Saturday, August 12, 2017

Bill Crawford: Do tax cuts actually help?

The 13-state Appalachian Regional Commission just released its latest county economic status rankings. Mississippi has 24 ARC counties with 12 ranked "distressed," nine "at-risk," three "transitional," and none "competitive" or "attainment." Rankings did not change from last year.

What do these rankings mean? ARC calculates the economic status of counties based on unemployment rates, per capita market income, and poverty rates. It then ranks its counties against all counties in America.

According to ARC, "distressed" counties rank in the worst 10% of all counties nationwide, "at-risk" counties in the worst 25%, "transitional" counties between the worst 25% and the best 25%, "competitive" counties in the best 25%, and "attainment" counties in the top 10%.

The eight-state Delta Regional Authority rates its counties' economic status too. Mississippi has 47 counties in DRA. Using a slightly different methodology based on unemployment rates and per capita income, DRA rates 45 of these counties as distressed. (Note: seven DRA counties overlap with ARC; DRA rates them all distressed while ARC rates four distressed and three at-risk.)

Altogether, 64 of Mississippi's 82 counties are served by the two regional commissions with 61 rated as having significant economic distress.

Not a pretty picture.

It gets worse.

A just released health study shows worsening infant mortality and shorter lifespans for people living in the ARC region. Two decades ago, the study reported, Appalachian rates were similar to national averages. But in recent years, the study found Appalachian infant deaths to be 16% higher and life expectancies to be 2.4 years shorter.

Another study released a year ago that reviewed 34 health measures showed Delta counties were "16% worse than those in non-Delta counties and 22% worse than those in the rest of the United States."

In both studies, economic distress was cited as a major factor affecting health outcomes along with factors such as obesity, nutrition, smoking, and teen pregnancies.

Both ARC and DRA exist to relieve economic distress in their regions and both have initiatives to improve health and health care. (Both agencies are also targeted for elimination in the Trump budget).

Other entities have health initiatives too. For example, a partnership between Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation seeks to help counties address economic and other factors causing health disparities. Their "Health Impact Project: Advancing Smarter Policies for Healthier Communities" targets distressed counties in 14 states, including 34 counties in Mississippi.

The State of Mississippi, on the other hand, has chosen to slash budgets for agencies providing health care. In particular, cuts eliminating Department of Health services and cuts to Medicaid will negatively impact health in distressed counties.

These budget cuts result in large part because of corporate and business tax cuts that reduced state revenues. State leaders argue the tax cuts will result in business expansion, grow jobs, and improve economic status across Mississippi. As economic status improves, health should too.

But, while there is mounting evidence that health disparities are on the rise, there is no evidence that state tax cuts are improving the economic status of our many distressed and at-risk counties.

Crawford is syndicated columnist from Meridian (


Anonymous said...

These are of 2 of the few Federal programs that work and are cost effective.They are a pardner with State local and private agencies and organizations. They develop long range plans that direct common spending. 90% of the spending is on roads, water, sewer, buildings that create real long term jobs. Every industrial park in this state was build with funding from these 2 or another called EDA which also small. Taxes can be cut without hurting development agencies that help the country make money.

Anonymous said...

Businesses come to Mississippi for one reason and one only: Cheap labor. This
has not changed since the days of slavery. Tax cuts for the rich will simply
put icing on the cake and maintain the status quo as far as an uneducated labor
force is concerned. Some states believe in investing in the upward mobility of it's labor base, Mississippi does not. It believes in keeping things where they are.

Anonymous said...

Tax cuts can help, but it depends on how they're implemented. Our government is too big, doesn't work as intended, and not just at the state level.

When you have a reputation for ignorance, corruption, and being a judicial hellhole, it's difficult to get people to stay here. It's even harder to get businesses to invest here.

12:22 you have a point, you really you--but until you address that government corruption issue, LOL. That's why
so many "arms of the state" don't like the idea of public records or freedom of information. Want to change the status quo in MS? Start there. Simple adherence to the "transparency laws" by government entities and their pets will take a large bite out of the way things are handled in MS.

The MS Bar---- it needs to start ramping up its game or just dissolve. They have big role to play in cleaning this place up AND THEY KNOW IT.

