The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

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

Tag: red states

What’s So Bad About ‘Coastal Elites’?

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

There was a time when "coastal" was an innocent geographical adjective, as in "coastal islands" or "coastal flooding." It referred to events and places located on large bodies of saltwater. But somewhere along the way, "coastal" gained a sinister, shameful connotation.

Populists and pseudo-populists have long fulminated against elites. But these days, the only thing worse than being one of the elite is being one of the "coastal elite."

Read Now Show less

How That ‘Blue State Bailout’ Is Rescuing The Reddest States

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Since May 10, the federal government has dispersed $105 billion of the $350 billion included in the American Rescue Plan to state and local governments. The Treasury Department says 1,500 entities have received that funding, the funding Sen. Mitch McConnell adamantly opposed for the entirety of the pandemic, calling it a "blue state bailout."

"This state and local aid program is going to provide transformative funding to communities across the country, and our Treasury team is focused on getting relief to these communities as quickly as possible," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement announcing the progress of the funding thus far. "In the past 11 days, almost a third of the funding has gone out the door, and I'm hopeful communities will be able to rehire teachers and help businesses re-open much sooner than otherwise."

Tens of thousands of state, local, territorial, and tribal governments can request funding. The Treasury Department details the uses of the relief: "Support urgent COVID-19 response efforts to continue to decrease spread of the virus and bring the pandemic under control; Replace lost revenue for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to strengthen support for vital public services and help retain jobs; Support immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses; Address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the inequal impact of the pandemic."

Let's check in on how that "blue state bailout" funding is going so far. Arkansas' Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has $1.57 billion for the state, and at the Arkansas American Rescue Plan Steering Committee Wednesday said that they could do a lot with it, from vaccine distribution to expanding broadband. "It is unique in history. It's a unique opportunity to improve the infrastructure in our state from broadband to health care to cybersecurity, from IT to water projects," Hutchinson said. Arkansas received a total of $5 billion, with the remaining $3.5 billion going to local governments and other projects.

"We need all the help we can get. It wasn't until vaccines rolled out that we rounded the corner. I think money allocated for vaccines, not just vaccines, but the education of the public about the safety of the vaccines, is essential to continuing to solve what has been a really long year-plus problem," Rogers, Arkansas Fire Chief Tom Jenkins, a COVID-19 response force member, said. The steering committee chair, Larry Walther, agreed: "COVID response, decreasing the spread of the virus, getting the pandemic under control, vaccinations, contact tracing, those sort of the things are the number one," Walther said.

This week, Muncie, Indiana, Mayor Dan Ridenour, a Republican, announced the city's preliminary plans for using the first tranche of the $32 million his city is getting. Just over $2.7 million will help the city overcome a budget shortfall; another $2 million will help the city's restaurants recover; $2 million each will help small businesses and nonprofit organizations; and over $4 million will go to hotels. There's also funding for substance abuse and behavioral health treatment, public art, and neighborhood assistance.

In another not-blue state, Iowa, "both the city of Des Moines and Polk County are receiving nearly $100 million in aid, the most of any Iowa city or county. Twelve Iowa cities are receiving aid, and all 99 counties are receiving at least $600,000." That means each county is getting about $200 per resident, based on 2019 census data. The state as a whole is getting $1.48 billion in American Rescue Plan money.

Idaho is going to get $1.1 billion, and state officials have said it will be used to "substantially bolster the state's water, sewer and broadband infrastructure." Alex Adams, Republican Gov. Brad Little's budget chief, touted the five-year window for completing projects with the funding. "That's a huge benefit for a rural state like ours where it's going to take years for some of these large sewer, water and broadband projects to come to fruition," Adams said. Idaho's largest cities in the state are getting a total of $124 million, smaller cities $108 million, and counties another $314 million.

McConnell's home state of Kentucky is getting $2.183 billion. "Our economy is surging and strong," Gov. Andy Beshear (a Democrat) said. "We are in a strong position to sprint out of this pandemic with continued positive economic indicators and with this funding that will create jobs, momentum and a better quality of life in every corner of the commonwealth." The state had already planned to use "use 1.3 million to boost the state's economy, expanding broadband, delivering clean drinking water and building new schools," and is "expected to create more than 14,500 new jobs." The state's general fund will be shored up.

The Tennessee Comptroller, Jason Mumpower, talked to one county's leaders this week to tout the projects available with the funding. "This could include helping workers, households, small businesses, nonprofits and impacted industries, such as tourism, travel and hospitality industry. Yes. You can use this money to make grants to individuals and small businesses," Mumpower said. "We look out across the landscape of Tennessee on a daily basis and think, 'Where does the greatest financial peril lie?' It lies in water and sewer. It lies underground," Mumpower told the Wilson county officials, who are expecting $28 million in relief funds.

All these Republican states getting all that funding passed solely by Democrats in the Senate, benefitting from the commitment to good governance -- and acting like they're goddamned adults like Democrats continue to model.

