Celebrate the Facts!
Mississippi is a failed state. The reasons why are obvious – failed governance at every level. If Mississippi was a sovereign nation America would consider economic sanctions to compel equality and sponsor UN resolutions in favor of free elections overseen by UN observers. Mississippi Apartheid perpetuates poverty creating a state that serves few of its citizens regardless of race, and there is little hope for improvement and the end of Apartheid is the required predecessor to the welfare of the state.
The eye-popping realities:
The first strike at reform of Apartheid in Mississippi was when a federal court ordered the University of Mississippi to admit its first African American student, James Meredith, in 1962. The action, widely reviled by the populace, started a grudging acceptance of the need to obey, in some semblance, the requirements of federal law.
Historic and anachronistic racism lurks in the populace. In a poll taken this year by Public Policy Polling, 46% of Mississippi Republican voters believe that interracial marriage should be banned, with 24% undecided. The racism has fundamental effects on public welfare – for instance, school district boundaries are drawn and designed to separate the wealthy (white) from the poor (black) so furthering discrepancies in educational funding and attendant attainment.
The proximate causes of the appalling state of the state of Mississippi are rooted in leadership at the local, state, and federal level that perpetuates policies that do not serve the constituents of the state. For any hope at a turnaround, public health, education quality, and real wage growth change must occur and that will require changes at every governmental level.
Despite having the highest percentage of African American population of any state at about 38%, Mississippi’s congressional delegation is dominantly white and consists of two white Senators, three white House representatives, and one African American member of the House.
The senior Senator, Roger Wicker, is a 69-year-old Sunday School Teacher, former Air Force officer, and a career politician. Wicker has sponsored legislation that has helped Mississippi, and occasionally has engaged in co-sponsoring legislation such as working with progressive Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. However, Wicker votes with President Trump’s positions 93% of the time, at the high end of the Republicans, so he is a partisan.
Cindy Hyde-Smith is the junior Senator, also a career politician is affiliated with extremely conservative groups, and is best known for her dog-whistle comments on race and staunch opposition to reproductive rights. As a Mississippi State Senator, she authored a bill requiring that all abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy be performed in a hospital or ambulatory surgical facility. That bill was blocked by federal court action. In 2014 Hyde-Smith posted a photo of herself on Facebook at Jefferson Davis’s home, Beauvoir, wearing a Confederate cap holding a rifle, with the caption “Mississippi history at its best!” The three white House representatives are similarly extremely conservative while the lone African-American is known as a moderate Democrat.
Hyde-Smith, who won the remaining two years of an open seat in 2018, is in a tight race with Mike Espy, a former Secretary of Agriculture in the Clinton Administration. Espy is also a career politician with a long record of reform initiatives in the state and is an African American. Hyde-Smith defeated Espy in the runoff election in 2018 by 7 points but the rematch looks tighter.
There is little polling on the 2020 Espy vs. Hyde-Smith race, but what there is indicate while Hyde-Smith’s victory is likely, it is not certain. An Espy election could balance the federal representation and so could help most residents. The two are about head-to-head in funds raised but Espy is getting little financial support from the Democratic Party. Hyde-Smith seems to be settling in for a lifetime position. The Democratic party is pouring money into the Amy McGrath vs. Mitch McConnell race in Kentucky which is almost certain to end in a McConnell blowout and Mike Espy is arguably a much stronger candidate with Hyde-Smith being a relative weak candidate resulting in a much closer race. The why behind this logic is difficult to discern and brings into question the Democratic Party’s leadership decision making criteria and priorities.
Both Mississippi Senators will undoubtedly vote for the seating of Amy Coney Barrett as the next Supreme Court Justice. Barrett’s presence on the Supreme Court will almost certainly result in the conservative majority necessary to further limit on reproductive rights for women if not a complete overturn of Roe v. Wade, increased support for business interests over labor, and the end of the Affordable Care Act – any of which would accelerate Mississippi’s descent into deep third-world status.
