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CONTEMPTUOUS VALUES! Eastern elites give free dough to the poor. More thoughts on this troubling value: // link // print // previous // next //

CONTEMPTUOUS VALUES: Many readers—many readers—sent us the Tax Foundation tables which show which states are federal free-loaders. And yes, the “red states”—the states whose denizens love to preach that bracing self-reliance—routinely take in more federal money than they submit in taxes. Meanwhile, who subsidizes these free-loading states? Who else? “Contemptuous” “elitists” from northeastern blue states, whose troubling values red-staters love to ponder! In 2003, for example, blue-state New Jersey received only 57 cents in federal spending for every dollar submitted in taxes. But then, the top ten states whose pockets are picked include eight which are nominally blue:
1) New Jersey: 57 cents
2) New Hampshire: 64 cents
3) Connecticut: 65 cents
4) Minnesota: 70 cents
5) Nevada: 70 cents
6) Illinois: 73 cents
7) California: 78 cents
8) Massachusetts: 78 cents
9) New York: 80 cents
10) Colorado: 80 cents
Eight of the ten donor states are “blue,” including Massachusetts, New York, California and Illinois—home base to the contemptuous elitists whom red-states denizens love to scold. Throughout the campaign, George Bush mocked the troubling values of liberal Massachusetts voters—people who send big bags of money to support Bush’s red-state supporters.

Is this a silly, pointless critique? In some ways, yes, as one e-mailer claimed in a semi-spot-on analysis:

E-MAIL: Here is the source of those tax numbers. I have to say that, while I generally agree with you and am also a bit tired of the whining, your prejudices are showing here. Most of the "red states" (other than those in the Midwest) have extractive economies and many are in effect internal colonies. Their current poverty is historically constructed by these facts and the relative prosperity of the “blue states” has created and

is dependent on their continued poverty (the existing economic development of the blue states in effect inhibits the red states from developing). The relationship here is essentially the same as the relations between the first world and the third world. There is a general correlation here between relative prosperity (even within red and blue states) and voting patterns. I think what the red states have in common is economic deprivation and a sense (justified) of a lack of control over their future. Unfortunately, they have wrongly identified "liberals" as the cause of their problems—in part because, as Thomas Franks points out, we have stopped talking about economic and class issues while still pushing for minority and gender enfranchisement.

Keep up the good work, but try to have a little sympathy for the unlovely lot of those red staters (if not for their infernal and unseemly whining).

But the mailer misconstrues our incomparable fairness. It’s that infernal whining we have specifically criticized—and the bogus attempt to blame “elitist liberals” as the source of red-staters’ problems. We’re not economists, and the e-mailer surely knows more than we do about red-state status as internal colonies. But, as Michael Lind discusses in Made In Texas, Southern red states became “internal colonies” with “extractive economies” because of the choices and values of Southern elites—the same Southern elites who feed their boo-hooing red-state voters their phony grievances against “contemptuous eastern liberals.” Historically, Texas elites helped make Texas an “extractive economy,” and blubbering Texans need to be told that, even as they stick their hands deep into northeastern pockets.

We complained about an e-mail to Alterman, not about the way red-staters have voted. (In our view, there is nothing wrong with basing your vote on opposition to abortion, for example. Richard Cohen makes this point in this morning’s Post.) But boo-hoo-hooing religious voters have long tended to get a free ride in the press (much more on this to come). When they say that Democrats mock their religion, it’s time to ask them who they mean. Clinton? Lieberman? Kerry? Edwards? Who exactly has mocked their faith? And when they boo-hoo-hoo and keen and wail about the values of northern “elites,” we think it’s time to ask these people why they’re prepared to pocket free money from such “contemptuous” elements. We’re tired of stupid political arguments based on blatantly cherry-picked Scripture, and we’re tired of listening to talk-show conservatives stage their endless Pity Parties. Do “northeastern elites” have troubling values? Sorry, but one of their values is handing free money to the less fortunate—a value red-staters seem to affirm as they stuff the free dough in their pants.

Meanwhile, for more on “internal colonies” and “extractive economies”—and for more on the historical values behind Bush conservatism—we again recommend Michael Lind’s dry but deeply intriguing book, Made in Texas.

Final point about our “prejudices:” We think people are basically the same in all fifty states, and we think those states are all red white and blue. We find it amazing that Dem politicians—Barack Obama excepted—don’t know enough to say so. We think Massachusetts is a great state—and we think Alabama is a great state too. We think the president’s endless, sneering attacks on Massachusetts were a sign of his low, inept character. And we think those attacks played hard on foolish voter prejudice—voter prejudice that ought to be challenged. And oh yeah—we think the president shows his “contempt” for red-state voters when he panders to them in this way. But then, we normally try to avoid making points that are blatantly obvious.

