Press "Enter" to skip to content

The brokest states


“Brokest.” Interesting word. Doesn’t exist. But it should. In this age of disintegrating media accuracy, one national outlet used that word in a headline. “Brokest.”

Regardless of the linguistic ignorance, the story really was about the “brokest” states in our nation. The ten at the bottom . The ten, based on household wealth and income, that showed up in a 2014 Federal Reserve survey – a sampling conducted every three years.

Now, I don’t know how much research time was devoted to this work by our national government. Nor do I know the cost. But, in 2017, when it’s done again, I hope they call me first and give me a chance to bid. ‘Cause their conclusion was the same as mine. Yours, too, I’d guess. These were the words in the summary. “The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.” Wow! They actually paid for that?

Now, an outfit called “WalletHub” has analyzed that pile of stats and tweeked the formula to update the rankings. It used income, gross domestic product per capita and federal taxes paid per capita. A double weighting was given to income because of its importance. Nearly the same results.

Here they are in order from 40 down to 50. The “brokest”10: Maine, Montana, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, New Mexico, South Carolina, Alabama, West Virginia and, as usual in nearly any survey of just about anything, Mississippi dead last. 50th.

One interesting commonality jumps out when you look at these 10 that wound up on the economic bottom. They all have Republican governors and GOP control of the legislatures in either one house or both. In other words, Republicans call the shots in each state. Nary a single Democrat control in any.

I suspect if we had a survey of this type now there would be at least one change in the ranking. I’d guess Kansas would replace Mississippi at the very bottom. Ol’ Gov. Brownback and his mossy legislative brothers and sisters have whittled and carved on so many state budgets Kansas couldn’t get a loan from the Mafia.

Given the overwhelming GOP persuasion of those in charge, it would seem budgeting decisions in those states have been made mostly for political expediency rather than actual need.

The two can coexist, as many of the states in the middle rankings can attest. But, when ideology trumps need, there’s seldom a reasonable balance. Idaho Republicans, with continuing abject refusal to extend health insurance coverage to nearly 100,000 uninsured, is such an example. A long-lasting Idaho GOP propensity to create bad laws while rejecting competent legal advice is another. Many millions of Idaho tax dollars have been paid out because of laws based on faulty political “thought” and an absence of common sense.

Certainly not all states suffer economically because of Republican economic intransigence and decisions based on philosophy rather than need. Some are doing quite well. Ranking nicely in the Federal Reserve and WalletHub surveys.

But, what about the top states? What about the ones ranking highest when dealing with income and all that? Who are they and what’s their makeup? Glad you asked. The top five, in reverse order: Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut and a tie for first place with New Jersey and the District of Columbia. How ‘bout that?

And the political makeup? Three have Democrat governors and all are in Democrat legislative control of one or both houses. In the case of DC, the mayor and city council are all Democrats.

Now, I’m not saying Republicans are bad at economics and Democrats are better. But, the rankings by economic factors, and the politics of the governments of the top and bottom states, make for some interesting thought.

One fact does seem to float to the surface. When budgetary needs of a government are answered with true economic means rather than political expediency or other non-budgetary considerations, those states tend to rise to the top of the rankings. Reverse that formula and they drop to the bottom.

And nobody wants to be among the “brokest.” Nobody.

Share on Facebook