|I might be British by birth, but I’m Mississippian by choice – and I can’t think of a better place to live. In my opinion, this is the greatest state in the greatest republic on earth.
I’m not the only person that has decided to make my home in the southern United States. Each year hundreds of thousands of folks leave the traditional business clusters of New York, Chicago and California, and head south. After 30 years of growth, the South is today the most populous region in the country.
The South is a great success story. A generation ago, young Americans aspired to work in cities in the northeast or along the west coast. Today, the young want to go to Nashville, Atlanta or Dallas.
Companies, such as Tesla, have moved South. New data published this week showed that 47 percent of all the jobs created in America since February 2020 were in either Texas or Florida. If this southern success story continues, the South will soon be America’s center of economic and demographic gravity.
But, of course, there’s one state in the South not yet part of the southern success story; our own state of Mississippi. Why?
If we want to improve Mississippi, we need to recognize what has been holding us back. Here are five things that are preventing Mississippi from thriving:
1. Mississippi has too much government: Jackson has far too many government boards and commissions, each with the power to impose rules and to regulate. This might be good news for politicians, who enjoy the power to appoint people, but it is bad news for taxpayers. In Mississippi, approximately one in five of the workforce is working for the government — either at the state, local or federal level.
2. Too many regulations: If you have an army of bureaucrats, unsurprisingly, they will generate endless bureaucracy. Our state is held back by excessive red tape. Licenses and permits are required for all kinds of activity.
3. Taxes are too high: Every time our Governor announces that another company is coming to Mississippi, I notice that a deal is done that allows the company to pay less tax as a condition for coming. So why not allow every business in our state to pay lower taxes?
Despite the recent reduction in state income tax, Mississippi’s tax burden is still too high compared to neighboring states, like Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana.
4. Too dependent on Washington welfare: When Lyndon Johnson created the modern welfare system under the guise of ‘The Great Society’, he did not eliminate poverty. He instead entrenched a system of welfare dependency. Today, it is obvious that welfare dependency has been bad for families. It is not that great for states, either.
If federal handouts created prosperity, ours would be the richest state in the Union. In reality, federal dependency has harmed our state. For too long, Mississippi has sent politicians to Washington who see securing subsidies as their primary goal. Federal slush funds might be good news for politicians who get a lot of buildings named after them. It’s not been great news for everyone else.
5. We need a functioning capital city and airport: Georgia has Atlanta, Tennessee Nashville, and Texas both Dallas and Houston. It is difficult to imagine any of those states being what they are without successful cities, fed by hub airports.
Mississippi, meanwhile, has Jackson, a city that has lost a quarter of its population in 40 years, last year had one of the highest homicide rates in America and has long had a persistent problem providing residents with clean water. This needs to change. At the very least, we need to ensure that the city airport is properly run.
There’s something else that needs to change, too; we need to see more pride in Mississippi. For as long as anyone can remember, the mainstream media has pushed a sneering narrative about our state. It is time to stop feeling so defensive about Mississippi.
The truth is that Mississippi is a model of civility. I have never met anyone that has visited this state that was not struck by how friendly Mississippians of every background actually are.
If you, or your local club or Rotary group would ever like me to come to talk about the change our state needs, please get in touch with me here.