The federal congressional delegation’s largely dogmatic and inflexible alignment on cultural lines is directly oppositional to deal-making necessary to send much-needed federal funding for public works and infrastructure development, further worsening the situation.
The state-level is more representative but offers little support for reform. Mississippi has never had an African American governor. The most recent governor, Tate Reeves, is a 46-year-old more-or-less career politician, and a graduate of Millsaps College, a small liberal arts school located in Jackson, Mississippi. Reeves’s Millsaps College fraternity, Kappa Alpha, was known for overt racist actions, including using racial slurs and hosting events where attendees dressed in Confederate-themed costumes, although Reeves denies wearing blackface or the like. To his credit, he did not oppose the state legislature’s move to retire the Confederate-related flag. As he has essentially no tenure, his future actions and quality of his leadership are hard to predict.
Current state law sets the number of senators at 52 and representatives at 122 and the term of office for senators and representatives is four years, with no term limits. One in three state lawmakers is a white male age 55 or older. Compared to the state’s overall demographics, that cohort is just 9 percent of the population. In terms of race, the Legislature is 71 percent white and 29 percent black compared to the 57-38% split of white and black residents in the state overall, asymmetric, and not high enough to enact substantial reform. The share of women in the Legislature reveals the largest imbalance: just 14 percent of lawmakers are women, compared to 52 percent of the state.
Mississippi has been subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because of a history of racial discrimination against minority groups. Per Section 5, Mississippi was required to receive preapproval from either the Department of Justice or a federal court for any change to its redistricting plans. This next ten years will be the first period without those protections and it is reasonable to predict further gerrymandering efforts to suppress minority enfranchisement. To add to the avalanche of other anti-democratic issues, Mississippi recently implemented a voter identification law for the first time, culminating a long political fight and further suppressing enfranchisement of the poor.
Leadership has stalled federal Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, limiting access to health care by the poorest contingent of the population. There is an initiative on the 2020 ballot to extend Medicaid expansion which would immediately help over 300,000 citizens. Projections indicate that would funnel over $8 billion in medical aid into the state and create 20,000 new jobs. Opposition to Medicaid expansion is difficult to understand as poor public health inhibits economic growth, is a humanitarian consideration, and would benefit all citizens of the state regardless of race.
The state has a staggered flat state income tax with taxes starting at $10,000 income per year. Flat tax structures are by nature regressive further mitigating wealth growth in lower-income groups, and the state’s 5% rate of unionization does not support the creation of a middle-class. Reform of labor laws and tax policy are functions of representation at the state level.
The state has few elemental strengths from which to build. The State eliminated Confederate imagery in its state flag in 2020, albeit being the last state to do that. Its educational attainment ratings, while not respectable, aren’t the worst in the country. Its low-wage rates and low thresholds on permitting are attractive to business, albeit low-wage predatory organizations looking to relocate for wage advantages. Core mental health indicators such as alcohol consumption per capita look decent.
The lack of investment by the Democratic party is baffling. A legal ground game countering gerrymandering, voter suppression, registering minorities, and developing bench strength in candidates at the state level would do the population well. In an era of billion-dollar presidential campaigns that seem like big bang for few bucks, but as the Democratic party drifts toward leadership by liberal elites courting other constituencies, Mississippi has been forgotten.
No matter how attractive the business environment is, endemic poverty, low educational levels, social problems, and intractable racism are not attractive to the high-wage industry seeking to expand. After the end of Apartheid in South Africa, the actual rate of real GDP growth rose to nearly 3%, from 1.25 percent during 1980–94. Like South Africa, an end to Apartheid is the predecessor to the economic betterment of the citizens of Mississippi.
