In his 2005 book, "What's the matter with Kansas?", political analyst Thomas Frank made the argument that conservatives had ascended politically in this country because of their ability to persuade low- and middle-income working people in the heart of the country to vote against policies that are in their self-interests.
It's an interesting theory, and one that can be reframed for California now that Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone has proposed the creation of a State of South California -- one that would include a baker's dozen of inland, mostly politically conservative counties. Stone's argument is that the Democratic counties on the coast dominate state politics, and thus produce statewide policies that would be rejected in the State of South California.
The problem with this theory -- and a hat tip here to the Riverside Press Enterprise's Jim Miller for calling attention to the issue -- is that the most of the counties that would be in South California are huge users of state educational, healthcare and social welfare programs, while the counties on the coast are the major tax donors who support those programs.
Former Assembly Budget Committee Chairwoman Noren Evans, now a Democratic state senator representing Sonoma and Napa counties, produced an enlightening report a couple years ago detailing who gives and who receives among the state's counties.
Among the biggest recipients (based on per capita costs for various state services) are such Republican-dominated counties as Inyo, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Fresno, Kings, Kern,Tulare and San Bernardino -- mostly poor, rural counties with high unemployment that are nine of the 13 counties included in Stone's secession idea.
Nearly all the biggest donors (based on per capita sales and income taxes) are along the coast, including all the largely Democratic counties touching the San Francisco Bay (Sonoma, Napa, Marin, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo) and the Southern California coastal counties of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego). Of those, only Orange and San Diego would be included in Stone's proposed new red state.
In other words, Stone's State of South California would be something like Mississippi East, while the rest of California would be able to afford a level of government services not seen on this side of the Atlantic.