John Thacker on Democrats Subsidizing Rural Areas
By David Henderson
Sometimes comments on various blogs are so good that they deserve to be highlighted. John Thacker, who occasionally comments on this blog, has such a comment at co-blogger Scott Sumner’s other blog, The Money Illusion.
In a comment on Scott’s post ““Where Taxes Matter and Where they Don’t,” one commenter had stated (not that it was that relevant to Scott’s post):
Remarkably enough, rural America is heavily subsidized by urban America. This fact becomes obvious if one ever looks at net federal spending and taxes by zip code or state.
Almost all rural infrastructure is subsidized, from railroads to highways to telephone and Internet service to airline service to water projects to electricity projects. And that’s just the start.
That’s not the great comment. The great comment is John Thacker’s reply to this commenter. John wrote:
This is true, but the even more remarkable fact is that Democrats are still much more likely to support those rural subsidies, whereas Republicans oppose. Here’s a vote on an amendment to limit Essential Air Service. It was a vote to table the amendment, so voting “No” meant wanting to limit Essential Air Service; almost Republicans except for the moderate Mainers voted against airline service subsidies for rural areas. Here’s a vote on the sugar program, 60% of Republicans wanted to get rid of it, 60% of Democrats wanted to keep it. Votes on Amtrak to rural areas, the FCC subsidy to rural phone companies and Internet access, etc., it’s all the same.
While there’s some difference, especially among areas particularly effected, in general the rural subsidies stay alive because of the votes of urban Democrats.
What this demonstrates, which co-blogger Bryan Caplan has written about, is that the special-interest theory of political outcomes is not as strong as public-choice economists might think, and that ideology plays an important role on both sides. In short, on domestic policy at least, George Wallace was wrong. There is more than a dime’s worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats.