Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

March 16

Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on MSU quarterback being roughed up in Florida:

Without knowing all the details of what brought about the fight, we sympathize with Dak Prescott, the Mississippi State quarterback who, along with two teammates, was roughed up in Panama City, Florida, during spring break last week.

Prescott, a legitimate contender for the Heisman Trophy next season, is reputed to be an upright person, not given to the shenanigans of some of the collegiate stars of the past few years.

Apparently, the Mississippi State players were not the aggressors in the altercation — at least not when it was over. They were badly outnumbered.

Prescott declined to press charges in the incident, probably a wise decision. It was best to get back to Starkville and spring practice and not let this drag on.

Star athletes such as Prescott walk around with targets on their backs. While they are the object of adulation, there's always someone out there who wants to take them down.



March 17

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, on Internet tax:

For the third year in a row, the Mississippi Department of Revenue is asking taxpayers to calculate how much they spent on untaxed Internet purchases and pay the state 7 percent of that amount.

If that's news to you, it was to us, too.

But as the Sun Herald's Paul Hampton reports, the requirement that Mississippians pay a sales tax on untaxed out-of-state purchases has been around for decades.

But collecting the tax, at least from individuals, was not a priority.

Then, on the 2012 individual tax return form, the state added a line for "consumer use tax" and explained it was for "out-of-state purchases of goods or services that you used, stored or consumed in Mississippi and did not pay sales taxes to any state."

It was, according to Department of Revenue spokeswoman Kathy Waterbury, a way to make it more convenient for taxpayers to obey the law.

Yet even though that law applies to purchases made either online or from a catalog, the state seems to go out of its way not to make that clear to taxpayers.

Who reads the phrase "consumer use tax" and thinks, "Oh, yeah, that means I owe Mississippi 7 percent of the cost of those cute mittens I ordered for my grandbabies on that website"?

The state does try to be somewhat helpful when it lists examples of what you should fess up to buying presumably tax-free: "Books, clothing, computers, electronics, furniture, household items and downloads of digital products."

The results? According to Waterbury, the state collected $244,657 in use taxes via the income tax form in the 2013 tax year and $226,173 the previous year.

Those amounts seem pitifully small, especially considering online shopping is a booming business.

With all the tax-cutting proposals swirling around the Capitol this election year, we're surprised this one has not been mentioned. Or could requiring Internet retailers, like Amazon, to include sales tax, like many other states currently do, be our fallback position when we do away with the state income tax?



March 16

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on feeding the hungry:

Mississippi is at the top of some lists where being at the bottom would be a good thing. One of those is the rate of what's called food insecurity.

When you're food insecure it means you sometimes - or even often - don't know where your next meal is coming from. Nearly one of every five Mississippians - 19.2 percent - is in that category. That's the highest rate in the nation, since we're last in per capita income. The national average is 14.7 percent.

These aren't just numbers. They represent real people, including lots of children in this state with the highest child poverty rate in the nation.

It's fashionable in some circles these days to talk about the producers and non-producers and to suggest that people who rely on government or even charitable assistance are all cut from the same cloth - unwilling to work and therefore undeserving of support and a burden on the rest of us.

Of course there are some like that who milk the system. But what about the many hard-working parents whose low-paying jobs provide them no health insurance and force daily decisions like whether to buy groceries or pay the rent or utility bill? And what about the worker laid off from a job and lacking the skills to find another? Or the elderly person on a fixed income whose prescription drug costs have shot through the roof?

And how about all the children in families where food insecurity translates into nights going to bed hungry? How can we blame those children for their plight?

These aren't just practical questions, they're moral imperatives. Those of us who are well-fed have an obligation to see to it that others don't go hungry. It's what decent societies do, and not incidentally, it's what the Christian faith proclaimed by so many in our region and state directly calls its adherents to do: Feed the hungry.

Fortunately, there are organizations dedicated to the task. Many of them are religious in nature; feeding programs and food pantries do extremely valuable work.

The United Way supports several such programs, and this week its second annual Unite to End Hunger food sculpture event will help stock supplies of agencies and programs that feed people in need. On Thursday, seven teams will compete for the best sculpture made out of cans of food collected at their workplaces. Afterward, the cans will be distributed to food pantries. Last year, the total was 18 pallets.

Ending hunger is a huge undertaking, but because it's a big challenge isn't a reason for doing nothing. Every effort helps, and every food item donated means one person, or one family, was that much less food insecure for one day.