Steve Chiotakis: As a kid, I was reading encyclopedias when everyone else my age was playing Pac-Man. So in an effort to escape the whole debt ceiling debate in Washington I picked up a book — The Real State of America Atlas that lays out how the rest of the country is doing economically. Like state-by-state comparisons of personal bankruptcies.
Cynthia Enloe co-wrote the book that’s out today — she’s with us now. Good morning.
Cynthia Enloe: Good morning.
Chiotakis: Let’s map the American economy, as it is, say, in your book. What does that map look like?
Enloe: It really does matter in this country where you live. And even within regions, there’s such diversity of economic conditions. So if you live in the South, you can live in a lot of different economic conditions. So for instance, in terms of personal bankruptcies, South Carolina has one of the lowest levels — but right next door is Georgia, that has one of the highest.
Chiotakis: That’s interesting. There are many states that actually compared to big countries, as far as their economies go, right?
Enloe: That’s certainly true. Today, the economy of California matches that of Brazil. And remember Brazil’s one of the great emerging tigers, if you will. And even little Vermont has an economy that is the size of Jordan.
Chiotakis: I know the deficit and the debt ceiling debate have been sort of taking center stage. When you look at the big picture, how do our perceptions of government spending differ from reality?
Enloe: Well I think one of the stunning maps that we have shows states in terms of how much each state, per capita, received from the federal government. One would think that some of the, if you will, reddest states would be the ones that don’t get much from the federal government. But in fact, Alaska is number one, and Virginia, New Mexico, Kansas, North Dakota, are all way up there. So I think that when you map the United States, it really can change the public conversation.
Chiotakis: What are some of the most surprising facts you came across as you mapped all this information?
Enloe: We’re all interested in consumer products, right? So here’s one of my favorite factoids: the little Mediterranean country of Malta, per capita, drinks more Coca-Cola than any other people in the world.
Chiotakis: Now I would never have thought Malta.
Enloe: If you’re a dentist in Malta, you probably are doing good business, too.
Chiotakis: Cynthia Enloe co-wrote The Real State of America Atlas, and I thank you so much. Interesting conversation.
Enloe: Thanks an awful lot, Steve.
We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.
Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.
In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.
Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.