Category Archives: Red & Blue States

A series exploring the differences in policy, cultural, and well-being outcomes among Republican-led “red” states, Democrat-led “blue” states, and states that fall in between.

The Lone Star Model Part II: Criminal Justice

“The Lone Star Model Part II: Criminal Justice” seems an unlikely title for a post given Texas’ image as a hawkish, gun-toting “wild west” police state. Contrary to the heavy-handed, disciplinarian image of the state that consistently conducts the most inmate executions, Texas has reformed its justice system to be more clement and sensible.                                                           Don’t be mistaken though, the State of Texas still maintains its reputation for strict enforcement of the law and devotion to public safety. The reforms that have been enacted in Texas are carefully-calculated measures that don’t throw the baby out with the bath- water. The reforms are every bit as humanitarian as they are cost-effective, resulting not only in a fairer system but one that is less burdensome and cheaper to maintain.                                                            The beginning of such reforms came in 2003 with the passage into law of HB 2668 which stipulates that first-time drug possessors found with less than 1 gram of a controlled substance or less than 1 pound of marijuana be sentenced to “community supervision,” legal jargon for probation. The change not only saved largely non-violent offenders from horrifying prison experiences and the stigma of a criminal record with prison time but it may have saved the state roughly $117 million in the first 5 years of implementation. Granted, that figure is an estimate of the potential cost-savings made at the time of the bill’s passage into law. Still, the savings in taxpayer money alone is a compelling endorsement of the law not to mention the benefits reaped by the convicts, many of them young, one-time offenders.                                             According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Texas’ total incarceration rate declined from 757 per 100,000 population in 2003 to 636 per 100,000 in 2013, representing ten consecutive years of decline. The Texas legislature’s 2007 Justice Reinvestment Initiative marked an important turning point in corrections spending priorities; the initiative opted to devote $241 million to a variety of treatment and rehabilitation programs aimed at reducing recidivism rather than spending $523 million for new prison construction. Between 2006 and 2008, the parole approval rate increased slightly while at the same time the parole revocation rate decreased by 25%, resulting in more parolees and fewer parolees losing their parole and being sent back to prison.                                                                                       

The legislature of 2007 passed S.B. 103 which diverted youths convicted of misdemeanors away from the agency that handles juvenile delinquents, the Texas Youth Commission. Additionally, the law lowered the maximum age of persons permitted to be held in such institutions from 21 to 19 years. Importantly, the bill allocated money to county organizations that serve and treat misdemeaning youths through a variety of approaches other than incarceration. The result? During the period lasting from 2000 to 2010, the youth population incarcerated in all facilities (both private and public) dropped by 37%. Texas’ 2010 youth incarceration rate of 139 per 100,000 population was 34% lower than the U.S average of 210 per 100,000.                                              In 2009, the state established the Commitment Reduction Program, further realigning spending priorities toward community-based alternatives to incarceration at the county level. Importantly, this legislation is incentive-based, that is, the most cost-effective and recidivism-reducing programs earn the state’s funds. In 2011, the legislature devoted another $39 million to the program. Also in 2011, S.B. 653 consolidated the Texas Youth Commission and the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, to create the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. This streamlining is not only more efficient in carrying out necessary functions and using funds, but it makes for a simpler, more transparent juvenile justice system. According to the Texas Department of Justice, arrests of juveniles declined by 27% during 2007-2011 and the incarcerated juvenile population decreased by 62% in the same period.

