It’s not red state vs blue state. It’s city vs country

posted at 11:31 am on April 11, 2015 by Jazz Shaw

As a resident of the upstate portion of New York (not the Big Apple) I have written frequently about the depressing, negative effects which liberal tax and spend policies combined with strangling regulatory burdens have had on the state, as well as the economic death spiral which has followed. Many of the complaints I hear from residents of the more rural, upstate region center on the unbalanced power held by New York City and the complete disconnect between the government and the more conservative, rural communities to the north and west. But even as a person studying and experiencing these effects first hand, I don’t think I ever grasped the full impact of this disparity in the way it’s spelled out by William Tucker of the American Media Institute.

Upstate New York is becoming Detroit with grass.

Binghamton, New York — once a powerhouse of industry — is now approaching Detroit in many economic measures, according to the U.S. Census. In Binghamton, more than 31 percent of city residents are at or below the federal poverty level compared to 38 percent in Detroit. Average household income in Binghamton at $30,179 in 2012 barely outpaces Detroit’s $26,955. By some metrics, Binghamton is behind Detroit. Some 45 percent of Binghamton residents own their dwellings while more than 52 percent of Detroit residents are homeowners. Both “Rust Belt” cities have lost more than 2 percent of their populations.

Binghamton is not alone. Upstate New York — that vast 50,000-square mile region north of New York City — seems to be in an economic death spiral.

The fate of the area is a small scene in a larger story playing out across rural America. As the balance of population shifts from farms to cities, urban elites are increasingly favoring laws and regulations that benefit urban voters over those who live in small towns or out in the country. The implications are more than just economic: it’s a trend that fuels the intense populism and angry politics that has shattered the post-World War II consensus and divided the nation.

That comparison between the city of Binghamton and the wreckage of Detroit is a true eye opener, but it’s not the only such story in the non-city portions of the state. IBM was once the powerhouse of employment in the greater Binghamton area, employing more than 16,000 people as recently as the late 1980s. Today the entire complex has been sold to local developers and the computer giant employs a few hundred people (many of whom are contractors) renting out a tiny portion of the old complex. Kodak employed 62,000 people in Rochester during the same period as IBM’s heyday. Today there are roughly 4,000 workers. Xerox and Bausch & Lomb were also huge employers there but are now largely (or entirely) gone.

These stories are repeated over and over again in cities and towns across the upstate region, so it’s more than coincidence. Tucker ties it all together.

The economic woes of the Empire State trace back to Albany, and a state government that is legendary for its ability to tax and spend. Strict election laws insulate incumbents of both parties, making the state legislature the longest-tenured in the nation. Petitions to put insurgent candidates on the ballot require tens of thousands of signatures and are regularly rebuffed by the courts on technical grounds. Ballot initiatives that have led to tax reform in other states are not permitted. Politicians are protected from voters and have built a spending machine unmatched in virtually any other state. New York, despite its shrinking population, spends more money than all but a handful of states.

The primary example is Medicaid. New York is the only state that forces its cities and counties to help finance Medicaid. As a result, for every dollar appropriated by Albany, Washington contributes two — and New York’s local governments must kick in a fourth.

Pay particular attention to the section on Medicaid highlighted above because it’s a fight which is raging in states across the nation today. The effect here has been nothing short of devastating. From the top down perspective, as Tucker documents, the state of New York spends more than twice as much money on Medicaid as California while serving less than half the number of people. The “revenue sharing” scheme put in place by Democrats from the city has left some places like Chenango County with fully one half of their property tax income going to Albany just to pay for Medicaid. If you think half is bad, Erie County – home to the Buffalo Bills – sends every dime of their property taxes to Medicaid and they are essentially bankrupt.

Returning to the initial premise of this piece, we’re not seeing a red state vs blue state problem here. It’s large, liberal cities run by high spending Democrats using their numeric advantage to pass policies which bleed smaller, more rural areas to death. It takes place in many states other than New York, too. Pennsylvania is a study in two countries, really, with the urban centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh constantly at war with the rural land known as “Pennsyltucky” stretching between them. I’m sure you can find more examples in your own back yards.

But what is the solution? There have been debates raging for years in the Empire State about finding some way to split off New York City as its own state or allowing portions of upstate to secede and sign on with somebody else. But as long as the cities hold the numerical edge on the votes in the state government, there’s not much that anyone can do. It’s a culture war over a way of life and the economic realities of wildly different societal climates. And there’s no end in sight.

Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air



Trackback URL



listens2glenn on April 12, 2015 at 10:21 AM

Having a few more slightly deaf old men asking what they are voting about is manageable.
ElrondHubbard on April 11, 2015 at 12:55 PM

So we’re not misunderstanding-
You’re willingly and openly demonstrating that it’s acceptable to criticize individuals (not to mention jokingly reinforce degrading cultural stereotypes) who, through no choice of their own, develop uncommon but natural, and often even actual genetic, physiological conditions that put them outside the norm, correct?
How interesting.
rogerb on April 11, 2015 at 3:27 PM

I hope we get some insight into this.

rogerb on April 12, 2015 at 3:29 PM

Hi l2g :)

Schadenfreude on April 12, 2015 at 5:32 PM

it would be hilarious watching the leftist trying to fight a war…

William Eaton on April 11, 2015 at 2:56 PM

Oh yeah, that would be a real hoot. If you want a first hand account of how funny it is, you should ask someone who’s lived in Russia or Cuba or Romania or Albania or North Korea for the past 60 years.

