Three issues for Mississippians in 2022: Voting rights, state income tax cuts, and Medicaid expansion

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From the time that the Obama administration signed the bill into law enabling an expansion of Medicaid to more individuals in low-income brackets, there has been opposition from Mississippi governors and their Republican legislative counterparts. The opposition has been rock-steady. Because they have enjoyed a two-thirds majority in the state legislature, there has been no approval of Medicaid expansion in Mississippi.

Each governor and legislative leader who opposed the measure has talked about the financial burden it would be on the state. Advocates, however, indicate that the amount of money to be generated by additional employment stemming from the expansion would more than make-up for the amount that the state would ever spend. Furthermore, they point to the fact that Medicaid expansion would save many rural hospitals from closure.

On the one hand, it appears that the opposition to Medicaid expansion is purely political. Republican leaders oppose it, as they did the original Affordable Care Act, because it was an initiative of the Obama administration. The fact that Donald Trump as president opposed it put the nails in the coffin for many states.

On the other hand, when conservative states like Kentucky, West Virginia, Louisiana, and Utah saw the value of the expansion and adopted it, it was obvious that Mississippi and its cohorts were biting off their noses to spite their faces. The opposing states, most of which have negative healthcare indices, appear more concerned about being in line with the Trump machine than the healthcare of their residents.

It will surely require massive organizing and campaigning to get Medicaid expansion approved in Mississippi. Petition drives, lobbying, and even partisan campaigning will have to take place. It is a matter that should be of concern for all citizens, not just those who would be covered by the expansion. Medical care is a human right, and in this case, one that is affordable based upon the resources of the state. Furthermore, those who would benefit from the expansion are our sisters, brothers, and neighbors.

It may be a bit ironic that we transition from discussing the need for Medicaid expansion to the need to put a halt to Governor Tate Reeves’ effort to eliminate Mississippi’s state income tax. It is so ironic because the arguments of Reeves and others stand in such stark contrast, especially when they are juxtaposed. They oppose Medicaid expansion because of the amount of money it would take from the state’s budget. On the one hand, the idea of doing away with the chief source of revenue is a major reason why it would prove unaffordable. Leave the income tax alone and the expansion and other services are quite affordable.

Reeves and other Republican leaders know that eliminating the state income tax would make it impossible for the state to continue providing the same level of education, law enforcement , healthcare, infrastructure, and other services that it now provides. They know that it would result in a cut or elimination of some services. Citizens would suffer a loss of services far greater than any tax savings that would be experienced by the elimination of the income tax. These leaders rely on hood-winking the public into thinking that they are being done a favor by allowing them to keep a few dollars in their pockets rather than paying the state income taxes.

Citizens must be aware, not only of how they are being manipulated, but be willing to fight for the preservation of the current public services being provided by the income tax money. The super-wealthy will always be able to afford needed services. It is the average and below average income people who would suffer if the income tax revenue is lost.

In order to protect this state from losing services through the loss of state income tax revenue, citizens must be willing to petition, march, lobby, campaign, and do whatever else is necessary to stave-off this assault on public services under the guise of easing the tax-burden. It is a battle that will be well underway when the state legislature convenes in January.

Thirdly, like the rest of the country, Mississippians are under assault when it comes to the ability to cast a vote, to assure that it has the same weight as everybody else’s vote and to have those votes, rather than the state legislature, decide who sits in Washington, D.C. representing us. The issue is already in high gear. Over the next several months, it will escalate as more states imitate voting laws that have been passed in Georgia, Texas, and other Republican-led areas of control, especially where they also control the governor’s office.

The battle against voting rights is not only an effort to diminish the voting power of Black people as it did after Reconstruction. It is also an effort to destroy democracy, creating a one-party state, one that is opposed to racial and cultural inclusion. 

As a people, we must be prepared to fully enjoin the battle. Any success at either effort will be a set-back for Black, Brown, and other non-white and marginalized people. The battle must be all-inclusive, as in by any means necessary. Individuals have to join with the political leaders and candidates who are progressive and on the battlefield. They have to join with civil rights and voting rights groups. There needs to be a willingness to go to court over every aspect of the matter – gerrymandering, voter suppression measures, and laws that would enable legislatures to substitute their will instead of the will of the voters as it pertains to elections. There needs to be a willingness to pressure the president to issue executive orders and the justice department to take actions to protect the spirit of the Voting Rights Act. In short, all of the citizens must get informed, stay informed, act boldly and courageously, and encourage and assist relatives, neighbors, and friends to act as if their political and economic lives depend upon it.

Obviously, there are and will be other issues. These are three, however, to which we draw attention for action as the new year begins because they are already on the agenda.  

Have a happy and successful new year as you protect and advance the rights of yourself and your fellow citizens. There is no greater or more critical struggle to which one can join. 

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Three issues for Mississippians in 2022: Voting rights, state income tax cuts, and Medicaid expansion

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
January 10, 2022