Much health data is available at https://datausa.io/profile/geo/mississippi#health. Poverty by race and ethnicity is presented at https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/poverty-rate-by raceethnicity/currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D. Information on demographics of populations is found at https://worldpopulationreview.com/states/mississippi-population. Demographics and other information on prison populations is provided by https://www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/disparities2010/MS_racial_disparities_2010.html. Poverty and hunger information can be found at https://frac.org/research/resource-library/state-of-the-states-profiles?post_type=resource&p=4483&state=Mississippi. SNAP statistics were obtained at https://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/a-closer-look-at-who-benefits-from-snap-state-by-state-fact-sheets#Mississippi. Information on Wicker’s voting record can be found at https://justfacts.votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/21926/roger-wicker. Information on women’s reproductive rights is available at https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/state-facts-about-abortion-mississippi#. Segregation in the drawing of school district lines is reported at https://hechingerreport.org/economic-segregation-how-mississippis-districts-are-separated-into-haves-and-have-nots/. Gerrymandering discussions are discovered at https://ballotpedia.org/Redistricting_in_Mississippi. Voter identification requirements are found at https://www.governing.com/news/headlines/Voter-ID-Law-Debuts-During-Mississippi-Primary.html. Data on GDP growth in South Africa is found at https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/nft/2006/soafrica/eng/pasoafr/sach2.pdf.
America is on the precipice of a political revolution. Revolutions have occurred similarly with devolutionary stutters and stops over a period then a revolutionary moment later defined by historians. America is in the middle of a revolution that will fundamentally change governance and behaviors over the next century.
While primary school textbook history tends to focus on major events – the storming of the Bastille, the execution of the Tsar and his family, the attack on Fort Sumter - these are merely events on a timeline which historians later determined to be the start. Revolutions tend to evolve along a timeline with a major confluence of events only later recognized at the commencement of a revolution.
The American Revolution certainly occurred on a continuum starting with the Albany Congress in 1754 in which a group of citizens formally advocated for a colonial government, Patrick Henry’s initial proclamations in 1765, a series of British taxes and autocratic governmental actions, the Boston Massacre in 1770, the Boston Tea Party in 1773, followed by the first Continental Congress in 1774, initiation of military actions in 1775, and then the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Finding a line of demarcation to determine when the revolution began becomes impossible absent an arbitrary finding, and the general populace didn’t recognize it at that time.
The American Civil War was evolutionary although schoolbooks present it as commencing in February of 1861 when the southern states formally seceded by forming the Confederate States of America. A closer examination shows the war’s roots starting with the covenant against importing slaves in 1808, the Missouri Compromise in 1820, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision in 1857, the Lincoln Douglas debates in 1858, and the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860.
The United States is in a revolution. The following events, in chronological order, support this thesis:
When one looks at the current situation the debate might better be reframed as now that we are in a revolution what do we do now? A similar time during the 1960s was addressed with legislative moves such as the Voting Rights Act, desegregation, Affirmative Action, and social programs to reduce inequality, plus the later withdrawal from Viet Nam and attendant retreat from overseas adventures. The 1930s saw the legislation of social programs such as Social Security, labor laws, a meaningful minimum-wage, an estate tax, and a tax code later adopted by virtually every other civilized nation. Much of these gains have been eroded over the past 40 years and it is reasonable to argue that is the primary reason for the current unstable society.
It is not dramatic to say the events of the next 60 days will be a big determinant of the near term, but the bigger questions of income inequality and constitutional reform are topics that will be explored in later posts.
The court finding on Citizen’s United is available at https://www.oyez.org/cases/2008/08-205. An intriguing discussion of the militarization of police is discovered at https://www.charleskochinstitute.org/issue-areas/criminal-justice-policing-reform/militarization-of-police/. Copies of Executive Orders can be obtained at https://www.federalregister.gov/presidential-documents/executive-orders. Information on Qanon is presented at https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-is-qanon-what-we-know-about-the-conspiracy-theory-11597694801. Information on Steve Bannon and The Fourth Turning can be found at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/08/us/politics/bannon-fourth-turning.html.
With 51 days to go until Election Day there are good signals amidst a lot of noise about strategy and potential outcomes. Joe Biden is running out the clock avoiding mistakes while Donald Trump is thrashing to avoid becoming a zombie candidate against formidable obstacles. The Trump campaign, at a cash disadvantage, has curtailed or reduced television advertisements in swing states while ramping up direct appeals for fundraising to recipients in states that are safe for him. As in 2016, Trump has devised a plausible strategy to thread the needle and hold onto power for a second term, but corporate media outlets are slow to catch on.
The predicted outcome, depicted in the Electoral College map above, is derived from polling averages and demographic trends. In this setup, Biden plods to a safe margin of 320 delegates in the Electoral College and prevails in the popular vote 52% to 46%. In this relatively conservative scenario, Biden will flip Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin Democratic on his way to a sound but not resounding victory.
The Trump campaign has doubled down on core themes of white nationalism and law-and-order along with offering promises of a COVID vaccine before the election with plenty of hand-waving about future prosperity starting in 2021. This appears to be a direct appeal to increase enthusiasm and turnout among his base – a key to his 2016 victory – but lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place.
Regardless of claims and promises, Trump faces huge headwinds:
Trump 271 Strategy
Aware of the tremendous odds against reelection, the new Trump campaign strategy involves every effort to obtain wins in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Florida, which would give him 271 Electoral College votes in the scenario depicted in the above map. Biden would flip Wisconsin, Michigan, and Arizona from 2016, and still prevail in the popular vote 52% to 46%, but only come up with 267 Electoral College votes.
Evidence this strategy is in effect is present if one looks at the Trump campaign’s visits – he was in Pennsylvania and Florida last week and was in New Hampshire on August 28. Trump’s appearance in Nevada this weekend was a feint – the real purpose of the trip was meeting with big donors at his hotel in Las Vegas for much-needed fundraising.
Trump will continue to focus efforts in Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire with defensive measures in North Carolina. In North Carolina the race appears to be a coin toss so Trump will have to fight hard to retain those votes.
Trump appears to be down in Florida but will attempt to tie Biden to Fidel Castro to enhance turnout in the already conservative Cuban community while appealing to more rural white voters with law-and-order and white nationalist dog whistling. Based on the 2018 Florida gubernatorial election, Republicans appear to be under polled so that race could be tighter than it appears.
Pennsylvania appears to be close also - within 4 points – and Trump will use the law-and-order appeal and paint Biden as a tree-hugging anti-fracker to turn out rural Pennsylvania voters and try to counter Philadelphia and Pittsburgh which will come in overwhelmingly for Biden.
Litigation Plausible Scenario
In this scenario, Trump prevails in Florida and New Hampshire but fails in Pennsylvania and only gains 251 Electoral College votes. Trump then will litigate the Pennsylvania election results, attempting to invalidate mail-in votes and overturn the election, giving him 271 Electoral College votes. To get to the plausible table here Trump will need to be close enough, say within a percentage point, certainly a possible outcome, then shave the Democratic vote by invalidating mail-in ballots.
Anyone doubting Trump’s willingness to litigate virtually anything has not followed his spectacular career in which he has been either plaintiff or defendant in over 3,500 lawsuits, becoming perhaps the most litigious person in the history of the world, although this does not appear to be a Guinness Book of World Records category.
The Trump campaign has already set the plate by filing suit in the Western District of Pennsylvania federal court arguing against mail-in ballots and a wide variety of other matters. Judge J. Nicholas Ranjan put the case on hold until October 5 pending state courts deciding, or at least narrowing, the issues raised by Trump's campaign. Anyone who is under the impression a court cannot decide a Presidential election wasn’t around for Bush v. Gore, a decision of the United States Supreme Court that stopped a recount dispute in Florida's 2000 presidential election and arguably handed George W. Bush that election.
If one state’s results can overturn the results of the election, one can reasonably surmise Trump will litigate in federal court, and that litigation will be appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court could decline to hear the case, or perhaps find in a clear majority, say 7 to 2, the case was without merit, thereby settling the issue with authority. More than one state in play makes the litigation strategy more problematic so the more resounding the lead in the initial tallies the lower the likelihood for extended discussion.
