For A Better Future, Live In A Red State

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Friday, October 18, 2013

While gridlock and division in Washington make it difficult for either party or ideology to set the policy agenda, single-party government prevails in three-quarters of the states. In 24 states Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the legislature, and in 13 states Democrats enjoy one-party control. Comparing economic growth, education, health care, quality of life and environment, and the strength of civil society, do red or blue states win out?

  • Hewitt-Photo-2012-90


    Hugh Hewitt

    Radio Host, The Hugh Hewitt Show

  • StephenMoore90


    Stephen Moore

    Editorial Board Member, The Wall Street Journal

  • GrayDavis90


    Gray Davis

    37th Governor of California

  • Michael-Lind-90


    Michael Lind

    Co-Founder, New America Foundation

    • Moderator Image


      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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For The Motion

Hugh Hewitt

Radio Host, The Hugh Hewitt Show

Hugh Hewitt is a lawyer, law professor, and broadcast journalist whose nationally syndicated radio show is heard in more than 120 cities across the U.S. every weekday afternoon. Hewitt is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School, and has been teaching constitutional law at Chapman University Law School since it opened in 1995. He is the author of a dozen books, including two New York Times bestsellers. Hewitt writes daily for his blog,, which is among the most visited political blogs in the U.S., and is a weekly columnist for The Washington Examiner and Hewitt served for nearly six years in the Reagan Administration in a variety of posts, including Assistant Counsel in the White House and Special Assistant to two Attorneys General. He lives in southern California.

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For The Motion

Stephen Moore

Editorial Board Member, The Wall Street Journal

Stephen Moore joined The Wall Street Journal as a member of the editorial board and the senior economics writer in 2005. In March 2013 he became a Fox News Channel commentator. He is the founder and former president of the Club for Growth, which raises money for political candidates who favor free-market economic policies. Moore has served as a senior economist on the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, as a budget expert for the Heritage Foundation, and as a senior economics fellow at the Cato Institute. He was a consultant to the National Economic Commission in 1987 and the research director for President Reagan's Commission on Privatization. Moore is the author of six books, including Who’s the Fairest of Them All?: The Truth About Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America (2012).

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Against The Motion

Gray Davis

37th Governor of California

Joseph "Gray" Davis was overwhelmingly elected the 37th governor of California in 1998, winning 58% of the vote. As Governor, he made education a top priority, signing legislation to strengthen California's K-12 system by establishing the Academic Performance Index to increase accountability in schools, and expanding access to higher education with a record number of scholarships and college loans. These reforms improved student achievement scores for six consecutive years. Davis was also proud to fund and establish Institutes of Science and Innovation in partnership with the University of California and leading private industry; these Institutes are appropriately named after the Governor. Today, Davis is Of Counsel at Loeb & Loeb, LLP, a member of the bi-partisan Think Long Committee, a senior fellow at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, and Honorary Co-Chair of the Southern California Leadership Council. He has also served as lieutenant governor, state controller, and state assemblyman. He began his public service as a captain in the U.S. Army, earning the Bronze Star for meritorious service in Vietnam.

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Against The Motion

Michael Lind

Co-Founder, New America Foundation

Michael Lind is a co-founder of the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., where he is the policy director of its Economic Growth Program and Next Social Contract Initiative. A columnist for Salon, he has been a staff writer or editor at The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, The New Republic, and The National Interest and contributes frequently to The New York Times and the Financial Times. He is the author of a number of books of history, political journalism, fiction, and poetry, including Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States (2012). Educated at the University of Texas and Yale, Lind has taught at Harvard and Johns Hopkins. Lind is a fifth generation native of Texas, where he worked for the state legislature and where he plans to retire, notwithstanding the lamentable political culture of the Lone Star State.

