—Researched by Joshua Scheer; written by Blair Golson
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) raised the ire of not a few Mississippi residents, including Rep. Charles Pickering (R-Miss.), for telling The N.Y. Times on Nov. 8, “Mississippi gets more than their fair share back in federal money, but who the hell wants to live in Mississippi?” Who, indeed? What’s the real deal about the Magnolia State? Truthdig takes you beneath the headlines.
First, a roundup of reactions:
Pickering was the first public official to publicly call for an apology:
Mr. Rangel owes the people of Mississippi an apology…. I hope his remarks are not the kind of insults, slander and defamation that Mississippians will come to expect from the Democrat leadership in Washington, D.C.
But he was far from the only person who was moved to respond. Reactions from Mississippi residents ranged from the gracious:
Mississippi is a great place to live, and we would like for Rangel to come and spend a week in the Magnolia State so that we can show him that.
If Mr. Rangel is willing to accept our invitation, we would like for him to fly into the Mid-Delta Regional Airport in Greenville and stay with us in our homes for a week.
—Editorial from the Greenville (Miss.) Delta Democrat Times
... to the in-your-face:
In Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the union, our entire Gulf Coast gets wiped out by Hurricane Katrina—including more than 65,000 homes owned by hard-working whites, blacks, Hispanics and people from all around the planet—and we Mississippians start rebuilding the very next day.
In New York City, one of the richest cities in the universe, they haven’t even broken ground yet on rebuilding that hole. What seems to be the problem? Maybe New York City needs an army of Mississippians to move to Charles Rangel’s district and show him and his constituents how to get things done.
—Letter writer James W. Bailey in the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger
One non-Mississippian called Pickering’s demand for an apology a red herring—noting that the actions of Pickering’s party (the GOP) have been tantamount to a slap across the face of the entire country for the last six years:
His party, the party of Halliburton, has invested hundreds of millions in company spokespeople who make a living slandering those of us who live in the North, those of us who live on the West Coast and those of us who live on the East Coast.
The corporate party that Pickering faithfully obeys has libeled and slandered my friends and my family and my people and my part of the country for 10 years now. They’ve attacked us and they’ve attacked our way of life and we have stood patiently by hoping that Pickering and his people would eventually grow up.
—Dean Powers, from OpEd News
A few facts:
Rangel was correct in his claim that Mississippi receives more money from the federal government than it contributes in taxes. Much more. According to a March 16, 2006, report by the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation, Mississippi ranks fourth in the nation when it comes to taxes contributed versus federal dollars received. (Forty-six other states contribute a higher share of taxes versus money received; New Mexico, of all the states, pays the lowest share of taxes versus federal money received, whereas Connecticut residents see the lowest return on their tax dollars.)
For his part, Pickering has proved adept at wrangling large chunks of federal cash for his home state. The following are examples of federal expenditures he helped secure in September 2006 alone: See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
The timing of Rangel’s comments to the New York Times is ironic. The very day he made them (Nov. 8), the Times was carrying an article about Mississippi’s efforts to rehabilitate its image. The article began:
For decades, a search at the bottom of the nation’s barrel of rankings has always seemed to come up with the same state. When anyone wants to know the nation’s poorest state, or its fattest, or least educated, or sickest, or most corrupt, the answer has most often been Mississippi.
It has even been rated the worst place to raise a child.
A few more facts:
As can be seen in the picture accompanying this article, Mississippi’s state flag still bears the emblem of the Confederate States of America. Many Southerners say that such displays are meant merely to honor their heritage. Some people find that explanation problematic, however, given that it is a heritage based on treason, and a treason based on the desire to keep slaves.
At the same time, however, as the Greenville (Miss.) Delta Democrat Times pointed out:
[Rangel] should be reminded that every major form of music in America got its roots in Mississippi—from Elvis Presley and rock ‘n’ roll in Tupelo to country and western in Meridian to blues and jazz right here in the Mississippi Delta.
Mr. Rangel should be reminded of the great literature and writers who have come from Mississippi—from Faulkner to Welty.
We also would like to point out the great journalism tradition that we have in Mississippi, ranging from Pulitzer winners of the 1940s with the Delta Democrat Times to a 2006 Pulitzer winner in the Sun Herald of Biloxi.
We feel Mr. Rangel is sorry for what he said, and we would like to bury the hatchet by inviting him down for a visit.
It would be great for us to show him the hills of northeast Mississippi, the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River near Natchez, the Mississippi Gulf Coast and, of course, the historically significant Mississippi Delta and our view of the Mississippi River.
So, how ‘bout it, Charlie? In the mood for a vacation?
Images: Wikipedia; composite: Blair Golson
Rep. Charles Rangel (left) and Rep. Charles Pickering trade barbs over Mississippi, whose state flag is shown above. (Yes, that’s part of the Confederate flag.)