Anonymous said...

12:22 gets it. State taxes are so small compared to federal that little tweaks here and there don't make a hill of beans difference in where people want to live or invest. The only people that remain here have family ties, because lets face it, this place sucks even if there were no taxes.

Anonymous said...

12:22; assuming your analysis is correct, so what? Would you rather they NOT come? If you have enough sense to measure the millions in payroll dollars against the thousands in tax breaks, who do you think profits most?

You obviously know nothing about Mississippi's decades long programs to educate and train our workforce. You would rather hang onto weak slogans such as 'Mississippi believes in keeping things where they are'. Step out of your BMW and visit any Community College Industrial Training and upgrade programs or visit any of hundreds of high school workforce development centers. They may not be as successful at a rate we'd all like to see, but you're a fool to suggest they do not exist. And you're an even bigger fool to suggest nobody cares. Google Greyhound and buy a ticket.

Anonymous said...

11:48, quit typing supporting comments from your government paid for computer and get back to drawing your salary (would say, get back to work but that would probably be a misnomer.)

To say that these are two programs that 'work' is ridiculous. In fact, these very statistics prove the fallacy of that statement. ARC has been around since the 60's, just as EDA has - both part of LBJ's Great Society government spending. And during that time these counties are still no better comparatively than they were then.

ARC doesn't create anything - they put a little money into everything so that they can claim credit for it; $100k into a $5 million project, and say that it wouldn't have happened without them. But all the while they gain support from local officials - who sit on their boards and benefit from their largess.

DRA hasn't been around long enough to make the same evaluation; but there is no reason to believe that this program is going to do anything more for the delta than all the other programs that the feds have started, funded and added to the alphabet soup of spending.

Anonymous said...

Ingalls Shipbuilding was the very first to partner with the State of Mississippi in a tax abatement program. How many times have those millions of payroll dollars turned over in the past sixty years?

Anonymous said...

11:48 , what do you feel are the 3 most successful Federal agencies? So do you suggest that the entire State of Mississippi be just written off since all counties are are weak and weaker by national standards?

Anonymous said...

Check into how long after the tax abatements were supposed to stop that Ingalls didn't pay taxes.

Anonymous said...

"Check into how long after the tax abatements were supposed to stop that Ingalls didn't pay taxes. August 13, 2017 at 9:34 AM"

You're making the claim. You check into it. But, by choice, you miss the point. And that's ok. Those who bitch and moan always choose to miss the point.

Anonymous said...

I don't have to check it out. I already know how long Ingalls didn't pay taxes.
Also know what happened when they were caught.

Anonymous said...

Another great example of the left setting the terms of the argument. The argument he sets is: Do tax cuts actually help...government entities (sure they don't put all of it in the headline.) And people are going to argue yes or no. I argue that I don't care. They help people keep more of the money that they earn, that is theirs.

Payroll Always Benefits A Community said...

3:25 - You're attempt at argument is hollow. That's because you don't have one. The discussion here is about whether tax cuts (abatements in the example I gave) work or don't work. Either participate in the debate or get back in the Belhaven line-dance.

Anonymous said...

3:25 still seems to not understand the argument. While we're asked to debate tax cuts and abatements, he wants to argue what Ingalls might have gotten away with fifty years ago when the tax commission failed to invoice them. But, that's OK. We will always have some people lost in the weeds.

Anonymous said...

1:51, you have not been keeping up with what is happening in your own state. It wasn't 50 years ago. Actually it was only a few years ago when someone finally had the guts to tell the people that Ingalls had not ever paid taxes.
We have people complaining about taxes when the biggest tax crooks are still working the system.

Anonymous said...

@ August 13, 2017 at 10:00 PM

"I argue that I don't care. They help people keep more of the money that they earn, that is theirs."

That's not true. Because you have to look at property taxes, sales taxes, and other consumer based taxes.

Right now the working poor and lower middle class are footing the bill to maintains Mississippi's infrastructure. So you can save that bit about people keeping more of their money.

If Mississippi wanted people to keep more of their money - then legislators would have eliminated more consumer based taxes and opted for a one-time payroll taxes.

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