Commentary | Ted Nugent and Rush supporting the 47 percent comment have made it popular to attach blame to the welfare-receiving poor as the primary reason for why Obama won re-election. More recently, it has been suggested that, by looking at a state-level aggregation of the data, Republican-leaning states are taking more than they are making.
I will look at these claims individually, but first let me get one thing out of the way: Ted Nugent is wrong. Rush Limbaugh is wrong. When considering the data for why Romney lost, the one fact that jumps out at me is that Republicans simply were not voting. According to Rasmussen Reports, 37.6 percent of the US population considered themselves Republican while 33.3 percent were Democrat. Yet six percent Democrats more than Republicans voted. So, quite frankly, the only people Republicans have to blame are themselves.
The theme of Republican-leaning states being moochers apparently began with Paul Krugman at the New York Times. First, I have to say that, based upon personal experience, the true party-hardy moocher does not care enough to vote. But that party lifestyle does not characterize all welfare recipients. Not exactly hard data, so we will look at what some have termed the “Gelman paradox,” which finds its roots in Andrew Gelman’s book Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do.
Gelman shows that, while rich states lean Democratic, rich people generally vote Republican. The further paradox is that while poor states lean Republican, poor people generally vote Democratic. Gelman found this trend goes to even the county level. If you aggregate the data at the state level, this leads to charts that purportedly “prove” that Republicans are the poor voting against what would benefit them. I’ll point you to Kim’s article for that chart.
The next data point is to consider the individual voter, which the 2004 to 2007 Maxwell Poll has already done for us. We see that 60 to 80 percent of welfare recipients are Democrats, while full time workers are evenly divided between parties. Republicans were less than 25 percent of welfare recipients when it comes to government subsidized housing (12 percent), Medicaid (16 percent), food stamps (20 percent), unemployment compensation (21 percent), welfare (22 percent), and disability benefits (25 percent).
This is not an anomaly from further back in time. The year 2011 features similar results from a NPR poll. If you turn to page 31, NPR asked about party affiliation. If you consider the Long Term Unemployed (LTU), 42 percent responded Democrat and only 16 percent Republican. The Long-Term Underemployed also features similar political leanings. Aggregated, all answers amount for 72 percent who are poor supporters for the Democratic Party (no pun intended).
On an individual basis, the data leads me to conclude that people who receive welfare disproportionately support the Democratic Party. Yet the “poor” states are obviously Republican-leaning, but that’s only on the basis of how much the overall population of these states are making in relation to what they are taking in government assistance.
My personal hypothesis for why this might be is that federal tax brackets are uniform per state despite the cost of living index, and also the average income, being quite different among states. The 2012 Federal poverty guideline is $15,130 for two people. For many in Florida this income is livable, except if you are near Orlando, Tampa, or Miami. (Or if you’re living beyond your means, but that’s another story…) Even so, many Floridians don’t pay federal income taxes because of uniform tax brackets and deductions. As a personal example, I’m about to refinance my house and my monthly mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance, will be less than $400.
So Democratic-leaning rich states have big cities. Big cities, even in Republican-leaning states, seem to attract Democrats. A quick Google search shows that a “New Yorker would have to make $123,322 a year to have the same standard of living as someone making $50,000 in Houston.” And Houston is considerably more expensive than Orlando, Florida. So it could be said that a New Yorker who is barely scraping by is paying more taxes than their fair share. Technically, many of my neighbors could be considered “in poverty” but not all require welfare to survive due to the much lower cost of living and taxation. But as you move to the big cities the cost of living rises while the income may not compensate. Thus the technical poor suddenly become the true poor who require welfare.
Instead of blaming political parties I largely consider worldwide globalization to be the major culprit. We are experiencing an economical shift silently at work which rivals the likes of the industrial revolution. But both political parties can be blamed for not knowing how to respond to these changes. To finish, in regards to making these types of comparisons, the “makers” are those who are being taxed the most. The “takers” are those stuck in a rut due to income not compensating for the higher cost of living. I would rather the government and the makers encourage takers to become makers, and not the other way around.