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Declared Winner: For The Motion

Online Voting

Voting Breakdown:

68% voted the same way in BOTH pre- and post-debate votes (52% voted FOR twice, 14% voted AGAINST twice, 3% voted UNDECIDED twice). 32% changed their minds (3% voted FOR then changed to AGAINST, 0% voted FOR then changed to UNDECIDED, 9% voted AGAINST then changed to FOR, 1% voted AGAINST then changed to UNDECIDED, 13% voted UNDECIDED then changed to FOR, 6% voted UNDECIDED then changed to AGAINST). Breakdown Graphic

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    • Comment Link Joseph Wednesday, 11 December 2013 11:26 posted by Joseph

      I agree with a previous comment. They seem to cherry pic stats and make that the basis for arguments. But, I guess that is what a debate s all about. The audience will be the judge of what is relevant. But, you'll have to ask yourself where is the audience from?

    • Comment Link Nick Bousquet Wednesday, 20 November 2013 18:39 posted by Nick Bousquet

      I have to say that this debate was a rare disappointment. It was merely a battle of competing statistics on the economy which as we all know can be skewed. I understand that the panel was filled with economists, but I wish they looked to the cultural narratives of the states in question. For instance, a red state is a great place to long as you are not gay, a racial minority, a woman or a non-christian. The hate crime index, social progression track record and spousal abuse statistics as well as the state laws show this to be the case. On the other side of that same fence, a blue state may not be a great place to live if you value Second Amendment rights or favor increased religious intervention into the government.. These are pieces of the culture, often backed by local legislation that create a massive impact upon the local populous and yet they were not even broached. I was looking for a much more robust picture to be painted by each side and I believe they fell sadly short.

    • Comment Link Jason Abelard Monday, 18 November 2013 22:05 posted by Jason Abelard

      I am surprised that no one mentioned the historical shift of certain states between red and blue policies/leadership. Economically and culturally ascendant states such as Texas and Georgia, were blue states for well over a century following the Civil War. During this era, such states stagnated on economic, political, and social levels. With the help of red policies and governance, these states have transformed themselves into economic, cultural, and political powerhouses.

    • Comment Link Scott Monday, 11 November 2013 08:54 posted by Scott

      I quite enjoy listening to these debates, but there is a fundamental issue, it seems to me, with the competition format, which was more glaringly evident in this debate than ever: sandbagging the teams with packed audiences. It was evident from the applause metering during the opening statements. One seriously doubts that any of the supposedly "undecided" were even undecided at all.

      Neither side was powerfully persuasive or dominant in their arguments (the most laughable arguments were not being able to pick a city or locality and the question of "fertility" which is perhaps better understood as lack of access to reproductive healthcare), but there are never results this lopsided, even with very strong favorable opening percentages. Mr. Moore has made previous appearances and been consistently beaten. How long did Mr. Hewitt promote his upcoming appearance on his radio show?

      I think this dynamic also occurs when the debates are held at the Skirball Center in liberal-leaning NYC, not just in this debate. Given that in some measure, these debates are noticed by policy and opinion makers, one hopes that something can be done to address this issue.

    • Comment Link Logan Saturday, 09 November 2013 12:52 posted by Logan

      There are shining examples of both red and blue states doing extremely well in the last couple of decades. One thing that has been routinely ignored is that many of the red states that are doing well are states that have economies based upon commodity production such as oil, corn, and beef and were not outrageously hurt by the recession. This isn't necessarily an indicator of the merits of policy but simply reflects the basis of their economies. Furthermore, all red and blue states are not equal. The plains states like Nebraska and North Dakota are radically different than southern states like Mississippi and Alabama in terms of their poverty rate, teen pregnancy rates, and numerous other measurements. Meanwhile, blue leaning states like Minnesota and Wisconsin are very different from states like New York or California.

      Insofar as available services and access to certain amenities go it is clear that blue states do win out. I grew up in an area of Nebraska where the only governmental presence was the gravel road grader, postal worker, department of roads highway workers, the occasional state patrolman, and three or four county law enforcement officers that served a 700+ square mile area. The only high speed internet we had available on my parent's farm has a download cap of five gigabytes and is practically worthless for anything other than e-mail and casual internet surfing. It is also worth noting that Red states were also more likely to reject the Medicaid expansion than blue states. It is obvious that the Medicaid expansion was primarily a red vs. blue issue. However, I think it is worth noting that access to governmental services and amenities are often more dependent on whether you live in a rural or urban area than your state's political affiliation. Because red states tend to have more rural areas it is rather obvious that governmental services will be less visible statewide than they would be in most blue states.

