Mississippi Spends Millions on Welfare: Has it Alleviated Poverty?

By Josiah Dalke
August 10, 2021

Individuals should be skeptical whenever the welfare state is invoked. As a general principle, because the government is funded using other people’s money, it can be highly prone to inefficiency and waste. But it can be hard to measure how far the inefficiency goes. This is especially true of the welfare system.

The cost of fighting the War on Poverty is very hard to quantify because it has been fragmented into a myriad of programs. Some of these programs may aid in certain cases. However, the government’s general approach to welfare is to simply pump money into such programs with the hope that some of them will work. This is a problem. 

For example, last year, it was revealed through a 104-page audit that nearly $94 million in welfare money was spent in ways that were not above board through the Mississippi Community Education Center.

This included hiring lobbyists without describing the work they were set out to do, making lump-sum payments to family members of agency directors (in some cases totaling over $1 million), and spending welfare funding on projects that have nothing to do with welfare. There were even instances of funds being used for college football tickets. This has constituted what some have considered Mississippi’s largest embezzlement scandal. 

However, this goes beyond merely the misappropriation of funds. In 2018, the most recent year of reliable data, Mississippi ranked 10th in how much money is spent on healthcare, allocating 76.6 percent of its health budget to public welfare. Per resident, the state of Mississippi spent approximately $2,561. Yet, Mississippi remains one of the poorest states in the country and contains among the highest number of residents dependent on welfare. 

Continually pumping money into systems that have already proven to be ineffective is not good policy. Instead, good policy is driven by a trajectory of good leadership and principles that keep in mind that the government works for the people. 

If the welfare state is incapable of stewarding taxpayer dollars in a manner that is honest and efficient, then there really is no justification for taking those funds from taxpayers in the first place. 

Robert Rector and Vijay Menon of the Heritage Foundation even strengthen this concept as they single out cutting wasteful and directionless spending as one of the biggest ways of bettering our welfare system as a whole. If the government is going to get involved, make sure it has a workable plan. 

The citizens of Mississippi ought to consider if the state’s welfare system has truly improved their way of life. If it has not, as the data suggests, then perhaps it’s time for meaningful change. Viewed as a whole, the current state of welfare programs demonstrates that individuals are the ones best equipped to take hold of their livelihoods. As the legendary Ronald Reagan quipped, “the most dangerous words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’” 


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