Texas’ private-sector sensibilities are also playing a role in this transformation. The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) was founded in 2004 by former New York financial professional, Catherine Rohr to prepare Texas inmates for re-entry into society. The faith-based program intentionally recruited inmates with histories in drug-dealing, hustling, and gang leadership who wanted to reform their lives. The program immerses the prisoners in an MBA curriculum, introduces them to business mentors, life-skills coaching, sets them up with a job placement program, and provides them with a re-entry care package.                                                  An independent study by Baylor University, found that 3-year recidivism rates for a control group of males released from Texas prisons was 24% compared to 6.9% for PEP grads. Some other key findings include PEP graduates’ 95% employment versus the national ex-con employment rate of 50%; 20% of PEP grads were on public assistance as opposed to 45% of the general ex-con population;  The study found the program’s ROI (return on investment) by taking into account the costs of re-incarceration prevented by the reduced recidivism of graduates, the taxes generated by the newly-minted entrepreneurs, the cost savings from a decreased reliance on public assistance, and the increase in child-support payments. The study found the ROI for every dollar invested in PEP to be $0.74 after the 1st year of a graduate’s re-entry, $2.07 after 3 years, and $3.40 after 5 years.                                                                                                                           While PEP is certainly the most successful rehabilitation prison program in Texas, other rehab programs, ranging from faith-based to substance-abuse correction to motivational speaking directives have an important impact on reducing recidivism and improving the outcomes of ex-convicts as they return to free society.                                                                                                            The best part of all these reforms? Crime rates continue on their roughly 20 year nationwide descent. In 2000 the violent crime rate in Texas was 544.8 per 100,000 population. In 2010 the violent crime rate in Texas was 450.6 per 100,000 population.


Governmental Structures in America’s Two Largest States


Before you say it, yes, I know the California vs. Texas comparisons on this site are getting tired.  You’re probably wondering what’s up with my strange obsession with this topic. I think the debate is emblematic of the deep cultural/ideological divides and vastly different historical tracks that define our nation (though this polarization is another hotly contested notion). Going beyond the “red vs. blue” dichotomy that colors the comparisons between the Golden and Lone Star states, I think it is useful to understand the differences in the organization of the respective governments and how those systems operate differently. To begin with, neither state’s government is a carbon copy of the national government, though both take cues from our Founding Fathers and long Greco-Roman tradition of Democratic-Republicanism (though, that’s a whole other can of worms). So let’s dig in.

California                                                                                                                                                  Like the federal government, California’s state government is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, judicial, and executive. The state also has a state constitution and elements of Direct Democracy.                                                                                                                      Executive                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    There are 8 elected executive positions in California’s state government, each is elected by popular vote to a 4 yr. term and there is a limit of two terms per officeholder for each office. The most significant of these elected positions are: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Controller, State Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, and Superintendent of Public Instruction. The different offices are all voted for separately from each other; there are no joint Governor-Lieutenant Governor tickets, for example. There are a number of redundant executive positions and so much of the power of the executive branch is vested with the governor. As is expected, there is a plethora of state regulatory agencies under the auspices of the executive.                             Of all the executive positions, the governor is the most significant as he is the commander-in-chief of California’s military forces, submits the state budget, and enforces the laws of the state. There are 7 cabinet-level agencies under the oversight of the governor; these include but are not limited to: CA Health and Human Services Agency, CA Business/Consumer Services/Housing Agency, and the CA Environmental Protection Agency. The governor may be ousted after impeachment by a 2/3 state Senate vote or through majority vote in a recall election, initiated by  petitions containing a number of signatures equal to 12% of the total vote for the previous gubernatorial race.                                                                                                                   The lieutenant governor is a largely ceremonial job, akin to that of the VP of the United States of America. The vice president presides over the California State Senate, appoints bureaucrats to certain state agencies, steps in for governor during times of absence from state, and sits on the Board of Regents for certain state universities.                                                                    The state controller is basically the CFO of California; he has the power to investigate all monies spent by the state, is the bookkeeper of then state’s finances, and sits on 76 different boards and commissions. The state treasurer manages state investments, trades state bonds, and pays out state funds authorized by the controller. Needless to say, these positions seem a little redundant.                                                                                                                                                      The insurance commissioner heads the Department of Insurance and has the power to: adopt insurance regulations, take complaints against insurance industry, licenses/regulates insurance companies. The superintendent of public instruction, heads the California Department of Education and sets the policies of school districts.                                                           Legislative                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The California Legislature is bicameral, composed of the State Assembly and State Senate. All legislators are limited to 12 years of service in the California Legislature in any combination of 2 year assembly terms and/or 4 year senate terms. Each assemblymember  represents 465,000 residents and each senator represents 931,349 residents. No bill, save budget bills, may be acted upon by the legislature within 30 days of introduction, inviting legislative bottlenecks and gridlock. Any bills enacting tax increases, requires a 2/3 vote to pass. To override a governor’s veto, a 2/3 vote is required in both houses.                                                               Judiciary                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   The Supreme Court of California is composed of 1 Chief Justice and 6 Associates. Each justice is appointed by the governor to a 12 year term. Justices are subject to retention every 12 years in the general elections after their initial appointment to office. The California Supreme Court mainly deals with civil cases of great significance in public policy (freedom of speech, eminent domain, etc.) and nearly all death penalty cases in the State of California.        

