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.Cohn justifies such rhetoric by citing a few quality of life stats:
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. A recent study by researchers at the American Institute for Physics evaluated how well-prepared high schoolers were for careers in math and science. Massachusetts was best, followed closely by Minnesota and New Jersey. Mississippi was worst, along with Louisiana and West Virginia. In fact, it is difficult to find any indicator of well-being in which red states consistently do better than blue states.
Reformers and progressives in the blue states have never been content to ignore what’s happening in other parts of the country. In the nineteenth century, this meant that an African American shouldn’t be a slave just because he lives in South Carolina rather than Vermont. In the twentieth century, it meant that an African American shouldn’t be dispatched to the back of the bus—or barred from entering the voting booth—because she called Birmingham, not Boston, home. The United States was one country, with one set of rights. No state or section had the right to take those away.
...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.
- While Cohn characterizes New Hampshire -- the state with the country's lowest poverty rate -- as "blue," that is far from clear. While it voted Democratic in the last two presidential contests (including by a 1.3 percent margin in 2004) and features a Democratic governor, the state also elected a Republican senator in 2010 and Republicans dominate the state legislature by a 293-104 margin in the House of Representatives and a 19-5 margin the Senate. On policy grounds, meanwhile, a 2011 Mercatus Center report ranked New Hampshire #1 among all states for personal and economic freedom. A progressive dream the state is not.
- At one point in the article, Cohn decries Texas for a government housing budget that is "a mere $5.5 million—a tiny fraction of what Massachusetts spends, even though Texas has almost four times as many people." Texas, meanwhile, has been ranked by one organization as having the most affordable housing in the country while Massachusetts was ranked by another group as the least affordable state in which to rent an apartment in 2003. Cohn apparently prefers to measure housing affordability by how much government spends than what the marketplace provides, which speaks volumes.
- The last two sentences in Cohn's piece are absurd and fairly contradictory. While he allows that states can have different approaches to policy, they apparently cannot violate his own personal standard of human decency. One is left to conclude that Cohn believes the only permissible variation in policy should be among various shades of progressivism.
The impact of demographics is further confirmed when one considers that places with Democratic/progressive governance such as Washington DC (where Barack Obama won 93 percent of the vote) and New York City, with high minority percentages, also suffer from poverty rates of roughly 20 percent (similar to Mississippi). Whatever each city suffers from, it's not a shortage of caring leftists or government interventionism.
The poverty rate is not adjusted for differences in the geographical cost of living. Everyone knows that it costs more to live in big cities than in rural areas and it’s cheaper to live in some regions of the country than others. But the Census Bureau assumes that the poverty threshold is the same everywhere.