Thursday, April 17, 2008

Depends on What You're Looking For

On his blog, Paul Krugman has a series of data plots that he's going to use for tomorrow's column. It looks like he's going to argue 1) the Clinton years were good for midwestern incomes; 2) the religion-income correlation is largely driven by poor southern states rather than the rust belt ; 3) the real losses of the Democratic party have largely been among wealthier white Southerners than in the non-south.

God knows that I would hate to go toe-to-toe with Krugman in understanding data. He's a Princeton economist. I'm a Penn grad in Comp Lit. But here's my beef anyways.

First, I believe that average incomes went up during the Clinton administration. But I am unsure whether that rise lifted all boats to the same degree. Small manufacturing towns did not and have not done nearly as well as suburban office parks.

Second, it is clear that the second graph is driven at the upper end by poor southern states. But look smack-dab in the middle, at the near-average income, average-religious attendant states. It's Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Minnesota. In short, it's the purple states, including a bunch in the midwest. And really, each of these states has pockets of deep blue and pockets of deep red, and it's the deep red pockets Obama was talking about.

Finally, the Democrats have clearly lost the solid South. But it's clear to me that middle-class and upper-middle class Southerners fled the Democratic party in the fifties and sixties because of the split in the party over segregation, which is largely what looking only at 1952 to 2004 charts. A chart showing changes in the party at different class levels in 1952, 1960, 1968, 1976, 1984, 1992, 2000, and the present would be much more useful, to show how class+religion pressures have affected the party in the North and South over time.

Really, none of these statistical charts treat the phenomenon of "Reagan Democrats" -- blue-collar Dems and independents in cities and towns in the northeast and midwest who voted for Reagan, Clinton, then Bush -- at all.

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