Economic Opportunity Is Lowest In the Republican Bible Belt, Major Study Finds
Class-rigidity is most extreme in the South, according to leading Harvard and Berkeley economists.
December 19, 2013
The website Equality-Of-Opportunity.org was
established this year by four leading economists from Harvard and
Berkeley, and it now headlines their major findings, “Mobility in the
100 Largest Commuting Zones.” It ranks all 100 largest U.S. cities for
the chances of a person born poor to rise from the bottom 20% to the top
Whereas all of the top 21 cities (NYC being ranked #21) are
shown clustered there closely around 10% for the given place’s odds that
a resident born in the bottom 20% will rise into the top 20%, all
except just three of the bottom 21 cities are in Old Dixie. Here, the
probabilities of rising from the bottom 20% to the top 20% range widely,
between just 6.7% (one-third less than in the best locales) down to
merely 2.6% (around one-quarter of the probability in the best locales),
among these 21 bottom-ranked cities.
In other words: virtually
all of this nation’s class-rigidity still remains in the U.S.
South, even after the Civil War. New Dixie has replaced the
aristocracy’s black slaves of Old Dixie, by the local (white)
aristocracy’s institutionalized bigotry against poor people, now
of all ethnic groups. What used to be their purely racist bigotry has,
it seems, devolved into a crushing, pervasive, classist, bigotry in the
Explaining this would produce controversy, and
unfortunately the researchers don’t even try. However, it is a striking
finding, which demands an explanation.
For a century after Abraham
Lincoln was shot in 1865, the North’s Protestant aristocracy
increasingly supported the Republican Party, which gradually became, in a
sense, the new version of the old aristocratic Southern Democratic
Party, but now spread nationwide: oriented more toward concerns about
the “free market” than about democracy. Government became subordinated
to economics—not just any economics, but “free market” economics,
whereas economics had virtually nothing to do with the U.S.
Constitution, which was instead concerned with political matters:
With the advent of Democratic President Franklin
Delano Roosevelt, and his “New Deal” reforms and regulations during the
Great Depression, and his starting of the Social Security system, this
aristocratic hostility toward the Democratic Party intensified even
In FDR’s re-nomination acceptance speech in 1936, he said,
“Economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions
of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away
their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the
overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the
flag and the Constitution.” This was a speech that could be given today.
as if to add insult to Protestant aristocratic outrage, the Catholic
Democratic President John F. Kennedy finally committed the Democratic
Party against the unquestionably bigoted South; and next, the remarkably
progressive Democratic Texan President Lyndon Baines Johnson fatefully
sealed this FDR-type Democratic Party, with the Civil Rights Acts, and
also Medicare and Medicaid —all done to serve mainly the very same
people, the middle-class and the poor, whom aristocrats traditionally
have wanted instead to be suppressed, if not again enslaved (such as was
the case in the Old South). For example, labor unions are routinely
suppressed by aristocrats, because such unions challenge the "free
market”— they challenge aristocrats’ hired managers, who no longer
possess unrestrained control when a labor union is present.
call this "free market" of theirs simply “freedom,” meaning their own
freedom, but also meaning (though never mentioning) the “freedom” of
millions of have-nots to suffer unto their graves (via such
class-rigidity as prevails especially in the South, and in
underdeveloped countries around the world). These financial elite also
sometimes call this free-market economics “tough love.” But no matter
what the rationalization, the result for its victims is basically like a
kiss of death; this is more that type of “love,” even when the
proponents themselves actually sincerely believe it to be some sort of
“love,” for the people who are actually suffering from this one-sided
“freedom” of the aristocracy.
Republicans are proud of this
“freedom,” or “discipline,” or “tough love”: they even sometimes call it
the "opportunity society." That’s what pervades the South, the very
same region of this country where economic opportunity is actually the
However, apparently enough Americans support this
Orwellian operation, so that Republicans constitute a major party, which
includes some of the very same people who suffer from it. This is the
only way to explain the continued existence of the Republican Party as
being a major political party in the U.S.
Nonetheless, this does
not mean that today's Democratic Party is actually in favor of the
poor—the Democratic Party of today just doesn't hate them as Republicans
do. The clearest evidence of this came in a different study.
Princeton’s Larry M. Bartels posted to the Internet in 2002, updated in August 2005, his article, “Economic Inequality and Political Representation,” which
examined the votes of U.S. senators on eight bills. He found
that, “Republicans were about twice as responsive as Democrats to the
views of high-income constituents,” but that, “There is no evidence of
any responsiveness [of Senators] to the views of constituents in the
bottom third of the income distribution, even from Democrats.”
“For Republican senators there is no evidence of responsiveness to
middle-income constituents,” but only to the views of high-income
constituents, and, “Democrats seem to have responded at least as
strongly to the views of middle-income constituents as to the views of
high-income constituents—though, once again, there is no evidence of any
responsiveness to the views of low-income constituents.”
myth has always been promulgated by Republicans that
Democratic politicians engage in class-warfare against the middle-class,
on behalf of the poor; but that’s just a blatant lie, whose purpose is
to hide the very real class-war, by Republicans, against the
middle-class, which is being waged successfully on behalf of the
rich—the exact opposite of Republican claims.
“Senators seem to have been a good deal more responsive to upper-income
constituents when a Republican was in the White House ... than they were
with a Democrat in the White House.”
Perhaps this is the reason
why even with a conservative Democratic president such as Obama, today’s
far-rightwing Republican Party cannot get much of its wish-list filled.
Bartels found “surprisingly strong and consistent evidence that the
biases I have identified in senators’ responsiveness to rich and poor
constituents are not due to differences between rich and poor
constituents in [electoral] turnout, political knowledge, or
In common parlance: Bartels found that ideology alone accounts for this difference.
also considered the possibility posed by a 1995 study, which had
shown that, “citizens in the top quarter of the income distribution ...
provided almost three quarters of the total campaign contributions.”
Could that be the answer —senators were simply voting for their
contributors? Bartels found that only “two of the eight salient roll
call votes [concerning the minimum wage, and abortion]” in his study
could reasonably be explained on the basis mainly of campaign
contributions; the other six could not.
A pronounced ideological
component seems to have been involved in most senate votes. Republican
senators voted overwhelmingly in favor of the rich, and Democratic
senators voted equally often in favor of the rich and of the
middle-class. Only in about one-quarter of the instances could political
donations reasonably account for that.
It might also be worth noting that, even today, the purely racist tendency of the aristocracy is so great that it often is strong enough to outweigh their greed—discrimination is practiced even when it's unprofitable.
So: the traditional leftist "explanation" for conservatism (that it's
purely based on greed) is false. The understanding that leftists have of
rightists is basically the mirror-image of the way Fox News
The scientific studies that are being
reported here constitute solid scientific findings, not opinions, and
reporting them might come as interesting news to many readers, because
our news-media unfortunately tend to be reluctant to report as news even
the best scientific findings about ideology. But there is a difference
between reporting on ideology, versus applying ideology (which an op-ed
is supposed to do). This is therefore a news story, which brings
together many studies that concern people’s ideology. If it happens to
surprise anyone, then that would be simply because the major mainstream
news media’s “neutrality” and “nonpartisanship” have required that they
avoid reporting such facts as have been reported here. A lot of
important facts are unreported for that reason. However, their being
unreported has nothing to do with there being anything dubious about