     Direct Democracy                                                                                                                                                                                           The cornerstone of California’s high-profile practice of direct democracy, a modern take on an Attican form of governance, is the Ballot Proposition. There are two types of: Constitutional Amendments and Statutes. There are two ways by which a ballot proposition originates; it’s either initiated in the State Legislature or it’s initiated by the Popular Initiative System. In order for a proposal to get on the ballot put before voters in a general statewide election, its petitions must garner a number of signatures equivalent to 5% of the total vote cast in the previous gubernatorial race. A simple majority of votes in the general election is all that is then needed to pass a proposition.                                                                                                                                               I would argue that this is, perhaps, the most fatal flaw in the structure of California’s government. Since turnout for elections is generally low, and turnout for gubernatorial in a politically noncompetitive state are really low, the threshold of 5% allows well-marketed special interest groups to prey on low-information and win the popular opinion of voters. Ballot initiatives are largely responsible for California’s capricious record on gay marriage, confusing patchwork of marijuana laws, and budget squeeze.                                                                 Constitution                                                                                                                                     There is nothing of great remark in California’s current constitution other than its great lengthiness. A few key highlights: the constitution grants broad-based home rule powers to municipal and county governments; Stanford University is granted tax-exempt status as long as it remains an educational institution; an University of California is guaranteed no political interference.

