"There's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America," Barack Obama said at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. That may or may not have been true at the time, but since entering the White House, he's helped to make the division a little more real. In a fascinating story Wednesday, Reuters asked John Hudak, an expert at the Brookings Institution, to look at how discretionary federal spending had been directed to states since 2009—that is, since the recession, but also since Obama came into office. As one would expect, spending is down, but the effects haven't been uniform. In red states, spending is down 40 percent on average, while blue states and essential swing states (hi, Ohio!) have seen much milder declines, closer to 25 percent.
As Washington has tightened its belt in recent years, the budget cuts have sliced most deeply in states where President Obama is unpopular, according to an analysis of federal spending by Reuters. Between the 2009 and 2013 fiscal years, funding for a wide swath of discretionary grant programs, from Head Start preschool education to anti drug initiatives, fell by an average of 40 percent in Republican-leaning states like Texas and Mississippi. By contrast, funding to Democratic-leaning states such as California and politically competitive swing states like Ohio dropped by 25 percent.
One of the most hilarious talking points coming from far-right Republicans and the Tea Party is that when “red states” like Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana are asked to bail out California or Massachusetts, that’s when they will finally become “fed up with socialism” and secede from the Union once and for all. The problem with that meme is that it has no basis in reality: the more prosperous and Democrat-leaning areas of the United States are likely to be subsidizing dysfunctional “red states,” many of which are suffering from insufficient tax revenue and an abundance of low-wage workers who don’t have much to tax.