As the Republican race for the White House heats up, here’s something the GOP can’t be too comfortable with: Most of the 10 poorest states in the country are Republican.
Mississippi is the poorest… followed by Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama and North Carolina.
And the list doesn’t even include Texas, where Rick Perry is governor and one in five people lives in poverty.
Republicans fully expect to win all 10 of these states in 2012, although President Obama won North Carolina by a slim margin in 2008 and West Virginia is usually considered a Democratic state.
By nearly every measure, people who live in the blue states are healthier, wealthier, and generally better off than people in the red states. The correlation is hard to dismiss. The four states with the highest poverty rates are all red. And the five states with the lowest poverty rates are all blue: New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Minnesota, and Hawaii. The numbers on infant mortality, life expectancy, teen pregnancy, and obesity break down in similar ways. In fact, it is difficult to find any indicator of well-being in which red states consistently do better than blue states.
Advocates for the red-state approach to government invoke lofty principles: By resisting federal programs and defying federal laws, they say, they are standing up for liberty. These were the same arguments that the original red-staters made in the 1800s, before the Civil War, and in the 1900s, before the Civil Rights movement. Now, as then, the liberty the red states have provided is the liberty to suffer not the liberty to support free enterprise or to support wealth creation. These Republican controlled states have the lowest levels of entrepreneurship too.
America clearly has room for different approaches to policy. Overall, Republicans believe their economic agenda is the best way to get people back to work – and many in the GOP are quick to blame President Obama for the rise in the poverty rate – yet patently Republicans seem to be more effective at generating poverty in the U.S.