      The difference between red states and blue states is more of a matter of preference than anything else. Highly educated and not so educated people can and do make very good livings in both places. The difference between these states is what type of lifestyle you prefer, what type of economy you want to depend on, how you view politics, and the type of people you prefer to interact with on a daily basis. I'm personally choosing to go back to a rural area in a red state after I finish law school because I prefer the opportunity to pursue solitude, know the area, and am sure I can build up a successful career over time if I am remotely competent. This is not for everyone and I know that someone else's decision to move to an urban area in a blue state will not automatically result in a horrible economic death.

      This debate has been simplified to the point that it is almost not worth going into. If you like to live in New York City and view Chicago as a backwater then you will obviously hate everything about Nebraska or South Dakota. If you grew up in a rural area and find towns of 7,500 people to be too claustrophobic then you will probably hate everything about New York City. Perhaps one political philosophy is significantly better than the other. (I will admit that I lean more to the right.) However, comparing red states to blue states to see which is better is probably not the best approach to the situation. I like my red state. However, I cannot say that simply living in a red state gives you a better future than you would find in a blue one.

    • Comment Link Spinoza Wednesday, 06 November 2013 15:45 posted by Spinoza

      Most of this debate focused on financial concerns. A little was mentioned about health outcomes and education. But the panel in favor of the motion argued mostly about employment growth. The question regarding employment should have been: are people happier when they work for pittance or when they work for a living wage? People find less trouble when they are working but are not happier working and still not able to afford simple necessities or raising a child.

      The other statistics that were clearly overlooked by the panel arguing against the motion concern people's attitudes about life in those states.

      For example, the states that still allow housing discrimination against gays are almost all red states (;

      the state with the highest incidence of workplace discrimination is Texas by far according to the EEOC; the states demonstrating the most race discrimination are incontrovertibly red states with Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas leading the charge. The states that provide the least protections for workers are clearly red states (WI is and interesting case study - slowly transitioning into a right-to-work state and is indicative of the restriction on workers' rights). My point: there's far more to think about when addressing our futures than just where you might be able to find a job or having a job.

      Another non-debated topic can be found in Europe. The happiest people live in the Scandinavian countries and in Europe - in countries with vast social programs, high taxes, better equality, and in which everyone has health care coverage. Just the opposite of the red states where the mantra is less taxes and a pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps mentality.

      And then the biggest under debated issue has to be health outcomes. The red states are a total mess in comparison. Life expectancy is lower, there's less access to health care services for women, infant mortality rates are higher, obesity levels are off the charts, and so on.

      I mean would any parent regardless of their political persuasion tell their son or daughter, if that said parent really loved that child, to live in Mississippi instead of Vermont, or Alabama instead of Oregon. I don't think so.

    • Comment Link Kevin D Tuesday, 05 November 2013 16:36 posted by Kevin D

      When I heard where this debate took place (very red county and town in California), and then heard every question from the audience coming from a fairly strident right-wing bent, I pretty much knew what the outcome would be. (I lived in Utah until a couple of years ago. One of the people in the audience who posed a question was Paul Mero, of the uber-right Sutherland Institute in Utah. Funny that he was at this debate in California. Anyway, even in super-red Utah, Mero is looked upon as a kook.)

      I'm sure Intelligence Squared US can't always choose where their debates are held. It's a shame that an audience, no matter where they stand, seem to work to sway an outcome rather than truly letting the debate win or lose. We used to do this all the time in school. I often would state that I still didn't find one team on the right side but that they certainly won the debate. The Blue State team CLEARLY won this debate.

    • Comment Link Troy Tuesday, 05 November 2013 14:06 posted by Troy

      You can't get any more red than North Dakota. The time in between the oil boom of the 80's and the present one is what you really need to look at. Low unemployment because everyone worked two jobs to make ends meet. Most of the smarter promising youth outmigrated to blue states which offered better everything. Without todays oil boom in ND it would be the poorest example of success for a red state. I know, I'm from there, lived there, and now live in MN where I am now fairly compensated for my skills, and my skills have higher demand. I will gladly pay twice in taxes for 30% more pay. If you think a no income tax red state is ideal then head on over to South Dakota, yea I lived there too. Oh and good luck with that.

