State tax policies favor wealthy

Published 10:36 am Wednesday, October 19, 2016

There is no secret about the giving nature of Mississippians. You can see it in the successes of so many charitable events, the long list of benefits for local citizens listed each week in local newspapers and the number of good deeds performed routinely.

Generally speaking, when we seek to help our fellow man, whether through a highly publicized fundraiser or through private giving, the overwhelming majority of recipients of those efforts are friends and neighbors less fortunate than the rest of us — people needing a helping hand to get them back on their feet.

Whether it’s our many churches, civic organizations, or private citizens, we are blessed to have so many good Samaritans looking out for those in need.

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Unfortunately, our current state leaders aren’t included in that mix. There’s no shortage of evidence, from their lack of attention for the mental health crisis in our state or their growing unwillingness to provide basic infrastructure improvements. But the most glaring of recent examples is this less than transparent effort to tilt this impoverished state’s tax policies even further in the direction of its wealthiest class while dumping an even heavier burden on our growing poor.

House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves continue to champion this bogus tax reform committee that has lauded the extremely biased opinions of the Washington, D.C. based Tax Foundation, which has the gall to suggest this state needs to do more in the form of giant tax breaks for foreign companies, as Gunn, Reeves and Gov. Phil Bryant have already done to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while increasing the burden on Mississippians at the bottom of the income ladder.

This is being suggested in the form of more “user” taxes, such as sales taxes on groceries, and less tax on income. The theory is we all have to eat, so we all get taxed equally based on the amount of food we buy.

The problem with that philosophy is if you are a single mother, with multiple kids, working two jobs just to make ends meat, that 7% tax on your family’s food, which I should point out is the highest in the United States, is a much larger chunk of your income than it is to the owner of the tire manufacturing plant. It’s likely so large a chunk you’re going to have to go without some other basic needs.

Most Mississippians would look at the big corporate owner and the working mother and pick the latter as more worthy of getting some kind of financial break. It never ceases to amaze me how our current state government sees the opposite.

It is elementary math and a long proven fact that sales taxes take a larger share of income from low- and middle-income people. So when we are looking to improve the poorest state in the nation, how do you justify trying to milk even more from our lowest income citizens?

I find it baffling how in one breath some deride income tax as a punishment against the wealthy, while in the next breath turn a blind eye to punishing the poor.

We shouldn’t be interested in seeing anyone “punished.” We should be working to increase opportunities for those less fortunate to achieve success.

Joel McNeece is publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce. You may email him at