Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Dumbass Belt

I’m sure you've all heard of the bible belt, the rust belt, and the sun belt. These refer, of course, to certain regions of the country that are often connected culturally, ideologically, and, often enough, geographically. Today, however, I’d like to introduce you to another “belt” the girds this great nation of ours. I call it “The Dumbass Belt”*
This term refers to that string of six states that stretches right down the middle of the country geographically, from the Canadian to the Mexican border. These states are, from North to south, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.
*(I toyed with calling it something a little bit more polite, but sometimes you have to tell it like it is!)

(NOTE: I apologize in advance to anyone reading this who lives in one of those six states. Obviously, if you're reading my blog, you're probably not a dumbass! That, or you're just a glutton for punishment. More on that later.)
Since the election of 1980, these states have voted almost exclusively for Republican candidates for President. The only slight exception was in the 2008 election, when, due to Nebraska’s method of determining its electoral vote distribution by Congressional district, a single electoral vote was awarded to then-candidate Barack Obama. The last time one of these states went to a Democrat was in 1976, when Jimmy Carter won Texas. This, of course, was before the Total Republican Takeover of Texas.
These states, with their 62 electoral votes, represent nearly one quarter of the total needed to ensure victory in a Presidential election. And they are states that are all but guaranteed to vote Republican. HEAVILY Republican. 6 states that any Republican Presidential candidate can almost completely ignore and yet still be assured of getting their vote.
An aside: I realize a similar argument can be made on the Democratic side for California and New York, but, unlike the 6 states in the D.B., those 2 states do occasionally switch sides.
So why do I call this the Dumbass Belt? It’s for one simple reason: The majority of the population of each these states, in every Presidential election, votes for the one party whose entire agenda is completely and totally against their political, economical, and, cultural interests. There’s only one way to describe this type of behavior: D.U.M.B.
Let’s start with the economics: With the obvious exception of Texas, not one of these states ranks in the top 25 in terms of percentage of U.S. GDP. The closest one of them gets to it is Oklahoma, which ranks at #29. (Based on 2010 figures). Two of the 5 other non-Texas states, North and South Dakota, rank at #50 and #47 respectively. Puerto Rico contributes as much to the National GDP as those two states combined.
And yet, in terms of federal funding received per state per tax dollar paid, both North and South Dakota receive nearly twice as much federal spending as they contribute in federal taxes (Based on 2009 figures). In fact, of the six states of the D.B., only Texas and Nebraska contribute more to the federal coffers than they receive in federal funding. (Texas, by the way, the state with the country’s second largest economy, still receives 92 cents in federal funding for every tax dollar it contributes. The same state, by the way, where 25% of the population has no health insurance and where one in five of its citizens live below the federal poverty line.)
In other words, these are six states that need every possible federal dollar they can get their hands on, and yet they consistently vote in favor of a party that wants to cut federal spending to the barest minimum. And then cut it even farther than that. Once again, DUMB!
These states also claim to believe in so-called “traditional values”, such as outlawing abortion and banning gay marriage. And yet, during the six years from 2001 – 2007, when Republicans, for all practical purposes, controlled all 3 branches of the government, not once was a bill introduced outlawing all abortion, nor was their ever a constitutional amendment proposed defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The reasons for this vary somewhat, but the main reason is that Republicans don't want these issues to go away! They are part of the reason they receive the knee-jerk votes of Republicans in these states.
So why do these states keep voting the way they do? One possible explanation, put forth by many before me, is the “battered person syndrome” theory. Perhaps the voters in these states, due to a long period of, at best, neglect, and, at worst, continuous abuse at the hands of Republicans, do not know how to behave any other way. This happens all the time in long-term relationships (I’d say a period of over 30 years is definitely a long-term relationship) where one person controls another through a regimen of systemic physical and psychological abuse followed by brief periods of contrition and begging forgiveness while at the same time blaming the victim for the abuse.
I don’t buy this, though. I think there’s a much more simple explanation: These voters are idiots. They’re just too stupid to realize just how much the modern Republican Party is conning them. Hence, the Dumbass Belt.
This may be changing, though. The population of the state of Texas is becoming younger, and, more importantly, more diverse. This does not bode well for Republicans in the future, who are consistently losing the votes of ethnic groups in every election. When and if Texas switches from Red to Blue, and Texans start seeing some return from the Federal government on all the tax dollars they are sending to it, the other states in the D.B. might just learn from Texas’ example. In other words, they just might learn to vote for a party that actually gives a crap about them.
It's a long shot, I know. But a man can dream.

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