Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Red State Reality

Below is one of the few times conservative columnist David Brooks has actually said something intelligent, albeit in an otherwise ignorant piece:
Like most Americans, including most evangelicals under 40, I find this culture war language absurd. If conservative ideas were that much more virtuous than liberal ideas, then the conservative parts of the country would have fewer social pathologies than the liberal parts of the country. They don’t.
Brooks is correct, though I doubt he is truly cognizant of the implications of this admission. He originally wrote it in his own New York Times post, but in case you can't get past the barriers, and don't want to register, try Blue Texan's take.

Blue Texan notes, as have many others, that the constant harangue from conservatives about the path to prosperity, stabiity, and, sweet Jesus, freedom itself, is through an environment with low taxes, cheap labor, damn few regulations and devoid of unions, bureaucrats, and secular liberals. The big problem with this view is that it is at odds with empirical reality.

CNN's Jack Cafferty raises a good question, one not raised enough, when he asks: What does it say that most of the 10 poorest states are Republican? Things don't look good when Mississippi, home of Republican heavyweight Gov. Haley Barbour, has a friendly, pro-business infrastructure with low wages, low union membership, and Republican domination of local and government. And churches everywhere.

The problem is that Missippippi is America's poorest state, with poverty levels reminiscent of the third world. Next in line are Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama and North Carolina. Republicans dominate all of them in most elections. 

Steve Chapman, writing in the Chicago Tribune, also notes the conservative meme is a fantasy:
Consider homicide, which is not only socially harmful but a violation of one of the Ten Commandments. Mississippi has the highest rate of church attendance in America, according to a Gallup survey, with 63 percent of people saying they go to church "weekly or almost weekly." But Mississippians are far more likely to be murdered than other Americans.

On the other hand, we have Vermont, where people are the most likely to skip church. Its murder rate is only about one-fourth as high as the rest of the country. New Hampshire, the second-least religious state, has the lowest murder rate.

These are no flukes. Of the 10 states with the most worshippers, all but one have higher than average homicide rates. Of the 11 states with the lowest church attendance, by contrast, 10 have low homicide rates.
David Brooks needs to complete his mea culpa. It won't do to just say that social pathology measurements are no better in red states than blue; they are, in fact, much worse.

As Harry Truman famously said:
"If you want to live like a Republican, vote Democratic."

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