Republican incompetence at running government is becoming legendary, and everyone needs to know this, especially with three months to go before the election. When we elect Republicans, or help elect Republicans, we are placing the government into the hands of politicians who truly believe government can’t work, so they struggle to try to prove that premise. And it’s been that way for a while. If you think last year’s government shutdown and the constant brinkmanship is something new, think again. And if you think it’s all about the Tea Party, consider that there are 46 members of the Tea Party Caucus in the House, but this past October 144 House Republicans actually voted to default on the national debt. That’s right; 144 “fiscally responsible” Republicans voted to destroy the nation’s credit to prove something even they can’t explain.
The government actually worked well during the post-war era, when Democrats ran things for 30 out of 34 years from 1946 to 1980. Republicans have controlled most of the government for 30 of the last 34 years, and it shows.
I am a partisan Democrat and very liberal, but this isn’t just about my ideology. It’s easily provable through statistics. Democrats have a strong record of competence, and Republicans have an equally impressive record of incompetence. And since getting the most progressive government starts with state legislatures and a US Congress that is at least competent enough to get the basics right, it’s important that we understand; it’s the Republican Party ideology that is holding this country back.
The Republicanization of the National Debt: The Hypocrisy Burns
Republican incompetence is most obvious when you look closely at their irresponsible stewardship of the federal government. Republicans gave us the Great Depression and kept us there for four years without really attempting to fix anything. On the other hand, from 1932 through 1980, when Democrats held the White House and a supermajority in Congress, the New Deal and Social Security passed, as did market and economic reforms that led to the largest economic boom and social transformation in world history. That prosperity led to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, Medicare, OSHA, FDA, FTC and the EPA, among many other changes.
Republicans brag constantly about the last 34 years, when Republicans have controlled enough of the government to block everything good for 30 of them. Mostly, the current Republican Party is all about austerity. They pretend to care about deficits and debt, but the fact is, most of the debt accumulated to date came from their incompetence. The money they borrow and spend doesn’t go toward investments in the country, like building infrastructure, which would actually create more revenue and less debt. Instead, they waste money on tax cuts for the rich and weapons for wars we’ll never fight, which creates, at best, a short-term economic stimulus.
There are plenty of data supporting this. Look at these charts. The green stripe shows what the debt would look like had Reagan and Bush 41 actually balanced the budget, as promised, and Democratic Presidents Clinton and Obama did what they did. Even if they had just kept the debt level, there would have been almost zero debt, as a percentage of GDP, by the time Bush 43 crashed the economy. That would have made recovery far easier., because we could have thrown $2-3 trillion at job creation without even flinching. We can actually still do that – the current level of debt is not unprecedented — but after 34 years of GOP politics, it’s hard to get people to understand this. For 34 years, they’ve been told that deficits are caused solely by government overspending, which is a lie.
Between the end of World War II and 1980, when Democrats ran government, the debt dropped from 120% of GDP to 32% of GDP. In 1980, the debt was $990 billion. But beginning with Reagan’s inauguration in 1981, the neocon Republican Party changed all that. In 8 years of Reagan, the debt more than tripled, and in 4 years of Bush 41, it doubled again. After 12 years of Republican rule, the debt had sextupled, with no economic benefit. As a percentage of GDP, the debt rose to more than 60% during that time.
Democrat Bill Clinton then shamed Congressional Republicans into helping him balance the budget, and they even created a surplus. Though he achieved balance primarily through job creation, the GOP preconceptions about spending did not change. When Clinton left in 2001, he handed Bush, Jr. and the Republican Congress a federal government scheduled to run budget surpluses for at least the next ten years, according to the CBO, which would trim the then-$6 trillion debt to about $4.5 trillion, and would have put it back below 30% of GDP and dropping. We should have been back on track.
Instead, the same Republicans who crow about their own “fiscal responsibility” and happily took credit for Clinton’s balanced budgets then helped Bush 43 blow up the debt again, even before they managed to break the economy. Bush immediately enacted the least necessary tax cuts in the history of the republic at the same time he started two wars, which resulted in deficits and debt accumulation that even topped Reagan’s and his father’s dismal record on debt. When the GOP broke the economy, they made a bad situation worse.