    • Comment Link Julie Monday, 04 November 2013 01:35 posted by Julie

      As a woman, the argument that Red states are better because they are more 'fertile' is absolutely ridiculous. Leave it a man to make such a crackpot contention. What, like there's something in the air or water that makes women likely to have children in Red states than Blue states? Nope, I don't think so. That Red states have higher birth rates is a product of policy and education. Red states overwhelmingly restrict access to family planning services. These states have aggressively been trying to defund Planned Parenthood (which is where many women go for affordable birth control – I went there for years), and have steamrolled though trap laws designed to close clinics that provide abortion. Which disproportionately affect low-income women, as they don’t have the resources to travel for the services they need.

      And of course no one mentioned that Red states have the highest teen birth rates in the country, and Blue the lowest. If we are comparing Texas and California, Texas is like #5 for teen births, and their rate is almost twice the rate of California. Texas also leads the nation in the teen re-birth rate. Why? Abstinence-only sex education policies, that why. And the data show that teens that get an abstinence-only education have a statistically higher birth rate than those that get a real sex education program. Just look at Mississippi, which does not require sex-ed, and when they do, its abstinence-only, vs New Hampshire, which has a rigorous sex-ed program. Higher and lowest teen birth rates in country respectively.

      Lastly, a woman’s educational level is the BEST predictor of how many children she will have. And the data show a direct relationship between years of education and birth rates, with the highest birthrates from women with the lowest level of education. Ever looked at a state-by-state comparison of the percentage of the population at least a bachelor’s degree? The states with the higher percentage of college graduates are overwhelmingly Blue, and the states with the fewest are overwhelmingly Red. Simply put, fewer educated women mean more babies. Tie this back into teen births and restricted access to family planning, and it’s easy to extrapolate that many teen moms may have otherwise gone to college had they not had a child.

      So Red states are better because they are having more babies? Absolutely not.

    • Comment Link Cranky_Yankee Friday, 01 November 2013 12:21 posted by Cranky_Yankee

      I'm amazed that no one called out Hugh Hewitt on his statements in support of the proposition. Hewitt argues that Red states are better because housing is cheaper-well, folks, you get what you pay for. If housing is cheaper it's usually because of one of two things, either there's a glut of housing on the market, or the housing stop is cheap to begin with; can you say mobile home? There's nothing wrong with mobile homes, per se, but they are considerably cheaper than stick built custom homes. I live in what's considered a blue state and our housing stock is expensive due in large part from out of state wealthy buying up prime property, including our working waterfront, and pushing the locals out.

      Hewitt then goes on to extol the fertility rate in Red states...this should have elicited roars of laughter from everyone in the studio but nary a titter. Nothing like living in Texas where the age of consent is 14, yes, FOURTEEN. Nothing like a bunch of unplanned pregnancies and families overpopulating the planet and depleting resources. Yeah, that's something to brag about.

      Hewitt claims that volunteerism is spreading across Red states and that's an indication of "religiosity." I counter that the NEED for more charity in Red states, because of the expansion of the working poor (also known as right-to-work-for-less) is driving the need for charity. And where is most of that charity coming from? The decidedly BLUE communities of Austin, Dallas, and Houston.

      Seriously, folks, I don't see how anyone, except someone who exploits the regressive policies of Red state, would want to live in a Red state. By the way, remember when this country's biggest enemies were the red's? Well, they still are.

    • Comment Link Max Coscia Friday, 01 November 2013 01:42 posted by Max Coscia

      I like that the only state in the debate that gets presented in favor of the motion is Texas. Every other red state has little to offer in terms of education, median income, etc.
      Aside from this one state that I grew up in, which is most rapidly becoming blue (Austin, immigration, etc.), there is nearly nothing to recommend living in a red state.

    • Comment Link Catherine DiPietro Thursday, 31 October 2013 14:06 posted by Catherine DiPietro

      The subject of water didn't come up which is sad. The blue stars have water ( mostly) while red states don't. Hard to have a future without water.

