Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Two-Nation Solution

Wait! Don't call the Department of Homeland Security just yet. I'm not really advocating the overthrow of the federal government, and certainly not by forceful means. However, I do think some of the following facts, figures, and analyses will trigger brain waves leading to an interesting and possibly even useful discussion.

Consider health care reform -- something most people in this country recognize as necessary in some form or another. In addition to the massive lobbying described in previous posts, the barrier to passage is simply this: too many "nays" in the U.S. Senate, where, for historical (not constitutional) reasons, a two-thirds vote seems to be required to pass almost anything of significance.

Also consider this: the following states are currently represented in the U.S. Senate by two Republicans: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Louisiana and North Carolina have one Republican and one Democratic Senator. (I exclude Florida in this entire analysis because, from a political standpoint, it's already two states; South Florida has the hallmarks of the northern states from which many of its residents migrated, and Northern Florida resembles its neighbors Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia.)

Among the most southern states, only Arkansas is currently represented by two Democratic Senators. Since Republicans are generally more conservative and reluctant to support social programs (and to vote for the taxes that support them), it follows mathematically that if the states listed above were not part of the union, health care (and a lot more) would pass the Senate with great ease. Then the rest of us could have the kind of country we really want to live in. (OK, pardon the slight hyperbole, designed not to boil your blood but to stimulate your synapses.)

Arguably, we already have two countries -- we just don't call them that. According to "The Measure of America -- American Human Development Report 2008-2009," the south is by far the poorest performing region of the U.S. on ALL aspects of the Human Development Index (HDI) -- based on hard data measuring health, knowledge, and standard of living.

Here are the ten worst states, in order from the "bottom" -- Mississippi, West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Montana. Texas ranks 35th, and Georgia ranks 32nd -- higher than the others but still firmly ensconced in the bottom half.

Case in point: here are the worst fifteen states to be born in if you want a long life expectancy, from the "bottom" up: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, and Texas.

In homicides per 100,000 residents, in the year reported by this study, the U.S. average was 6. Here are the numbers for selected states: Louisiana, 13; Mississippi, 10; Alabama, 9; Georgia and South Carolina, 8; Texas and Arkansas, 7; Oklahoma, 6; Minnesota and Massachusetts, 3; and Maine, 1.

Is this state of affairs imposed by external factors on an unwilling population? Apparently not. According to the Tax Foundation, which uses data primarily from the U.S. Census Bureau, the states that tax their residents the least (taking into account sales, income, and property taxes) are, in order of increasing tax burden: Alaska (obviously a special case due to oil revenue); South Dakota, Mississippi; Tennessee, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Nevada (another special case due to the gaming industry), Montana, Alabama, South Carolina, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana. Putting Alaska aside, please note that 5 of the 12 remaining states listed also rank in the bottom ten of the HDI.

High tax states include New Jersey (rated 3rd from the top on the Human Development Index), New York (rated 7th), Connecticut (rated 1st), Maryland (rated 5th), Ohio (rated 31st), Vermont (rated 14th), Wisconsin (rated 19th), and Minnesota (rated 9th). (By the way, California taxes its residents at 26% above the national average and ranks 11th from the highest in terms of the HDI.)

Have I made my point? With some exceptions, the states that rank low on HDI tend to be low-taxing southern states, and apparently that's what the voters want, because they elect predominantly Republican U.S. Senators and governors. High-taxing states generally rank much higher on the Human Development Index.

So, let's just formalize what we already have and give those states that collectively want to spend money on health care, education, and general quality of life the opportunity to utilize their chosen federal government to enact such provisions legislatively. And the states that more or less don't care about such things and are unwilling to pay for them -- well, since they would probably not revert to slavery, let's send them on their merry way.

I will present some reasons next week, or the week after, why this is truly not only politically impossible but ineffective -- and possibly even counter-productive. However, in the meantime -- as always -- I welcome comments from my perspicacious and insightful readers. Why, or why do you not, feel that segmenting this already splintered and politically polarized country would be a good (or a bad) idea? And don't just say that it would become necessary to rename the National Football League.


  1. PLEASE... nobody pinch me! I don't want to wake up from this dream!

    A few questions... would we reciprocate among the two nations by returning from the "free" region to the Southern region anyone who had an abortion here, knowing that their punishment would be death... in exchange for the Southern region returning to us anyone who accidentally crossed the border with a joint in his or her pocket, legal in the free region but a capital crime in the Southern region? I mean, it could happen... some of us have relatives in the South! And let's be honest, at least 50% of born-again Southern women (maybe more) have had secret abortions. They would storm our borders more regularly than their periods.

