You're better off here

If you are born poor and want to get rich, you are far better off in Storm Lake, Iowa, than Atlanta, Ga., or Memphis, Tenn. So says a team of well-regarded economic researchers from Harvard and Berkeley working under the title “The Equality of Opportunity Project.” They found that among 741 “commuting zones” across the USA, Storm Lake ranks 34th for upward income mobility. The top town is Gettysburg, SD, followed by Williston, ND, followed by six more towns in the Dakotas.

The researchers found that a 16-year-old in Storm Lake living in a household among the bottom fifth for income has a 16.8% chance of making it into the top 20% of income earners by the time he is 30 or better. Sioux Center is the top Iowa town at 23%, followed by Carroll at 18%. Fort Dodge comes in at 13% while Des Moines is 11%. The worse places in Iowa to be are in urban areas or the southern tier of counties, long ignored and impoverished.

From our reading of the data, it is clear that you have a better shot at wealth in the rural Upper Midwest than you do in the Deep South or major metro areas.

Key positive factors for upward income mobility include good schools, participation in civic and religious affairs and blended neighborhoods. Tax policies played little, if any, role in enhancing income mobility, the researchers found.

The top 25 places of income mobility are, without exception, rural areas. States represented are the Dakotas, Utah, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Texas. The only cities that are even close to resembling urban areas to make the top 50 are Steamboat Springs, Colo., and St. Cloud, Minn. They are, in fact, rural regional hubs.

We can understand how it would be easier to succeed if you were from Storm Lake rather than from Chicago. The schools are unquestionably better in Iowa. Community ties are stronger. Here, you can easily attend community college while still in high school. The same opportunities are harder to attain in Atlanta or Memphis (the next-to-worst on the list, the worst being Nome, Alaska, home primarily to impoverished and isolated Native Americans). And, it is harder to escape the ghetto in Chicago than it is to escape limited opportunities in a small town — thanks to the support system that a rural community gives a young person.

The people who move from Chicago to Storm Lake in search of a better life for themselves and their children are on the right track. It gets mighty cold in Williston, which has become an oil and gas boomlet, but if you can get through February you have a far better shot at the American Dream.

GOP not conservative enough?

If you want to understand Rep. Steve King’s motivations, look to data from a new Pew Research poll of Republicans nationwide. Generally, those polled said the Republicans need to move the nation to the right and not to moderate the party’s views. This is the foundation of King’s political strategy: Always move to the right in a district that is deeply conservative.

Here is the number King really pays attention to: By a 2-1 margin, Republicans say the party’s position on immigration is “not conservative enough.” That’s exactly what King says.

King is reflecting his base, pure and simple.

In this congressional district, winning over the Republican base is enough to win a general election. The majority of independents in the district are actually conservatives who do not want to register with a party.

It is perfectly rational for King to bash immigrants and oppose any leniency toward them. That’s what his voters want. Nobody around here thought we were getting anything else than a professional redneck.


House Speaker John Boehner has declined to knock King off the House Judiciary Committee, from which any immigration reform bill must spring. Sen. Chuck Grassley says King’s comments should not derail efforts at reform. Yet King is using his committee position to block the Senate immigration reform package.

If King succeeds and the House fails to pass meaningful immigration reform it is believed that the Republicans will lose national elections for the next generation. Latinos and Asians are the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the nation.

King and his nutty pal Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, really don’t care what Boehner and Grassley think. King wants to ship those Mexicans home before they can register to vote. They will not let a real immigration reform bill pass.