Politics – A Fun Thought Exercise In Running Government Like a Business

A common theme in Republican circles is to run government like a business. Now, this should actually be extremely troubling to Republicans, for the precise reason that businesses exist to make a profit. That’s their job. That is generally why you start a business. In fact, one can argue that what the teabaggers and the GOP are protesting against is, in fact, what they claim they want: to run government like a business.

But doing this illustrates some other faults and problems which are profoundly interesting and worth looking into: why the GOP spends so damn much, why the Deep South has zero right to be outraged over high taxes, and a few absolutely brutal ways to make a lot of money.

Let’s start by looking at who’s profitable and who’s not. For that, we’ll use the data gathered by the Tax Foundation about who gave what to the government and how much they got back between 1981 and 2005. Anything under a dollar means that state is profitable. And how many states are profitable?

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida (by a slim margin), Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan (just barely), Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon (barely), Pennsylvania, Texas (by the closest one-to-one margin on this list), Washington, and Wisconsin.

These eighteen states keep the lights on and pay the bills, as much as they can. And notice the theme here: they have major boom industries and have major urban centers within their state lines. Biotech, IT, health care, the financial industry, and others occupy these states, in addition to New York City, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Las Vegas, Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Los Angeles…in short, this list contains most of the cities of industry and all of the cities of services. In fact, the only baffler here are Wisconsin and New Hampshire; I’m assuming the former is just too nice not to pay higher rates and the latter, from what I know of it, is just too damn stubborn to take the money.

Anyway, these are our profit centers. They’re the ones making money.

Rhode Island sits, all alone, in exact parity: for every dollar they spend, they get a dollar in federal services.

How many aren’t? Let’s see here: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia (although to be fair just barely), Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana (just barely), Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisana (with a recent spike for what should be obvious reasons), Maine, Maryland, Mississippi (which gets twice what it pays out, mind you), Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico (another member of the Twice as Much Club), North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio by a slim margin, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

For those playing the home game, that’s 31 states we’re running at a loss! Thirty one!

Now, if we were running government like a business, the solutions here are obvious: cut spending on these money drains and hike what you’re getting out of them. Since we’re running this as a business, we’re going to be more discriminate in our spending. After all, we don’t want to sink too much money into a failing division.

Needless to say, there are other themes here. Most of these states are rural, agrarian, and, not surprisingly, this list contains all of the most desperately poor parts of America. Equally unsurprisingly, it contains most of the Republican states as well. In fact, aside from a few anomalies, it’s almost a one-to-one ratio of Republican strongholds to Democratic strongholds.

So what can we conclude from all this?

1) The GOP is so damn profligate because that’s what its electorate wants.

Basically, their audience is going to take anything. ANYBODY getting lower taxes sounds good to them, because it’s less money leaving wallets, period. At the same time, of course they’re going to spend heavily on their own districts. A dollar goes a lot further in an area when they’re scarce in terms of visibility.

But at the same time, it’s a trap because this self-same electorate claims, at least, to dislike welfare programs (how much of this is self-hatred is beyond the scope of this writing). So the GOP spends it on the wealthy, and the wealthy spend it on, well, themselves. In the process, some of this gets splashed onto the rest of the people in the area, and they’ll take it, because what other option do they have? Even flipping burgers is going to look good to a guy without a job if his family’s hungry enough. Sure, some fat-cat son of a bitch is basically building a house with your money, but at least you’re getting some of it back in the form of a job (and then taken away from you in terms of taxes, but nobody said this arrangement was fair).

2) By the same token, most of the country has no right whatsoever to bitch about taxes.

You live in those nineteen states, you have a right to complain. But, I’m sorry, remaining thirty-one: you elect politicians to bash the godless liberal states keeping the lights on and generally act like assholes, and then ask them to spend lots of our money on YOU. Basically, you’re crashing on the couch for five bucks a day and complaining that it should be three bucks and demanding caviar for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This probably isn’t intentional, granted, but that’s not exactly making me, or I’d assume anyone reading this in those nineteen states, inclined to be terribly civil or think your opinions on taxes and government spending are worth a damn thing.

This said, I’m of the opinion we’re on something resembling the right track. At least the money is going largely to the poor areas, although whether it’s actually going to the poor (which it isn’t) is another matter entirely.

But this post stands as proof that the way the GOP, and especially the teabaggers, view the system and how the system actually works are pretty much at complete odds.

Unless you want to pay me back my 30%. Then we’ll talk.

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