Under the rosiest of perspectives, Republicans are responsible for at least 90% of the current $17.6 trillion national debt. One major reason is that Republicans work from a philosophical construct that treats all government spending as equal, which makes them incompetent. It’s not all equal. Some spending simply reduces the Treasury’s size, while other spending actually creates more revenue. They also believe silly theories like “supply-side economics,” known more commonly as “trickle down,” even though it makes no sense. Even the architect of Reagan’s supply-side policies, David Stockman, admits it doesn’t work. If we’ve learned nothing else in 34 years, it’s that tax cuts for the rich cut revenue, while job creation creates revenue, because it creates taxpayers. Yet, Republicans still reject this concept. Congress has been presented with multiple bills designed to create millions of jobs, and the GOP won’t even consider them, claiming their upfront cost is too high, despite the fact that they would actually create economic activity and cut the deficit they cry so much about. How is this not incompetent?
While the magnitude of Republican incompetence at the federal level is now legendary, their record running states is even worse. Given their rhetoric, you’d think life is idyllic in red states, while life in blue states is a living hell. But real data shows the opposite is true. It’s difficult to find a single quality-of-life issue that isn’t better in blue states than in red states.
(Before I continue, please note that I don’t include the District of Columbia in the data, because they’re an anomaly. They’re not a state, and they’re not run like one.)
Republicans Should Not Be Allowed Near the Economy
Let’s start with economic issues. We know supply side economics doesn’t work at either the federal or state levels. Most red states feature low or no income tax rates,and they brag of “balanced budgets” and restrained spending. By doing all that, they claim their state economies are in far better shape than in blue states.
There’s just one problem. They’re not. Not even a little.
Start with unemployment. Republicans like to brag about their low unemployment rates these days, but the fact is, the record is very mixed. As of June 2014, while 6 of the ten states with the lowest unemployment rates are red, so are six of the ten with the highest rates. (Source) But unemployment rates are constantly changing, and have to be combined with other factors to make any sense. For example, is your state well-run if you have full employment, but few make enough money to live on? Hardly.
As of 2012, the ten states with the lowest median household income were: 50. Mississippi, $37,095; 49. Arkansas, $40,112; 48. West Virginia, $40,196; 47. Alabama, $41,574; 46. Kentucky, $41,724; 45. New Mexico, $42,558; 44. Tennessee, $42,764; 43. Louisiana, $42,944 42. South Carolina, $43,107 and 41. Oklahoma, $44,312. (Source)
Do you see a blue state in there anywhere? I’ll show you where the blue states are:
The ten states with the highest median household income in 2012 were: 1. Maryland, $71,122; 2. New Jersey, $69,667; 3. Alaska, $67,712; 4. Connecticut, $67,276; 5. Hawaii, $66,259; 6. Massachusetts, $65,339; 7. New Hampshire, $63,280; 8. Virginia, $61,741; 9. Minnesota, $58,906; 10. Delaware, $58,415. (Source)
In case you think these are just anomalies, download this spreadsheet. The data go back to 1984, and it shows that red states have been among the poorest for the entire neocon era.
Since averages can be skewed a bit, let’s also look at the states and their poverty rates.
As of 2012, the ten states with the highest percentage of household poverty are: 1. Mississippi, 24.2%; 2. New Mexico, 22.8%; 3. Louisiana, 19.9%; 4. Arkansas, 19.8%; 5. Kentucky, 19.4%; 6. Georgia, 19.2%; 7. Alabama, 19.0%; 8. Arizona, 18.7%; 9. South Carolina, 18.3%; 10. North Carolina, 18.0%. (Source)
The poverty rate for the United States for 2012 is 15.9%, which is already too high, because of the mortgage meltdown Republicans caused. But look at these states; there are no blue ones on the list.
