The heated criticism following passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act early this year fails to acknowledge Mississippi’s continuing dependence on federal funds for state government functions and for profits in the private sector.
While many criticize the amount of the federal deficit and the mounting U.S. debt – both valid concerns – those sums also represent billions of dollars spent in Mississippi through entitlements, earmarks, program funds and contracts, all linked to thousands of jobs.
Under ARRA, the nearly $800 billion recovery program, Mississippi is scheduled to receive $2.3 billion this year and in the next two budget cycles.
Hundreds of millions have been used to close gaps between Mississippi’s own declining revenue stream and state programs like education, health care and transportation whose work would be curtailed if not for the federal dollars.
Mississippi received about $354 million total for transportation – about $274 million for highway projects, including U.S. 78 and other roads in Northeast Mississippi.
Northeast Mississippi’s congressional delegation – Republican Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker and Democratic U.S. Rep. Travis Childers of Booneville – collectively have announced the release or approval of more than $500 million in appropriated funds for projects and contracts in our state in recent weeks.
The major institutional recipients include Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi for research and development.
Among transportation projects are U.S. 78 upgrades and $1.5 million for the Tupelo Major Thoroughfare Plan’s Northern Loop connector road from Belden to Barnes Crossing Road.
The federal role in rebuilding and recovery from Hurricane Katrina continues. Cochran earlier this month announced $439 million to restore and protect Mississippi's Barrier Islands, the chain that’s 12 miles offshore that’s a wilderness area and a protection against the full impact of storms rolling in from the Gulf of Mexico.
Mississippi would belly-up if not for federal spending, not just during recession but in normal economic cycles, too.
The two most widespread federally funded health care programs, Medicaid for children, the poor and the disabled, and Medicare for senior retirees, invest more than $6 billion in Mississippi each year.
In addition, $1.1 billion was spent in 2008 on some of the 213,000 veterans in Mississippi, and $431 million was paid in veterans’ pensions.
Everyone is free to criticize, but billions in that maligned spending come to Mississippi for productive purposes.