In this season of family, charity, and self-reflection, it is important to remember those among us who are still struggling financially. Tomorrow, long-term unemployment benefits are set to expire for 13,400 Mississippians. 37,600 Mississippians could lose their benefits during 2014 and over 1,400 of our fellow citizens may lose their jobs as a result of the expiration of benefits.
Some may ask why these folks don't just go out and get a job. Seems simple enough. Well, it's a bit more complicated than that.
Mississippi's unemployment rate now stands at 8.3 percent, the highest of any other Southern state. Our unemployment rate has remained over 8 percent since January 2009. From June 2013 to November 2013, our state's labor force has decreased by roughly 24,000. A more worrisome statistic is that during this same time period, our state's education and health care sectors grew by about 1 percent.
All along we were under the impression that Governor Bryant wanted to be known as the health care governor. A recent study showed that an expansion of Medicaid could produce over 20,000 jobs and inject over $1 billion into the state. The response from Bryant goes something like this: No way do I want to create health care jobs to Mississippi. I'm more than happy to give hardworking Mississippians' tax dollars to my fellow Republican governors in North Dakota and Iowa who expanded Medicaid and have unemployment rates of 2.6 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively.
While Tea Party cheerleaders like GOP Chairman Joe Nosef and Bryant sing "Happy Days are Here Again," the direction of our labor force is going in the wrong direction. Bryant will stop the presses to announce a job created in the state, but he understandably goes radio silent when job losses occur.
It seems the Republican agenda can be boiled down to this: You have to vote for our party so you can find out what's in it.