From tone to grammar, there is a lot wrong with the now-viral email Representative Karl Oliver (R-Winona) sent to Becky Guidry, a Gulfport resident who urged legislators to oppose a tax cut bill. But what I find most appalling is his suggestion that Mrs. Guidry leave the state because of her political views.
The reality is that many people are leaving: Mississippi has lost 25,000 residents through outmigration since 2010. More people have moved out than moved in during each of the past five years. No other Southeastern state has experienced a single year of net loss over the same period. In total, 37 percent of the people born in Mississippi — 1.25 million — now live somewhere else, and 400,000 have not been replaced by newcomers. No coincidence that Mississippi is the least prosperous and slowest growing state in the region.
On several occasions, Rethink Mississippi has surveyed Mississippi ex-pats about why they left. A large number responded that they felt socially unwelcome and politically unrepresented. Many also expressed specific concern about the condition of the state’s public schools — one of the issues that Mrs. Guidry raised in her email. (On the other hand, not one of the hundreds of responses we’ve received has cited high taxes.)
It would be my hope that the problems of mass outmigration are self-evident and the pursuit of solutions is bipartisan. For most people who love Mississippi, that is the case. However, there is still a significant faction who believe the state is “better off without them” — especially if the “them” happen to think differently. Thanks to Rep. Oliver, that self-destructive mentality now has a face, a voice, and an email address.
We asked Mississippi natives why they left the state. Click the posts below to see what they said:
Of the 3.4 million people born in Mississippi, 1.25 million have left. If you’re one of them, what was your reason?
— Rethink Mississippi (@RethinkMS) February 12, 2016