Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ranking The States: Part II, 40-31

Part I (50-41) and an explanation of the scoring is here. Onwards.

40. South Dakota: 15.1 Points
South Dakota is much like Montana, its neighbor to the west, it's just a little bit better across the board. The Mount Rushmore State (what a weak nickname) has the 5th lowest unemployment rate in the nation but does not rank in the top half of any other category. I've heard that Mount Rushmore itself is horribly overrated, but I do enjoy the ending to North by Northwest. So I guess they have that going for them. Which is nice.

39. Missouri: 15.2 Points
During our first discussion of what was the best state, Missouri popped up quickly in my mind as a dark horse. Obviously, and surprisingly, that is not the case. I'm fond of both St. Louis and Kansas City, specifically the Anheuser-Busch factory tour and
Gates BBQ, perhaps the best food on earth. Also, I bowled a 48 at the bowling alley in the basement of St. Louis' International Bowling Museum & Hall of Fame, thus embarassing myself and any number of hall members who I had never heard of. However, and this will be a theme for a couple of other states, there's a whole lot of the Show-Me State that isn't in St. Louis or Kansas City. It ranks 25th or worse in every category with only its pro teams (go Rams, Chiefs, and Royals!) and the Gateway Arch giving it enough points to escape the bottom ten.

38. New Mexico: 15.3 Points
New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, is the lowest ranking state that went blue in either 2004 or 2008. The health numbers aren't horrible and there is actually a decently low unemployment rate. Unfortunately, the jobs they have must be very low paying, as New Mexico ranks very low in median income and poverty level and it has a lot of mobile homes. This can partly be explained by some unfortunate socio-economic truths about minorities in our country -- New Mexico's population is 44% Hispanic and 10% Native American.

37. North Carolina: 16.4 Points
This is the lowest state in which I could actually live. The Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill is beautiful, but again there's the whole rest of the state to reckon with. Someone I know in Western North Carolina once sent one of my friends a can of possum road kill. It was a joke gift, but the can itself wasn't a joke; people actually eat that stuff. It gets points for going Obama this year, it has pro sports teams in two different cities (and a Carolina team that should win the NCAA tournament this year), I'd live there, and it touches the ocean. That must tell you how low it ranks in the other categories. The Tar Heel State is pretty poor with few jobs and a remarkably low percentage of college degrees for a state so famous for its university system. A great three-city area does not a great state make.

36. Arizona: 16.8 Points
The Grand Canyon state, home of John McCain and apparently
impossible to traverse without a private plane, casts its... No, wait, I'm on the wrong state track. Arizona, other than having the big city in Phoenix, is remarkably similar to its neighbor, New Mexico. It has a little more wealth and a little worse health care. It also has Colorado City, an FLDS community that sanctioned plural marriage and was run by Warren Jeffs until his conviction last year. Fun Fact: It's so freaking hot in Phoenix in August that I bought a bottle of water on the street that had been frozen into a block of ice and it was drinkable by the time I twisted the cap off.

35. Idaho: 17.5 Points
Outside of potatoes,
Larry Craig, and blue football fields (who do we hate?), what does anyone know about the Gem State? Well, it has the lowest number of doctors per capita in the country; the numbers work out to around 2,500 or so total doctors in the state. There are that many doctors that have slept with each other on Grey's Anatomy. Otherwise, Idaho is exactly what you'd expect. Eh.

34. Texas: 17.9 Points
Another relative surprise for me, since Texas is such a big state with seemingly bigger influence in the country. I have some personal stake in the Lone Star State as not only did I propose to my wife in Houston, but it was in Dallas that I bought the toy for my dog that has outlasted his chewing onslaught the longest. Austin's very cool and Houston's
Chacho's is the single greatest Mexican restaurant in the U.S. However, as with every other big state with some urban areas, the "big" part of it drags the state down. That might give you a hint as to what kind of state will be at the top of the list. Texas just ranks in the middle of the pack or lower in every category and its high poverty could very well come from its large immigrant population (it's a barely majority minority state).

33. Wyoming: 18.3 Points
The Equality State (ironic since it's maybe as famous for Matthew Shepard as anything else short of Old Faithful) is wealthy compared to the other states on our ranking so far and fares a lot worse in the other categories. The first sentence in the
Wikipedia article about Dick Cheney's state says it all: "The State of Wyoming is a sparsely populated state." In fact, it has the lowest population of any state. It's cold, windy, and nobody lives there. It's as if someone dropped the moon just north of Colorado and Utah.

32. Georgia: 18.4 Points
The Peach State is yet another Southern state that ranks squarely in the bottom-middle of all of the categories. It's maybe set apart only by the fact that it has Atlanta, it's on the coast, and Savannah is a beautiful city. The fact that, because of a lot of swamps, the state smells horribly does not help. The freakiest thing I've seen in Georgia was a Dwarf House, the restaurant that became Chic-Fil-A when it branched out. Imagine the same fast food, but served on a real plate with real silverware.

31. Indiana: 19.4 Points
We close out the bottom twenty with the land of Peyton Manning and Reggie Miller. Michael Jackson and his siblings hail from the Chicago suburb of Gary and we sure do love
this scene from Hoosiers. The states in numbers 40-31 are all pretty similar in that they're lower in the pack across the board with nothing super special to make them stand out. In the Hoosier State's case, they are poor on the health numbers but more or less just average, which isn't good enough.

Coming up tomorrow: A couple of other surprisingly low states and we'll find out the two states that I consider to be the most mediocre in the country. Also, we'll get to the question of with all of the knocks on it this year, why hasn't Alaska shown up yet?

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