Dr. Marty Wiseman, director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Professor of Political Science at Mississippi State University, answered these questions about Tuesday’s elections in which two Blue Dog Democrats, 21-year House veteran Gene Taylor and Booneville’s Travis Childers, were defeated in their bids for re-election by candidates making their first runs for Congress.
Q: In practical terms, what will the loss of seniority mean for the state?
A: Any loss of seniority and the committee and subcommittee leadership that goes with it is harmful to a state like Mississippi that must depend on power to counteract numbers possessed by other states. Even though 2nd District Congressman Bennie Thompson retained his seat, he will lose the chairmanship of the House Homeland Security Committee in the change over from a Democratic to a Republican majority. Defeated 1st District Democrat Travis Childers will no longer be co-chair of the revitalized Rural Caucus, and the Mississippi Coast will lose Democrat Gene Taylor’s influence on the Armed Services sub-committee that oversees the funding of ship building. The three Mississippi members of the new majority party in the U.S. House will all have two years or less seniority. For the time being Mississippi will need to claw its way up from the back of the line.
Q:How does the Tea Party philosophy fit in with Mississippi’s conservatism?
A: Mississippians have long maintained that they are independent, claiming to vote for the candidate, not the party. Furthermore most Mississippians have, since the civil rights era, held an anti-Washington, anti “Big Government” stance – both of which seem to fit nicely with positions advocated by the Tea Party. As will be noted shortly, these positions have been adhered to in spite of Mississippi’s often-held position as the state most dependent on the federal government. In fact, Mississippi’s dependence on federal government programs and its long history of successes in funding scores of special projects throughout Mississippi makes the Tea Party-like demands that government be made smaller and that programs be eliminated somewhat out of sync with current reality.
Q: With Mississippi so dependent on federal money, how would efforts to rein in spending, including earmarks, affect the state’s economy?
A: A great deal of federal spending in many different programs finds its way into Mississippi, which regularly leads the list as the top net gainer in federal expenditures for taxes sent to Washington. By some calculations we get $1.95 back for every $1 we send to Washington. The recent stimulus money will be gone this year. If earmarks are eliminated, more than $700 million in funding secured by Sen. Thad Cochran and his Mississippi colleagues for worthwhile projects all over Mississippi will go with them. There is also talk in some Tea Party circles of eliminating agricultural subsidies, which would have a devastating effect on Mississippi. The elimination of virtually any program at the federal level will have negative consequences in Mississippi.
NEMS Daily Journal