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.

Why Rural Doesn’t Have To Equal Red

To say that President Joe Biden lost the rural vote is to sugarcoat the dire situation Democrats face out beyond the suburbs. Why? Well, scoff too many lazy politicos and pundits, rural America is indelibly red, filled with white rubes and racists, so Dems should write them off and concentrate resources where the big numbers are.

Aha! Might it be a problem for a political party to dismiss an entire diverse constituency of millions as a block of static numbers in some consulting firm's big-data computers — rather than, say, as human beings to be courted and won over? The national Democratic Party is a myopic, data-driven operation, as was inadvertently admitted two days after the presidential election by Rep. Cheri Bustos, head of the party's congressional campaign arm. According to The New York Times, "'Something went wrong,' Ms. Bustos said, blaming incorrect modeling of the electorate in polling."

Hello ... how about an incorrect understanding of, concern for, and outreach to rural families and communities? They are being crushed by Big Agriculture monopolies, joblessness, artificially low crop prices, farm foreclosures, Wall Street land speculators, corporate exploitation, opioids, public service cutbacks, climate change (floods, droughts, fires, storms), lack of broadband service, out-migration of youth, COVID-19, suicides, and a host of other Biblical-level plagues. Sure, Republican officials are uncaring and push policies that cause and sustain the pain of all the above. But where the hell are Democrats?

Pointing at GOP uglies is not a helping hand, and — let's be blunt — much of the rural electorate now writes off Democrats as aloof Washington-based elites who look down on them and simply don't give a damn about "out there." Even the party's good, responsive candidates and organizers in rural areas are finding it a hard row to hoe to convince farmers, workers, local business people, and other natural allies in the hinterlands that Dems are on their side. After all ... the party of the New Deal has not really been there for them in years.

In 2009, for example, it looked for one brief moment like then-President Barack Obama might stand up and finally bust the beef and pork trusts that openly rip off family farmers and ranchers. Thousands of abused producers testified at field hearings; a real ag reformer was appointed to go after the corporate profiteers; excitement spread across farm country ... and then nothing . Meat monopolists such as Tyson, Smithfield, and JBS shrieked at the White House and the Democratic-controlled Congress, so all of that grassroots testimony was shelved; the reformer resigned in disgust and protest; and the monopolists are now bigger than ever.

Note that rural America is not just about farmers, and it certainly is not monochromatic, for at least 1 in 5 rural voters are people of color — including African American, Latin American, Native American, Asian American, and others. According to Matt Hildreth of RuralOrganizing.org, a third of all new immigrants find work in enclaves far outside our major cities, as we learned last spring when untold numbers of immigrant workers at those same Big Three meat monopolists died after working in COVID-19-infected slaughterhouses. While then-President Donald Trump was the one who sanctioned this, the Democratic establishment did little more than file an objection and avert its eyes.

If Dems don't stand firm for rural people, why would rural people stand for them? As we saw last November, they won't. In fact, the Biden campaign hardly showed up last year. While the party has a rural program on paper, it has little on the ground — it's estimated that People's Action, just one of the great independent progressive groups that work with rural voters, ran a bigger and much more effective rural outreach effort than Biden did. And when the Dems do deign to go to the countryside, they basically assail the GOP but shy from even speaking the name of the real elephant stomping on the rural economy and culture: unbridled corporate power.

If Democrats ever hope to win rural/small-town America (or even to "lose better" — i.e., by smaller margins), that journey begins by literally moving a permanent party presence to the countryside, listening to the diversity of people there, standing with them, and delivering on their needs. We don't have to create a special vehicle to reach them, for a powerful office already exists with enormous authority and resources to help them restore vitality and prosperity: the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

With Virus Surging In Red States, Trump Is Suddenly Concerned

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Last week — with the number of new coronavirus infections surging in many Sun Belt states — reporters were quick to report a change in tone from President Donald Trump, who resumed his coronavirus press briefings, encouraged mask wearing (something he mocked in the past) and even canceled the in-person part of the Republican National Convention that had been planned for Jacksonville, Florida. Trump's plummeting poll numbers have often been cited as a key reason for his change in tone, but here's another one: many of the Sun Belt surges are occurring in either red states such as Texas and Georgia or swing states with Republican governors (Florida and Arizona, for example). And Trump is expressing a level of concern that he wasn't expressing when the pandemic was killing so many Americans in blue states and blue cities.

Read Now Show less

‘Red Tide’ Of Virus Cases In GOP States Threatens Pandemic Recovery

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Mike Pence should never again write an editorial. Not only would that provide some relief for a nation that has absorbed just about every sentence on Donald Trump's "leadership" that it can tolerate, but Pence's recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal appears to have pulled off the rare reverse-Cassandra: Everything Pence said was going to happen, has already fallen apart. For example, there was this sequence: "Cases have stabilized over the past two weeks, with the daily average case rate across the U.S. dropping to 20,000—down from 30,000 in April and 25,000 in May."