By contrast, using the same source, the states with the lowest percentage of household poverty for 2012 were: 50. New Hampshire, 10.0%; 49. Alaska, 10.1%; 48. Maryland, 10.3%. 47. New Jersey, 10.8%; 46. North Dakota, 11.2%; 45. Minnesota, 11.2%; 44. Hawaii, 11.6%; 43. Virginia, 11.7%; 42. Vermont, 11.8%; and 41. Massachusetts, 11.9%.
Alaska doesn’t belong, since they’re basically socialist; everyone who lives in the state gets a check from the oil industry every year, which makes the fact that 10 percent of state residents are in poverty plain nuts. And they are a strongly red state. Same with North Dakota, which is participating in an oil shale boom that may last another decade, if they’re lucky. However, states with traditionally Republican leaderships just feature low incomes and high poverty. They’re more interested in keeping tax rates low than making investments in jobs, because they see every dollar that goes out as “spending.” Also, they prefer to lure companies through tax abatement, but do nothing to keep wages up, which would produce revenue and attracts workers, which in turn lures companies. That’s why red states tend to be the nation’s welfare queens.
The Real “Welfare States” Are Led By Republicans
When a Republican governor brags about a balanced budget, you should know that it’s blue states who make that possible. People in red states don’t get that their tax rates are low because blue states like California and New York subsidize them. If every state got back a benefit equal to the amount they paid in federal taxes, Republican states would have to either raise tax rates mightily or cut services to the bone. Every time you hear a Republican complain about having to support California during their current tough times, show them these numbers. Then, tell them to sit down and shut up.
Here are the states who receive the most federal money back for every dollar they pay in taxes: Mississippi, $2.83; West Virginia, $2.83; New Mexico, $2.80; Hawaii, $2.38; Alaska, $2.24; Alabama, $2.21; South Carolina, $2.13; Montana, $2.13; Maine, $2.00; Kentucky, $1.96.
Meanwhile, the following states are subsidizing the above states to the greatest degree. In other words, when these people pay $1.00 in taxes, this is the amount of benefit they receive in return: Delaware $0.40; Minnesota, $0.54; New Jersey, $0.62; Connecticut, $0.74; Illinois, $0.79; New York, $0.79; Nebraska, $0.82; Rhode Island, $0.89; Colorado, $0.90; Arkansas, $0.92 (Source)
Again, why does a state like Alaska need any help at all? They do have some military up there, but so do Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Colorado. Alaska gets huge oil subsidies and they hand out large checks to state residents. They would do well to cut their dependence on the federal government and stop pretending they’re so incredibly “independent.”
Republican States Are Not Safer
Money isn’t everything. Republicans also like to brag about how safe their residents are. After all, they are “tough on crime,” right? Well… according to statistics, they aren’t.
In 2012, the ten states with the highest murder rates were; 1. Louisiana, 10.8 (per 100,000); 2. Mississippi, 7.4; 3. Alabama, 7.1; 4. Michigan, 7.0; 5. South Carolina, 6.9; 6. Missouri, 6.5; 7. Maryland, 6.3; 8. Delaware, 6.2; 9. Tennessee, 6.0; 10. a tie between Arkansas and Georgia. Eight out of 11 states are reliably red.
Meanwhile, the ten states with the lowest murder rates for 2012 were: 50. New Hampshire, 1.1 (per 100,000); 49. Vermont, 1.3; 48. Iowa, 1.5; 47. a tie among Minnesota, Utah, Idaho and Massachusetts, 1.8; 43. Maine, 1.9; 42. Hawaii, 2.1; and 41. a tie between Oregon and Wyoming. (Source)
There’s an addendum at the bottom of that chart that should give everyone pause:
“For 2012, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty States was 4.7, while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 3.7”
To those of you who think the “War on Women” is a myth, here are the 10 states with the highest rate of women murdered by men in 2011; 1. South Carolina, 2.54 (per 100,000 women); 2. Alaska, 2.01; 3. Oklahoma, 1.99; 4. Delaware, 1.92; 5. Arizona, 1.84; 6. Tennessee, 1.80; 7. Idaho, 1.77; 8. West Virginia, 1.70; 9. Louisiana, 1.67; 10. New Mexico, 1.62. (Source) If they’re not at war with women, why are the men shooting so many? Of the above, only Delaware is blue.
