I stumbled across an interesting fact recently. The Reddest states (those states most reliable for the GOP) also have the lowest life expectancy. So, for example, the thirteen worst states for life expectancy (in order: Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, South Carolina and Missouri) all went for Mitt Romney in the last presidential election and have been virtually all Red for 17 years and counting. (See 270toWin.com). Meanwhile, the Bluest states have the longest life expectancy. Every one of the top eight states in life expectancy (Hawaii, Connecticut, Minnesota, Florida, Colorado, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington) went for President Obama. The differences in life expectancy among the states is not trifling. Hawaii's life expectancy exceeds Mississippi's by 6.3 years. The only conclusion is that not only is conservative ideology a failure, but conservatives are killing themselves in pursuit of some twisted laissez faire fantasy.Of course, quality of life matters, too. The Measure of America project is a non-partisan, non-profit initiative that addresses human development issues in the US. They created the American Human Development Index. The index (HDI) is expressed as a number from 0 to 10, and measures the three basic dimensions of well-being--longevity, access to knowledge, and standard of living. The HDI is calculated from official U.S. government mortality data to measure longevity, a combination of educational attainment and school enrollment to measure knowledge, and median personal earnings to measure standard of living. The top 18 states in HDI all voted for Obama, as did 21 of the top 25. All of the bottom 10 (and 15 of the bottom 16) voted for Romney. In education, the six states with the lowest level of high school graduation all went for Romney; and, every state with more than 14 percent of its citizens holding graduate degrees went for Obama. That can only be termed a real landslide.
Additionally, as shown in this post from The Economist, the Blue States massively subsidize the Red States. Over a twenty year period, 1990 to 2009, the states with the heaviest surplus (meaning they paid into the federal coffers more than they took in federal benefits) were all stalwart Blue States. In order they are: Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut and New York. Five of the bottom six deficit states are Red State bastions. The map at left depicts the reality of massive fiscal transfers from the Bluest States to the Reddest States. Without this support from the Blue States, life in the Red States would likely be quite wretched. Certainly, without billions flowing annually from the most productive (Blue) states to the fiscal drag states (mostly but not all Red), life expectancy, educational attainment and income would drop.
More broadly, conservative economic ideology of less government and more laissez faire policies delivers inferior outputs for people in terms of objective measures of well-being. Sound regulation, investment in human and other infrastructure, and economic empowerment work--and that requires a robust government.
Of course, this in no way vindicates the current wrongheaded Democratic indulgence of the megabanks under federal law which I have written about again and again.
One view of the GOP and Democratic approaches is this: both parties coddle the most powerful, particularly at the apex of our system, but the Democrats at least pursue some degree of broader empowerment consistent with higher HDI scores in states they dominate the most. Meanwhile, the GOP, very much like the Democrats, neglect props to economic growth to the maximum extent they can, given the political context in the states they dominate the most. A perfect two party system in an era of soaring inequality as depicted below--it serves the interests of a small cadre of uber elites first and foremost. After all, only the very wealthy can bank roll campaigns, offer politicians windfall compensation for mega-millions, or dole out hot stock tips.
The only way out of our continued swoon is for a new cultural norm to emerge that would cause voters to aggressively vote against those that serve the most powerful and to aggressively support leaders that are proven to be the strongest champions of the dis-empowered. Then American prosperity can return to levels of decades past and the era of Lawless Capitalism can end.