MARTY RUSSELL: If we’re doing so great, then how come…?

“The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is keeping them ignorant.” – Maximilien Robespierre




Well, you have to hand it to Mississippi, at least we’re consistent. Consistently bad, that is. And sometime you just have to wonder if the powers that be in this state like it that way.

This week we learned that Mississippi once again has earned the dubious honor of being first in the nation for something, in this case unemployment. The latest unemployment figures show the state tops in the nation for joblessness with 8 percent unemployment. I can vouch for that being a member of the 8 percent at the ripe old age of 58 and with two college degrees.

State officials were quick to point out that Mississippi’s gross state product actually rose by 1.6 percent last year but who’s buying a gross state product? What it would seem to indicate instead is that productivity has increased despite fewer actual workers so I guess the investment in whips and chains is paying off.

Even so, Mississippi’s gross state product is still, like its employment rate, the lowest in the nation. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the state’s GSP per capita for 2013 was $32,421. Compare that to the state with the highest GSP – Alaska – at $70,113 and the national average of $49,115.

So that begs the question, why is it that every politician who runs for statewide office here promises more and better jobs and then, when they fail to deliver, we keep re-electing them? Isn’t that the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

Or is it just ignorance? Lack of a proper education is one commodity this state has an overabundance of. Just this year Education Week’s Quality Counts report listed Mississippi as 51st in K-12 student achievement, quite an achievement itself considering there are only 50 states (yes, we came in even lower than the District of Columbia).

Yet, what, besides more and better jobs, does every candidate for state office run on during each election cycle? Making education a top priority, of course. But the more jaded I get the more I’m inclined to believe what they’re really telling us is that they agree with Robespierre, that blocking access to a good education is their top priority.

After all, this state’s biggest selling point when it comes to economic development is its poorly educated, unskilled workforce willing to work for minimum wage. Without that, what have we got to offer?

So as we go into another statewide office election cycle next year and the candidates again start spouting the usual platitudes about being for education and job growth, ask them, if that’s the case, why are you offering up a tax cut for state residents? Why not put that money into education and job creation instead?

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at

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    I wish I could understand why MS doesn’t turn to it’s colleges rather than it’s politicians to pull them out of economic disparity. I realize MS is an agricultural state, I realize Asia pays top dollar for grain crops, but I cannot for the life of me understand why an agricultural state with 40% of the land dedicated to farming has such a hard time getting fresh food to the table of its citizens. I can’t understand why a state with such a huge cotton growing industry doesn’t convert that to clothing manufacturing. Why is it that we waste so much precious gasoline sending our greatest resources around the world?