STARKVILLE — A Democratic New Jersey congressman recently vented his contempt for so-called “moocher states” like Mississippi that receive more money from the federal government than they send back to Washington in the form of taxes.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer held a press conference flanked by local officials in New Jersey to pat himself on the back for his efforts to win more federal grants for projects and public works in his district.
The two-term representative told constituents that his office was responsible for steering 35 percent more in federal dollars to his district in 2018 than in 2017. Gottheimer classified his grantsmanship for his district as “clawing” back federal dollars for New Jersey from what he referenced as “moocher states” and singled out Mississippi as a prime example of states that receive more in federal spending than their taxpayers contribute in federal taxes.
Gottheimer based his slam of Mississippi on a report this year from the Rockefeller Institute of Government, which documented that in 2017 New Jersey received 82 cents for every dollar paid in federal taxes while Mississippi received $2.19 for each dollar paid in federal taxes.
“It’s a joke,” Gottheimer was quoted in a May 23 story in The Record newspaper. “I’m sick and tired of these states treating New Jersey like their piggy bank. We’re paying everyone else’s tab for their roads, bridges, law enforcement, while our taxes keep going up.”
Gottheimer’s “moocher state” rant earned criticism from Mississippi U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who called the congressman’s remarks “ridiculous.”
Compare Mississippi with New Jersey in this context. Mississippi, with a population around 3 million, receives net federal per capita spending of $6,880 per resident, or $37.8 billion from the federal government. Some 15 percent of Mississippi residents receive federal food stamps, and the median household income is $43,529, second lowest in the country behind West Virginia.
New Jersey, with a population just under 9 million, receives net federal per capita spending of negative $2,368 per resident, or $97.7 billion from the federal government. Some 8.9 percent of New Jersey residents receive food stamps, and the median household income is $80,088, second highest in the country behind Maryland.
Now let’s forget for a moment that by Gottheimer’s definition of “moocher states,” 40 states in addition to Mississippi fit the definition of receiving more from the federal government than their residents pay in federal taxes.
One area where Gottheimer’s “moocher state” rant falls particularly flat is in the area of agricultural production and food. Mississippi produces about $7 billion, or 1.60 percent, of the nation’s ag cash receipts and the food that goes with it. New Jersey, with almost two-thirds as many mouths to feed, produces $1.139 billon, or .30 percent of the nation’s food.
Ten states generate 50 percent of the nation’s $395.06 billion in agricultural cash receipts: California, Texas, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, Kansas, Indiana, Wisconsin and North Carolina. All “moocher states” according to Gottheimer. Another 30 states, including Mississippi, generate another 48 percent of that ag production.
The state’s “victimized” by all this mooching — New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts — combined produce 1.80 percent of the nation’s agriculture.
One might ask just exactly which state is doing the mooching here?
• Sid Salter is director of the Office of University Relations at Mississippi State University. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.