STOP THE EXPLAINING: This past Sunday, This Week’s panel struggled and strained to describe the size of Bush’s win. But at ABC, weak analysis has long been matched by molasses-slow posting of transcripts. We postpone our discussion of this debate until ABC gets its Sunday transcripts posted on Nexis.

AMAZINGLY WEAK: How weak are the press corps’ analytical skills? In yesterday’s USA Today, Peter Johnson reviewed the election coverage of the various nets. Try to believe that he said it:

JOHNSON (11/8/04): At ABC News, political chief Mark Halperin earned his stripes with his political Web log, The Note, now required reading for political junkies—but was flogged for his memo suggesting that sins by the Bush team deserved more scrutiny than sins by the Kerry camp.
Weak! Halperin didn’t say that Bush’s sins “deserved more scrutiny than Kerry’s” (text below). He said that Bush had committed larger sins, and that ABC shouldn’t feel the need to pretend otherwise in its coverage. You might think that Halperin was right or wrong in his assessment of the two campaigns, but his prescription made obvious sense. If Candidate A robs a bank and Candidate B gets a parking ticket, should the two stories get “equal treatment?” Duh! But conservative spinners jumped on Halperin’s troubling memo, and people like Johnson still type their cant. Indeed, Johnson was seconded by a major insider press critic. Robert Lichter (Center for Media and Public Affairs) offered his own strange remark:
JOHNSON (continuing directly): High marks go to correspondent Brian Ross for his revived "money trail" segments and to Jake Tapper for his "fact check" pieces. Anchor Diane Sawyer was first with Howard Dean after his famous "scream" and Bill Clinton after heart surgery.

But ABC continues to be dogged by accusations from conservatives that it leans left. Halperin's memo “implied that journalists get to tell us the truth, as opposed to us deciding for ourselves,” Lichter says.

That statement by Lichter is so utterly silly that we’ll assume it was yanked out of context. But your major press corps reasons very poorly, a point it almost never tries to hide.

WHAT HE SAID: What did Halperin actually say? Here is part of Howard Kurtz’s story in the October 18 Post:

KURTZ (10/18/04): Are the media's truth-squadding troops ganging up on George W. Bush? And if so, does he deserve it?...

At issue is how far reporters should go in analyzing the candidates' attacks and ads, especially if one side is using a howitzer and the other a popgun. Mark Halperin, ABC's political director, fueled the debate with a memo that leaked to the Drudge Report.

"Kerry distorts, takes out of context, and [makes] mistakes all the time, but these are not central to his efforts to win," Halperin wrote. While both sides should be held accountable, “that doesn't mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides ‘equally’ accountable when the facts don't warrant that.”

Did Halperin say that Bush’s sins should get more scrutiny than Kerry’s? No—he said that Bush had committed more sins, and that ABC News shouldn’t feel it has to pretend otherwise. Johnson’s statement was deeply misleading, and Lichter’s statement (as quoted) was simply incoherent. But go ahead, readers. Say hello to the analytical skills routinely displayed by your press corps.

ONE MORE E-MAIL: A Montana denizen unburdened herself about her own state’s values:

E-MAIL: I’m a resident in a northern "red state”—Montana—that experienced a wonderful Democratic sweep at the state level...including flipping the state Senate to Democratic control for the first time in over a decade, and putting a Democrat in the Governor's seat for the first time since 1989.

Of course, on a national level, Montana “red-staters” went for Bush the Lesser, wouldn't you know. Perhaps he reflected those wonderful values everyone is going on about. I don't yet understand why we had the good sense to elect Democrats at one level, only to turn to the little imperialist for the big vote.

I absolutely agree with your article: My “red state” of Montana would be completely unliveable were it not for all the tax revenues that flow in from those darned "elite blue states,” and I know that our vaunted Western cowboys would go belly up and bloat if they didn't get that subsidized grazing for the cattle ranches.

I wish the “blue states” could/would turn off the taps, and let all the “red-staters” experience real “up by their own bootstraps” independence for a change.

Oh, and would you like a mordant chuckle for today? I noticed the November 3-5 AP poll on voters' priorities for Bush in my paper this morning: 2/3 of the respondents want Bush to balance the budget and forget the tax cuts. Do the voters even have a clue where this guy stands (silly question, I know)?

Answer: We voters rarely have a clue, a fact the press strongly tends to bury. For the record, the self-reliant state of Montana gets $1.60 from the feds for every tax dollar it submits. Also for the record: We’re sure there are aspects to this transaction that we haven’t explained or explored.