Texas                                                                                                                                                                     True to American form, the Texas government is composed of three branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The state also has an interesting constitution that packs a punch, giving the people a huge check on the government. A true plural executive branch and expressed constitutional limits on the power of the legislature make Texas’ government a Tocquevillean masterpiece (okay maybe that’s a stretch).                                                                                                  Executive                                                                                                                                                                                                            There are 9 executive positions in the Texas state government. Other than the three Railroad Commissioners, the holders of these positions are all elected to 4 year terms with no term limits. The Governor is the commander-in-chief of Texas’ military forces, can convene a special session of the legislature, approve/veto bills, use power of line-item veto, and grant pardons (but only with the permission of the legislature or a majority of members on the Board of Pardons and Paroles).                                                                                                                                         As in California, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas is elected separately from the governor . The Lieutenant Governor: assumes power when the governor is out of state; presides over state senate; heads the Legislative Budget Board; establishes all special and standing committees; appoints chairpeople and members to committees; and he assigns legislation to committees of his choice. As you can see, the Lieutenant Governor is a relatively strong position in Texas.               The comptroller collects basically all taxes owed to the state and is responsible for remitting portions of taxes owed to local governments. He/she also manages the unclaimed property fund, issues fiscal reports, and produces economic forecasts. As required in the Constitution of Texas, the comptroller must certify the amount of money that the legislature plans to spend. What this means is that the legislature cannot spend money that the comptroller says isn’t available (i.e “certifies”). The only exception to this, is a 4/5 override vote from both chambers of the legislature.                                                                                                                                                      The Land Commissioner heads the Texas General Land Office, the Texas equivalent of the Bureau of Land Management. Effectively, the Land Commissioner negotiates, trades, and leases mineral rights owned by the State of Texas. Those royalties then furnish the Permanent School Fund. The Land Commissioner also manages the Alamo.                                                                             The Agriculture Commissioner predictably heads the Department of Agriculture which basically acts as a glorified Chamber of Commerce for rural communities. In addition to marketing and economic development initiatives in rural areas, the Department of Agriculture also regulates pesticide usage.                                                                                                                            There are three Railroad Commissioners in Texas. Each is elected separately to a 6 year term without the imposition of term limits. The department is a throwback to the progressive era w hen railroad monopolies were the prime target for regulators. Today, transportation issues are relegated to the authority of TxDOT. The Railroad Commission sets monthly production quotas for coal, gas, mining, propane, oil, and pipeline construction. At one time(1930’s – 1970’s), the organization had the type of clout that OPEC has over the price and production of crude oil. Given the crucial role that all of the above fuels have had, currently have, and will have on development in Texas, this group of executives are not to be ignored.          Legislative                                                                                                                                                                                  The legislature is bicameral, with 150 representatives and 31 senators, which comes out to 150,00 people per representative and 806,000 people per senator. Perhaps our federal congress could use some of the limits imposed on the legislature of Texas. How does Texas house train its legislature so well? For starters, the Texas legislature meets biannually for one, 140 day session. Furthermore, only the Governor may call a special session of the legislature; the legislature cannot call a special itself. Special sessions are limited by the constitution to 30 days and the only legislation that can be considered during such sessions is that dealing with the emergency for which the session was convened. The governor may call as many special sessions as are required to resolve the emergency. The Texas Senate doesn’t include minority or majority leaders but, rather, a pro tempore position that leads the Senate in lieu of the Lieutenant Governor in times of his absence. This position is not decided (officially) by political affiliation but usually goes to the most senior member of the chamber. The legislature passes a budget submitted by the governor with a simple majority and the legislature has the power to impeach state judges. All in all, the Texas Constitution forces the legislative branch to be very limited in scope and focused in purpose.                                                                                                       Judiciary                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Unlike the federal Supreme Court, Texas has two ultimate courts; the Court of Criminal Appeals for criminal cases, and the Supreme Court for civil cases. The Supreme Court is composed of one Chief Justice and eight Associates, each is elected to a term of 6 years and the elections are all staggered, that is, all of the justices are not up for election at once. The highest civil disputes come before the Supreme Court. The Court of Criminal Appeals also features a Chief Justice and eight associates subject to the same conditions as their peers on the Supreme Court. As part of its duty to hear appeals, The Court of Criminal Appeals automatically deals with and reviews all death penalty cases.                                                                                                      Constitution                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Perhaps the most admirable feature of the Texas government, the constitution is full of strong language that puts the government in its place. In Article VIII Section 24, the state is severely limited in its ability to impose a personal income tax (which it does not). The article also places limits on the types of taxes that the legislature may enact as well as strictly defining the way in which property taxes may be appraised. Article XVI places protections on people who are forced to sell their homes as a form of debt payment. Article VII establishes the Permanent University Fund which benefits from oil & gas revenues. The fund supplies the state’s preeminent university systems: Texas A&M and University of Texas. This article could use some re-working, as there are many other deserving 2nd-tier state schools whose potential is arguably stifled by their lack of access to this fund. Texas could, perhaps, do itself a favor by opening up these funds to larger ranks of its public universities.                                                                 Article XIV establishes the Texas General Land Office, the only one of its kind in the Union. This is significant because titleholders in every other state in the U.S have their land records under the supervision of the federal government’s Bureau of Land Management while Texans’ records are held in their home state. Articles IX and XI provide for weak county and municipal-level governments; the diametric opposite of California’s constitution on this issue.                              Draw whatever conclusions you may from the comparison of the governments of our union’s two largest members, but one thing is certain, they represent two significantly different understandings of government and its relation to the citizens it should serve. 

California vs. Texas: Creativity and Entrepreneurship

When it comes to the creative economy, there are huge disparities between different regions of the United States.  The Golden Gate State is one of the most inventive in terms of patents issued to its citizens. Using numbers from the U.S Census Bureau and the U.S Patent Office I created the following chart showing the number of utility patents (issued for new inventions) issued to residents of each state per capita. The numbers listed are population per patent issued.

