IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

In Mississippi, 'the paradox of all paradoxes'

Mississippi gets more federal resources than any other state. So why would Mississippi voters gravitate to an anti-federal-spending message?
Image: MS Senate candidate Chris McDaniel
Chris McDaniel promises a victory to a late night audience Tuesday July 3, 2014, at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg, Miss. McDaniel and six...
There's a school of thought that divides American states into "makers vs. takers." The former states send more to Washington than they receive back, while the latter states take more from Washington than they send.
And in this dynamic, Mississippi is the biggest "taker" of them all -- receiving, on average, more from the federal government than any other state. With a nod to the state's political posturing and anti-Washington attitudes, Dick Polman said yesterday, "What we have here, in other words, is a major cognitive disconnect. If government ever got off the backs of Mississippians, their backs would be broken."
E.J. Dionne Jr. is thinking along similar lines, posing the right question from Mississippi: "Can you hate the federal government but love the money it spends on you?"

[Haley Barbour] and his allies did all they could for [incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran], but there was that nagging contradiction at the heart of their argument: Cochran said he was as stoutly conservative and penny-pinching as [Chris McDaniel], but also the agent for many good things that come this state's way courtesy of the despised national capital. Mississippi taxpayers get $3.07 back for every $1 they send to Washington, according to Wallet Hub, a personal finance Web site. The Tax Foundation ranks Mississippi No. 1 among the states in federal aid as a percentage of state revenue. Strange numbers, you'd think, for a Beltway-hating state, but Marty Wiseman, the former director of the Stennis Institute at Mississippi State University, explained the apparent inconsistency. "Our anti-Washington politics has been to make sure that we got as much of it here as we could," he said. "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."

Rickey Cole, the state Democratic chairman, told E.J., "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."
No wonder Cochran was caught off-guard. He's thrived for decades by rewarding his state's communities with federal resources -- and it's not as if Mississippians have been clamoring for their elected officials to deliver fewer benefits.
Little did Cochran know his own party would decide to hold his successes against him.
It's led Gail Collins to ask the right questions.

"Some cuts to spending have to take place, and Mississippi is a good place to lead that charge because we are still the most conservative state in the Republic," McDaniel told Breitbart News. Notice that he did not say that Mississippi was a good place to lead the charge because federal spending accounts for 46 percent of all the state's revenue: defense contracts, Social Security, farm aid, highway building, you name it. Perhaps he was just being polite. But wouldn't you think that he'd at least mention where his future constituents' share of the cuts would come from? [...] One thing the Mississippi Republican establishment and the Tea Party seem to agree on is that you're not supposed to remind people that their state is way more dependent on Washington than the average food stamp recipient.

Apparently, the thinking is that a vote for Chris McDaniel is a vote for fewer roads, fewer medical benefits, and less education -- and that's the platform that's propelling him to victory in Mississippi.
The phrase "be careful what you wish for" keeps coming to mind.