The Ascendancy of the Basket Cases

Barack Obama has won the election.  That means that my first official effort at predicting an election result has come out wrong.  However, I did hedge my bets by asking questions to both Obama and Romney about what they would do after the election.

To me the most remarkable thing about the election is the extent to which a relative handful of "basket case" cities determined the election by giving huge local majorities to Obama.  What do I mean by "basket case" cities?  They are the poster children for the failure of government spending to improve people's lives and incomes, cities in decline where decades of government programs have brought only shrinking populations, vast vacant zones, fleeing businesses, high crime and low income.  Yet they provide very large electoral majorities for the candidate promising to further expand the failed programs.

Consider Ohio.  Cleveland is the classic basket case.  Its population has gone from a peak of 914,808 in 1950 to just 396,815 in 2010.  It lost 17% of its remaining population between 2000 and 2010!  Second worst basket case in Ohio is Toledo, which has gone from 383,818 people in 1970 to 287,208 in 2010.  According to the latest figures I can find here, Obama won Ohio by not much over 100,000 votes; his margin in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) was about 236,000, and in Lucas County (Toledo) was about 61,000.  In other words, his margins in just the two worst basket case cities (with their surrounding counties) provided his entire margin of victory in Ohio and then some.

How about Michigan?  Detroit certainly qualifies as a basket case; indeed, if there were a contest for worst basket case in the U.S., the two finalists would have to be Cleveland and Detroit.  Detroit's population

hit a peak of 1,849,568 in the 1950 census, and by 2010 had fallen to 713,777.  The population decline for just 2000 - 2010 was an astonishing 25%!  Detroit has famously stopped providing most city services to large vacant zones within the city limits.  While I'm having some trouble finding exact figures at this hour, and Obama won Michigan handily, it looks like almost his entire margin of victory, if not all of it, came from Wayne County.  If it did not, then including the results from a couple of smaller Michigan basket cases (e.g., Flint,Pontiac) would be enough to provide the entire margin of victory in Michigan.

Next, Chicago and Illinois. You may ask, is Chicago really basket case? If you go there, it will not appear to be one, at least on first impression. The downtown is in good shape, with new condos and office towers; the near north side is upscale and attractive.  But the population has gone from a peak of 3,620,962 in the 1950 census to just 2,695,598 in 2010.  How is that manifested?  Try taking the Green Line el south from the loop to the end of the line.  After being told by your hosts that you should never attempt such a thing, you will observe huge deteriorated public housing projects surrounded by vast vacant areas and abandoned private buildings.  For anyone willing to open his eyes and look around, Chicago demonstrates "the misery and ruin that well-intentioned liberals combined with aggressive public sector labor unions inflict on the poor they ostensibly want to serve." 

And Illinois is in a completely impossible position with public pensions, where systematic over-promising and under-funding has made default within the next few years a virtual certainty. How does that turn out in the election? Obama won Illinois by about 825,000 votes. His margin just in the city of Chicago was about 679,000;and in the remainder of Cook County (Chicago's county) it was about 280,000.  In the city of Chicago, Obama won by an astounding 84 - 15 percent.  So Chicago and Cook County alone provided more than Obama's entire margin of victory in Illinois. 

Just those three examples alone account for some 54 electoral votes, or a 108 electoral vote swing if the voters in the basket case cities had voted in the same proportions as the voters in the remainder of their states.  If that would not have swung the election, add Philadelphia to the mix and it would have.  Or Milwaukee.

Even as the subjects of the dependency society have their cities descend into a death spiral, those subjects continue to vote with huge margins to continue their dependency.  On the scale of entire nations, we have Argentina, Venezuela, Greece, maybe all of Europe.  Can anyone actually exit the death spiral through the democratic process, through being convinced that their better future lies with an opportunity society rather than a hand-out society?  Our next few elections may give us our last chance to find out.

UPDATE:  Final election results from Google.

Ohio:  Obama margin -101,000; Cuyahoga County (Cleveland)  -236,000; Lucas County (Toledo) -61,000

Michigan:  Obama margin - 358,000; Wayne County (Detroit)  -335,000;Genessee County(Flint) - 47,000

Illinois:  Obama margin - 825,000; Cook County (Chicago) - 850,000

Pennsylvania:  Obama margin - 284,000; Philadelphia County - 466,000