The sheer hubris here is mind-boggling.

Yes, technically you can go from a money-using society to not overnight…but you’ll run smack into all the problems that all primitive moneyless socities have. (a few easy ones being agreeing on value of traded goods and storage of wealth)

And if you think a rack full of deer rifles makes you Liberal-proof in case of emergency, let’s see you defend your house with a gun in each hand and fifty looters outside. At night. Repeatedly. With (untrained) reinforcements being a half hour’s drive away if you’re lucky.

Let’s not forget communication. When the telephone and cell towers and Internet go down, CB radios will become the pinnacle of technology. “Good luck” is all I can think to say on that.

Then there’s transportation. Take out the cities, kiss the entire gas/diesel fuel network goodbye, from extraction to delivery. In two weeks you’ll be trading your Ford F-150 for a horse-drawn buggy (good luck learning how to handle that) and your tractors and combines will all be gathering rust.

LawfulGood on April 12, 2015 at 9:01 PM

LawfulGood on April 12, 2015 at 9:01 PM

I don’t think anyone thinks it’ll be painless. But you only have to look at Ike vs. Sandy to see the difference in results.

After Ike, over a million people were without power for a week or more. There were lines for (and limits on) fuel, but they weren’t all that long and the people in them were polite to each other. By the time the DoT got out into the rural areas to clear blown down trees off the roads, most of their work had already been done by locals who had broken out their own chainsaws, tractors, chains and winches and taken care of the problem.

Had conditions stayed that way for more than a couple of weeks, I have no doubt whatever that a thriving cottage industry in biodiesel would have grown up.

It’s mostly just a difference in attitude. Somebody who lives well out of town is going to know for a fact that when he needs serious help, he’s not gonna get it from town until long after it doesn’t matter anymore, if he ever gets any help from town at all. So he worries about having his own tools and his own abilities, and relies on his immediate neighbors. After all, they’re the only ones in any kind of useful range to know or care about what he’s dealing with. And understandably, he doesn’t see any point in spending money on “city services” that he’s never, ever going to get in useful amounts or a meaningful timeframe, much less both at once.

Different environments create different worldviews, that’s all it is. I’m sure “assault weapons bans” make some kind of sense to people living in a city’s population density, but to a rancher in Wyoming who may meet up with a pack of wolves, a mountain lion or a grizzly bear at any time, they’re flatly insane, for obvious reasons.

GrumpyOldFart on April 13, 2015 at 10:14 AM

Hi l2g :)

Schadenfreude on April 12, 2015 at 5:32 PM

HI ! ! ! . . . . . (waving maniacally)
Sorry, I missed this yesterday.

listens2glenn on April 13, 2015 at 4:07 PM

It would seem the only thing left for non-NYC citizens is to vote with their feet and move elsewhere, God help them.

russedav on April 13, 2015 at 6:31 PM

Don’t worry, hobbits! Emperor Bark is hard at work on this problem! The moment a few Iranian mushroom clouds appear over large American cities the balance of power will shift back. The mass exodus of city dwellers will truly be something to behold!

cornbred on April 14, 2015 at 10:46 AM

What if only freeholders (people who owned unmortgaged real estate) could vote?

Al in St. Lou on April 14, 2015 at 10:54 AM

What if only freeholders (people who owned unmortgaged real estate) could vote?

Al in St. Lou on April 14, 2015 at 10:54 AM

Much as part of me would like that, there needs to be some allowance for the fact that we are not longer at a point where every person can outright own property. The population is too large and property rights too established; the days of claiming a few acres and building a log cabin are just plain gone.

Minimum 2 year contract on wherever you’re renting, perhaps?

LawfulGood on April 14, 2015 at 3:32 PM

LawfulGood on April 14, 2015 at 3:32 PM

I’ll grant you, I think it would be good if the vote was limited to those “who have skin in the game.” But the Devil is in the details, as they say, and in this case everything would hinge on how you define “having skin in the game.”

Also note that if the things that qualify under that definition are limited to finite resources of any kind whatever, people will engage in a variation of water despotism and try to monopolize those resources.

GrumpyOldFart on April 14, 2015 at 4:12 PM

I find it interesting that folks that live in the mega-cities find it so easy to look down on those of us that live in fly-over country that grow their food and produce the fuel that powers their transportation and heats/cools their world. They think their existence is dependent on big government regulations and laws. They are wrong.

Those same mega-city folks had better pray to God that their link to the food and fuel we produce is never interrupted. If it does, I guess the mega-city populations will show us which life has value and which does not. The LibTards can call it late term abortions if it helps ’em.

WestTexasBirdDog on April 14, 2015 at 8:14 PM

Never heard that term for PA. And I am 4 generation western pa resident born and breed! Fracking is changing pa poltics. This state going deep red at wrap speed!

gwhh on April 19, 2015 at 11:01 PM