A Clarion-Ledger story today focused on Speaker of the House Philip Gunn’s outlook for the legislative session just underway. It doesn’t sound good, certainly not from a social work/social welfare perspective. Gunn offered no policy goals beyond “creating jobs.” What’s the signal there? Are still more incentives and tax giveaways to business (the bigger, the better) in the cards? Probably more likely than not.
Gunn acknowledged that Mississippi has lots of major challenges to address – infrastructure, education, and corrections, the latter “having some issues right now.” (Yes, riots, multiple murders, gang violence, decaying facilities and gross understaffing can certainly qualify as “some issues.”) Gunn was also willing to talk about at least one thing that will not be happening in the session. There will not be Medicaid expansion. Nobody’s calling him, he contends, saying “I wish you’d put more people on Medicaid.”
Well, maybe that’s exactly what social workers should organize to do in this current dismal political moment, when both legislative chambers and all statewide offices are controlled by Republicans – Tell Philip Gunn and all the other super-majority conservatives in Mississippi what the actual needs of ordinary Mississippians are – health care, decent housing and education, good food and clean water and unpolluted soil and air, safe roads and a public transportation infrastructure, a plan that acknowledges the reality of the climate crisis and moves toward a sustainable future (that’s a starter list, anyway). Call them every day day, over and over, with the same message: Do your job to address the real needs of the majority of Mississippi’s people.
Will they listen? Almost certainly not. But at least they won’t be able to claim that no one tells them.