Blue States, Red States
The New Republic (http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/magazine/108185/blue-states-are-scan...)
October 25, 2012
E Pluribus Duo
By Jonathan Cohn
In all kinds of real and practical ways, the United States today is not one nation, but two.
We’ve come to think of “blue” and “red” states as political and cultural categories. The rift, though, goes much deeper than partisan differences of opinion. The borders of the United States contain two different forms of government, based on two different visions of the social contract.
In blue America, state government costs more — and it spends more to ensure that everybody can pay for basic necessities such as food, housing, and health care. It invests more heavily in the long-term welfare of its population, with better-funded public schools, subsidized day care, and support for people with disabilities.
In the red states, government is cheaper, which means the people who live there pay lower taxes. But they also get a lot less in return. The unemployment checks run out more quickly and the schools generally aren’t as good. Assistance with health care, child care, and housing is skimpier, if it exists at all.
The result of this divergence is that one half of the country looks more and more like Scandinavia, while the other increasingly resembles a social Darwinist’s paradise.
The easiest way to grasp what this means for the actual residents of red and blue America is to look at Medicaid. Although the federal government sets minimum standards for coverage and benefits, states have discretion over how many additional people to include. Based on data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the five states with the strictest criteria for working parents are Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana, and Texas. The five states with the least restrictive requirements are Minnesota, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, and Wisconsin. A Minnesota mom with two kids and a job that doesn’t offer health insurance can get Medicaid as long her annual income doesn’t exceed about $40,000. But if she moves to Arkansas, she’ll be ineligible for Medicaid as soon as her household income reaches $3,150 a year—not nearly enough to pay for basic living costs, let alone health insurance.
By nearly every measure, people who live in the blue states are healthier, wealthier, and generally better off than people in the red states. It’s impossible to prove that this is the direct result of government spending. But the correlation is hard to dismiss. The four states with the highest poverty rates are all red: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas. (The fifth is New Mexico, which has turned blue.) And the five states with the lowest poverty rates are all blue: New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Minnesota, and Hawaii. The numbers on infant mortality, life expectancy, teen pregnancy, and obesity break down in similar ways.
Advocates for the red-state approach to government invoke lofty principles: By resisting federal programs and defying federal laws, they say, they are standing up for liberty. These were the same arguments that the original red-staters made in the 1800s, before the Civil War, and in the 1900s, before the Civil Rights movement. Now, as then, the liberty the red states seek is the liberty to let a whole class of citizens suffer. That’s not something the rest of us should tolerate. This country has room for different approaches to policy. It doesn’t have room for different standards of human decency.
Comment posted after the article:
I've always thought that one of the most useful indicators of social, economic and political reality is how people, given the opportunity, choose to vote with their feet. While it's not an appropriate analogy to any state or region in the US, the most striking example in recent history would be the need to build the Berlin Wall to keep people from leaving. So-- accepting everything in the article as true, how would Mr. Cohn explain the fact that the wait time for a UHaul trailer to go TO California is zero-- no demand, while the wait time for a UHaul trailer to LEAVE California can be as much as 3 weeks-- LOTS of demand. In 1940 New York had 47 electoral votes and Texas had 23. In 1960, the proportion was almost identical, 45-24. In the current election New York will cast 29 electoral votes, while Texas will cast 38. Somebody voted with their feet. To paraphrase Mr. Cohn, it's impossible to prove that less regulation, lower taxes and freer markets created greater economic opportunity that led to these migratory patterns, but the correlation is hard to dismiss. Maybe the Blues should consider the possibility that their self congratulation is misplaced, that in fact they are more akin to 4th generation rich kids spending through their inheritance, which was provided to them by people whose views on individual responsibility, thrift , freedom and a host of other issues were maybe a lot closer to Rick Perry's than they want to contemplate. Not pounding the table, just observing the real world actions of human beings and reflecting on them. I will say that making promises you can't keep is not within my definition of human decency. A Merry Election Day to You All.
Blue state people really do not want the red states to be choosing differently. Most single payer advocates believe that the best approach to health system reform is national health insurance, what is commonly called an improved Medicare for all. I don't disagree that a national single payer would be an improvement over what we currently have. I do disagree with those who assert (mostly from blue states) that ObamaCare is better than what we have. ObamaCare is the same dysfunctional health care system made more expensive by greater reliance on corporate welfare. Which gets to the heart of the red state/blue state conundrum. Corporate welfare is not a viable long term solution to any problem. Health care reform requires the political savvy and strength to say "no" to corporate interests which currently dominate congressional and legislative public troughs. Both red and blue politicians fall all over themselves trying to please these corporate hogs as they stampede to the public trough. Congress has clearly shown itself to be incapable of any kind of control over this feeding frenzy. Why not set the current status (ObamaCare) as the minimum standard for health care delivery in the nation, and then let the states have free rein in attempting improvements. As states succeed, fail, or don't try with bettering health system reform, the voting with feet will go on. Reforms that work will be copied across the nation. States that overpromise will eventually be punished, but so will states that never try to change. Yes, it's messy. But is there a better way to find a political pathway to a health system that cares more about patient care than corporate welfare?
Dr. Joe Jarvis