Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why Are Democrats Richer than Republicans?

Tom Kando

...And here is another thing: On average, Republicans are poorer than Democrats! Just go figure. When it comes to economics, it should be pretty simple. There are two basic political attitudes, and you would expect them to correlate with how rich a person is: you would expect both the rich and the poor to vote their pocketbook. The rich would vote for lower taxes and for the government to butt out, i.e. Republican, conservative. The poor would vote for more re-distribution of wealth, more government services, i.e. Democratic, liberal. But, lo and behold, it’s the opposite! Even though there is a lot of overlap, the statistics are clear: The average income of the 100 million or so Republicans is LOWER than that of the 150 million or so Democrats!

This oddity can be explained, of course. The first thing we should understand is the enormous regional variation in democratic and republican support. There are red states and there are blue states. And as it so happens, “blue America,” (E.g the East Coast and my beloved Left Coast) is more urban and richer than “red America,” and it is also way more liberal. And as we all know, the Deep South has become the bastion of Republicanism. And of course the Deep South is the country’s poorest region. The other red states are mostly in the Rocky Mountains and in the Midwest - again, rural, poor, and culturally conservative. So at the aggregate level, richer states are more democratic and poorer states are more republican.

In an article titled, “Rich state, poor state, red state, blue state,” (Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Sept. 2007), Andrew Gelman Reconcile the facts I just mentioned with our common-sense expectation that poorer folks should be voting Democratic: Indeed, within states, that is precisely what happens. Furthermore, the authors write, the “slope (statistical jargon for “relationship”) is steepest in poor, rural areas. That is, in poor rural areas, the poor are much more likely to vote for the Republican candidate.” In other words, the authors, write, “income matters more in “red America” than in “blue America...For example, in rich states such as Connecticut, income has a very low correlation with vote preference.”

But I get back to my starting point: Overall, it is America’s poor who elect people like George W. Bush, and America’s (somewhat) rich(er) who elect people like Obama. And we just saw one reason for this: the poorest regions are also those that are the most conservative - culturally (red states).

In addition, consider the following factors:
1. Education: Those with a college education are more liberal than those without.
2. The stars of popular culture (Hollywood, pro athletes) are both rich and liberal.
3. Public employees at the managerial level, politicians, lawyers, all make good money, and of course they are overwhemingly Democrats (think of Marxist university presidents making over a million a year).
4. Brainwashing: Republicans, the media and other opinion leaders have been able to divert people’s attention away from economics and towards cultural issues - abortion, gay issues, religion, flag waiving, race, etc. Smokescreens, you might say. Come to think of it, this is related to #1: It’s easier to brainwash dumb and uneducated people.

So here you have it: At the local level, Americans may vote their pocket book interests, but as a nation, they frequently do the opposite. As a result, it’s the little old flag-waiving ladies in tennis shoes who live on $20,000 a year, who help Wall Street to perpetuate the plutocracy which is so unfair to them. Isn’t this aggravating?
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