Bill Crawford: WSJ report card dings Mississippi

December 3, 2012 9:51:24 AM



Mississippi ranked 40th in the Wall Street Journal's "The Best and Worst Run States in America." 


Among neighboring states only Louisiana ranked lower at 41st. Alabama ranked 28th, Arkansas 32nd, and Tennessee 12th. Nationwide, North Dakota ranked first while California ranked last. 


Each year the publication reviews hundreds of data sets from multiple sources to determine how well each state is managed. "We looked at each state's debt, revenue, expenditure and deficit to determine how well it is managed fiscally. We reviewed taxes, exports, and GDP growth, including a breakdown by sector, to identify how each state is managing its resources. We looked at poverty, income, unemployment, high school graduation, violent crime and foreclosure rates to measure if residents are prospering." 


Here is what it said about Mississippi (using 2011 data): 


"Last year, Mississippi had the nation's lowest median income. At just under $37,000, it was more than $13,500 below the national median income. Along with that distinction, no state had a higher poverty rate than Mississippi's 22.6%, which was double the rate of six states. Mississippi has also fallen behind the rest of the nation in recovering from the financial crisis. The state's GDP shrank by 0.8% in 2011, the second largest decline in the country, and 10.7% of the state's workforce was unemployed, the fourth-highest figure in the U.S. According to The Commercial Appeal, there are currently as many residents employed as in the mid-1990s, though the state's population has risen from 2.7 million to nearly 3 million." 


Notably, the business oriented Wall Street Journal sees the prosperity of a state's population as an outcome measurement of state government. How 'bout that. 


It found a number of characteristics common among the best managed states: well-managed budgets, top credit ratings, well-educated populations, and low unemployment rates. 


The report noted that many factors can affect a state's status - poor governance, extreme weather, regional problems, abundant resources, the subprime mortgage crisis, etc. 


"Despite this, it is the responsibility of each state," said the report, "to deal with the resources at its disposal. Each government must anticipate economic shifts and diversify its industries and attract new business. A state should be able to raise enough revenue to ensure the safety of its citizens and minimize hardship without spending more than it can prudently afford. Some states have historically done this much better than others." 


Interesting, isn't it, that our state leaders do not give us an annual report card on this sort of data. 


Indeed, you can go to the state web site and the various agency web sites, dig deep, and find bits and pieces of such data. But there is no one place to get an annual, comprehensive report card of the state's performance...unless you read out-of-state publications.