               1980             1990               2000             2010             2013                                                            CA      4,175.7/p     3,750.5/p      1,706.8/p      1,238.5/p       979.4/p                                                        TX      7,407.2/p     5,319.9/p       3,071.9/p      3,132.6/p     2,693.0/p                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       In the past 20-30 years Americans as a whole have become more inventive and are earning more patents per capita. California has certainly made tremendous increases in the number of patents issued per capita. The Dot-com bubble of the 90’s probably had something to do with the large increases in patents from both Texas and California. While California’s creativity surge has been meteoric, Texas’ rise has been less pronounced. It is no secret that the major legacy clusters of the film and high-tech industries along with its well-regarded public universities are all huge contributors to California’s patent production. Given the state’s burdensome fiscal and regulatory environment, to say nothing of its defunct judicial system, there are many hurdles for entrepreneurs and creative types to overcome.  On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how Texas progresses on this front as secondary education improves and businesses relocate to the Lone Star State.

When it comes to Research and Development (R&D) spending, California reigns supreme. The following charts provide some basic figures about the R&D taking place in both California and Texas.                                                                                                                                                                                          R&D Spending as % of GDP

                     Academic       Industry     Total

   CA             0.347%             3.562%       3.936%                                                                                               TX              0.298%             1.209%       1.507%

            Industry Spending to Academic Spending

CA                    $9.52 industry/$1 academic                                                                                                  TX                     $4.05 industry/$1 academic

If you subscribe to the philosophy that holds that private research dollars follow public ones, than it appears that Texas is not living up to its “private-sector first” reputation while California is doing something right. Some of the disparity can certainly be attributed to California’s longer-rooted R&D industry, but one is forced to ask why California is so good at attracting R&D dollars. What is their secret to success? It’s not clear if California’s effectiveness in attracting private research dollars is the result of a legacy or if there is a coordinated effort that attracts and retains such funding. Regardless, watch out for Texas as it builds new R&D centers and attracts new investment from cutting-edge corporations.                                                                            When it comes to venture capital, an increasingly critical tool for techies with the “next big idea” seeking a silicon-studded fairy tale ending, California dominates the national scene. According to the State Science & Technology Institute, investors disbursed $14,669,977,200  of Venture Capital in California compared to $1,307,065,900 in Texas. Between 2008 and 2013, the amount of Venture Capital disbursed in the Lone Star increased by 6.34%, while in California the amount decreased 1.55% over the same time. While the two are still worlds away, the trends are telling and, among other factors, may portend a bright Texas future in Technology.

Much of this post has focused on the high-tech sector but there are other fields in which enterprising people capitalize on ingenuity, initiative, and creativity. According to the U.S Census Bureau, a small business is defined as an enterprise that employs fewer than 500 people. Overall, between 1989 and 2011, the U.S suffered a net loss of 45,243 such institutions. California contributed to this national loss with a loss of 2,223 enterprises of its own. Texas bucked the gloomy trend and managed to add 309 small businesses over the same period. There is certainly more research to be done on theses facts and figures.

The Lone Star Model Part I: The Rise of Public-Private Infrastructure

The Texas M.O. is largely characterized by private-sector involvement in roles normally associated with government. In Texas, the private sector and government engage with each other on a wide variety of projects. There are two spheres in which this collaboration is most evident: education and infrastructure. The private and public sectors have a longer and more established relationship working on infrastructure projects that on education initiatives.                     Some of the most ambitious projects in this fast-growing mega-state of over 26 million people underway today are a direct outgrowth of this public-private cooperation. Yes, this phenomenon is important because it is a growing trend across the United States, in regions of all ideological stripes .                                                                                                                                           The Texas Legislature legally and officially recognized Public-Private Partnerships (3Ps) on September 1, 2011 with the passage of S.B. 1048Public and Private Facilities and Infrastructure Act. In that document, the Texas Facilities Commission defines a public-private partnership as:

 A public-private partnership is a contractual agreement between a public agency (federal, state or local) and a private sector person or entity organized for the purpose of timely delivering services or facilities in a cost-effective manner that might not otherwise be possible using traditional sources of public financing.                                                                                

