Thursday, January 22, 2009

America's mosaic (maps and discussion)

David Seaton's News Links
Today, instead of pontificating, I'd like to ask readers opinions and conclusions after perusing the maps that I've stuck on here below.
They are a map of the 2008 election results, county by county, a map of "purple America" from 2004 and a map of American's median income from 1999 (I haven't found any more recent maps, but I imagine they wouldn't be dramatically different).

Please take a look:

2008-county by county

2008 election results - county by county

purple america 2004

"Purple America" - 1999

Income breakdown map - 2004

Median family income - 1999

Right off the bat they look to me like a pre-war ethnic map of Bosnia, with the Serbs, Croats and Muslims all mixed up and only held together by Marshall Tito's iron hand.

Like this:

pre-war bosnia

My "start a bar fight" proposition would be that easy, subprime type credit has been America's answer to "Marshall Tito" and that stagnant or shrinking incomes, without access to that easy credit (something that will probably last long beyond the present crisis) will produce great tension in America's mosaic.

Personally I think the income distribution chart is more important than the others as it is much easier to change your vote than to change your income.

In that map we see islands of wealth and archipelagos of poverty in a sea of neither one nor the other. My working hypothesis is that the (permanent) loss of the kind of credit that produced the bubble will be like a painkiller wearing off of someone who has been in a terrible accident and this sudden lucidity and access to agony will produce enormous political tensions.

I would be grateful for all opinions and, of course, but especially for those that are fact-filled and wonky.


Anonymous said...

Your overthinking things with a far too vague parallel.

Whose our Marshall Tito? Obama? The President Formally Know as W?

The global economy is doing badly, but I have to feel that this is a situation that is not as bad as the Depression. Just compare unemployment rates then and now. If we end up in a depression it's because we hyperventaled ourselves into one. I actually think that less easy access to credit is a good thing for the US. We need to be saving as much as we need to keep consuming, and so the entire nation needs to collectivly learn to balance it's checkbook.

The things you seem to be predicting happen in other places in the world. Sounds arrogant, true. But I point to over 200 years of peaceful democracy. The only exceptions are the Civil War and some riots. But then, France has more riots.

My vague prediction based on no real research (you have more than me) is Obama will either be competent enough to effectivly keep Democrats under control, or Democrats in Congress will make even greater asses of themselves than they have already and Republicans will gain seats in Congress in 2010. This is because even if Obama's stimulus and "shovel ready" projects have a positive effect, which they wont because the New Deal didnt end the Depression, employment is always the last thing to recover and so people are going to be mad about jobs. Obama may win reelection if people buy into the whole Norman Rockwell thing with Malia and Sasha. But the next president is going to be Bobby JIndal. For a lesson in healthcare compare the Massachusetts healthcare system to what Jindal is doing in Louisiana.

How long it takes the economy to recover depends on how badly the government screws up it's "saving" of the economy. China and India will continue their rise, but they have populations that will have hundred's of millions of people going on retirement in about 30 years. They'll be where Japan and Europe are heading now. The whole world will have to rethink entitlement spending and the role of the state in people's lives. So social democracy and the welfare state will be killed by free trade and globalization. And the world will be a better place for it. And along the way alot of fortunes and jobs will be lost, and alot of people are going to die who dont have to. That's the tragic reality.


flaco said...

Patiently waiting for wonks to come forward.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Rather dry, wonk-wise, isn't it.

Reddox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reddox said...

It would appear that the areas of relatively low median income are mostly areas which traditionally had low incomes (Appalachia, Ozarks, deep South), as well as areas which have large concentrations of recent Hispanic immigrants. Many of the coastal areas with relatively high median incomes also have relatively high cost of living (house prices, etc.), which would suggest that the relatively greater incomes do not necessarily translate into greater wealth.

Reddox said...

Sorry--forgot to mention another traditional area of poverty: Indian reservations.

Anonymous said...

How can you be wonky about a subject which is utterly absurd? And I do mean the post and not my comment.

Sure it's possible that the economic crisis might cause the US to break up like the former Yugoslavia, but then it's also possible the Sun might rise in the West tommorow. It's just not very likely. Just like the end of laisse-faire "market" capitilism isnt very likely. So whether your saying that certain parts of America are going to start breaking apart like the theory that is popular now amongst the Russian intelligensia, or you think that Americans are going to welcome a European style social system, your dreaming. Obama is also dreaming if he thinks he can turn this country center-left.


Anonymous said...

I would also like to ask a question about something Reddox said. Could it be the reason that areas with a high-real income could have a higher cost of living is because most of those high income people are Democrats who vote for higher regulations and higher taxes which drive up the cost of everything?

Just a thought. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.


Philip said...


forensic economist said...

People don't vote on income lines in the US. Obama won major cities, blacks and hispanics. He won the east and west coasts. McCain got southern whites and rural areas. A lot of the poorest areas are rurul; this hides the fact that a lot of the really poorest areas are inner cities, but are part of wealthier urban counties.

I've been reading up on the Depression. What was surprising was not that there was some civil unrest but how little there was.

forensic economist said...

People in the US do not vote on income lines. Race and religion are a better indicator of party affiliation. The wealthiest areas of the country and most of the poorest both voted for Obama. McCain got the white south and rural areas.

I have been reading up on the Great Depression. What is surprising is not that there was civil unrest but how little there was.

RC said...

Charts, damned charts and statistics.