Red States, Blue States and wishy washy journalism

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Interesting story by Dan Balz of the WPost on polarization – the increase of single party control in the States. But also example of wishy-washy on-the-hand-on-the-other-hand journalism.

(It is truly amazing that Supreme Court Justice has stopped reading the Washington Post because he finds it so incredibly biased and prefers to read the fair and balance Washington Times! Far too often, the Washington Post is actually the Wishy-Washy Post!) Balz does a good job of showing how the red state/blue state phenomenon has translated into distinct styles of one-party state government. But he fails to dig very far. In trying to assess which party is doing a better job of governing their state he limits himself to the issue of employment rates – repeating the Republican claim that employment rates are consistently one percent higher in Red States and then offering a little Democratic rebuttal to that – it might not be all the result of state government policy and the low employment levels are accompanied by lower wages. A better approach might have been to have broadened the field of questions. The late social scientist Marc Miringoff of Fordham University introduced the idea of creating an index of social health – for countries and for individual states. His index put together a number of widely-accepted indices of social health – that included unemployment levels but also included things like high school drop out levels, infant mortality, crime rates, education levels, income levels, and so forth. And he began doing it on a state-by-state level in the early 2000’s. The last available report is from 2008, in worked carried out by his wife, Marque-Luisa Miringof and The Institute for Innovation in Social Policy. All in all, the map of social health revealed by this research looks (with some exceptions) remarkably like the red and blue maps we see on election night: with the quality of life being the highest in the so-called blue states.


Much of the article discusses whether Texas, whose governor, Rich Perry, is running around the country touting the virtues of the “Texas model,” preparing for a possible repeat of his disastrous presidential run in 2012. It would have been extremely instructive to point out that Texas in the social health index (for the last year available, which was 2008, but the figures could easily be updated) ranked 41 out of 50 in terms of overall social health or quality of life. It was at the very bottom in a series of extremely important measures:


Dead last, n. 50 in health insurance coverage, 49th in income inequality, 45th in elderly povery, 45th in child poverty, and 42nd nationally in alcohol traffic deaths. Compare that to the quintessential blue state like Minnesota, which is number 1 overall and a top ten state in categories such as elderly poverty, infant mortality, child abuse, health insurance coverage, elderly suicide, high school completion, child poverty, income inequality and homicides.


Wouldn’t this kind of information be valuable to know in an article trying to show that the country had split into two very different styles of governance?




Carved into the façade of the Panthéon, the huge domed stone structure in Paris’s Latin Quarter, are the words “Aux grands hommes, la patrie reconnaissante.” “To the great men, a grateful fatherland.” This is France’s secular temple to itself, a curious necropolis conceived during the French Revolution to celebrate a new cult of the nation... CONTINUE READING