    • Comment Link Bryan Thursday, 24 October 2013 19:47 posted by Bryan

      Say what you want about red states, but I moved my family from the California cesspool to Idaho solely for quality of life improvement. It's amazing how different people are (in a VERY good way) a mere 700 miles away from our old house. Small town feel with larger town amenities, great weather, outdoor activities for everyone, clean air, virtually no crime, etc, etc, etc.

      Jobs are definitely not as plentiful, but that's expected in a smaller community.

      There's absolutely no way I'm ever going back to California, but I wouldn't rule out all blue states. WA and OR are nice, we just liked Idaho much more.

    • Comment Link Matt Thursday, 24 October 2013 04:38 posted by Matt

      Not well argued for the most part. Both of those For made weak points generally whittled down to less gov't is better, therefore red states are better. Davis meandered a great deal, but his partner did an excellent job. The results were weirdly skewed, but in general the audience demographics probably correspond well with those who would see an improvement in their standard of living in a red state (upper-middle to upper class, college educated, and white). In general though, I think the population self sorting is going to be a boon for California (where I live). Let the red states take all of our Republicans, we seem to do better the less we have.

    • Comment Link Melanie Wednesday, 23 October 2013 19:25 posted by Melanie

      The red state side did do an excellent job making the red states sound good. They certainly had a lot of powerful rhetoric. As a human who recently moved from California to Tennessee and has spent a lot of time (recently, and for the first time) in red states like Alabama and Missouri, I can say that the work and cultural opportunities are virtually non-existent in much of "fly-over" country.

      Getting a good job and decent school/healthcare is infinitely easier on the coasts. The future is on the coasts. Young educated people are fleeing the middle of the country in droves.

    • Comment Link Tom P Wednesday, 23 October 2013 18:13 posted by Tom P

      Different debaters arguing on the against side could have won this debate easily. The debaters for the motion were much more vigorous and motivated to win compared to the attitudes of the people arguing against the motion. All four people are not seeing the forrest for the trees; where are the most people wanting to live, Georgie or New York? Blue states have much better universities and colleges, much better opportunities for work, hence why everyone wants to live there. I would concede that one should grow up and make a living in a blue state and then retire in a red state such as Florida or Texas.

    • Comment Link Vern Goehring Wednesday, 23 October 2013 16:59 posted by Vern Goehring

      Gray Davis is the best you can do? He was recalled from office after 5 years and 2 elections! He's hardly a person who can make an effective case for blue states. Many Dems abandoned him because he was unable to make a case for what he believed in or even if he believed in anything.

    • Comment Link Miles Kelley Tuesday, 22 October 2013 23:07 posted by Miles Kelley

      Another voting oddity:
      As of yesterday(Oct 21), the online voting that sits beside the audience voting counted roughly ~40 'for' and ~140 votes 'against.'
      As of today, the voting counts 145 'for' and 163 'against'.

    • Comment Link Miles Kelley Tuesday, 22 October 2013 06:17 posted by Miles Kelley

      Jacob Wiencek: If it was in New York, that would tend to support my notion that the results weren't representative of a typical audience, or the argument quality.

      The initial vote was over 50%(!!) conservative-favoring. That alone is an indicator that something's weird. Meanwhile, I've noticed that the majority of the IQ^2 Debate live audience tends to lean slightly liberal on average. Also, there are a few other debates that IQ^2 has hosted that frame a debate separated primarily along party lines, and most of those tended to be split by thirds - relatively equal parts liberal, conservative, and undecided. Which is a pretty reasonable cross-section of the American political heart, as far as I've seen.

      None of that squares with '73% For' results we just saw. Particularly since the Against side did not fall on their face - They were quite compelling, with clearly supportive data and counterpoints, no matter who you ultimately agree with.

    • Comment Link Mike_K Monday, 21 October 2013 20:45 posted by Mike_K

      ""Red States" like Texas and Georgia and Idaho all receive more support from the Federal Government then they pay in taxes."

      Does this include military bases which are heavily in red states?

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