Political Animal


October 02, 2012 2:38 PM The Mississippi Model

By Ed Kilgore

I noted earlier today, as I often do, that if the race-to-the-bottom keep-business-costs-as-low-as-possible approach to economic growth now being championed by the GOP made sense, then Mississippi would be the economic dynamo of the nation. Then I ran across an op-ed by the Magnolia State’s current Republican governor explaining why he was opposing the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, and was reminded all over again why Mississippi stays so dumb and poor.

Keep in mind that the federal government would pay an estimated 96% of the cost of the Medicaid expansion, giving 400,000 citizens of that state health insurance. But 4% of the cost of adequate health care for Mississippians is far too much for Gov. Phil Bryant, who complains the money would have to come out of money for economic development (i.e., corporate welfare), public safety or education (a big priority for Bryant, I am sure).

But what’s fascinating, in a nauseating sort of way, about Bryant’s argument is that he objects to the existing Medicaid program (which under the expansion would cover roughly a third of the state’s citizens), and claims he has a “better way” to provide health coverage for those 400,000 people:

I would personally rather see those 1 in 3 earn health care coverage through good-paying jobs in Mississippi’s energy sector or our cutting-edge, advanced manufacturing operations.

Y’know, Governor, I’d bet every single one of Medicaid’s current and potential beneficiaries in Mississippi would agree with that pious hope. But you know it ain’t happening, in large part because you and your conservative predecessors have insisted on minimizing “good-paying jobs” by creating and sustaining a Third World quality of life and level of public services, lest the wealthy be discomfited.

Perhaps there is a difference of opinion here about how one would define “good-paying jobs.” The current Medicaid program in Mississippi—the one Bryant apparently considers too generous—cuts off coverage of any family of three earning $8200 a year or more. I’m guessing a lot of jobs that pay at that level don’t come with a health insurance plan. But hey, gotta get that private-sector economy growing at any cost, as Mississippi and other sluggish southern states have been arguing for years.

The crowning irony, of course, is that an expanded Medicaid would actually serve as a subsidy for low-wage employers, who would not have to even think about health benefits for those who became eligible. So for 4% of the costs, Mississippi could burnish its reputation as a place where job-creators are king, and burdens are placed on them as lightly as possible.

You really, really have to dislike poor people a lot—or simply be so imprisoned by ideology as to buy the idea that the poor, or perhaps their descendents, will ultimately be empowered by unimaginable sacrifices today—to talk the way Bryant talks. It’s especially striking given the exceedingly tender conscience he purports to possess as co-chair of the recently failed initiative to give full constitutional “personhood” rights to fertilized ova. But no one should just laugh and call him a dumb cracker: Phil Bryant is a model public official according to current GOP thinking, and his approach to the economy is little more than a deep-fried version of the Bain Way.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Honeyboy Wilson on October 02, 2012 2:50 PM:

    In Kentucky we always say: Thank God for Mississippi!

  • David in NY on October 02, 2012 2:55 PM:

    And what would he do about the medicaid recipients who are people in nursing homes who have spent all their resources and now qualify for medicaid but who account for 50% of medicaid expenditures? (They are often middle-class people who have just run out of money.) Tell them to take their walkers and go get a job?

  • Ron Byers on October 02, 2012 2:56 PM:

    Whenever a politician wants to see an increase in good paying energy sector jobs he is getting way too much advice from the oil and gas companies. Of course, those companies cut their teeth bribing petty despots in the third world. They know all there is to know about keeping guys like Bryant happy.

  • c u n d gulag on October 02, 2012 2:59 PM:

    Well, in all fairness to the rich people in that state, there is no "y", "o," or "u" in Mississippi, only "I."

    And it's all ok, says we poor white folks - as long as the Nigrah's down the road got a little less.

  • Anonymous on October 02, 2012 3:01 PM:

    In Mississippi we say "F*ck Kentucky!" ;-)

    In all seriousness, though, Bryant is a racist fundamentalist sack of shit who has done everything he can to sabotage public education in Mississippi. His pipe dream of the 1 in 3 getting health bennies through gainful employment is simply unrealizable while he and his rightwing cronies defund public education in favor of seg acadamies and church schools (but I repeat myself). We can't get good jobs here because the population in general are woefully undereducated. Couple this with Mississippi's tendency to give away the store to get companies to locate here (the Nissan plant is one such case) and you have a recipe for continued high poverty and unemployment rates.

