Battleground Economics

Christopher Hayes

TGU is proud to say that we have one dear friend and one dear brother currently fighting the good fight in the swingingest of all swing states: Ohio. Our friend, a future White House Chief of Staff, is working for what will remain an unnamed 527 and our brother is collecting contact information of young likely Kerry voters for a group called 21st Century Democrats. We're lucky enough to receive regular dispatches from the front and they both say that same thing: the economy sucks in Ohio and it's likely to cost Bush the state. But Thomas Schaller over at the Gadflyer points out that Ohio isn't the only battle ground state in the economic doldrums: The National Journal recently published a special feature profiling the 20 states they deem to be 2004 presidential battlegrounds. For each, the Journal reported the statewide per capita income growth and job growth rates since January 2001, when Bush took office. The numbers are striking: Of the 20 states, only five – Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico and West Virginia – are doing better than the national income growth rate of 11 percent income growth since January 2001; and only six – Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina and West Virginia – have outperformed the national job loss benchmark of -0.8% during the same period. Crosstabulating these 11 states yields just two – Louisiana and West Virginia – that have outperformed the nationwide averages on both measures. More damning is the fact that, of the remaining 18 doing worse on at least one measure, fully 11 are doing worse on both, and these 11 include the "big three" swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida (the other eight: Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin). It's as if the battleground states are experiencing an inverse Lake Wobegon effect – almost all of them are below average. People aren't so naive as to believe that the policies of the president alone are responsible for whether or not they have a job or a pension or a sense of economic security. But I truly believe that beneath the red herring of "values" and wedge issues, voters can sense if the president's economic policies are serving their interests. To his credit, Bush has become increasingly frank about just who he represents: Bush criticized Kerry's plan to eliminate the tax cuts for those making more than $200,000 a year, saying that the "the rich in America happen to be the small business owners" who put people to work. Bush also said high taxes on the rich are a failed strategy because "the really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes anyway." Bush/Cheney '04: "The Rich In America Happen to Be Us"

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Christopher Hayes is the host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes. He is an editor at large at the Nation and a former senior editor of In These Times.
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