By The Bakersfield Californian
Just in time for the opening weekend of Steven Spielberg's highly anticipated "Lincoln," the Union has a new secession crisis.
Well, "crisis" is probably not the right word, certainly not in comparison to what the 16th president faced 150 years ago. In fact today's "secession movement" is not a crisis by any definition. It is, however, a fascinating study in fantasy victimhood.
Within days of Barack Obama's re-election, a White House website set up to accept and review citizens' petitions had received nearly a dozen "peaceful" secession requests. Patriotic residents of Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas -- basically the same states that gave Abraham Lincoln so much trouble in 1861 -- had asked permission on behalf of their states to leave the U.S. Since then, copycat petitions have arrived from all 50 states.
"I don't think any one state can stand alone. But if we've got 20 of them, then that starts to be something," Derrick Belcher, who started the Alabama petition, told the Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register. "If you look at a map of the red states, we have all of the oil and we produce all of the food. We're the ones that are carrying the rest of the nation."
Belcher, whose main gripe with the gov'mint is that state officials shut down his topless-girl-staffed carwash, might want to rethink that. Turns out other states grow food and pump a little oil, too.
These would-be secessionists aren't the first sore losers to get melodramatic in the wake of an unfavorable outcome in the presidential election. More than a few liberals claimed to be looking into Canadian citizenship following George W. Bush's election in 2000 and 2004. There was more of that sort of thing this time, too: Social media was all atwitter with conservatives' post-election plans to move to Australia. (Georgia teen Kristen Neel tweeted: "I'm moving to Australia because their president is a Christian and actually supports what he says." To which an Aussie called "Gilbert" responded: "Our 'president' is a prime minister, is a woman, and is an atheist. I think you meant Antarctica. Move there.")
The secession talk is reminiscent of the silliness that emanated out of Riverside County last year (and, believe it or not, has not gone away).
Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone wants 13 counties from San Diego to Fresno to secede and form their own state of South California. Stone says he's had it with high taxes. Time, he says, for the breakaway 13, Kern included, to go their own way.
Problem is, Stone's 51st state would stake a legitimate claim as the poorest, unhealthiest, least educated state in the Union. If not for the inclusion of Orange and San Diego counties, there'd be little doubt. Seven of the top 10 contributors of sales and income tax revenue to Sacramento are Bay Area counties. By contrast, the counties receiving the most state funding for things like senior services, parole and Medi-Cal are primarily in the Central Valley, led by Tulare, Kings and Kern. The state's "liberal arm" turns out to be a lifeline for the counties of Stone's would-be confederacy.
It's the same deal with this new secession movement. Red states are, overall, big-time takers, receiving far more in federal funding than they pay in taxes, while blue states are the net givers. Based on 2006 data, Louisiana gets $1.45 in federal money for every $1 it pays in taxes; Alabama brings home $1.71 for every $1 going out; South Carolina accepts $1.38 per $1 taxed; and so on. Texas, thanks to all that oil income, is one of the rare net "givers" among that secession-minded bunch, getting 94 cents per tax dollar.
California, by contrast, gets back 79 cents on the dollar. All told, the blue states represent two-thirds of U.S. tax revenue.
How about this alternative to secession: Let's truly work together to figure out our problems, try to tune out the polarizing voices that diminish us and see if we can't survive the next four years intact. No doubt that would be Abe's recommendation.
Email Editorial Page Editor Robert Price at rprice@ bakersfield.com.