And of course the unsteady state of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's health is a wildcard that should not be discounted. Mitch McConnell would be pleased to seat Tom Cotton or Ted Cruz, both recently floated as Supreme Court nominees by the Donald Trump, to an empty seat, helping out the odds for a possible Trump victory should a case arrive at the Supreme Court.
Donald Trump’s schedule can be accessed at https://factba.se/topic/calendar. Polling information is provided by https://fivethirtyeight.com/ and by https://www.realclearpolitics.com/. Information and graphics on the Electoral College available at https://www.270towin.com/. Information on Trump mail-in voting litigation is provided at https://whyy.org/articles/federal-judge-stays-trump-campaign-lawsuit-over-pennsylvania-voting-rules/. Information on Trump and litigation is presented at https://www.abajournal.com/web/article/attorney-and-author-on-his-portrait-of-donald-trump-through-more-than-3500-lawsuits.
Carbon emissions are or will be controllable through control technologies despite industrial postures to the contrary. Emissions of carbon are resulting in climate change with drastic consequences that have real and assessable costs. Fossil fuel use is subsidized by the deferred costs paid by society – an artificial cost support with profound negative consequences. When the real costs of fossil fuels are realized through a carbon tax, carbon emissions will drop drastically and the future of all will improve.
In 2018 U.S. greenhouse gas emissions totaled 6.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. Total U.S. emissions have increased by 3.7 percent from 1990 to 2018. Measured over the past 60 years, atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased 100 times faster than previous natural increases. This is not an impending crisis – we are in the early stages of a catastrophic change in our environment that will injure us all. We can change the outcome if we act swiftly, and the costs of such changes can be incremental and easily managed.
At one point the U.S. EPA published a social cost of carbon value of $45 per ton, then the Trump administration amended that value to between $1 to $6 per ton. These values are critically important as they drive the evaluation of best achievable control technology (BACT) requirements in permitting of new facilities such as power generating facilities. A low cost of carbon results in fewer carbon emissions control technology requirements so new facilities will be constructed that do not have these installations. Other more scientific studies finding that the social cost of carbon is above $100 per ton of carbon dioxide pollution – about 100 times higher than the Trump EPA’s estimate.
Annual United States carbon emissions at 6.7 million tons per year (2018) and a cost of $100 per ton mean a cost to United States citizens of $670 million. Carbon emissions are already tracked by EPA so accurate data exists. Not realizing those costs now means the United States population is subsidizing carbon emissions. Regardless of tribal representation, this is a government-sponsored handout to the fossil fuel industry.
Finding an empirical and accepted value for carbon emissions and managing that in a place where it is less susceptible to tribal politics is critical to moving forward and solving the problem.
Big Oil has a defensive posture making commitments to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. At the same time in 2018 Big Oil spent about $200 million per year lobbying for fewer federal regulations and funding ‘experts’ providing climate-change-denying arguments. In 2018 Big Oil spent 1.3% of its budgets on renewable energy – a defensive posture against regulation, not a forward-thinking investment. Big Oil is not the solution to the problem it creates.
Although carbon tax advocates have proposed using these revenues toward the general budget – a political approach to making this proposal more palatable to the general public – a more informed solution will be to use these revenues to reduce atmospheric carbon. Under this schema, the federal government would issue Requests for Proposals to sequester carbon to U.S. companies in a competitive format encouraging the development of U.S. technological capabilities and stimulating U.S. jobs. The competition will stimulate innovation and provide platforms for the export of American technology.
Implementing a carbon tax will provide an immediate and positive outcome:
A discussion of carbon emission rates can be found at https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide. More information about carbon can be found at https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks-1990-2018. A good primer for costs of carbon capture can be discovered at https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/06/cost-plunges-capturing-carbon-dioxide-air#:~:text=But%20such%20technology%20is%20expensive,that%20incentivize%20low%2Dcarbon%20fuels. Information about the BP Refinery was obtained at https://www.fractracker.org/2017/12/global-oil-refineries-emissions/. A proposed methodology for analyzing a carbon tax is presented at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/tax-policy/tax-analysis/Documents/WP-115.pdf.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.