No one should object to the federal government sending aid to states in times of crisis. As a Louisianan, I know all too well how much that matters. So I’ve no problem whatsoever with President Obama and Congress distributing funds and resources to South Carolina to help them deal with an historic flood event – what’s the use of a federal government at all if it can’t help in times like this?
But the hypocrisy of the GOP when it comes to taxes and federal dollars is staggering, especially after natural disasters. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator and GOP presidential candidate, appeared on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday to call for unlimited federal relief to support his reeling state. “Let’s just get through this thing, and whatever it costs, it costs,” he told Blitzer. When it’s his state and his constituents, Graham’s generosity knows no bounds, but when it was New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy, his fiscal conservatism was too unimpeachable to approve a federal bill for Sandy relief.
Graham’s hypocrisy is bad enough, but it’s also a reminder of how contradictory conservatives are in general, particularly as it relates to federal spending. For several decades, Republicans and voters in traditionally red states have deplored the mushrooming federal government. All the hysteria about welfare queens and food stamp abuse and socialism comes almost exclusively from the conservative parts of the country.
As it happens, these are the parts of the country who rely most heavily on the very government aid they condemn in the abstract. That’s right, the biggest government leeches are our conservative comrades, the “rugged individualists,” the ones who despise those freeloading commies in liberal America for sucking on Uncle Sam’s teat. And this isn’t news. The data has been clear for years: If you live in Mississippi or Louisiana or South Carolina or Kentucky or West Virginia or various other Republican states, odds are you receive more in federal assistance than you pay in taxes.
Red states, almost without exception, contribute the least in federal tax dollars and receive the most in return. The reality, in other words, is that the blue states have been subsidizing the red states for a very long time. A study by the Tax Foundation in 2007 showed that eight of the top 10 beneficiaries of federal tax dollars were largely red states (all of them voted for John McCain for president). Alternatively, the 15 states who contributed the most to the federal coffers and received the least in return were all blue states (all 15 voted for Obama in 2008). Politifact also commented on the reality of red state socialism in 2012, noting that “Of the 32 states which received more than they contributed [from 1981-2005], 27 states (84%) are Republican. Of the 18 states which contributed more than they received, 14 states (78%) are Democratic.”
These facts – and the ironies they reveal – can’t be mentioned enough. Republicans talk constantly about the immorality and excesses of social safety nets, about the dignity of work and personal accountability, and yet they live in states that wouldn’t survive without the support of better managed and better educated liberal states. Apparently they need to be reminded of this more often.
Again, the government will and should help South Carolina, as it should all states. I imagine most liberals feel the same way. As Graham’s hypocrisy shows, however, conservatives seem to agree only when they need help. Thankfully, for South Carolinians, Uncle Sam won’t hold them to the standards of their political representatives.