Is It Something In The Water—Or Is It Politics?

Ed Raymond

Recent surveys on two different subjects that ended up with basically the same answer aroused my curiosity.  One survey shows that “red” states governed by Republicans had much higher traffic fatality rates than “blue” states governed by Democrats. This survey uses 2010 federal statistics. The other survey done by Gallup and Healthways in 2012 studies emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior, work environment, and basic access to food, housing, and healthcare in all the states. This survey measures the happiness and sadness present in human beings and is called the Well-Being Index. Again, the lowest ranking states are red states, generally in the Midwest and in Appalachia. What’s the reason? Is it something in the water? Is it heredity? Something in the school curriculum? Do red state residents eat or inhale too much lead at rifle ranges?

   Traffic fatalities were measured by the number of deaths per 100,000 . Out of the top 25, ten red states led the survey at the top, and only four blue states made the top 25: New Mexico (11), Florida (19), Iowa (21), and Maine (22).  The five most deadly states were in this order: Wyoming, Mississippi, Arkansas, Montana, and Alabama. North Dakota was 14th. (In this survey red states voted for Mitt Romney, blue states voted for President Barack Obama.) Out of the bottom 26 with the lowest fatality rates, only three red states were listed: Nebraska (29, Utah (39), and Alaska (42).  The states with the lowest rate per 100,000 were in this order: Minnesota, California, Illinois, Washington, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia. Wyoming had 27.46 deaths per 100,000 while D.C. led the country with only 3.97.
  We killed 32,000 in traffic crashes in 2010. There are several reasons cited by researchers for the poor record of red states: (1) blue states have much tougher traffic laws, (2) red states have poorer trauma centers and medical care, (3) rural red states have more narrow, winding roads in poor repair, (4) blue states have much tougher DWI laws.  Just look at red state North Dakotans argue about DWI laws. I guess the legislature wants to protect the freedom to binge-drink!

Which States Were The Least Happy And The Least Healthy?

   Again, red states had the worst record in the Well-Being Index, led by West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. This survey is broken down in quintiles (20 percent groups). In Quintile One we have the happiest, healthiest states: Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire, and Utah. Quintile Two lists North and South Dakota, Wyoming, California, Hawaii, Washington, Wisconsin, and Maryland. In the “median” or Third Quintile are Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, and Maine.
 In Quintile Four are Florida, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Michigan, Delaware, Missouri, Nevada, and Alaska. In the least happy and healthy Quintile Five we have Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Ohio. The Healthways researchers indicated that the Quintile Five states have poor access to healthy food and good healthcare because of economic reasons. The Appalachian Trail is another trail of tears, influenced by snake-handling religions and poverty. Residents cannot be happy if they are deficient in physical and emotional heath. Every state in Quintiles Four and Five is governed by a Republican governor and legislator.

O’Connor: “It’s My Party That’s Destroying The Country”

   Although Sandra Day O’Connor was an Arizona Republican appointed by Ronald Reagan to the U.S. Supreme Court, in my view she made only one really disastrous mistake in all of her votes on the Court. That was the one that put the playboy ne’er-do-well-at-anything George W. Bush in the Oval Office. She usually played the middle-of-the-road politician in making judicial decisions, whether on abortion, affirmative action, or other monumental decisions made about cases involving race or sex. She had “humanity.” Shelater recognized she had made a serious mistake in voting affirmatively in Bush vs. Gore. I have always thought the election was between two pompous asses–-one that knew something and one that knew nothing. Take a guess.

  CNN’s legal beagle Jeffrey Toobin in his book about the Supreme Court “The Oath” has some fascinating statements made by O’Connor as she prepared to resign from the Court to take care of her Alzheimered husband. He wrote: “O’Connor had voted with the majority in Bush vs. Gore, but she came to regard the presidency that she and her colleagues had delivered to the country as a disaster.” She explained to David Souter: “What makes this harder is that it’s my party that’s destroying the country....He’s destroying the military with adventures that we aren’t prepared for. We’ve got colossal deficit spending, and the only way he got reelected was by getting states to vote on same-sex marriage. I thought Republicans stood for a strong military, a balanced budget—and Barry Goldwater never gave a damn who you slept with. Bush repudiated all of that.” A remarkable admission from a remarkable woman.

