I finally purchased Paul Krugman’s book, The Great Unraveling, after I found out that it had come out in paperback a few weeks ago. I started to buy it in hardback a couple of times, but the cheapskate got the best of me. The paperback includes a new introduction and nearly 100 pages of new material. I haven’t gotten to the new material yet, but the book is astoundingly good. It shines a lot of light into some very dark places.
The most startling thing about the book is the way that the collected columns make it clear that Emperor Bush is not wearing any clothes. His policies are downright illogical, almost without exception. And they almost never address the actual problems they claim to be trying to solve:
A slump in the economy was an opportunity to push a tax cut that provided very little stimulus in the short run, but will place huge demands on the budget in 2010. An electricity shortage in California was an opportunity to push for drilling in Alaska, which would have produced no electricity and hardly any oil until 2013 or so. An attack by lightly armed terrorist infiltrators was an opportunity to push for lots of heavy weapons and a missile defense system, just in case Al Qaeda makes a frontal assault with tank divisions or fires an ICBM next time.
One of the things that Phil Agre said in the piece I linked to last week was that (I’m paraphrasing) liberal parts of the country were more economically successful than conservative parts of the country. Agre made this statement more-or-less without proof, and I found it difficult to believe. After all, aren’t the “red states” full of self-sufficient country folk and cowboys? Don’t conservatives abhor transfer payments? And aren’t those big cities in the evil, evil Northeast full of welfare queens? Apparently not. In a column in 2002, Krugman pulls together statistics showing that the federal government spends much more in the “red states” than they pay in taxes. That is, blue America subsidizes red America to the tune of $90 billion dollars per year. (Think farm subsidies and giant highway projects leading to nowhere.) Now, to be fair, the main comparison Krugman makes is between rural and urban America — the “red states” were just a convenient way to define “rural” for his purposes. And he mentions that the same comparison applies if you look at rural as compared to metropolitan areas within the red states. Krugman also points to a political reality underlying this discrepancy: rural states have more Congressional and Electoral seats per capita than urban states, so it makes sense for politicians of both parties to pander to those states. Nevertheless, I thought it was interesting to see a statistic which tended to support Agre’s assertion.
Oh, and by the way, divorce rates, murder rates, and the proportion of babies born to unwed mothers are higher in red states, too. So much for those conservative values…