Friday, March 31, 2017

What's the matter with New York?

Dr. Krugman has written that column about West Virginia that everybody needs to write once in a while, that or the one about Kentucky, or maybe Pennsylvania or Ohio, or there's Kansas. What's the matter with Kansas? asked Thomas Frank back in 2004. Why do those people keep voting for the party that wants to starve and punish them? Why do they vote against their own interests?

And West Virginia's a pretty poignant case, on the one hand because of that emotional fixation with jobs in the coal industry, where jobs have been declining catastrophically in the state since 1948! It's been almost 70 years since coal mining had a future in West Virginia, not because of environmental policy, but because of automation, after the companies gave up digging for it in favor of just slicing it off the tops of the mountains. This is a defunct parrot, folks. And Donald Trump keeps getting them to applaud by saying he's bringing it back.

Via West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy. Note how productivity starts a very steep deline around 2000; that's not George W. Bush's fault, it's because all the good stuff is gone ("Mr. Peabody's coal train has hauled it away," as the song says), and what's left is a lot harder to get out of the ground, as the price continues to drop because it has to, to keep up the dropping prices of other fuels that burn cleaner or don't burn at all.

And on the other hand:

What, then, do West Virginians actually do for a living these days? Well, many of them work in health care: Almost one in six workers is employed in the category “health care and social assistance.”
Oh, and where does the money for those health care jobs come from? Actually, a lot of it comes from Washington.
Not to mention the fact that West Virginians consume a lot of health care too:

West Virginia has a relatively old population, so 22 percent of its residents are on Medicare, versus 16.7 percent for the nation as a whole. It’s also a state that has benefited hugely from Obamacare, with the percentage of the population lacking health insurance falling from 14 percent in 2013 to 6 percent in 2015; these gains came mainly from a big expansion of Medicaid.
And since they pay a lot less in taxes to Washington than they take in—$4.23 in federal spending for every dollar of tax paid in 2013, compared to 92 cents for New Yorkers, though we're only no. 9, and that's nothing compared to the 52 cents Minnesotans get, or the 50 cents for Delaware—it occurs to me at long last to wonder what's the matter with me?

I mean, I keep voing in national elections for people who could raise my federal taxes in order to give more money to those ungrateful hillbillies, and put onerous regulations on the financial marketers who make all the money that keeps my state and municipal governments afloat? It's because I'm a freaking liberal, I guess, with this inbred insistence that I ought to share my good fortune in living in a state that's run not so badly (not that it's run especially well, but honestly, compared to West Virginia..._).

Why isn't Thomas Frank worried about the way I keep voting against my self-interest?

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