Friday, February 11, 2011

No Doubt A Left-Wing Conspiracy

"At a minimum, Slate's Shakar Vedantam logically concludes, "conservatives must agree there is a contradiction between being against government spending and dominating the politics of states that get the lion's share of federal spending."

Should agree, but don't. On Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh would maintain

From the Associated Press yesterday: The regime "is proposing short-term relief to states saddled with unemployment insurance debt, coupled with a delayed increase in the income level used to tax employers for the aid to the jobless." So here it is, folks. This is the beginning of bailouts for the states and their unions, except this bailout already began with the stimulus that gave the states $150 billion in taxpayer money. But Mr. Obama wants to help the irresponsible, mostly blue states that have ruined their economies and given so much to their public sector unions that they're now broke -- and now the taxpayers, in responsible states are gonna get to bail 'em out once again. So here you go.

Rush is loathe to help taxpayers in those "mostly blue states." To hear all the complaints from GOP governors and other Republicans, one would think that Democratic-dominated states are wards of the federal government, while those hearty bastions of GOP free-market ideology are self-sufficient. Common (lack of) wisdom, however, buts heads with reality. Based on figures from the conservative, chart posted in late 2009 this chart (click for larger image):

As can be seen, the top ten states in federal tax allotments per capita were (beginning with #10): Kentucky, Virginia, South Dakota, Alabama, North Dakota, West Virginia, Louisiana, Alaska, Mississippi, and New Mexico. (Other formulations have found Alaska #1.) In the 2004 presidential election, all ten of these states went Republican, while in 2008 Senator Obama managed to win two (New Mexico and Virginia). The ten bottom states in allotments were (again, starting with #10): Colorado, New York, California, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Nevada, and New Jersey. In 2004, only two of these (Colorado and Nevada) voted Republican; in 2008, none did. Using a different set of data, Vedantam observes "the 28 states where George W. Bush won more than 50 percent of the vote in 2004 received an average of $1.32 for every dollar contributed. The 19 states where Bush received less than 50 percent of the vote collected received 93 cents on the dollar."

But while GOP-dominated states are more experienced at feeding at the public trough, they do a much better job of whining about "big government. Last August, The New York Times pointed out that Alaska received the most in federal stimulus spending, $3,145 per capita, while

The Alaskan Representative Don Young, a Republican, denounced the stimulus as appalling, done under the cover of night and without full disclosure. He also promised Alaskans that “if there are earmarks, we will have our fingerprints on them.”

(Curiously, that pattern plays out in Louisiana, Wyoming and the Dakotas, states relatively low in unemployment but high in per capita stimulus aid and growling antigovernment animus.

The state executive arguably most exorcised about federal aid has been Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has alleged a "concerted effort to transfer power away" from the states to the federal government" and at one point hinted at succession by his heavily Republican state. Meanwhile, says Michael Landauer at the Dallas Morning News, Perry

has increased Texas' dependence on federal funds and decreased our own ability to cover basic government services. The Lone Star State has become less independent under Perry, not more. Don't let the rhetoric fool you. The numbers, as I have said before, speak for themselves.

Pretty slick for a Republican governor in a heavily Republican, anti-Washington state.

Ideology, though, gives way to practicality when a state is facing a deficit of $19.2 billion in fiscal year 2012. Though Perry rejected $50 million in federal unemployment compensation funds, he later accepted (no doubt after much arm twisting) $12 billion in stimulus funds from the U.S. government to balance the state budget.Still, economic conservatives- on the national level, the borrow and spend crowd; on the state level, the cut taxes and public workers crowd- should be embarrassed. As Paul Krugman noted in early January

just the other day Texas was being touted as a role model (and still is by commentators who haven’t been keeping up with the news). It was the state the recession supposedly passed by, thanks to its low taxes and business-friendly policies. Its governor boasted that its budget was in good shape thanks to his “tough conservative decisions.”

Oh, and at a time when there’s a full-court press on to demonize public-sector unions as the source of all our woes, Texas is nearly demon-free: less than 20 percent of public-sector workers there are covered by union contracts, compared with almost 75 percent

The state, Krugman adds, has "taken a hard, you might say brutal, line toward its most vulnerable citizens. Among the states, Texas ranks near the bottom in education spending per pupil, while leading the nation in the percentage of residents without health insurance."

Texas- just another one of those states Rush Limbaugh believes are "irresponsible," but somehow doing it with low tax rates, scant education funding, and few unionized government workers. Don't expect a mea culpa, though; just as conservative Republicans complained about government stimulus spending and took the money, so, too, will GOP-controlled states (like Democratic ones), face budget crises- their right-wing brethren will blame it on liberal ideology and unions.

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