      The law makes clear what types of projects are suitable for a 3P, the guidelines for submitting those proposals, and the criteria on which the Texas Facilities Commission will evaluate said proposals.                                                                                                                                       When most people read “Public-Private Projects” as it relates to infrastructure, images of toll roads come to mind. It is important to point out that according to TxDOT, no existing public road will be converted to a toll road without voter approval. TxDOT makes clear, however, that existing roads may add new capacity in the form of toll lanes.                                                                      This is precisely what is being done with the LBJ Express Project. For those unfamiliar with the LBJ corridor, it’s a major corridor for intranational and international trucking and it serves as a major artery for Dallas area commuters and residents. This road is aged and new capacity is badly needed. Instead of resorting to the usual “raise taxes on the average citizen” routine to add more capacity, Cintra (a Spanish company) was contracted to build and manage elevated toll lanes. The rates for the tolls will be set according to a flexible, congestion pricing model in which the toll reflects the demand during the time of day. Tolls will be highest during rush hour and lowest during non-peak hours. Additionally, the frontage roads of LBJ will be widened and continuous. All told, the project will upgrade LBJ’s capacity from the 180,000 vehicles/day it was originally designed to support to the 500,000 vehicles/day expected by 2020, an upgrade from t. The best part of all is that taxpayers won’t be on the hook for the project.                                                Other major freeways adding managed lanes include: SH 183, North Tarrant Express (NTE),  and SH 130. While the full results of these projects remain to be seen, they show great promise in providing users with safe, efficient, and affordable means of travel on Texas highways.                                                                                                                                                                  Besides constructing toll roads, the private sector is finding other ways to get involved with Texas’ roads. In a recent pilot project in Houston, TxDOT had private companies bid for a maintenance contract. In the end, taxpayers saved $10 million on upkeep and maintenance of portions of I-35 and I-45 when a private firm did the work instead of TxDOT.                                            SpaceX, the brainchild of tech-entrepreneur Elon Musk, recently announced that it would build a private launch site at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. In September, construction on the facility began and the public learned more about the financing of the project. As it turns out, SpaceX will receive an additional $2.3 million from the Texas Entrepreneur Fund and $13 million from a local development corporation. It seems Texas is taking PPPs out of this world (*insert chuckle).                                                                                                                                                                    A perennially troubled undertaking in Texas is the development of commuter rail between its large metropolitan areas. The feasibility of such projects is questionable, but I will not get into that now. Currently, the Japanese company that built the highly-successful Shinkansen network of bullet trains is working with Texas Central Railway to develop plans for a high-speed train connecting Houston and Dallas. It will certainly be interesting to see what becomes of the project.                                                                                                                                                                      One thing is for sure, transportation infrastructure in the State of Texas is undergoing an important transformation led by private-sector innovations in the way people get around. Maybe the rest of the nation should take note.

Red State vs. Blue State Round: Poverty

What I find most enlightening about the Red State – Blue State comparisons is that it gives us a chance to break down certain stereotypes and examine policies that actually work. In this post, I want to examine the wildly varying levels of poverty between red and blue states and the skewed media presentation of this phenomenon.                                                                                         If you were to look online for poverty rates by state you would probably find something like this from the U.S Census Bureau. In that report, you find California with an official poverty rate of 16.3% , averaged over the three years from 2009-2011. You would find California’s oft-mentioned archnemesis, Texas with an official poverty rate of 17.8%.                                                       In that same report, however, is a relatively new poverty statistic, Supplemental Poverty Measure(SPM). The SPM is a poverty rate that considers the amount of money people make in a given area and then accounts for changes in real purchasing power by adjusting for income taxes, varying cost of living, and government benefits.                                                                                 So a family that makes a nominal income that would be considered below the official poverty line might actually be living above the poverty line when considering things like TANF benefits, Social Security checks, and housing subsidies. On the other hand, a family that earns a nominal income above the official poverty line may actually live in poverty when considering Federal Income Taxes, MOOP(Medical Out-of-Pocket expenses), and FICA.                                               While certainly not perfect, the Supplemental Poverty Measure provides a much more complete and accurate portrait of poverty in the U.S.A. What’s more, the SPM accounts for the differential in cost-of-living, government benefits, and taxes from state to state. Going back to our California versus Texas comparison, when using the SPM as our criterion, California comes out with a whopping 23.5% poverty rate while Texas enjoys a cool 16.5%.                                               In general, red states fared favorably under the Supplemental Poverty Measure while blue states put up sobering numbers. If you look at the ten biggest states by population( California, Texas, New York, Florida,  Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, and North Carolina), three can be classified as “red” (TX, GA, and NC), three can be classified as “blue” (CA, NY, and IL), and four can be classified as “purple” (OH, PA, MI, and FL). Listed below is the SPM rates for each state stacked up against each other:

