Republicans have largely stood in opposition to spending as a way of creating jobs and fixing poverty and other issues such as water problems. Experts and analysts say this may cost Republicans seats in the quickly approaching midterm elections.
In few places are the stark contrasts between dire need and Republican intransigence as visible as Mississippi, one of the reddest states in the U.S.
During his time as state treasurer, Tate Reeves, now the Republican governor, declined to authorize a $6 million low-interest bond to pay for water repairs in Jackson after it was beset by a streak of pipe breaks.
It does not stop there. Other efforts to finance the city’s infrastructure needs have died in the Republican-controlled legislature, even though parts of the city lost water pressure for weeks last year. Lawmakers did finally approve the state’s largest-ever tax cut this year, which will mostly benefit Mississippi’s highest earners.
In the Mississippi Delta town Glendora, the four-decade mayor Johnnie Thomas has gotten used to bad news. The town’s main drag grew desolate as its few businesses shut down, and the sole clinic followed suit. Storms have dropped trees on top of houses, including his own, mortally wounding his wife. He begged for help from lawmakers as Covid infected and killed his town and neighbors, his younger brother among them. The tap water has turned brown and silty over and over again or has been shut off completely.
And no help has come.
Two hours south, the nearly 150,000 residents of Mississippi’s largest city and capital Jackson were given a similar warning in late July, when tests found its water wasn’t safe to drink. But there, the response was immediate.
Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the United States. In Jackson, 25 percent of residents live below the poverty line.
Jackson’s Democratic mayor Chokwe, Antar Lumumba, estimates a cost of $1 billion to solve its water issues, yet the city hasn’t had much luck getting help from the Republican-led state government, and only a tepid response from its majority Republican congressional delegation.
As midterm elections loom in November, the Biden administration has touted its $1.2 trillion infrastructure agenda as a way of creating jobs and fixing exactly the sorts of problems that bedevil places like Glendora and Jackson.