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What’s The Matter With Red States?

English: Protester seen at Chicago Tax Day Tea...

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I didn’t catch this until after I posted previously about parasitic Red States — Paul Krugman is on point:

Moochers Against Welfare

Rick Santorum declares that President Obama is getting America hooked on “the narcotic of dependency.” Mr. Romney warns that government programs “foster passivity and sloth.” Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, requires that staffers read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” in which heroic capitalists struggle against the “moochers” trying to steal their totally deserved wealth, a struggle the heroes win by withdrawing their productive effort and giving interminable speeches.

Many readers of The Times were, therefore, surprised to learn, from an excellent article published last weekend, that the regions of America most hooked on Mr. Santorum’s narcotic — the regions in which government programs account for the largest share of personal income — are precisely the regions electing those severe conservatives. Wasn’t Red America supposed to be the land of traditional values, where people don’t eat Thai food and don’t rely on handouts?

The article referenced by the columnist is:

Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It

For my part, I point out these things to underline the hypocrisy of the right-wing position and to puzzle about why people vote against their own self interests.

I know why these states receive more than they pay out in tax dollars — they are poorer than the other states. I really don’t begrudge them the safety net that they pay into as individuals (despite my hyperbolic suggestion at the end of the last post).

Krugman again:

Now, there’s no mystery about red-state reliance on government programs. These states are relatively poor, which means both that people have fewer sources of income other than safety-net programs and that more of them qualify for “means-tested” programs such as Medicaid.

But he also shares my confusion as to why people continue to vote for people who will screw them into poverty.

He offers three explanations:

1. The GOP exploits social issues like gay marriage, abortion and religion to whip people up.
2. The wealthy in red states tend to be very socially conservative, while the blue state affluent are socially liberal. These two groups drive the debate in their respective states.
3. Red state beneficiaries do not understand their place in the system, frequently stating in polls that they don’t benefit from the Federal government while at the same time receiving Medicaid/Medicare, Social Security, Welfare and Unemployment.

Regardless of the forces at work, the outcome is that a bunch of people are railing to end policies that they themselves benefit from; simply because they think these programs are only provided for the idle poor.

As stated in my previous post and as study after study has found, the beneficiaries of these programs are overwhelmingly elderly, poor and working folks who have paid into the system.

But with the economy starting to recover, unemployment slowly diminishing, and no ideas of their own to run on, Republicans are desperate for a boogeyman.

Like Reagan’s non-existent “Welfare Queens” of the 1980’s, the GOP needs a boogeyman to run against, and the strawman caricature of the secret Muslim socialist president has played out for most voters.

-Chris

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February 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Benefits From Social Programs?

2008 popular vote by county. Brighter red repr...

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 Despite right-wing rhetoric, it isn’t  lazy freeloaders in blue states.

The Center for American Progress site has an overlooked piece from December that demolishes those GOP talking points:

The Facts About Americans Who Receive Public Benefits

As it turns out, the majority of the folks who receive benefits from these programs are elderly, blind or disabled and have paid into the programs when they were working:

Within these social insurance programs, most of the participants have paid into them, through payroll taxes taken out of their own paychecks and through contributions paid on their behalf by their employers. Like private life or property insurance, everyone makes regular contributions with the expectation that when a certain event occurs (in the case of public benefits, that event could be retirement, disability, or temporary job loss), they will be protected and able to collect benefits they have paid for.

Conservatives focus on how the costs of these programs have grown over the past several decades, but so too have the public’s payments into them. Currently payments into social insurance programs represent an estimated 37 percent (or $807 billion) of federal receipts in 2011, compared to 17 percent (or $124 billion) in 1961 and 31 percent (or $455 billion) in 1981, including federal employees’ payments into their retirement accounts (the historical numbers are adjusted for inflation).

So, clearly the deadbeat able-bodied city-dweller on the dole is mostly a strawman.

When you look at the recent piece in Mother Jones, you should see why Republican politicians are so eager to direct fire away from the real culprits — the denizens of Red States:

Most Red States Take More Money From Washington Than They Put In

As a recent New York Times article documents, even as fiscally conservative lawmakers complain about deficit spending, their constituents don’t want to give up the Social Security checks, Medicare benefits, and earned income tax credits that provide a safety net for the struggling middle class.

This gap between political perception and fiscal reality is also reflected in the distribution of tax dollars at the state level: Most politically “red” states are financially in the red when it comes to how much money they receive from Washington compared with what their residents pay in taxes.

Here is the list of the states receiving the most federal tax money versus their tax payments:

1. New Mexico: $2.63
2. West Virginia: $2.57
3. Mississippi: $2.47
4. District of Colombia: $2.41
5. Hawaii: $2.38
6. Alabama: $2.03
7. Alaska: $1.93
8. Montana: $1.92
9. South Carolina: $1.92
10. Maine: $1.78

I bolded and underlined the blue states above.

Of all of the red states, only three paid more than they took in: Arkansas, Nebraska and Texas.

On the blue side, 14 blue states paid more than they received.

Take a look at the interactive map on the Mother Jones page. Keep in mind that they defined “blue state” as any state that went for Obama in 2008 and “red states” are those that went for McCain/Palin.

For example, taxpayers in the “blue states” of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada and New Mexico each took more than they paid in federal taxes.

So clearly there is an inequality here — but if there are freeloaders, they aren’t the ones being targeted by the GOP frontrunners and propaganda machines.

It seems that the people who most resentful about government waste and overspending on social programs are those who are receiving the largess.

In other words, the real “blue states” like New York and California foot the bill for the Tea Party crybabies in Missouri, Arizona, Utah and Alaska.

Maybe we should limit federal payments to states to what they actually pay into the system. That might take care of some of the burgeoning deficit that Republicans suddenly became concerned with when they lost the White House in 2008.

-Chris

February 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment