasurer Lynn Fitch says in the 2014 Debt Affordability Study that Mississippi could manage the anticipated $1.8 Billion of bonds that are expected to be requested by state entities over the next 5 years.

As the Sun Herald points out, the conclusions are riddled with words such as “expected,” “forecasted,” and “anticipated.”  Such words create a doubtful foundation on which to take on debt.  Mississippi does not need to be saddled with increased debt that has bankrupted cities across the U.S. such as Detroit and Stockton.  The U.S. government has demonstrated how quickly that can get out of hand.

The Debt Affordability Study notes several strengths:

The State practices fiscal conservatism through a statutory 2% budget set-aside and mandatory spending cuts if revenues were to fall below 98% of the budget estimate.

Standard & Poor’s “expect[s] the overall economic climate of the East South Central Region (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee) to improve in the upcoming year, and our economic outlook for the region remains largely positive over the next couple of years.”

There are some risks that are also documented:

Mississippi has an economy that trails many national median indicators and is more dependent than other states on federal spending [i.e. Pork].

A weak socio-economic profile seen by below average wealth and income coupled with the nation’s highest poverty rate and lowest educational attainment levels present challenges to the state’s credit rating.

Unfunded pension liabilities are among the highest of the states when measured as a percentage of personal income.

With $958 Million in bonds authorized by the legislature but not yet issued, the state could reverse recent debt reduction efforts and increase existing debt by nearly 25%.  Urge our state leaders to avoid the trap of more debt.  Mississippi should lead the nation is fiscal restraint and discipline.  Let’s hope the words of Reeve’s spokeswoman, Laura Hipp, are followed, “The days of just ‘bonding’ every project every state agency wants are over.”

Proverbs 22:7 — The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

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