Are Red States More Dependent on Government Entitlements than Blue States?

Posted on February 20, 2013. Filed under: Politics, Welfare | Tags: , |

“Now, there’s no mystery about red-state reliance on government programs,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman once wrote.

Liberals in the media beat on this drum repeatedly, and I’ve seen the same claim made hundred of times across the internet, that amazing resource of information, but wellspring of misinformation.

Red States are against government entitlements, but are most dependent on it, according to Krugman and other liberal blogs on the internet.

But, but, Krugman is a Nobel Prize winning economist!

Obama has won the Nobel Prize for Peace, too. Then he went on to kill a bunch of people in other countries without their (the other countries) permission, including three American citizens. That award is meaningless anymore.

Krugman was also an advisor for a company called Enron. Does that name ring any bells?

Entitlements come in all shapes and sizes; Social Security, Welfare (now known as TANF), Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps (now known as SNAP), Social Security Disability, Section 8 Housing assistance, Unemployment  and Veteran’s assistance.

Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment are a system that we pay for through our tax dollars, so we are “entitled” to those benefits, that is, we have a right to them, although I’m pretty sure both will be gone by the time I’m old enough to use them. Veteran’s assistance is something that we owe to our Veterans, for their service to our country, and in many cases, sacrifices that they made.

When folks speak of entitlements, more often than not they are referring to Welfare and Food Stamps. Those are programs that are not entitlements, because we don’t pay into the system, and even if we did, the government would just spend it on something else.

For the sake of argument, however, we will limit this discussion to welfare and food stamps.

Is it true that red states are more reliant on welfare and food stamps than blue states?

According to government statistics, it’s kind of a mixed bag. The blue states lead in welfare recipients, while more red states are reliant on food stamps. The difficulty in deriving these numbers is that I am relying on the total population of each state (as of 2011). The TANF figures are as of 2011, while the SNAP numbers are more recent, but the ratios shouldn’t change too much.

On each table, the number is the number of cases, not the number of individuals or families, so I have to allow myself a little leeway here. Like I said, I am relying on total population numbers, not workforce numbers or family numbers, but I honestly don’t expect the ratios to fluctuate that much.

First, the top ten states with welfare recipients as a percentage of total population (2011 stats) [Raw Data here as of 4/3/2012. 2012 data may not be available until April]:

DC 3.94
MAINE 1.98
OHIO 1.95

Out of the top ten, only Tennessee is a Red State, and the west coast dominates (California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii).

The top 10 SNAP States (as a percentage of population) [Raw Data here]:

DC 22.30
OREGON 20.90
MAINE 19.00

Once again, Washington DC, the national capital leads the way. Four of the top ten are Blue States, and Washington DC, Oregon (I am embarrassed to say), Maine, New Mexico and Tennessee are repeat offenders.

By repeat offenders, I mean simply mean they are on both lists. Oregon was devastated when tech companies began to move over to China, and is still struggling to recover from that. If you expand this list to include the Top 25, you find such liberal states as Michigan, Florida, Rhode Island, Delaware, Washington, New York  and Ohio. Texas even makes the Top 25, for all their bluster about having such a low unemployment rate. California not being in the Top 25 is a surprise to me, however. That state is actually near the bottom, at 10.4% of the population on SNAP.

As a pure numbers game, however, liberal states far outstrip the red states by sheer population numbers. I could use that as a springboard to jump into a discussion about the Electoral College, but that’s an article for another time.

As you can see, it is a mixed bag. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, the dependence on entitlements (and we are starting to include Social Security and Medicare now) will increase in the south as Baby Boomers retire and head south to the more rural areas of the country.

According to the same service, transfer payments are rising faster for metro areas than they are for non-metro areas. Of the $2.2 trillion budget for these payments, $1.8 trillion went to metro residents, while a mere $421 billion went to rural residents. It does make a larger percentage of income derived, but is smaller due to the fewer residents in the country.

What that shows is that people who live in cities make more money, which makes sense when you stop to think about it. More industries are located in or near cities, rather than the back 40.

So, now you know. When someone says that Red States are more dependent on government entitlements than Blue States, you can look at them and say “well, not really”.

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