Red State Welfare

Why the "Real America" should quit complaining about pork and earmarks.

When Ronald Reagan took office, the gross national debt sat at 33.4 percent of the annual GDP. The public debt stood at 26.1 percent. That was the total accumulated national debt — the New Deal, World War II, Vietnam, all of it.

During the cheery Decade of the Gipper, gross debt skyrocketed to 55.9 percent and public debt increased to 42 percent.

Enter Bill Clinton. When he left office in 2000, that 55.9 percent had risen only slightly to 58 percent, and, amazingly, the public debt had actually dropped to 35.1 percent. An increase in the gross debt of only 2.1 percent (in eight years!) combined with a public debt decrease of 6.9 percent.

In comes George W. Bush, and whoosh — so much for the trend line. Eight years later, 55.9 percent had risen to a whopping 86.1 percent, the public debt had risen to 54.6 percent … and then came the meltdown of the summer and fall of 2008.

The spin at the Republican National Committee, when you bring all this up, is “OK, we learned our lesson and won’t make the same mistakes again. This time we mean business.”

You conservatives are calling for smaller government and apparently the idea is winning you votes. So, OK, here’s an idea: How about a statute that limits the amount of federal money going to states to the amount of taxes paid out by residents of those same states? That would have the effect not only of saving money, but making government smaller.

Before you answer, consider: America has its “productive states,” and, well, all the rest. States that aren’t so, er … productive. The bad news for you conservatives is that almost every one of the states on the public dole is a red state — your states, the “Real America” states.

As a result, “Real Americans” are relying for their survival on the godless, socialist, perversion-on-every-block blue states, such as — egads! — California (which receives only 78 cents back for every dollar its residents pay in) and New York (only 79 cents back on the every tax dollar sent to Washington). And all the while, these liberal citizens have to put up with nonstop rants directed at them by your cadre of mindless pundits.

As you might imagine, this arrangement isn’t going down well in Blueland.

You see, the 18 bluest-of-the-godless-blue states receive on average only 87 cents in federal tax dollars for every tax dollar paid. On the other hand, the 18 reddest states average a tidy $1.37 for every dollar mailed off to the IRS. Such a deal!

Let’s get specific: California, which we know is broke, subsidizes that sanctimonious buckeroo state, Alaska ($1.84 on the dollar), and doesn’t get so much as a howdy-doo for their trouble.

My guess? Even should you “conservatives” win back temporary control of the Congress and finally face the reality of governing, when push comes to shove you will resist any cuts to most of the so-called social safety net (and related sources of federal largess). You pretty much have to because if you don’t, what’s going to happen back home?

Indeed, if past is prologue, your new red state members of Congress will use those same arcane Senate rules to keep the “good times” coming, while voting against all social and economic policy proposals that smack of “secular humanism” — you know, godless things, like energy legislation, health care reform, Wall Street reform, regulation of Big Oil, Big Tobacco and Big Agriculture, etc.   

Anyway, about my idea — I’m not holding my breath. I doubt it would get much support from Oklahoma ($1.41) or Mississippi ($2.02) or any of your red states. So, OK, here’s another proposal that promises to be a whole lot more fun anyway. Let’s each year require that your “Real America” states send delegations out to creditor states to plead for continuance of this hefty subsidization.

I have to tell you I’d buy a ticket to hear this testimony: “Hmm, Mr. Foghorn, let me see if we have this straight … You have called for smaller government, yet it seems you want all the ‘smallering’ coming at our expense. By the way, did you actually say we were nothing but a haven for transgender drug addicts, Muslim terrorists and former Weatherman radicals still on the lam? Would you care to clarify your views?”

There are many reasons red states are debtor states: older populations, limited “import replacement,” poorer residents, reliance on subsidies, intractable social problems, more rural and small towns, weaker schools and self-destructive traditions among them. They also have the highest divorce rates, lowest life expectancy and lowest per capita revenue generated.  

Surely you know all this. The numbers are dramatic. Of the 10 states reporting the highest life expectancy, nine are blue. Of the 15 states reporting the lowest life expectancy, all 15 are red. Of the 15 states with the highest per capita income, 13 are blue. All 15 of the lowest income generators are red. And so on.

Given the reality of the situation, frankly, I’m continually amazed that, together with your Limbaugh and Fox News red state lemmings, you are out bashing the federal government. Godless and liberal though it might be, it’s all that stands between your red state constituents and “Brother, can you spare a dime?” 

From Here 2nd Anniversary Celebration @ From Here

Sat., June 26, 12-6 p.m.
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About The Author

Robert Herold

Robert Herold is a retired professor of public administration and political science at both Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University. Robert Herold's collection of Inlander columns dating back to 1995, Robert's Rules, is available at Auntie's.