This chart by Aaron Carroll at The Incidental Economist
10 most liberal against the 10 most conservative states on the (horizontal)
x-axis with the government transfers to personal income in
those states measured on the (vertical) Y-axis.
The chart above reiterates news we've known for some time: Blue states subsidize red states. That is, more federal tax dollars are sent to Republican-dominated states than are received from those states, while more tax dollars are received from Democratic states than they get back. California, for instance, gets back only 78 cents for each dollar it sends to the feds, while South Dakota collects 1.53 for every dollar sent. There are notable exceptions, Texas being a prime example.
That might make no never-mind except that, on average, folks in states with the largest net gain favor less government spending (or at least they elect politicians who argue for less spending) while states that get the least return on their federal dollars tend to favor more government spending. Paul Krugman calls them the former "red moochers." You can see a specific state-by-state breakdown in the chart to the right.
However, using Washington state as an example, Goldy points out that this subsidizaton is not merely aligned along state boundaries but rather within states themselves:
Indeed, if Washington is a welfare state, it is residents in these mostly rural, mostly Eastern, mostly Republican counties who are the biggest beneficiaries, while taxpayers here in the blue parts of the state are left footing the bill. And while your typical liberal Seattleite might be neither surprised nor disturbed at this revelation, the degree of the gap between who benefits from state government and who pays for it may come as a bit of a shock.
How big is this disparity? According to 2008 budget figures compiled by the state's Office of Financial Management at the request of Representatives Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) and Glenn Anderson (R-Fall City), King County, with roughly 29 percent of the state population, produced 42 percent of state tax revenues, yet it received back less than 26 percent of state benefits. That's a return of only 62 cents on the dollar for our state's Democratic stronghold.
Compare that to the generous $3.16 return on each dollar enjoyed by taxpayers in hard Republican Ferry County in deep northeastern Washington. All in all, only six counties qualified as "net donors" to the rest of the state—San Juan, King, Skagit, Kittitas, Whatcom, and Snohomish—while the remaining 33 counties enjoyed an average return on investment of over $1.40 on every tax dollar sent to Olympia.
Again, this may be no surprise to anyone who is paying more than casual attention to such matters. But breaking down cognitive dissonance is a key factor in creating that progressive bench of leaders at the state level who will eventually be national leaders that get us past the same old same old in public policy.
Obviously, economics and taxes aren't the only issues people vote on, so there is more to it than proving to people how they actually benefit from the programs that many of them don't even know they are helped by. But there will always be hold-outs not unlike my step-grandmother. She lived the final 30 years of her life on Social Security with doctor visits paid out of Medicare while railing about how "the Democrats never did anything for me." Some people are presumably more flexible than she.