America is rapidly bifurcating, becoming two nations, and one of the main drivers of the process is a federal system that encourages Red states to mooch off Blue states, using essentially stolen tax money to reinvent the old Confederacy, “own the libs,” and wage “war on woke.”
Most Red states have become oligarchic white supremacist medieval-like fiefdoms with obscene levels of often multigenerational wealth at the top, extreme poverty at the bottom, and working people, women, and minorities kept in subordinate roles through explicit government and corporate policy.
In this, these Red states are following the once-classic European and later Southern US tradition of a patriarchal, hierarchical society run by male kings, nobles, plantation masters, and wealthy churchmen, with all the work done by serfs, slaves, women, or impoverished wage-slaves.
Frederick Douglass, who was born into Southern slavery, described the South as “a little nation by itself, having its own language, its own rules, regulations, and customs.”
Fewer than 2000 families — six-tenths of one percent of the Southern population — owned more than 50 enslaved people and ruled the oligarchy that we call the Confederacy with an iron fist. The 75 percent of white people in the South during that era who did not own any enslaved persons generally lived in deep poverty.
Women had no rights, queer people were routinely tortured and murdered, education for both enslaved Africans and poor whites was generally outlawed, religious attendance was often mandated, and hunger and disease stalked all but those in the families of the two thousand morbidly rich planter dynasties.
Modern-day Red states are doing their best to recreate that old Confederacy, right down to state Senator Kathy Chism’s new effort to return the Confederate battle flag to Mississippi’s state flag. Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence have both emphasized their presidential pledges to restore the names of murderous Civil War traitors to American military bases, celebrating their armed defense of the “values” of the Old South.
Today’s version of yesteryear’s plantation owners are called CEOs, hedge and vulture fund managers, and the morbidly rich.
They use the power of political bribery given them by five corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court — with Clarence Thomas’ tie-breaking Citizens United vote on behalf of his sugar daddy Harlan Crow — to lord over their Red states, regardless of the will of those states’ citizens.
Working people in Red states are kept in poverty by “Right to Work for Less” laws based on the GOP’s 1947 Taft-Hartley Act (passed over Harry Truman’s veto), deprived of healthcare by their governors’ refusal to expand Medicaid to cover all low-wage working people, and draconian cuts along with byzantine bureaucratic obstacles to getting state aid ranging from housing support to food stamps to subsidized daycare to unemployment insurance.
Women are returning to chattel status in Red states, the property of their fathers or husbands, their bondage enforced by bounty systems and the threat of imprisonment should they try to assert agency over their own bodies.
Multiple Red states have outlawed teaching the actual history of slavery, Jim Crow, and the ongoing violence and persecution suffered by racial, gender, and religious minorities. Many are using government tax revenues to subsidize typically-all-white “Christian” religious schools, a trend spreading across Republican-controlled states like an out-of-control fungus.
Almost a dozen GOP-controlled states have passed laws criminalizing protests against Republican policies, and The Atlantic quoting the International Center for Non-for-Profit Law, wrote “several of those states have simultaneously provided civil or criminal protection for drivers who hit [and kill] protesters…”
Others have banned books and fired teachers who dare discuss diversity or basic sex education. Many are withholding state funds from banking and investment institutions that consider the environment, social justice, or governance on behalf of the working class and the poor (ESG) when making business decisions.
Climate change, they’ll tell you as they take campaign funds from the fossil fuel industry and the billionaires it’s created, is a hoax perpetrated by liberal scientists who are somehow “getting rich” by warning the world of its consequences.
Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis no longer rule the South on behalf of the notorious “2000 families” but their spiritual heirs, today’s Red state governors, would make them proud with their restrictions on voting, encouragement of armed white supremacist vigilantism, and state tax subsidies for American oligarch billionaires and their corporate empires.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp — whose family, investigative reporter Greg Palast discovered, was the first to bring enslaved Africans to Georgia — famously signed a law codifying 10-hour voting lines in Black neighborhoods and giving his state the power to throw people off voting rolls without justification in a closed-door ceremony before a painting of one of the 2000 families’ Georgia slave plantations.
It’s said that Red states are trying to take us back to the 1950s. In fact, most are shooting for the 1870s, when women were the property of their husbands, poor children worked 12-hour days for pennies, queer people were invisible, and Black, Asian, Native American, and Hispanic people could be murdered with impunity.
On the other hand, Blue states have embraced 21st century values of inclusiveness, tolerance, education, healthcare, a clean environment, worker’s rights, higher minimum wages and unionization, gun safety, paid sick leave, and are working to override the electoral college to bring democracy to the race for president.
Most have enacted gun control laws that often include assault weapon bans, outlawed forced “captive audience” unionbusting meetings, expanded drug treatment programs, decriminalized marijuana, strengthened abortion rights protections, raised their minimum wages, and are moving quickly to green their economies to mitigate climate change.
