“Blue State Meltdown”
Joel Klotkin’s “The Blue-State Meltdown and the Collapse of the Chicago Model” contrasts the political power held by blue-state liberals:
On the surface this should be the moment the Blue Man basks in glory. The most urbane president since John Kennedy sits in the White House. A San Francisco liberal runs the House of Representatives while the key committees are controlled by representatives of Boston, Manhattan, Beverly Hills, and the Bay Area—bastions of the gentry.
Despite his famous no-blue-states-no-red-states-just-the-United-States statement, more than 90 percent of the top 300 administration officials come from states carried last year by President Obama. The inner cabinet—the key officials—hail almost entirely from a handful of cities, starting with Chicago but also including New York, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco area.
This administration shares all the basic prejudices of the Blue Man including his instinctive distaste for “sprawl,” cars, and factories. In contrast, policy is tilting to favor all the basic blue-state economic food groups—public employees, university researchers, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Wall Street, and the major urban land interests.
With current economic and demographic realities:
Yet despite all this, the blue states appear to be continuing their decades-long meltdown. “Hope” may still sell among media pundits and café society, but the bad economy, increasingly now Obama’s, is causing serious pain to millions of ordinary people who happen to live in the left-leaning part of America.
For example, while state and local budget crises have extended to some red states, the most severe fiscal and economic basket cases largely are concentrated in places such as New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oregon, and, perhaps most vividly of all, California. The last three have among the highest unemployment rates in the country; all the aforementioned are deeply in debt and have been forced to impose employee cutbacks and higher taxes almost certain to blunt a strong recovery.
The East Coast–dominated media, of course, wants to claim that we have reached “the twilight” of Sunbelt growth. This observation seems a bit premature. Instead, traditional red-state strongholds such as the Dakotas, Idaho, Texas, Utah, and North Carolina, dominated the list of fastest-growing regions recently compiled for Forbes by my colleagues at www.newgeography.com.
He also explains why blue-states, like Rhode Island, may have a hard time turning around because of a deep-seated “political economy” based on “the relentless expansion of public sector employment and political power.”
Although traditional progressives such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Fiorello La Guardia, and Pat Brown built up government employment, they never contemplated the growth of public employee unions that have emerged so powerfully since the 1960s.
Public sector employees initially played a positive role, assuring that the basic infrastructure—schools, roads, subways, sewers, water, and other basic sinews of society and the economy—functioned properly. But as much of the private economy moved out of places such as New York, Illinois, and, more recently, California, public sector employment began to grow as an end to itself.
Some blue-state theorists, columnist Harold Meyerson among them, have identified this new, highly unionized public sector workforce not so much an adjunct to the middle class but its essence. This has become very much the reality in many core blue regions—particularly big cities like New York, Chicago, and Detroit—as the private-sector middle class has drifted to the suburbs or out to the red states.
I’m not sure if Klotkin is implying that public sector workers aren’t part of the “regular” middle class, but I would certainly include them. And in Rhode Island they just may be its “essence” by virtue of the number of Rhode Islanders who work in the public sector or are related to someone who does. That would help explain the resistance to change exhibited at the polling place year after year.