Have you heard rumblings of a counter Tea Party movement afoot in the land that calls the Tea Party "the-bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you caucus?" A rogue e-mail making the rounds called the movement "freeloading, progress-blocking, benefit-grabbing, resource-sucking, violent and hypocritical."
Southern politicians, in particular, complain about big government and taxes because it resonates easily and conforms to the post-Civil War self-perception of that region as victims of northern conspiracies.
However, as it turns out, in spite of their persistent anti-government rhetoric, Southern politicians are completely comfortable accepting the last line of Tennessee Williams' play, A Streetcar Named Desire: "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." Down South it has become habitual to do just that. Southerners get back a whole lot more than they give in taxes.
America's wealth is, indeed, being redistributed -- from what the independent Tax Foundation calls the "giving states" of New York, New Jersey, New England, most of the northeast and California -- to the "receiving states" consisting of all of the south and, ironically, Alaska.
For example, those poor socialists in New Jersey only get back $0.56 on the tax dollar. But for every tax dollar Mississippi sends to Washington they get back $2.02, more than doubling their money! That's a Madoff return paid by the "giving states." Same for Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, Rand Paul's Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina. Then, of course, there is Alaska.
The South gets the redistribution of federal tax money because it seems least capable of helping itself out. It has:
- The lowest per capita percent of high school diplomas.
- The fewest college degrees per capita.
- The highest rates of adult illiteracy, and often their illiteracy rate exceeds their unemployment rate. For example, in Mississippi, adult illiteracy is 16 percent and unemployment is 11.5 percent. Illiteracy in Alabama is 15 percent and unemployment is 11 percent. This means that Southern states have many adults working who can't read beyond the 5th-grade level. Thus:
- The highest poverty rates and the lowest average household income in the nation.
- The highest percentages of citizens without health insurance, yet most likely to call health care reform "socialism."
- The most unhealthy region in the nation, leading in obesity, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, cancer deaths per 100,000 while managing to exercise the least.
- The most violent region in the country being a majority of the top 18 states in deaths by firearms. (Louisiana: 19.5 firearm deaths per 100,000. Mississippi: 17.3 deaths per 100,000, etc., as opposed to New York with 5.1 per 100,000 or Massachusetts with 3.1 per 100,000 etc.)
- With 35 percent of the population, the South has created only 17 percent of the nation's patents over the last 25 years. California alone, with 10 percent of the national population, has nearly 20 percent of the patents over the last 25 years.
- Louisiana is a special welfare case having a long-established dysfunctional dependence on the oil industry in its economy, its politics and in its winking willingness to debase the environment, combining to create an oil-based modern plantation mentality. They attack the federal government on the national news every day for being slow or for failing to act to "restore our way of life" after the BP disaster, as if American taxpayers are morally obligated to maintain the oil plantation to which Louisianans' sold out long ago.
Now some Southern public office holders and seekers from Tennessee to Texas are directly or indirectly talking about secession, and this has many others wondering if that is a threat or a promise.
Redistribution of wealth? The South appears to be on the dole, and things there have a way of never managing to get any better. Perhaps our Southern brethren should stand up for their outspoken beliefs and send the money back. Or perhaps they should consider jumping on the streetcar named get serious.
This article posted originally at www.xavier.edu/politics.