They’re offering protections to asylum seekers, women seeking medical care, and transgender individuals fleeing overt persecution in Red states. They celebrate gay marriage and honor the holidays of religious minorities. Women and racial minorities make up large parts of their legislative bodies and occupy many of their governor’s offices.
In this, Blue states are following the vision and values laid out by several of America’s Founders who helped create the first nation in world history espousing the idea that nobody should have to live in poverty and an important role of government was to prevent people from falling through the cracks.
Thomas Paine, for example, laid out a proposal for what we today call Social Security in his pamphlet Agrarian Justice, and Thomas Jefferson created the nation’s first totally free university (the University of Virginia). Half the delegates to the Constitutional Convention spoke against slavery as a curse against our nation’s ideals, although it took a bloody war to end that “peculiar institution” held so tightly in the grip of the 2000 families.
Even in the first years of our republic, the founding generation understood that caring for the public good was an essential function of government, as referenced in the preamble to the Constitution. President George Washington signed the first legislation providing federal funds for poorhouses that including food, clothing, shelter, and medical care along with job training.
Three decades later, when the legislation was up for renewal, President James Madison (the “Father of the Constitution”) vetoed a provision proposed by Southern states that would have cycled those revenues through local churches, writing in his veto message that federal funding of churches — even for charitable antipoverty purposes the government supported — “would be a precedent for giving to religious societies as such a legal agency in carrying into effect a public and civil duty.”
So, how did we get here and what can we do about it? Ironically, it turns out that Red states are able to carry out their campaign of reviving the old Confederacy and its values of patriarchy, hierarchy, and wage slavery in large part because Blue states are subsidizing them.
While Donald Trump carried 2,497 counties in the 2020 election compared to Joe Biden’s 477 counties, the Blue counties Biden carried generate a total of 71 percent of the nation’s economic activity.
The fiscal health of Blue states and counties — along with widespread Red state poverty exacerbated by Red State tax breaks for the morbidly rich — accounts for the bizarre reality that Blue states are subsidizing the brutal and retrograde policies of Red states.
A March, 2023 report from the Rockefeller Institute lays out how glaring this appropriation of Blue state revenue is by the Red states. In just New York, for example, they write that over a five year period:
“New York taxpayers have given $142.6 billion more to the federal government than New York residents have received back in federal spending.”
As the Associated Press summarized in an article titled AP FACT CHECK: Blue high-tax states fund red low-tax states:
“Mississippi received $2.13 for every tax dollar the state sent to Washington in 2015, according to the Rockefeller study. West Virginia received $2.07, Kentucky got $1.90 and South Carolina got $1.71.
“Meanwhile, New Jersey received 74 cents in federal spending for tax every dollar the state sent to Washington. New York received 81 cents, Connecticut received 82 cents and Massachusetts received 83 cents.
“California fared a bit better than other blue states. It received 96 cents for every dollar the state sent to Washington.”
When the Biden administration tried to just slightly slow down the Red state gravy train, specifying in the American Rescue Plan that the subsidies to the states for helping people who lost their jobs due to Covid could not be misappropriated and redirected to tax cuts for local billionaires, their politicians — dancing to the tune of their in-state oligarchs — went ballistic. As Forbes documented:
“So far, a total of 18 red states are plaintiffs in five separate lawsuits challenging a provision in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Biden signed into law last month which says that state governments cannot use any of the $350 billion in federal pandemic relief funds coming their way to ‘either directly or indirectly offset a reduction’ in their net tax revenue resulting from state tax cuts.
“In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, 21 Republican state attorneys general described it as ‘the greatest attempted invasion of state sovereignty by Congress in the history of our Republic.’”
Federal policy fails to equalize revenue flowing to Red states against the tax money they send Washington DC. This loophole in US tax law is driving this bizarre process where citizens in Blue states are forced by law to pay for all-white “Christian” academies, enforcement of abortion restrictions, persecution of asylum seekers and immigrants, and political attacks on queer people.
Red state “welfare queen” governors and legislatures are going to happily continue this grift as long as we let them get away with it. Congress should pass legislation mandating that Red state revenues to DC must at least match 90 percent of the money they get back; 100 percent would be better, and help hugely with our nation’s budget deficit.
In other words, do not punish residents of Red states; just force those state governments to raise taxes on their oligarchs, corporations, and wealthy people to levels commensurate with the rest of the nation. It is time to end Red state welfare!
JNix and Suzanne C. Grim (via Shutterstock)
© Thom Hartmann, used with permission. Originally published on The Hartmann Report as Why Are We Letting the Red State Welfare Oligarchs Mooch Off Blue States?
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