Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Counterintuitive Politics of Poverty in Virginia

The New York Times ran a story about the geography of the receipt of government payments in the country.  It includes Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Income Support (food stamps, disability, EITC), Veterans Benefits, and Unemployment Insurance. 

You can see the interactive chart here.  The accompanying NYT article is here.

I zoomed the overall government benefits charts of Virginia for kicks, ran it from 1969 to 2009, and then pieced the pictures together so we could see them together for comparative purposes.  If you click on the picture at the right, it will blow up so you can see it more easily. 

If you're really curious, you can click on individual charts an isolate Social Secuirty, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. by jurisdiction.

As a preface, let me say that it drives me crazy when people lump all of Fairfax County together as one jurisdiction.  Fairfax County is now larger than eight states.  Looking at the County as a whole always masks the issues in my district and it is really frustrating when this kind of information goes out.  The same thing is true for Prince William County which has its pockets of have's and have not's notwithstanding its relative wealth overall. 

For example, I was recently given data by the state that said 15% of my constituents are receiving Medicaid.  Delegate Kory's district (near Bailey's Crossroads) is at 15%.  The rest of Fairfax County is between 3% and 10%.

In terms of Virginia, there are probably different trends at work. Looking at the individual charts, the drivers are mainly increased percentages of Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Insurance. 

While economic stagnation is definitely causing more poverty, the amount of it is also rising because young people are fleeing these areas.  The last census showed that many parts of Virginia were becoming much older on average because they had no jobs - Southwest & Southside.  A larger percentage of elderly pushes the Medicaid and Social Security percentages up on these charts. 

The fascinating thing about the politics of these issues is that the areas that seem to be the most dependent upon government benefits seem to be the areas that are the most politically hostile to them.  That is the primary thrust of the accompanying New York Times article.  Which said the following:
But Dean P. Lacy, a professor of political science at Dartmouth College, has identified a twist on that theme in American politics over the last generation. Support for Republican candidates, who generally promise to cut government spending, has increased since 1980 in states where the federal government spends more than it collects. The greater the dependence, the greater the support for Republican candidates.  Conversely, states that pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits tend to support Democratic candidates. And Professor Lacy found that the pattern could not be explained by demographics or social issues.
I'm still scratching my head also. Let me know if you have an explantion in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. I suppose it is as they say, 'You hate most in others what you see in yourself.' Dependency is a complicated word in our society.