Trump may be onto something here. As The Post’s Philip Bump explained, it’s true that “blue states” — assuming this refers to states that voted against Trump in 2016 — claim a higher percentage of the 194,000 covid-19 deaths in the United States so far. (The red states have been catching up fast after experiencing a surge in cases over the past few months, but that’s a minor detail.) The point is: To assess the state of the pandemic, why not just count the states that are most convenient?
We could apply such logic to lots of diseases. But, in fact, the covid-19 trend goes in the opposite direction from most of them. So if we want to brag about U.S. public health across the board, what we actually want to do is ignore red states.
Consider heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. The affliction claims more than 600,000 Americans a year, with a average per-state mortality rate of 164 deaths per 100,000 people. But something magical happens when you focus just on blue states: The average rate falls to 150 deaths per 100,000 citizens. The rate for red states is 174.
There are similar state-based health disparities throughout the list of top causes of death, including cancer (blues states have an average mortality rate of 145 deaths per 100,000, red states 156); stroke (blue states 34, red states 39); Alzheimer’s disease (blue states 28, red states 35); diabetes (blue states 19, red states 24) and suicide (blue states 14.5, red states 18). Red states even have a higher mortality rate for influenza/pneumonia (16 deaths per 100,000, compared with 14 for blue states), despite all the attention that conservatives gave the issue at the start of the pandemic.
How have public health officials not yet discovered the brilliance of such data analysis? There are countless ways, it seems, that we can improve the state of health in America, if only we pretend that red states don’t exist!
At this point, perhaps, we can expect some naysayers to cry out things such as “this is not how data works” or “this is the most blatant attempt at cherry-picking I’ve ever seen.” They might even argue that the president is supposed to govern the entire country, not just the states that vote for him or that make him look good. The only reasonable response to these complaints is “Psh. You’re just a deep-state scientist trying to make America look bad.”
Really, we should thank Trump for awakening us to this brand-new scientific methodology. With this technique, he has found a way to show just how much the well-being of this country is being dragged down by disparities. Do we really need to care about those poor-performing states, anyway?