    What would our official position be on the war criminals who would reside in the Southern region... Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush et al? If they cross the border into our free region, would we turn them over to the court of international law for trial?

    And what about all the sex offenders who live in the South? Oh, grow up! Half of them live in Florida! Can we bar them from entry, or imprison them for crimes committed in the South if they enter illegally?

    And what about all of our black brothers and sisters who live in the Southern region... can we abandon them to a nation that likely would reinstitute the separate but not really equal doctrine? I vote no!

    Is it possible to relocate Louisiana from the Southern region to the free region? The South doesn't deserve anything as wonderful as New Orleans, and we can't let Brad and Angelina do ALL of the rebuilding!

    When the old white men who rule the South die out, and their children are finally free to use the Internet again, how will we accommodate the mass exodus of culturally challenged white kids from the South to our free region? Will they have to get a green card in order to work here? Learn to use polysyllabic words in order to attend our schools?

    STOP! Don't adjust my covers! I'm still DREEEEAAAMMMMIIINNNGGGG!!!

  2. Yakpate,

    I would definitely envision an initial treaty between the two nations that would permit unfettered immigration for a period of several years. Those concerned about living in a regime that would be repressive to them for any reason (e.g. liberals, racial minorities, gays, intellectuals, pot smokers, people who enjoy "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report," etc.) would have ample opportunity to move north. Those who desire low taxes above all else and want to learn how to pronounce "y'all" could move south. :)

  3. I believe that this post does only a disservice to your apologetics for liberal ideology. This sounds to me like nothing but a partisan diatribe that includes nothing of the so-called liberal values of open-mindedness or tolerance. With a broad brush you paint the country into two polar extremes, selectively using statistics to bolster your case that we have a liberal, enlightened America vs. an ignorant, backwoods underserved America. For a country of 300 million people (a rather large number I would say) you suggest the characterization of people in the most diverse country in the world is a simplistic exericise that can be reduced to drawing on simple material factors. Your argument that quality of life in liberal states far outpaces the quality of life in "red" states collapses when one learns the actual statistic that the happiest state in the United States is "Utah". Hardly a bastion for the leftwing elite wouldn't you say? I'm not saying I want to move to Utah, but I am raising question the way you manipulate criteria to denigrate states that are predominately conservative. (Hawaii is number two, Wyoming number three on the happiness scale) I find the argument that states with high tax rates are necessarily better to live completely ludicrous. California has the highest rate of people fleeing the state due to its incredible tax burden. Anyone wanting to pursue entrepreneurship (that evil practice of the free market) usually look for states that don't impose such heavy tax burdens on small businesses. After all more than 95% of the workforce is employed by small businesses. If government spending contributed to human happiness then we wouldn't expect all the Norwegian countries to have much higher suicide rates than the United States. Where's the nuance in your thinking? Where's the so-called tolerance for other points of view? I think libertarians are the only ones anymore who have an open mind toward political discussions. This kind of posting merely reinforces the idea of liberals as self-righteous elitists with nothing but disdain or condescension toward anyone who does not share their worldview based on the folly of materialism. No government program ever made me happy. Not saying government shouldn't fund any services but low taxes doesn't exactly strike me as such a preposterous notion either. The government of the U.S. has spent money so irresponsibly it's projecting debts of over 9 trillion dollars. Tax-heavy California has put itself deeper in the hole than any other state. Yet according to your logic, we the people should just be complacent to pay whatever taxes government deems necessary to redistribute it for their programs. That's the so-called "evolved" way of thinking right? If government needed every penny of tax revenue they take from us, why have they found so many ways to squander money on waste? They couldn't even give 1% of the so-called stimulus to small businesses which generate by far the most jobs in this country? How the hell do you create jobs without helping small business? How did the morons in Washington DC spend all their budgets into such a nightmarish deficit? I'm not saying taxes can't go to useful projects (when government stays within what should be its limits), but the correlation you're constructing between great standards of living and tax rates seems miscontrued. I just don't see eye to eye with you here.

  4. Dear anonymous, thanks for a thoughtful comment. Perhaps you didn't see the continuation of this post on "Two Nations" 2 weeks subsequent to this entry, in which I at least partially (and deliberately) debunked my own argument. Of course "two nations" is simplistic, which is why it wouldn't work. But I don't entirely agree with everything you said. For one thing, at least some experts suggest that California does not have "an incredible tax burden," and that in fact this state is at about the middle of all states in this category. Nor do I suggest that citizens should simply accept government as the solution to every problem and allow it to spend money on ridiculous things (which of course it does from time to time). You devalue your own argument by introducing such red herrings and straw men. I encourage you to read the subsequent post on this topic and comment once again when you have the benefit of more of my thinking on this issue.