The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: blue states

Lockdowns Did More Economic Good Than Harm, Data Show

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Republicans have claimed repeatedly that so-called "blue state" lockdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic have destroyed their economies and that red states are enjoying robust recovery. However, a recent study has found that of the five states recovering jobs the most quickly since the beginning of the pandemic, four of them went blue in the 2020 presidential election — and the other is helmed by a Democratic governor.

The study, conducted by Wallet Hub and released on March 25, found that Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire had the most marked decreases in unemployment claims between the beginning of the pandemic to the present, indicating at least some promising recovery for their respective job markets. Of these, three (Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire) went to President Joe Biden in the November presidential election, with a fourth, Maine, giving three of its four electoral college votes to Biden.

The four states implemented strict safety precautions, lockdown measures, and mask mandates at the outset of the pandemic. The sole red state in the top five for job recovery, North Carolina, is helmed by a Democratic governor who also implemented strong safety measures when combating COVID-19.

Maine's Democratic governor, Janet Mills, enforced a mask mandate at the beginning of the pandemic and signed an executive order strengthening the mandate in December. She also implemented a March 15, 2020 Civil State of Emergency, closing bars and restaurants statewide March 18. At the end of May 2020, the state gradually began lifting stay-at-home restrictions.

Minnesota's Democratic Gov. Tim Walz issued a statewide stay-at-home order March 27 and did did not loosen stay-at-home restrictions until May 18. Since July 25, Minnesotans have been required by executive order to wear masks in public spaces outside their homes.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, issued a stay-at-home order in his "blue" state early in the pandemic, and implemented a strict extension of it in late May. The state remains under a statewide mask mandate.

Pennsylvania's Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statewide stay-at-home order March 23, as well as another stay-at-home advisory in November ahead of holiday COVID-19 case spikes. Many state restrictions for businesses and gatherings were only relaxed Sunday. A Pennsylvania mask mandate has remained in effect for the duration of the pandemic, only eased recently for vaccinated individuals.

And although North Carolina is a red state, it's governed by Democrat Roy Cooper, who enacted common-sense lockdowns early in the pandemic. He issued a 30-day stay-at-home order March 27. In the face of soaring COVID-19 cases statewide in early 2021, he also extended a modified stay-at-home order which mandated curfews and shuttered nonessential businesses at 10 p.m. in January, extending it again in March. A mask mandate was implemented early and remains in effect throughout the state in all public indoor settings.

The successes of these states in job recovery undercuts false claims by Republican politicians and right-wing think tanks that a recession exists only in blue states, painting economic recovery during the pandemic as something taking place only in red states.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) slammed the American Rescue Plan on March 10, tweeting, "This bill represents everything wrong with Washington. In Tennessee, we've worked hard to protect both our people and our economy. We should not be bailing out the blue states that failed to do the same."

It also contrasts frequent Republican talking points that suggest lockdowns in blue states caused long-term damage to their economies.

"The science is also clear: Schools can safely open, cases rarely spread outdoors, and pointless lockdowns like California's [closing outdoor dining and playgrounds] are harmful and counterproductive," tweeted Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) in February.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) tweeted on March 16 that it would be illogical to reinstate lockdowns. During the presidential debate in October, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) similarly slammed then-Democratic nomineeJoe Biden for refusing to rule out further lockdowns as a COVID-19 response, claiming they were "hurting our economy and hurting our children."

Experts have said lockdowns actually lead to better outcomes and a swifter economic recovery.

As International Monetary Fund economists Francesco Grigoli and Damiano Sandri wrote in October, "Addressing the health risks appears to be a pre-condition to allow for a strong and sustained economic recovery. Lockdowns impose short-term costs but may lead to a faster economic recovery as they lower infections and thus the extent of voluntary social distancing."

Data has also repeatedly demonstrated that state lockdowns did not cause the economic recession. Rather, it shows that most people were already staying home at around the same rate at the height of the pandemic, hastening the recession — before precautions were even implemented.

Republicans have falsely framed Democrats' COVID relief package passed earlier this year, the American Rescue Plan, as a "blue state bailout," depicting all red-state economies as thriving. But suffering red states saw as much or more of a benefit from the legislation.

According to a third-quarter report from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, of the six states that saw the sharpest drops in state tax revenue, two-thirds of them — Alaska, North Dakota, Florida, and Texas — are traditionally bright red.

