Friday, July 20, 2012

Left states vs Right States

Every once in a while, people like to compare the left states with the right states.   The problem is that most states, are not very partisan.  Even California, which the far right likes to make fun of, has large pockets of conservatives.

I don't like those comparisons for two reasons.  First, most states are not really Republican or Democrat.   Most are in the middle.  Even states that are 'in the bag' for one party, has a strong loyal opposition that affects local government.   Second, they tend to confuse correlation with cause.  Often what they think is the cause is actually the effect.

But lets try to avoid those problems.   So, which states are the most extreme?

Here are a list of 5 states that McCain won by at least 60% and also have two Republican Senators (data from 2008 election,Medium Household Income by state Unemployment numbers, Forbes Debt Ratings)

  • Alabama :  $40,489 Medium Household Income, unemployment 7.4%, 3 star debt rating
  • Idaho :   $44,926 Medium Household Income, unemployment 7.8%,  3 star debt rating
  • Oklahoma:  $41,664 Medium Household Income, unemployment 4.8%, 2 star debt rating
  • Utah: $55,117 Medium Household Income, unemployment 6.0%, 4 star debt rating
  • Wyoming  $52,664 Medium Household Income, unemployment 5.2%, 3 star debt rating

They represent what an actual far right America would be like.

The comparative lists of 6 states that Obama won by at least 60% and also had two Democrat Senators is:

  • Delaware: $56,860 Medium Household Income, unemployment 6.8%, 2 star debt rating
  • Hawaii: $64,098 Medium Household Income, unemployment 6.3%, 2 star debt rating
  • Illinois: $54,966 Medium Household Income, unemployment 8.6%, 1 star debt rating
  • Maryland: $69,272 Medium Household Income, unemployment 6.8%, 3 star debt rating
  • Massachusetts: $64,081 Medium Household Income,unemployment 6%, 1 star debt rating
  • New York: unemployment  $54,659 Medium Household Income, 8.6%, 1 star debt rating

They represent what an actual far left America would be like.   The differences are fairly obvious.  Much higher personal income, slightly more unemployment, but the states are (currently) in significanlty worse financial shape.  But keep in mind we are are still recovering from a particularly bad recession.  

Note that with possible exception of Utah, the conservative states make less money.  The conservatives states have some advantage in unemployment, but that is not as clear (no, you can't just average the numbers, at least not without weighting for population).  Similarly, the liberal states are in worse position when it comes to state debt (with the exception of Oklahoma that has bad debt AND low income, although they have managed to keep unemployment down).  But remember, don't confuse correlation with causation - it could very well be the opposite of what you think.

By that I mean it is just as likely that the politics is a result of the situation as it is that the politics caused the situation.    For example, liberal governments might incur great debt while creating a business friendly environment that makes some people very wealthy and others out of work.  But it is JUST as likely that if you live in a state with lots of wealth, lots of poor people, and lots of state debt,  you start electing liberals to government.   Honestly, it's probably a bit of both  (aka a self-supporting cycle).

I think what's going is is rather simple. Conservatives play it safe.  They don't take chances.   That's the heart of what the word conservative means.   As a result, they end up with lower profits and lower salaries, but in a recession are less likely to lose their jobs.   They start safe businesses, and don't hire people unless their business is already suffering from not enough workers - which of course holds back their business growth.

In government, they don't invest as much money in social programs.  Which means in good times they don't create centers of commerce (with highly educated, healthy citizens - with good roads, public utilities, etc.) where business can easily flourish, but they also don't rack up the debt.  When times are good, they get along OK, but when times are bad, they don't have to deal with excessive debt.

I personally would prefer to be a risk taker.  I believe in capitalism, and can deal with higher debt, higher unemployment, as long as we reap the rewards of investing in our population.  In other words, I am a liberal.

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