Sunday, July 24, 2005

Meg Kreikemeier has an excellent column in the Chicago Tribune analyzing the rhetoric that Democrats have used against Republicans. On the one hand, there is the standard complaint typified by Howard Dean's rhetoric that Republicans are all rich and greedy capitalists, but there is a new criticism that Lawrence O'Donnell has been espousing that the red states get a lot more federal money than they pay in while blue states pay a lot more money to the federal government than they get back. So, red states, by implication, are just not contributing their fair share to the country. There has even been talk of secession on some lefty sites. You can buy the T Shirt*. Ms. Kreikemeier examines the silly predicate of O'Donnell's and Dean's depiction of Republicans.
There may be a few who are wealthy and a few who are slouches, but that can be said about individuals in either political party. It's not the case for most people. To make those pronouncements, as O'Donnell and Dean have done--as if their own houses are perfect--is at best, willful ignorance, and at worst, shameless political pandering.

But let's consider the fallacy of these notions and the foolishness of making these thoughts public.

A perusal of government statistics available at the time O'Donnell made his claim demonstrates the lack of substance of his argument.

Blue states such as New York, California and Illinois benefit from federal income taxes paid by corporations in large cities, something neither political party can lay claim to because corporations are not political entities.

The federal income taxes paid by corporations in New York, California and Illinois outpace those of small and more rural states such as Alabama by enormous proportions. Not only that, these states also benefit from the many and varied employment opportunities the corporations provide.

In addition, the assumption that the blue states are somehow better as a result of this largess and, therefore, have the right to dictate policy neglects and disregards not only the contributions of the agricultural areas of this country but also the needier segments of every state.
Kreikemeier also makes the point that should have been obvious to all those who think the blue states are somehow more special than the red states. Blue states have red counties.
To further gut O'Donnell's and Dean's arguments one needs only to look at county-level data. What is common about New York, California and Illinois is that they have very productive red counties.

Consider Illinois. The largest county in Illinois is Cook, home to Chicago. Any candidate who wins this county by a significant margin will carry the state. John Kerry bested President Bush by 40 percentage points in Cook County, yet he won only 15 of the more than 100 Illinois counties.

Chicago's collar counties, such as DuPage, Lake and Will are generally prosperous. And while many of the counties to the south and west of the collar counties may not be as wealthy, they make up the breadbasket of the state and country.

The Consolidated Federal Funds Report details federal funds allocated to counties in 2003. Dividing that number by each county's population reveals that Cook County, on average, received more federal funds than DuPage, Lake and Will.

In addition, the median household income in the three red counties was approximately $20,000 higher than in Cook County.

All things being equal, this would imply that individuals in these counties, on average, likely pay higher income taxes than their counterparts in Cook County.

Meanwhile, the crime rate, unemployment rate and the percent of the population below the poverty line were lower in the red counties. So by O'Donnell's standards, does that mean that Cook County is a "welfare" county, and that the red counties are, in fact, more productive and should dictate Illinois politics?
And red states have blue counties. If Democrats want to color some of those red states blue, they'll need to find ways to appeal to some of those people who voted for President Bush without insulting them in the process.

*Apparently, the T shirt sellers not only want to secede but they also hate Duke. I guess they are losers who have derision for winners. Full disclosure, one of my daughters graduated from Duke and my other one will go there this Fall.