Everyone knows the trope, the welfare queens, sitting in taxpayer funded housing, eating lobster and steak paid for by food stamps, cranking out babies to increase that welfare check. “She used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.”
Of course this stereotype is a lie, as study after study shows. More than a third receive benefits less than a year, with the vast majority moving off of public assistance in less than 3, but there is one, larger than you think group, that soaks federal benefits for all they’re worth, decrying federal overreach all the way to the bank. These aren’t individuals though, they’re entire states, utterly dependent on the federal government to meet the basic needs of their citizens through highway dollars, educational assistance, and farm subsidies.
These mostly southern and midwestern states shamelessly soak in often as much as double the revenue their citizens pay into the federal system. In Tennessee nearly 40% of our state budget comes from Washington according to the Sycamore Institute. This represent $1.62 for every dollar our citizens and businesses pay into the system.
But where does this money come from? Coastal, blue states mostly. California receives back barely half the money they pay into the federal system (no wonder their taxes are so high). It seems poor rural Tea Partiers aren’t the only ones “voting against their own interests.”
In fact, of the ten least federally dependent states according to WalletHub, only one, Kansas, went to Trump in 2016, and of the ten most federally dependent, only two didn’t go to Trump, Maine and New Mexico.
So what are the fundamental causes of this disparity? Education is an important factor. Of the ten most federally dependent five, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Alabama all rank in the ten worst states for education. And on the other side? Among the least dependent states, New Jersey, Minnesota, New Hampshire. Connecticut, and Massachusetts all rank in the top ten in education, and all went for Clinton in 2016. Each level of educational attainment increases the likelihood that voter will vote democratic, probably explains the GOP’s war on higher education and their recent attempts to tax graduate schools out of existence (through taxation of tuition waivers as income) and on endowments.
But how does this play out on a local level? In Tennessee, the economic center of gravity is undeniably Nashville, accounting for 40% of the states GDP and growing. The member of congress for the Nashville area is Jim Cooper, one of only two democrats in Washington from the state. This pattern is fairly consistent throughout, with small blue islands accounting for disproportionate economic clout throughout “red America.”
But surely there are areas of reliable red voters that are also performing well economically? Contributing more than they take in? Of course there are, places like Alaska, North Dakota, and Wyoming, where there is natural gas or oil, but that’s about it. When it comes to areas awash with entrepreneurship, venture capital, job growth and the like, it’s probably either a blue state or a blue island in a red state.
Red states aren’t so much fiscally conservative as they are just plain cheap. It’s like a friend who constantly tells you to read Dave Ramsey books and save more but lets you pick up lunch every time. So should we be shocked (SHOCKED!) to find this level of hypocrisy among our “conservative” neighbors? Only if we aren’t paying attention to the rest of their platform, such as abstinence only education leading higher rates of teen pregnancy and abortion or the number of churches correlating with the number of porn shops and strip clubs, divorce rates in the Bible Belt and of course, the Falwell/ evangelical endorsement of an amoral President.
So what’s the solution to this conundrum? Simple… Give them what they want. Cut Federal spending (and taxation) to the minimum required for defense, protection of civil liberties and the like, and let the states administer their own social programs (and pay for them). As any good conservative will sanctimoniously tell you, it’s what the framers of the Constitution had in mind. So the liberal coastal snobs will have single payer healthcare, which, if comparisons with literally the entirety of the developed world are any indication will actually end up being cheaper and more effective than the sort of free market hybrid we have here, and Mississippi will have a life expectancy of around 60, which is fine, if that’s what they want.
Who are we to stand in their way of blue states keeping their own money? Afterall, it’s what the Founding Father’s intended….