TX-16.5%      FL-19.5%      CA-23.5%                                                                                                             GA-19.0%     PA-11.5%     NY-17.8%                                                                                                             NC-13.8%     OH-12.6%    IL-15.0%                                                                                                                                        MI-13.5%                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       While red states don’t all have lower supplemental poverty rates than all blue and purple states, it should be telling that a state like Texas with its large population of undocumented immigrants and historical disadvantages in terms of wealth has a poverty rate lower than glamorous New York and California. There are, of course, more than ten states in our nation, so there are many more comparisons of Supplemental Poverty Rates that can and should be made among red, blue, and purple states.                                                                                                                   The great thing about the Supplemental Poverty Measure is that it challenges our perception of the distribution of poverty in our nation and provides us with a much more accurate reflection of reality. Of course, this debate can’t be settled by a simple discussion of one metric of a state’s success. There is much more to this debate that will be discussed in future posts, so please, stay tuned.

Red State vs. Blue State Introduction

                                                The classic Red State-Blue State Dichotomy is a perennial debate that tells of the “Tale of Two Americas.” The debate centers on which of the two  public policy mantras offers a better path to prosperity, quality of life, and the American Dream. On the one hand is the low-regulation, non-interventionist “Red States” which are characterized by their taste for Republican politics. On the other hand is the pro-regulation, statist, centrally-planned “Blue States” which are marked by their strong lean towards Democratic politics.                                             Blue states are marked by their high-taxes, highly-regulated business environment, big government, ecological consciousness, sensitivity to identity politics, and welfare-state capitalist tendencies. On the other hand, Red states are distinguished by their emphasis on low taxes, scant regulatory environment, personal liberty agenda, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude, and praise of traditional values.                                                                                                                         As you can tell, the debate is tainted by a certain degree of cultural preference which makes this dialogue particularly personal and emotionally-charged. There is a certain attachment that people feel and have always felt to their little slice of America. When contests such as the Red State-Blue State comparisons arise, people on both sides become defensive and adamantly supportive of their version of America.                                                                                                             Like many things in life, this public policy debate is neither black nor white but many, varying shades of gray. As is the case in our wildly polarized modern America, there is a burgeoning middle path known as the “Purple States.” There are also very many issues up for discussion here that cover the realms of social and monetary policy. Included but not limited to this debate are issues related to gun control, right-to-life issues, business regulations, public education, healthcare, law enforcement tactics, welfare programs, labor regulations, gay marriage, drug legalization, and taxation.  At the heart of this debate is the proper role of government as it relates to the lives of private citizens. Specifically, the debate focuses on what types of policy the government has a right to intervene in and how much the government should intervene in those policy areas.                                                                                                                                                 Following Louis Brandeis’ Laboratories of Democracy Theory, there is no one “Red State Model” or “Blue State Model” rather, there are a number of unique experiments in American democracy that can be classified as Red or Blue. Every state is unique in its policies and cultural predilections, yielding different results. This experimentation is healthy and necessary for a large, diverse republic such as the United States to thrive and survive. The hope is that what works for different states will be applied to the nation as a whole and benefit the entire nation-state.                                                                                                                                                                       I will make no qualms about my own preference for the Red State Model. I believe the future belongs to states that follow this general governing philosophy and I think the data validates this opinion. I think the momentum is with the Red States of America. I welcome and encourage divergent opinions voiced respectfully and absent of ad hominem attacks. I plan on backing up my position in future posts using actual data. Please, join me in this discussion and let’s speak openly and honestly about solutions to the problems facing our nation.