Of course, according to the NRA, the solution would be more people with more guns, right? As usual, this is apparently a myth, according to the data.
The ten states with the highest rate of firearms ownership are: 1. Wyoming 59.7%; 2. Alaska 57.8%; 3. Montana 57.7%; 4. South Dakota 56.6%; 5. West Virginia 55.4%; 6(T) Mississippi, Idaho and Arkansas 55.3%; 9. Alabama 51.7%; 10. North Dakota 50.7%. (Source)
But look at the amount of overlap with states having the highest firearm death rate: 1. Alaska, 20.4 (per 100,000); 2. Louisiana, 19.2; 3. Alabama, 16.2; 4. Mississippi, 16.1; 5. Wyoming, 15.6; 6. Montana, 15.4; 7. New Mexico, 14.9; 8. Arizona, 14.6, 9. Nevada, 14.5; 10. a tie among Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee, 14.4. (Source)
The national average firearm death rate was 10.1 per 100,000. In all, 29 states were above that average, with 27 of them reliably red. .
Meanwhile, the ten states with the lowest rates of gun ownership are: 50. Hawaii 6.7%; 49. New Jersey 12.3%; 48. Massachusetts 12.6%; 47. Rhode Island 12.8%; 46. Connecticut 16.7%; 45. New York 18%; 44. Illinois 20.2%; 42(T). California and Maryland 21.3%; 41. Florida 24.5% (Source)
The ten states with the lowest firearm death rates in the country are: 50. Hawaii, 3.2 (per 100,000); 49. Massachusetts, 4.1; 48. Rhode Island, 4.6; 47. New York, 5.1; 46. New Jersey, 5.2; 45. Connecticut, 5.9; 43. A tie between Minnesota and Iowa, 6.8 42. California and 41. Maine (Source)
To summarize, there is no rational basis to believe that more guns equals less crime and less death. While guns don’t kill people, the more guns people have, the more likely others are to end up dead. While that bit of logic should be obvious, the GOP sells the opposite as if it’s proven fact. The data also puts the lie to the idea that blue states with tight gun control laws and troublesome urban areas leave people vulnerable. New York, New Jersey and California all have LOWER firearm death rates than mostly rural states with lax gun control laws, even though they have tight gun restrictions and huge urban areas.
Red states don’t even pass the test when you look at crimes other than murder. The ten states with the overall highest violent crime rate are: 1. Tennessee, 643.6 (per 100,000); 2. Nevada, 607.6; 3. Alaska, 603.2; 4. New Mexico, 559.1; 5. South Carolina, 558.8; 6. Delaware, 547.7; 7. Louisiana, 496.9; 8. Florida, 487.1; 9. Maryland, 476.8 10. Oklahoma, 469.3. (Source)
The ten states with the overall lowest violent crime rate are: 50. Maine, 119.8 (per 100,000); 49. Vermont, 131.4; 48. New Hampshire, 159.6; 47. South Dakota, 185.6; 46. North Dakota, 200.7; 45. Utah, 212.7; 44. Virginia, 226.8; 43. Wyoming, 228.2; 42. Idaho, 228.4; 41. Minnesota, 243.9. (Source)
People in South Carolina and Tennessee are more likely to be killed, raped, assaulted or have their purse snatched in their home states than those in New York, New Jersey and California, all of whose residents Republicans want you to believe are in grave mortal danger. Doesn’t that seem kind of strange, given all those “tough on crime” Republicans and their populations being armed to the teeth?
Republicans Like to Talk About “Family Values,” But Their States Sure Don’t Live It
Despite all of their whining about the decline of civilization and their talk about “family values,” Republican-run states don’t even come out winners in the social arena.
For example, for all of their talk about “sanctity of marriage,” red states don’t seem to live it. The ten states with the highest divorce rates: 1. Alaska; 2. Oklahoma; 3; Kentucky; 4. Arkansas; 5. Alabama; 6. Nevada; 7. Georgia; 8. Texas; 9. Tennessee; 10. Maine (Source)
Nevada doesn’t belong here. People go to Nevada from all over just to get married and/or divorced. But only one other state in the top ten can even be considered purple. If Republicans are to claim that same-sex marriages hurts the “sanctity of marriage,” they would do well to get their own house in order.
