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Parasites in the Heartland?

May 22, 2002

Tags BiographiesBig GovernmentPolitical TheoryOther Schools of ThoughtPhilosophy and Methodology

Paul Krugman has put out a clever analysis of the demographics of the "blue" and "red" states (New York Times, May 7, 2002). His analytic knife, however, doesn’t cut deeply enough to get to the truth of the matter. Krugman alleges that "the heartland" states--the red, pro-Bush states--have more crime, divorce, single moms and net-tax eaters than the blue (pro-Gore) states: "Over all, blue America subsidizes red America to the tune of $90 billion or so each year." Krugman doesn’t cite sources for these statistics, which is not uncommon in op-ed pieces. I am prepared to assume that these statistics are true for the purposes of this article.

What happens if we look, not at red and blues states, but at cities and counties? The most murderous cities are blue--Detroit, Atlanta, and St. Louis, for example. The rural and upper-scale suburban counties that went for Bush tend to have lower murder rates. All this is very obvious, and one wonders why Krugman thought no one would call him on it. In general, there is an inverse relation between the murder rate and the Republican vote. The places with the fewest Republican votes--such as the inner city--have the highest rates of murder. Focusing on states as opposed to localities obscures this obvious fact.

As for divorce, ready statistics correlating with voting patterns are not available. However, I do recall that Bush got the married-with-children vote, while Gore got the single-mom vote. Bush got the practicing Catholics, while Gore got the nominal Catholics. Somehow, I find it hard to believe that Bush won the serial divorcee vote.

Krugman claims red states have more out-of-wedlock births. How can this be?  Bush won 54 percent of the white vote, 9 percent of the black vote and 35 percent of the Hispanic vote. These numbers are reversed for out-of-wedlock births: white--27 percent; black--69 percent; Hispanic--42 percent. You do the math.

Finally, Krugman implies that the Bush voters were on the dole, while Gore voters were paying the freight. Krugman never decries the redistribution of wealth as such. His only concern is the alleged hypocrisy of the reds in thinking they are "morally superior to the rest of the country." Again, looking at the situation at the state level distorts reality. Bush voters were much wealthier than Gore voters. Most tax revenue comes from wealthier people. If red states are subsidized by blue states, the only rational explanation is that red persons in blue states are subsidizing blue persons in red states.  

I find the heartland not guilty of the charge of hypocrisy. I also find one New York Times columnist guilty of mendacity--or perhaps mere ignorance. Mr. Krugman may not realize that the heartland is not a place but a way of life.


James Ostrowski practices law in Buffalo, N.Y. See his Mises.org Articles Archive and send him MAIL.


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