A new report by WalletHub Monday made similar findings: that of the six states hardest-hit economically by the pandemic, two-thirds are Republican strongholds.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

While Republicans Vote No, Their States Win Big In Rescue Plan

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

As President Joe Biden signed Democrats' $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill into law Thursday afternoon, Republicans falsely claimed the bill only serves to bail out "blue states" at the expense of "red states" — but the landmark legislation will deliver massive funding and relief to many deep-red states in need during the pandemic.

The American Rescue Plan will send more than $195 billion in aid to all 50 states and Washington, D.C., as well as $130.2 billion in aid to local governments throughout the country, benefiting red and blue states alike. In fact, according to a recent Reuters analysis, traditionally Republican states will receive a slightly disproportionate amount of federal aid from the package as compared to traditionally Democratic states — $3,192 per state resident as opposed to $3,160. And the bill levies no extra taxes on red states.

But on Thursday afternoon, Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) took to social media to criticize the legislation, tweeting, "It's red states like Georgia who will have to bail out the deep blue states who recklessly spent taxpayer $ on irresponsible decisions over the past year. They need to face the consequences of their actions rather than lean on the red states & the stimulus to bail them out!"

This has been a frequent talking point of Republicans, with Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst claiming last week that Iowans shouldn't have to "foot the bill for other states' bad behavior and mismanagement," and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy complaining in mid-February about Democrats seeking "blue-state slush funds." Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) has opposed state and local funding to his own state, hard hit by the pandemic, despite criticism from Florida mayors.

"Biden wants to spend more than $350 billion to bailout wasteful states," Scott said in January. "I've been clear — asking taxpayers to bailout failed politicians in liberal states like New York and Illinois and save them from their own bad decisions isn't fair to fiscally responsible states like Florida."

The accusation of "blue state bailouts" may have originated with Donald Trump early in the pandemic, as he frequently made false claims that blue states merely wanted a government handout at the expense of other states.

Trump tweeted in April, "Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help? I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?"

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, too, sought to block funds to state and local governments in the first COVID-19 relief bill passed last spring, the HEROES Act, claiming the legislation was a "blue state bailout" despite the $7 billion it directed toward his home state of Kentucky. He later touted himself as having providing relief to the citizens of Kentucky — despite his own efforts to fight the legislation.

But despite Republican claims, a third-quarter report from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center found that many red states were harmed by the pandemic. Six states saw the steepest drops in tax revenue (Alaska, North Dakota, Nevada, Florida, Oregon, and Texas), and of these, two-thirds — Alaska, North Dakota, Florida, and Texas — are traditionally Republican strongholds.

These four states in particular suffered economically during the pandemic due to their dependence on tourism and natural resources, both of which saw depletions during lockdown with the collapse of tourism and oil prices.

The report also found that the 22 states that saw economic improvement during the third quarter of the pandemic were a fairly even mix of red and blue states.

Meanwhile, although not a single congressional Republican voted for the historic $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, Biden is planning a trip to visit states all over the country, red and blue alike, to celebrate its passage and the substantial aid it provides to every state.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Trump’s Sociopathic Slur Against ‘Blue States’ Sparks Fury

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In a briefing featuring his galling contradiction of the CDC director's claims about vaccine development, President Donald Trump also made a startlingly callous comment about the deaths of his fellow Americans.

Referring to the COVID-19 death count in the United States, Trump claimed: "If you take the blue states out, we're at a level I don't think anybody in the world would be at."

It was yet more evidence that Trump isn't concerned about the deaths of his political opponents, and that he's incapable of feeling true empathy for those who have been affected by the virus. He only cares about boosting his own ego and personal standing, so he twists the numbers around however he thinks will reflect best on him.

Read Now Show less

Trump Maligns ‘Bad States And Bad Cities’ Governed By Democrats

Donald Trump on Monday described states with Democratic governors as "very bad states."

During a meeting with tech workers at the White House, during which Trump signed an executive order on hiring "American," Trump claimed that Democrats had run "some very bad states" and "very bad cities," adding that he didn't want to reward any of them with relief funding for supposedly "doing a bad job" on their coronavirus response.

Cases have spiked in a number of states, including those run by Republicans, in recent weeks.