A Reminder To Heidi Heitkamp: You Are A United States Senator Acting For A Country With 316 Million People, Not Just 700,000 In North Dakota

   The United States Senate is becoming one of the least democratic legislative bodies in the civilized world. Senators Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven of North Dakota represent about 700,000 people. Actually, more people than that ride the New York City subway every day. You shouldn’t vote on how issues affect the entire state of North Dakota as opposed to just 700,000 people who happen to ride the subway. You must examine how the issue affects the entire country and the entire state of New York instead of one of the smallest states in the Union. Sure, you should protect in general the parochial interests of North Dakotans, but it is absolutely essential you also protect the national interest of the United States at the same time. That’s why you have “United States Senator” before your name.
   On the background check opposed by the gun lobby you have said you were “debating the state’s needs. I’m listening to North Dakota voices.” Later you voted “NO” and said the law would place “undue burdens on law-abiding North Dakotans.”   Oh! The tremendous burden of a five-minute call to buy a gun!  People in Connecticut, Colorado, and 10,000 other places carried heavy caskets and heavy gurneys of the 100,000  murdered and wounded each year by firearms-–and you were worried about the heavy burden of a phone call?  On this issue you should be listening to the voices of the people of the United States. If you can’t be swayed by 20 innocent first graders chopped to humanburger by a Bushmaster firing 254 bullets in a few seconds...Why did you run as a Democrat if you are going to vote for the NRA, the gun lobby, and Republican? What about 90 percent don’t you understand? Hoeven is a moderate Republican scared s-–tless and witless by 19th Century thinking of the Tea Party. That’s simply a profile in cowardice. You didn’t have to join him.
 A recent picture of a retired policeman examining an AK-47 with a 75-round “banana” magazine at a Pennsylvania “don’t background check, don’t telephone” gun show has a completely different meaning to a resident of Gackle, Grassy Butte, or Lisbon as compared to a resident of Watts in Los Angeles. A few illegals working the restaurants in the oilfields means something entirely different to unemployed Texas citizens watching 400,000 illegals working their construction jobs in Texas, many working for half of the minimum wage. U.S. senators have to take both situations into some account.
 No doubt the power of smaller states, usually dominated by less-educated rural and conservative constituents, has increased exponentially because of the intransigence of Tea Party influences. California with 38 million people has as many people as the 22 smallest states. But California has only two senators in a senate now controlled by filibusters  sponsored by some of the 44 senators representing the 22 smallest states.

A Comparison Of Blue Fresno, California And Red Wyoming

   Senators from many small Republican states are consistently blocking legislation sponsored by senators from fewer large Democratic states. People who vote Democratic live in states such as California, New York, Illinois, Florida, and other larger states, while Republicans live in smaller states such as Alaska, North and South Dakota, and the Dick Cheney citadel of Wyoming. An interesting fact out of the 2012 election: President Obama carried states with a total population of 202.5 million, while “conservative” Republican Mitt Romney carried states with only 113.5 million. Small states, dominated by Republicans, conservatives, and Tea Partiers, receive a disproportionate amount of federal welfare than larger blue states. The five smallest states, all Republican, received more federal welfare per capita than any other group, surviving on the tax largesse of large Democratic states. So much for job growth, conservative policies, and personal initiative, and family values.
 A comparison of Fresno, California and the state of Wyoming is instructive. Each with about 500,000 in population, they could be millions of miles apart on separate planets. Wyoming is agricultural with five percent unemployment. Not only does Wyoming receive almost double the federal welfare than Fresno, it has much more say over any federal policy. All groups in Fresno supported a guest worker policy because of its large Hispanic population, but the bill perished in the Senate with a “no” vote and a filibuster by Wyoming Republican senators. Effect on immigration in Casper? Probably none. Forty-one senators representing a third of the population have frequently blocked legislation that would have helped areas with 213 million people! Does majority rule or not?
Why Do Almost 100 Million People Live
In Seven States With The Highest Taxes?

   When a legislature or governor discusses raising taxes on corporations or individuals, they always have some greedy millionaire or billionaire threaten to move his shekels, business, or corporation to a low-tax state. My response is: Please do! If the Almighty Dollar you worship dominates your life—move on. We don’t need money-loving psychopaths collecting all the beans in the world.  A famous Wyoming trial lawyer named Jerry Spence wrote a revealing essay about a billionaire who bought all the canned beans in the world and surrounded them with barbed wire and armed guards. That effort didn’t make the billionaire any happier. The essay is instructive.
  Minnesota, the high quality-state that former Governor “Toolittle” Pawlenty desperately tried to turn into Mississota, is the home for 21 Fortune 500 companies. Our neighbors, North and South Dakota, do not harbor a single one. Why? Because Minnesota has a higher quality of life. It actually buys books for libraries, supports education better than its neighbors, has better roads and bridges (except for the one Pawlenty wouldn’t repair), and has health insurance programs for poor adults and poverty-stricken children. It even spends money on cultural activities such as operas, plays, and symphonies. Does a billionaire really want his family to live in Mobridge or Pierre or Dickinson or Mayville instead of Minnetonka or Lakeville?
   Why do a 100 million, of us decide to live in the seven states with the highest taxes? They have rejected 43 others. Having traveled through 49 of the 50 states by motorhome (Hawaii by air!), Corky and I have seen a lot of the United States. There are some states we would live in for very short periods–but not for long.  The high-tax states chosen by a third of our population are all blue: Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. I wouldn’t want to live in any of the Old Confederate states. The Southern states are generally grimy and covered with  garbage. The only thing Southern men pick up are promiscuous cousins. And the politics are primeval. Washington,  Oregon and New England are OK. Arizona is a political disaster–amusing only if you don’t live there.