  • Rage on October 02, 2012 3:10 PM:

    Being a transplant to Mississippi for many years now, it can get depressing.

  • martin on October 02, 2012 3:13 PM:

    In Alabama we pretend we are not as dumb and poor as Mississippi. And don't care about Kentucky unless it is somehow football related.

    Our Gov just issued his statement as to why he's not co-operating with the OCA.

    Not enough instruction from the Feds is his first complaint (aren't they always whining about too many rules and regulations).
    And then he gets into the real right-wing swamp:

    “I truly believe that in order to control costs, consumers themselves must be a part of any equation. As such, I am a strong supporter of health savings accounts,” Governor Bentley said. “Health savings accounts empower the consumer in all aspects of health care decision making. The Affordable Care Act includes many provisions, all supposedly geared toward making health insurance affordable, yet it does not include any significant mention of health savings accounts. I contend that the law does not make health insurance affordable and negatively affects consumer choice.”

    “Health savings accounts provide what the ACA does not: a consumer-oriented, marketplace-driven option for health coverage,” Governor Bentley added.

    Because, you know, poor people are so good at saving, and the really want to negotiate with the ambulance driver as to which emergency room to go to for a heart attack.

    Oh yeah, without the OCA restrictions on pre-existing conditions, poor people can't get even the gawdawful HCSA's.

    One really grows to hate these people.

  • martin on October 02, 2012 3:15 PM:

    Ummm "ACA" not "OCA"

  • mudwall jackson on October 02, 2012 3:28 PM:

    From the Energy Department's analysis of Mississippi's energy resources ....

    "Mississippi’s natural gas production is minimal, accounting for less than 1 percent of total U.S output. In recent years, new wells have been completed at the Mariner Field along the Gulf Coast and at the Maben Field in the Black Warrior Basin. Despite new completions, Mississippi’s marketed natural gas production has fallen drastically since 2003, when the State’s natural gas wells began producing increasing volumes of non-hydrocarbon gases, such as carbon dioxide, helium, hydrogen sulfide, and nitrogen. ... Mississippi produces a small amount of crude oil ... "

    so good luck governor producing significant numbers of good-paying jobs from that

  • gdb on October 02, 2012 3:35 PM:

    "You really, really have to dislike poor people a lot—
    OR simply be so imprisoned by ideology as to buy the idea that the poor, or perhaps their descendents, will ultimately be empowered by unimaginable sacrifices today—to talk the way Bryant talks."

    The appropriate conjunction is AND .. not OR... to which "AND be racist" is probably an appropriate additional statement.

  • Ron Byers on October 02, 2012 3:50 PM:

    gdb, I have been to Mississippi and the elites down there both dislike poor people and are slaves to ideology. They don't have to be racists.

  • MuddyLee on October 02, 2012 4:37 PM:

    What ARE the good jobs in Mississippi? Working at one of the casinos south of Memphis? Working at a catfish farm? Farm work? It's all machines now and you can get tax breaks for depreciation that you don't get when you hire people. If you need people, hire "illegals" - they will work cheaper and not complain. About half of South Carolina is very much like Mississippi - and one of the favorite games is to blame the poor for being descended from poor people and to claim the state can't afford to educate the poor or provide programs like Medicaid. And these are "christian right" states to a large extent - it is shameful.

  • Chad on October 02, 2012 5:51 PM:

    You knocked this one out of the ballpark, Ed.

  • bluestatedon on October 02, 2012 5:59 PM:

    "You really, really have to dislike poor black people a lot..."

    FIFY, Ed.

  • jhm on October 03, 2012 7:40 AM:

    Reading this, especially the "imprisoned by ideology" paragraph, made the connection in my mind between standard conservative attitudes toward the poor and hazing in various social cliques. The very fact that current members had to run the gauntlet of some sort or another, no matter how cruel or pointless, makes them resistant to anybody attaining membership without having to do the same.

  • David Martin on October 03, 2012 12:03 PM:

    Florida's governor Rick Scott and its Republican legislature are busy cutting back Medicaid, just like Mississippi.