Exurbs Not Suburbs

It seems that a hearty band of "blue dog" Democrats are doing their usual act of standing up for cultural traditionalists' role in the Democratic Party by doing the bidding of campaign contributors in the financial services industry. But is it really true that, as David Sirota argues, "we see the sheer corruption in this move by the Blue Dogs - because the foreclosure crisis is actually hitting such conservative rural districts harder than everywhere else."

I'm not so sure. As it happens, I have on my virtual desktop a county-by-county tally of foreclosures in the first three months of 2007. Stephanie Herseth, one of the people who signed the objectionable letter urging congress not to enact legislation to help people at risk of losing their home, represents South Dakota. By my calculation, there have been 214 foreclosures in this state of 780,000 people. That's tragic for the affected families, but it's a relatively low rate at the moment.

My look at the data thus far has been very cursory, but my preliminary conclusion would be that the hardest-hit areas are the high-growth fringes of vibrant metro areas. In Virginia, for example, Arlington County right next door to DC has a higher foreclosure rate than South Dakota. It's lower, however, than the rate in Fairfax County -- the further-out part of suburban Virginia. Fairfax's foreclosure rate, in turn, is lower than the rates in Loudon County and Prince William County -- the dread exurbs. The ring of counties around those two counties -- rural areas -- see the rate dropping again. Melissa Bean (who also signed the letter) is probably a better target for this criticism as she represents a big part of McHenry Country which seems to have a ton of foreclosures. I'm pretty sure that you'd best characterize her district as suburban/exurban (Wikipedia says "the northern suburbs of Chicago" rather than rural.

I found Sirota's post reading Matt Stoller who says "David Sirota shows, it is in rural conservative districts where the subprime mortgage issue is hurting people the most. Markos noted this as well, pointing to this LA Times story." Markos, however, didn't characterize the story that way, and rightly so since what it says is that Republicans "could suffer in fast-growing exurban counties, where the real estate market is worst."

At any rate, I agree with the main point that Blue Dogs are voting their donors rather than their districts here, but it's not empirically the case that rural areas have been the hardest hit here. This graphic mapping the financial cost of foreclosures from the JEC isn't 100 percent on point, but it is illustrative: