Self-Mutilation Nation?

Two common threads that runs through media coverage are this: 1) Conservatives mostly pay for public goods, while liberals mostly use public goods. and 2) Americans are driven by self-interest.

But Minnesota 20-20 and the noon-partisan Tax Foundation are the most recent groups to point out a phenomenon that calls both pieces of conventional wisdom into question. They looked at states that are net givers, or states that pay more in federal tax than they get back in federal benefits, versus states that are net receivers, or states that pay less in federal taxes than they get back in federal benefits.

One of the most curious things about modern American politics is this: For the most part, the states that receive the most net government benefit are the least supportive of funding government, while the states that receive the least net government benefit are the most supportive of funding government.

In other words, giver states, like Minnesota, usually vote to give more government support, to their financial detriment. At the same time, receiver states, such as Mississippi, usually vote to give less government support, to their financial detriment. It’s the opposite of what you would expect, if self-interest were driving voting decisions.

Which leads me to wonder, is America a nation of altruists, or self-mutilators?

– Loveland

6 thoughts on “Self-Mutilation Nation?

  1. john sherman says:

    Living across the Red River from Fargo, I get to hear a lot chest-thumping about the rugged independents who don’t take any of that government welfare crap blithely unaware of their status as a major sucker of the federal teat. The ones is the west would be listening to Rush Limbaugh on their car radios only if the REA hadn’t brought electricity to them 60+ years after electrification started.

    Wallace Stegner opens his book, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian, an account of John Wesley Powell and the opening of the West by contrasting William Gilpin, a Colorado politician and professional windbag who, as Stegner puts it, “saw the West through a blaze of mystical fervor, as part of a grand geopolitical design, the overture to global harmony; and his conception of its resources and its future as a home for millions was grandiose as his rhetoric, as unlimited as his faith, as splendid as his capacity for inaccuracy.” He was convinced that all this could be done by the ruggedly independent superior sort of beings the West would automatically attract.

    Stegner contrasts him with Powell, who actually knew what he was talking about, and knew that developing the West would require an immense amount of federal support.

    1. john sherman says:

      North Dakota has the air base, but not a lot beyond that. It is true that states like North and South Dakota with aging populations pull a lot of Social Security and Medicare money, and both have a lot of reservations although I’m not sure whether reservations are counted as part of the state. And there is a lot of big time agricultural welfare in both states.

  2. JoeW says:

    Taker states military enclaves? Not so much. California, Illinois, Connecticut, and Washington are all home to some rather substantial military bases.

    I do find it interesting that Texas and New York (which have higher Medicare spending than states like MN) are in the ‘giver’ column.

  3. PM says:

    OK, I have a question for all of our more conservative friends here:

    Am I missing something?

    Let me be upfront–at this point, i would prefer the re-election of President Obama to any of the republican candidates. But of all the various republican candidates, if i was forced to choose one to be president, i would prefer Romney–and he seems to me, for a whole host of reasons, to be the strongest general election candidate among the bunch. And, for a whole host of reasons, Gingrich seems to be one of the weakest general election candidates among the bunch. So the current Gingrich dominance in the polls seems like a giant Christmas gift to me (and President Obama’s re-election team).

    Which gets me back to my question:

    Am I missing something?

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