THE BLOG
10/07/2013 03:02 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Why the Hell is Mississippi Republican?

Alabama, South Carolina, and Mississippi.

Income: These three states have median incomes under $43,500, ranking among the poorest in the United States.

Politics: They also rank among the most conservative states in the Union. Each voted for Governor Romney in 2012; 20 of the states' 22 members of Congress, every governor, and all six state legislative bodies are Republican.

The Connection

There is significant connection between these states' income and political inclinations--the more a state receives per dollar it pays in federal taxes, the more likely it is to vote Republican. The federal government takes in tax dollars and distributes it to the states--for education, infrastructure, social security, food stamps, jobs, and much more. The rub is that some states get more than others--and many get substantially more than they put in.

Republicans call this redistribution of wealth and we're supposed to be afraid of it--supposed to connect it in our minds to communism and socialism--Big Government stripping the rich of their hard earned money and giving it to the lazy poor. Republicans don't want to redistribute wealth.

So we'd expect these righteously Republican states to spurn Big Government redistribution programs. But they don't. These states, and many more like them, get much more money out of the federal government than they pay in, and yet elect representatives that decry this government spending.

The Conundrum

Mississippi gets back $2.47 for every dollar in federal taxes it pays. In 2010, this amounted to 49% of Mississippi's total state budget. That's a pretty good deal. For less than $4,000 per person, the average Mississippian received more than $10,000 in benefits in 2007. That's a return on investment of 181%. South Carolina and Alabama are right up there, with ROIs of 81% and 98%, respectively.

A distinction must be made. It is not the poor voting for the GOP in these states, but the working class, those making less than $50,000 a year. These are the individuals who need government assistance to keep their heads above water. What's more, this group of relatively low income Republicans is largely white. In 2008, 84% of white Mississippians making less than $50,000 voted for Senator McCain. Only 30% of that same demographic voted for Mr. McCain in Vermont.

The Contradiction

Poor states benefit enormously from the largesse of the federal government, from the tax dollars of blue states like New York and California. And yet, GOP politicians in these states have shut down the federal government to push for budget cuts and to evade Obamacare. In Mississippi, for instance, some 300,000 people will be denied healthcare because the state has declined to expand Medicaid. Yet, somehow, this tactic has been politically successful--Alabama's working class is almost as likely as Connecticut's rich to vote Republican.

Rich (liberal) states are paying for essential, life saving services like schools, roads, and food stamps in poor (conservative) states--helping those in need. It's odd, then, that these poor states continue to elect politicians who so audaciously fight against the interests of the poor on the national stage, going so far as to shutter the doors of the federal government.

So, why? I wager a guess. People vote for these individuals because the GOP does one thing well--they talk. They argue that government and taxes are bad, but neglect to mention the ramifications that these very real cuts to vital services will have on their constituents, making their constituents hate Big Government without realizing they are Big Government's biggest customer.

The Con

The GOP has effectively swindled people around the country--particularly the white working class--into thinking that the benefits they rely on from the government are unnecessary or can be more effectively administered by the private sector.

Unfortunately, when working class individuals are getting $2.50 in benefits for every dollar spent in taxes, this is downright impossible. A small tax cut on the middle class will never make up for the drastic cuts proposed by the GOP. The cut de jour is health care, on which millions of uninsured children and working class individuals rely. A cut, it must be noted, that is supported by GOP representatives from Mississippi, South Carolina, and Alabama.

The Conclusion

In the end, redistribution from wealthy states to poor states is one of our greatest strengths. It makes us all better. But the politicians representing those who need the most help are the very politicians fighting to cut important programs and keeping the federal government shutdown. When the ire is directed at individuals, we tell them to pick themselves up by their bootstraps. By those standards, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, and many more GOP states would have long ago gone bankrupt. Instead, we give them upwards of $2.00 for every dollar they give us.

And so, my point is this, if you don't want the federal government to redistribute blue state taxpayer dollars to frivolous causes like the education, health care, and public safety of your state, then, as a resident of New York: can I please have my money back?

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