Read Now Show less

Do Republicans Really Have Happier Marriages? Probably Not

Widespread gloating erupted on the right last week when a paper by sociologists Brad Wilcox of the University of Virginia and Nicholas Wolfinger of the University of Utah showed that Republicans say they have happier marriages than Democrats. Predictably, that study richocheted around the Internet — but other researchers are raising hard questions about its validity,

Doubts arise because more extensive and reliable data have consistently showed that couples living in red states tend to have higher divorce rates than those in blue states  – and higher divorce rates, of course, indicate fewer, not more, happy marriages.

David Leonhardt’s conclusion in The Upshot, based on Wilcox and Wolfinger’s analysis of county and household data, was that the differences among self-reported Republicans and Democrats could be based on culture.

Conservatives stress traditional admonishments to remain married through thick and thin, but conservative policies – promoted in many red states – don’t necessarily support strong marriages and families. Abstinence-only education can leave teens and young adults ill prepared for an adult sexual relationship, and at worst, may pressure young people into marrying an unsuitable partner.

As Emma Green observes in The Atlantic, communities shape people’s lives in untold ways. “Kids who are raised in two-parent households, for example, and whose friends are mostly raised in two-parent households, tend to fare better. Plus, the civic life and institutions of a place really matter; this is the Robert Putnam theory of stability and happiness. It’s possible that the happily married couples Wilcox and Wolfinger have identified are just living in places that are more conducive to happiness.”

Moreover, as noted in Wilcox and Wolfinger’s conclusion, Republicans are largely white, meaning that “they are less likely to face the discrimination, segregation, and poverty that minority couples often experience in America, all of which can compromise the quality of married life.”

The database for the study is quite small — especially contrasted with the results gathered by sociologists Jennifer Glass of the University of Texas at Austin and Philip Levchak at the University of Iowa, who also studied marriage at the county level, using a larger sampling of government data.

Glass and Levchak found that counties with the highest proportions of conservative and evangelical Protestants were also the counties with the highest divorce rates. This finding isn’t just an artifact of regional poverty — although conservative religious groups are usually concentrated in areas with higher poverty rates and lower wages — because Glass and Levchak controlled the results for income and geography; nor does it result from rates of marriage overall (as compared to cohabitation, which they found no link for); or even a regional culture that in their words, promotes “factors that destabilize marriage.”

High divorce rates among religious conservatives, they found, correlate closely with earlier ages of first marriage and lower educational attainment, which often translates to lower incomes. But religion wasn’t a factor in predicting divorce; the best predictor was where a couple lived.

“Living in a cultural climate where most people expect to marry young and there is little support from schools or community institutions for young people to get more education and postpone marriage and children” encourages people to get married early, say the researchers:

“Abstinence-only education, restrictions on the availability of birth control and abortion, support for marriage as the resolution of unexpected pregnancies, and distrust of secular education (especially higher education) among the populace in religiously conservative counties work to create an environment where young people of every religious belief – or none – tend not to pursue higher education or job training, and instead to engage in early marriage and child-bearing.”

Their analysis doesn’t explicitly study political affiliation — and it further distinguishes among Christians by their level of church affiliation. Those most active in church are less likely to divorce, while those who are “nominal” Protestants – attending services fewer than twice a month — fare much worse than both the actively religious and those who aren’t religious at all.

Sociologist Philip N. Cohen of the University of Maryland, College Park, reminds readers that “Republican” and “conservative” aren’t interchangeable. Indeed, Wilcox tells The Atlantic that conservatives, of course, aren’t only in Southern red states and vice versa. His study, which breaks down and in some ways replicates Wilcox and Wolfinger’s data, shows that its conclusions, in his words, are “not supported.” When Cohen expands the data to seven categories of political affiliation, not just three, he finds the left-right conclusion unsupported, since those identifying as strong Democrats also exhibit a high percentage of respondents claiming they are in a happy marriage. He also notes that Wilcox and Wolfinger  don’t specify whether the Republican “advantage” is over Democrats or just everyone else.

In her Atlantic article, Green also acknowledges that the data are specious. “Most of all, pay attention to the warning labels all over Wilcox and Wolfinger’s research: ‘More research is needed to investigate the effect of ideology and region on family stability over the life course [italics hers].'” That line? Written by Wilcox and Wolfinger.

When analyzing marriage data, the truth isn’t always obvious – just like in marriage itself.

Photo: Is this something a Republican or Democrat would use? Does it matter? AForestFrolic/Flickr