Republicans complain mightily about groups like Planned Parenthood, but those abstinence-only programs sure aren’t working. For example, the 10 states with the highest rate of teen pregnancy are: 1. New Mexico; 2. Nevada; 3. Arizona; 4. Texas; 5. Mississippi; 6. Delaware; 7. Arkansas; 8. Georgia; 9. a tie between. South Carolina and Tennessee (Source)
Not Surprisingly Republican States Fail at Education, Too
The next time a Republican tells you he or she knows how to fix education, tell them to talk to their own states, because their record on education isn’t so great.
The ten states with the worst graduation rates in the country are: 50. Nevada, 62%; 49. New Mexico, 63% ; 48. Georgia, 67% ; 46. tie between Oregon and Alaska, 68%; 44. tie between Louisiana and Florida, 71%; 43. Alabama, 72%; and 41. tie between South Carolina, Michigan and Colorado, 74%. (Source)
It’s no wonder. Look at how little red states spend on education per pupil. The bottom ten states when it comes to per pupil spending on education as of Fiscal Year 2011 are: 50. Utah, $6,212; 49. Idaho, $6,824; 48. Oklahoma, $7,587; 47. Arizona, $7,666; 46. Mississippi, $7,928; 45. Tennessee, $8,242; 44. North Carolina, $8,312; 43. Nevada, $8,527; 42. Texas, $8,671; 41. Colorado, $8,724 (Source)
Meanwhile, the states with the highest spending per pupil are: 1. New York, $19,076; 2. Alaska, $16,674; 3. New Jersey, $15.968; 4. Vermont, $15,925; 5. Wyoming, $15,849; 6. Connecticut, $15,600; 7. Massachusetts, $13,941; 8. Maryland, $13,871; 9. Rhode Island, $13,815; 10. Pennsylvania; $13,467
First, note the overlap with graduation rates. Then consider the gap between the highest and the lowest. Then, consider the overlap with the list of states that get more federal money than they pay. Obviously, they’re not spending it on education. They’re spending it on tax cuts.
Republicans Really Don’t Care About Your Health
When you look at these statistics, you have to wonder why the Republican Party voted 42 times and shut down the government to kill Obamacare. They need it more than anyone.
Before Obamacare took effect this year, the ten states with the largest number of uninsured were: 1. Texas, 26.1% 2. Florida, 22.4% 3. New Mexico, 21.7% 4. Nevada, 20.8% 5. Georgia, 20.5% 6. California, 20% 7. Arizona, 19.6% 8. Arkansas, 19.2% 9. Oklahoma, 18.1% 10. North Carolina, 18.0%. Of that group, only California politicians seem interested in getting coverage for their people, and making sure the hospitals and doctors get paid, which is exactly what Obamacare will do.
Meanwhile, most of the ten states with the fewest uninsured people fought FOR Obamacare: 50. Massachusetts, 4.4%; 49. Hawaii, 8.2%; 48. Minnesota, 8.8%; 47. Wisconsin, 9.5%; 46. Vermont, 9.9%; 45. Maine, 10.2%; 44. New Hampshire, 10.5%; 43. North Dakota, 10.7%; 42. Pennsylvania, 11.4%; 41. Nebraska, 11.5% (Source)
Why would the states with the most coverage be for universal health insurance? Because it brings costs down. Why would states who obviously need more universal coverage be against it? Because it will shine a light on just how poorly run their states are. As we’ve shown, people in red states are poor, less educated, sick and they are at greater risk of crime. And if people knew it, Republicans might lose their jobs…
This is why I’m here.
It’s not possible to look at these statistics and say that what Republicans are doing is great for the country, if you’re being honest. If you agree that their stewardship of federal and state governments hasn’t been ideal, then join me in helping to elect Democrats – you know, the people from the best-run states.