On the day Pence wrote that, cases topped 25,000 for only the second time in two weeks. The next day, they topped 26,000. The next day, they touched 28,000. And on Friday, new cases of COVID-19 in the United States were at 33,300. That's the highest number of new cases since May 1. It's also a solid signal that the benefits of the temporary lockdowns have been expended. The pandemic is once again resuming an exponential march toward ever-greater numbers.

Florida has broken their record again on Saturday, with 4,049 cases. Texas has not yet given a final figure.

Back in March, after weeks of foot dragging and denial, Donald Trump and other Republican leaders finally jumped when confronted with charts laying out the expected numbers of dead from an unchecked epidemic in the United States. Trump never became energized enough to actually do anything, like call on governors for a coordinated national stay-at-home order, or institute a federally-managed system of testing and case management. But at least, for a short time there, Trump stood aside long enough for a medical professional to reach the White House microphone and encourage people to take precautions.

But that was then. After repeated exposure to evidence that Donald Trump was going to kill well over a hundred thousand Americans, Republicans haven't just become inured to the idea of the worst disaster in over a century, they've already declared it a win, and done, no do-overs. Trump has already declared there will be "no more shut downs," and Republican governors have taken that to heart. Even in states like Texas and Florida, which yesterday achieved a 1-2 position at the top of the chart for new cases, there's no sign that anything like sensible action is at hand.

On Friday, Texas racked up 4,497 confirmed cases of COVID-19. That's not just more than double the numbers from a week earlier, it even beats out the previous high number that Gov. Greg Abbott blamed on prisons and nursing homes bundling old results. Abbott's biggest achievement on Friday was once again declaring that he would not remove an executive order that keeps cities and counties from creating local mask mandates. However, earlier in the week he did support keeping restrictions on the southern U. S. border to prevent transmission of COVID-19. Which is probably a good idea. For Mexico.

Florida counted 3,822 new cases on Friday. That's 600 cases more than the previous high … which was on Thursday. As in Texas, the number of daily cases being reported in the state is now 200% the numbers from a week earlier. But rather than announce any new precautions, Gov. Ron DeSantis took a break from earlier excuses to blame roaming bands of watermelon-picking Hispanics for the state's surge. It would be hilariously racist if it wasn't also true. Making it much less hilarious, and infinitely more racist.

Texas and Florida have come up in discussions of COVID-19 several times this week not just because outbreaks there are solidly back on the upward arc that was in place before the first social distancing measures were taken. What's making both states notable is a third state: The state of denial. It might be possible to say that Abbott and DeSantis are caught between their knee-jerk determination to please Trump and the health of their citizens, but they're not. Because the health of their citizens is not a factor. Both men are going to ridiculous lengths to demonstrate that they will not pull the fire alarm, even when the smoke is everywhere.

Texas is now the fifth highest state in overall cases of COVID-19. Florida is close behind at number seven. And both are now far outpacing the results from states like New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut that formed the first flank of the U. S. epidemic. In fact, none of those states have seen numbers like those in Florida and Texas since the first week of May.

The amazing graphic from The Washington Post, showing how red states have taken over as the chief location of new cases, does not even include the data from the last half of this week.

Texas and Florida are not alone in driving the "red tide" of new cases. On Friday, Arizona reported 3,246 new cases. That number (say it with me now) is double what the state was reporting a week ago. However, that state's Republican governor, Doug Ducey, allowed at least a modicum of reason to slip in when he announced that he was rescinding his earlier order and would allow cities and localities to create mask mandates.

The far-too-rapid reopening of America, followed by the refusal to mandate masks or enforce social distancing, is the reason that the lines in this other Washington Post chart are so distinct.

In March, as cases in Italy and Spain exploded, then spilled over into other European nations, the word was always that the United States was "two weeks behind." But that period is long over. By strict, nation-wide application of social distancing guidelines, extended lockdowns, and far more use of masks, the nations of the European Union have turned the COVID-19 pandemic into something that both their citizens and their economies can tolerate until a vaccine or effective treatment is available.

But in the United States … roll tide.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Bless Their Hearts: How Red States Screw Blue States

Nothing angers Andrew Cuomo more than the notion that taxpayers in "red states" should resent or resist assistance for "blue states" struggling against the coronavirus. Hearing that message from Senate Republicans provoked the Democratic New York governor to remind the nation several times of the gross disparity between what his state remits to the Treasury and what their states reclaim in federal benefits.

Cuomo noted acidly that New York pays $116 billion more than it gets back annually, while lucky Kentucky, the home of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, gets $148 billion more than it pays. By that reckoning, New York has kicked in far more over the past few decades than any of the states whose Republican leaders criticize supposed liberal profligacy.

Read Now Show less