Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mississippi's Poverty Increases; Republicans Take Credit

Data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau tells a story we often hear: Mississippi ranks as the poorest state in the United States.

A breakdown provided by the Mississippi Economic Policy Center highlights some very troubling numbers.

  • Mississippi has had the largest increase in poverty among states from 2011 to 2012. 
  • Total poverty increased from 20.6% in 2007 to 24.2% in 2012
  • Child poverty increased from 28.9% in 2007 to 34.6% in 2012. 
  • Median income dropped over $3,000 in the last five years from $40,240 to $37,095.
Mississippi has the lowest median income of any state in the country, roughly $37,000. Keep in mind that for a family of four, the federal poverty level is $23,550.

In his testimony before the Legislative Budget Committee earlier today, State Economist Darrin Webb noted that Mississippi is gaining jobs at a very slow rate, and many of those jobs are low-wage.

Governor Bryant released a statement noting "Today’s report from State Economist Darren Webb that Mississippi’s economy continues to improve brings to the forefront our aggressive growth strategy to retain our existing industry base and recruit new global business investment." 

Speaker Philip Gunn also took the opportunity to tout this as good news. Gunn credited the state's Republican leadership for creating the conditions in which we now find ourselves.

Bryant and Gunn appear to be missing the point. They seem to ignore the fact that these low-paying jobs are not doing much to enlarge the economic pie in our state. We can only infer that Bryant's and Gunn's attitudes are likely to sound a lot like "If you have a job, regardless of how much it pays, what's there to complain about? A job is a job, right?"

After nearly ten years of Republican leadership in the state, this is what we have to show for it? Mississippi's perpetual position at the bottom of the list is not something to celebrate.

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