The Big Auto Loan Debt is in Tea Party States

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Nov 01, 2013

I admit to not knowing a whole lot about the Tea Party, though I’m fairly certain it’s all about being fiscally responsible. I get that. To quote the Bard, from Hamlet, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend.” Or if you prefer to hear from one of our founding fathers, Ben Franklin: “Creditors have better memories than debtors.”

They look so nice and shiny on the lot, and the salesman said no money down. That's how the U.S. got into debt, too. (Flickr/Kino Praxis) For the Tea Party, the national debt is a horrific scourge and a balanced budget the goal. That's at least part of what the government shutdown was about, right? It wasn't all Obamacare. Here’s something from “The federal government’s inability to address deficit spending has moved beyond a minor inconvenience and now threatens to sink our nation further into the despair of a major recession.”
Never mind economists like Paul Krugman who say that debt isn’t the issue, let’s say for the purpose of argument it is the whole enchilada. Well then, shouldn’t Tea Party members be setting an inspiring example by, you know, not going into debt themselves?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way., which produces loan data, just looked at the third quarter of 2013 (leading up to the government shutdown) and identified the Top 10 markets for auto loan debt. And guess what? The top six are all in Tea Party strongholds. Here’s the list, with the average debt balance in that city:
  • Shreveport, Louisiana: $18,603.08
  • New Orleans, Louisiana: $ 17,759.12
  • Houston, Texas: $ 17,281.02
  • Little Rock-Pinebluff, Arkansas: $ 17,060.88
  • San Antonio, Texas: $16,999.15
  • Lafayette, Louisiana: $16,639.20
The Miami/Fort Lauderdale area was also on the list, in eighth place. If we measure Tea Party strongholds by members of the House Tea Party caucus, then we see these same states: It’s Texas (12), followed by Florida (7), Louisiana (5) and Georgia (5). South Carolina and Tennessee each have three Tea Party caucus members. It’s an overwhelmingly southern list.

And red states also get a disproportionate amount of federal money per capita. As Mother Jones reports, “Most politically ‘red’ states are financially in the red when it comes to how much money they receive from Washington compared with what their residents pay in taxes….The states that contributed more in taxes than they got back in spending were more likely to have voted for Obama in 2008 and were more likely to be largely urban.”

The American Dream is a new house and a new car, but these days it's two or three cars. (Flickr/PKMousie)Southern states that make the Top Ten list include West Virginia ($2.57 back on each dollar paid in taxes); Mississippi ($2.47); Alabama ($2.03); and South Carolina ($1.92). Other top-placing red states that are more than compensated for their taxes are Alaska ($1.93, does Sarah Palin ever mention this?) and Montana ($1.92).

And let’s also look at states with the most home foreclosures. Florida and South Carolina are also on that Top Ten list. And in 11th place is another Tea Party stronghold, Utah.

Now I know these things are complicated, and there are many reasons why a region might be financially distressed, and poorer people need to borrow more money on their cars, yadda yadda. I’m not interpreting the data, just throwing it out for your perusal.

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