The News Blackout of State Politics

Important laws are being crafted at state capitals across this country about things that you care about — gay marriage, gun regulation, abortion, schools, drug policy, and state colleges. In fact, you probably have more opinions and personal interest in things going on in your state capital, than you do in Washington. But you probably aren’t hearing about it on the local news shows or in your local paper. These laws are being crafted in the dark.

Partly, this is because you aren’t reading your local paper or watching your local news. Most of those news sources don’t exist anymore. And you are too distracted with all the other fun things on the Internet to find the weird cable channel that does cover this information.


Pew has some great statistics on the decline of news coverage of state politics. In the past ten years, there has been a 35% drop in the number of reporters covering state politics.

On average, there are 15 full-time reporters working in each statehouse, but the total varies from state to state. The largest full-time contingent (53 full-time reporters) works in Austin, Texas, followed by 43 full-timers in Sacramento, California. Conversely, the state with the fewest full-time journalists at the capitol is South Dakota, with only two; one of them works for the Associated Press and the other writes for six newspapers. The Pew Research study found a clear correlation between the population of a state and the size of its statehouse press contingent.

Who’s filling in the gap? Students, non-profits, probably some state politics bloggers. But that’s not enough.

State Hate

2014-04-29_State_Residents_Desire_MoveVox has an article on the latest Gallup poll, which asked people if they wanted to move from their state. People in Montana, Hawaii, and Maine were the happiest. Only 23% of people in those states said they would like to move. People in Illinois, Connecticut, and Maryland were most discontent with their locations. Between 50 to 47 percent of people in those states wanted out. Other unhappy places included Nevada, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Lousiana, and Mississippi.

So, why are the discontent states so discontent? I would think that housing prices were a factor. Everybody I know plans to leave the areas as soon as their kids finish high school. They plan on selling their tiny homes here and buying a huge place elsewhere. But then Mississippi and Nevada are on the list, too. So, housing prices aren’t the whole story. It’s interesting that NJ, LA, and RI are on the list, because all three states have the highest levels of political corruption. It can’t be the weather, because Maine, Minnesota, and South Dakota is on the happy list. What’s the story here?

The Problems with a National Minimum Wage


Via Matt Lewis, the American Enterprise Institute has a new chart looking at the proposed $10.10 federal minimum wage, if it was adjusted for local cost of living standards.

Likewise, why would the appropriate minimum wage be the same in, say, Birmingham, Alabama, as in Manhattan, where the overall cost of living is 2.5 times higher in comparison? A minimum wage of $10.10 per hour that is “right” nationally for the average cost of living would be way too low in Manhattan and way too high in Birmingham. The map below shows how a national minimum wage of $10.10 per hour would have to be adjusted to match the specific cost of living in various cities nationwide (and here is a more detailed map of a national minimum wage and a living wage, adjusted for the cost of housing in each U.S. county).

In New York City, the minimum wage should be $22.26 with this adjustment, while in Birmingham it would be $8.86. Therefore, the AEI and Lewis conclude that $10.10 is too high for low cost areas of the country. (And too low for places like New York City.) They propose that localities and states, not the federal government, should make these decisions.



Where are the Low Mobility States?

From Policy Mic:

Researchers at Harvard have released a new study showing that while the income gap is as wide as ever, there is still some chance for those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder to climb up. The study analyzed various social factors — parent/child income, college attendance, teenage birth — and calculated the likelihood of a child from the bottom 20% of the economy working up to the top 20%.

But while the national average of economic mobility was a low 7.8%, the most shocking thing that the researchers found was the wide discrepancy among states and researchers: “[I]n some places, such as Salt Lake City and San Jose, the chance of moving from the bottom fifth to the top fifth is as high as 12.9%. In others, such as Charlotte and Indianapolis, it is as low as 4.4%.”

The sharp difference in upward mobility in different regions led the researchers to conclude, “The U.S. is better described as a collection of societies, some of which are ‘lands of opportunity’ with high rates of mobility across generations, and others in which few children escape poverty.”

Local Politics

A busy morning here. I had to dash out a writing thing, and I went to hear the town school superintendent talk about the school budget at a PTA meeting. 

As usual, there was very low attendance. Maybe if they held PTA meetings in the evening, instead of at 9am, there would better turnout, but that's another story. 

Today, I'm just going to complain about the lack of academic research and news articles about local politics. It's actually fascinating stuff. It's Politics 101. Who gets what? What groups should pay more? What is the best use of an increasingly small pile of cash? What is left, after entitlements? Who makes all the decisions? 

Cities get more attention than suburban areas, because that's where all the academics and journalists live, but suburban areas have more people in them. That's where all the voters live. 

The lack of attention to local, suburban politics is a pet peeve of mine. #grumble